Monthly Archives: May 2021

Honoring Japanese American Soldiers

Stamp Our Story

On Thursday, June 3, 2021, the U.S. Postal Service will be issuing a new “Go For Broke” stamp honoring Nisei (first generation Japanese-Americans born in the U.S.) soldiers who served in World War II. These soldiers served in both the European and Pacific theaters.

Go For Broke Forever Stamp

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team

The famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose motto was, “Go For Broke,” a unit totaling 18,000 men, earned over 4,000 Purple Hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 560 Silver Star Medals, 21 Medals of Honor, and seven Presidential Unit Citations. It remains the most decorated unit for its size in U.S. military history.

Their sacrifices were extreme. During the six days the 442nd fought the Germans to rescue the “Lost Battalion,” 221 men of the 141st Infantry Regiment in the Vosges Mountains, more than 30 men were killed and many more hospitalized. “The campaign resulted in a staggering number of casualties, estimated at more than 800.”

On November 12, [Major General] Dahlquist ordered the 442nd to assemble for a recognition ceremony. Seeing the small number of men in formation, he allegedly reprimanded 442nd Lieutenant Colonel Virgil Miller, stating, “You disobeyed my orders. I told you to have the whole regiment.” The colonel looked him in the eye and reportedly said, “General, this is the regiment. The rest are either dead or in the hospital.”
– Go For Broke National Education Center

Although the 442nd is well-known (and justifiably so), many are unaware of the role Japanese-Americans played in the Pacific theater. Thousands, including four of my uncles served, many in military intelligence, helping with translation, decoding messages, and interrogating prisoners.

Major General Charles Willoughby, G2 Intelligence Chief for General Douglas MacArthur, credits Nisei soldiers, saying they “shortened the Pacific war by two years.” 

Congressional Gold Medals

For their service, after many years of effort, Congressional Gold Medals were awarded Nisei solders in 2012. By then, many if not most of the veterans honored had passed away. Here is the medal awarded my uncle Gene:

“Go For Broke” Stamp Ceremonies

Now that the U.S. Postal Service will be issuing a new stamp honoring Nisei soldiers, dedication events will be taking place all around the country.

Nationally, there will be a virtual ceremony on Thursday, June 3, 2021, at 11 a.m. EDT/8 a.m. PDT. It will be posted on the Postal Service’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Oregon will be hosting a virtual dedication ceremony on June 14th at 5:30pm.

Click here for a link to the Oregon event.

Click here for a flyer about the Oregon event.

Former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, four generations of Japanese Americans, and vignettes of Oregon Nisei military service will be part of the ceremony.

My brother, David, will be included in a two-minute video reading letters from Sgt. Harold “Oki” Okimoto, a Japanese-American soldier among those who liberated Dachau.

Buying These Stamps

Although these stamps will be released on June 3rd, they may not be available to purchase at your local post office immediately.

If you are interested in pre-ordering stamps, you can do so online by clicking here.

Stamp collectors and those who are especially interested in this history can order First Day Cover collectible stamps at the same location. These can make great gifts and are quite affordable.

And for those who are ambivalent about all of this, consider buying the stamps anyway. These are “Forever Stamps,” and the USPS has plans to raise postage rates this fall. Buy these stamps now and you can save on future postage.

Downtown Portland

Reporting on the situation in downtown Portland has been, in my opinion, skewed toward breathless, whipped up controversy over the past year and a half.

Ten months ago I posted about protests and the – in my opinion – unnecessary and heavy-handed tactics used by the Portland Police Bureau and federal officers against mostly peaceful protesters.

Today, as we watch vaccination rates rise and cautiously anticipate the loosening of restrictions and rebound to our local businesses, there still persists a negative view of downtown Portland. People bemoan the boarded up and graffitied businesses and the homelessness.

Are businesses boarded up? Is there a significant homeless population? Is traffic and business down in the city center? Yes to all of these.

But that hardly justifies the persistent narrative that Portland is “a war zone,” “burning,” “just like Beirut” (how many people making that last comparison have ever been to Beirut?).

Many in the public believe businesses are boarded up due to violent protests and/or increased rates of crime (in the vast majority of cases, those boards went up before the protests as businesses closed due to the pandemic).

Sadly, the news, including our local news, does little to dispel these imaginings with fact. A recent Oregonian front-page story reported a survey where a majority of Portland residents believe the city is in “deep distress.”

Rather than examine the veracity of these views against the facts, the piece mostly focuses on people’s opinions. Only if one reads carefully does one find, about three quarters of the way through the piece, that crime is down:

Crimes against people, though, were actually lower in downtown last year compared to 2019. Assaults were down 13% from 2019 and the rate of reported assaults has continued to decrease over the last four months.

I took my time to drive through downtown just this last weekend. Traffic was light and I saw nothing to make me wary of parking, walking, or doing business downtown.

My brother, David, wrote an opinion piece in response to the Oregonian article. Since it’s been a week without a response, he suspects they will not post it. I encourage you to read it, especially if believe the news you hear about “Portland burning,” etc. and fear to go downtown.

Loftus Opinion: Portland is NOT in “deep distress”

https://www.patreon.com/posts/51599142

Looking back over the last 18 months

Yesterday I received my second Covid-19 vaccination. In two weeks I should have sufficient immunity to allow me to venture out, carefully, and start seeing family and friends again, as well as pursuing activities from which I was barred for over a year.

At this time, it’s hard not to look back and take stock of the past 18 months of my life.

What a year and a half it has been! Most would call the last year one of the worst years in their lives, at an individual level, a national level, and worldwide.

There were very dark periods in my life, but also moments of great joy and promise for which I am very grateful.

Many have lost much more and suffered and continue to suffer much more than I. I know I am very fortunate.

So, here’s a synopsis of my last 18 months.

December, 2019

Was laid off from my job of nearly 7 years. At the time, the job market was strong, so I had little worry about landing on my feet. That changed dramatically after the pandemic hit.

I played my viola for a classmate’s mother who was sick and ailing. I played her mom’s favorite songs for about an hour and left. She passed away less than an hour later.

January, 2020

I performed with the Newport Symphony, which turned out to be the last concert for that group as the pandemic forced the cancellation of the rest of the concert season.

With fellow Newport Symphony violists Julie and Dana

February, 2020

I gave a talk at the Kennedy School about Japanese American Incarceration. My mother was supposed to speak and I was to assist, but she had to cancel last minute. So I handled it myself. Happily, mom gave my presentation a positive review. You can read about it and watch the video by clicking here.

March, 2020

Terribly missing my musical friends, I decided to make a video with musicians all over the country and the world. In the end, 26 musicians joined me to perform Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #3. As of this writing, it has been viewed over 7,600 times! Click here to read about it, see the video, and watch the blooper reel!

I continued to record and post musical videos with friends for the following several months.

You can see all the music videos by clicking here.

May, 2020

Started hosting online karaoke parties every two weeks. I’ve had people join from all over the country and from five foreign countries! News spread and I was interviewed by tv stations and podcasters about it.

Screenshot from a recent online karaoke party


I also created a how-to website for people who might want to host their own online karaoke parties.

World map showing all the people who have joined our online karaoke parties!

Last week I hosted my one year anniversary party. The parties continue on!

August, 2020

Began professional training in cybersecurity courtesy of the Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program. I completed the last of 11 courses in March, 2021.

August, 2020

Hosted the first of several “Driveway Concerts” with friends, masked and physically distanced.

Driveway Concert with my dear and talented friends, Casey, Marya, Julie, and Barbara

September, 2020

The west coast suffered some of the worst wildfires in a century. Record high temperatures and high winds whipped up the fires and brought the worst air quality in the world to the west coast.

Air quality around the world on September 14, 2020

October, 2020

Was shocked and grieved to learn of the first Covid-19 death of someone I knew personally.

Dr. Shafiq Qazzaz

Dr. Qazzaz was a writer, intellectual, and politician. He wrote the first Kurdish-English dictionary. RIP.

I have had family members and friends get Covid-19, all who have recovered, some who suffered more severe symptoms, but none that were hospitalized.

November, 2020

Was offered and accepted a position in IT working for the City of Tigard. After a year of unemployment and no insurance during a deadly worldwide pandemic, this was a tremendous relief!

City of Tigard | Homepage

January, 2021

Attempted growing my own mushrooms. Was fun and they were delicious!

March, 2021

Joined an online vaccine-locator group. Helped over a dozen family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances find and secure vaccine appointments. Received my own vaccinations in April and May.

April, 2021

Gave a podcast interview about my family’s WWII experience being incarcerated for 3 years without charge or sentence.

Made the first trip longer than a day in over a year, driving to Nevada and Wyoming to fly fish. I caught some beautiful fish on that trip!

During the trip I also visited Minidoka, one of the ten Japanese American incarceration locations.

I am grateful to be vaccinated and for what I have. I know so many who have lost much more and still are struggling.

Please be safe, and be kind and patient with yourself and with others.

Visiting Minidoka

I recently was was traveling past Twin Falls, ID and realized I had the opportunity to visit the Minidoka National Historic Site, located near Jerome and Twin Falls, ID. This is the location of the Minidoka War Relocation Center where 13,000 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned for three years during WWII.

Children at Minidoka concentration camp, c. 1943, courtesy of Wing Luke Museum and Densho

Note: If you want to visit the Minidoka National Historic Site, don’t go to Minidoka, ID or Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge. That small town and the wildlife refuge are 50 miles east of the Minidoka National Historic Site. I made that mistake years ago.

History

Minidoka was not completed before the incarcerees started arriving, so the incarcerees were humiliated by having to work on finishing the construction of their own prison camp.

Barbed wire fences at Minidoka, pinhole image by Timothy Floyd

Additionally, barbed wire fences weren’t completed. Incarcerees were initially allowed to venture beyond the fences to collect firewood. But after the fences were completed they were no longer allowed, and furthermore the fence was electrified.

Up to nine people would were crammed into a one-bedroom apartment with cots and a pot-bellied stove. Because the camp was not finished in time, incarcerees had to use outdoor latrines for a much longer time than those at other so-called “camps.”

Frozen conditions in camp, Courtesy of Densho

Conditions were harsh. Temperatures dropped to 21 degrees below zero (F) and up to 104, and winds stirred up fine volcanic ash into infamous dust storms.

Idahoans, local media, and the governor railed against Japanese Americans and most stridently opposed plans to bring incarcerees into Idaho. Media tended to downplay or completely ignore the obvious civil rights violations against Japanese Americans while at the same time propagating the false narrative that Japanese Americans had committed espionage and assisted in the attack on the west coast (there were zero cases of sabotage or espionage committed by Japanese Americans in WWII).

These anti-Japanese sentiments softened over time. Idaho farmers were desperate for workers since so many men had left to serve in the armed forces. Crops were about to be lost. Many repressed their prejudices as Nikkei were allowed to help with and ultimately save the harvest.

Japanese American women harvesting potatoes, courtesy of Densho

My Visit to Minidoka

Minidoka held people from Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Although I know no family members who were imprisoned here, I do know of family friends who were. I had wanted to visit Minidoka for years and was happy finally to do so.

Visitor’s Center at Minidoka National Historic Site, photo by T. Loftus

Although the visitors center was closed due to the pandemic, there was still much to see. A guard tower stands watch at the entrance of the site, as do the stone walls of the military police building and the reception/waiting area building.

Guard Tower at the Minidoka National Historic Site entrance, photo by T. Loftus
Standing in front of the remains of the military police building and reception/waiting area building.

You can observe remains of one of several impressive root cellars. It was about 200 feet long, 40 feet wide, and could store 50 railroad carloads of vegetables.

Remains of the root cellar, photo by T. Loftus
Peering into the open gates of the root cellar, photo by T. Loftus

Next to the site flows a soothing river with a very unremarkable name: North Side Canal.

North Side Canal with guard tower in distance, pinhole image by Timothy Floyd
Present-day North Side Canal and stone foundation of visitors/waiting building, photo by T. Loftus

I definitely want to return to Minidoka when the visitors center is open. Minidoka is a mere 12 miles north of I-84. If your travels bring you anywhere near Twin Falls, ID, I highly recommend a visit.

How To Avoid Repeating History: Understand It

A couple months ago I was interviewed for the “Rise and Shine Podcast” about the online karaoke parties I have been hosting (we are celebrating our online karaoke one year anniversary this week!).

While chatting with the hosts, they learned about my family heritage as a Japanese-American and how my mom’s family was incarcerated during WWII. They were interested to talk more, and so we scheduled another interview. The interview runs just under and hour and has been published.

At around timestamp 26:00 I perform my work, “How Could I Forget,” for viola and spoken word. The text comes from my mother’s book, Made in Japan and Settled in Oregon.

There are two ways to listen to the podcast:
1. Click here to listen to the podcast on the Rise ‘n Shine podcast website

2. Click here to listen to it on YouTube.

Since the interview, I have watched with horror the continued increase in cases of violence against Asian-Americans.

My mom (far right), two uncles, and my grandmother at outside their tarpaper barrack at Heart Mountain, Wyoming

I have written extensively about my family’s experience. For those interested in learning more about Japanese American Incarceration, I highly recommend this list of links to videos, photo albums, and recommended reading I have compiled and continue to update.