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January 2018


Veterans Corner: 'Toke' continues to teach about Nisei courage, sacrifice, legacy

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Tokuji "Toke" Yoshihashi, a longtime volunteer at GFBNEC, became a familiar sight over the years at the Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo.

Every week, he and fellow volunteers could be found helping visitors locate names of Nisei veterans on the monument, explaining the histories of the 100th Battalion, 442nd RCT and MIS, or simply cleaning the gleaming black granite and tending to the landscaping. Toke and his comrades spent many peaceful hours at the monument, enjoying the quiet camaraderie and passing the Nisei soldiers' legacy on to younger generations.

In January, Toke celebrated his 95th birthday. Time has gently but steadily taken many of his fellow monument volunteers, and Toke no longer drives downtown for his weekly docent duties. But the San Gabriel, Calif., resident still attends GFBNEC's regular volunteer meetings, and participates in the monument's annual anniversary celebration, Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner and other GFBNEC events. He also speaks regularly to students, veterans' groups, professional associations and the media about the Nisei veterans' legacy of loyalty, patriotism and sacrifice.

Toke was born in Pasadena, Calif., in January 1923, the third of Goro and Setsu Yoshihashi's five children.

He attended high school in Pasadena and completed two years of college at Pasadena Junior College. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he and his family were sent to the assembly center in Tulare, Calif., and in mid-1942 to the Gila River incarceration camp in Arizona.

In May 1944, Toke and his older brother Ichiro were drafted into the U.S. Army while their family remained incarcerated. After basic training at Camp Blanding, Fla., Toke boarded the Queen Mary and sailed to Scotland.

He joined the 100th Battalion in Epinal, France, and was sent to guard the Franco-Italian border. In March 1945, the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team returned to Livorno, Italy, to join the Fifth Army in its successful campaign to break the Gothic Line.

As a proud member of Company A, Technical Sergeant Yoshihashi celebrated V-E Day in Europe with his fellow soldiers in May 1945, and in June 1946 marched down Constitution Avenue with his comrades in Washington, D.C. under the review of President Harry Truman. After the war, he rejoined his family in Columbus, Ohio, and in 1951 moved back to California with his widowed mother.

"I give all the credit to the original 100th guys," Toke says of his service as a replacement soldier in the 100th/442nd. "They paved the way for us - they fought some terrible battles, like Monte Cassino and saving the Lost Battalion, and they lost a lot of guys."

He married Reiko Kato Yoshihashi in 1952, a union that lasted 57 years until her death in 2009. Since retiring from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in 1995, Toke has invested hundreds of hours into educating the public about the history of the 100th, 442nd and MIS.

When Toke isn't volunteering at GFBNEC, he can be found working in his garden, visiting Las Vegas, attending 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans' Club activities, and spending time with his three adult children, two grandchildren and his much-indulged cats.

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