Minnesota News

Minnesotans honor the state’s Japanese American veterans

Participants introducing
Participants are introduced during a memorial service to honor Minnesota Japanese American veterans, presented by the Twin Cities chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Thursday in Minneapolis.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Generations of military veterans gathered at Fort Snelling’s cemetery today to honor Minnesota’s Japanese American veterans — including 99 people who are buried there. 

Many of those 99 trained here, too. Fort Snelling was home to a linguistics school, where about 6,000 people were trained in Japanese language. Those linguists went on to break codes and serve on the front lines, a role that military officials said was crucial in bringing the end to the war.  

Edwin “Bud” Nakasone was one of those linguists. As a teenager living in Hawaii, he witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Soon after — on Christmas Eve, 1947 — he made the move from Hawaii to Minnesota.  

He attended today’s ceremony with his son, Paul Nakasone, a retired army general and the former director of the National Security Agency.  

Two person looks on
General Paul Nakasone (left) and World War II veteran Colonel Edwin (Bud) Nakasone listen to the speakers during a memorial service to honor Minnesota Japanese American veterans at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Thursday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Paul Nakasone wants to recognize stories like his father’s more — particularly given the prejudice and discrimination that Japanese Americans faced, even as they entered the military. 

“Sometimes, those are stories we don’t talk a lot about,” Nakasone said.

Former Navy officer Toufong Lor wants to lift up those stories, too. He’s in the process of constructing a veteran’s memorial park in Cannon Falls, where he says he’d like to build a memorial to the Japanese American soldiers who served in World War II. 

Lor’s father was recruited to the U.S. military while living in Laos in the 1960s. Lor credits the Japanese American soldiers for paving the way for other Asian Americans, in the military and in civilian life.

“Our Hmong Americans are stepping up because of that foundation, and I’m just really honored that we have veterans before me,” Lor said.  

A person speaks
Lieutenant Toufong Lor speaks during a memorial service to honor Minnesota Japanese American veterans at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Thursday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

The Japanese American Veterans Memorial program hosted the event ahead of Memorial Day. Lor said he hopes to see more like it, honoring both next week’s holiday and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May.

Volume Button
Volume
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News