Memorial Directory

Honors and Assists those veterans who have served the Cause of Freedom.

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  4. Sections are marked with Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, etc.).
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El Dorado County Nisei World War II Veterans’ Memorial

History of Nikkei in El Dorado County

El Dorado County has had a long and peculiar history with regards to the Nikkei, Japanese Americans. Only until recently has El Dorado County begun to embrace its significance in Nikkei history. Historically known for being the birthplace of the California Gold Rush, and thus California as a state, El Dorado County also bears the distinction of being the genesis of Chinese immigration, a result of the Gold Rush, but also of Japanese immigration on the mainland with its acknowledgement of The Wakamatsu Tea Colony of Gold Hill.

Mainland Japanese American history began on May 20, 1869 with the arrival of PMSS China from Yokohama to San Francisco. On board was a contingent of Japanese led by Herr John Henry Schnell set on establishing a colony to grow tea, silk and other Japanese agricultural pursuits. Schnell would purchase a vineyard property belonging to Charles Graner in Gold Hill located in El Dorado County, not far from Coloma where gold was first discovered in California. While the colony only survived a mere 18 months, its place in American history was established by a young Japanese girl named Okei, who died and was buried on the property in 1871. She is considered the first documented Japanese female to be buried on Continental US soil. Wakamatsu colony would also have further the significance as the first Japanese settlement on the Continental US as well as the very first Nisei to be born in its ranks. In May of 1969, on the centennial of the colonists’ arrival, then Governor of California Ronald Reagan designated it as a California Registered Historical Landmark #815. It later would also be placed on the National Register of Historic Places of National Significance. The property now entrusted since 2010 to the American River Conservancy, has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to preserve and promote this precious piece of Nikkei history.

Though other than the Wakamatsu Tea Colony, El Dorado County is completely devoid of Nikkei history. The El Dorado County Nisei WWII Veterans’ Memorial Bench is a means to begin the process to address and rectify the deficiencies and shortcomings of Nikkei history in El Dorado County, to encourage EDC to embrace its Nikkei history and remember those Nikkei who lived or those residents of Nikkei families that have influenced history.

El Dorado County WWII Nisei Veterans 





Prior to December 7, 1941, some 2,000 Japanese -Americans were serving in the U.S. Army. After the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, virtually all of the 2000 plus Japanese-American draftees/volunteers were transferred to reserve units then given honorable discharges under any plausible pretense. They would later suffer the additional indignity of being rounded up and interned. Three of these veterans came from El Dorado County.

100th Battalion

The 100th was initially comprised of draftee Hawaiian Nisei formerly of the 298th and 299th Hawaii Territorial Guard. As an orphan unit, meaning unattached to any larger unit, it was then known as the 100th Battalion (Sep) for Separate. The 100th would lead the 5th Army’s breakout to liberating Rome, earning its nickname “the Purple Heart Battalion” along the way. The actions of the 100th paved the way for the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Its members would be later assigned to the 442nd as the 442nd’s 1st battalion. Due its extraordinary accomplishments the US Army allowed it to retain its military designation of the 100th. Six members of this unit came from El Dorado County.

442nd Regimental Combat Team

The resulting combined 100th/442nd RCT was the most decorated unit in American military history for its size and duration of combat. In less than two years of combat, the unit earned 7 Presidential Unit Citations, and upwards to 18,143 individual awards including 21 Medals of Honor (originally 1 Medal of Honor awarded. 19 Distinguished Service Crosses were upgraded to Medals of Honor in 2000), 33 Distinguished Service Crosses (originally 52 awarded. 19 of which were upgraded to Medal of Honor in 2000), 1 Distinguished Service Medal, 560 Silver Stars plus 28 Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of second commendation (1 Silver Star was upgraded to a Medal of Honor in 2000), 22 Legion of Merits, 15 Soldier’s Medals, 4000 Bronze Stars in addition to 1200 Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of second commendation, and 9,486 Purple Hearts.

It was the only unit during WWII to return to a Presidential Reception on July 15, 1946. President Harry Truman personally present the unit with its seventh Presidential Unit Citation.

The 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 232nd Combat Engineers and 522nd Field Heavy Artillery of the 442nd in two years, as a whole, suffered a staggering 314% Combat Casualty Rate. Two battles forever cemented their legacy; the Lost Battalion and Gothic Line.

The Lost Battalion is considered to be one of the 10 major battles in US Army’s history. October 24, 1944 276 Texans of the 141st infantry became surrounded by the Germans and were on the verge of being completely wiped out. On the 26th the 442nd was called upon and it wouldn’t be until the 30th that 442nd Companies I and K reached the “lost battalion.” The costly week long battle that rescued 211 Texans resulted by the best accounts 54 Nisei KIA and 156 wounded. Out of 185 men in Company I only 8 would walk out of the Vosges forest. Company K suffered a similar fate of its 186 men, 17 would walk out.

Overall for the month of October the 442nd RCT had been on the front lines 25 out of 27 days and ended up at less than half its usual strength with 117 killed in action, 639 wounded, 18 injured and 40 missing for a total of 814 men.

In their battle for the Gothic Line the 442nd marched for 8 hours in complete darkness and silence to position themselves for their initial attack. When the call for the attack to begin, the 442nd took the German army completely by surprise, overrunning and breaking through this defensive juggernaut in just over 30 minutes accomplishing what 50,000 men previously failed to accomplish in 6 months time. Six members of the 442nd came from El Dorado County.

Military Intelligence Service

Japanese-Americans were enlisted to serve as Japanese linguists in the Pacific War with the Military Intelligence Service; or MIS, from 1941 to 1946. Their mission was to serve as translators, interpreters and interrogators of Japanese POWs with frontline units.

Over 6000 Nisei would serve in this extraordinary and highly classified unit. Many but not all were Kibei, Nisei who were educated in Japan and then returned to America. Members of the MIS are credited with gathering the information that led to the mission to shoot down commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plane.

Other members would play a vital role in translating Japan’s Z-plan, their top secret master strategy to defeat the U. S. Navy. Individual members saved not only thousands of U. S. servicemen but countless of civilians on Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  General Douglas MacArthur was quoted in saying that the work of the MIS shortened the Pacific War by as much as two years.

During early occupation, MIS’ers worked as interrogators and translators during the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. Veterans of MIS would were awarded 1 Presidential Unit Citation, 1 Distinguished Service Cross, 3 Distinguished Service Medals, 37 Silver Stars, 32 Legion of Merits, 1 Navy Cross, 14 Soldier’s Medals, 388 Bronze Stars and 50 Purple Hearts  plus 121 Combat Infantry Badge s for their service. The existence of the MIS and their service remained highly classified until it was declassified in 1972. Five members of this unit came from El Dorado County.


Every veteran’s service is of significance and deserves to be honored, but some veterans’ contribution during their military service or civilian life requires specific commendation. The following Nisei either their civilian life or military service made valued contributions to our country and the history of El Dorado County.

PVT Sadao Shoga: Sadao has a very significant connection to El Dorado County’s history. A member of the U.S. Army before Pearl Harbor and one those discharged under plausible pretenses, according to his family Sadao was discharged due to medical reasons of hearing loss stemming from standing too close to a canon being fired.  His father was employed by Francis J. Veerkamp of Gold Hill during the time of the First World War maybe even into the early 1920s. The Veerkamp ranch was the former grounds of J. H. Schnell’s Wakamatsu colony. Until recently, it was relatively unknown that the Veerkamp family employed Japanese laborers after the death of their faithful employee and Wakamatsu colonist Matsunosuke Sakurai in 1901.

Hiroshi Tommy Kunishi: Like Sadao Shoga, Hiroshi Kunishi was a member the U. S. Army before Pearl Harbor to be discharged under plausible pretenses. Also like Sadao, Hiroshi has a very significant connection to El Dorado County’s history. His father Tametaro Kunishi was employed by neighboring Veerkamp rancher, E. R. Killough. It is purported that Tametaro told Japanese language newspaper reporter Bunjiro Takeda a story of another Japanese laborer who had no place to bury his infant daughter and a local Caucasian women offered to allow him to place his infant next to a next to an old grave of a Japanese girl. Mr. Takeda would search for this grave and found Okei’s headstone. One of the original Veerkamp sons would then tell Bunjiro the story of Schnell and the tea colony. Mr. Takeda would write several articles over the years sharing Okei to the world.

SGT Hideonobu George Kinoshita: George Kinoshita was one of two honoree veterans born in El Dorado County and the only veteran to serve in combat capacity, (Eli Kitade served as a medic with the 442nd). He and his family were sent to the Poston Internment Camp in Arizona in July of 1942. In March of 1943 the family and he transferred to the Topaz Internment Camp in Utah. He enlisted July of 1944 and was assigned to the famed 100th “Purple Heart” Battalion as a replacement soldier. He received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained as a result of a mortar blast that flung him into the air landing on his back with shrapnel embedded in his leg. He would later tell his son “I thought for certain I was dead and surprised when I opened my eyes to still be alive.” Along with his Purple Heart his service commendations are as follows: Eastern Theater Offensive Ribbon w/3 stars, Distinguish Unit Badge Medal (now Presidential Unit Citation) with 2 clusters, Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, a Good Conduct Medal, and Victory ribbons. In Nov. 1945 he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and discharged in Sep. 1946.

MAJ Jiro Sam Kimura: Sam Kimura’s father Totaro also worked for the E. R. Killough and a co worker of Tametaro Kunishi. Sam’s older brother Gentaro “Gimbo” was a high school athletic star for El Dorado High School from 1923 to 1925. Both Sam and Gentaro would attend U. C. Berkeley and later became doctors. During the war Sam served as the Medical Officer for the 522nd Heavy Artillery Battalion attached to the 442nd. After the war he would study Ophthalmology at UC San Francisco from 1946-1949 and later served on the Atomic Bomb Causality Commission in Nagasaki as a researcher from 1949-1950. He would later become a co-founder of That Man May See Foundation. The Kimura Laboratory of Clinical Investigation at the University of California, San Francisco was so named in his honor. Sam has been mentioned in Fire for Effect – A Unit History of the 522 Field Artillery Battalion as well as numerous books regarding Ophthalmology and research.

PFC Ichigi Robert Kashiwagi: Robert Kashiwagi would become one of several members of Nisei Veteran Post #8985 to speak at El Dorado High School about being interned at the behest of Head of the Social Studies Department Claire Dusek. During the war he served as a member of the 442nd in Company K and was one of the 17 of that company to walk out of the Vosges Forest after the Rescue of the Lost Battalion.

SGT Shigeo Jack Tanimoto: Shigeo Tanimoto enlisted out of Tule Lake and was an early member of the MIS (Military Intelligence Service). He would serve on Saipan, Okinawa and later in Japan during the Occupation. On Saipan he earned a Silver Star for the action of rescuing 6 civilians in a cave near a cove, providing covering fire that while the civilians swam for safety resulted in killing three enemy soldiers. Jack’s exploits have been mention in the following books:  Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II by James C. McNaughton and Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War by Bruce Petty. His son Herb Tanimoto is a docent/historian for ARC, American River Conservancy, at Wakamatsu.

S/SGT H. Gary Shiota: Gary was another member of Nisei Veteran Post #8985 that would speak to students El Dorado High School. He was a later member of the MIS who served at the Camp Sugano Prison. He was the first designate to read the Proclamation of Death for War Criminal the former Prime Minister Hidekei Tojo which he turned down later citing choosing not to live with the burden of decreeing someone to death.

A Personal Mission

Citizen Ryan Ford set out to honor the legacy of the Nisei. He is a Sansei, third generation Japanese American whose uncle, Tech 5 James Kiyomitsu Sato served with Company A of the 100th/442nd.

In 1971 he moved to El Dorado County and endured long-standing anti-Japanese sentiments that still prevailed from the war. None of El Dorado County’s Nisei soldiers returned to the county after they were discharged from the Army, because they knew they weren’t welcomed there. By the 1990s there were still only a small handful of Nikkei families calling El Dorado County home.           

Ford was motivated by the service of his nephew, Pvt. Tyler Harold Ford, U. S. Army 2004 to 2005. Tyler was the second son of my eldest brother Kevin and his first wife. Sadly as much too often is the case, Tyler was a child of divorce and would grow up estranged from his father’s family. Upon shortly after turning eighteen and graduating high school, it became readily apparent to Tyler that his presence was no longer desired in his mother’s house. He would do countless entry level dead end jobs, sleeping where ever he could, in his car in friends’ driveway or on their couch. Realizing that this wasn’t a life he made the decision to join the Army.

The holidays of 2004 Tyler was granted an extended and having no other place to go he contacted his paternal grandmother asking if he could spend the holidays with us. Naturally my mother was more than thrilled and said of course. The night that he left to return back to base and was leaving through the front door I remember my brother, his father, hugging him saying “You know I love you son” and imploring “Just be safe. It’s a dangerous world out there and I worry for you. The only thing that matters is you being safe. That’s all I care about son. I love you. Be safe, please be safe.” That was the last time any of my family saw Tyler alive for on May 1, 2005 Tyler was killed in a motorcycle crash while stationed in Texas. Prior to that sad fateful day he would contact his grandmother making amends for his behavior towards her and the family growing up. He would tell her, “One thing I’ve learned since being in the Army, to always be there for your fellow soldier no matter what, that he is your family. I’ve realized grandma that all these years you were the one always there for me. No matter how I treated you, every Valentines’ Day, Easter, my birthday and Christmas I would receive a gift or card from you. I’ve learned the true meaning of family and realize that you guys have always been there for me, even covering my medical expenses when I visited last Christmas. I now understand that all these years you have always been my real and only family. Thank you, grandma.”

Tyler died too soon, though Ford recognized the U. S. Army had given his family something special, a wonderful gift, the gift of Tyler and his family being whole once again even if it was just for a mere few weeks. For this as Japanese, Ford’s family feels a debt that it can never repay to the U. S. Army. And so, he undertook the effort of memorializing all the Nisei veterans of El Dorado County as a way of honoring them so that their families are given comfort as special as what the U. S. Army gave Ryan Ford and his family. 

Special Thanks

Without the following persons and organizations’ donations and efforts, this memorial would not have been possible. Principally, Ryan Ford (whose uncle, T/5 James Kiyomitsu Sato, USA-Vet, served in Company A, 100th Batt. / 442nd. RCT) led the effort to establish this memorial at the El Dorado County Veterans Monument. He was assisted by: T/Sgt Gary Campbell, USAF-Ret, CAPT John Poimiroo, USN-Ret and members of the El Dorado County Veterans Alliance (EDCVA), Judy Akaba-Adair, Jun Akaba, Sumi Akaba Yonemoto, Chujo Akaba Asakawa, Seann Adair, Cynthia Akaba-Nishinaka, Bill Scrivani, Keiko Woods, Herb Tanimoto, Claire Dusek, Aeko Yoshikawa, Carolyn J Cohn, Koko Green, Nancy Whiteside, Davin Jelich of Davin Drafting & Design Services, Sean Conley-Widing, E. Ken Tokutomi of Placer Japanese-American Citizen League, Sgt. Jeff Morita USA-Ret of the Japanese-American Veterans Association (JAVA), Juanita Allen of Sons and Daughters of the 442nd, Post Commander Kent Nakashima of Nisei Veterans Post #8985, Lawson Sakai, Lt Co Kurt Raffetto USAF-Ret, and numerous anonymous donors.


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Monday, Nov. 11, 2024

Veteran's Day Ceremony

Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day Ceremony


Welcome Home is life-sized bronze statuary that will portray a joyous return from duty for two El Dorado County members of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is the welcome that every service member looks forward to receiving upon returning home from duty.

Standing is a life-sized bronze male figure dressed in early 2000s fatigues similar to those worn by the U.S. Army, Air Force, Space Force and Coast Guard. Kneeling is a bronze female figure dressed in fatigues similar to those worn by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Rating and warfare patches are obscured intentionally, so that the figures can represent anyone.

Running joyously toward them is a bronze Labrador retriever, symbolic of the joy that family and friends have over the return of their service man or woman from duty. It also represents the welcome that some service members never got, but which through the statuary will never end.

The statuary was conceived by the El Dorado County Veterans Alliance and was designed by famed sculptor of military themes and figures, Rip Caswell. It is planned to be placed on the lawn to the left of the entrance walkway at the El Dorado County Veterans Monument (“W” on the map key). It will be the first personification of the veteran experience at the EDC Veterans Monument.

To contribute to the effort to fund creation of the statuary, CLICK HERE. All donations are tax deductible.

For more about the statuary, email memorials@eldoradocountyveterans.org.


Each Veterans Day (November 11) at 1100 hrs, ceremonies are held at the El Dorado County Veterans Monument in Placerville (360 Fair Lane). The ceremonies honor the service of all veterans and include a fly over by WWII Warbirds, color guard ceremony, parade of flags by veterans organizations and youth groups, speeches by public officials, patriotic music, presentation of Veterans of the Year and Veterans Service and Support awards, wreath presentation, a three-volley rifle salute, taps and a piper playing Amazing Grace.


Each Memorial Day (last Monday in May) at 1100 hrs, ceremonies are held at the El Dorado County Veterans Monument in Placerville (360 Fair Lane). The ceremonies honor those who died in the service of their country and include a fly over by WWII Warbirds, color guard ceremony, parade of flags by veterans organizations and youth groups, speeches by public officials, patriotic music, presentation of Veterans Monument Scholarships to children of veterans, wreath presentation, a three-volley rifle salute, taps and a piper playing Amazing Grace.


Each autumn, Snowline Hospice Thrift Stores honor veterans by holding a "True Up" sale in which the difference between the sale price and rounding up to the next dollar is donated to help El Dorado County veterans. Called "Salute to Valor" the sale raises funds to help vets study at local colleges and trade schools, provide chaplaincy services to veterans in law enforcement, and otherwise help veterans in need.


This fund at Folsom Lake College provides scholarships to veterans and their children in memory of El Dorado County's Nisei Veterans (WWII soldiers of Japanese-American descent).


Honoring El Dorado County's CAPT Paul Jacobs, USN who rescued 32,000 Vietnamese sailors and refugees from death and imprisonment in the final moments of the Vietnam War (considered to be the greatest humanitarian event in US Navy history), this fund provides help to members of the crew of CAPT Jacobs' ship, USS Kirk (FF 1087), and their families, so that what they did rescuing the defenseless is never forgotten.


Established to help a visiting law enforcement officer who was grievously injured while trying to rescue mortally wounded El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff Brian Ishmael, this fund will help Josh Tasabia reestablish his life in El Dorado County.


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