May 30, 2022, is Memorial Day, a federal holiday for honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. For anyone who has visited the Gila River Nisei Memorial, no doubt you’ve seen the plaque that honors those Nisei soldiers who served, and some who died, during WWII.
We dedicate this space to share the message from that plaque so that members of the JACL-AZ community can reflect upon those words and remember the brave Nisei soldiers who died for a country who at the time questioned their loyalty.
Also below is a list of the 23 Nisei soldiers from Gila River, AZ, who died during WWII. In collaboration with Gila River Indian Community resident Gary Anderson, who has preserved the history of these men and honored them with a tribute video, it was determined that the average age of the soldiers was just over age 25.
The oldest was was Sgt. John Hashimoto of Tacoma, WA, who died as a POW in Germany months before his 40th birthday. The youngest was 20-year-old Private Minoru Ishida of San Marino, CA, who died during battle in Italy two months before his 21st birthday.
They fight for freedom not for fame
yet honor claims them as her own
Upon his will he binds a radiant chain
for freedom’s sale he is no longer free
While their families were interned at Gila River, many
U.S. citizens of Japanese Ancestry volunteers to serve or
were inducted into the U.S. Military services. They
fought both the European and Pacific fronts in defense of
the Unites States. Sacrifices were made by these
Americans of Japanese Ancestry to demonstrate their
loyalty to the United States of America.
This monument honors all those who served in the U.S.
military during World War II. It was originally dedicated
on April 23, 1944 with 458 names. When the center was
closed in November 1945 over 1,100 internees had
entered the military services.
Died Serving in the U.S.A. Military Armed Forces,
The following list names some of the serviceman who
gave their lives. Some names may be unlisted by choice
while others were not located, but they are all equally
This monument was rededicated with this plaque on March 18, 1995
To learn more, visit jaclaz.org and watch the Video Tribute to the Nisei Heroes from Rivers, AZ.