Antelope Valley Press

Rememberin­g notable Nisei of the Antelope Valley

- Dennis Anderson Easy Company

It must have been heartbreak­ing and scary to be younger than 10 years old and walking into a barber shop in Palmdale with a sign prominentl­y displayed announcing “No Japanese.” Scary even if you were with your big brother back from the war.

Takashi “Tabo” Kono was escorted into the barber shop by his older brother, who served in the Army during World War II. Townspeopl­e of Palmdale made it clear Japanese weren’t welcome, but the returning G.I. wasn’t having any of that.

“He was in uniform, and he told the barber, ‘You will cut his hair.’ ”

Seeing the war veteran, the barber hurriedly complied, Kono recalled in a 2007 interview preserved on Discover Nikkei, a website devoted to Japanese immigrants and their descendant­s.

At the time, Kono had recently, with his parents, been released from the Manzanar Internment Center, one of 75 camps where people of Japanese descent were herded into captivity after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Tabo was born in Los Angeles in 1938 and spent the years of WWII in the camp between the Eastern Sierra towns of Lone Pine and Independen­ce. Surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers, it was a concentrat­ion camp.

“There were 10,000 of us there, in tar paper shacks, wooden floors with holes in the wood … cold in the winter, hot in the summer,” Kono recalled.

Kono was first-generation American, Nisei. His parents were immigrants, called Issei. “Two thirds of the people in those camps were American citizens,” Kono recalled.

The attitude of the older people in camp was captured in a Japanese term, “Shigata kai,” or, “There is nothing to be done,” Kono remembered in the Nikkei interview.

Released from the camp with nothing, and no home to return to, the Kono family settled as one of three Japanese-American families in the 1,000 population town of Palmdale, greeted with the refrain “No Japs! No Japs!”

Kono, who died as 2023 was ending, lived most of his life in the Antelope Valley where he thrived, and advocated for redress of Japanese-Americans deprived of their constituti­onal rights. I was informed of his death Tuesday by Anthony Kitson, a family friend.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan offered the first apology for Executive Order 9066, the order signed by Franklin Roosevelt to round them up.

No Japanese-American was ever found guilty of subversion against the United States. Some young Americans of the Nisei generation served in World War II, including Kono’s brother. Also, Medal of Honor winner Daniel K. Inouye, who became the US senator from Hawaii, and Bob Izumi, another veteran with ties to Edwards Air Force Base.

Izumi served with the 442nd Regiment of Nisei G.I.s, the “Go For Broke” outfit that became the most decorated in the Army. After combat in Italy, Izumi volunteere­d for the paratroope­rs and served in the Battle of the Bulge with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

Izumi, who died just before Veterans Day at age 99, shifted to the Air Force and served in Korea, and Vietnam, and was a senior NCO at Edwards Air Force Base. Like Tabo Kono, he was held at Manzanar before joining up to fight the Nazis in Europe.

Izumi’s unit in WWII, Golf Co., was in the same regiment as Easy Company, the “Band of Brothers” made famous in the book and epic miniseries that remains in continuous play today more than 20 years after its release.

Izumi, whose last job was at Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow, returned to commemorat­ions at Bastogne where the 101st held the line again encircling Nazi forces, and Toccoa, Ga., where paratroope­rs, including the 506th, went through basic training. Izumi was among those who on the eve of the end of WWII in Europe captured Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest,” his alpine redoubt.

Tabo Kono, his Army brother, and 101st Airborne paratroope­r Bob Izumi, three Americans who transcende­d the adversity of racism and hatred and lived lives of courage and distinctio­n in a country that acknowledg­ed the mistake it made incarcerat­ing them.

Dennis Anderson is a licensed clinical social worker at High Desert Medical Group. An Army paratroope­r veteran who covered the Iraq War for the Antelope Valley Press, he serves as Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s appointee on the Los Angeles County Veterans Advisory Commission.

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