Fred Yamamoto, an alumnus of Paly’s class of 1936, was interned in Santa Anita and then Heart Mountain. Right after Pearl Harbor he wrote in his diary, “Japan has declared WAR! She has bombed Pearl Harbor, Philippines, Guam, etc. What a mess — !”
Yamamoto’s words foreshadowed the troubles of the Japanese-American community, troubles which never embittered him. While at Heart Mountain, the government decreed that all Japanese men were eligible for the army, making them potential draftees. Yamamoto signed up at the camp along with his close friend Frank Shimata from Santa Clara County. In his diary, Yamamoto wrote, “Because faith to me is a positive thing, I’m putting all my blue chips on the U.S.A. … In short, I’ve volunteered.”
Yamamoto’s decision was not a popular one in the camp and his mother was initially against his enlisting, afraid that her son would die — which he did.
“He was among the first to enlist at Heart Mountain,” Hashimoto says. “It was not a popular decision as you can imagine. I think he mulled over the idea but he didn’t think long he decided, ‘You know this is what I have to do.’”
After a year long wait, Yamamoto was placed in the 442nd Regiment, an almost entirely Japanese-American regiment that became the war’s most decorated unit, according to Hashimoto. Their unofficial motto was ‘Go for Broke.’ They landed in Rome in 1944 and later moved to Northern France. On Saturday Oct. 28, a German force attacked the town his battalion was resting in and Yamamoto volunteered to get more supplies for the troops. Only 4 of the 12 volunteers survived an attack by 100 Germans. With shrapnel piercing his neck, Yamamoto was not one of them. He was just 26 at the time.
Yamamoto’s loyalty never wavered and he never expressed any regrets about his choice to enlist. He was awarded a Silver Star posthumously for his bravery.
“He had such a strong sense of duty to whatever he believed in, and together with his strong moral and spiritual compass, there was no question what he would end up doing,” Hashimoto says. “I think it’s this sense of duty, to self, to others and to your beliefs, that set this generation apart. This applies to those who fought as well as to those who resisted. They not only talked the talk, they walked the walk.”