Jack Mizuha


Name Jack Mizuha
Born November 5 1913
Died September 7 1986
Birth Location Waihee, Maui
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Soldier, lawyer, judge. Born in Waihee, Maui, the son of Japanese immigrants from Hiroshima, Jack Mizuha (1913–86) attended Maui High School and the University of Hawai'i, where he served in the ROTC, and was ultimately commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Hawai'i National Guard. After receiving his B.A. in 1934, he pursued an M.A. in education. Meanwhile, he went to work as a police reporter in Honolulu (alongside police chief and future governor John A. Burns). He subsequently became a teacher at Waimea High School in Kaua'i and married Toshiko Sueoka, a local Nisei.

In September 1939, less than a week after he was promoted to principal of Waimea, Mizuha was mobilized by the U.S. Army. He was detailed command of the 299th Infantry Regiment of the Hawai'i National Guard at Burns field in Kaua'i. In December 1941, during the Japanese military raid on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese fighter pilot, Shigenori Nishikaichi, crash-landed on Ni'ihau and terrorized locals with assistance from a local Nisei, Yoshi Harada. Lieutenant Mizuha put together a volunteer detachment to aid the beleaguered residents. After a two-day boat trip to Ni'ihau, the detachment landed and marched across the island, where they found the dead pilot's body and recovered his papers.

Promoted to captain for his exploits, Mizuha was placed in charge of Company D of the 100th Battalion, formed out of the National Guard detachments in Spring 1942. After training at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, the troops were sent to Italy, where they landed at Salerno. Some weeks later, while leading troops in fighting at Colli, Italy, Mizuha was gravely wounded in his neck and back by enemy fire. During his convalescence, he was sent to Africa, and then on to North Carolina and Chicago. During this time, he wrote a set of public letters defending the loyalty and rights of Japanese American soldiers. In April 1944, during a stop in Washington DC, Mizuha accepted an invitation from Eleanor Roosevelt to have tea at the White House. During his visit, Mizuha asked the First Lady to support measures to grant citizenship to the parents of Nisei soldiers.

Following his recovery, he returned to Hawai'i, where he was appointed principal of a high school. In Hawai'i he made numerous personal appearances and speeches, campaigning for "Americanization" of Japanese Americans in Hawai'i as well as equal rights for Nisei veterans. In a statement published in the Christian Science Monitor in 1945, Mizuha asserted, "I am looking forward to a program that eventually will lead to the total elimination of Japanese institutions, customs, practices, and influences here in the Territory. It is a logical evolution—something that must come during our generation."[1]

After the end of World War II, Mizuha attended University of Michigan Law School on the GI Bill. Following graduation, he returned to Hawai'i and began a political career—he was one of very few 442nd veterans to join the Republican Party. In 1948, he was elected to the Kaua'i Board of Supervisors and two years later was a delegate to the Territory's constitutional convention. During the 1950s he served as a regent of the University of Hawai'i. In 1958 Mizuha was named Hawai'i's attorney general, and became the first chief law officer of the new state. In 1959, he was appointed a circuit court judge from O'ahu, and two years later he was elevated to the state Supreme Court. Mizuha served as an associate justice for eight years before retiring. During his tenure, Mizuha was known as a champion of individual rights. Following his departure from the bench, Mizuha resumed his law practice. He died in Hawaii in 1987.

Authored by Greg Robinson, Université du Québec À Montréal

For More Information

Odo, Franklin S. No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai'i during World War II. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003.

Yost, Israel A. S. Combat Chaplain: The Personal Story of the World War II Chaplain of the Japanese American 100th Battalion. Edited by Monica Elizabeth Yost and Michael Markrich. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006.

Footnotes

  1. William Norwood, "Valor of Nisei Aids Americanization Drive," Christian Science Monitor, January 3, 1945, 3.