Monday, December 17, 2007

In memoriam: Katsumi J. Nakadate, 1914-2007

I read with sadness yesterday news of the death of Dr. Katsumi James Nakadate, M.D., in the obituaries section of The Oregonian (notice online here).

Born in Portland in 1914, Dr. Nakadate graduated from the University of Oregon Medical School in 1939. He entered active duty with the U.S. Army in 1942, training with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team; he also served with the 17th Airborne and the 82nd Airborne, the latter during the occupation of Berlin. While in Berlin in 1945, he wrote to the Oregon State Medical Society, in response to their request for a copy of his Bronze Star citation:
I carry now (inoperable) two pieces of metal -- souvenirs from the Germans and three clusters on my purple heart - doing occupation duty here in Berlin - sick call for civilian war criminals for whom I have very little sympathy - included among the prisoners are some doctors --!
The citation had been given "for heroic and meritorious action against the enemy near Hussmansdorf, Germany, on March 24, 1945" during a glider-borne maneuver. Wounded by flak, Captain Nakadate administered first aid to the men in his unit "working tirelessly throughout the entire day." The citation notes that "his devotion to duty while experiencing extreme pain was an inspiration to all men of his command." One wonders whether it was the memory of this experience that led Nakadate to choose a residency in anesthesiology after the war.

In July 2000, Dr. Nakadate sat for an oral history interview with Tadaaki Hiruki, M.D., and shared his memories of growing up in Portland, his experiences as a Japanese American during the war years, and his long career in anesthesiology at St. Vincent Hospital and the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center. Recalling December 7, 1941, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nakadate said:
In that time we had Pearl Harbor in 1941, and I remember this very distinctly. I was in my second year of internal medicine, and Pearl Harbor was Sunday. Monday morning I went to go to work in the hospital, and they told me, “There’s a couple of people in the director’s office to see you, and you are supposed to go there.” And I go there, and who do you suppose it was? It was the FBI. Well, they were the ones checking Japanese Americans in that area, in the Detroit area. And they said, “We know all about you, Doctor, because we have a man here that’s in our service that was a Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout, with you in Portland, Oregon, in your same troop.” And they—the outfit is the federal—you probably know what it is. It’s the one that checks for problems here in the United States. They said, “We know all about you, so you don’t have anything to worry about. We just wanted to let you know that you’re okay.” And this fellow by the name of Kirby, Jim Kirby, was a fellow Eagle Scout in Troop 66 in Portland, Oregon, in the years, I would say, 1928 through 1931. A fellow Eagle Scout.

HIRUKI: So he vouched for you?

NAKADATE: He vouched for me before the group knew anything about me. He vouched for me. And so several times I went out and ate with the federal people, and they all knew I was just another fellow citizen. That was very interesting.

To hear more of Nakadate's story, check out his oral history interview, available in the OHSU Main Library.

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