Paul Kusuda’s column
Congressional Gold Medal awarded
to long-time Madisonian

PART 1 OF 2

By Paul H. Kusuda

Henry K. Kanazawa, a long-time resident of Madison, Wisconsin, was among more than 800
Nisei (Japanese American) World War II veterans who attended a gala event in Washington,
D.C., on November 1, 2011.  The men received the Congressional Gold Medal that was
awarded to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion (originally formed
in the Territory of Hawaii and later attached to the 442nd), and the Military Intelligence Service.

Henry was born in Seattle, Washington, 89 years ago, graduated from Garfield High School,
and was a freshman in architecture at the University of Washington when the Japanese
government attacked Pearl Harbor and changed the lives of everyone living in the United
States and its territories.  When persons of Japanese ancestry were urged to leave the Western Defense Command area
of California, Oregon, and Washington (western parts of each of the three West Coast states), Henry moved to the
eastern part of Washington.  His father was picked up the evening of December 7, 1941, and incarcerated for about a
year in an Internment Center at Missoula, Montana, because he was a Japanese alien (denied opportunity to become a
naturalized American citizen because of his ancestry) and thought to be a potential security risk, which he never was.  
Like many others of Japanese ancestry, both aliens and American citizens, Henry’s father was summarily picked up, sent
to a local lock-up, and then shipped to an internment center for an indefinite stay.  Families were not informed of reasons
or whereabouts.  They were not told anything until many, many days later.

The rest of Henry’s family was within a couple of months incarcerated in the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho.  Other
families of Japanese ancestry (again, both aliens and American citizens) were sent to nine other Relocation Centers in
various isolated parts of California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and as far east as Arkansas.  Despite the obvious
breach in U.S. Constitutional protection, both of Henry’s brothers served in the racially-segregated 442nd Regimental
Combat Team.  They advised him to enlist in the Military Intelligence Service since he had a background in use of
Japanese that most Nisei lacked and because there was need for men with that proficiency.  His later wife-to-be’s
mother was a teacher in the local Japanese language school. Whether he wanted to or not, he attended classes and
learned to speak, read, and write Japanese.

Henry took his brothers’ advice and became part of MIS, getting specialized knowledge at Fort Snelling, Minnesota,
enabling him to use his prior language capabilities to interrogate Japanese prisoners of war and to evaluate Japanese
military documents.  His work was made more difficult because the enemy, finding out his parents had emigrated to the
United States from Japan, resented his allegiance to the U.S.; they considered him to be a traitor to their country.  (My
personal reaction:  “Good for Henry for standing up for his beliefs!”)

After Japan surrendered, he was assigned to be a translator for U.S. officers who met with Japanese officials.  That
posed a minor difficulty because for interrogation duties he had to use a Japanese language level appropriate for the
purpose.  However, in working with U.S. army staff and Japanese officials, he had to redirect his language use to a more
courteous and formal method of discourse.  Of course, he adjusted to the environment well.  In fact, he adjusted so well
that he was offered a promotion in rank from Staff Sergeant to a field commission if he would extend his service time and
continue his good work.  His response was a simple “No, thank you.”

Henry used his GI Bill to complete his interrupted academic education in architecture.  He received both his
undergraduate degree and a Master’s in Arts degree in Architecture in Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  He
married his wife Miye in Chicago, and they had two daughters, one of whom accompanied him to Washington, D.C. when
he received his Congressional Gold Medal.  One of his professors and Head of the IIT Architecture Department was Mies
Van der Rohe, world-renowned architectural great.  He later worked for awhile with his mentor Mies, and then moved to
Madison, Wisconsin, in 1958 and joined Flad and Associates.  Later, he moved on and established his own firm,
Kanazawa Architecture.  

In Madison, he designed and oversaw construction of the cantilevered pedestrian/bicycle crosswalk over University
Avenue, the Children’s Treatment Center Building
for the State Department of Public Welfare,
University Heights Community Center, Welcome
Center buildings for the State Department of
Transportation, and many other public and private
buildings.  After retiring from his business, he
continued using his professional know-how, but
not for pay.   

He was an energetic, enthusiastic Habitat for
Humanities volunteer for a number of years, and
his contribution as an architect was recognized by
having Kanazawa Circle named for him as a street
in the eastside of Madison.

In my next article, I shall write about the Military
Intelligence Service and the 442nd Regimental
Combat Team’s part in World War II, how the men
served proudly and courageously while their
families of more than 120,000 men, women, and
children were incarcerated in War Relocation
Centers solely because they were of Japanese
ancestry.