Iwao "Jake" Kawakami
U.S. Army - M.I.S.
World War II

Brick #443   Wall Location  Column: 30   Row: 10

Iwao (Jake) Kawakami was born to Kakuzo and Fuku Kawakami on February 26, 1920 in Seattle Washington. He attended the Seattle Public Schools, graduating from Garfield High School in the spring of 1938.
On October 22, 1941, Jake was drafted into the U.S. army as the country prepared for war. In-take procedures were handled at Fort Lewis, Washington. Within a week, he was sent to Camp Roberts, California, assigned to field artillery. On December 7, 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, Jake’s basic training was abruptly terminated. He and other Nisei soldiers, all American-born citizens, were summarily assigned to KP (kitchen patrol) duty. The Nisei soldiers shared a pervasive feeling that they were not trusted. By the end of the month, Jake was sent to Fort Ord near Monterey, California where he continued to be assigned to menial tasks such as washing dishes and serving officers.
In the spring of 1942, when the U.S. government moved and incarcerated those of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast to desolate areas in the interior, Nisei solders were also moved inland. Jake was sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas continuing his menial assignments; while his family was first sent to an assembly center in Puyallup, Washington and then to a War Relocation Authority camp in Minidoka, Idaho.
Since the U.S. was at war with Japan, the army sought interpreters, recruiting qualified enlisted men to help fill this need. When the screening test revealed Jake’s basic proficiency in Japanese, he was sent for advance training to the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Language School at Camp Savage, Minnesota in June 1942.
After completing language school in December 1942, Jake was sent to Alaska as an interpreter during the battle of Attu Island. Jake had an opportunity to survey the front lines and noticed dead American soldiers were covered by blankets, but the dead Japanese soldiers were left uncovered. It was soon apparent to Jake that many of the enemy had committed suicide by exploding grenades near their heads. Later, when Jake escorted an injured Japanese soldier from Attu to Dutch Harbor, he learned that the Japanese soldiers had been told by their officers that they would be badly treated by the Americans if they were captured.
Jake was then stationed at Brisbane, Australia in 1943 where his MIS unit translated enemy documents including battle plans, diaries, and letters. In 1944, Jake was sent to Manila where he earned steady promotions culminating in the rank of Second Lieutenant. A troop build-up in Manila progressed, including over 2,000 Nisei translators, as the U.S. prepared to invade the home islands of Japan. The invasion was averted when the Japanese government formally surrendered in August 1945.
By the end of the war, Jake had enough points to be honorably discharged, but he elected to stay in the Army for an additional six months. He wanted to travel to Japan for the first time and visit his mother’s family in the Tokyo/Yokohama area and his father’s family in Mie-ken. Jake did his best to help them as they recovered from the devastation of the war. They were particularly grateful for the provisions that he obtained, especially powdered milk sent from Seattle for one of his cousin’s newborn.
Throughout the more than four-and-a-half years that Jake was in the army, his faith helped to sustain him. He attended services regularly with his fellow soldiers and enjoyed the fellowship of Christian families in many settings where he was stationed. He appreciated the many prayer supporters at home during his time of active duty.
When Jake returned to Seattle, he used the G.I. Bill to enroll at the University of Washington where he earned his degree in Business Administration. He joined the Internal Revenue Service, became an agent, and retired after twenty-seven years.
Jake married Sadako Nakamoto on February 9, 1951. Together they attended Faith Bible Church and had almost fifty-five wonderful years together. Sadako died to be with the Lord on January 8, 2006
In February 2007, Jake moved to the comfortable Lakeshore retirement community near beautiful Lake Washington.

  • Highest rank attained: Second Lieutenant
  • Position: Translator
  • Enlisted: 11 - None
  • Enlisted: 1 - None
Branches Of Service
  • U.S. Army
  • World War II
  • Allied Translator Interpreter Service