SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Pat Hagiwara dies at 91
Former Resident Was Member of Most Decorated Military Unit in World War II



July 24, 2010

Former Ketchikan resident Pat Kazuo Hagiwara, 91, died June 24 in Seattle. Services were held on July 3.

jpg Former Ketchikan resident Pat Kazuo Hagiwara, 91, died June 24 in Seattle.

Former Ketchikan resident Pat Kazuo Hagiwara, 91, died June 24 in Seattle.

Hagiwara was born and raised in Ketchikan and served in the military in World War II. Like all local Japanese American residents he was swept up in the controversy over the World War internment of Japanese American citizens.

Hagiwara was born on March 7, 1919, the second son of local bakery owners Frank and Shima Hagiwara.

According to an oral history at the Alaska State Museum that Hagiwara sat for in 1990, his father Chokichi "Frank" Hagiwara and two friends left Seattle, Washington, in 1909, hoping to "make a fortune" in Alaska. They intended to earn money in Ketchikan before continuing to interior Alaska but Frank Hagiwara decided to stay in Ketchikan.

In 1916, Frank Hagiwara returned to Japan for an arranged marriage to Shima Kitagawa, a school teacher. Frank and Shima had four children in Ketchikan.

In the oral history, Pat Hagiwara noted that his family lived "modestly, kept a minimum amount of Japanese culture" in their home, and worked "many hours every day in the family bakery" from 1919 to 1942 when they were evacuated during the war.

Hagiwara also noted that he had both "hakujin" (Caucasian) and Japanese friends in Ketchikan, adding that discrimination was not a problem until World War II broke out.

In a letter to the Ketchikan Museum in 2000, Hagiwara sent along some youth baseball photos from his early years. He apologized for not being able to identify all the children in the photos.

"It has been nearly 70 years since I last saw most of them and, today, you might say my memory of sandlot baseball is not very good," Hagiwara wrote in 2000. "I still remember while I was in the 4th grade, I was a pitcher and we won a trophy that year and our coach was Clarence "Kelly" Foss (of the Kayhi class of 1931). I see Kelly (as I did this year) at our annual Ketchikan Reunion Picnic held at Edmonds City Park on the 4th Sunday in July."

Hagiwara graduated from Ketchikan High School in 1936 and worked in his family's bakery, the Alaska Home Bakery, on Stedman Street, until 1940.

In the oral history, Hagiwara said that Fred Van Gilder encouraged him to join the Alaska Guard in 1940. He and several other local Guardsmen were sent to Port Chilkoot in Haines when the state Guard was nationalized at the outbreak of war.

When World War II began, Hagiwara said he and his friends, and fellow guard members, Charlie Tatsuda, Bob Urata, and Jimmy Tatsuda encountered an "awkward and difficult" period as people "suspected their motives and allegiance."

Pat Kazuo Hagiwara

Then in February, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced evacuation of nearly all of the Japanese American families on the U.S. Pacific Coast, including Alaska.

Initially, the local Issei ­ or Japanese born males - were put under armed guard as potential "enemy combatants." Most were moved to the growing military base on Annette Island.

Then all of the Ketchikan Japanese American were evacuated to Seattle in April 1942. According to information from the Tongass Historical Museum, Ketchikan had the highest number of internees in the state, 59. Only a handful, four families, would return to Ketchikan after the war. Hagiwara's parents settled in Chicago.

As the military prepared to evacuate Southeast Alaska Issei ­ Japanese born - males, like his father Frank, to Annette Island, Pat Hagiwara recalls being placed in the "unenviable position of having to send for and stand guard over some Isseis."

To comply with Executive Order 9066, Pat Hagiwara and his comrades transferred out of Alaska in late April 1942 and eventually ended up at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, where Hagiwara became a training instructor before heading overseas.

En route south, as his ship approached Annette Island, Pat Hagiwara asked the captain if he could stop to see his father, saying that he might never see him again. The captain said, "No."

Gazing ashore, after docking, Pat Hagiwara saw a jeep racing down to the dock toward the ship. "Patrick Hagiwara," boomed over the jeep's loudspeaker as the chaplain, who was driving, called "jump in."

The chaplain delivered him to a canvas tent where his father, and Isseis Tanino, Suzuki, Shimizu, Ohashi, Kimura and Togo huddled. Pat Hagiwara says that was the last time he saw his father until November 1943 at the Minidoka Internment Camp.

Not all the situations involving the internment turned out as well, though.

According to information in the Tongass Historical Museum records, Charlie Tatsuda was prevented from his visiting his dying sister in Ketchikan when he was at Port Chilkoot. The other family members had already been moved to the Lower 48, but the young girl was too sick to be moved. Finally, one of his other sisters was allowed to return briefly to Ketchikan, but the younger sister died before she arrived.

Also during that time, Hagiwara noted that he was in charge of guarding some of the more prominent Issei of Juneau, including two businessmen named Tanaka and Fukuyama as they waited to be evacuated to Seattle.

Pat Hagiwara joined the 442 Regimental Combat Team in Europe. Charlie Tatsuda was sent to military intelligence school in Minnesota. He graduated as an interpreter and was assigned to the paratroopers.
Although most of the Japanese American service men went to Europe, Tatsuda served in the Pacific Theater, the Philippines, and Japan.

During the war, Hagiwara was a decorated veteran - and staff sergeant - in the 442 Regimental Combat Team. The 442, made up primarily of family members of the Japanese Americans who were interned during the war, was one of the most decorated in U.S. history with more than 1,000 Purple Hearts and 21 Congressional Medal of Honor winners.

It fought through Europe, most notably in Italy and France. Hagiwara remained proud of his service and was active in both military reunions and the Nisei Veterans Committee of Seattle through the remainder of his life.

Hagiwara married Misako Kondo in 1942. The couple moved to Seattle in 1945, while Hagiwara attended the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering. He worked as an engineer and manager for Boeing, retiring in 1986 after 36 years with the company.

The family moved to the Rainier Valley in 1951 and their children were the first Japanese Americans to attend the Brighton Elementary School, according to an funeral home obituary written by the family. The Hagiwaras moved to Bellevue in 1968.

In addition to serving as a coach for many of his six children's sporting teams, Hagiwara was also a member of the vestry of St. Peter's Episcopal, following in the steps of his father as a church leader.

Although Hagiwara never returned to live in Alaska after World War II, he was an active member of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Pioneers and rarely missed the Ketchikan Reunion Picnic that is held each year in Edmonds. He also kept in touch with many of his Ketchikan High School classmates over the years.

He is survived by his wife, Misako, his children Kathleen Hagiwara Purcell of Issaquah, Washington; Patrick Hagiwara of Northridge, California; Janet Cantelon of Des Moines, Washington; Grace Hagiwara of Mountain View, California; Juli Alsgaard of Glendale, California and Robert Hagiwara of Winnipeg, Manitoba; two grandchildren; four great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2006

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