442nd Regimental Combat Team in France after Kyono’s death. Photo Source: Army Center for Military History file Photo.

On Memorial Day, as I was researching an upcoming exhibit, I flipped the page in my notebook to reveal very timely Capital Journal headline from August 1944.  The heavy black print read:

John Kyono reported killed.

Kyono, a Nisei (or American-born, second generation immigrant from Japan) solider was killed in action on the front lines in Italy during World War II.  Death in service to country is laudable, but what makes Private Kyono’s story even more extraordinary is the context of his sacrifice.   Private Kyono died fighting for a country which, despite his status as a native-born American citizen, labelled him an enemy alien and forcibly removed his family from their home and livelihoods.

Even with Kyono’s status as a war hero, I found surprisingly few records documenting his existence.   We know John Hiroshi/Horoshi Kyono was born on August 18, 1917[1] in Hood River County to fruit farmers Yasuke and Kune Kyono.[2]  Kyono’s father died just before his son’s 11th birthday.[3]  Kyono was sent to Japan for some schooling during his youth, not an uncommon practice among Japanese settlers in Oregon.  The schooling allowed him to connect with family members, learn Japanese and cultural traditions.[4]  Sometime after he turned 18, the family, now headed by his eldest brother Frank Yoshitomo Kyono, moved to Lake Labish to farm.

It was in this environment that Kyono, along with the rest of the country, heard the news about Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Fearful and suspicious, the U.S. Army almost immediately set about taking measures to prevent attack on the U.S. mainland and their efforts targeted people of Japanese descent.  Regardless of their citizenship status, Japanese Americans in Marion County were required to register, were restricted with curfews and travel bans and had to surrender cameras, radios, guns and anything remotely usable as a weapon to the local sheriff’s department.[5]  FBI agents went door to door interrogating households and at least one Salem resident, Roy Fukuda, was detained.[6]  Rumors circulated that a mandatory “evacuation” of Japanese Americans from two militarily defined zones along the Pacific Coast was being considered and in March of 1942, the first of over a hundred removal orders was handed down.

Even with the label “enemy alien” and the threat of removal of their families, John Kyono, Kenneth Takayama, George Ishida and Tsutomu Maehara were inducted into the U.S. Army from the Lake Labish region in March 1942.[7]  Kyono was shipped to Europe where he fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat team, which was made up of Nisei soldiers and has the distinction of being the most decorated unit in U.S. Military history for its size and length of service.[8]  The honors, however, came at a very high price.  On July 6, 1944, at the height of the Rome-Arno Campaign, Kyono was killed in action amidst the poor roads, mountainous terrain only passable with the help of mules and the constant barrage of 88 mm shells.[9]  He was buried at Follonica for five years until being brought home to American soil in 1949.  He is now interned at the Golden Gate National Cemetery.

The story of Kyono and the 442nd’s bravery in the face of battles at home and abroad is remarkable and should be remembered.

Sources

[1] Headstone.  Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, San Mateo County, California.  Section J. Site 1037.  Accessed via Find-a-Grave.  Gives birth and death dates (18 Aug 1917 – 6 Jul 1944).  His entry in the 1940 U.S. Census, Chemawa, Marion County, Oregon.  Gives his birth place as Oregon.

[2] Yasuke Kyono is listed in the 1910 and 1920 Census as a fruit farmer in Hood River.  It is very likely he was born here as there is no evidence that the family was anywhere else at the time.

[3] Oregon Death Index lists a death of June 18, 1928.   Headstone.  Yasuke Kyono Birth 24 Oct 1875, Japan – 18 June 1928, Hood River.Idlewilde Cemetery, Hood River, Oregon.  Accessed via Find-a-Grave although it should be noted that a note on the find-a-grave site states he died in 1927.

[4] For reference to his being schooled in Japan see “John Kyono Reported Killed.”  Capital Journal. 7 Aug 1944, pg 10.  For more information about Kibei (American-born students sent to Japan for schooling) see the Wikipedia article here.

[5] “Salem Aliens Give up guns, Radios, Cameras”  Capital Journal. 29 Dec 1941, page 9.

[6] “Roy Fukuda and German Held.” Capital Journal.  23 Feb 1942.

[7] “Hazel Green.” Oregon Statesman. 27 Mar 1942, pg 9.  “Army Service Call Contains Large Group.” Capital Journal. 18 Mar 1942.

[8] See more about the 442 here.

[9] “Battle Campaigns Excerpted from the 442nd journals.” http://www.ajawarvets.org/assets/pdf/rome-arno.pdf

This article was written by Kylie Pine in June 2017.  It was published in the Statesman Journal Newspaper.  It is reproduced here with citations for reference purposes

Assorted References:

Find-a-Grave
Pvt John H. Kyono
18 Aug 1917 – 6 Jul 1944
San Bruno, San Mateo County, California
PHOTO of Stone – John H Kyono.  Oregon. PVT 442 Inf.  World War II August 18, 1917- July 6, 1944
Golden Gate National Cemetery.  Section J. Site 1037

Internment Control Forms
Kyono, John H.  Oregon. Private Serial No. 39305751.  Co. F. 442 Infantry U.S. Army WWII.  DOB Aug 18, 1917.  Date of Death July 6, 1944. Date of Internment March 10, 1949.  Section J. Grave 1037.  Notes:  WWII Deceased returned from Follonica, Italy.  Headstone form mailed to next of Kin.

World War II Army Enlistment Records
Birth: 1917
Race: Japanese, citizen
Natviity: Oregon
State of Residence: Oregon
County/City: Hood River
Enlistement Date: 23 Mar 1942
Enlistment State: Oregon
Enlistment City: Portland
Branch: Branch Immaterial-Warrant Officers, USA
Grade: Private
Terms: Enlistment for the Duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to discretion of the President or otherwise according to the law.
Education: 1 year of high school
Civil Occupation: Farm hands, general farms
Marital Status: Single with dependents
Height 60
Weight 108

US Rosters of World War II Dead
John Kyono
Male
Japanese
Protestant
Golden Gate National Cemetery
Disposition: According to next of Kin
Service Branch army
rank: Private

1910 US Census Hood River
Kiyono, Y. 35, M.   13 years married

1920 US Census Hood River
Yasuke Kyono, 45, 1904 Al Japan, Fruit Farmer
Kuma, 37, wife 1911
Jane Ione, 4
Horoshi, 2
Takashi, 7/12
Fred, 18, 1916 Alien
Theryokichi, 16, Alien 1919

1927 Find-a-Grave
Yasuke Kyono, aged 55 – Hood River

US Census 1930
Oak Grove, Hood River, Oregon
Yosheitomo Kyono, M, 29
Akino, 28, F
Jane V., F, 14 daughter
Hiroshi, 12, Son
Takasi, 10, Son
Sakuye, 2 Son

Kyono, Kuma, Head, widow, 46
Keto, Son, 7
Masutoki, Daughter, 5
Yutaka, Son, 3.5, son
Susumu, son, 2 2/12
Ray, son 5/12
Chiyokichi, Step son, 27

US CENSUS 1940
Chemawa, Marion, Oregon
Kyono, Yoshitomo, 39, M HEAD
Akino, 37, F, wife
Kato, 17, F
Masa, 15, M
Yutaka, 13, M
Susumu, 12, M
Ray, 10, M
Kuma Kyono, 56, Step mother.
John H., 23, M, Brother
Takasi, 20 M. brother
Sakae, 11, F, Sister

Previously lived in Hood River, Oregon.