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Cheju Island 1952

The middle of three sons, George Kumasaka was born into an Issei farming family in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington where he played baseball for the legendary coach, “Tubby” Graves. He was accepted to Northwestern Medical School one week prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Following WWII, he married Yuriko Kawaguchi and began a family. At the age of 32, he entered the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. On Cheju Island, he served as Camp Surgeon responsible for all U.S. military personnel and some 6,000 Chinese Communist prisoners of war. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. Returning to Seattle, Dr. Kumasaka specialized in internal medicine and practiced for many years. He and Yuriko had five children.

By Andrew Kumasaka, For The North American Post

Inscription on back of the undated photo It reads 8220a gag picture no modern set up in this part of Korea8221 It reveals Captain George Kumasaka8217s sense of humor in posing beside the officers8217 latrine

for my father

To honor your country

means to take a slow boat

to South Korea

In a battle of latitudes

and latitude

the world has taken up sides again

The Golden Horde

The Yellow Peril

The human waves surging off the Chinese mainland

crest now in the north of what was called

“Chosen” — the hated name of domination

given during the brutal former occupation

by the polite

and recently vanquished

“Purei boru!”

Play hardball with us

From home plate in the States to bases

in Yokosuka and Okinawa

swinging for the fences along the 38th parallel

To honor your oath

means to take care of all your patients

even though they are the enemy

And all the prisoners of war interned here

have faces with that familiar

foreign look about them

For a backdrop  — why not consider the broken

brown-skinned hills of Cheju-do

the bone-colored snow sticking out at angles

like the compound fractures of war

Stand here for a moment in your fur-lined cap

with flaps — in the bear-hug of a uniform coat

smiling brightly while being shot

by one of your own staff medic’s Nikon

Camp Surgeon with two silver bars on your shoulders

you make rounds on the latest acquisitions

The American guard paces back and forth — alert

looking for the sharp glint of trouble

the makeshift knife pulled on you

by a huddling crowd of vengeful Manchurians

What a potential for confusion

and ethnic misunderstanding

The Jap doc tending to Commie Chinks

who in turn are fighting on behalf of half

the Gooks in this land

of rotting cabbage

The American guard is more than observant

He saves your life

Another time

you creep up behind a sleepy sentry

an hour before the end of his watch

You poke him in the ribs — just for fun

another sneak attack at dawn as it were

He whirls white-eyed with a loaded rifle

and sees an Oriental face

And he should have blown you to kingdom come

but doesn’t — because somehow

even with his life on the line 

he recognizes you

I beg you to tell me about the bad times growing up in America

I implore you to describe the humiliations and mistreatment

Instead you show me another stack of slides

of Cheju-do — the ordinary soldier boys stationed there

and the makeshift baseball games in fall

To honor your friends — to honor your team

means to be loyal

always

Cheju-do (Jeju do) location. Image: Google Maps.
Cheju-do hills. Photo: Norm Banks, US Geological Survey

Andrew Kumasaka was born in Chicago and grew up in Seattle. A psychiatrist, he retired after thirty years of private practice. His poems have appeared in various literary journals. His debut novel, “All Gone Awry,” was released in September 2021. He and his wife live in Soquel, California. They have two grown sons.

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The North American Post is a community newspaper that celebrates Japanese culture in the Greater Seattle area. Founded by 1st generation Japanese-Americans in 1902, the publication is one of the oldest minority-owned newspapers in the region. Today, with bilingual articles in English and Japanese, the publication connects readers with diverse cultural backgrounds to Seattle’s Japanese community. Our articles include local news, event calendars, restaurant reviews, Japanese cooking recipes, community interviews, and more.