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Korean War Veterans Association, Inc.

Incorporated June 14, 1985... Chartered by Congress June 30, 2008
*Korean War and Korea Defense Veterans...
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The Saga of Kiyohito (Mike) Tsutsui

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Murrieta California August 27, 2005

Mike was the only Japanese National captured during the Korean War. He was born February 17, 1930, in Southern Japan. At the end of the Second World War he gained employment at a nearby US Army Base. He soon became the head of the kitchen police at Headquarters Battery, 63rd Field Artillery Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division at Camp Hakata, Japan.

When the unit was alerted to go to Korea to fight the Communist invasion from the North, Mike was asked by the Battery Commander, 1st Lt. Herman W. Starling to accompany the unit. He said yes and was given uniforms, a weapon and ammunition.

The 63rd FAB departed Japan on July 4, 1950 and arrived in Pusan the following day. On July 14, 1950, Mike and others from his unit became Prisoners of War. Mike was given a rank and serial number to remember lest the North Koreans find out he was actually a Japanese civilian and in Korea illegally. He could have been shot as a spy had the North Koreans found.

In those days all Koreans spoke Japanese because of the 40 year occupation by Japan.

Mike was pressed into service an the head interpreter and was severely beaten on a daily basis. He would interpret in such a way as to save the Americans being interrogated from beatings or even death. Mike did all this with complete disregard for his own life and was awarded the Medal of Freedom with Palm, the highest medal the United States could bestow on a foreign national at that time.

Mike was repatriated on August 17, 1953 and sent home to Japan. He had no back pay coming or benefits and the Japanese government was investigating him because he left the country illegally.

Some of the POW officers of the 24th Division brought Mike to the states on a student visa. Life was hard for Mike as he had no formal education in English. He had to drop out of college and went to Maine to live with Shorty Estabrook (B/19/24) who was a POW with him.

Mike would soon have to return to Japan because his visa was going to expire. He could not enlist in our Army but could volunteer for the draft which he did. After his training he was stationed in Yokohama. It was here he was awarded the Medal of Freedom.

Senator Barry Goldwater became interested in Mike's case and had him transferred to Arizona and the Senator sponsored him for citizenship in a private bill before Congress. Mike became an American Citizen. Mike was discharged from the Army and traveled to Nebraska where Estabrook was stationed and was sworn in the Regular Army.

Mike served his new country for 20 years with a tour in Viet Nam. After his retirement he went to work for the government at Camp Zama Japan. And finally he retired altogether and takes care of his aged mother in Tokushima Japan.

Mike was awarded 14 medals.

  • Medal of Freedom with Palm
  • Bronze Star Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Army Commendation Medal
  • 6 Good Conduct Medals
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Viet Nam Service Medal with four Bronze Campaign Stars
  • Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal with “60” Device
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation with Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm.

For many years, friends of Mike have attempted to obtain military credit for his time as a POW. All efforts failed. The Department of the Army once said that such action would set a precedent for others in the same circumstances. But this is not possible as Mike was the only one ever so affected.

But Mike is a fighter and never gave up his quest to get credit for his POW time in Korea even though he was not in our Army.

And now for the rest of the story:

On July 29, 2005 the Department of the Army, Office of the Assistant Secretary Manpower and Reserve Affairs, issued a Memorandum for the US Army Review Boards Agency Support Division in St. Louis and APPROVAL was granted in Mike’s case.

Mike’s time as a civilian internee from 14 July 1950 to 17 August 1953 is now considered active Federal service and he will be compensated accordingly. His retirement record will be amended to show and additional 3 years, 1 month, and 4 days.

His retired pay will now be recalculated to reflect the addition 37 months and will be retroactive to 30 October 1975,

There is even more: Mike is now entitled to the POW Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation for his service in Korea.

He can apply for a Purple Heart Medal based on the many beatings he endured while a POW as well as the new Korean Service Medal.

Because of his loyalty to the United States and to his fellow Prisoners of War Mike can now be recommended for the DSC or perhaps a Silver Star Medal. He is also now able to file a claim with the VA for disabilities related to his time as a POW.

-30-

Written by:
Shorty Estabrook
23816 Matador Way
Murrieta CA 92562
951-600-7222
POW Korea 37 Months 13 days
Founder of the Tiger Survivors

 

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