Roanoke College

Japanese American WWII and Korean War Veteran speaks to new Roanoke students

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  • Japanese American WWII and Korean War Veteran speaks to new Roanoke students

  • 09/07/10
  • SALEM, VA -World War II and Korean War veteran Grant Ichikawa spoke to new Roanoke College students during their on-campus orientation in late August. Born and raised in California, Ichikawa is a Japanese American who, with his family, was interned in a detainment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In spite of this, Ichikawa volunteered to serve in the US Army Military Intelligence Service.

    Ichikawa, who now lives in Vienna, Va., brought to life the freshman summer reading assignment, When the Emperor was Divine. This novel by Julie Otsuka tells the story of a Japanese American family sent to a Utah detainment camp for enemy aliens during World War II.

    Ichikawa described his own first night in a detainment camp as "perhaps the lowest night of my life." As an American citizen himself and a college graduate, he wasn't worried he would be picked up by the authorities. "There were a series of orders: turn in radios, weapons, etc." he said. "Eventually, we boarded a train with only what we could carry." He was taken to a former fairground, which was now a stockade. His family of five was assigned to a former horse stall, along with another family of three. "With the smell of horse manure," he said, "I lay there thinking of what could happen to a citizen of this country."

    He was later inducted into the U.S. Army and eventually got a field placement as a linguist. His first duty as a linguist officer was to accompany a Strategic Bombing Survey Unit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to survey the devastation of the atomic bomb attacks.

    Ichikawa served two tours of active duty and was later a diplomat to the US Consulate in Surabaya and the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. He also served in Saigon and, on April 30, 1975, just before the city fell to the North Vietnamese, Ichikawa was among the last to leave Vietnam in the helicopter evacuation from the Embassy rooftop.

    Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a stunning undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just 276 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the "best in the Southeast" and U.S. News & World Report includes Roanoke on its "Up-and-coming National Liberal Arts Colleges" list.


  • Public Relations
  • (540) 375-2282
  • gereaux@roanoke.edu