Japanese-American served as paratrooper, linguist
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 4, 2006

Clarence Ohta, a third-generation Japanese-American, was born, raised and educated in Hawaii.

He also served as a paratrooper and linguist in World War II with the Army's 11th Airborne Division, nicknamed "the Angels."

After spending some time in New Guinea, the 11th fought to liberate Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines in 1944 and 1945. The Angels were the first of the occupation forces in Japan after that country surrendered in 1945, Ohta said.

During the war, Ohta received military-intelligence language training in Savage, Minn. That was followed by more intensive training at the Army Parachute School at Fort Benning, Ga., where Ohta earned his parachutist wings and boots.

He next went through basic and advanced airborne training with the 13th Airborne Division at Camp Mackall, N.C.

From there, it was on to Brisbane, Australia, for a month. Then Ohta's language team joined the 11th Airborne Division in New Guinea. The liberation of Leyte and Luzon followed.

Ohta made a combat jump with the Gypsy Task Force in northern Luzon. The task force mounted a glider and paratrooper attack on Japanese installations.

Ohta said the servicemen who occupied Japan after VJ Day, or Victory over Japan Day, Aug. 15, 1945, were permitted to bring home a sword or pistol as a souvenir.

But "these contrabands were ordered turned in at police stations by Gen.
(Douglas) MacArthur," Ohta said. "There were stacks of them (items). I brought home a long sword myself."

Ohta was a sergeant 1st class when he left the Army in 1948. He earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service during the war.

Ohta, now an 81-year-old Peoria resident, said he had his sword's history researched and the sword professionally appraised. The sword was 350 years old and worth $3,500, he said.

"I donated my long sword two years ago to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii with hope that the future generations will see a real sword," Ohta said. "Much effort was put into it by the swordsmith to create a flawless long sword. Long swords were the most difficult to make, and it is the most expensive of the three sword lengths."