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
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."