Remembering Tetsuo Asato

In honor of Veteran’s Day, this entry is dedicated to a special World War II Nisei veteran, Tetsuo Asato, who fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and was one of the Go For Broke National Education Center organization’s founding members, who recently passed away.

Tetsuo Asato grew up on a farm in El Monte, California with his Issei parents and three siblings. His life was turned around after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 – his father was taken by the FBI and sent to Tuna Canyon detention center, while he and his family were forcibly removed to the Pomona Assembly Center, and later, to Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming. Fortunately, his father was released from the Santa Fe detention facility and transferred to Heart Mountain to rejoin his family. While at Heart Mountain, Tets passed the time topping sugar beets for local farmers and working for the Fire Department within camp, but was later drafted into the segregated Japanese American military unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

In this video clip, Tets talks about how he learned about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team/100th Infantry Battalion while in camp, and his initial thoughts about being drafted.

Tets completed his basic training at Camp Shelby, and was assigned to G Company – one of the 442nd RCT replacement outfits sent to the European Theater. He was sent to fight in the Northern Apennine Mountains in France, which was part of the Gothic Line and Po Valley Campaign. He was awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, as well as other unit citations for his military service.  After returning home from the war, he settled in Los Angeles, California, raised a family, and started his own insurance company.

He also became quite active in the Japanese American community, participating in various clubs and organizations — one of which was the Go For Broke National Education Center.

Tets Asato was one of the greats. His involvement with this organization goes all the way back to the beginning. As a founding board member, he and his fellow veterans raised over a million dollars to build the Monument. He was the chairman of the Veteran Monument Committee and for over 4 months, he was personally at the site almost every day overseeing construction. After it was built, Tets, George Fujimori, and Ken Akune (otherwise known as the 3 musketeers) served as dedicated docents 3 times a week and would meet at the office before heading to downtown.

Tets also served as an active board member for over 22 years, and as co-chair then acting chair in 2009. He was one of our “go-to” guys for speaking engagements and would always step up as a team leader for every grassroots fundraiser. As Ken Ito said, he was a bulldog. He was tough – he worked hard and got results, in any endeavor that he undertook. He put so much of his time, effort and resources into making this organization successful. Ask any staff member that knew him and they’ll tell you that he was one of the main reasons they worked as hard as they did for GFBNEC.-Barbara Coons, Staff at Go For Broke National Education Center

Tets Asato was one of many Nisei veterans who fought for this country during World War II, and he will be greatly missed.

Today, we also remember and honor ALL of the veterans who have fought, and continue to fight, to protect this country.

Happy Veteran’s Day!


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