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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 2, 2001

Movie Review: 'Journey to Honor'
Veterans' saga touches a son's life

Veterans of World War Ii take centerstage in films
WWII film explores forgiveness
Sept. 11 muted much film-industry hoopla
6 films in running for top prize
Jurors are film-industry notables
Hawai'i International Film Festival information

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

Veterans of the 100th Battalion — from left, Rikio Tsuda, Stanley Akamine, Herbert Hamamura, Stanly Izumigawa and Masaharu Saito — salute comrade Jack Jackson at his grave in Nettuno, Italy.


Stuart Yamane's "Journey of Honor" documentary is an affirmation of human fortitude under a banner of war. It tracks a dozen World War II veterans from Hawai'i on a rediscovery mission they take with their kinfolk nearly 60 years after combat duty, and it emerges as a portrait of real-life heroes upholding the basic qualities of life: honor, duty, resolve.

On one hand, it is the director's personal saga of connecting with a father he never knew. Through conversations with and reflections by Masakichi Yamane's war-time buddies, Stuart Yamane realizes the contributions his estranged dad made, alongside the veterans he photographed. He comes to understand the significance of some of the wartime medals and mementos he received in a Mouton Cadet crate after his father died.

With vintage photographs to give the film authenticity, Yamane also tells a broader story, one about innocent twentysomethings who left their Island homeland to fight for their country. It is a worthy tale of one generation's noble dedication and legacy.

Through his own narration and through the voices and faces of the survivors, now in their 80s, "Journey of Honor" truly is an honorable journey about young men who were on the front lines at the height of World War II, serving with the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, becoming the most decorated war unit ever, in their fight for freedom.

Their steadfast loyalty and dedication made them heroes then; but in reflection, with the turmoil in the world today, they are pegged as unofficial models of democracy and icons of the undying American spirit. By retracing their steps, alongside wives, children and grandchildren on the tour, they literally pass on the torch and the legacy of their service, enlightening their kin, and ultimately the world, of their contributions.

Former news anchor Bob Jones led the group to the war sites, which include Lombardy and Tuscany. A touching Liberation Day celebration in Pietrasanta, where the community erected a memorial dedicated to the Allied troops, focuses on a statue of Pfc. Sadao Munemori, who died in the nearby mountains. He was the first AJA to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the villagers show their aloha spirit to the Island visitors.

Though post-war inequities placed thousands of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, reflecting the absurdity of racism gone amok, these AJAs prove that honor knows no color. As Kurt Akamine, son of Seitoku Akamine (a 100th Battalion vet), says, it doesn't matter how you look — what counts is that you're an American.

Yamane, known as a producer of Hawaiian music specials on public television, taps his resources to make music a vital part of this documentary. Jake Shimabukuro's 'ukulele treatment of "The Star Spangled Banner" is heard a couple of times in the footage, with the artistry of Byron Yasui and Daniel Ho also adding poignancy to the film.