by Darrell Kunitomi
Dr. Harry Abe, a kindly doctor I met on a 1994 return-to-Europe trip with veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team/100th Battalion, has passed on.
A couple years back I was glad to see him again in Washington, D.C. after a Grateful Crane performance during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Washington and military types were in attendance, including Rep. Barney Frank and General Antonio Taguba. Dr. Abe was there with his wife Lynn, and, as always, he was smiling and laughing. I treasure the one photo of us together.
On another Crane trip to Seattle, I was fortunate to meet up again with Harry’s wartime pal, Tosh, another 442nd medic. They served together.
None of us on the 1994 trip will forget how the two old friends sat in the back of the touring bus. Whenever we looked back those two were chumming it and laughing as they had as young men during their service. I remember they said they had climbed to the top of the tower of Pisa. It was open and unguarded during the war, and they spent time up there hanging out.
I interviewed Dr. Abe in 2003 in New York City for the Go For Broke Foundation’s Hanashi Oral History Program. He was a front-line medic, and served in the Vosges during the battle to rescue trapped elements of the 141st, the Lost Battalion.
It was busy work for the medical teams. I asked if there were guards stationed at the medical tent to protect him and others at work.
He said no, they were simply there, working.
I mentioned my uncle, Ted Fujioka, how he had been gravely wounded by a tree burst and killed in action a few days after the rescue. I said it’s possible you worked on him, Dr. Abe, who knows?
He said yes, maybe.
I believe he went to college after the war on the G.I. Bill. He established a family practice on Long Island, New York, and was the family doctor for many families. They called him “Dr. Abe” and “Dr. A-be,” not “Ah-beh” as we do. I was interested to hear his practice served Levittown, known famously as America’s first suburb.
Hat’s off to the old soldier, medic and doctor. Rest in peace, sir.
Darrell Kunitomi is a member of the Manzanar Committee.
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