Author: Ben Tamashiro, D Company
Puka Puka Parades, November – December 1981, vol. 35. no. 6
Interview with Howard Miyake about his 1st wife, his life in combat, and his life after war involved in law school and politics
Howard Miyake had-no particular affection for cats. So when his wife, Juanita, came home one day with a Burmese kitten she had bought from a lady friend in Manoa, he exclaimed, “I don’t want any part of it!” She gave no outward sign of vexation but as soon as he had said it, he realized that his impulsive and intemperate remark had ruffled her feelings. He loved his wife very much and to have hurt her in this manner was an act unlike him.
Without another word, then, he got a box and set about to make a bed in the laundry room for the kitten. He was taken by the silken texture of the seal-brown coat and the languid beauty in those golden-yellow eyes. But most of all he was raptured by that trait particular to these felines – people loving, talking, fighting cats.
The nights in Dowsett Highlands in Nuuanu can get pretty chilly so he lined the box with several layers of soft toweling. But even in the comfort of the downy enclosure, the kitten cried all night; no doubt, partly in loneliness. So on the next, he placed the kitten right on his chest when he went to bed. (Juanita slept in a separate bedroom.) The two slumbered soundly till morning. So that’s how it began … as, for the next 14 years, the two slept side by side each night.
“She even had two litters, right there on the bed, beside me!” said Howard, with elation. “There were nine kittens in the first and six in the second. We gave them all away.” And when the cat, named Puutao (a Burmese word; Juanita picked it, Howard’s not sure of its meaning) died in April 1972, he buried her by a corner of the house where Juanita’s favorite gingers grew.
Death of a beautiful lady. Juanita Carmencita Arnez was of Spanish-French-American Indian descent. “She was a beautiful person,” said Howard of her. He was in Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco in 1947, recuperating from his war wounds, when an Air Force fighter pilot invited him to a birthday party. There he met Juanita. He dated her the next night, and for the next eight months. They were married in Reno, Nevada, the following May. The fact that she was Roman Catholic and he a Protestant (Congregationalist) in no way blocked their path to happiness. But what religion could not put asunder, death did.
Juanita was afflicted with a lingering illness almost from the time she was a young girl. She was born in Lake Charles Parish, Louisiana (outside of New Orleans). The place was heavy with forests of pine trees and at the young age of 14, a fungus from the pine trees had lodged itself in her lungs, bringing on the first stirrings of sarcoidosis, or Boeck’s Sarcoid – a rare disease which invades the tissues, most frequently affecting the lungs, skin and lymph nodes. And although it usually heals eventually, it is a long illness which can be disabling. Because the disease so frequently attacks the lungs, it has been confused with tuberculosis; however, it is not communicable because it is not a bacteria.
For a long while, the cause of Juanita’s lingering listlessness was, indeed, a confusing dilemma. It was not until 1951 that her disease was finally diagnosed as sarcoidosis. The disease had caused her heart to expand in order to compensate for a weakened lung and in the overexertion, it almost gave way in 1960. During her long years of illness, oxygen tanks and other life-sustaining aids were always positioned around her bed. She died in May 1972, almost to the day that she married Howard 24 years ago. Her death also came one month after Puutao, her cat, was buried near the ginger plants she loved so much.
“She remained a beautiful person till the end,” said Howard. “Three days before she died, she said to me, ‘Howard, don’t remain a widower very long. A man your age only deteriorates. Find someone nice and get married to her.’ Then she said, ‘If you don’t take good care of your second wife, I’m going to come back and haunt you!'”
Said Howard, “I recited this to my second wife, Harumi, and it made her very happy because she had been warned by her classmates that she shouldn’t marry a widower because she’d be competing with memories of the first wife, be competing with a ghost. She goes with me to Juanita’s grave every month.”
Butterflies are for real. Two days after her death, his nephew came by to help water the long neglected plants. He noticed a butterfly flying in circles around the entrance to the home. Said Howard, “Because of its strange antics, he kept it under observation. It flew back and forth in front of the house, then flew to the side and back and to the front again, in a counterclockwise pattern, and so forth. Then suddenly it flew up over the roof and disappeared. My nephew then watered the whole garden. It was the first and only time he’d done this.”
A few days later, Howard called one of Juanita’s friends to offer her whatever she would like to have of Juanita’s beautiful clothings. The two were almost identical in size: 5 feet 7, dress size 14, and shoe size a very narrow 71/2 quadruple A. “The friend then wrote me a letter telling of her experience with a butterfly,” said Howard. “She had been lowering the hem of Juanita’s dresses to meet the current style. Her eyes were tired so she went into the garden to look at something green. She felt something flying around her head so she tried to brush it away. The moment she saw that it was a butterfly, she had a funny feeling that it was Juanita telling her how pleased she was that she could use her dresses.”
Howard told of other instances. “Before she died, she kept begging me to go up on the roof and oil the cedar shake butt shingles. But I never had time. But after she died I had time. So I’m up on the roof one Saturday, spraying Diesel oil mixed with termite medicine. Then a butterfly came flying around my head. ‘Hey, butterfly, go away. You’re gonna get killed by the fumes of the termite medicine,’ I said to the butterfly. But it kept circling near my head. And I had a funny feeling that it was Juanita telling me how happy she was that I was oiling the roof. But I didn’t finish the job that day so the next day, Sunday, I went on the roof again. And the butterfly came again, then disappeared.
“The next time I observed the butterfly was in Japan. The past-past-past president of Fujitsu corporation asked me if I wanted to go fishing. I said okay. But to get to the fishing area, we had to go to the resort area the night before because to catch this particular type of fish, we had to start at 5:30 in the morning. So that afternoon he picked me up at the hotel and on the way down, we stopped at his home because he wanted to show me some plants he had brought back from Hawaii. So we entered his garden, admiring his plants. Then this butterfly appeared over our heads. I asked my host if he had butterflies in his garden. He said that because of environmental pollution, he hadn’t seen one for years.
“Then as we entered his home, the butterfly followed us into the dining room. The host’s wife remarked that this was the first butterfly she had seen in years.
“Next morning we went fishing, four of us. As I’m fishing, one of them calls out to me that a butterfly is flying over my head. Now, this is way out on the ocean! So I turn to look and sure enough there’s a butterfly flying over my head.”
“Doesn’t all this kind of give you chicken skin?” I asked. “Oh, yes,” he replied. “I never believed in reincarnation till all these things happened.”
He had one more. “The last time we saw the butterfly was after my son, Mark, was born. The president of Fujitsu had sent him for Boys Day three big paper carps. This was in 1979 when he was three years old. I had chopped some bamboo poles on which to hang the carps. And we three – my son, my wife, myself – we were resting on a concrete bench. Then a butterfly came, to rest right on my finger! How do you explain a butterfly coming to rest on a person’s finger! That was the last time we saw the butterfly.”
Howard believes that the presence of the butterfly is a sign of Juanita’s continuing love for him; that she is pleased with him. In that kind of understanding, the butterfly has become an inspiration to him. He has explained the incidences to his son. And at his young age, the lad seems to have some grasp of what they mean to his father because in his prayers, after he has made the circuit of thanking the Lord for the sunshine, the rain, the green trees, the singing birds, and what not, he always remembers to also thank the Lord’ …for the butterflies.”
The butterfly is considered to be one of the most beautiful, graceful, and useful of all insects. It flies from flower to flower, carrying pollen from one to the other, making it possible for flowers to bear fruits and seeds. It is hard to believe that such a beautiful creature was once a destructive wormlike caterpillar.
Analogous to the transition from worm to beauty, Howard believes that Juanita’s death is a triumph because as much as he continues to love her, in spirit, he also loves another – as she said he should. So, like the tone of his son’s prayers, he, too, is grateful to the Lord for all his blessings.
A day of combat. Howard was one of the 1,400 original members of the 100th Infantry Battalion (Provisional) who sailed out of Honolulu Harbor on June 5, 1942, for points unknown. Two years later, almost to the day, he was struck down by fragments from a bursting enemy mortar shell.
Said Howard, “The Allies under Gen. Mark Clark were on the attack, to tie down the six German divisions in Italy so that when the Normandy Invasion took place (on June 6), none of these divisions would be able to go north to aid in the defense of Normandy. It so happened that the 100th was the point battalion for the 34th Division. And A Company was the point for the 100th. There were a company of tanks and a company of tank destroyers and two companies of 4.2 chemical mortars attached to the 100th. It was a big parade, with A Company in the lead.
“Mits Fukuda was company commander but he had to go to the rear so he asked me to run the company. I was executive officer, a second lieutenant. Yasutaka Fukushima was with us also. Lt. Williams, out of Yale University, was leading the 3rd Platoon.
“We got shelled by the 45th Division artillery on the left. They were firing out of their zone, fired two barrages on the 3rd Platoon. I had no radio frequency with the 45th so I had to go through the 34th artillery. ‘What the hell are you guys doing, firing on us?’ I yelled into the field radio when the relay was finally patched into the 45th artillery. ‘We thought you guys were escaping enemy,’ was the 45th’s reply. ‘Bull shit!’ I yelled. There was no mistaking the big white stars painted on our tanks and vehicles. And we were headed north. And I told the 45th artillery colonel that ‘this isn’t your artillery impact zone, goddamn you. Look at the map! This is 34th Division artillery zone!’ I was mad. I didn’t have the heart to tell my men that they had been blasted by our own artillery. Many in the 3rd Platoon had been wounded.”
Wounded. “Anyway, late that evening, the 2nd Platoon was getting hit pretty badly. The platoon was under the second lieutenant from Maui, Sadami Katahara. I told him to move his platoon from the left side of the road to the right side. Then I went to check the mortar section under Sergeant Sahara. I came back to the company CP and had just sat down by the SCR 300 – the pack radio – when I heard the round coming: Sh-h-h-sh! Mortar shell! I threw myself forward. It exploded right behind me. I could see the dirt flying all over the place. But fortunately, I was so close to the explosion area that most of the fragments went over me. But I got caught from my neck down to my toes.
“And the funny thing. I had an ‘o-mamori’ (talisman) my mother had given me, in my left breast pocket. And a New Testament in my right pocket. So I got wounded all over my back! None in front!”
Howard burst out laughing. “I was playing both sides! I still have the o-mamori. It’s just a piece of paper my mother got at a Shinto shrine.” Howard was evacuated to the battalion aid station. On the way he passed out. He regained consciousness at the aid station but he lay still with his eyes closed. Then he heard the battalion surgeon, a haole doctor, say, “Looks like another hopeless case. But let’s turn him over anyway and dress his wounds.”
“At that moment I made up my mind to live,” said Howard. “I’m going to fool you, man. I’m going to show you. He thought I was unconscious when he made that remark.”
Continued Howard: “But for the longest time nobody grabbed hold of me, to turn me over. After a while, I felt two pairs of hands grab me and turn me over. But it wasn’t until I retired from the service and back in Honolulu, in 1947, that I found out whose hands were those. I was living in Kaimuki and I was driving down on Harding Avenue one day and I ran into “Pilipili” and I asked him whether he was there at the aid station. Yea, he was there. So I asked him how come nobody grabbed hold me for a long time, after the captain had said to turn me over.
He said that I was so full of holes that they didn’t know where to grab me. And he told me that the two pairs of hand were those of Chaplain Yost and Captain Kometani.”
A trade-off for manhood? No way! Howard was then transferred to a field hospital. “I was there for three days but the ward doctor never looked at me once. And my cot was right next to his field desk. He was a major, a skin specialist. I didn’t see him walk down the ward aisle once, much less look at me. He came in the morning and shuffled his cards – they must have been patient cards – put them away, then grabbed a can of juice, and he’d be drunk all day. He was mixing his can of juice with cognac.
“Finally the ward nurse took pity on me. She got hold of the executive officer, a lieutenant colonel, and he came, took one look at me, threw his hands into the air, and exclaimed, ‘Oh, my God!’ He told the nurse to see the major right away and get his permission to call in an orthopedic surgeon as a consultant. Protocol, and all that. So then this long, gangly captain, a guy from the mountains of Tennessee – he came, took one look at me, and whistled, ‘Whee-e-e-e!’ He examined me, then said, ‘Lieutenant, do you think you’re strong enough to be flown out of here?’ ‘When,’ I said. ‘Tomorrow morning.’ I said yes; I told him that if I stayed here, I would probably die. He agreed. ‘I think so, too!’ he said.”
What took place the next day was pure Grade B melodrama. The scenario called for Howard to be flown down to a hospital in Naples. “They bandaged me, put me on this old, wooden-handled litter, tied the litter underneath the wings of a Piper Cub, outside of the plane where the strut comes down. I was strapped to the left side, another litter on the right. There were still some Germans in the area so the pilot had to sideslip and hedge-hop to escape their fire. The struts were vibrating like sheets in the wind. It was a harrowing experience. I was resigned to fate. It probably was a ride of about half an hour but it seemed like hours.”
He was subsequently shipped stateside and one of the hospitals he spent time in was the Newton D. Baker General Hospital in West Virginia. He told of a funny moment there.
“I used to get intense pain from the severed nerve in my left leg. They had grafted it four times already. They had severed the sensory nerves to the brain to reduce the pain. Captain Moore, a brilliant neurosurgeon, came by one day and asked me how I was doing. ‘Terrific!’ I said. ‘How’s the pain?’ ‘Terrific’ ‘I think I can completely eliminate the pain. But there’s a catch. You won’t be worth a damn as a man.’ ‘What do you mean, I won’t be worth a damn as a man?’ ‘You won’t get an erection!
Like being hit with a bolt out of the blue, his mind snapped to attention. This was no time for games. And in that instant, Howard cried out, “Doc!” and shouted, with all the verve he could muster: I’ll take the pain! I’ll-take the pain!”
The ward nurse, standing by the doctor, chart in hand, cried out, “Waaa-aah!” and threw her chart boards into the air!
Howard’s laughter rolled out of him as he told the story. Then, in a more restrained voice, he said he was glad he kept the pain, that he didn’t it off for his manhood. Because a son, through his second marriage, was born he was 57 years old: “Born July 4, 1976!” exulted Howard. “A Bicentennial baby! ”
Altogether, Howard spent almost 3 1/2 years in hospitals. He underwent treatment through five stateside hospitals, then returned to Hawaii on November 21, 1947. That was his discharge date also. He was a captain.
To law school. In mid-December, he went to work for Castle & Cooke (Mits Fukuda was already working there as an assistant to the director of the Industrial Relations Division). He worked there for almost four years, then went to the University of Colorado School of Law in September ’51. “The first two schools to respond to my application were Stanford and Colorado. I knew that Clesson Chikasuye, who was a councilman, had gone to both schools. So I went to see him for recommendations as to which school I should attend. He asked me whether I wanted to be a practicing lawyer or a law school professor. A practicing lawyer, I said. He advised me to go to Colorado. Why? Stanford teaches prospective 1aw – what the law should be. Colorado teaches you what the law is today; also courtroom practices. Stanford considers itself the best law school west of the Mississippi, Colorado the next best. Stanford sends its students to Colorado during the summer time, and credits are interchangeable between the two schools. So I went to Colorado.” Upon graduation in 1954, he came home, took the bar examination and hung up his shingle the following year.
Democratic politics. It was while he was away at law school that the Islands underwent its greatest political change since the beginning of the century when the territorial form of government was first the Democratic revolution were the returning AJA veterans from the world-wide battlefields of World War II. In 1946 there were half a dozen AJAs in the House. Two more years, and they were in half the seats in both the House and Senate.
Howard plunged into the churning waters of the political upheaval feet first. He was elected to the House from the 24th District in 1958 in the last territorial legislature, but then had to run again the following year because of the statehood elections. Elected, he became House Majority Leader and chairman of the House Policy Committee. He held these power positions until 1970, for 12 years.
“To me, the real significance of the Democratic program was, first, the support of public education. We tried to upgrade the public school education system, and equalize it, even in the country areas like Kohala; making these schools come under the same standards as the rest of the state by providing them with the same libraries, books, etcetera. We also abolished special fees like laboratory and book fees that were being charged under the Republican administration. We also put in parks in low income areas for recreation purposes.
“Then one of the best things we did was pass the anti-trust laws in 1962. This broke up the economic control of the Islands by the Big 5 corporations, which then opened wide the door for investments from abroad, opened the doors for establishment of new companies. Mainland money started pouring into Hawaii. Until then the Big 5 controlled everything – banks, insurance, Matson Navigation lands, appointment of judges. So what we had – instead of political colonialism, we had economic colonialism … that is my phrase.
“Then in 1967 we passed the Land Use Law which forced landowners to convert their lands into best and highest use; converting land to housing and business instead of holding land in pastures. The law accomplished some of its purposes but created new sets of problems, like high density. “Then we concentrated on upgrading the University of Hawaii as an academic institution. We set a goal of ten years and we were able to do it. You know, we were almost on a par with University of California at Berkeley! But, in three years, the new legislators in the new legislature made it slide right back. Takes a long time to build up but no time to slide back. It’s not only the legislators; it’s the unionization of the professors, too.”
Lack of party discipline. “Our approach was quite different from theirs. We took a very broad view in our legislative programs. Now, legislative politics is more on an individual basis. There is no party program any more. You don’t campaign on a party program. Neither party campaigns on a party program. There is no campaign platform. Politics now is on an individual basis. There are no economic programs for future development throughout the State of Hawaii, no goals.
“There is a strong emphasis today on the individual – me, me, me. When we came back as war veterans, we had certain goals. Uplift the society. In our economic philosophy, we felt, we believed, very strongly that if you provide the large masses of citizens in society with buying power – like in a pyramid – they’ll spend most of their money for housing, food, medical care, clothing, all the necessities of life. They’ll spend maybe 97 percent to 99 percent of their income for that. And this money will keep recycling over and over through society, whereas under the Republicans you had an inverted pyramid where just a small section of society held much of the purchasing power. That money did not recycle because they stored it away in banks.”
He then asked a rhetorical question: “And how much of it can one use, as a human being?”
This interview with Howard was held last month just before Budget Director David Stockman’s candid confessions about the shortfalls of Reaganomics burst upon the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. In these accounts, Stockman reiterates that a cornerstone of Reagan’s supply-side economics for jacking up the nation’s economy is to get more buying power into the hands of the masses.
Howard has just made that same point: “Provide the large masses of citizens in society with buying power.”
The difference, then, between the two is in procedures: Whereas Reaganomics call for the buying power to “trickle-down” into the masses, the Democratic Party’s economic philosophy of Howard’s time pushed to place power directly into the hands of the masses.
This is where the two part company.
But Howard continued: “It was very difficult for the industrial leaders of Hawaii to accept that (uplifting society) but now, after experiencing the Democratic political philosophy, implemented through legislation, they did begin to experience more profits and began paying bigger dividends. This is when campaign money started pouring into the Democratic campaign chest. Very little went to the Republican Party.”
Asked what the current emphasis on individual portens for the party, Howard replied that “The sad part is that you don’t see any long-range plans for development of Hawaii, no long-range goals.” He went on to state that during the Burns administration, it was the House that provided the leadership. “Burns didn’t have a program,” said Howard.