ABC7 Salutes Yoshito Fujimoto for playing a crucial role at the end of World War II

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World War II changed the course of history, defining a generation of Americans, and one Southern California man had a role unlike any other. (KABC)

World War II changed the course of history, defining a generation of Americans, and one Southern California man had a role unlike any other.

It was a mission so exceptional, it was shared by only three other people. Lt. Yoshito Fujimoto is the only one left to their story.

Fujimoto is 100 years young, born in California to Japanese immigrants. He is Nisei, a Japanese word to denote second generation Americans.

He joined the U.S. Army in the summer of 1941. It was five months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which catapulted the U.S. into World War II.

Tamiko Hirano is with the U.S. Veterans Foundation.

"I think it was extremely difficult because the Japanese people in America were looked at as the enemy, aliens. So, to be in the United States Army, and fighting for the government, I think it must have been very difficult for our Nisei soldiers," she said.

But the army recognized that Fujimoto's background, and more importantly his language skills, made him a uniquely valuable asset.

He was eventually assigned to the elite Military Intelligence Service Unit. Later, he became the personal interpreter for Gen. Richard J Marshall, the Army's deputy chief of staff in the Pacific.

It changed his life, and it also prepared him for what was to come - the August 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Four Nisei officers were tasked with the momentous job of translating the document that sealed Japan's surrender and ended the war. It took four days working under tremendous pressure.

Fujimoto's son, Ken, describes his father's numerous contributions.

"We're very proud, for myself and as a family. Just awestruck that he was part of this historic document and date, to officially end the war," he said.

But Fujimoto's job wasn't done. His greatest legacy - working with Gen. MacArthur to help Japan transition to recovery and helping the two nations forge a path forward that would shape the 20th Century.

"We have to thank Mr. Fujimoto for the kind of Japan it became and a great friend to the United States," Hirano said.

You can learn more about the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II at the Japanese American National Museum, www.janm.org/.
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