William “Bill” Yamaka has come to live with us at Caring House. We are honored.
Bill was born in Berkeley, CA, the fourth of five sons of Reverend Yuzuru and Teruko Yamaka. He was reared in Los Angeles. As a youth Bill enjoyed gymnastics, baseball and basketball.
Bill attended Los Angeles Jr. College for two years, majoring in math and business. But his studies were cut short when the US became involved in World War II. He was drafted into the army in 1942.
Bill’s military service started in Camp Robinson in Arkansas for eight weeks basic training. He described his time there as being in a holding camp to test trustworthiness due to his Japanese ancestry. He was then sent Camp Grant in Illinois, where his brother Woody was also stationed, before going to Camp Blanding in Jacksonville, Florida for combat training.
His combat service started and almost ended in Bruyeres, France, where fighting was fierce. Riding on top of tanks on what they thought was a cleared road, they were shelled from both sides. Bill was hit in the leg, falling off the tank. When he came to he was surrounded by German soldiers and at that point was a prisoner of war.
His mother received telegrams first that he was missing in action, then that he was a POW. Of note, at this time Bill’s parents and his youngest brother, Wesley, were interned in Amache, Colorado.
While the Germans were not cruel per se, his time as a POW was very difficult. Sleeping conditions were extremely uncomfortable and food was scare. Many of his daily thoughts were of food. One day the Germans handed out packages of food they had been warehousing that had been provided by the Red Cross because the 5th army had come to liberate the camp. Bill said this was the sweetest day of his life.
Bill received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service.
During his time at Camp Grant in Illinois, he met his future wife, Virginia. He says it was love at first sight. When he was training in Florida he called Virginia to move down and while on a three day pass they got married. She moved back to Freeport, IL when he was deployed. He returned there after the war and started his new life with Virginia and her son Duane (from her previous marriage).
Not certain of what he wanted to do for a living, he decided on something in the medical field. Because of his experience in the war he had a feeling for helping save lives rather than killing. He began taking classes in medical laboratory work. To provide income while going to school he worked nights at a railroad station sorting out freight items.
Upon finishing school he started work at St. Lukes Hospital in Chicago. He then moved to Luthen Hospital in Moline, IL.
While things were going well for Bill and Virginia, the cold weather finally got under their skin and they moved to sunny California. They lived in several places in Southern CA before laying down roots in Gardena where they lived for over 40 years.
Bill worked for San Pedro Hospital and Harbor General in Torrance before he opened his own private laboratory in Gardena. He ran that business for 32 years before retiring at age 65. Bill has specially enjoyed painting as a hobby.
Bill and Virginia added two daughters to their family, Sharon and Nancy. The family now has been blessed with 4 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
We are glad that Bill is with us at Caring House. We look forward to caring for this war hero, hardworking man and loving father.
Bill died on March 27, 2019. Honor him. Remember him.