WWII veteran's tale takes a new twist

Minoru "Mino" Ohye is perhaps the only man alive who has served in both the Japanese Imperial Army and the U.S. Army.

He was conscripted by the Japanese in World War II, captured by the Russians in Manchuria in 1945 and sent to a Siberian prison camp.

He survived temperatures of 60 below zero. In 1951, he returned to Northern California, where he was born. That same year, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

On Friday, Ohye, 85, will be featured as the grand marshal for West Sacramento's Veterans Day Parade.

But his greatest thrill will come in January, when he can reunite with his brother in Japan, whom he hasn't seen in nearly 60 years.

"It's a miracle," Ohye said while simultaneously watching the 49ers kick a field goal and working the Jumble and crossword in his Sunday Bee. "I want to see my old friends, and where my father's ashes are buried on a mountainside facing the sea."

Ohye credits the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8762 in West Sacramento for saving his life – by taking him in when he was homeless, by getting medical treatment for him when he was near death, and by finding him a spot in Eskaton Wilson Manor in 2003.

Eskaton's administrator, Debbie Reynolds, approached Ohye for its Thrill of a Lifetime program and learned about his long-lost brother.

Last month, Reynolds, and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, organized a fundraiser at the VFW that raised $3,000 to send Ohye to Japan to reunite with his brother Hiroshi Kamimura, 84.

Reynolds said that when she first approached Ohye, he said "it's too far and laughed like he always does."

Laughter is Ohye's secret weapon, his answer to every situation and the antidote to life's tragedies.

Ohye was born in Sacramento in 1926. When he was 3 years old, his father died in a freak fishing accident in Marysville, hitting his head on a river rock.

Ohye's mother sent her young sons to live with relatives in Japan. His brother got adopted by one family; Ohye lived with an uncle who died when Ohye was in second grade. He moved in with another uncle.

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