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Medic’s Flag

    Medic’s Flag

    Medic’s Red Cross Flag
    1944-1945
    Wool and cotton, 18 x 28 inches
    Gift of the Nakadate Family
    2023.16

    Dr. Katsumi Nakadate
    1943
    Photograph
    Gift of the Nakadate Family
    2023.16

    Although the flag in the photo is larger than Dr. Nakadate’s, this photograph illustrates how the medic’s Red Cross flags were used in the field. This is an advanced aid station operated by medics of the 442nd Infantry near Beaumont, France, October 29, 1944. Courtesy of National Archives (100310390)

    Battered, stained, and slowly unraveling, Dr. Katsumi Nakadate’s World War II medic’s flag is a grim reminder of the bloody battles that scarred the landscapes of Europe. Nakadate was in his second year of internal medicine at a hospital in Michigan when Pearl Harbor was bombed on Sunday, December 7th, 1941. The next day, the FBI was already at the hospital, wanting to question him. A fellow Boy Scout from the troop he served in while living in Portland vouched for him to the FBI. This was enough proof for the FBI to see Nakadate as just another American—treatment that many other Japanese Americans did not receive.

    Before the war, Dr. Nakadate served in the ROTC while attending the University of Oregon. The hospital he was working at knew it was only a matter of time before he would be called up to serve, so they released him prior to him starting his third year. He was assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of Japanese American soldiers serving under white commanders. He was later reassigned to the 17th Airborne Division as Battalion Surgeon and then placed with the 82nd Airborne Division.

    During a glider jump into Germany, Dr. Nakadate was shot down and landed hard. He was able to treat his fellow wounded soldiers for a short time, but eventually collapsed due to blood loss and was evacuated to a hospital. As for the flag, it is not known what battles it saw, but like many American soldiers, it did not come out of the war unscathed. Dr. Nakadate left military service and worked at various hospitals, including Portland’s St. Vincent, before retiring in 1981. He was actively involved in the local Portland Nikkei community and passed away in 2007.