Matt returns to US

Masuo John Koike

Military Service:

Location during WWII, if not in a camp:
Yokohama, Japan

Masuo John Matt

Tribute by Janis Koike, Michael Koike, and Sara Abiusi

Masuo John (Matt) Koike was born in New York in 1935 to first-generation Japanese parents. At a young age, he accompanied his mother to Yokohama, Japan, for an extended visit with his grandparents. Unfortunate circumstances required that his mother return to New York, leaving Masuo to stay with family in Japan. In the months to come, Masuo’s older half-brother, Satoshi, was to accompany Masuo back to New York. World War II intervened, and Masuo remained in Japan, separated from his parents for the duration of the war (approximately 9 years).

During the occupation, Masuo’s Japanese family relocated to the European section of Yokohama. There, he and other children were befriended by GIs who shared candy and jeep rides. Masuo wore his brother’s pea coat, which attracted the attention of Private First Class Frank Donato from Brooklyn, New York. Frank discovered that Masuo was an American citizen and nicknamed him “Johnny,” a name that Masuo subsequently adopted as his middle name. Frank with the approval of his commanding officer, contacted the Koikes in New York. Until then, Masuo’s mother was unaware that Masuo had survived the war. Arrangements were made for Masuo to travel on a military ship to San Francisco where his mother met him in April 1946. Masuo, then 11, was the first American civilian to return to the United States from Japan after thewar, a story that several newspapers reported at the time.

Masuo Koike was proud of his Japanese heritage and proud to be an American. Following World War II, his family became part of a Japanese-American social club, the Niko Niko Club, for those who relocated to New York after leaving the internment camps in the Western United States. Masuo studied biology at Johns Hopkins University, served in the United States Army, and earned a medical degree from the University of Barcelona, Spain. He completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Kings County / Downstate Hospital in Brooklyn and subsequently moved to Winter Haven, Florida, with his wife, Janis, and two children, Sara Kumiko and Michael Takeo. He retired from private practice in 2011. Dr. Koike passed away in 2014.