Different generations are speaking the same language

War veteran Wendell Heim visits WHS Japanese class

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Wendell Heim created Japanese-style calligraphy with Noelle Schmidt, a sophomore at Washougal High School. Heim, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, recently talked about his personal and military experiences with the Japanese class at WHS. "I enjoyed having him in class discussions," Schmidt said. "I learned more about the war and his old life."

A Washougal senior citizen recently provided information about Japan to local students based on his personal experiences.

Wendell Heim, 87, was a guest speaker in the Japanese class at Washougal High School.

The class is taught by Fuchigami Parker.

“He is a great man who cares about a multicultural education for teens,” she said.

Heim served in the U.S. Army from February 1944 to January 1965. During World War II, he was in India and Northern Burma.

Heim’s first wife was a Japanese citizen.

He recalled them riding a high speed bullet train to Kyoto.

“That was quite an experience,” Heim said.

The couple had five children.

Some of the memories Heim shared with the WHS class included the times his outfit would visit downtown Tokyo in the late 1940s and see Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

“I often would join the Japanese who stood outside where MacArthur had his headquarters,” he said. “It was a big thrill seeing MacArthur go to and from his office.”

Heim also talked about seeing Japanese Emperor Hirohito in an “ancient-looking” car. The emperor had a driver.

When the Korean War started, Heim was part of the First Calvary Division serving in Korea. It was the first American outfit to be attacked by the Chinese army.

Heim’s military career also took him to China and Alaska. He retired in Germany, as a member of the Eighth Regiment.

Heim’s first wife died, and he married Roberta.

Heim has studied Japanese in Portland and at Clark College, in Vancouver. He has taught beginners Japanese through the community education program in Vancouver.

Heim talked to the Japanese class at WHS this spring after Parker asked him to share his experiences in Japan, as well as with the language and the people.

“I was really impressed with the class and the teacher,” Heim said. “She was teaching them how to write Japanese. That is a very hard subject to teach. She was doing a tremendous job.”

He also attended the Japanese Festival at WHS.

“The kids are very studious and studied hard,” Heim said. “I was thrilled to meet them and talk to them.

“The Japanese teacher has invited me to come back anytime I wanted to,” he added. “I’m looking forward to next fall when the class starts again and I can visit again.”

Heim made an impression among several of the students.

Samuel Barnes, a sophomore, said he learned about Heim’s military career and his time spent in Japan.

“It is interesting to be able to connect with older generations,” Barnes said. “I enjoy talking to people who grew up in a different time period.”

Kim Morgan, a freshman, appreciated the opportunity to meet Heim.

“Seeing a veteran as successful as him is an honor,” she said.

Breanna DeCicco, a freshman, said it was nice to learn about Heim’s point of view on Japanese culture.

“From when he was in the war, it was cool to know that Americans actually had an interest in the Japanese culture, and they were not all that racist,” she said. “It was nice of him to come in on his own time and talk to us.”

Tess Russell, a sophomore, enjoyed hearing about cities he has never been to.

“I’m so used to hearing Japanese natives talk, and it was more interesting to actually hear a veteran’s side of the story,” he said.