DR. YUTAKA YOSHIDA, A U.S. WAR HERO OF JAPANESE DESCENT
Dr. Yutaka Yoshida, a native Hawaiian and a son of Japanese immigrants, was working as a police officer in Honolulu when Japan bombed the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, plunging America into World War II.
The Territory of Hawaii was placed under martial law that day, and constitutional rights were suspended out of fear of a possible Japanese invasion, sabotage or espionage. (The edict remained in effect until October 1944.)
Dr. Yoshida, a retired surgeon who died on Sept. 13 at age 104 in Honolulu, was 29 then and a veteran of nine years with the police, and he faced a wrenching task on the Sunday of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was assigned to accompany F.B.I. agents as they rounded up prominent members of the Japanese community in Honolulu, among them a Buddhist priest, whom he helped take into custody.
“Even though it was his job, he still cannot forget how sad it was to point his gun at the tiny old Issei priest,” wrote Masayo Duus, who interviewed Dr. Yoshida for “Unlikely Liberators”, a history of Japanese-American soldiers in World War II originally published in 1983.
“It was a story he always told us,” his daughter, Ann Yoshida, said in an interview on Tuesday. “It was a moment of tremendous conflict for him.”
Japanese aliens, known as Issei, as well as Japanese-Americans born in the United States, referred to as Nisei, were removed from the West Coast of the United States as supposed security threats in the war’s early stages and sent to remote internment camps, most of them inland, where they were placed under guard. Dr. Yoshida had cousins in California who were interned at a camp in the state.
But he volunteered for Army service and in March 1943 joined the newly formed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a Japanese-American unit remembered today for extraordinary bravery in fighting the Germans in Italy and France. He was wounded during the Italian campaign and, in separate engagements, received a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for bravery under fire.
Through the course of a long life, Dr. Yoshida became a surgeon and practiced in Hawaii for 35 years. Although he joined the Army when he was nearly 31, he outlived all seven Japanese-American veterans who were still alive in 2000 when they were among a group of 22 Asian-Americans awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton for valor during World War II. They had previously been denied it, presumably because of prejudice.
“He was very pleased — even though it was a long time in coming — that things had changed enough so the wrong was righted,” Ann Yoshida said.
He attended part-time classes at the University of Hawaii while serving on the police force, hoping to become a physician someday.
A sergeant in a heavy machine-gun platoon, he went into combat with the 442nd in June 1944 and was wounded a month later in the Rome-Arno sector. With his fellow soldiers pinned down, he exposed himself to enemy fire, enabling him to locate enemy positions, and then continued to lay down fire until he was wounded by an exploding German tank shell. He was awarded a Silver Star for his valor and hospitalized until late 1944.
After rejoining his unit, Dr. Yoshida took part in attacks on German forces in the battle for control of the Po Valley in April 1945. In one instance, his unit came under mortar attack.
“I was knocked down flat on my face because I was talking to the captain and my helmet went rolling down the hill,” Dr. Yoshida told Michael Okihiro, who interviewed him in 2015 for The Hawaii Herald, a newspaper focusing on the state’s Japanese-Americans. “But I was the only guy not injured by the blast, and so I took care of the captain. And, lo and behold, they gave me a medal for that.”
He received a Bronze Star, was commissioned a second lieutenant and returned to Hawaii in October 1945.
Dr. Yoshida graduated from the University of Cincinnati medical school after the war and embarked on a surgical practice in Hawaii in 1955.
In addition to his daughter, who confirmed his death, he is survived by a son, Ken; a brother, Tokuo; and two grandchildren. His wife, Marge, a medical technician, died in 2007.
Dr. Yoshida attended gatherings of veterans from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team through the years, Ann Yoshida said.
Long after the war, he told of the day he became an officer.
“A two-star general gave me my second lieutenant bar and gave me those other medals,” he said in an interview for the Hawaii Memory Project of the University of Hawaii. “He says, ‘That’s why we are American.’ Big deal. I guess he thought he was making a big speech. It’s kind of patronizing, right? Telling me I’m an American, just like him. Of course I’m an American.”
LOUIS STETTNER, WHO PHOTOGRAPHED THE EVERYDAY NEW YORK AND PARIS
Louis Stettner, a photographer who explored the streets of the two cities he called his “spiritual mothers,” New York and Paris, recording the daily lives of ordinary people, died on Thursday at his home in Saint-Ouen, France. He was 93.
His death was announced by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Mr. Stettner, a New Yorker, was a product of the Photo League and its emphasis on socially conscious, documentary work, exemplified by members and supporters like Weegee, Berenice Abbott and Robert Frank.
“I have never been interested in photographs based solely on aesthetics, divorced from reality,” he wrote in his photo collection “Wisdom Cries Out in the Streets,” published in 1999. “I also doubt very much whether this is possible.”
While living in Paris after World War II, he also found inspiration in a new wave of French photographers, including Robert Doisneau, Brassaï and Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose outlook seemed to dovetail with the league’s.
He was particularly taken with Brassaï. “Brassaï showed me that it was possible to find something significant in photographing subjects in everyday life doing ordinary things by interpreting them in your own way and with your own personal vision,” Mr. Stettner told The Financial Times in June.
With an unerring eye for the poetry of the everyday, he trained his camera on subway riders and pedestrians in New York — the unceasing human ebb and flow in the old Penn Station — and ordinary Parisians going about their daily rounds, like the woman walking her dog on a deserted and misty Avenue de Chatillon in 1949.
Always, his subjects seemed completely unaware they were being photographed, whether it was the chic woman reading, one elbow pointed outward, in “Elbowing Out of Town Newstand, NYC” (1954); the man leaning back on a bench in “Manhattan From the Brooklyn Promenade” (1954); or the immigrant father and his child, swaddled in blankets on the wind-whipped deck of a ship, in “Coming to America” (1951).
“Stettner’s work continues to attract with an apparently egoless respect for fact and the unforced directness of its transmission,” the critic Alan Artner wrote in The Chicago Tribune in 1997, reviewing an exhibition. His photographs are, he added “so quiet and undemonstrative, they appear inevitable.”
Louis Stettner was born on Nov. 7, 1922, in Brooklyn and grew up in the Flatbush and Bensonhurst neighborhoods. His father, Morris, gave him a box camera when he was a boy, and after reading an article by the photographer Paul Outerbridge Jr. on the camera as an interpreter of reality, Louis realized, he later wrote, “that the camera could become my personal language for telling people what I was discovering, suffering or immensely joyous about.”
He began studying photographs at the print room of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and observing, through the camera’s lens, the streets around him. New York was his subject, the place he described as “a city I love, a city that forgives nothing but accepts everyone — a place of a thousand varied moods and vistas, of countless faces in a moving crowd, each one silently talking to you.”
At the Photo League, he took a short course on basic techniques and found a mentor in Sid Grossman, one of its founders, but he was largely self-taught, working initially with an old-fashioned wooden camera on a tripod, using glass plates. Until late in his career, he photographed almost exclusively in black and white.
After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, he enlisted in the Army Signal Corps during World War II and served with its photography section in New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan.
Mr. Stettner joined the Photo League on returning to New York and became fast friends with the photographers Lewis Hine and Weegee.
A visit to Paris in 1946 turned into a stay of five years. While in Paris, he selected work for a New York exhibition by the Photo League that introduced American audiences to Brassaï, Doisneau and their French peers. He also studied photography at the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies and exhibited his work in a group show in 1949 at the National Library.
He returned to New York in 1951, the same year his work was shown at the influential exhibition “Subjective Photography” in Saarbrücken, Germany. He found a night job at a security company, prowling the streets during the day with his camera. To supplement his income, he also photographed for magazines and advertising agencies. He had his first solo show at the Limelight Gallery in Greenwich Village in 1954.
Mr. Stettner taught photography at Brooklyn College, Queens College and Cooper Union in the late 1960s and early ’70s and from 1973 to ’79 was a professor of art at the C. W. Post Center at Long Island University. In the 1970s he wrote a monthly column for the magazine Camera 35.
After moving to Saint-Ouen, a suburb of Paris, in 1990, Mr. Stettner photographed passengers on the Paris subways for the series “Heroes of the Metro,” and in the giant flea market near his home he scavenged for vintage photographic images, which he transformed into collages. With a camera on a tripod, he also took landscape photographs in the forests near Aix-en-Provence.
A collection of his work from 1947 to 1972, “Early Joys,” was published in 1987 after a retrospective exhibition in Geneva in 1986. He was given a retrospective at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery in Manhattan in 2002 and at the François-Mitterrand Library in Paris in 2012. In 1996, Rizzoli published “Louis Stettner’s New York, 1950s-1990s.”
Mr. Stettner’s first three marriages ended in divorce. His survivors include his wife, Janet Iffland, and three sons, Anton, Arion and Patrick.
In 2015, Thames & Hudson published his 1950s photographs of Penn Station in “Penn Station, New York.” Several were included in “Ici/Ailleurs (Here and There),” a retrospective exhibition at the Pompidou Center that closed in September.
“My photographs are acts of eloquent homage and deep remorse about the city,” Mr. Stettner wrote of his New York work. “I am profoundly moved by its lyric beauty and horrified by its cruelty and suffering.”
PHIL CHESS, CO-FOUNDER OF MUSIC LABEL THAT BROUGHT BLUES TO THE WORLD
Mr. Chess’s nephew Craig Glicken confirmed the death to the Chicago Sun-Times but did not provide a cause. Mr. Chess’s older brother, Leonard, who also started the label, supervised many of the blues recordings and was its public face, died in 1969.
In its 18 years as a family-owned business, Chess gave birth to such seminal records as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Etta James’s “At Last,” Muddy Waters’s “Hoochie Coochie Man,” Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” and the Dells’ “Stay in My Corner.”
British-born blues enthusiasts Mick Jagger and Keith Richards named the Rolling Stones after a 1951 Chess recording by Waters, “Rollin’ Stone.” The rock band coalesced in the early 1960s after Richards spotted Jagger, a childhood playmate, at a train stop; Jagger was carting two Chess albums.
The Rolling Stones, then well established, made a pilgrimage to record at the Chess studios in 1965. They named an instrumental after Chess’s address, “2120 South Michigan Avenue.”
“Phil and Leonard Chess were cutting the type of music nobody else was paying attention to — Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy [Williamson], Jimmy Rogers, I could go on and on — and now you can take a walk down State Street today and see a portrait of Muddy that’s 10 stories tall,” blues guitarist Buddy Guy, a former Chess artist, told the Sun-Times. “They started Chess Records and made Chicago what it is today, the blues capital of the world.”
The brothers were children when they came to the United States as Jewish immigrants from a Polish village without running water or electricity. They began their music careers in 1946 as proprietors of El Mocambo, an eatery on the predominantly black South Side that they converted into an after-hours jazz club. Although initially patronized by pimps and prostitutes, the bar developed a reputation as a hangout for Chicago’s bebop musicians.
The next year, the brothers sold the station. In 1970, General Recording Tape purchased the company for $6.5 million and the label ceased to be a family business. The Chess catalogue is owned by Universal Music. Mr. Chess stayed on with the company until 1972, then retired to Arizona.
Mr. Chess was born Fiszel Czyz on March 27, 1921, in Motal, a village in what is now Belarus. Their father soon immigrated to the United States, started a junkyard business and sent for his family in 1928. He also Anglicized their names. (Leonard was born Lejzor.)
Phil Chess briefly attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio on a football scholarship, then worked in a liquor store owned by Leonard until he was drafted into the Army in 1943 during World War II. His wife, Sheva Jonesi, died this year. Survivors include a daughter and two sons.
Chess was heralded in later years for its pioneering role in music, but, without explanation, it was Leonard and not Phil who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
“Chess not only became the true repository of American blues music, but it also presented black music for the edification of white audiences throughout the world,” the citation read. A film about the company and its roster of artists, “Cadillac Records” (2008), also featured Leonard but not Phil as a character.
Both brothers received a 2013 lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences.
“If you put a scale on the wall and ask me which one was do re mi, I couldn’t tell you and neither could Leonard,” Mr. Chess told writer Nadine Cohodas in her 2000 book “Spinning Blues Into Gold. “This (pointing to his ear) could tell you. That’s what told us.”
Correction: An earlier version of this obituary said Bowling Green State University is in Kentucky. It is in Ohio.