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Lyn Crost, chronicler of Japanese-American soldiers, dies at 80

April 8, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lyn Crost, a World War II correspondent who brought to light the role of Japanese-American soldiers in the Pacific, died of a brain tumor Monday at her home in Washington. She was 80.

Ms. Crost was an Associated Press reporter in Washington when she was hired by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin to cover second-generation Japanese-Americans in Italy whose unit became, for its size, the most decorated in American history.

Years later, living in Washington, she decided to research and tell the story of the Nisei’s role on the other war front, in the Pacific. Her book, ``Honor by Fire,″ was published in 1994.

From the Aleutians to Okinawa, Japanese-American soldiers undercut Tokyo’s war effort by translating Japanese communications.

Little had been known of the Nisei’s role. The U.S. government instructed the Japanese-American soldiers not to tell of their exploits; it kept records of their service secret for the next quarter of a century.

She said she wrote the book because trade disputes in the 1990s were fanning anti-Japanese bias in this country.

``The story must be told,″ she wrote in a preface. ``Americans do not know how hard these men fought in a war to keep democracy alive.″

In the Pacific War, Japanese commanders, confident that their American foes could not decipher Japanese, were casual about using codes. They did not know of the Military Intelligence Service, composed of 6,000 Japanese-Americans linguists.

Its members questioned captives, eavesdropped on communications between Japanese pilots and their airfields and even gleaned intelligence from poems and diaries taken from the bodies of dead soldiers.

Many of the Nisei volunteered; others were drafted from the internment camps in which their families were confined following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ms. Crost was raised in Hartford, Conn., and after graduation from Brown University went to Hawaii to visit an aunt and landed a job on the Star-Bulletin. Later she switched to the Honolulu Advertiser.

She was an AP correspondent in Washington when she interviewed Joseph R. Farrington, publisher of the Star-Bulletin and Hawaii’s delegate to Congress.

Concerned about the casualties taken by Hawaii’s soldiers in Europe, Farrington hired Ms. Crost in 1944 to cover them. After the war, she became the paper’s Washington correspondent. During the Eisenhower administration, she was a White House special assistant.

Her career is recalled in a display about the Nisei at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It shows her typewriter, war uniform and trench coat.

She was married for several years to Edward Kennedy, an AP war correspondent. They had a daughter, Julia Kennedy Cohran of Seattle. Also surviving is Ms. Crost’s husband, Thomas W. Stern, a retired geologist.

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