“Strength And Drive”: A Japanese-American Gymnast And Engineer

Tadahiko Ono


Tadahiko “Tad” Ono was born in December 1942 in Japan. His mother, a U.S. citizen who had graduated from Columbia University with a Master’s Degree in Political Science, met her husband, a Japanese merchant mariner, in New York. Tad and his older brother grew up in Japan, and their father, who was serving in the Japanese Navy, was killed in 1945 on Luzon. After the war, Tad’s mother took a job with the American PX system, and was doing well enough financially to build a home in a nice neighborhood and to hire tutors for her sons. His mother was then transferred to the United States, and the family moved first to Seattle, and then to New York in 1957. Cadets marching in an Armed Forces Day parade in New York City first introduced the idea of the Military Academy to young Tad, and he applied. He did well academically and competed on the gymnastics team, being elected captain by his teammates. The day after graduation, he married his wife, Hiroko. They had been dating since they were 17, and Hiro always came to West Point for dances, athletic events, and especially gymnastics meets. Tad commissioned as an Engineer, and after a tour in Germany, he deployed to Vietnam in November 1968, while Hiro returned to New York and got an apartment in the same building as her parents. Later in his career, the Onos returned to Japan, where Tad served as a civil engineer. He eventually commanded the 2nd Engineer Battalion in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. In this interview, he talks about growing up in Japan and America, his West Point experiences, and his Army service. He describes his tour in Vietnam, including discussing “one really bad night” when the enemy penetrated the perimeter of the camp he was on, and his company had to retake several of the bunkers. He reflects on his tours in Japan and Korea. Finally, he shares what West Point means to him, noting that “we will be buried there.”


conflicts Vietnam War World War II
topics West Point History Army Athletics Teamwork Leadership Camaraderie Military Techniques USMA 1965
interviewer David Siry
date 03 July 2021


name Tadahiko Ono
institution USMA
graduation year 1965
service Engineer
unit 25th Infantry Division
specialty Gymnastics Team Captain
service dates 1965 1991