‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ Sent Touching Pearl Harbor Message at End of New Episode

by Suzanne Halliburton

NCIS: Hawai’i paid a touching tribute to those who lost their lives 80 years ago at Pearl Harbor.

The show did so with a message at the end of an episode. But writers used an entire hour to paint the poignant portrait of a 100-year-old war hero who was forced to serve his country under another identity.

At the end of Monday night’s NCIS: Hawai’i, the show ran the following:  “This episode is dedicated to all those who perished on December 7, 1941, and to all those who served – of all race, ethnicity, creed, and citizenship status.”

That capped a fascinating story line of a Japanese immigrant named Suzuki Kazutoshi, who everyone on the island knew as Ken Ito, the American war hero who served the United States in three wars. Kazutoshi couldn’t even tell his family, some of whom served in the military, who he really was until he was 100 years old.

“It’s been an honor of a lifetime to serve this country,” Kazutoshi said at a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony.

Karen Neal/CBS

NCIS: Hawai’i told the Ito/Kazutoshi story in flashbacks. As the episode opened, a man discovered skeletal remains near Pearl Harbor. They belonged to Ken Ito. But problem was, Ito was very much alive and about to be honored at the 80th anniversary commemoration. Ito also suffered from dementia, so his memories would flicker back and forth.

In the middle of the episode, the man known as Ito confessed to killing Ito. Gradually, the NCIS: Hawai’i agents uncovered the details.

In a flashback, we see Ito and Kazutoshi as young men. Kazutoshi was working on a pineapple farm. Ito was trying to recruit him to serve, in secret, for the Navy. This was the summer of 1941. The US wouldn’t allow Japanese immigrants — Issei — to serve in its military. Kazutoshi spoke perfect English and had the heart of a patriot. Ito, a young Naval ensign, recruited him for a mission.

But what happened? How did Kazutoshi become Ito? Meanwhile, in current day Hawaii, a man was trying to bribe the Ito family. He found evidence that the man who said he was Ito actually was a spy for Japan during World War II. Jane Tennant didn’t think the 100-year-old vet, who served the country with such devotion, could be a spy.

That’s when NCIS: Hawai’i showed what really happened. Kazutoshi and Ito were on a boat, fishing, on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. They were good friends. Then they spotted the Japanese war planes dropping bombs. That’s because they were under the flight path. Kazutoshi yelled “let me prove myself” as he got into an argument with Ito, who yelled that this wasn’t his fight. But the bullet fire took out Ito. His body disappeared into the water.

As the NCIS: Hawai’i episode ended the 100-year-old Kazutoshi explained that the Coast Guard found him on the boat and assumed he was Ito, who’d already agreed to serve a secret mission with the OSS. That’s the precursor to the CIA. Kazutoshi told his handler with the OSS who he really was. But it wasn’t until the 80-year Pearl Harbor anniversary that he could tell everyone else.