The 18th Annual “Nisei Soldiers Memorial Service (NSMS),” presented by the Nisei Veterans Legacy (NVL), was held on Sunday morning, September 24, 2023, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific - Punchbowl, to honor the World War II AJA (Americans of Japanese ancestry) veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion. We have the utmost gratitude for these veterans, and dedicated our weekend to remember and honor them, including those who gave their lives in defense of our country, as well as those who survived the war but have since passed on.
This year marks 80 years since the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) landed on the Salerno beachhead on September 22, 1943. One week later, Sgt. Shigeo “Joe” Takata (B) became the first to be killed in action (KIA), and the first in the unit to be awarded a Distinguished Service Cross (posthumously). A few hours later, Pvt. Keichi Tanaka (B), would become the second fallen soldier, and hundreds more would follow.
On September 29, 1946, a memorial service was held by Club 100 to remember the men in the 100th Infantry Battalion who were KIA, for whom a formal memorial service or ritual could not be held in the heat of battle. Club 100 has held this memorial service annually, on the Sunday in September closest to September 29 — the day in 1943 when Sgt. Shigeo "Joe" Takata became the first Japanese American soldier in an AJA "Nisei" unit, to be killed in action in World War II.
Held as a joint memorial service since 2006, the service now honors the men who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion in World War II. We are grateful that the Nisei Veterans Legacy has adopted this joint memorial service for all of the World War II Nisei Soldiers, and we proudly continue to do our part to carry on the traditions established by the veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion.
We began the day being blessed by the appearance of a beautiful rainbow, while we paid our respects to both Sgt. Shigeo J. Takata and Pvt. Keichi Tanaka.
A beautifully timed rainbow appears just as we paid our respects to Sgt. Shigeo J. Takata and Pvt. Keichi Tanaka at the start of our morning.
This weekend was dedicated to remember and honor what, how and why the AJA soldiers fought to preserve our freedom and to make life easier for people of “color” in the United States to have equal rights and opportunities. This year’s program focused on the youth of Hawaiʻi and how they will be the stewards to keep the legacy of these great men alive in a purposeful way.
Dr. Takashi Manago (A) of 100th Battalion, 442nd RCT is greeted upon arrival. 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans 2023 Legacy2Action student participants deliver speeches during the Memorial Service program. Cy Kaneshiro poses with Kazue Sato, widow of 100th Infantry Battalion veteran Robert "Bob" Sato (A), prior to delivering his speech which features a poem inspired by Bob Sato's waka poetry.
The men of the 100th Infantry Battalion would be proud that they were well represented as a key component throughout the entire program. Thanks to ‘Ōlelo Community Media, the streamed version of the entire Nisei Soldiers Memorial Service is available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fxMRW7im98 for viewing, and the final version will also be available online at https://olelo.org/olelonet/ after October 23 (search for “Nisei”). Please take the time to watch this memorable event and take pride in how the youth of Hawaiʻi are carrying on the banner of the AJA soldiers.
Dr. Takashi Manago (A), Mabel Hashisaka, and Wilbert Toda happily greet each other before the memorial service begins.
Opening Remarks were delivered by Jon Teraizumi, Senior Vice President, Central Pacific Bank (CPB). Jon is the grandson of Military Intelligence Service (MIS) veteran, Makoto Kunimune, and opened the program by highlighting the 100th Infantry Battalion Veteran’s fundraising effort with the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund. He encouraged the audience to join in to help rebuild and restore the Maui community.
In his opening remarks, Jon stated, “we are here today because we are committed to preserving and sharing the legacy of the many nisei (second generation Japanese American) men & women, who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in WWII. Today, we honor Hawaiʻi nisei soldiers, whose valor and achievement, on and off the battlefield, resulted in more equality for many in Hawaiʻi.”
We were honored to have veterans Dr. Takashi Manago (100th Battalion, 442nd RCT), Roy Fujii (442nd RCT), and Wilbert Toda (MIS) attending the service this year, and they were recognized individually. Also recognized were former First Lady of Hawaiʻi, Jean Ariyoshi, on behalf of her husband, former Governor George Ariyoshi (MIS), and Mabel Hashisaka for her husband Norman Hashisaka (MIS).
Dr. Takashi Manago (A) of 100th Battalion, 442nd RCT is recognized at the start of the program. (Photo courtesy of Nisei Veterans Legacy and iHi Photography)
In the Welcome delivered by Lynn Heirakuji, Nisei Veterans Legacy Past President and Event Chair, she emphasized the importance of the event and how the youth will be the key to carrying on the legacy of the nisei soldiers forward to future generations.
Lynn reminded the audience that the 100th Infantry Battalion originated in Hawaiʻi and was the first nisei unit to fight in Europe. She went on to mention, “the 100th would later be known as The Purple Heart Battalion due to its extraordinarily high number of casualties. The storied record of the 100th helped pave the way for the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.”
Lynn emphasized, “when the nisei veterans returned to Hawaiʻi after the war, they were not done. They continued to fight on the home front for the expansion of civil liberties for everyone. And as a result, the doors of opportunity were open wider for future generations, like mine. But a legacy is meaningless if no one remembers. And a legacy will fade if future generations fail to honor it.” She ended her talk by asking the veterans present that day to look around at all of the young faces in the audience, and to feel assured, “your legacy will endure.”
Memorial Service presenters, Rev. Yuika Hasebe, Pastor Daniel Chinen, Jon Teraizumi, and Minda Yamaga.
In the Memorial Address by Minda Yamaga, President of the Board for the Japanese American Citizens League, Honolulu Chapter, Minda spoke of her experience of having a mother who was born in an incarceration camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, and civil liberties injustices endured. Mindy shared the life changing impact a visit to the Heart Mountain site had on her and her children.
Minda shared with the audience how her family would share silly anecdotes about the hardships they had endured during and after the war, and notes that although it made them all smile, it was, “a reaction to hardship and trauma. But also, it was that determination to do what must be done to persevere and succeed. Similarly, the nisei soldiers — who were mostly from Hawaiʻi and returned to Hawaiʻi after their service — found ways to turn the spoils of war into a windfall through hard work and determination. Their efforts dramatically changed the trajectory of Japanese Americans in Hawaiʻi. They utilized the opportunities provided to them through education and paved the way for other Japanese Americans to hold esteemed positions in our community. I recognize for me, growing up a couple generations later, there are no shortage of Japanese American role models which allowed me to believe I could be anything and for that I am so thankful.”
Wreath Presentation. The soldiers who served in World War II were presented with 19 beautiful wreaths in all colors. Representatives from the presenting organizations were assisted by JROTC cadets from Roosevelt High School, McKinley High School, and Farrington High School.
The 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans organization and 100th Infantry Battalion Legacy Organization wreath was presented by Warren Yamamoto (son of Richard Yamamoto (C)). (Photo courtesy Wayne Shinbara)
The Moving the Legacy Forward portion of the program featured three student participants from the 2023 Legacy2Action education program, held by the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans organization with partners ‘Iolani School, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Center on Aging, and Central Pacific Bank.
Owen Lai (‘Iolani School; Senior) shared how he had not known about the 100th Infantry Battalion prior to participating in the Legacy2Action program, but once he learned about the nisei legacy, he was inspired by how many wanted to keep the legacy alive. He noted that his project was about, “how we as a community can best keep this legacy of the nisei soldiers alive.”
Owen continued, “and to do that I would like to highlight a powerful force that is often underrated — this being the strength of our connections and the power of our community. When I first got involved with the nisei soldiers through the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans organization, I knew little about their history, their culture and what they were. In fact, I just knew that they had a little blue building towards the side of my school. To my surprise after embarking on my project and reaching out, I was instantly greeted with loads of support from descendants and random community members alike. I think that we often underestimate how closely knit and accessible our community can be. Truthfully, our community is made up of people who are not just willing, but ecstatic to contribute to the preserving the nisei soldiers’ legacy. Whether you’re a descendant of a soldier, an interested outsider like myself, or simply a member of this larger community, your involvement matters. Participating in events like this, connecting with descendants and educating ourselves, brings us closer to a collective remembrance and celebration of this legacy. Our connections with the power to keep their story alive are deeper rooted than they may seem. Embrace the strength of our connections, tap into the oneness of our community, and let us honor the nisei soldiers for years to come.”
Moving the Legacy Forward student speakers, Owen Lai, Cy Kaneshiro, and Katelyn Nishita.
Cy Kaneshiro (Roosevelt High School; Sophomore) shared excerpts from a poem he wrote about the nisei soldiers. He was influenced by the waka style of Japanese poetry of 100th Infantry Battalion veteran Robert Tomiya Sato of Able Company.
Cy explained, “the poem describes the nisei soldiers’ valor and sacrifice and how the world owes them gratitude. They went to the front to prove their loyalty as Americans. But were questioned by most of the country. The world watched the nisei soldiers whom we honor today. We, the successors of that generation, are still being watched by the world, not from a racial viewpoint, but rather what we do with our opportunities.”
He went on to say, “I’m very privileged to have met Dr. Takashi Manago, Able Company and the late Mr. Jack Nakamura, Baker Company, both veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd RCT, and Mr. Norman Hashisaka (MIS) veteran. They all shared their experiences with me, describing the hardships and atrocities of war as they upheld the Army’s core values of loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Many of which correlates to the Japanese ideals and some of them by the issei or first generation parents. We should remember these soldiers who fought gallantly during the war to prove to not just America, but the world, that they were Americans, and their legacy — to fight injustices so that we have freedom and equality today. They serve as noble examples for our generation to follow.” In a sincere close adorned in his Class A JROTC uniform, Cy stood proudly, snapped a crisp salute, and said, “Veterans, I salute you!”
Katelyn Nishita (‘Iolani School; Junior) shared how as a nine year old she went to Līhuʻe and spent time talking to her grandma’s Aunty Betsy. She learned about Aunty Betsy’s late husband, 100th Battalion veteran, Paul Akama of Baker Company.
Katelyn recalled, “they shared these stories with me because they thought a sense of purpose in doing so. Like the issei value of giri, or obligation, they felt responsible to share these important historical events and the bravery of the nisei soldiers with the next generation. This idea of preserving valuable stories by educating the next generation is critical so we don’t forget their sacrifice. In learning more about my family’s history, I also learned about the treatment the nisei soldiers received. Their skills and abilities were often underestimated. These soldiers had to be even more brave and fight more courageously for their country to prove their worth, even though their country did not always have their back. The feeling of being underestimated is something that everyone experiences in their life, and in my personal experience, I have faced that feeling at school, which created a lot of self doubt and lack of confidence. I had to find a way to get my courage and find my voice to show that I belong. This inspired me to create a community called “U-Shine,” to help other girls who are underestimated. I strive to inspire girls help gain their confidence and remind them of their value. I will continue to do this and also remember the sacrifices of the nisei soldiers who faced discrimination and yet proved that they were loyal soldiers…I will always advocate for those who are undervalued and underestimated.”
The student speakers did an excellent job articulating how learning of the nisei soldiers and their legacy through participating in our 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Legacy2Action education program, has inspired them to apply the values of the nisei in their own lives, while also developing creative solutions to improve our community.
Veterans and wives of veterans: Mabel Hashisaka , Roy Fujii, Wilbert Toda, Jean Ariyoshi, and Dr. Takashi Manago pose for a photo after the memorial service.
We enjoyed a wonderful morning, surrounded by an audience filled with respect and gratitude for the Nisei soldiers of World War II, and enjoyed the program dedicated to these men of the greatest generation. This annual memorial service has been a vital tradition of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans (Club 100) for 78 years, and always evokes deep emotions. We all know the deep spiritual and emotional connection we have and will never lose with these honorable men. Though many have left this earthy plain, the connection and impressions they left on us are indelible.
Veterans, dignitaries and presenters at the 18th Annual Nisei Soldiers Memorial Service, held at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). World War II AJA veterans and wives seated in the front row (left to right) are Mabel Hashisaka on behalf of husband Norman Hashisaka (MIS), Roy Fujii (442nd RCT), Wilbert Toda (MIS), former First Lady of Hawaiʻi, Jean Ariyoshi on behalf of her husband, former Governor George Ariyoshi (MIS), and Dr. Takashi Manago (100th Battalion, 442nd RCT). (Photo courtesy of Nisei Veterans Legacy and iHi Photography)
These words from a 1982 Memorial Address by Major Mitsuyoshi “Mits” Fukuda (A), last commanding officer of the 100th Battalion, still echo in our hearts today:
“Some of us can stand up and say that we have kept our word and that we looked after the families of the members who died.
Some of us can say that we put flowers on their graves of those buddies on every Memorial Day and visited the families of our buddies on these occasions.
Some of us will have to confess that we do not know what happened to their mothers and fathers, and wives and children because we failed to keep in touch with them. And that in time of need we were not there to lend a helping hand to their family members.
Some of us were too busy with our own lives, our own education and the education of our children, and getting ahead in our jobs.
But there is time. There are good many years ahead of us to do the things we promised our buddies that we will do for them. Let’s get on with the job. Let us make a vow once again that we will take care of our buddies and their loved ones.”
100th Infantry Battalion Veterans (Club 100) members and family of 100th Infantry Battalion veterans gather for this year's memorial service.
Family and friends of the 100th Infantry Battalion veterans, and 100th veteran Dr. Takashi Manago, enjoy the company of one another at the annual Nisei Soldiers Memorial Service.
It is heartwarming to see us all continuing to do our part to remember the men who gave their lives, and honor those who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion in World War II, to the best of our abilities.
Thank you to NVL, NSMS chair Lynn Heirakuji, 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans representative to the NSMS committee Jan Sakoda (daughter of Gary Uchida (HQ)), our dedicated volunteers, and everyone who helped to make this memorial service a success.