Sunday, April 22, 2001


100-year-old unit still
has unflinching spirit

It's not a century of service
alone but the Wolfhounds'
efforts that distinguishes them

By Gregg K. Kakesako

THE WOLFHOUNDS -- a unit which has been at Schofield Barracks since 1921 -- will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this week as the longest continuously active unit in the Army.

Since its 1st Battalion was activated on Feb. 12, 1901, the 27th Infantry has fought in every major U.S. war and skirmish since World War I.

Before arriving at Schofield in 1921, the Wolfhounds fought insurgents on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines in 1901, and in Siberia in 1918.

While in Russia, the unit earned the nickname the Wolfhounds.

Manoa resident Jack Hirai, 73, recalls volunteering to join the Wolfhounds in 1950 to fill out its decimated ranks early in the opening moments of the Korean War.

"I was young," said Hirai, "maybe 20; just a young kid."

There's one date Hirai says he will always remember -- Jan. 4, 1951.

"We were overrun by the Chinese and cut off from our company. For three days, we just walked around. The only food we had were the K-rations in our pockets ... and nothing else. We had a lot of water.

"The enemy might have been all around us. We were worried but there was nothing we could do."

Three days later Hirai and his two three companions ran into another company.

All this took place in North Korea, just a few miles north of the 38th Parallel.

But for many, the Wolfhounds' most heralded moments were not on the battlefield but came after World War II, as detailed in the 1955 movie, "Three Stripes in the Sun."

Their humanitarian efforts and generosity after the war against Japan touched the hearts of Americans and Japanese.

On Christmas Day 1949, about a dozen Wolfhound soldiers accompanied a Red Cross field representative to a holiday party at the Holy Family Home, an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, in Osaka.

Liliha resident Charles Aresta, 70, recalled: "The kids were really destitute. They were living in this rundown building.

"These bunch of kids didn't have nothing, but they touched us and really melted down the most hardened soldier, and this was right after the war."

When the soldiers returned to Camp Sakai, Sgt. Hugh O'Reilly proposed to take up a collection for the orphans on the next payday. The men raised $143 and donated it to the orphanage on New Year's morning.

For the next six months, the Wolfhounds spent their spare time helping the sisters repair the orphanage.

The 27th Infantry Regiment was one of the first American regiments sent to Korea. But even on the front lines in Korea, the plight of the Japanese orphans was never forgotten. "Every month, the soldiers were sending money back, big time," Aresta said.

The last payday in June in 1951 was a memorable one. The Wolfhounds had raised $10,400. A letter was sent by the sisters of the Holy Family Home to the men of the regiment.

It read, "May the love, gentleness, and care you so generously lavished on the unwanted little children of Japan return to you thousand fold, and may your countrymen always remember the great part that the Wolfhounds played in carrying the Real Spirit of America -- to the land of cherry blossom buds into the hearts of little almond-eyed youngsters who will miss forever their beloved Wolfhounds."

A new tradition was started in 1957 when the Wolfhounds invited two children from the Holy Family Home to visit Schofield Barracks -- a tradition that continues today.

The following year, another tradition began, in which the Wolfhounds would send two soldiers at Christmastime to act as "Father Christmas." They visited the orphanage bearing gifts and companionship to bring joy and happiness to the children.

The regiment's 100th anniversary ceremony will be held at Schofield Barracks starting Wednesday, and will include the naming of a new honorary regimental commander Thursday. Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley will replace ret. Col. Lewis Millett.

Other events will include a display of military equipment from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Stoneman Field and a regimental run at 6:30 a.m. Friday.

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