COURTESY THE 100TH BATTALION VETERANS CLUB
The heads of local Japanese-American veterans groups -- Ron Oba, left, president of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team Club; Frank Takao, president of the Military Intelligence Service Club; Thomas Takemoto, president of the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion Club; and Robert Arakaki, president of the 100th Battalion Club -- announce the first joint memorial service, which be held on Sunday.
4 WWII clubs plan joint service
The Hawaii veterans will gather Sunday at Punchbowl
In the years immediately following World War II, Frank Takao recalls playing baseball with his fellow Japanese-American veterans who belonged to various service clubs.
"In the early days, the league was formed by the AJA Council," said Takao, who served in World War II as a member of the Military Intelligence Service, which served as Japanese interpreters and intelligence experts in World War II.
The teams came from several clubs made up of nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, who had served in 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the MIS or the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion in World War II, said Takao, now a retired district judge.
Although more than 17,000 Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland served in World War II, these veterans were fiercely loyal to their individual units -- the 100th Battalion, the 442nd RCT and the MIS -- and never joined forces to commemorate their achievements or honor their lost comrades.
All that changed several years ago as these aging veterans realized that so many of their comrades were leaving their ranks.
After three years of planning, the first joint annual memorial service honoring soldiers of the 100th Battalion, 442nd RCT, 1399th Engineers and MIS will be held at 9 a.m. Sunday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Lt. Gen. John Brown, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, will be the guest speaker.
Stanley Akita, past president of the 100th Battalion Veterans Club, said, "We are losing about 30 members every year." Akita estimated that there are about 300 veterans of the 100th Battalion who are still active in his organization.
The 100th Battalion was first Army unit to be comprised mainly of Hawaii-born Japanese Americans. Akita estimated that up to 4,000 Japanese Americans served in the unit that was formed following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and sent into battle in Italy in 1943. It later became the first battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Akita said that since the end of World War II, 100th Battalion veterans have held an annual memorial ceremony on the last Sunday in September, since it is the closest date marking the death of the first Japanese-American soldier in World War II: Joe Takata.
Ron Oba, president of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team Club, said his organization's annual memorial service was always held in March to match the date in 1943 when the Army unit was organized. Based on the achievements of the 100th Battalion, the U.S. War Department called for volunteers in March 23, 1943, to form an all-Japanese-American unit, and more than 12,000 responded.
Oba estimated that the 442nd Club has about 600 veterans. He said that as many as 12,000 Japanese Americans from here and on the mainland served in his unit.
"We started out with about 4,800," Oba added. "More than 4,000 were killed in action, and 8,000 were wounded."
By the end of the war, the 100th Battalion and the 442nd RCT, which earned 18,000 awards and citations, including 21 Medals of Honor, became the highest-decorated unit of its size in the Army.
The 1399th was a composite Army unit stationed in Hawaii that had a peak strength of nearly 1,000 Japanese-American soldiers in November 1944. The 1399th and its predecessor units constructed more than 54 military defense installations on Oahu.
More than 6,000 Japanese Americans served in the MIS, whose exploits and interpreters and intelligence operatives were classified as secret until recently. Soldiers of the MIS translated Japanese documents, interrogated Japanese prisoners of war, intercepted and deciphered Japanese communications, flushed caves on Okinawa and other Pacific islands of Japanese soldiers and civilians, and were part of the allied psychological warfare tactics.
Takao said he is hopeful that the joint memorial service will lead to other coordinated efforts such as banquets, picnics and other social events.