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Central Pacific exhibit honors WWII nisei vets


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POSTED: Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sixty-six years ago this month, 2,500 young Japanese-American men, most of them just barely out of high school, stood in a massive formation in front of Iolani Palace to be formally inducted into the U.S. Army.

They had all volunteered to fight in World War II to prove their loyalty to a country that months earlier had classified them as enemy aliens.

Yesterday, in a glass-enclosed building just a block away on King Street, more than 50 World War II nisei, or second-generation Japanese-Americans, their families and friends unveiled an exhibit in the lobby of a bank that was started by several of the soldiers who had stood in that aloha ceremony on March 28, 1943.

The exhibit at Central Pacific Bank honors the nisei World War II veterans from the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.

The 100th Battalion and the 442nd RCT became among the most decorated units in World War II, while Japanese linguists belonging to the MIS are credited with shortening the war in the Pacific by cracking Japanese key codes and documents.

Shari Tamashiro, a cybrarian, or cyber-librarian, at Kapiolani Community College, developed the exhibit from one she created last year for the 65th anniversary of the 442nd RCT.

William Thompson, who stood in the Iolani Palace formation as a 19-year-old soldier, told the gathering, “;History will affirm that we helped to develop Americanism.”;

“;The legacy we left behind,”; added Thompson, current president of the 442nd Veterans Club, “;is one of unflinching patriotism.”;

Eileen Sakai, president of the 442nd Sons and Daughters Club, said the exhibit also honors three nisei veterans — U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was a member of the 442nd RCT, the late state Sen. Sakae Takahashi, who belonged to the 100th Battalion, and Elton Sakamoto from the MIS — who founded Central Pacific Bank in 1954.

Inouye is quoted in one of the exhibits as saying Takahashi, Mits Kido, Charley Kimura and other nisei veterans concluded that “;the time had come to fund a bank that could provide much equitable service not only to the Japanese, but to all communities.”;

These nisei veterans would meet at Ala Moana Park with their plate lunches to talk about their future.

“;We didn't have money at that time,”; Sakamoto says in another exhibit. “;Gee, I guess plate lunches ran around 45 to 50 cents.”;

Betty Takahashi said her husband, Sakae Takahashi, would be honored by such an exhibit.

“;He loved the bank, the 100th Battalion and me.”;

Besides military uniforms worn by the nisei soldiers, the exhibit includes a helmet that saved the life of Cpl. Sueo Sakamoto, of A Company, who was hit in the head by a sniper in Italy in 1943.