Monday, March 8, 1999

A familiar image adorns the 442nd veterans' clubhouse.

Insignia a salute
to the 442nd

This six-sided badge, laid in mosaic tile on the flank of a modest apartment building on Wiliwili and King streets, seems vaguely patriotic. It's in red, white and blue after all, and features the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

Wat Dat? And if it seems vaguely familiar, it should. It's the symbol of the famous 442nd Infantry Battalion. The building also serves as the veterans' clubhouse. The nisei soldiers wore it proudly on their sleeve as they helped liberate Europe in World War II.

But it's not the first symbol of the 442nd. That one is better left lost.

Army insignia designers took their first crack at a badge they thought was appropriate early in 1943.

It was round, forming a blue-and-white bomb burst. In the center was a naked yellow arm -- symbolizing Asians -- clutching a bloody sword, a metaphor for fierce retribution. It was presented to the 442nd on July 31, 1943.

Popular with the troops? No sir. The horrified nisei grumbled so much about the insignia the Army took the unusual step of immediately redesigning it. The new patch was approved and distributed on Dec. 16, 1943.

The "new" insignia represents the traditional elements of liberation, with the healing torch light of Liberty symbolizing guidance in a dark world. This was more like it.

According to Honolulu military patch collector Jonathon Darr, the original 442nd patch is pretty rare. Apparently most went into trash cans, instead of footlockers.

By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin


Collection of W. J. Senda
K.C. Yamasaki of Kauai Sales in Lihue was one of the first
Japanese men to own a business on the Garden Isle.

What it means to be AJA

An exhibit exploring how the Japanese-American identity in Hawaii has changed over the years, "From Bento to Mixed Plate: Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Multicultural Hawai'i (AJAs)," opens Saturday at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall in Lihue. It will be open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through March 27, when the exhibit will close at 5 p.m. Admission is free.

The "Bento" exhibit was developed by the Japanese American National Museum with staff and volunteers from Hawaii and Los Angeles. The display of more than 200 artifacts and more than 200 photographs was shown at the Bishop Museum. After it closes on Kauai, the exhibit will be featured at the Smithsonian Institution May 22 through Nov. 30.

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