“442: A Legacy to Preserve” was the theme for the 442nd Veterans Club’s 72nd anniversary banquet, which was held March 29 at the Pacific Beach Hotel. Among the hundreds in attendance were 78 veterans who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, and the son of one special veteran — Ken Inouye, son of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who flew in from East Coast to attend the anniversary banquet.
Three descendants of 442 veterans — Angela Thompson, Eric Thompson and Ethan George — walked banquet attendees through history of the 442nd through the battle streamers the unit earned in Europe.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell offered a proclamation honoring the 442nd. “They stepped up and they put their lives on the line for us and changed our lives forever,” he said.
A delegation from the Peace and Freedom Trail Association from Bruyeres, France, led by Martial Hilaire, made a presentation to the 442nd. In the fall of 1944, the 100th/442nd liberated the towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine in the Vosges mountain region of northeastern France from the Nazis. “How can we ever thank you,” Hilaire told the veterans. He said plans are in the works to build an educational and legacy museum in the Vosges to perpetuate the story of the 442nd.
The club presented its Kansha Award to 442nd member Ted Yanagihara, who was unable to attend the banquet due to health challenges. Yanagihara became a music teacher after the war and was the music director at Farrington High School. He also led the 442nd’s ‘ukulele, choral and hula clubs, and whenever the veterans sang their “Go For Broke” song at reunions and anniversary events, Yanagihara was always the man who kept them on key and singing in unison. Yanagihara’s wife Lovette accepted the award on behalf of her husband.
In his message, Gov. David Ige noted that over 14,000 Nisei served in World War II. He spoke briefly about his late father, Tokio Ige, who volunteered for the 442nd and became an early replacement to the casualty-plagued 100th Infantry Battalion. Ige noted that like so many of the Nisei who served, his father “rarely talked about his experiences.” He said that most of what he now knows about his father’s service in Europe was learned after his father’s passing.
Ige, who is Hawai‘i’s second governor of Japanese ancestry, noted that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and said it is “important to capture the stories.” He said he was a beneficiary of the veterans’ sacrifice. “I would not be here today. There is no doubt that they truly changed Hawai‘i and the world.”
Earlier in the program, Ige presented a proclamation to 442nd Veterans Club president William Thompson proclaiming March 28 as “442nd Regimental Combat Team Day.”
The program also featured the introduction of the first “Go For Broke” Award winners in judo —
8-year-old Asa Tadaki of the Mililani Hongwanji Judo Club and 10-year-old Caetlin Dias of the Makiki Seidokan.
University of Hawai‘i President Dr. David Lassner delivered the banquet’s keynote address. He noted that when 442nd veteran Dr. Fujio Matsuda was president of the University of Hawai‘i, he wanted to understand how computers were being used to change the field of teaching. It was that study that brought Lassner, then a graduate student at the University of Illinois to Hawai‘i, where, decades later, he is now the university’s president.
Lassner noted that just a month earlier, he welcomed former UH ROTC students and expelled Hawai‘i Territorial Guardsmen who volunteered for the Varsity Victory Volunteers following the outbreak of World War II back to the Mänoa campus. He said the impact of the Japanese American veterans who came back to Hawai‘i “became the backbone of democracy in Hawai‘i.”