Close to 500 World War II Nisei veterans, their families and friends turned out for the 442nd Veterans Club’s 73rd anniversary banquet at the Pacific Beach Hotel on April 10. About 60 of the attendees were Nisei veterans, most of whom had served in the 442nd. The banquet, which was co-chaired by 442nd daughter, Mae Isonaga, and son, Irwin Yoshino, was also attended by visitors from Bruyeres, France, which the 100th/442nd liberated in World War II. Several elected officials in attendance presented proclamations and certificates to club president William Thompson. They included Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
The 442nd Veterans Club presented a Kansha (appreciation) Award to the Rev. Yoshiaki Fujitani, who, for many years, shared meaningful words about remembrance and camaradie in his invocations at 442nd events. Fujitani was not present to accept the award in person.
The 442nd Veterans Club officers were introduced during the banquet. They are: William Thompson, president; Melvin Kaneshige, first vice president; Genro Kashiwa, second vice president; Takashi “Bolo” Shirakata, treasurer; and Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto, secretary. Except for Kaneshige, all of the officers served in the 442nd.
The banquet’s keynote address was delivered by Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, who was assigned a new command in Korea earlier this month. The text of Gen. Brooks’ speech follows on Page 5.
Mark Matsunaga, who serves on the board of directors of the Pacific Historic Parks, shared information about plans for this December’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Matsunaga, the son a World War II Military Intelligence Service veteran who passed away only a few months ago, noted that there were some 400,000 Japanese Americans living in the territory of Hawai‘i on Dec. 7, 1941, and that the 298th and 299th Regiments of the Hawai‘i National Guard were already in service defending Hawai‘i and the United States on that day 75 years ago. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese American soldiers in those two regiments and a few others were merged into one segregated unit that came to be known as the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry, and, subsequently, the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate).
Commemoration activities for the 75th anniversary will be held from Dec. 1 through 11, and will include a special luncheon banquet on Monday, Dec. 5, to honor veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. Details will be released at a later date.
The banquet was emceed by Ken Inouye, son of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who served in the 442nd RCT. He revealed some of the thoughts his father shared with him in their moments together. Ken recalled driving his dad home from a function after he had been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for valor. A speaker at the function had referred to the Nisei as “the greatest generation” — a term broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw coined to describe the sacrifice and service of the World War II generation. “You know, I don’t think we’re ‘the greatest generation,’” Sen. Inouye said. Ken said he was taken aback by his father’s comment and asked him what he meant. “Because we can’t be the greatest generation,” his father replied. “America is about always improving on itself . . . . If you’re the greatest generation, it doesn’t get any better.”