The 79th Anniversary Banquet was held at Hale `Ikena at Fort Shafter on Saturday, March 26, 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 102 guests in attendance, including 442nd veterans Harold Afuso (H Co) and wife Patsy, Roy Fujii (522 B Bty), Royce Higa (522 A Bty), Jack Nakamura (B Co), and Tadao Yoshimoto (E Co).
Six widows of veterans were also present, including Cynthia Doi (Mrs. Masato Doi, Antitank Company), Mildred Tahara (Mrs. Yoshiyuki “Fat” Tahara, 2nd Battalion, H Company), Laura Miho (Mrs. Katsugo Miho, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, B Battery), Muriel Kashiwa (Mrs. Genro Kashiwa, 3rd Battalion, L Company), Genny Matsumoto (Mrs. Paul Kazuo Matsumoto, 3rd Battalion, L Company), and Frances Aoyama (Mrs. Tsugio, 2nd Battalion, Headquarters Company).
The event was emceed by Karl Okemura, President of the 442nd Veterans Club, who first delivered welcoming remarks. A Guidon Processional followed, and this was the first time we had a guidon for every company and battery of the 100/442. We also had at least one soldier photo for each company or battery, representing the soldiers who were in the unit from February 1943 to the end of the war. Governor and Mrs. Ige attended and carried their fathers’ photos in the Guidon Processional.
Next, the National, State, Regimental, and Battalion Colors were presented by the Punahou Army JROTC Color Guard under the command of Cadet Staff Sergeant Luke Lee. There were seven cadets and their instructor, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Robert Takao. A current Reserve member of the 100th/442nd from Fort Shafter also attended and brought the unit’s flag. Following the presentation of the Colors, Ms. Sandy Tsukiyama led the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, then beautifully sang our National Anthem, followed by Hawai`i Pono`i. The Colors were posted, then Karl announced a moment of silence honoring all of the soldiers who lost their lives in defense of our Nation, those who died during the pandemic, and those fighting for freedom in Ukraine.
Governor Ige then spoke to the audience about the significance of the service of the 442nd. Mayor Blangiardi was unable to attend but Karl Okemura read his greetings message. Karl then introduced Ann Kabasawa, President of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club, who spoke about this being the 80th anniversary of the formation of the 100th Battalion. Next, Karl introduced Mel Kaneshige, President of the 442nd Legacy Center.
Following the Invocation, offered by member Gwen Fujie, a delicious lunch buffet was served. As the guests dined, a beautiful slideshow, created by Bill Wright and Mae Isonaga, was displayed. It showed excellent photos of the soldiers and rare historical film footage from the war era. People spent time catching up with old friends, many of whom hadn’t seen each other for several years during the pandemic.
After lunch, the JROTC cadets were presented with a 442nd lapel pin and composite patch, and a Certificate of Appreciation was presented to Col. Takao. Mae Isonaga then presented two 442nd-themed birthday cakes honoring the 442nd’s anniversary. As the cake was enjoyed, S&D Education Chairman Bill Wright introduced Tom Coffman, author of the new book Inclusion: How Hawai‘i Protected Japanese Americans from Mass Internment, Transformed Itself, and Changed America. Tom provided an outstanding description of how acts of tolerance and understanding paved the way for both the formation of the 442nd and the limited use of internment in the Hawaiian Islands during the war. The full text of his speech was published in the Hawai`i Herald on August 5, 2022. Bill also spoke for several minutes about the importance of carrying on the legacy of the 442nd.
After Tom’s address, Karl spoke about the history of the Go For Broke song and invited Sandy Tsukiyama back up to lead the audience in its singing. Following the song, Karl announced that the formal program was ending but that Tom would be signing books in the front breezeway, where there were various educational displays set up and 442nd merchandise for sale. The Color Guard retired the Colors and the banquet adjourned as people said their farewells and departed to enjoy the beautiful spring day.
There will be more events coming soon. The Christmas Party will be held at Club 100, 10am on Saturday, December 3rd – stay tuned for more details. The 80th Anniversary Banquet will be on Saturday, March 25, 2023, 10am-2pm, Hale `Ikena at Ft Shafter, so save the date!