Hawaii Herald Articles

Nisei Soldiers — Through Their Grandchildren’s Eyes


Honolulu – May 16, 2014. The following article was printed in The Hawaii Herald – Hawaii’s Japanese American Journal (Vol. 35. No. 10).


Yonsei’s Pilgrimage to Their Grandfathers’ Battlegrounds Stirs a Sense of Legacy

 Editor’s note: The following is an edited transcript of a “talk story” session among four yonsei whose grandfathers served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II. Last October, they joined their parents on a pilgrimage to Europe, where, among other sites, they visited the former Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany, and Bruyeres, France.

Almost 70 years ago, Nisei soldiers from the 442nd RCT had helped to liberate Nazi-held prisoners at Dachau and to free the small town of Bruyeres in the Vosges Mountains of northeastern Frances from Nazi control. The Vosges campaign, which included the now-famous rescue of the Texas “Lost Battalion,” was a costly one for the 442nd — 161 AJA soldiers lost their lives and 925 were wounded, injured or declared missing in action.

Hawai‘i Herald advertising manager Karlton Tomomitsu, whose late father served with the 442nd, had hoped to join the tour, but was unable to, so he met with these four yonsei recently (there were nearly a dozen) to hear their impressions of the trip. With their permission, he recorded their conversation. I edited the transcript, extracting the most poignant impressions of these four young people.

Kristen Nemoto and William Holck, both 29, are cousins, and grandchildren of Wilbert “Sandy” Holck, who was a hapa member of the 442nd. Sandy Holck, a former Honolulu City Council member, played a pivotal role in establishing Honolulu’s sister-city relationship with Bruyeres in 1961. Kristen, who earned her master’s in journalism from DePaul University, is a writer for a travel magazine. Cousin William graduated from Castle High School and the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Phoenix, Ariz., and is a utility assistant for Hawaiian Electric Company.

Dylan Yamashita, 30, and his brother Evan, 28, are the grandsons of Victor Isao Yamashita. They traveled to Europe with their father, Byrnes Yamashita. Dylan graduated from the University of Washington and is a landscape designer. Evan is a UH graduate with degrees in Japanese language and business (Travel Industry Management). He works as guest services manager for The Royal Hawaiian Resort.

Our thanks to Kristen, William, Dylan and Evan for allowing us to share their perspectives with our readers.

 WILLIAM:  [My] expectations weren’t too great. I didn’t know too much about 442nd. It was a trip to go to Europe for me. Being there changed my view of everything, what they did, the places they went to, the things they had to endure while they were there . . . . I learned a lot about what my grandfather did and the impact that it had on World War II and Japanese Americans, not only in Hawai‘i, but on the Mainland, as well — how they had to go to concentration camps. Things like that we would never know if we didn’t take interest in it.

To go and see all the memorial sites, the graveyards, all the places where they fought . . . We experienced some cold weather, but I heard that it was worse when they were actually there fighting. We had our last parade in Bruyeres — we walked through; it was rainy and cold, at least for us guys from Hawai‘i. They said it was nothing compared to what it was like when they fought at Bruyeres [in October/November 1944].

Epinal, that was the biggest thing for me. That was the eye-opener. Going and seeing the graves, and they had all those names on the wall of the people they didn’t get to bury because they were missing. There were thousands of names. That hit really close. It was a very emotional part. Seeing the names of soldiers that went missing or were never heard from again. Thousands of names and graves. The curator was nice enough to point out which one of them were 442nd graves. There were a bunch of them.

KRISTEN:  Like William, I had an idea of the 442nd and I had an idea of what our grandpa had done. We had heard stories growing up, but it was nothing compared to actually being there among the people, actually being in the woods, exactly where they fought; down below, where the town was being taken over. Just seeing that — it was very surreal. You feel so much more connected and humbled to your past. For me, it was extremely eye-opening.

WILLIAM:  We were actually stepping on the grounds that they walked.

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A “Very Special” Trip

442 Kashiwas in parade442 Genro Kashiwa pit stop







Here is an article from the Hawai‘i Herald’s special edition honoring the 70th Anniversary of the 442nd RCT.
First photo: Genro Kashiwa (far left) and his L Company buddy Howie Hanamura walk in the parade in Bruyeres with tour group leader Dorothy Matsuda (Photo by Karleen C. Chinen).

Second photo:  In Italy, 11 of the 14 veterans in our group stopped to take a group photo with Mount Folgorito (first peak on the left) in the background (Photo by Muriel Kashiwa).

Stories and images are courtesy of the Hawai‘i Herald.


A “Very Special” Trip
Steps Retraced in Journey to Bruyeres and Biffontaine
Karleen Chinen
The Hawai‘i Herald (March 15, 2013)

Genro Kashiwa was not in the best of health when he boarded the plane for our trip to Europe last fall. Eight days earlier, he was in a hospital bed, recovering from a bleeding colon.

But the recently retired lawyer insisted on making this pilgrimage — his first since the war.

Genro, his wife Muriel and I became fast friends on the trip. From early in our journey, I often observed him studying maps and writing in canary-colored legal tablets. When we talked, his comments usually had more to do with the mechanics of a battle — the strategy, the structure — or the humorous moments he recalled. Getting Genro to talk about how he felt was somewhat challenging.

But with each passing day, that stoic Nisei exterior melted away. As I listened to him at the end of our days in the Vosges mountains, I realized how therapeutic this journey has been for him.

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Partners in the Journey

442 Wives PilgrimageHere is an article from the Hawai‘i Herald’s special edition honoring the 70th Anniversary of the 442nd RCT. 


Photo of the Veterans and their wives with the city of Florence, Italy in background.


Stories and images are courtesy of the Hawai‘i Herald.

A Very Special Journey for the Wives, Too

Karleen Chinen
The Hawai‘i Herald (March 15, 2013)

When we began our journey to Europe, my focus was on the veterans with whom I would be traveling for the next 20 days. This trip belonged to them. I was there to walk with them and record their memories and impressions.

But what moved me as we bussed from historic landmarks to tiny little towns where these men had fought a half-century ago as young men barely out of teens, was the impact the trip had on their wives. They were not disinterested tag-alongs on this journey. Not once did I hear any of the women say, “Yeah, yeah, you go with the boys. I’m going shopping.” Not once. These wives were active partners in this journey back in time and it turned out to be as meaningful for them as it was for their husbands.

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Four Special Stones

442-Chappy young442 Chappy Kishaba VosgesHere is an article from the Hawai`i Herald’s special edition honoring the 70th Anniversary of the 442nd RCT.

Stories and images are courtesy of the Hawai`i Herald.

Minoru “Chappy” Kishaba as an 18-year-old 442nd RCT volunteer — Photo Courtesy Kishaba family (left).  Chappy Kishaba at a ceremony in the forest outside of Biffontaine — Photo by Karleen C. Chinen (right).

Minoru Kishaba’s Story Reveals the Essence of the Nisei Soldier

Karleen Chinen
The Hawai‘i Herald (March 15, 2013)

From the outset of our journey, one of the veterans in our group, Lahaina-born Minoru Kishaba, had struck me as an especially warm and gentle man. As we traveled through Italy, “Chappy” — a nickname that was given to him by his buddies in Anti-Tank Company because he sometimes read passages from the Bible to them — often talked about how lonely and homesick he felt during the war. “It was a very lonely feeling, especially evening, after you dig your [fox]hole and sit down and rest.”

Chappy and I finally had a chance to talk at length in Biffontaine. We had stepped outside the tent that had been set up for the luncheon banquet. None of the buildings in the town could accommodate the nearly one thousand people who had converged on this small French town to commemorate its liberation 50 years earlier. Chappy and I went outside to take a break from the festivities and get some fresh air.

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Puka Puka Parade

Here is an article on the 100th Battalion’s newsletter. 

Story and images courtesy of the Hawai`i Herald.


Volunteers gather at the clubhouse to collate and fold issues of the Puka Puka Parade.  
Pictured are, clockwise from left: Elsie Oshita, veteran Ted Hamasu, Kimi Matsuda and an unidentified woman. 

Karleen C. Chinen
The Hawai`i Herald (July 6, 2012)

The 100th Battalion’s Monthly Newsletter is a Gold Mine of Information and Wartime Experiences

This year, the Hawaii Hochi marks 100 years since Kinzaburo Makino began publishing the Japanese-language newspaper in December of 1912. Not too far behind the Hochi in publication years is the 100th Infantry Battalion’s monthly newsletter, creatively named the Puka Puka Parade. Since April 1, 1946, the veterans club has kept its members and their extended ‘ohana informed through the PPP.

“We have quite a large team [that works] largely behind the scenes,” said president Pauline Sato, who serves as overall editor and liaison to the club’s board of directors, which is made up of the various chapter presidents.

“Puka Puka Parade” was selected as the publication’s name way back in 1946, just a year after the 100th veterans returned home from the war. A panel of judges selected the name from a list of suggestions. It was Maui veteran Itsuo Shinyama who submitted the “Puka Puka” suggestion, which was a cinch for selection, given the two zeroes in the unit’s name and because throughout the war, many had referred to the unit as the “One Puka Puka.” After mulling over the suggestions to complete the name — suggestions like “Patter,” “Peeps,” “Hoomalimali,” “News,” “Monthly” and “Bulletin” — the judges finally decided on the word “Parade” because of its military connection. For his “Puka Puka” suggestion, Shinyama was awarded a grand prize of $10 from the club. Read more »

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War and Internment

Here is an article that reflects on the Japanese-American Internment.

Hawaii Hochi writer Iwao Kosaka in front of an old mess hall at Tule Lake in 1988. Story and image courtesy of the Hawai`i Herald.

Karleen C. Chinen
The Hawai`i Herald (October 1, 2010)

The World War II exploits of the Varsity Victory Volunteers, 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion are the stuff of legends and are even more gripping when retold because of the extra burden of race that the Nisei soldiers carried with them into battle. They fought not only fascism and totalitarianism, but hatred and prejudice in their own country.

But knowing that the eyes of America were on them, the Nisei soldiers fought bravely against the armies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
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The 100th Infantry Battalion

June 5th, 2012 marks the 70th Anniversary of the formation of the 100th  Infantry Battalion.  Here is an article from The Hawaii Herald archives published on the 50th Anniversary (1992).

History/Roland Kotani From: “The Japanese in Hawaii: A Century of Struggle”
America’s “Purple Heart Battalion”
The Hawaii Herald (June 19, 1992)

The following historical profile on the 100th Infantry Battalion is excerpted from the chapter titled, “The Nisei Soldier” in Roland Kotani’s 1985 book, “The Japanese in Hawaii: A Century of Struggle.” The book was published by the Hawaii Hochi, Ltd. And was designated the official booklet of the Oahu Kanyaku Imin Centennial Committee.

On the barren Italian hillside, Masayuki “Sparky” Matsunaga huddled behind a terrace wall and prayed for the dawn. He could barely move his wounded leg. But the darkness seemed to be lifting from the corpse-strewn battlefield.

The young man from Hanapepe wondered if he’d ever be able to do anything about his Kauai High School teacher’s advise that he should become a politician. His father had always said, “Kuro ga ate fukai jinsei ga wakaru,” “Deeper understanding of human values comes only through personal suffering.” As he pulled his jacket close around himself, Masayuki though he’d become a compassionate politician with a definite understanding of human suffering-if he survived this war.

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MIS: Preserving History at Building 640

Here is an article from the Hawaii Herald on the efforts to preserve the building where Japanese-American U.S. Army MIS members were trained.

Hawai‘i fundraising chair Andrew Sato (left) with Herbert Yanamura, both MIS veterans.

Stories and images are courtesy of the Hawai`i Herald.


San Francisco Building Will Honor Wartime Work of the Military Intelligence Service

Joe Udell
The Hawai‘i Herald (November 4, 2011)

In 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Military Intelligence Service, the National Japanese American Historical Society advocated for preserving an old warehouse structure known as Building 640 in the Presidio of San Francisco. It was in that now-historic building that the first Japanese American U.S. Army members were trained as linguists to serve in the Pacific theater.

Twenty years later, NJAHS’ vision is very close to becoming a reality. If all goes according to plan, the organization will open the MIS Historic Learning Center next November, culminating years of “arduous” work in honor of the MIS, whose service as interpreters, translators and interrogators in the Asia Pacific theater in World War II was credited by Gen. Charles Willoughby, G-2 chief in the Pacific, with saving a million lives and shortening the war with Japan by two years.
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1399th: Built to Last

Yasuo Mito

Here is an article from the Hawaii Herald on the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.  Yasuo Mito, a member of the Battalion recalls his experiences.
Stories and images are courtesy of the Hawaii Herald.

Wahiawa Water Tank Built by 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion Still in Use Today

Gwen Battad Ishikawa
The Hawai‘i Herald (November 4, 2011)

The view while driving up Wahiawa Heights is almost nondescript. The rows of houses on either side of the street are occasionally broken up by pasture or farm land. Along the route are storage water tanks used to supply the water needs of nearby homes and businesses. The trees and tall grass growing in front of the tanks help them to blend in with the landscape.

What’s unique about one of these water tanks is that it was built in 1944 by soldiers in the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion — and it’s still being used. For any structure to remain standing after nearly 70 years is impressive, but even more amazing is that the water tank was constructed with the hard work and sweat of young Japanese American soldiers largely inexperienced in construction, using only hand tools and the occasional power Dewalt cutoff saw.
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Preserving the One Puka Puka Story


Susan Muroshige (left) and Pauline Sato at the entrance to Turner Hall in the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans clubhouse. Turner Hall is named for the 100th’s first commanding officer, Col. Farrant Turner.

Susan Muroshige and Pauline Sato

Here is an article from the Hawaii Herald on the 100th Infantry Battalion’s Education Center.

Susan Muroshige (left) and Pauline Sato at the entrance to Turner Hall in the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans clubhouse. Turner Hall is named for the 100th’s first commanding officer, Col. Farrant Turner.

Stories and images are courtesy of the Hawaii Herald. 


State Grant Perpetuates 100th Infantry Battalion’s Pioneering Role

Joe Udell
The Hawai‘i Herald (November 4, 2011)

Thanks to a $1 million grant awarded by the state of Hawai‘i Department of Defense in 2008, the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans clubhouse is looking a lot different these days.
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America’s Congressional Gold Medal Heroes

This is the first of many articles that have been published in The Hawai`i Herald.  Here is the cover story on the AJA Congressional Gold Medal — Courtesy of The Hawai`i Herald.

In the Twilight of their Lives, America’s AJA Veterans Still Shine

Karleen C. Chinen
The Hawai‘i Herald (November 4, 2011)

They now belong to an elite group of world citizens — honored by the Congress of the United States with the nation’s high civilian award for service — the Congressional Gold Medal. Past awardees had included U.S. presidents, astronauts, the Dalai Lama, baseball great Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, among others. Google “Congressional Gold Medal” on the Internet and you will find their names — the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service — America’s newest Congressional Gold Medal heroes.

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