Toshimi Sodetani

Toshimi Sodetani
Second Lieutenant
442nd Regimental Combat Team
100th Battalion, C Company

Toshimi Sodetani was born on May 15, 1920, in Puunene, Maui, Territory of Hawaii.  He was six children of Kameichi and Hisa (Kimura) Sodetani.  His siblings were:  brothers Tsuruo and Noremitsu; and sisters Yurie and Kiyoe.  Kameichi had arrived as a young single man in 1906 from the village of Inami, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.  Hisa arrived in 1915, and they were married four days later.

In 1930, the family was living at Mill Camp in Wailuku and father Kameichi was a truck driver for the sugar plantation.  In 1940, they were living in Alabama Camp, Kameichi was a truck driver, mother Hisa was a cook for a private family, and Toshimi was working as a laborer for the plantation.

Toshimi signed his draft registration card on July 1, 1941, in Wailuku, Maui.  He listed his father as his point of contact.  He worked as a warehouse clerk at the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (C&S), and he was 5’7” tall and weighed 130 pounds.

By October 10, 1942, he had moved to Honolulu, was living at 1621 Keeaumoku Street, and attending the University of Hawaii.

Toshimi enlisted in the Army on March 30, 1943.  At the time, he had completed three years of college.  His occupation was listed as “Skilled chauffeur and driver.”  He was sent to the “tent city” known as Boom Town at Schofield Barracks.  He left Honolulu on the S.S. Lurline with the other new soldiers on April 4 for San Francisco.  After arrival, they were sent by train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

While in basic training at Camp Shelby, he was assigned to Antitank Company of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  On November 20, 1943, Sodetani was promoted to Corporal.  A few months later, he was among the 442nd soldiers sent to Italy between January to March 1944 as a replacement for C Company, 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate).  On January 22, 1945, he was noted on the War Department’s wounded list in France, as Sergeant Sodetani.

He received a battlefield commission in Italy in May 1945, from Tech Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant.

On May 13, 1945, he was among the 61 men of the 442nd who received a medal at a ceremony at an airfield in Novi, Italy.  He received a Bronze Star Medal that day for his actions in France.

His initial enlistment ended on May 19, 1945.  He reenlisted the next day and served until he returned to Hawaii and was discharged from the Army on February 1, 1946.

For his military service, Second Lieutenant Toshimi Sodetani was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge.  He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on October 5, 2010, along with the other veterans of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team.  This is the highest Congressional Civilian Medal.

He returned to his studies at the University of Hawaii and graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree on June 10, 1947.  He also joined the Army Reserves as a Lieutenant on the staff of the 100th Battalion of the 442nd Infantry, the U.S. Army’s first reserve unit to be reactivated.  He attended the reactivation ceremony at Palm Circle at Fort Shafter at precisely and appropriately 4:42 p.m. on July 31, 1947.  Over 6,000 family, friends, and former 442nd members attended.

Toshimi married Lillian Nobuko Nakamura of Puunene.

He and Lillian moved to Ohio, where he earned his J.D. degree from Cincinnati University College of Law.  They returned to Honolulu on the S.S. Lurline on November 17, 1950.  Sodetani went into private law practice in 1951.  He also served as Chairman of the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeal Board, prior to becoming Deputy Attorney General of Hawaii.

In 1974, Governor John A. Burns appointed him a Circuit Court Judge.  After he retired in 1984, the soft-spoken judge said he felt uneasy after he ruled against someone.  But a look at his decisions showed he never shied away from tough rulings.

Right:  Judge Sodetani in his later years

Toshimi was an active member of Club 100, the 100th Infantry Battalion veterans’ club.

Toshimi Sodetani died on December 31, 2010.  He was survived by his wife Lillian, one daughter, and three grandsons.  Lillian died on June 12, 2020, in Lafayette, California.  They were inurned in the Columbarium at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Section Court 6, Wall B.

After he died, a colleague praised his reputation as a judge, saying, “He was the epitome of judges.  He bent over backwards to be fair to everybody.  He respected the rights of individual defendants, but he made sure that justice was done.

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.

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