Toshimi Sodetani was born on May 15, 1920, in Puunene, Maui, T.H. He was one of three sons and three daughters of Kameichi and Hisa (Kimura) Sodetani. Kameichi had arrived as a young single man in 1906 from Inami Mura, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Hisa arrived in 1915 and they were married four days later.
He signed his WWII Draft Registration card on July 1, 1941, in Wailuku, Maui. His next-of-kin was his father, he worked as a warehouse clerk at the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (C&S), and he was 5’7”, 130 lbs.
Toshimi enlisted March 30, 1943. He was possibly at Iolani Palace the previous day for the farewell ceremony, as it was reported that some soldiers were there in civilian clothes. While in basic training at Camp Shelby, he was promoted to Corporal on November 20, 1943. A few months later, he was among the relatively few soldiers sent to Italy between January to March 1944 as a replacement for Company C, 100th Infantry Battalion. This was prior to the bulk of the 442nd arriving in Italy and the 100th joining the 442nd. It is unknown at what point he was transferred to the Anti-Tank Company.
Sodetani was on the wounded list on January 22, 1945, in France. 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 for their wartime service. He received a Bronze Star Medal that day for his actions in France. The other medals he received were Purple Heart, Distinguished Unit Badge, and Combat Infantryman Badge. Sodetani was discharged February 1, 1946.
Before the war, Sodetani had been a student at the University of Hawaii. After he returned home, he reenrolled at UH and earned his Bachelor’s degree in 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, at Fort Shafter on July 31, 1947. He married Lillian Nobuko Nakamura of Puunene and attended Cincinnati University College of Law in Ohio where he earned his J.D. degree.
Sodetani returned to Honolulu and 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 felt uneasy after he ruled against someone. But a look at his rulings showed he never shied away from tough rulings.
Toshimi was an active member of the 442nd 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.”