Hawaii Nikkei Legacy Exhibit

Formation of the Nisei Military Units

Despite suspicion and prejudice, more than 20,000 Nisei Japanese Americans served honorably in four segregated U.S. Army units: the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.

Hundreds of Nisei were in the Army and the Hawaii National Guard and defended against the December 7th attack. On January 5, 1942, all Nisei were labeled “enemy aliens” and the Nisei members of the Hawaii National Guard were ordered back to Schofield Barracks. In May 1942, approximately 1,400 Nisei soldiers were secretly ordered to travel to San Francisco by ship where they were designated the 100th Infantry Battalion.

In addition, a group of Nisei students at the University of Hawaii petitioned the U.S. Army and were allowed to serve as the Varsity Victory Volunteers, a construction workforce.

The positive record of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Varsity Victory Volunteers led the U.S. government to establish the 442nd RCT, a primarily Nisei combat unit.

The 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion was activated in Hawaii and completed major defense construction projects on Oahu.

Nisei soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion (1944).

Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets at the University of Hawai‘i formed the Varsity Victory Volunteers to help the U.S. Army as a construction workforce (1942).

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team at Iolani Palace prior to departure for training camp (March 1943).

Nisei volunteers from Hawaii, including most of the soldiers shown here, made up the majority of the MIS Language School class that began in February 1944, Camp Savage, Minnesota.

Nisei Veterans Legacy