As Robert Kishinami waited for his ride to a barefoot football kicking contest, he saw planes soaring above his Haleiwa neighborhood. The 17-year-old soon realized what was unfolding wasn’t a military maneuver with zeroes and tracers. They were real bullets, a declaration of war.

What I want the next generation to do is to always be good and to do their best, because that’s all anyone can expect of anyone.

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In the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, everyone at Kishinami’s high school volunteered for service. “Parents didn’t know we signed up,” he says. “You’re young, so you just go for broke and volunteer.”

He and fellow recruits of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were transported by ship to the mainland for training. He was then assigned to be a military jeep driver, hauling ammunition and supplies. “A lot of memories. Some hard to talk about, like going and looking for the wounded and no matter what condition, you have to evacuate. Some gruesome, but cannot help, that’s your job.”
At the time, Kishinami says no one was thinking about the impact of their actions. He and his fellow Nisei just did as they were told, and did their best to do those jobs well.

But now, decades later, at age 92, Kishinami knows Nisei made a difference. “The standard for everybody in Hawaii was much better,” he says. “Even the politicians — we have lots of them in government now. All over, the pioneers in every field you can think of.  I think we were the pioneers, and it opened the door for majority of them.”