The “Remember Pearl Harbor” Battalion to Celebrate Its 80th Anniversary, Still Committed to Postwar Motto, “For Continuing Service”
Honolulu, Hawaii — Descendants and supporters of the World War II 100th Infantry Battalion will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the unit’s formation this month. The 100th Battalion, originally comprised of Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) soldiers from Hawaii, was formed as a segregated unit on June 12, 1942, against a backdrop of distrust and animosity.
President Biden’s letter to the veterans reads in part, “As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 100th Infantry Battalion’s formation, we honor your service and recommit ourselves to becoming a Nation worthy of your sacrifices.”
Despite facing prejudice and discrimination because of their Japanese ancestry, these homegrown heroes bravely went to war to prove their loyalty to America, the country of their birth. The 100th Battalion earned the moniker, “The Purple Heart Battalion,” because of the high number of casualties it suffered in its first five months in battle in Italy.
“We will never be able to thank these heroes enough for their courage and sacrifice. They fought for freedom on many different levels,” said Tsurumi Hamasu, descendant and co-chair of the 100th Infantry Battalion’s 80th Anniversary Commemoration Committee.
“They were more than wartime heroes,” added 100th descendant and 80th Anniversary co-chair, Jan Sakoda. “After fighting in the war, these men came back to fight for equality and justice here in our islands. We are all beneficiaries of their contributions to transform Hawaii’s cultural, social, political and business landscape.”
Lynn Heirakuji, president of the Nisei Veterans Legacy, a Hawaii nonprofit organization that strives to preserve the legacy of all Japanese American soldiers who served in WWII, added: “The 100th Infantry Battalion helped to pave the way for the creation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The contributions of all of the Japanese American soldiers who served in WWII, influenced President Harry Truman’s decision to issue Executive Order 9981 in 1948, banning racially segregated units in America’s armed forces.
Eighty years after these Island sons departed Hawaii in the dark of night on June 5, 1942, their descendants and other supporters plan to honor the One Puka Puka, as they were also known, and in particular, the last approximately 12 surviving veterans of the 100th with a number of events:
Personal Presentation of Gifts to Surviving 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans
On Sunday, June 12, 2022, exactly 80 years after the unit’s official formation,100th Battalion descendants will make personal visits to the homes of several veterans, all of whom are nearing 100 years of age or older.
They will present the veterans with several keepsake gifts, including a specially designed 100th Infantry Battalion baseball cap, a printed overview of the 100th Infantry Battalion’s history, orchid plants, and a folder containing copies of the congratulatory certificates from President Joe Biden, Gov. David Ige, the Hawaii State Legislature, and Hawaii’s congressional delegation. Arrangements have been made to present the gifts to those veterans who are unavailable or who reside on the mainland. Gifts will also be presented to the surviving spouses of the veterans.
“One Puka Puka” Rebroadcast
Hawaii News Now will rebroadcast “One Puka Puka,” which highlights the experiences of the 100th Infantry Battalion during its first nine months of combat in Italy, when it was the only Japanese American military unit fighting in Europe. The two-hour documentary was written, produced, and narrated by the late KGMB News anchor/reporter Bob Jones and first aired in 1992, on the 50th anniversary of the 100th Battalion’s formation. It will be shown again — the first time in 30 years — as a tribute to Jones, who died last November, and the 100th Battalion veterans. The program will air on the following dates and times:
- Thursday, June 16, at 7 p.m. on K5
- Saturday, June 18, at 7 p.m. on KGMB
- Sunday, June 19, at 3 p.m. on KHNL
Community Problem-Based Learning (C-PBL) Challenge for Youth
In observance of the 100th Infantry Battalion’s 80th anniversary, Hawaii middle and high students were invited to identify an important issue or problem facing Hawaii and create an innovative solution to address the challenge by applying the values, sacrifices, contributions, and accomplishments of the 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers and veterans. Students from several public and private schools worked closely with volunteer mentors and recently presented their inspiring solutions via Zoom to the 100th Infantry Battalion. ‘Ōlelo Community Media is exploring ways to implement the student ideas in partnership with foundations and other organizations. Other schools have expressed interest in participating in future 100th Infantry Battalion C-PBL challenges.