Nisei – part 3 Nisei ROTC in Hawaii

HI Territorial Guard, UH, 1942

 

On 7 December 1941, the UH ROTC Regiment over 600 strong was called out over the radio to report to duty. We reported to the ROTC Armory, which is that little wooden building now standing at the end of Sinclair Library parking lot. We were greeted by the sight of Sgt. Ward and Sgt. Hogan feverishly inserting firing pins into Springfield .03 rifles. I reported to my unit, Company “B”, 1st Battalion, commanded by Captain Nolle Smith. We were issued a clip of 5 bullets with our rifles.

It was reported that Japanese paratroopers had landed on St. Louis Heights. Our first order was to deploy down across Manoa Stream where Kanewai Park now stands and to prevent the enemy from advancing into the city. We were crouched down among the koa bushes for long hours in the hot sun, waiting for the enemy which never showed up. This turned out to be just another one of the many hysterical rumors that spread across Honolulu that day.

During those few hours of service, we had no military status or standing, federal or territorial. We were just University ROTC boys heeding our country’s desperate call to arms. For our participation in “the campaign for St. Louis Heights,” many years later in 1977, the University ROTC was awarded with a battle streamer distinguishing it as the first and only ROTC unit in the United States to engage in active war service during World War II!

Richard Okamoto at HI firing range, 1943

On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, the University ROTC unit was converted into the Hawaii Territorial Guard and we were trucked down to the National Guard Armory where our State Capitol now stands. We were issued those pie-plate tin helmets and gas masks and immediately assigned to guard Lolani Palace, the Courthouse, Hawaiian Electric, Mutual Telephone, and Board of Water Supply, and all other government buildings and utilities all over the city. Company B was headquartered in the Dole Pineapple building and assigned to guard the Iwilei industrial district and the waterfront and to defend against a Japanese invasion attack. Just imagine the pitiful sight of a greenhorn teenage soldier who never fired a gun crouched behind a sandbagged emplacement at Pier 10 defending against a Japanese invasion of Honolulu Harbor with a measly 30 caliber rifle and five bullets.  Mercifully and thankfully, the enemy never invaded!  But the important thing was that we had responded to the call, we were proud to wear the American uniform, and we were serving our country in its direst hour of need!

We served for six weeks after Pearl Harbor, but by January 19, 1942, the high brass in Pentagon had discovered to its horror that the city of Honolulu was being defended by hundreds of Japs in American uniforms!  It should be mentioned here that over 75% of the HTG guardsmen were men of Japanese ancestry. The order came down that all HTG guardsmen of Japanese ancestry were discharged.   If they had dropped a bomb in our midst. it couldn’t have been more devastating. That blow of being rejected by your own country only because of your name, your face, and your race, was far worse than Pearl Harbor itself. Every Nisei who suffered that indignity will attest to the fact that that rejection was absolutely the lowest point in our long lives!

7 Who Gave Their All

 

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We could do nothing else but return to the University.  But books and classrooms made no sense, when our country was crying for military and defense manpower, and yet we were distrusted, unwanted, useless. But within a week’s time, Hung Wai Ching, who was then Executive Secretary of the Atherton YMCA near the UH campus, met with a group of the discharged Nisei, and soon inspired and convinced them why not offer themselves as a labor battalion.  His key pitch was “So they don’t trust you with a gun. Wouldn’t they trust you with picks and shovels?” By February 25, 1942, a petition signed by 169 University students offering their services as a labor battalion was accepted by the Military Governor.

This group known as the “Varsity Victory Volunteers” was assigned to the 34th Combat Engineers Regiment at Schofield Barracks performing vital defense work on Oahu. For the next 11 months, they dug ammunition pits, built secondary mountain roads, repaired bridges and culverts, built warehouses and field housing. and operated the rock quarry. One day in December, 1942, Secretary of War John McCloy, making a field inspection of Oahu defenses, witnessed the VVV Quarry Gang operating the quarry up at Kolekole Pass, and was told the story of the VVV by his escort, Hung Wai Ching. By some coincidence or otherwise, just a month later in January, 1943, the War Department announced its decision to form an all-Nisei combat team and issued a call for volunteers. On January 30, 1943, members of the VVV voted to disband so they could volunteer for the 442nd Combat Team. Most of the men were accepted and served the duration of the war with the 442nd, and also with the Military Intelligence Service. The rest is well known history.

 

Editors note: The words above were delivered on 3 December 2001, at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial Visitor’s Center as part of the 60th Anniversary remembrance of the Dec. 7th 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

‘Hey, most climb over, but whatever works for you.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Allen Bradley – Dillon, MT; US Army, WWII & Korea, 82 Airborne Division

Jack Crawford – Phoenix City, AL; US Army, WWII, Purple Heart

Grant Ichikawa – Suison Valley, CA; US Army, PTO, MIS’er, Lt.,/ Korea / CIA

Trevor Joseph – Collierville, TN; US Army, Afghanistan, 1/5th Aviation Regiment, “Cajun Dustoff” MEDEVAC, Major, KIA Fort Polk

Shiro Kashino – Seattle, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 442nd Regimental Combat Team

John L. Keenan – Brooklyn, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO / NYPD, “Son of Sam” Task Force Cmdr.

Michael Meehan – brn: IRE/Edison, NJ; US Army, Occupation, 25th Infantry Signal Co./11th Airborne Division

Kelly Richards – Grayling, MI; US Army, SSgt., medic, Iraq & Afghanistan, KIA

Ephrain “Hank” Royfe – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, translator

William Tinker – Caney, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on September 30, 2019, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 123 Comments.

  1. Powerful post, GP. I’m glad you told this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very unique persinal accounting of what happened in the earlier part of WWII. Wonderful tribute and slide show, too. BTW, the soldier with the last name “Chinen” have have been of mixed race. I never heard of a Japanese last name like that; it may just be rare. However, under FDR’s rules, any discernable percentage of Japanese blood branded you as enemy alien. Babies too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • King Roosevelt made his own rules.
      Thanks for stopping in on these posts. I appreciate having you double check my articles.

      Like

      • Your stuff is always spot on. I only add a bit of (even more) buried history that have all but vanished in our history books.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, it has vanished – more and more each day. Our modern-day college philosophers seem to negate the idea that history is important. History, if it isn’t being erased or altered is just not in the school curriculum.

          Like

          • If you think about it, gpcox: many the draft dodgers from the 60’s are now professors in our “higher education” positions. Instead of being factual with respect to history, they twist the facts to fit their ideologies… then brainwash our kids with it. Thousands of our young Marines, sailors and soldiers lost their lives faithfully serving our country in WWII; yet, what do the textbooks teach? They preach of the discrimation back on the home front. The textbooks interject pictures of “White Only” signs or Japanese-Ameeicans in those darn camps sanctioned by FDR. The textbooks omit pictures of the Iwo Jima flag raising or purposely include pictures of the destruction at Hiroshima. Their mission is to teach them America was bad.

            Liked by 3 people

  3. Your research is unbelievable mate, another look back behind the scenes into moments that made history, wonder if there are any members still living from the original VVV.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Again ,I wish to say to you that my life has changed and my ideas surrounding wars and the kind of LOVE, internal power, and personal bravery it takes to decide to give your life for the love your country and the respect of freedom.I love the education on many World World War Topics. I have loved my Farewell Salutes. I feel a personal pride that I have been able to learn so much more outside of a classroom about the nature of human’s at war. It has feels deeply warm inside to share your words of wisdom, as well as the words you share..Thank you GPCox

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sheila, I am speechless. I do not think I have ever received such a remarkable compliment! Just knowing you feel this way means I have accomplished my goal with this blog. I know Smitty is sure smiling right now!!! I thank you so very much!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was struck by the comment about the rumors that were flying about Hawaii at that time. Isn’t it funny/odd that even with our “advances” in communication, it sometimes seems all we’ve done is increase the number of rumors flying around everywhere, all th etime.

    The creative thinking that led to the labor battalion is commendable, and it’s even better than they eventually were able to serve as they’d originally intended.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. A great post about great Americans.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This has just prepared me for another episode of the Terror tonight. I was very moved by George Takei’s comments on his own internment during WWII in Arkansas. What an interesting life he has led from internment to Star Trek and beyond.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is for today (Oct-2nd) – B-17, part of WWII tour, crashed at Bradley in CT https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/02/us/connecticut-plane-crash-trnd/index.html

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sending the video, Dan. My heart is just breaking seeing that plane in pieces and my prayers go out to all concerned. I knew the Wings of Freedom Tour was in your area as I read it in Stars and Stripes, but this I never expected. That is the plane I rode in back in January. One of the videos I made is on Youtube. I kept getting the run around from them as far as me signing in, so Pierre Lagace got it in for me.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. The social parts of wartime are a blessed comrade, ROTC born, and / or veteran survived . Meetups and tributes are great to imagine and great to learn sbout.❤

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hahahahaha I had a good laugh at the military humor!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. God bless these patriots!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. What an interesting article!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Who would have know there was ROTC back then, and also Japaneese paratroopers? First time I heard that.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Sorry, but I just found this:

    https://www.trailblazersww2.org/history_woodenbullets.htm

    “The 7mm slug was bright purple made of some hardwood. In discussing it with the other (soldiers) there, it was said that purple was something that causes severe pain in a wound. The wooden slug was designed to split into splinters and go in every direction as it passes through the body. It creates a wound that could not be operated on and left the man to slowly die of pain.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sounds a heck of a lot more dangerous than first imagined, eh? Don’t apologize, I’m glad to have the information included here. Thank you for taking the time bring it over here, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. There is nothing worse than racism, and against your own willing citizens, it is even worse. Thank goodness the Nisei were eventually accepted.
    Incidentally, I am not a doctor, far from it, but I think a wooden bullet might well make a nasty mess of you.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. What bravery and dedication showed as students. Hard to imagine their feeling of rejection when they were released due to their nationality. We still too often judge people by their appearance and not what is in their heart.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. This has been an incredible series. I knew nothing about these boys/men and I’m more impressed with each edition. Thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. ‘Hey, most climb over, but whatever works for you.’ – LOL! Hysterical.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I’ll never be as good an American as those Nisei during WWII. But I do pay my taxes, vote in elections, and thank troops for their service. 🙂 Great post and extremely informative.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Thanks, G, for posting this. It reflects what I learned about Manzanar. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  21. “heeding our country’s desperate call to arms”–that almost brought me to tears. That my beloved country should be in such a situation and that our college boys would respond so selflessly. Good article, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Wow! Imagine that, Doing a great job and then discharged because of ancestry. By that thinking, my son and I shouldn’t have gone to the Middle East. After all, My grand father came from there.

    Incidentally, several of my relatives disowned me since I was fighting against our family (none of which came from Iraq). My response, good riddance. Besides, i wasn’t going to sit down and get a family genealogy before I shot at them.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Excellent, GP. This is a terrific first-person account

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Applesauce…! It began with an element of “Hollywood” type whimsy, rather like a movie that was mostly comedy. The rejection feels devastating. Although the labor battalion was an unexpected development. I good idea. Fascinating as always, GP. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Thank you for making sure this is never forgotten. lump in throat

    Liked by 4 people

  26. It is sad to read that Japanese ancestry was a major factor to doubt your loyalty to your country.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. They deserve to be remembered. They consider themselves Americans and proved that their loyalty is to the United States. Great post!

    Liked by 4 people

  28. It is impossible to understand now, at the time it made perfect sense to those who had to make the difficult decisions.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. Very interesting, GP. And so when the VVV disbanded and they were admitted to the 442nd., and others went to the Military Intelligence Service — they went to MN?

    Liked by 3 people

  30. This has been a very interesting series, GP.
    Today’s cartoons are really good too. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 5 people

  31. They need to be remembered…

    Liked by 5 people

  32. Reblogged this on Lest We Forget II and commented:
    Nisei – part 3 Nisei ROTC in Hawaii

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Until I got to this bit: ‘Just imagine the pitiful sight of a greenhorn teenage soldier who never fired a gun crouched behind a sandbagged emplacement at Pier 10 defending against a Japanese invasion of Honolulu Harbor with a measly 30 caliber rifle and five bullets.’ that is just what I imagined. Meanwhile I learn that in ‘Normandy ’44’ some of the German boys were operating with wooden bullets

    Liked by 5 people

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