HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Susumu Nakagawa, known by everyone as “Sus,” didn’t speak much about about his World War II service although he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.
“I think he wouldn’t consider himself as a patriot,” said his son, Kris. “To tell you the truth I think he would be somewhat embarrassed that we would call him that.”
Nakagawa, who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, was one of the “Go For Broke” Japanese-American soldiers in the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat team.
“It’s just so commendable that he and thousands of Nisei veterans sacrificed their lives as well as their time to serve the country," added Colin Nakagawa, of his father.
This Veterans Day, the Nakagawa family is remembering “Sus” for his legacy of service as they also continue to mourn his loss. Nakagawa was one of more than two dozen residents at the Yukio Okutsu veterans home in Hilo who died earlier this year amid a COVID-19 outbreak.
Nakagawa died Sept. 22, just one day after his 98th birthday.
“It was just so devastating,” Colin Nakagawa told Hawaii News Now recently. “To think he lived so long and it took just one virus to knock him out.”
After serving in World War II, Susumu Nakagawa returned to Hawaii with many of his Nisei comrades whose mindset had changed.
“What they said was, ‘We’re no longer willing to go back to plantation life. We’re no longer willing to be second-class citizens. We have shed our blood to prove our loyalty,'" said Lynn Heirakuji, president of the Nisei Veterans Legacy.
“So they worked very hard with many others to change Hawaii for the better."
Nakagawa earned a degree in entomology from the University of Hawaii and went on to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than 30 years, specializing in the study of fruit flies.
“When he came home I think he just decided that this is his time to do something else and to contribute to the community, particularly in Hilo,” Kris Nakagawa said.
“Sus” took over the Seaside Restaurant and Aqua Farm in Hilo from his parents. His son Colin now runs it and is the executive chef. He said he has his father to thank.
Throughout his life, Nakagawa also remained close to his 442 buddies. They worked on projects around the restaurant and got together often. For years, they’d meet every Monday to reminisce.
His sons say it’s hard to imagine their father in an Army uniform, firing his weapon as he fought for America’s freedom. But he left behind many old photographs of his days in the 100th Infantry Battalion.
“While my dad was alive I used to walk through the photographs with him. It was heartwarming to hear some of his stories,” Kris Nakagawa said.
On this Veterans Day, the Nakagawas are filled with good memories of a man who cared deeply for his country, his family and the place he called home.