WWII Nisei soldiers honored in special Punchbowl ceremony

The Nisei Veterans Legacy organization hosted the 17th Annual Nisei Soldiers Memorial Service.
Published: Sep. 25, 2022 at 5:40 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 25, 2022 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Sept. 29, 1943, Sgt. Joe Takata of the 100th Infantry Battalion died near Salerno, Italy.

He was the first American of Japanese ancestry killed in combat in World War II.

To mark that milestone, the Nisei Veterans Legacy organization hosts a Nisei Soldiers Memorial Service at the end of September every year at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to honor the Nisei soldiers.

The 17th annual memorial was held Sunday morning. Dozens gathered to remember “A Legacy for All Generations,” and Nisei soldiers who not only went to war against enemies overseas but also fought against prejudice and injustice at home.

“They had to prove their loyalty to as loyal Americans by serving and we recognize that fact by honoring them every year,” said Lawrence Enomoto, director with the Nisei Veterans Legacy.

Joining their fight in Hawaii, Brendan Po’ohala Burns’ grandfather -- the late Gov. John A. Burns -- who worked for racial equality and justice.

“After winning on the battlefields of Europe and in the Pacific, the Nisei soldiers fought for positive change in Hawaii so that they and others would no longer be second class citizens ever again,” Burns said.

Veterans, loved ones and community leaders honored the sacrifices of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 1399 Engineer Construction Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service,

“My parents only spoke Japanese so naturally we become linguists because that’s all we spoke at home so it was natural for me. I’m glad that they asked me to take that test,” recalled Willi Toda, who served in the Army and National Guard for more than 25 years. “America, you work hard for them, you’re rewarded for it.”

“It’s about ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said Gov. David Ige. “My father, Tokio Ige, was a member of the 100th Battalion/442nd. And my father in law, Sokuji Amano, also was a member of 100th, and it’s not something that they talked about, but learning about the legacy and their commitment to Hawaii truly inspires me to work every day to do the same.”

“We should always remember those who have gone before us and the sacrifices they’ve made. Some of that is too easily forgotten,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.

Students from the Nisei Impact Youth Journalism program also reflected on the world’s greatest generation.

“The soldiers are the ones who allow us to live freely now and for that, I’m grateful,” said Marisa Fujimoto, a student at Kalani High School. “They helped to open doors of opportunity wider for everybody in Hawaii.”