An active member of Club 100, Kenneth Otagaki was a member of the original contingent of 100th soldiers who left Hawaii in June 1942. At the 2005 memorial service for 100th veteran Young Oak Kim, Otagaki asked writer Mike Markrich to record his life history.
Born in 1917 to parents who had emigrated from Japan and raised in a sugar plantation village on the island of Hawaii, Otagaki’s memoir documents the hard life of plantation workers. At the age of 14, with only $5.00, he left his family and moved to Honolulu. He worked at a multitude of jobs to support himself and graduated from the University of Hawaii.
Drafted into the army, he was severely wounded in Italy. After he recovered from his wounds, he returned to school, eventually getting a PhD degree in animal sciences. Dr. Otagaki then taught and did research at the University of Hawaii. His memoir also includes a valuable overview of agriculture in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1963, he was appointed by Governor John Burns as Chairman of the State Department of Agriculture. Dr. Otagaki passed away in 2009.