Masanobu Eugene Kawakami

In 2019, Mr. Kawakami’s daughter Joanne Kai submitted this memoir which is based on the stories her father related to her and his wife Gladys, as well as information contained in his files – articles he submitted for the newsletters (Puka Puka Parades) of the 100th Club in Honolulu, notations on postcards and photographs he sent to his wife during the war, military documents and medical records. Joanne said her mother had carefully kept all this material.

EARLY LIFE

Born on October 21, 1913 in Honolulu, Masanobu Eugene Kawakami was the second of seven children (5 boys, 2 girls). He and his siblings were born in the Territory of Hawaii with American citizenship. His father immigrated to Honolulu from Fukuoka, Japan in 1900, and settled in Puunui, working as a cook for a private household. His mother arrived as a picture bride from Kurume, Japan in 1911. His parents spoke Japanese and very little English, but he and his siblings spoke English and very little Japanese. From childhood, he went by his middle name of Eugene, and was often called “Gene” by his friends.

Eugene began school in 1919 as a first grader attending Maemae Elementary School. A few years later, he was selected to attend Lincoln School, which was located on Beretania and Victoria Streets, in the present-day Linekona building at the time. The territorial government had been under pressure by the Federal Bureau of Education to segregate the public-school system in Hawaii on the basis of English usage. Lincoln School was established in 1924 as the first official English-speaking grammar school, where the speaking of proper English was encouraged by promoting proficient speakers to the school. Eugene was always very proud that he had been selected to attend Lincoln School, and often said that it had been known as the “English Standard School.” There was an entrance exam administered, which he successfully passed, and he attended the school until grade 9.

After graduating Lincoln School in 1929, Eugene attended McKinley High School for one year. He left school in 1930 at age 16, in order to help provide for his family. He got a job as a salesclerk at Piggly Wiggly grocery store. The first Piggly Wiggly store opened in 1928 on Beretania and Keeaumoku Streets, and was the first national chain grocery store in Hawaii.

Even after leaving school, Eugene remained active in various sports and continued to pursue education.

In 1931, he received training in operations connected with the launching of lifeboats and the use of oars, and earned a “Certificate of Efficiency to Lifeboat Man” from the United States Department of Commerce. In 1933, he took a course in “Bookkeeping, Unit III” thru the Educational Department of the Young Men’s Christian Association in Honolulu.

In 1935, he served as president of Puunui Athletic Club, as well as manager for their baseball team. Eugene was also elected as Secretary for the Junior Republic of Hawaii, an association of young men’s athletics clubs and groups in Honolulu. Eugene and his older brother were avid golfers, and belonged to the Palolo Japanese Golf Club. He was also a member of the Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church, and participated in various community events.

In 1936, Eugene became active in the Sea Scouts; a program of the Boy Scouts of America. He took Leadership and Troop administration training courses for Scoutmasters, administered by the Boy Scouts of America. In 1937, Eugene received a certificate for completing the Principles of Scoutmastership course. Later that year, he also received a National Council Training certificate for completing training in the first official Sea Scout leadership course. In November 1937, Eugene took a course in First Aid at Queen’s Hospital, through the Boy Scouts of America.

In the 1930’s, Eugene worked as an Assistant Manager at Piggly Wiggly grocery store. He also worked as a law clerk, bookkeeper with W Tip Davis, and an office manager. He remained active with the Palolo Golf Club, Boy Scouts, and Sea Scouts right through the decade.

WAR YEARS

On October 26, 1940, at the age of 27, Eugene registered with the Selective Service in accordance with the Selective Training and Service Act, signed into effect in September 1940 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was around this time when a close friend from the Sea Scouts introduced Eugene to his wife’s cousin, Yoshiye (Gladys) Sasaki. He fell in love with her, and they soon began to date.

In February 1941, Eugene received a postcard from the Selective Service, notifying him he had been designated as “Class 1-A” (acceptable for military service) and should advise his employer of this classification. When he informed his employer of his classification, his boss advised him that it was likely that war was imminent, and so if he planned to get married, he should do it soon. He took this advice to heart, and proposed to Gladys – she accepted.

After passing the physical examinations held by the Medical Examiners at Iolani Barracks and McKinley High School Auditorium, Eugene received his orders to report for Induction on March 24, 1941. He was one of the Second Draft inductees, and was sent to Schofield Barracks for basic training. Eugene was assigned to the 298th Infantry Regiment of the Hawaii Army National Guard.

Eugene took a leave of absence for a few days in May, in order to get married. Masanobu Eugene and Yoshiye Gladys Sasaki had a quiet wedding ceremony on May 10, 1941 at South King Street Methodist Church. For their honeymoon, they stayed in one of several rental cottages operated by the YWCA in Kaneohe. Eugene returned to Schofield Barracks after their honeymoon.

On November 1, 1941, Eugene was promoted from Private to Corporal in Co. “F”, 298th Infantry. Then on November 14, 1941 at the age of 28, he was transferred to the Enlisted Reserve Corps, and discharged from the army due to age (at the time, those who were 28 or older were released). A few days after his discharge, Eugene and Gladys went on a second honeymoon, traveling to the islands of Maui and Hawaii by way of passenger ships. They returned to Oahu and lived with Eugene’s family in Puunui.

On the evening of December 6, 1941, Eugene and Gladys attended a wedding party for a close friend from the 298th Infantry, Yozo Yamamoto, and wife. While enjoying the party, Eugene was told that there was a chance he may get called back to duty, because it seemed likely that America would soon be at war.

The next morning, December 7, 1941, Eugene and Gladys were awoken by the loud sound of planes flying above and a booming noise. The booming sounds were too frequent and sounded too close to be the usual military practice, and so Eugene hurried to look out of their window. He saw lots of black smoke billowing, and immediately said, “I have to go…this is real war!” He quickly changed and got into his car to report to duty.

When he got to Judd Street, he realized there was a roadblock. The police were checking each car, and were only letting authorized people through. Eugene turned back, and returned home to change into his 298th Infantry army uniform. He once again headed out, and was able to get through the blockade. He went to Iolani Palace, and assisted wherever he could. He returned home after 10:00 PM that night, then headed back to assist again, early the next morning.

On December 8, 1941, Eugene entered into active service at Fort Shafter. From that day, he would commute between his duties and home, often filling his car with his friends who were also serving with him, giving them rides to and from Schofield Barracks.

In January 1942, Japanese Americans registered in the Selective Service were designated as “Class IV-C” (aliens not currently liable for military service). In February 1942, the War Department directed General Delos Emmons, in command of the Army in Hawaii, to suspend all Japanese civilians employed by the Army. General Emmons argued that the majority of the skilled labor on Oahu was comprised of those of Japanese descent, and replacing them with other civilians or soldiers was not feasible. The War Department subsequently canceled this order. On April 1, 1942, Eugene was appointed from Corporal to Sergeant of Co. “F” in the 298th Infantry Army of the United States.

It was believed that the military suspected a major attack by Japan was imminent, and so the decision to transfer the Nisei soldiers to the U.S. mainland was made. They were reorganized into the “Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion” on May 29, 1942, and Lt. Col. Farrant Turner, executive officer of the 298th Infantry at the time, volunteered to command the battalion. This was the first combat unit in the history of the United States Army, to be comprised of Hawaii-born Americans of Japanese ancestry (with the exception of some officers).

The men of the battalion were gathered at Schofield Barracks, disarmed, and told they were going to be sent overseas (the exact location was not disclosed), and could not tell anyone. They boarded the Oahu Railway train at Schofield Barracks, later arriving at Honolulu Harbor. Eugene did not mention to anyone in the family that he would be leaving Hawaii, as those had been the instructions. On June 5, 1942, they boarded the S.S. Maui troopship, and set off for Oakland, California. While at sea, they received word that the United States had won the Battle of Midway. This boosted morale amongst the troops.

Only upon seeing the Golden Gate Bridge a week later, did Eugene realize that they were still in America. Upon arriving in California, they were immediately put onto three separate trains with the window shades closed shut. Eugene said that they could not see where they were going, and they couldn’t be seen from outside the trains. The three trains headed in separate directions, eventually all arriving at the same destination. There were several theories as to why they were transported with such secrecy, but whatever the reason was, the men remained focused on wanting to fight for America. Having witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor, Eugene, along with the others in the battalion, were eager to defend the United States and protect their loved ones back in the islands. They were taken on a long ride, before finally arriving at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin.

It was decided that the “Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion” would be now called the “100th Infantry Battalion (SEP)”. They were given the “Separate” designation because they were not attached to any parent unit. The battalion was comprised of the Headquarters Company, three rifle companies (Co. “A”, Co. “B”, Co. “C”), one heavy weapons company (Co. “D”), two additional rifle companies (Co. “E”, Co. “F”), and one Medics team. Eugene was assigned to Company “A”. Their motto became, “Remember Pearl Harbor,” and Eugene said that they always kept the people of Hawaii in their hearts.

When they first arrived, they were housed in tents with four soldiers in each tent. They slept in bunk beds. Eugene said that the camp reminded him of “Boom Town” (Schofield
Barracks), except for the hot weather. He said that even in the shade, it was a 100°F, and it was still daylight at 9:30 PM. This gave them a lot of time to play sports, or spend time in the nearby town of Sparta.

The 100th Infantry underwent extensive physical, marksmanship, and tactical training. They were hard workers, and took their training seriously. Eugene spoke of how, many times, after their training was done for the day, they would remain behind to put in additional practice. He said they took pride in being able to represent Japanese Americans as members of the United States Army, and were set on demonstrating their loyalty to America.

During his time off, Eugene and his friends from the 100th visited various sites in the area, such as Sparta, LaCrosse, and Madison in Wisconsin. Eugene also traveled with friends by train from Camp McCoy to Chicago, where they enjoyed visiting the Chicago University Campus, Field Museum of Natural History, and Grant Park. They visited the Wisconsin Dells, where they were treated with hospitality by the Native Americans. They also visited Minnesota, stopping by the University of Minnesota, Minnehaha Park, and the Foshay Tower. Eugene also golfed from time to time, sometimes even in bare feet.

On August 1, 1942, Eugene was promoted to Staff Sergeant in Company “A”. In September 1942, after several months of living in tents, the men of the 100th were finally moved into military barracks. This came just in time, as they witnessed their first snowfall in late September. Eugene reminisced about the time he spent with the 100th at Camp McCoy in an article
lt;http://www.100thbattalion.org/archives/puka-puka-parades/mainland-training/camp-mccoy/able-chapter-news/> published in the “CLUB 100 PUKA-PUKA PARADE” newsletter in 1982.

On December 25, 1942, Eugene and a few of his friends went to visit Camp Savage in Minnesota. This is where the MIS was training, and they went to visit their friends who transferred there from Company “A”, due to their proficiency in the Japanese language. They were amazed at how everybody at Camp Savage was told to speak ONLY in Japanese, because at Camp McCoy, they were told NOT to speak Japanese.

On January 6, 1943, the 100th Infantry Battalion left Camp McCoy for Camp Shelby in Mississippi. There, they underwent intense, advanced training exercises, for large-scale maneuvers with division sized forces. Eugene was always proud of how the 100th Infantry Battalion gained an exemplary reputation for their progress and performance during their training, which was a large contributing factor for the activation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised of Americans of Japanese ancestry, on February 1, 1943.

On April 6, 1943, Eugene participated in field maneuvers with the 100th at Camp Claiborne in Louisiana. They completed their training, and returned to Camp Shelby on June 9, 1943. Eugene said that the 442nd had arrived at Camp Shelby during their absence, and were quartered next door to the 100th.

On August 11, 1943, the 100th Infantry Battalion left Camp Shelby for Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. They underwent final preparations for overseas combat, then received their embarkation orders on August 20, 1943. Eugene was the Staff Sergeant in the Third Platoon, Company “A”. They headed to Brooklyn, New York by train, then Staten Island by ferry. There they boarded the S.S. James Parker on August 21, 1943 for Oran, North Africa. They arrived on September 2, 1943, and awaited orders for combat. On September 19, 1943, they left Oran for Salerno, Italy, where they set foot on enemy soil for the first time.

Eugene, along with the 100th, first headed into battle on September 26, 1943. They made their way carefully in heavy rain and mud to Montemarano, while spotting and clearing mines. They then made their way to Chiusano, experiencing heavy fire by German machine guns, mortar and artillery shells on September 29, 1943. This was their first time in combat, and the day that Sergeant Joseph Shigeo Takata became the first member of the 100th to be killed in action. The 100th Infantry Battalion veterans hold an annual memorial service on the Sunday closest to September 29, and Eugene was one of those who strongly advocated for it to be kept on this day, in remembrance of the first of many lives lost by the 100th Infantry Battalion during the war.

From Chiusano, the 100th headed towards Montefalcione, followed by Montemiletto and then Benevento, through heavy downpour, mud, and cold wind. They made their way to Bagnoli by mid-October, and crossed the ice-cold, waist-deep Volturno River twice.

On October 20, 1943, they headed into a late-night attack against San Angelo D’Alife. Company “A” led first, feeling their way in pitch darkness. Eugene described it as a very dangerous place, with the Germans high above with observation posts. Along the way, light from one of several farmhouses in the valley exposed them to the Germans. They were showered with heavy machine gun and sniper fire. Eugene was one of those wounded in this battle, and spent his entire birthday, October 21, lying wounded in a fox hole. He sustained a machine gun laceration wound to the back, through his chest. He managed to take the “Sulfa pill” that they had been provided, but his canteen had been hit by bullets, and so he had no water. Eugene lay still so that he would not get shot again, and when the enemy came close, he pretended to be dead.

On October 22, 1943, Eugene was taken to the 1st Battalion 133rd Infantry Aid Station near Alife. His race was listed as “White,” because hospitals were still racially segregated at the time, and the Japanese Americans were grouped with the “whites” in a separate area from the “blacks.” He was transferred soon afterwards to the 38th Evacuation Hospital in Caserta, Italy, and was received in “fair condition.” He was described as having been wounded in action, with a gunshot wound to the “right thorax posteriorly”. He sustained injuries to the lungs, and had fractured ribs. The medical notes state that he had an approximate 40-hour lag from injury to first aid treatment, and a 44-hour lag to definitive treatment. Eugene was transferred to the 3rd General Hospital in North Africa, and admitted on November 9, 1943.

Gladys was notified of Eugene’s injury by an Army minister who brought word that he was missing in action. Two days later, the minister returned to say that he had been critically wounded, and was being treated in the hospital. She received a letter dated November 13, 1943 stating that Eugene had been wounded in action in Italy.

On December 28, 1943, Eugene was transferred to the 105th Station Hospital in North Africa. He recovered from his injuries, and returned to duty near Rome on May 25, 1944. He was not ready to return to the challenges of the battlefront however, and was sent to the 38th Evacuation Hospital on June 9, 1944 with hives. He was transferred to the 17th General Hospital in Naples, Italy, and eventually reclassified to Class B Duty on August 15, 1944.

Eugene returned to the United States on September 26, 1944, and was assigned to duty in Fort Ord, California. A letter that he wrote to Lt. Colonel Farrant Turner <http://www.100thbattalion.org/archives/letters/turner-letters/eugene-kawakami-11151944/ > from Fort Ord, dated November 15, 1944, briefly describes his experiences there. He returned to Honolulu on December 11, 1944, and was stationed at Schofield Barracks until he received his Honorable Discharge from the United States Army on June 12, 1945. Eugene received a Purple Heart for being wounded in action, as well as a Bronze Star Medal.

Eugene briefly ran a glass etching business with his younger brother following his return to civilian life, then worked for the Internal Revenue Service until his retirement in 1973. He and Gladys had two children.

CLUB 100 YEARS

Eugene remained close with those from the 100th Infantry Battalion throughout the rest of his life, and along with his wife Gladys, was very active in the 100th Infantry Battalion Veteran’s club, “Club 100”. Eugene was active in the Club 100 Golf Club, the Century Golf Club, and Bowling Club. He and Gladys were active members of the Dance Club, and Eugene served a few terms as club Chairman. Gladys was active in the Cooking Class, Ukulele Class, Karaoke-kai, and Craft Club, serving several terms as Chairperson of the cooking class, and President of the Karaoke-kai. Throughout their lives, they both helped to organize, coordinate, and volunteered at many programs, shows, and events at Club 100, such as the Club 100 Carnival, Club 100 Able Chapter Family Nite, and Club 100 Luau.

Eugene was an active member of the “Club 100 Golf Club” from its formation, and served as President of the golf club in 1949. He also served as the Club 100 Membership and Dues Committee Chairman in 1952. In July of 1952, the current clubhouse on Kamoku Street was completed, and at the dedication, he was installed as Club 100 Treasurer. In 1964, he served as 2nd Vice President for Club 100. In 1962, 1984, and 1985, he served as Club 100’s Able Chapter President.

In 1962, they traveled to Japan with the 100th Infantry Battalion veterans and wives on the Club 100 Japan Tour. This was Eugene and Gladys’ first time to visit Japan. Eugene was the leader for “Group I”, comprised of Able and Charlie Chapter members and wives. They were appreciative of the warm reception they received throughout their trip, and were very honored to meet with then Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko, as well as exPrime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.

In 1982, he was the Reporter of the “Able Chapter News”, and in 1971-1972 and 1983-1985, he was the writer for the “Golf News” in the Club 100 newsletter, “PUKA-PUKA PARADE”. He also wrote the Club 100 Golf Club monthly newsletter, called the “Poopsheet”.

He passed away on October 29, 1985 at the age of 72, from complications during an openheart surgery. The following excerpts are from a tribute written about him by his close friend Sonsei Nakamura, as published in the Club 100 newsletter, following his passing.

A TRIBUTE TO OUR COMRADE EUGENE MASANOBU KAWAKAMI

On November 6, 1985, a memorial service was held at the Hosoi Memorial Garden for Eugene Masanobu Kawakami.

Mr. Mitsuyoshi Fukuda, Club 100 Able Chapter member, was the master of ceremony, and Robert Takashige, Club 100 Baker Chapter member gave the eulogy. Father Douglas Meglynn, Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church officiated the service.

The story on Eugene’s life is based on Mits Fukuda’s address: He said, “We are gathered here this evening to pay tribute to our friend and comrade Eugene Masanobu Kawakami, and to express our sympathy to members of Eugene’s family. We should spend time this evening recalling the many happy and memorable occasion that we shared with Eugene.”

Eugene was drafted into the military service on March 24, 1941. On May 10 of the same year, he married Gladys Sasaki.

He received his basic training at Schofield Barracks. Eugene served with the 100th Infantry Battalion from the beginning in 1942 and trained at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, and Camp Shelby, Mississippi before being shipped overseas to Oran, Algiers in September 1943.

After his discharge, from the military service, Eugene was in the glass etching business for a couple of years before he joined the Internal Revenue Service and was with them until his retirement.

Eugene was an active member of the Club 100, an organization of veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion. For the past two years, he served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Club 100. He also served as President of Able Chapter of the Club 100.

Retirement years were active years for Eugene. His activities were many and varied. Golf was his first love and he made sure there would be enough golf in his schedule.
He joined the Club 100 Golf Club from its beginning and was a member of the Club 100 Century Golf Club. He was also a member of the Honolulu Japanese Golf Club and the Early Bird Golf Club.

He was instrumental in organizing the Club 100 Dance Club and actively participated in the dancing classes for many years. He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans Club and the National Association of Retired Federal Employees.

Although Eugene had decided from the beginning not to go on the 1986 Able Chapter European Tour, he served on the Steering Committee to help organize the tour. In all of these associations, Eugene’s outstanding trait was the wholehearted and dedicated manner with which he accepted his responsibilities. Members of the Club 100 Golf Club and the Century Golf and Able Chapter will miss Eugene’s friendly, newsy newsletter that he sent out periodically. Eugene called it his poopsheet, and he enjoyed publishing them and the members enjoyed reading them just as much.

Eugene will leave a void in our lives. We shall all miss him. He was a worthy friend and trusted comrade.

Eugene’s ashes were interred at the Punchbowl National Cemetery the day after the funeral with the family, his relatives and many friends in attendance. The seven-gun rifle salute and bugle taps with light rain falling was the final salute to our comrade, Eugene Masanobu Kawakami.

Before a large gathering of Club 100 members, their wives and friends of the deceased, Mr. Robert Takashige expressed sorrow, disbelief and shock upon learning of the sudden demise of his very good friend. He eulogized Mr. Eugene Masanobu Kawakami as a dedicated and a charitable person who did many things for the benefit of his fellow man.

MR. TAKASHIGE SAID IN HIS EULOGY:

“Eugene was a rare person who gave so much of himself unselfishly, not for the glory and praise but for self satisfaction in serving others. He lived his life to the fullest and left no regrets. We are fortunate to have had a man like Eugene as a member of the Club 100.

His number one passion in life was golfing. He loved the game so much, he would play everyday if he had the starting time. He wanted to share with the golf widows and their children the excitement and enjoyment of golf. He wrote the golf newsletter (he called them poopsheets) with the hope that they would understand the game better and to let them know what was going on. The members enjoyed reading them.

On behalf of the congregation, I wish to express our sincere and heartfelt condolences to his beloved wife, Gladys, son Brian and daughter Joanne, her husband Masaaki Kai and granddaughter Amy.

As Eugene would have said: Until we meet again – Gokigen Yo – Matane.”

(Nakamura, Sonsei (1985, October-December), Golf Club News. CLUB 100 PUKA-PUKA PARADE, 24-25.)

As more memoirs become available, they will be added to this website.