Author: Gary Ikuma
Club 100 Memorial Ceremony: Keynote Speech by Capt. Gary Ikuma, USN
September 29, 1991
Puka Puka Parades, November 1991
Speech given by Gary Ikuma, Navy Captain to reflect on Club 100’s history and formation and early years and early years and early years
Distinguished Guests, Veterans, Families and Friends,
Good morning. It is indeed an exceptional privilege to be here to say some words of remembrance in tribute to many very brave men. I was very honored when I was asked by the Memorial Ceremony Committee to be the speaker for this event. I consider myself to have grown up as part of the Club 100 Family. I remember, as a youngster, attending many of the Club functions especially those of Headquarters Company. I know many of the people that are here today. They are close family friends.
I can say that from the time I was a young boy, I was deeply influenced by the 100th, with its legendary military record of valor and courage, and its legacy of service to the country. My choice of the military as a profession, no doubt, was a reflection of this influence. Throughout my career, in locations around the world, many have made mention to me of the 100th and its Nisei soldiers. When asked if I have knowledge of anyone who was in the outfit, I have always said with immense pride that my father and his friends were soldiers of the Battalion.
This Memorial Service occurs on the anniversaries of several events. Fifty years ago, much of the world was already at war. Most of the European continent had been conquered by Germany and Italy. The Soviet Union was reeling from the German invasion, with the city of Moscow threatened. Japan was already in an all out war with China. For America, the storm clouds of war were quickly gathering on the horizon, but ouf [sic] country was still at peace. Most of the men who welcomed eventually to form the 100th Battalion were being inducted into the Army through the peacetime drafts. Many were being trained at Schofield Barracks and then posted to the 298th and 299th Infantry, and the 3rd and 65th Engineers. The record of the Nisei Soldiers’ patriotism and service to the country was being formed.
Over 49 years ago, the Troopship Maui steamed out of Honolulu, bound for the Mainland, carrying 1,432 troops of the forerunner of the 100th, the Hawaii Provisional Battalion. These men were sailing off to training for battle and to their rendezvous with history. Many would not live to see Hawaii again.
Today marks the 48th Anniversary of the 100th’s first combat casualty. A week after the Unit landed at Salerno, the 100th fought its first engagement. Sgt. Joe Takata, Baker Company, the first Japanese American to win the Distinguished Service Cross, which is second only to the Medal of Honor, was mortally wounded by a shell fragment near Chuisano and Castelvetere, Italy. About an hour later, the 100th had its second casualty, Private Keichi Tanaka. Before the fighting ended in World War II, they were followed by 340 others. Seven more later fell in combat in Korea. Many of these brave men, including those who have passed on in the years since, are at eternal rest here at Punchbowl.
Our nation’s military records are filled with gallant,
illustrious units, but none equal the 100th, the most decorated
unit of its size in U.S. military history.
While I have spent a career in uniform, I as a Naval
Officer, cannot relate to what it must have been like to serve in the 100th, staring death in the face day after day in fierce ground combat. Only the Veterans know the full scope of the horrors, anguish, pain and suffering that were endured. I have, however, been fortunate to retrace some of the combat footsteps of the 100th. I have been to the dry, sandy, North African shores, where the 100th staged prior to entering the Italian campaign. I have been to the Beaches of Anzio and Salerno, walked the heights around Monte Cassino and crossed the Rapido River in the town of Cassino below. I have walked among the many crosses of the American Cemetery at Nettuno. While aboard Navy ships it must have felt like to be a young Nisei Soldier, getting ready to boartd [sic] a landing craft for the beachhead. These soldiers–they are the men who made the name of the 100th immortal as one of the world’s premier fighting outfits of all time. General Mark Clark remarked, “The 100th Battalion fought magnificently. These Nisei Troops seemed to be very conscious of the fact that they had an opportunity to prove the loyalty of many thousands of Americans of Japanese Ancestry and they willingly paid a high price to achieve that goal. I was proud to have them in the 5th Army.”
The brave men of the 100th seized the opportunity to show what they were made of, and prove their patriotism to the country that had doubted their loyally and treated them and their families unjustly. Their sacrifices and efforts, paid for in blood, paved the way for opportunities that were denied even to them at the time. That I stand before you today as a Captain in the U.S. Navy is an example of that opportunity. For you see, no one of Japanese Ancestry was allowed to serve in the Navy back then.
These men of the 100th, by their valor and with their lives, secured for all Japanese Americans, their full rights and
respects as citizens of this Country.
So we gather here today to remember those gallant men who made the supreme sacrifice in combat and those who have passed on since the war. As President Truman once said: “You fought for
the free nations of the world.. you fought not only the enemy, you fought prejudice, and you have won. Keep up that fight, and
continue to win… to make this great Republic stand for just what
the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people, all the time.”
Men of the 100th, those who are at eternal rest and those
Veterans present, we in the Armed Forces of the United States
salute you with pride, admiration and remembrance.