Author: Ted Tsukiyama
Title: One Puka Puka Aloha
Publisher: Puka Puka Parades
Source: Puka Puka Parades, May 2009, 4/2009
A recent oral history interview of Saburo Watanabe revealed the following heart-warming story. Saburo was a former member of the 206th Army Band of the 442n RCT (“442nd Band”) and was the music teacher and bandmaster at Baldwin High School on Maui when he volunteered for the 442nd in February, 1943. Naturally, his musical talents earned him an assignment to the 442nd Band.
He remembered the time in August 1943 when the 100 Battalion, which had returned to Camp Shelby from Louisiana maneuvers, was ordered for overseas combat duty and a farewell retreat parade and ceremony was planned at which the 442nd Band would play. A few days before the retreat, Col. Farrant Turner, commander of the 100th Battalion, (photo on the right) sought out the 442nd band with a request that the Band play “Hawaii Pono’i” for his boys at the end of the ceremony. The bandmaster of the 442nd Band at the time was a kotonk master sergeant who confessed he was not familiar with the Hawaii anthem and that the band did not have any music for “Hawaii Pono’i.” So that sergeant turned to Saburo and asked if he could arrange the music for the band to play “Hawaii Pono’i” at the ceremony. Saburo worked feverishly day and night to arrange the sheet music for this piece for every instrument in the band.
On the appointed day, the retreat honoring the departing 100th Battalion took place where the entire 442nd Regiment took part and marched in review with the Band. At the climax of the ceremony after the “Star Spangled Banner” was played, to everyone’s surprise, the Band then struck up with the stirring tune of “Hawaii Pono’i” echoing across the parade grounds of Camp Shelby in far off Mississippi! The familiar, nostalgic refrain struck deep into the hearts of the men
of the 100th bringing back thoughts of their beloved Hawaii and the loved ones they left behind. This story reveals yet another incident, known but to few, of Col. Turner’s deep solicitude for the welfare and morale of the men of the 100th and of The Old Man’s ever constant concern “for his boys.” And Saburo Watanabe’s fondest memory of this farewell ceremony by the 442nd for the departing men of the 100th was when he looked over to see the men of the “One Puka Puka” hearing “Hawaii Pono’i” being played, he could see only tear streaked faces with not a dry eye to be seen.