Author: Dr. Coolidge Wakai
(May 28, 1919 to March 27, 2009)
Puka Puka Parades, October 2009, 9/2009
Excerpts of a eulogy for Howard K. Hiroki with information and early years and early years and early years specific to Hiroki’s military service in World War II given by close friend Dr. Coolidge Wakai (Note from the Editor: Dr. Wakai stated that Howard K. Hiroki was a brilliant CPA and one of his closest friends. He received permission from Mr. Hiroki’s daughter, Wanda Stahl, to run portions of the eulogy pertaining to Mr. Hiroki’s military service in the Puka Puka Parade. If you would like to read the entire eulogy, a copy is available at the Clubhouse Office.)
Howard K. Hiroki, MAY 28, 1919 To March 27, 2009
1941 was an eventful year and, as a result of the start of WWII, Howard Hiroki’s life took off in a new and unpredictable direction as it did for everyone of his generation. Howard enlisted in the Army and he was among the second group of inductees in 1942 to be assigned to the 100th Infantry Battalion and while in training he was recruited by the Military Intelligence Service to receive Japanese language training at Camp Savage in Minnesota. That was a long way to go for a Hawaii boy in those days.
Howard was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division and served in the South Pacific as an interpreter and translator until 1946. During that time, he was one of the first Nisei to receive a field commission “as a second lieutenant and that was a significant achievement and meaningful recognition for his service to our country.
The following is one of Howard’s many interesting war stories which demonstrated the uniqueness of his military experience.
At the end of the war in 1945, Howard found himself on Truk Atoll, which had been a major Japanese naval base in the South Pacific. While there, it was his duty to interrogate a captured Japanese naval officer who had paid a significant role during the war. It was Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who had commanded the Japanese carrier strike force that attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His carrier force had ruled the South Pacific until the Battle of Midway in June 1942 when he lost all four aircraft carriers quickly in that decisive battle.
The Admiral, seeing that Howard was of Japanese ancestry and hearing his fluent language, asked Howard why he fought against Japan for America. Howard responded by saying, “I fought for America because I am an American and America is my country.”
Howard said of this encounter that even though the Admiral was a defeated enemy, he treated him with respect at all times. A true Howard character trait that he carried throughout his entire life.
At the end of this interaction with the Admiral, Howard was given a gift of sake by the Admiral, which had in turn, been a gift to him from the Emperor. He also offered Howard, of all things, his personal automobile that happened to be an American-made Packard. Howard gracefully declined the offer because, after all, it’s a long drive from Truk to Honolulu.
One final-point to this interesting story, the Admiral told Howard that he had thrown his prized military sword into the ocean for fear that it would fall into American hands: He now regretted this because he would have preferred to give it to Howard. Once again, proving that Howard had a way about him that turned adversaries into friends.