The 100th Infantry Battalion arrived at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin in June 1942 and stayed for six months until they left for additional training in Mississippi. During this period, the soldiers not only studied and trained but had numerous interactions with Wisconsin residents. Many took opportunities to travel around the state and other areas of the country when they had leaves of absence.
For the most part, the citizens of nearby Sparta, Lacrosse, and Tomah – many of them immigrants or children of immigrants who had experienced discrimination themselves when they first arrived in America – took to the easy-going men from Hawaii. They invited them to home-cooked dinners, church socials and dances and played a variety of sports with them. Lifelong friendships would develop and continue with descendants of the soldiers and the Wisconsin families who befriended them.
While 100th soldiers participated in Camp McCoy teams, they also formed their own baseball team, the Aloha team, which was presented as a “Hawaiian” team. Musicians played Hawaiian songs before games and handed out plastic leis. The team played semipro and amateur teams all over Wisconsin. The son of one of these players has written a story about this Aloha team.
Before leaving Camp McCoy, the 100th soldiers threw a farewell luau (Hawaiian term for party) for the friends they had made in the area, treating them to Island food and music. In 1943, when Sparta was hit by a flood, the troops collected and sent money for flood relief. The city marked the gift with a plaque in its Memorial Park.
Over the years veterans and their spouses returned to the area to visit friends. On one of these visits, members of Company A took part in a 1987 commemorative tree planting ceremony at the newly dedicated Constitution Park at Fort McCoy. Wisconsin families also visited their friends in Hawaii.
Stores from the Puka Puka Parade archives: