Veterans and Public Service

At Camp McCoy, the 100th’s training camp in Wisconsin, Asian officers (Nisei officers and Korean Young Oak Kim) and some Caucasian ones participated in several meetings to discuss the roles the veterans could play in changing post war Hawaii. Lieutenant Sakae Takahashi, a graduate of the University of Hawaii and a public school teacher, was a key figure in these discussions. Political involvement was emphasized as one of the main avenues to achieve social and economic transformation in Hawaii.

In his 1992 Hawaii Herald article,“‘The Battle on the ‘Homefront’: 100th Battalion Vets Left Their Mark on Hawaii Politics'”, Arnold Hiura wrote of the 100th veterans who entered into politics – Takahashi, Spark Matsunaga, Robert Taira, Howard Miyake and Mike Tokunaga. They, along with other veterans from the 100th and 442nd, joined the Democratic Party. Under the leadership of John Burns, the Democrats scored a resounding victory in what has been called the Democratic Revolution of 1954, taking control of the Territorial legislature and ending the domination of the Republican Party which had begun after Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898.

Other 100th veterans also had careers in public service. Yasutaka Fukushima served in both the House and Senate before being appointed to the Circuit Court. Jack Mizuha, one of the battalion’s original officers, became a judge in the State Supreme Court. Others veterans who were judges in district or circuit courts were Kenneth Saruwatari, Ben Takayesu, Kenneth Harada, Albert Oki, Toshimi Sodetani, Takashi Kitaoka, and Toshio Kabutan.

During John Burns’ tenure (1962 – 1974) as governor, he appointed Dr. Kenneth Otagaki, Dr. Katsumi Kometani and Mike Tokunaga to cabinet positions. Veterans worked in city, county and territorial (later state) government positions.