The 100th Infantry Battalion had many outstanding officers, leaders not only in war, but in their communities after the fighting was over. When the battalion was formed, it was fortunate to have two senior officers who led the unit through the uncertain times when those of Japanese ancestry were viewed with suspicion and U.S. army and government leaders were not sure what to do with this segregated battalion.
Lieutenant Colonel Farrant Turner, the battalion’s first commander, never wavered in his belief that the Japanese American soldiers were loyal to the United States and in his confidence that they would be a strong fighting unit. After the war, he returned to his executive position at a Honolulu company and later was appointed Secretary of the Territory of Hawaii, the second highest position in the territory.
The battalion’s first executive officer, James Lovell, had been teaching and coaching many Japanese students in Honolulu for ten years before joining the battalion. Lovell was highly respected for his courage, leadership, and ease with the enlisted men. After the war, he continued his relationship with the 100th for the rest of his life, serving as president of the postwar club and chairing the building and historical committees. He became president of one of the largest companies in Hawaii.
There were visionaries, such Katsumi Kometani, among the officers. He was a dentist, well known athlete and owner of a baseball team in Hawaii. When he learned of the battalion’s formation, he secured a commission in the Dental Corps and was assigned to the 100th as their dentist and morale officer, an unusual position. As morale officer, he came up with a plan to create a postwar organization. It was supported by the men and beginning in their Wisconsin training camp, $2.00 was deducted from every soldier’s paycheck for the postwar club. Later in Italy, before the battalion returned to combat, by-laws were drawn up and he was elected president.
Another visionary was Sakae Takahashi, who became B Company’s commander. During training camp at Wisconsin and Mississippi, he is credited with being a leader of passionate discussions among the nisei officers (and some Caucasian ones) about the key roles they, as veterans, could play in transforming postwar Hawaii. After the war, when he could not get a loan from banks in Honolulu, Takahashi was the leader in the founding of Central Pacific Bank. Among the 100th officers who entered politics were Takahashi, Howard Miyake, Robert Taira and Sparky Matsunaga. Dr. Richard Kainuma, one of the battalion’s surgeons, returned to Honolulu and led the efforts to modernize and accredit Kuakini Hospital which had been founded by first generation Japanese doctors.
Also among these officers were pioneers such as Captain Taro Suzuki. Turner initially appointed him the battalion’s supply officer, but by the time the 100th left for Europe, he was commander of B Company. Fourteen years earlier, Suzuki had been called up for a brief tour of active duty, the first reserve officer of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii to receive this distinction. First Lieutenant Mitsuyoshi Fukuda was a major by the end of the war and became the 100th’s last commander, the first Asian American to reach this position of command. Second Lieutenant Young Oak Kim, a Korean American from Los Angeles, was the most decorated soldier of the 100th and rose to the rank of colonel in the Korean War, becoming the first Asian American to command a battalion in combat.
David, son of Mitsuyoshi Fukuda, remembers the high regard his father had for Captain George Grandstaff who was the battalion’s supply officer. He had joined the 100th at Camp Shelby, seen action at Cassino and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in the Rescue of the Lost Battalion. Grandstaff and his men were known for their efforts to get provisions to the men under the most difificult combat conditions. After he returned to his home in California, Grandstaff wrote to the War Department asking for the opportunity to speak to audiences about the actions of people who were trying to prevent Japanese families from returning to their California homes. A 30 day tour was approved and he travelled throughout the state, sometimes at great personal risk, to tell audiences about the accomplishments of the Japanese American soldiers with whom he had served. Grandstaff was in banking and became a Vice President at Wells Fargo Bank. He and Fukuda maintained a lifelong friendship. When Grandstaff passed away, Fukuda gave the eulogy at a memorial service that was held in the 100th veterans’ clubhouse in Honolulu.