Ray Nosaka: A Leading Man

Ex-Boxing Champ and former “Dog-Bait” Recalls the Past

Hawaii Herald, June 19, 1992
By: Steve Lum

Raymond Nosaka’s duties as president of Club 100 haven’t been what he expected them to be when he assumed the office. Nosaka thought that he, like the club’s previous presidents, would be acting more in a public relations capacity for official functions while the club’s executive secretary, a salaried employee, would handle the daily tasks.

As the members of the 100th Infantry Battalion celebrate the 50th anniversary of their formation this month, Nosaka finds himself spending much of his spare time at the club’s office on Kamoku Street. He’s taken over as the executive secretary while maintaining the responsibilities of president. In addition, Nosaka is co-editor of the “Puka Puka Parade,” the members’ monthly newsletter.

It’s a daily family affair at the club headquarters for Nosaka and his wife Aki, who now serves as Club 100’s office secretary. It isn’t the first time that Aki has followed her husband; 49 years ago she traveled to New York City and married Nosaka shortly before he, and the other 100th Battalion members, departed for the European theater. The couple even frequently spend non-office, non-home hours together as part of a musical group, playing at private functions.

Nosaka’s leadership qualities weren’t prevalent in his early days, when he was a shy child who often languished in the shadow of his older, more outgoing brother. But a hastily arranged boxing match in his teens changed Nosaka’s future outlook on life.

“A Mr. Tanaka put a pair of boxing gloves on me and had me box another inexperienced boy,” Nosaka recalls. “I did pretty well and I felt much better about myself after that. I grew up in Palama and if you didn’t know how to defend yourself, you could get a licking. Then when I started to compete in organized amateur matches, the people respected me.

“Boxing helped me in many ways,” Nosaka emphasizes. “Performing in front of everybody taught me to lead people and to be more outgoing. It required having to practice for a later event.”

The transition from shy to outgoing person happened almost overnight; Nosaka learned to play the steel guitar and was selected for the Kalakaua Intermediate School debate team as a ninth-grader. He even had the courage to invite noted educator Shunjo Sakamaki to a school function as a speaker. Sakamaki’s acceptance not only endeared Nosaka in the eyes of his teacher–a “Miss Cummings”-but his guest appearance attracted the entire student body.

Nosaka continued his education at McKinley High, where he continued his amateur ring career. He was good enough to become the school’s flyweight champion. “We didn’t have a ring in those days. They just put ropes around and the students competed in different weight classes.”

There weren’t too many competitors in Nosaka’s division as he competed for the Kakaako, City-wide and Japanese American amateur boxing clubs. His fistic career blossomed when he attended United Engineering, a technical college in San Francisco. He was invited to train in the stable of Richard Shin, where there was keen competition among the boxers of various ethnic backgrounds. In 1939, Nosaka was the 1l2-pound runner-up in a Bay area tournament.

After completing his schooling at United Engineering, Nosaka returned home in mid-1940. Six months later, he became one of the original draftees inducted into the Hawaii National Guard’s 298th Regiment. In June 1942, Nosaka was part of the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion (later officially named l00th Infantry Battalion), a contingent of 29 officers and 1,432 enlisted men which was formed from largely AJA personnel from the Hawaii National Guard’s 298th and 299th regiments.

Six months of training at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin followed, and Nosaka’s 3rd Platoon, Company B. was selected as the best platoon after an overall field training assessment. Nosaka was one of 25 enlisted men and three officers chosen to be “rewarded” by being assigned to a secret mission. It was to be a weird encounter, an event that remained untold until after the war had ended.

“It was a cold November month in Wisconsin,” Nosaka still remembers vividly. “They put us on a plane and when we looked down, we saw the ground below change from snow to green. We landed in Memphis and then took off again until we reached Mississippi.”

Ship Island, near Gulfport, was to be Nosaka’s base of operations for the next four months. It seemed like an easy life, at least for the first 30 days, as the men fished and performed close order drills. They were eventually sent on missions to a “Cat’s Island” and returned on a regular basis. “There were a lot of dogs on Cat’s Island,” Nosaka remembers- “from bulldogs to German Shepherds. We were finally told that our secret assignment would be as ‘dog bait.’ The military was training scout dogs for use in the Pacific war. We wore Japanese uniforms whenever we went to the island and were told that we couldn’t write any letters mentioning things like fish, dog or ocean-that they would be censored.”

It was then back to Camp Shelby, where the rest of the 100th members were stationed. In challenge matches with boxers from other U.S. Army outfits, Nosaka captured the Camp Shelby flyweight open division championship, which would be the last time he would compete in a ring. On July 22, 1943, he received a furlough and married the former Aki Tamaki in New York. Six weeks later, Nosaka was shipped overseas with eventual destinations in Oran, Africa and Salerno, Italy.

A shrapnel wound in his thigh during a battle at Marie Olivetto, Italy, ended his front line infantryman’s career. He spent three weeks convalescing in Bagnoli, a village near Naples, before being reassigned to a behind-the-lines, ordinance outfit. Three months lapsed. By then, Nosaka had accumulated enough “points” to earn a rotation back home to Hawaii. In August 1945, two days before World War II ended, Nosaka was discharged from military service.

Twenty-five years as a revenue agent with the Internal Revenue Service followed; he also received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Hawaii. In the mid-70s, Nosaka changed occupations and became a counselor for the Veterans Administration.

Raymond Nosaka still remembers the positive influences boxing contributed in his formative years. After his discharge, he managed to find time to coach the Veterans Boxing Club and later accompanied a team to the National AAU tournament in 1950.

This article appeared in the June 19, 1992 issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of the formation of the 100th Infantry Battalion. It has been reprinted courtesy of The Hawaii Herald, Hawaii’s Japanese American Journal.