Nisei soldiers return to visit Fort McCoy

Author: John Tsukano
Publisher: Triad
Puka Puka Parades, October-December 1987, v.41 no.4

It’s almost too sad and painful to recount the story of the 100th Infantry Battalion in full.

But sad and painful as it is, the story should never be allowed to die. It should be told as often as possible to insure that what happened to the gallant Japanese American men who comprised the 100th Infantry Battalion will never again be allowed to happen.

But luckily there is another side to the story of the 100th.

Paradoxical as this may seem, some of what the men experienced in America, especially at Fort (then Camp) McCoy and the surrounding small towns in Wisconsin during their training period, should gladden the hearts and minds of all Americans.

In the heartland of America, here in Wisconsin in the small towns of Tomah, Sparta and La Crosse, the ideals of America, which the men of the 100th read about in the public schools of Hawaii were re-confirmed and strengthened. The fair treatment these Japanese Americans received here was a pleasant and unexpected treat for the men of the 100th. They were eternally grateful.

Later when the 100th was transferred to Camp Shelby, Miss., some of the strong-minded wives of the officers and enlisted men traveled thousands of miles from Hawaii and set up housekeeping in Hattiesburg, Miss., to be close to their husbands.

When the sad day of departure for the battlefield came near for the 100th, husbands and wives seriously discussed many important issues.

One of the most important issues was where the wives would relocate and settle down until the day their husbands returned after the war. Would they return to Hawaii, stay in Mississippi, go to New York or Chicago?

Finally, after a great deal of discussion, the wives and husbands unanimously agreed that the best place the wives for the duration of the war would he in Wisconsin because of the friendly and fair treatment the men had received while training at Camp McCoy.

The story of the extraordinary friendships which developed between these wives and the people of Wisconsin is equally heart-warming and uplifting.

To this day, friendships have endured and only grown more dear for all chose involved in this high drama, this experiment in democracy.

Now, 45 years later, the men of the 100th and their wives are returning to Camp McCoy to recapture and relive the dreams and aspirations of their youth. To them, it is indeed like returning “home.”