The Old Man I Knew

Author: Fundee Shirai
Puka Puka Parades, April 1959, vol. 12 no. 4

Fundee Shirai fondly remembers Col. Farrant Turner with some anecdotes about how Turner stood up for the 100th Battalion

I first got to know the Old Man in the 298th Infantry at Schofield Barracks just before Pearl Harbor. He had the respect and confidence of the men serving under him because he was frank and fair in his dealings with them, whether they were Orientals or Caucasians.

When I learned that he would command the newly created 100th Infantry Battalion, I was overjoyed. I knew that he had faith in us, and in those days just after Pearl Harbor, it was good to know that somebody believed in us.

Through McCoy, Shelby and wherever we went, the Old Man stood up for his men. Most of the American soldiers played fair with us, but as is usually the case, there were some who were out to give our boys a bad time. And then we were outnumbered.

“I’m tired of seeing you men coming back to camp with black eyes. Don’t go out looking for trouble, but when they bring it to you, fight and fight like hell!” he used to tell us.

At one time things got so bad that he could stand the situation no longer. He marched to the headquarters of the division stationed in Camp McCoy and asked the Commanding General of that division to tell his men to lay off. “We can’t lick the whole division at one time, but we’ll take you on battalion by battalion,” he warned.

At Shelby, he learned that a certain General stationed there had made a crack about the “Jap boys”. The Old Man soon set him straight. “These boys are just as good Americans as any of you; we ask that you don’t refer to them as ‘Japs’,” he said.

We were originally slated to guard trains from Casablanca to Algiers. But the Old Man would not accept the assignment. He argued that the 100th did not come all the way from Hawaii just to do guard duty in Africa. “We want to take our part in combat to prove our loyalty to our country,” he maintained.

I can still recall what he told us later. “Many of you will never return. Many of your loved ones will grieve for you. But this is your mission.”

The rest is history.

In civilian life he was still our Old Man. He guided us and helped us at every turn.

The Old Man was a great man. He was great because he believed in certain things so strongly that he was willing to lay down his life for them. I think he was great because he had the faith that things like truth, loyalty and kindness are not matters of the skin, but of the heart.