Eulogy for Mitsuyoshi Fukuda

Author: James S. Maeda, B Company
Puka Puka Parades, April-June 1988, v.42 no. 2

Eulogy read by James Maeda about the life of Mitsuyoshi “Mits” Fukuda

March 19, 1988
Nuuanu Congregational Church

Mitsuyoshi Fukuda, laid down his tools upon this earth and accepted the call of His Maker, on the night of March 13, at the age of 71 years. We are gathered here in this sanctuary to pay tribute and express our thanks to Mitsuyoshi Fukuda, Mits as he was known throughout his life touched our lives. To those of you sitting in the front pews, he touched your lives as a husband, father, grandfather, brother and as a kin. He leaves many cherished memories with you. To the many others, Mits Fukuda, touched your life as a comrade of the 100th Infantry Bn., 442nd Regiment, and associate at Castle & Cooke and its subsidiaries, or a person who sat across you in labor negotiations, and as a friend. We give a prayer of thanksgiving to God Almighty for the privilege of knowing and working with Mits Fukuda.

Mits Fukuda was born in Waialua, Oahu, on January 15, 1917 to Kunizo and Matsu Fukuda. He was the eldest of 5 children. Mits experienced his first plantation strike at the age of 3. The Japanese immigrant workers went on strike at Waialua. The father of the house decided to move his family to Honolulu, where he could feed his family. So the family members packed their belongings and set out to hitch hike the long road to Honolulu. Of course, the roads weren’t that good and not many cars passed. Mits remembers following his mother and she had their younger sister carried on the back, known as “o-pa”. The father carried the family bedding or futon.

Mits grew up in the area of McCully. He attended Washington Intermediate School and later graduated from McKinley High School, known as Tokyo College. Papa Fukuda, like many other Issei parents in spite of the difficult economic times and depression, encouraged Mits to get an education. Mits attended University of Hawaii and graduated with a degree in agriculture and later received his teaching certificate.

Mits Fukuda’s interest and love for plants and flowers goes back to his degree in agriculture. Konawaena High School was his first place of employment. In those days the means of transportation to Kona was by boat, a cattleboat where he taught school for two years. Mits received a 2nd Lieutenant commission as a reserve officer at the University of Hawaii. After December 7, 1941 Mits Fukuda reported to the 299th Inf. Hawaii National Guard at Hilo Airport. This was the beginning of Mits Fukuda’s military career. I first met this friendly, officer Lt. Mits Fukuda on December 9, 1941 who came with a borrowed faded khaki shirt, and little did I realize that our friendship would expand for 46 years.

Mits and Toshiko got married on January 8, 1942 in Honolulu. These newlyweds had a rather unusual honeymoon. Toshiko managed to go to Hilo by boat and stayed at the Volcano House. During the day, Lt. Fukuda went down to the machine gun nest in Hilina Pali and during the night he climbed up the hill to be with his bride. Mits Fukuda had an active, exciting and interesting military career. He was discharged from military service with a rank of Major, after 4 years of service on March 3, 1946.

He began his employment with Castle & Cooke in the summer of 1946. Mits retired on August 1982, after 36 years of service. At the time of retirement he was vice president and industrial relations director.

After his retirement Mits and Toshiko took up tennis and walking. In spite of his kidney dialysis treatment, three times a week during the past 2 years, they traveled to Japan, Europe and the continental U.S. They were planning a trip to Japan with John Tsukano in May. Last year in September and October, Mits took a group of Company “A”, 100th Bn. men and their wives to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin and to the dedication of the Japanese-American, a display of the 100th, 442nd, Interpreters and mainland AJAs internment and concentration camps at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.

Mits Fukuda died on March 13, 1988. He is survived by his wife, Toshiko, sons, David, Patrick and Richard; daughter, Jean and three grandchildren, Jason, Kimberly and Maggie.

Upon returning to civilian life, veterans of the 100th Infantry Bn. took three vocational routes. First, in government by way of elected officials; secondly, in government by way of civil service or appointed route; and thirdly, by way of private business and industry. Mits Fukuda was hired by Castle & Cooke Ltd., “A Big Five” Company in the summer of 1946. Mits made an in-road in the industrial relationship department of the company. Not too long after Mits went to work for Castle & Cooke, the sugar strike of 1946 came about. The popular personalities of the ILWU of that era were: Bridge, Hall & Goldblatt. Mits Fukuda and his associates participated in many sugar, pineapple and long-shore strikes. Mits Fukuda became a hardworking and dedicated member of Castle & Cooke. He and his committee members were instrumental in getting the job classification system for the sugar plantations. Toward the end of his working career, Mits was recognized for his valuable contributions and was promoted to vice president and industrial relations director of Castle & Cooke. Mits Fukuda was one of the first AJA to become an officer of a Big Five Company.

Posing the question to one of Mits Fukuda’s former associates, “why was Mits Fukuda so successful in his work?” The reply came back as follows: (quote) “Nits Fukuda led by example. He was a practioner by example. He was a student of human psychology. Mits gave you more work than you could achieve or complete. The purpose was so that you could stretch beyond what one believed in his capabilities.” (unquote) This represented the depth of Mits Fukuda’s wisdom about people. He did not use people in a bad sense. He had a sense of humor. Mits possessed a human warmth and treated every person as a human being. Finally, “the mark of Mits Fukuda was trust. His superiors and peers trusted him. Both management and labor trusted Mits. A former vice-president of ILWU told me once, (quote) Jimmy Maeda, I trust your friend Mits Fukuda and I have lots of Aloha for him.”(unquote)

Yes, the foundation of Mits Fukuda’s success story is TRUST, “his credibility”. He proved that when given the opportunity local products can do the work of executive here in Hawaii and elsewhere.

To you David, Patrick, Richard and Jean; and to Jason, Kimberly and Maggie you do not know much about your father’s and grandfather’s military life. He and the many other brave soldiers of the 100th and 442nd Inf. Regiment are written up in history. He was truly a soldier, a warrior, a samurai and a hero to many of us. Read further to find out about the Fukuda task force toward the end of the Italian campaign. Unfortunately, when the veterans of the 100th get-together now, they don’t fight the war anymore. They talk about their aches and pains and their grandchildren.

Mits Fukuda was always concerned about the welfare of his men. We know of two instances when he said, “No” to orders for Company “A” to attack. If our company commander obeyed the orders at that time, some of us will not be here today. Capt. Fukuda or Major Fukuda was a good combat officer. Mits was later appointed as commanding officer of 100th Infantry Bn., “known as the Purple Heart Bn.”. He was the first American of Japanese Ancestry to command an infantry battalion in the history of U.S. Army.

(quote) Lynn Crost: “Precedent was broken again when he was appointed as executive officer of the 442nd. Mits was the only Nisei combat officer in U.S. Army to hold field rank” (unquote)

Many of us are grateful to Major Fukuda for being a great combat leader. He received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit medals and the Combat Infantry Badge.

As for Mits Fukuda’s religious life, he wasn’t the church going man, only until recently. However, he was a man who practiced his Christian stewardship. He gave his time, talent and money to the: Punahou carnival, Nuuanu Church’s annual plant sale, Club 100 and other organizations. A few of his friends in Hilo, would receive word to gather some birdnest ferns, or he needs some azaela plants or cuttings. Mits served actively on the HMSA board and committees, the board of directors of Hawaii Stevedore Co., Friends of Foster Garden and State Deferred Compensation Board. He had also served on the Kuakini Hospital and Honolulu Sympathy boards.

Mits was very active with the 100th Infantry organization, the Club 100. He served as one of the club’s early presidents and served on many committees. He always participated in the annual plant show of the club’s plant club. Until his death Mits Fukuda was the chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee. This committee has been working together on a joint project with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce for the establishment of cultural center. Mits felt we have to perpetuate the name of Club 100, but we can’t do it just by leaving a building. He felt that we needed to leave something for posterity. By this project we will be passing the torch to our future generation as we fade away. For those members of the Club 100 here today, Mits Fukuda leaves a challenge for us to continue and complete the project — it’s later than you think.

To David, Patrick, Richard and Jean your dad was very happy and thankful you completed your higher education and are now self-supporting. You grew up during a difficult time with minimum headaches to your parents. He enjoyed the family gathering with you on the different islands and the mainland. He was a good father to you. Jason, Kimberly and Maggie, grandfather Fukuda will miss you and you will miss him. Please remember the happy times you had with grandpa. Toshiko, we the comrades and friends of Mits thank you for taking care of him in his retirement and illness. We are very grateful to you.

We thank God for sending Mits Fukuda to us and the privilege of his friendship and association. We salute a man and an outstanding soldier.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way”

So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.

And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone east.

(from “Gate of the Year” by M.L. Haskins