Hawaiian Statehood and the Club 100

Author: Dick Oguro, B Company
Source: Puka Puka Parades, July 1960, vol. 13. no. 7

Dick Oguro details how the 100th Infantry Battalion played a small part in Hawaii’s statehood and it is up to Club 100 to continue to help the community and nation.

This period of admission of Hawaii as the 50th State marks a new page in the illustrious history of our Hawaii Nei…first discovered by the Polynesian fishing groups which had wandered far from their Melanesian homeland in Eurasia.

Following which the island chain was populated and wherefrom emerged after decades of turmoil and transition, the grand and royal Hawaiian monarchy, with King Kamehameha the First ruling supreme over the entire eight island chain as first ruler.

With the discovery of the island Kingdom by Captain Cook came further changes. And the subsequent coming of the missionaries from faraway Boston, unknowingly sounded the death knell for the Hawaiian monarchy, although the decline took many, many years afterwards. The end came peacefully for the Hawaiian kingdom in 1898 with the final bloodless overthrow of the monarchy and the subsequent annexation of the islands to the United States as in integral territory and possession.

Did the successful revolters and annexers dream of Statehood even then? The answer lies buried in time immemorial. However, even before the overthrow of the monarchy, great changes had been taking place. Chief among them was the development of large sugar plantations, with its attendant problem of procuring enough labor. The Hawaiians were not prone to labor. As a result, labor had to be imported. Since there was great over-population in the Far East, the plantation sought laborers from that area. The Japanese from the over-populated island chain that comprised the nation of Japan, a very warlike nation, were among those that were recruited.

Circumstances prevented many of these laborers from returning to their homeland. Consequently, the era of picture brides from Japan was ushered in.

This then is our heritage – the heritage of the AJA’s – Americans of Japanese ancestry – born of Japanese parents of a foreign and warlike nation – steeped in Bushido and Shintoism and class distinction, but contrastingly reared in Western, democratic ideals, culture, and mode of life – bases on the democratic principle of free public education and equal opportunity for all.

Time marches on! It is now 1939. Germany has started its warring tactics in Europe, embroiling nation after nation in conflict – the beginning of World War II. Japan shows her hand and becomes a partner in the tri-power compact: Germany, Italy, Japan. In 1940, Japan invades Manchuria.

The United States has finally adopted a universal military training program. Draft begins. Hawaii’s youth do not escape. Among them are many boys of Japanese ancestry. Finishing their basic training, many of them are assigned to permanent units for the duration of their military obligation. That was in early 1941.

December 7, 1941. Nefarious attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. Martial law in Hawaii. Japanese nationals on West Coast forcefully evacuated into the interior of the United States. Some of our parents and kins from the islands are also removed to evacuation centers on the mainland.

The $64 question the Army has to answer at this point – what to do with the AJA boys already in Army khakis? Will they fight their own kind, from the land of the Rising Sun? The Philippines fall, New Guinea is invaded. Attach on Australia is imminent. Hawaii could very well be a focal point for an attack!

In June 1942, a dinky U.S. Army transport, the S.S. Maui slips out of Honolulu Harbor, without convoy, without fanfare, almost in secrecy: destination – Mainland U.S. Its cargo – 1500 plus officers and men of Japanese ancestry and with the Army designation 100th Inf. Bn. (Separate). The rest is told and retold in the annals of history. But what is the relationship of this story of the 100th Inf. Bn. to the story of Hawaiian Statehood?

As we enter into this sisterhood of states on an equal footing with the rest of the 49 states of the Union, we the living members of Club 100, the civilian counterpart of the 100th Inf Bn (Sep), part of the 34th Red Bull Division and lastly the 3rd Bn of the 442nd Regiment, should feel proud, and very justly so – that we did in a small measure have a part in making this realization of statehood a reality. The sacrifice that we members, those who returned as well as those who did not, were not in vain. We can now look back over 17 years with nostalgia and amusement, back to the days in Wisconsin and Mississippi, the days when we knew for a certainty that our days were numbered, that we were already living on borrowed time. So we should make the most of it.

But somehow, we never got to the point of reckless abandon. We all felt it in our hearts that we had a two-fold mission – one, to prove that we are just as good fighting men as any other group, of Americans, providing that we did have the chance, although we came from the land of paradise, pineapples and hula girls! And secondly, not to let the folks back home down, to prove our loyalty and devotion to their adopted country, our native country, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Towards this end, our conduct was exemplary, be it on the streets of Sparta, La Crosse, or Harrisburg. We spread the good old Hawaiian hospitality around, sprinkled with the dash of spice that we were all gentile big plantation owners!

Our subsequent action on the battlefields of Europe, when our chance came, from whence our spirit, endurance, courage came, no one knows – perhaps, it was our bygone long forgotten ancestral samurai heritage of old Japan – whatever it was, the end result was the Purple Heart Battalion, the most decorated unit in the annal of the United States Army, achieved not without heartaches, extreme sacrifices and heroism.

A little known fact, perhaps, is that the 100th served as well in the Asiatic Pacific Theater, That is, in the Pacific, original

members of the 100th Inf Bn (Sep) served with distinction and honor as translator-interpretors [sic] with the combat troops.

No doubt, these factors must have played some significant part in erasing existing doubts as to the loyalty and devotion of all AJA’s, and in the final analysis, in the final granting of statehood. Be that as it may, the time is not now, nor should there be a time, ever, to gloat over, or to think that we alone achieved statehood for Hawaii.

Our task is not yet finished, neither yours nor mine. Many, many challenges still lie ahead of us. We must strive “for

continuing service”, our motto today, individually and collectively through active participation in our club’s activities, be they chapter-wise or battalion-wise.

Only as we so participate can we really help and grow community- wise, national-wise, and international-wise, with our own 50th State of Hawaii, together. Yes, we have a world destiny, Hawaii and the Club 100! And to all of you, “grow old along with us-the best is yet to be!”