The Importance of Preserving Legacy

NOTE:  The *message* of the following story can be applied to those who were incarcerated at the Poston, Arizona camps during World War II........
by Wilbur D. Jones Jr.
For StarNewsMedia
Wilbur D. Jones, Jr.
Monday, December 19, 2011

     Nestled on a short side street within an urban canyon of high-rises near Waikiki Beach in sprawling Honolulu is the nondescript, one-story 1950s clubhouse of one of America’s bravest and most famous World War II fighting units.
      To find the home of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the first all-Nisei Japanese-American outfit and later part of the immortal “Go for Broke” 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated of the war, one needs an escort. Mine, Amy Muroshige, whose father was an original member, graciously hosted me in meeting 16 veterans who gathered for their weekly scrumptious brunch and camaraderie.
      Mostly in their 90s, they ranged from judge Takashi Kitaoka, 99, who deftly maneuvered his walker to pose enthusiastically for photos, to Robert Arakaki, 88, the “baby of the group” who helps to keep them young, and patiently answered my many questions.
     Am I prepared to understand pidgin English? Amy had asked, referring to Leighton “Goro” Sumida, 91, the group “spokesman.” Goro, miraculously not wounded but anxiously displaying his bypass scars, reminisced about combat under constant German fire at Anzio, Italy, the horrible miscalculated winter crossings of the Rapido River near Montecassino, and the bone-numbing cold in Northeast France’s Vosges Mountains.
     Sharing time with them was my professional honor. Informed I had walked their battlefields and visited their remote mountainside memorials in recent years, we quickly bonded. Most memorable are the Vosges town of Bruyeres, which they liberated while suffering heavy casualties in October 1944, and neighboring Biffontaine, where they and the 442nd RCT rescued the “Lost Battalion” of their own 36th Infantry Division days later after a fierce uphill battle.
      To reach both requires a skillful driver and perseverance. With help from local farmers, I first located the Lost Battalion memorials in 2009 – decked with leis, wreaths, and puka shell beads from a recent ceremony – after climbing up deteriorating and narrowing paved-to-dirt roads.
      Not your ordinary GIs, these courageous Americans, second generation sons of pineapple and cane field contract worker immigrants, fought three battles: the Germans, racial discrimination and President Franklin Roosevelt’s foolhardy internment of Japanese-American citizens.
     Nearly seven decades later, the Nisei regiment received the Congressional Gold Medal in a November 5, 2011, ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
     In early 1942 the Army formed the 100th (“One-Puka-Puka”) primarily from Nisei in Hawaii National Guard regiments. Seeing their first overseas service in North Africa in September 1943 with the 34th Infantry Division, soon they invaded Italy at Salerno and slugged their way north toward Rome through rugged “mountains and mules” terrain vividly described by Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent Ernie Pyle, where they earned the bloody moniker “The Purple Heart Battalion.”
     They merged with the newly arrived 442nd RCT into the 36th Division in July 1944, retaining their battalion designation, and by fall were in France.
     Among their numerous combat awards, the 100th earned nine Medals of Honor, three Presidential Unit Citations, sixteen Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,703 Purple Hearts, and thirty division commendations.
      Why this story? To contrast this veterans group with the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, which sadly just announced they will disband their corporation on December 31, 2011, because of their members’ ages and health.
     Children of the 100th now serve as officers, and grandchildren and devoted friends help provide the glue and continuity. With other island chapters and one on the Mainland, they publish a monthly newsletter, sponsor scholarships and events, exchange visits with Bruyeres citizens, house an educational research center, participate in patriotic parades, developed a website, and recently renovated portions of the clubhouse.
     No doubt, they appear determined to perpetuate their memories and fellowship.
Disbanding of WWII veterans organizations is too prevalent. I see it frequently. Unless descendants and friends step forward, that day draws near. Fortunately, such leadership sustains Wilmington’s popular WWII Remembered Group.
Wilmington native Wilbur D. Jones Jr., is a nationally known author and military historian who recently attended the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Source: http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20111219/ARTICLES/111219732/-1/sports01?Title=Wilbur-D-Jones-Jr-A-legacy-worth-preserving

1 comment:

Floyd Shirk said...

Outstanding story. Thank you Mr. Jones