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Learn about Maui heroes

By Staff | Jul 12, 2012

An event on Saturday, July 14, will pay tribute to the Nisei Veterans (Americans of Japanese ancestry) who courageously fought to protect our freedoms during World War II.

The Japanese Cultural Society of Maui and Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans invite their members and the public to the dedication of a rock feature at Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The dedication will be followed by a screening of the film “Go for Broke – Memories of Hawai’i Japanese Nisei” produced by Hiroyuki Matsumoto, who will attend the event.

This will be a great opportunity to learn about Hawaii’s amazing soldiers in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service.

Living their motto of “Go For Broke” on the battlefield, the young men of the 442nd were willing to prove their loyalty to the United States at any cost.

Some 14,000 Japanese Americans served in the 442nd during World War II, and they became the most decorated unit in American military history for their size and length of service, receiving seven unit citations and 18,000 medals for heroism and service. The unit suffered 314 percent combat casualties, and the 4,000 men who started off in February 1943 had to be replaced nearly three-and-a-half times.

The exploits of the 100th/442nd/MIS have become legendary in U.S. military history – in particular, the battle for the Rescue of the Lost Battalion at Vosges Mountain in France and the battle of the Gothic Line at Po Valley at the entrance to Austria.

The Rescue of the Lost Battalion saw the 100th/442nd send 2,000 men charging up a rain- and sleet-slickened mountain slope in the face of furious machine gun fire from the German forces entrenched near the top of the hill. Beyond the Nazi line were 200 surrounded American soldiers of the Texas 36th.

In almost five days of constant fighting on that hill and the breakthrough to rescue the 36th, the 442nd suffered 1,000 casualties. Both K and I Company went into the battle with 185 men in each of their ranks; after the rescue of the Lost Battalion, K Company had 17 riflemen standing. All of their officers had been killed. I Company had but eight infantrymen standing and only a sergeant in charge.

The Army has designated the Rescue of the Lost Battalion as one of the top ten battles fought by the U.S. Army in its 230-year history.

Recently, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate gathered to present Nisei veterans of World War II and their families with the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest honor.

These heroes include Lahaina’s Hideo “Pakala” Takahashi, who received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star for his efforts in the battle to save the Lost Battalion. Other veterans of the 442nd from Lahaina include Tom Morisaki, Paul “Lefty” Nishimura, Tetsuo Tada, Archie Fushikoshi and Minoru “Swipe” Nakamura.

Admission to the film, which begins at 11 a.m. at Kahului Hongwanji Temple, is $20 and includes lunch.

There are ten Maui Nisei veterans included in this 98-minute video.

“Go for Broke – Memories of Hawai’i Japanese Nisei” will also be shown the day prior, on July 13, at the Maui Beach Hotel at 7 p.m. A $10 donation will be accepted at the door.

Net proceeds from both film screenings will be donated to Kansha Preschool in Wailuku. The school honors Nisei Veterans by perpetuating the values they embraced and fought for: honor, respect, determination and service to others.

Seating for the July 14 screening is limited; only people who have purchased tickets beforehand will be accommodated.

Tickets are available by calling Leonard Oka at 385-7670 or 249-2163, or visiting Credit Associates of Maui at 1817 Wells St. in Wailuku.