Susan Muroshige Omura
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: During a recent conversation with Susan Muroshige Omura, a friend and fellow 100th Battalion “daughter,” she asked me about the possibility of submitting a short article appealing to the families of World War II AJA veterans, particularly 100th Battalion veterans, to share their husband’s or father’s diaries and/or letters with the 100th Battalion’s website. In 2008, Susan — who resides in San Francisco, but flies back several times a year to spend time with her mother, Mieko Muroshige — was instrumental in developing the 100th Battalion’s Education Center and its outstanding website, www.100thbattalion.org, thanks to a grant from the state of Hawai‘i. Susan also led the effort to renovate the front lobby area of the historic 100th Battalion clubhouse on Kamoku Street in McCully, which now features informative panels on the 100th and its AJA “brother” units as well as several artifact display cases.
With so many of our Nisei veterans and their wives or widows passing every month, I recommended that she do it sooner than later — before their families unknowingly discard those treasures containing the real-time thoughts of the veterans while in combat in Europe. So, Susan got to work right away on her appeal.
While “Go for Broke” is the motto widely associated with the Americans of Japanese ancestry who fought in World War II and specifically the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, “Remember Pearl Harbor” was the motto the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) adopted before the unit sailed from New Jersey to Algeria in September 1943. It represented the Nisei soldiers’ determination to fight to prove that the Japanese people who resided in the territory of Hawai‘i were loyal to the United States.
In recent decades, much has been written about the exploits of the AJAs who served in the military during World War II. Volunteers with the Japanese American Veterans Association, based in the Washington, D.C., area, spent years copying the records of the Japanese American units that were housed in the National Archives Records Administration. In Los Angeles, the Go for Broke National Education Center has interviewed over 800 Nisei veterans. Also in L.A., volunteer researchers worked for years to collect information about all of the AJA soldiers who were killed in action. Their research resulted in the “Echoes of Silence” project, which contains a photo and biographical information about each of these soldiers. It is managed under the auspices of the Japanese American Living Legacy, an all-volunteer Southern California nonprofit. Other regional AJA organizations have collected a variety of materials about these veterans.
In Honolulu, the Hawaii Nikkei History Editorial Board collected the wartime and postwar memoirs, letters and impressions written by 47 Japanese American veterans who served in the 100th, 442nd RCT and the Military Intelligence Service. They were compiled in a 448-page book published in 1998 by the Tendai Education Center titled, “Japanese Eyes, American Heart: Personal Reflections of Hawaii’s World War II Nisei Soldiers.”
Additionally, the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans organization was awarded a grant by the state of Hawai‘i in 2008. A portion of the monies were used to create a website about the soldiers of the 100th. Since then, a small group of 100th descendants have continued to locate materials such as photographs that the veterans took during the war and letters and diaries they wrote. While the website contains an overview of the combat history and stories written about the men of the battalion, the emphasis in recent years has been to collect primary source material from the veterans and their families and to “hear” the veterans’ voices.
Our website project has been rewarding in many ways. Some descendants have no photographs of their fathers during the war years, but in searching the website have found a photo in another veteran’s collection. Memoirs and journals have contained detailed descriptions of growing up in a plantation camp and living in multicultural Hawai‘i. Some capture the camaraderie of the men and their humor with the type of nicknames they gave each other. Other stories remind us that some issues, such as discrimination against a racial or ethnic minority, remain relevant today. One son whose father was one of the battalion’s doctors shared his father’s handwritten notes on treating the wounded under battlefield conditions. It has also been gratifying that the website has been used as a resource by other organizations, even one from Cassino, Italy, where the 100th Battalion.
Recently, several descendants have contacted the 100th club’s office. As they were cleaning out their parents’ home, they came across old photos or documents and asked if we would be interested in seeing them. The answer is a resounding YES! — even if it’s only one photo of the veteran. We will scan any materials and return them to the family.
Please take some time to look at the website, www.100thbattalion.org, to see the work that has been done thus far. My hope is that some readers of The Hawai‘i Herald will realize that they or relatives or friends have photos and documents that could be added to the primary online repository of information about the 100th Infantry Battalion.
If you have material to lend, contact the 100th office: email@example.com or call 946-0272. Please help us preserve this important segment of Japanese American history!
Susan Muroshige Omura is the daughter of 100th Battalion veteran Kenneth Muroshige.