In an interview with Stacey Hayashi, whose movie, “Go For Broke — An Origin Movie,” will premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival, Tateishi recalled being at home in ‘Aiea when the bombs began falling on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Hayashi reposted her June 2016 interview with Tateishi, then 99 years old, on her Facebook page. In it, he said he saw “black smoke and fire in the sky” and the planes were flying so high that anti-aircraft guns were unable to reach them.
“I told my folks, this must be a maneuver,” Tateishi said, “since no planes were being hit. I was then told by a fellow draftee we had to report to Schofield because there was a war . . . . At Wahiawä I could see the red dot under the wings.”
According to Hayashi, Tateishi was the last surviving veteran of A Company, 100th Battalion. He was in the 298th Infantry of the Hawai‘i National Guard and reported to Schofield Barracks on Dec. 7, 1941. Tateishi died in October 2016.
The last of the awardees, Staff Sgt. Masayoshi “Masa” Nakamura, was born in Hilo. His family moved to Waialae in Honolulu when his was 2 years old. In 442nd veteran Eddie Yamasaki’s book, “And Then Were Eight,” Nakamura noted that he had three brothers, one of whom was drafted into the 100th Battalion, and two sisters. Nakamura, a 442nd volunteer, enlisted in March 1943, even though he was eligible for an exemption from military service because, after graduating from McKinley High School in 1939, he was working for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.
Nakamura served with the 442nd’s I Company, 3rd Battalion. He was wounded three times, the first time in October 1944 in the Vosges forests during the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.”
Nakamura worked for the city after returning from the war. He and his wife Helen also started a business, Nakamura Nursery, which is still in operation on Date Street.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, whose uncles fought at Bruyeres, said these soldiers “are called ‘the greatest generation’ — one that many of us say we will never see again — for their acts of valor.”
The soldiers “represent the best not only of what our country has,” Hanabusa said, “but what Hawai‘i has. Remember what they had to do in order to gain the right to fight. How many of us would fight to fight?”
In his tribute, Gov. David Ige, whose father served in the 100th Battalion, thanked the French government “for never forgetting the deeds, commitment and courage of those who served and for what they have done to give us the legacy of Japanese Americans.”
The Legion of Honor was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is conferred upon men and women, French citizens as well as foreigners, for outstanding achievements in military or civilian life.
American recipients have included Gens. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, Adm. Michael Mullen and the United States Military Academy at West Point. In its history, there have been approximately 93,000 Legion of Honor recipients. The medal has also been presented to celebrities.
Among the Hawai‘i veterans to receive the award was the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was also awarded the Medal of Honor for his service with the 442nd in France and Italy, where he lost his right arm in combat. Inouye received his Legion of Honor from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011.
Veterans or their family members can apply by writing to the Consulate General of France, 88 Kearny St., Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94108. Veterans or their family members can contact Jeff Morita at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Copies of the veteran’s military separation record (honorable discharge) and a current identity document with a photograph must accompany an application for the medal. If possible, it should also contain copies of citations for decorations already received in France or in the United States, indicating meritorious action during wartime operations.
Gregg K. Kakesako worked for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Gannett News Service and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for more than four decades as a government, political and military affairs reporter and assistant city editor.