Kristen Nemoto Jay
On Friday, May 20, Hawai‘i’s middle and high school students presented their Project-Based Learning challenge for the organizers of the 100th Infantry Battalion’s 80th Anniversary Commemoration Committee. In an effort to “help perpetuate the legacy, values, sacrifices, contributions and accomplishments of the World War II 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers,” the Commemoration Committee advertised all of Hawai‘i’s middle and high school students to: 1) identify an important issue or problem facing Hawai‘i that concerns them; 2) share how they would approach the problem by using what they’ve learned about the men of the 100th Infantry Battalion; 3) create an innovative solution that highlights their talents, passions and skills in a way that perpetuates their legacy.
“Aloha and thank you all for being here in attendance to help continue the legacy of the 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers,” said Sheila Buyukacar, host of the event and IMAG Foundation founder and director. “We are so excited to see your presentations in response to this challenge.”
Kathleen Hayashi, daughter of Sgt. Tokuichi Hayashi and current president of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veteran Club’s Able Chapter, welcomed attendees and presenters to the virtual gathering next and thanked the students for being a part of the inaugural event. Hayashi acknowledged that they were the first group of students to accept the challenge to come up with an innovative solution to a problem or issue facing Hawai‘i today by incorporating the values that Nisei veterans from the 100th Infantry Battalion embodied during World War II.
“We remember the grit with which our fathers went to war and believe that another generation will never be what they did however … the young people whose presentations you’re about to watch has nothing to gain by participating in the challenge,” said Hayashi, emphasizing that the students, too, have the same determination that the 100th Infantry Battalion veterans embodied. “No grade. No extra credit … And yet they poured their hearts and souls into developing a creative solution to an issue facing our island home by employing the values the 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers took into battle … To our students: Your participation in this inaugural project-based learning challenge, you have planted the seeds for a new and brighter future. Not only to preserve the legacy of the 100th Infantry Battalion, but to expand it.”
Shane Kaneshiro, a sophomore at McKinley High School, and Cy Kaneshiro, an eighth grader at Stevenson Middle School, were first up in the timeline of PBL Challenge presentations. After both Shane and Cy took turns reciting the significance of the 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers in Hawai‘i’s history, a slideshow of all 71 students from McKinley High School who fought in the 100th Infantry Battalion were shown on screen along with flashes of each medals of honors received for each veteran such as the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Purple Heart Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
“The following 71 of McKinley students and alumni, who fought valiantly paid the ultimate sacrifice for the country that treated them as the enemy,” said Shane and Cy.
What inspired many of the McKinley alumni Nisei veterans to volunteer for the 100th Infantry Battalion, they said, was due in part to Dr. Miles Cary, principal of McKinley High School. While Hawai‘i’s public schools pushed for more vocational and agricultural training, Dr. Cary replaced it with a core curriculum that stressed the values of citizenship, initiative, individuality, leadership and self reliance.
“Dr. Cary [was] revolutionary in what [was] taught in public schools in Hawai‘i. He reinforced the multicultural composition [curriculum] and to be proud of the country that they live in. Dr. Cary wrote an opinion piece: ‘Today is the day for you to show, by both words and deeds, what America means to you.’”
The following McKinley alumni 100th Infantry Battalion Nisei soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice were as follows:
- Pfc. Ralph Yukio Asai, 24
- Pfc. Haruo Doi, 29
- 2nd Lt. Ted Tetsu Ebata, 26
- Pvt. George Eki, 23
- Pvt. Herbert Masuo (Joe)
- Fukuhara, 24
- Sgt. Kenneth Kenzo Furukido, 31
- Pvt. Fred Yeiso Hamanaka, 24
- Sgt. Masao Hatanaka, 29
- Ssg. Donald Shiro Hayashi, 24
- Pfc. Yeiko Higa, 25
- Ssg. Tomosu Hirahara, 21
- Pfc. Kazuo Lawrence Hiramatsu, 25
- Pfc. Gerome Mitsuo Hirata, 24
- Pfc. Richard Minoru Honda, 26
- Pvt. Kenichi Ichimura, 32
- Pvt. Edward Yukio Ide, 26
- Pfc. Minoru Inoue, 23
- Sgt. Masaji Irie, 30
- Pvt. Yasuo Kagawa, 25
- Pfc. Haruo Kawamoto, 27
- Pvt. Albert Goro Kawata, 27
- Pvt. Stephen Mitsugi Kaya, 27
- Sgt. Ronald Shigeo Kiyabu, 24
- Ssg. Edward Yorio Kiyota, 25
- Pvt. Hayato Koizumi, 23
- Ssg. Katsuto Komatsu, 24
- Pfc. James Kiyoshi Kubokawa, 25
- Pfc. Ichiji Herbert Kuroda, 24
- Pvt. Masaji Howard Kutara, 26
- Pvt. James Seiso Mana, 25
- Pvt. Masatomo Mashita, 26
- Cpl. Thomas Tsutomu (Durham) Mekata, 27
- Sgt. Masayoshi Miyagi, 28
- Pfc. Harold Hisao Morisaki, 30
- Cpl. Susumu Motoyama, 29
- Ssg. Richard Kano Murashige, 29
- Ssg. Grover Kazutomi Nagaji, 24
- Sgt. Henry Yoshio (Hank) Nakamura, 29
- Pfc. Donald Takashi Nakauye, 25
- Pfc. Wilfred Katsuyuki (Kats)
- Nishimura, 26
- Pfc. Chieto Nishitani, 26
- Pvt. Taro Nishitani, 24
- Pfc. Alfred Shizuo Nozawa, 32
- Pvt. Masaru Ogata, 24
- Sgt. Masayoshi Ogata, 29
- Pfc. Yoshio W. Ogomori, 21
- Pfc. Mitsumi Donald Okamoto, 24
- Pfc. Richard Masao Okimoto, 24
- Cpl. Toyokazu Okumura, 23
- Pvt. Tadashi Otaguro, 26
- Tsgt. Robert Yukio Ozaki, 25
- Ssg. Atsuo Sahara, 28
- Sgt. Uichi (Willie) Sakamoto, 24
- Pvt. Ted Takao Shikiya, 28
- Cpl. Henry Masayuki (Lead)
- Shiyama, 24
- Pfc. Itsuo Sugiyama, 20
- Pvt. Takashi Suzuki, 25
- Sgt. Joseph Shigeo Takata, 24
- Sgt. Masaharu Takeba, 25
- Pvt. Toyoshi Tamura, 27
- Pvt. Keichi Tanaka, 24
- Pfc. Henry Mamoru Terada, 28
- Sgt. Herman Takeyoshi
- Teruya, 24
- 2nd lt. Kenkichi Kenneth
- Teruya, 26
- Pvt. Patrick Mitsuru
- Tokushima, 24
- Pvt. Minoru Tokuyama, 19
- Pvt. Kenneth Yoshikazu
- Wasada, 24
- Pvt. Masaru Yamamoto, 24
- Pfc. Thomas Isamu Yamanaga, 29
- Pfc. Kazuo (Red) Yamashita, 26
- Pfc. Yoshio Kubo, 25
The presentation concluded with a picture of Shane Kaneshiro with 100th Infantry Battalion veteran Jack Nakamura Company B on his 99th birthday. Another picture of Cy Kaneshiro playing Taps at McKinley High School’s Administration Building. Shane and Cy then thanked their mentors: Lisa Kaneshiro, Cary Miyashiro, Charlotte Yamamoto and Bev Descalzi for providing their fathers and their comrades’ experiences as a 100th Infantry Battalion soldier.
The next presenter was Ken Nakatsu, a senior at Punahou School. Nakatsu focused on the stories of houseless veterans. As Nakatsu’s father works for Veterans Affairs, he was inspired to understand the resilience of houseless veterans along with his mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years back. Through Nakatsu’s reconnection with his mother, who suffered from depression due to her diagnosis, he was inspired to build a project that promoted compassion for others with similar stories of feeling alone. Nakatsu then explained his journey started with two non profits: U.S. Vets and Pu‘uhonua O Waianae.
“This opened my eyes to another world,” said Nakatsu during his presentation. “During my time at Pu‘u, I worked with houseless kids and put together activities for them … I recorded stories of vets and obtained over 10 hours of recordings.”
Through his time spent within the communities, Nakatsu found common themes that kept appearing among veterans in general: perseverance, pride and loyalty. Nakatsu then decided to focus his project on houseless veterans by highlighting their social issues through a photography and audio-filled exhibit. Nakatsu first worked and funded a recently housed veteran named Dwayne Valdez to create a beautiful art piece that depicted his time on the streets of O‘ahu. The art piece shows various stages of his life such as being born, graduating high school, getting married, going into service, his disability and then, due to his substance abuse, life on the streets. Thanks to U.S. Vets, he was able to become healthy again. The general piece then served as the backbone to Nakatsu’s website. Further, Nakatsu produced a video that shares the interviews and stories of the veterans he interviewed. The video was shown to the Punahou School student body of over 1,500 students, which helped ignite conversations among Nakatsu’s peers.
During the Challenge, Nakatsu excitedly noted that he met one of his “greatest role models” Noe Tanigawa from Hawai‘i Public Radio. Together with Tanigawa, Nakatsu will now have his website and veteran stories within another exhibit that’s being hosted this summer.
Nakatsu concluded his presentation to reflect that his project honors the 100th Infantry Battalion by continuing their acts of service for others in order to also help make society a more peaceful place for all.
Shea Sakahara, a junior at Punahou School followed next with background information about his “Papa Toku,” Tokuichi Hayashi. Like many descendants of a Nisei veteran, Sakahara didn’t know too much about his Papa’s time within the 100th Infantry Battalion because he never talked about it. What Sakahara did learn from Hayashi, however, was his values and traits such as hard work and empathy. His many years working at the Pearl Harbor shipyard as an electronic mechanic inspired Sakahara to carry on his Papa Toku’s legacy through his acts of service.
Born with cerebral palsy, Sakahara reflected on his great experiences growing up despite not being able to do certain things for himself such as hold up his lunch tray or opening up his milk carton. What may have seemed like setbacks to some, Sakahara said he had tremendous support from his family, school and peers who reminded him that all things are possible and to focus solely on what he could do instead of what he couldn’t. Sakahara then wondered what life must be like for those students who have their own setbacks in life that’s never been helped or fulfilled due to an inequity of resources. As a son himself of an educator, Sakahara knew that there was a shortage of supplies in teacher’s classrooms and often paid for by the teachers themselves in order for all the students to have the materials they need in order to succeed in school.
What started out as an idea of Sakahara’s, quickly snowballed into a reality. Sakahara then started Strong Start 4 Kids in the sixth grade and has since helped fundraise thousands of school supplies to various schools such as Maunawili Elementary, Ala Wai Elementary and even an elementary school in the Philippines. Through the connections Sakahara has made, he’s hopeful for his efforts and Strong Start 4 Kids to continue on with the support of his community.
Next up was a presentation from Aiea High School whose students developed a peer education project for the following school year that would help with students’ mental health. The story of the 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers and how they were able to overcome the most dire of circumstances inspired the students of Aiea High School to create a program that will help their student body with coping and confronting their current fears and challenges. What they decided to do was to implement the program in five phases.
Phase one will be to share the story of the 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers to the student body, allowing them to further understand why they’re so important to Hawai‘i and the United States’ history during World War II. Phase two will be to display the characteristics of the 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers (such as perseverance and bravery) in every classroom along with recognizing students each quarter with those particular characteristics. During Phase three the peer program will write and post up inspiring quotes throughout the campus grounds to encourage and inspire students. Phase four entails a distribution of social and emotional tips and information to help students, or someone they know, in case they’re having mental health issues. Finally Phase five will be information on where to get help and who to get in contact with.
Lastly ‘Iolani School came up with an innovative solution to help those in need: become better prepared for hurricane season so that those less fortunate may have access to supplies when a natural disaster strikes.
The 100th Infantry Battalion Challenge helped inspire the students of ‘Iolani School to create 14X3: Hurricane Preparedness. As the months ahead means hurricane season, the students at ‘Iolani School emphasized that even though communities may be supportive of each other, during natural disasters, it’s the most vulnerable communities that need help the most.
“Even in times of crisis,” said ‘Iolani School student Noel. “Things can change.”
Research that the students conducted at Palolo Homes showed that the COVID-19 halted all food donations to the residence, which many residents depended on. This had the students further delving into the recommendation for all households to have a two-week supply preparedness kit in order to survive. What if some households can barely afford food on their table let alone an extra two-week supply of emergency supplies? The students then came up with the 14X3 cookbook idea. It housed a list of needed pantry items and other ingredients that households could purchase and have available from June through November. The students then further rationalized that if 53% of households in Hawai‘i are better prepared for a natural disaster, the state’s emergency personnel and food storages could be used for those in need only.
The students created a brochure to share with their community and promoted their findings and cookbook idea at the school’s farmers market. They prepared some of the dishes including barbecue pizza, which can be cooked without electricity. They also received recipes from various chefs to include in the cookbook of dishes that can be made without using electricity.
When the students learned about the 100th Infantry Battalion Challenge, they were inspired by their stories and the way they demonstrated resilience and loyalty, especially during a time of crisis.
“Our idea of food security on the island perpetuates the legacy of the 100th battalion because it represents loyalty … Help those around us for the survival of those who are most vulnerable. We encourage you to help those around you by being prepared for hurricane season. Plan ahead now and buy your list of ingredients.”
Janice Sakoda, daughter of Sgt. Gary Uchida and a member of the board of directors of the 100th Infantry Battalion veterans organization, made closing remarks to the students’ presentations by congratulating them all on their hard work and for continuing the legacy of the 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers.
“I know I speak for many others that we are truly moved that you all took on this challenge,” said Sakoda. “As you learned working on this PBL, the men in the battalion were trailblazers. We consider you as trailblazers as well. You were the first to accept and complete this PBL challenge and helped truly open the door for others to take on future challenges.”
Sakoda thanked the 100th Infantry Battalion descendant mentors: Rev. David Turner, David Fukuda, Drusilla Tanaka, Charlotte Yamamoto, Bev Descalzi, Cary Miyashiro and Joyce Chinen. She also thanked the following education partners for sharing their expertise: Sheila Buyukacar, Sherilyn Lau and Wendell Tashiro; as well as those who provided feedback: Tsurumi Hamasu, Joyce Doi and Carly Ikuma.