Sgt. John Hidemi Takara, 2nd Battalion, F Company, 442nd RCT. (Photo courtesy of the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team)
Sgt. John Hidemi Takara, 2nd Battalion, F Company, 442nd RCT. (Photo courtesy of the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team)

John Hidemi Takara was born on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 1922, in Papaikou, Hawai‘i Island, Territory of Hawai‘i. His parents, Ushi and his wife Ushi (Uyehara) arrived from Shimajiri, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, in 1906 and 1912, respectively. In 1930, the Takara family lived in south Hilo, where his father was a worker on a sugar plantation.

As a teenager, Takara moved to Honolulu and lived with a brother. After graduating from McKinley High in 1940, he attended the University of Hawai‘i. In 1942, he became a member of the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV), the UH students and inactivated members of the Hawaii Territorial Guard who volunteered their services as an Army labor corps when they were not allowed to serve in the military.

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, 1942, Takara was among the group when they were given a sendoff from the UH campus, then escorted to ‘Iolani Palace where Lt. General Delos C. Emmons, the martial law governor of the Territory of Hawai‘i, greeted them. Afterwards, they were taken to Schofield Barracks where their duties were organized as a volunteer labor corps under Army direction.

As most of the men were former UH students who had taken engineering courses, they were placed as an auxiliary under Col. John M. Silkman’s Engineer Regiment. They began work on March 7. Among other duties, they operated a rock quarry 12 hours each day, built portable four-man “dog houses” for soldiers to live in, and helped build a railroad, string barbed wire entanglements, and construct essential field equipment such as iceboxes and fly traps.

Camp life for the VVV men was described in a series of articles in the Honolulu Advertiser in June 1942. They lived in three two-story frame barracks at Schofield – Varsity Hall, Victory Hall and Volunteers Hall – and paid $28.60 each month for their room and board. They ran their own mess hall and grew their own vegetables.

One of their efforts was buying U.S. War Bonds. When they received their first $90 monthly paycheck on April 9, each of the men purchased one bond, and this continued each month to a total of $36,000. They also donated money to the United Welfare Fund and blood to the Honolulu Blood and Plasma Bank, and collected salvage materials for war use. Takara was one of several VVV men who made models of war airplanes from allied and enemy nations for the U.S. Bureau of Aeronautics. A special exhibit at the Honolulu Academy of Arts was held that summer and Takara’s model airplanes were among those featured. They also donated 65 toys they had made or repaired/repainted to the Honolulu Council of Social Agencies for distribution at Christmas to needy children and those in foster homes and hospitals.

On Tuesday, June 30, 1942, Takara signed his World War II Draft Registration. At the time, he was employed – as a VVV member – by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Auxiliary, 34th Engineers, at Schofield Barracks.

On Saturday, Jan. 30, 1943, 157 VVV men were mustered out of service at their request so they could volunteer for the U.S. military in a ceremony at ‘Iolani Palace. Takara soon enlisted in the Army and was sent back to Schofield Barracks to “Boom Town,” as the tent camp for new inductees was called.

On April 4, the new soldiers left on the S.S. Lurline enroute to training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Takara was assigned to 2nd Battalion, F Company.

After a year of training, the 442nd left the U.S. on May 2 and arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28. The combat team entered combat on June 26 near Suvereto. Sgt. Takara served in all of the campaigns of the 442nd:  Rome-Arno in Italy, Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps in France, and Po Valley back in Italy. After V-E Day on Tuesday, May 8, 1945, Takara enlisted again on Thursday, Nov. 8, 1945, and served in the Signal Corps.

For his military service, Takara was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1948, Takara had his name officially changed from Hidemi Takara to John Hidemi Takara by a decree issued by Hawai‘i Governor Ingram M. Stainback.

In 1949, Takara married Mae Mitsue Nakandakari, also from Papaikou. Over the years, they raised two sons and one daughter. He was an active member of the Leeward Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

John Hidemi Takara died on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 1970, at the age of 47 while employed as an electronic technician. He was a member of the Oroku Aza Jin Club, which his father helped establish in Hilo in 1924 for Okinawan immigrants. He was buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Section U, Row 231-J.

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and may not be used without their prior permission.


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