Hawai‘i’s AJA Community Comes Together to Salute and Thank Retiring Admiral Harry Harris
Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr.
Published with Permission
He was touted as “a hero for our time,” and although the Hawai‘i Nisei veterans and the various Ja-
panese American community organizations that came together to honor Adm. Harry Harris on April 21 are happy for him as he begins the next chapter of his life — as a diplomat — there is no question that he and his wife, Bruni Bradley, will be missed.
Harris, who arrived in Hawai‘i in the fall of 2013 to lead the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, and Bradley, herself a Navy veteran, were the guests of honor at a luncheon banquet attended by approximately 200 people at the Hale Koa Hotel. The son of a Caucasian Navyman and a Japanese woman who met and married in post-World War II Japan, where the future four-star admiral was born, Harris quickly embraced Hawai‘i’s Japanese American community, particularly its World War II Nisei veterans. It was an interesting relationship, especially because the Nisei had served almost exclusively in the Army during the war, as they were barred from serving in the other military branches. But when it came to the World War II AJA veterans, the traditional Army vs. Navy rivalry did not matter to Harris. They were still his heroes.
In May 2015, Harris was elevated to four-star admiral and appointed commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, which encompasses approximately half the earth. Earlier this year, it was reported that Harris would be retiring after a 40-year naval career and would become the U.S. ambassador to Australia. Organizers of the April 21 event even researched his favorite Australian songs, which were played at the luncheon.
Three days later, however, the White House announced that at the urging of incoming U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the president was now appointing Harris U.S. ambassador to South Korea, a post that had remained vacant since Donald Trump took office in January 2017. News reports said Pompeo felt that Harris’ knowledge and expertise in the geopolitics of the region and his vast military experience would be especially valuable in the anticipated talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Adm. Harris was open to the change of assignment and is now preparing for his Senate confirmation hearings.
The idea of honoring Harris began with the MIS Veterans Club of Hawaii, specifically member Shinye Gima, who felt that Hawai‘i’s AJA veterans should not let Harris leave the state without expressing their gratitude for the unwavering support he had always given them and for his participation in their many activities during his tenure in Hawai‘i, in spite of his own busy schedule. The MIS board wholeheartedly supported the idea and began organizing the aloha banquet for Harris and Bradley — and then opened it up to their fellow AJA veterans organizations: the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion and local Japanese American community groups.
On that April 21 day, Adm. Harris said he was “deeply honored” to be recognized as “a hero for our time” and for the privilege of sharing the day “with so many tremendous American patriots.”
“This is a truly humbling day,” he said, and went on to recognize by name several Hawai‘i’s leaders who were present, among them, Gov. David Ige, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, former Gov. George Ari-
yoshi and Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito, as well as members of the consular corps in Hawai‘i, retired military leaders and Japanese community organizations.
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