442nd RCT to Celebrate 75th Anniversary of Unit’s Formation
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
When I was a little girl growing up in newly developed Käne‘ohe, I used to play “army” with the boys in the neighborhood. We would play in our neighbors’ backyards and down the dead-end street (now called a cul-de-sac) that led to the stream where a scary hermit lived, or so we believed. I was the only girl on the street at the time, so the boys always had me play the role of the nurse. I didn’t like that. I wanted to be a soldier. The only time I didn’t mind being the female was when I had my imaginary family and played mamangoto all by myself in a house made of cardboard boxes and those old wooden carpenter’s “horses” in our backyard. I could play there for hours and hours with my dolls and plastic dishes . . . until I heard the boys playing “army” next door. That’s when I would run and get my younger brother’s wooden Davy Crockett rifle and take off to play war.
Fast-forward several years to the days when black-and-white television became our obsession. After school, many children waited for 4 o’clock when “The Lone Ranger” came on. I, however, was hooked on World War II television shows. I couldn’t miss a single episode of “12 O’Clock High,” “Combat” and “The Gallant Men.” Later, shows like “Convoy” introduced me to the handsome and unforgettable John Gavin, and “The Rat Patrol” and “Garrison’s Gorillas,” all of which convinced me that America had won the war with only haole (Caucasian) men — and handsome ones at that! Now I wonder what my father thought of those TV shows as he watched them with me without commenting, only laughing from time to time.
All these decades later, I’m still hooked on war stories, but now, I’m mainly interested in documentaries and wartime historical dramas made as movies.
As a youngster, I never realized that we had a hero in our own home, even if we went to 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, B Battery (my dad’s unit) Christmas parties, picnics and softball games. Even when Dad’s service buddies from all walks of life came over for pupu and beer in our garage, I never thought of them as World War II “heroes.” They were just my “uncles” with whom I had grown up — uncles who always called out for me to bring them more beer and peanuts. They were always joking around and laughing and it was obvious that whether one was a court judge, a politician, a plumber or an electrician, they were buddies for life and everyone was “same, same.”
Many of the Sansei children of my dad’s buddies say the same thing I do: Our dads never talked about their service to our country. To me, they were the most modest, unassuming, lighthearted, genuine group of men — the likes of which we will probably never see again.
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Gwen Fujie is the daughter of the late Toshio (“Bulldog”) Nishizawa and the late Beatrice Higa Nishizawa. She formed her professional speaking business, Gwen Fujie Keynotes & Seminars in 2001 and volunteers with the 442 RCT Legacy Center, Sons & Daughters of the 442 RCT, Nisei Veterans Legacy and the Hawaii United Okinawa Association.