The Gallery of Heroes at U. S. Army Museum of Hawaii was conceived in 1980 by Major General Herbert E. Wolff, US Army, Ret., to honor Hawaii’s citizens who served in the Nation’s defense. The focus of the Gallery is on the recipients of the Nation’s two highest awards of valor, the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, or its equivalents, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross.
The Vietnam War had a profound impact on the United States. Though begun with a small contingent of advisors, the conflict escalated from 1964 through 1968. More and more American soldiers and resources poured into Vietnam. Unlike Korea, Americans faced an unconvenional enemy in a war without front lines, where objectives were obscure and the danger contstant.
Under Suspicion and Scrutiny
The war immediately raised the loyalty question of Hawai’i’s 160,000 ethnic Japanese Americans, one-third of the population. After the attack, 1,400 suspects were arrested and interned in camps, but sheer logistics prevented the mass relocation that was imposed on mainland Japanese. When three hundred Territorial Guardsmen of Japanese ancestry were dismissed from service, half of them joined the Varsity Victory Volunteers. While 1,500 National Guardsmen continued to serve under constant scrutiny, no more Japanese-Americans were allowed to enlist.
Proving Their Loyalty
By May 1942, after demonstrating loyalty and enthusiasm, many of these Americans of Japanese ancestry (AJAs) were organized into the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion and sent to the mainland for training. At Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, on June 12th, the unit was officially designated the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate). The battalion’s exemplary performance in training convinced the War Department to recruit more AJAs.
Transferred to Camp Shelby, Mississippi in January 1943, the battalion watched the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Teams from Hawai’i and the mainland. Over 10,000 AJAs volunteered for fewer than 3000 spaces in the new unit.
Some Hawaiian AJAs also served at home. The 1399th Engineer Battalion was locally recruited to meet the heavy demands for military construction projects on O’ahu. Belaying their adopted nickname, the Chow Hounds, these soldiers labored with skill and enthusiasm to complete all their assigned projects.
“Go For Broke” in Europe
Because the Hawai’i’s Japanese American soldiers faced great prejudice and distrust, they felt compelled to fight all the harder to prove their loyalty. The 100th Battalion went into combat near Salerno, Italy, September 1943. Nine months later, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team joined them. They fought together as a unit and were known by their slogan, “Go for Broke.”
Japanese Americans suffered extremely high casualties throughout the war. They earned the nickname the “Purple Heart” outfit, receiving 9,486 of this award during seven major campaigns in Europe. The men of the 100th Infantry battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team won one Congressional Medal of Honor (more were to come later) and 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, as well as 4,560 Silver and Bronze Stars.
Just after noon on December 7th, at the urging of the Army’s commander, Lieutenant General Short, and with the concurrence of the President of the United States, Hawai’i’s Territorial Governor Poindexter proclaimed martial law. Military officers moved into Iolani Palace and assumed all legislative, executive, and judicial powers.
Hawaiians first sailed to their islands nearly a 1000 years before Columbus’ time, and developed a social structure, and religious and military systems. Temples were built and the gods were consulted for auspicious times to fight. Elaborate preparations for war included sacrifices, prayers, and orations offered to the gods.
Battery Randolph, constructed in 1911, was a key part of the “Ring of Steel” which encircled O’ahu and defended the island against attacks by sea. Its solid concrete walls could withstand a direct hit from a 2000-pound artillery shell. Battery Randolph’s primary mission was the defense of Pearl Harbor and Honolulu from attacking battleships.