Seven posthumous degrees to be awarded at ROTC Commissioning Ceremony

Will honor ROTC cadets killed in action during World War II while serving with storied combat team

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kevin McKay, (808) 956-4135
Lieutenant Colonel, Military Science
Diane Chang, (808) 956-0391
Dir of Communications, Chancellor's Office
Posted: May 9, 2012

Sgt. Howard Urabe
Sgt. Howard Urabe
UH Mānoa will award seven posthumous degrees to seven Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets who were killed in action during World War II while serving with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  The degrees will be presented to the next-of-kin of these fallen warriors during the ROTC Spring 2012 Commissioning Ceremony to be held at 3 p.m. Monday, May 14, at Kennedy Theatre on the UH Mānoa campus.
The seven Varsity Victory Volunteers to be honored are Daniel Betsui (Hanapēpē, Kaua‘i), Jenhatsu Chinen (Helemano, O‘ahu), Robert Murata (Honolulu), Grover Nagaji (Honolulu), Akio Nishikawa (Paia, Maui), Hiroichi Tomita (Wailuku, Maui) and Howard Urabe (Kapaa, Kaua‘i).
The seven were students and ROTC cadets enrolled at UH Mānoa on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan.  In the hours following the bombing, all UH ROTC cadets were told to report to duty, forming the Hawai‘i Territorial Guard (HTG), which was assigned to guard military installations on O‘ahu.  A month later, members who were of Japanese ancestry were expelled from the HTG because of their ethnicity.
Dismayed at their rejection from U.S. military service, 169 of these former students/guardsmen petitioned Delos Emmons, the military governor of the Territory of Hawai‘i, and were allowed to form a civilian labor battalion that became known as the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV).  Assigned to the 34th Combat Engineers Regiment at Schofield Barracks, they dug ditches, built roads and military installations, strung barbed wire, and broke rocks at Kolekole quarry.
In December 1942, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy visited Honolulu, and YMCA Secretary Hung Wai Ching made certain that the loyalty of the VVV was noticed.  In January 1943, the War Department announced that a segregated Japanese-American regiment was to be formed and there was a call for volunteers.  The VVV asked to be dissolved to join the newly formed 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  The request was granted and, on January 31, 1943, the VVV was disbanded.  The 442nd RCT went on to serve in Italy and France and is, to this day, the most decorated by unit size and length of service in the history of the U.S. Army.
This past February, at an event sponsored by the Go For Broke National Education Center to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the formation of the VVV, UH Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw shared momentous news.  “We will honor these seven men by awarding them posthumous degrees,” said Chancellor Hinshaw. “One of the goals of education institutions is for students to enter to learn and go forth to serve.  These individuals may not have completed their University studies but they earned their degrees in full by serving our nation with distinction and paying the ultimate sacrifice.”
Also at the May 14 ROTC ceremony at Kennedy Theatre, 30 cadets will be commissioned into the U.S. Army.  Lieutenant Colonel Kevin McKay, Professor of Military Science at UH Mānoa, will preside over the commissioning.
For more information, contact Lt. Col. McKay at (808) 956-4135 and or Barbara Watanabe, Go For Broke National Education Center, Hawaii Regional Director, at (808) 585-8484 and