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442nd veteran kept active with local Republican Party

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Just three months before his death, Haruichi "James" Hama­saki received the Congressional Gold Medal for his service in World War II.

Hamasaki, a member of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Regimental Team, was also a former Hawaii County supervisor and an advertising sales representative for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

He died March 12, a day before his 90th birthday in Hilo.

He was among the veterans who received the congressional medal Dec. 17 in Hono­lulu.

"His proudest accomplishment is being a father to us, he told my mom several days before he passed," said his eldest child, Mari Hama­saki.

"He told us he fulfilled everything on his bucket list, so he was very satisfied with his life."

Born in Hilo, Hamasaki was one of 13 children.

He was attending San Francisco Junior College in 1941 but left school after the war broke out.

His family sent him to live in Stockton, Calif., where he worked on his sister-in-law’s truck farm.

On May 20, 1942, Hama­­saki and members of his family were interned in Stockton, then transferred to the Rowher Relocation Center in Arkansas, where he spent nine months.

He entered the Army in August 1944, served in France and joined the 442nd combat team in Italy, attached to Company E. He served as a rifleman-grenadier, then a cook.

In 1945 the Star-Bulletin reported Hama­saki was one of 12 "little squirts" (as the men of the 442nd were generally known in the 5th Army) who processed thousands of surrendering Germans at the Brescia airport in northern Italy.

"The Germans, (Hama­­saki) said, never did get it figured out how Japa­nese soldiers got into the American army," the Star-Bulletin reported.

He volunteered for service with the U.S. military language school, but the war ended before he was admitted.

After he left the Army, Hama­saki worked at a variety of jobs. For six years he had his own public relations, advertising and printing sales business, his family said.

He worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald for 31 years in three different stints in printing and as an advertising sales representative until his retirement in 1988.

In 1956 he ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the Territorial House of Representatives in East Hawaii. He remained active with the Hawaii Republican Party.

Hamasaki was elected to the Hawaii County Boardof Supervisors and served a two-year term from 1959 to 1960. And from 1961 to 1963 he served as administrator to the Hawaii County Rent Control Commission.

Hamasaki also was instrumental in establishing the Shinmachi Tsunami Memorial monument in Hilo commemorating the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis, according to his family.

He was very active in his children’s activities, 4-H, football, martial arts and the PTA, and was also a caring husband, said his daughter.

"Our family is very proud of our father," said Mari Hama­saki, a consulting mechanical engineer in Washington state.

"He sacrificed a lot being the sole provider. He promised us a college education. The college that I went to was quite expensive, but he never said no."

Son Thomas works for Hawaii Public Radio, and son George is an electrical engineer with the Boeing Co.

Hamasaki is also survived by wife Setsuko, brother Goichi and sisters Sue Sumayo Naka­mura, Sally Crum and Nancy Taeko Tori­goe.

Visitation will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in Dodo Mortuary in Hilo. Service: 2 p.m. Burial will follow at Alae Cemetery. The family requests that cas­ual attire be worn.

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