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Nisei Impact: World War II veteran, 103, continues serving community beyond the battlefield

  • COURTESY JOAN NAGUWA
                                Left: Edward Ikuma in 1941 when he was in the U.S. Army, 100th Infantry Battalion. Right: Ikuma now at the age of 103.

    COURTESY JOAN NAGUWA

    Left: Edward Ikuma in 1941 when he was in the U.S. Army, 100th Infantry Battalion. Right: Ikuma now at the age of 103.

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Moanalua High School sophomore Daria Stapolsky.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Moanalua High School sophomore Daria Stapolsky.

  • COURTESY JOAN NAGUWA
                                Edward Ikuma with members of the Hawaii Army National Guard, 100th Battalion.

    COURTESY JOAN NAGUWA

    Edward Ikuma with members of the Hawaii Army National Guard, 100th Battalion.

Editor’s Note: Nisei Impact is a youth storytelling project led by the Star-Advertiser and the nonprofit Nisei Veterans Legacy. Each day this week, we have published a story, written by a high school student, about the nisei veterans in our families and communities. This is the last story of the Nisei Impact series.

Edward Ikuma is known to be a loving father and a hero. He values his bonds with family, friends, his heritage and service.

Now 103, Ikuma is one of the veterans who helped found Club 100 almost 70 years ago.

According to the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Education Center, the clubhouse was built at 520 Ka­moku St. in 1952. However, the idea for the clubhouse was formed long before, in the summer of 1942, when the 100th Infantry Battalion was stationed in Camp McCoy in Wisconsin.

All the soldiers in the unit, including the commander, contributed $2 of their monthly pay toward construction of the facility. Even when they were in the combat zone, they continued their monthly contributions. Eventually, enough funds were collected to build the structure, which is now enjoyed by 1,200 veterans.

>> RELATED: Nisei Impact: Honolulu Star-Advertiser youth storytelling project honors Hawaii’s Japanese American World War II veterans

Ikuma grew up as an active child, taking up hobbies such as swimming and biking. This continues today, not only physically, but mentally and socially as well. He is always one to be chatting with his pals, and he loves to challenge his mind by solving crossword puzzles.

Ikuma took up sports such as golf, playing until he was 90 years old. It could be said that his will to live and constantly finding ways to stay active are the keys to his longevity, said his youngest daughter, Joan Naguwa.

When he was merely a teen, Ikuma took on the heavy role of supporting his family and had to drop out of McKinley High School. Nonetheless, he still found a way to finish his education by earning a GED diploma from Kaimuki High School. From there he took on various jobs to make enough income for his family.

One of those jobs was at a construction company on Molokai, where he met future wife Hazel Maeda. They wed as soon as he returned from the war, and had four children.

What Ikuma endured in the past shaped him to be the strength of his family. Yet he is still warmhearted and enjoys spending time with his family in various ways, Naguwa said.

Nearly every Sunday, he would take his family to the beach to enjoy a fun-filled day of swimming and play. The family would then indulge in a delicious lunch prepared by Ikuma’s wife for the sunny outing.

Naguwa fondly remembers her father hanging onto her while she rode the crashing waves in a large inner tube. Occasionally, they would go out fishing, and he would show Naguwa the fish he caught.

Ikuma’s grandfather, a Shinto priest, played a big part in connecting him to his Japanese heritage — traditions such as visiting temples every New Year’s and appreciating cultural food have been passed down to his grandchildren. During his time working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ikuma was stationed in Japan for two years, which gave his family a chance to connect to their culture.

“Being the last child at home, along with my mom, I followed him to Japan, so that was a great experience. He took us all around, looking at sights and doing things that we wouldn’t do otherwise,” Naguwa said. “I had a lot of opportunities to connect. I learned more Japanese than I did here. I only stayed there for two years, but it was all good memories.”

Ikuma’s time in the war is a big part of who he is, and although he is a bit discreet about sharing the details of his military service with his family, he made sure his legacy was known by often taking them to Club 100.

After the war, the friends who fought beside him decided to build the clubhouse as a way to stay connected and educate the community, according to Naguwa. All with various skills, such as carpentry and masonry, came together to construct the clubhouse by hand.

It was an opportunity for families who went through similar experiences to connect through bonding activities such as Family Night, where people gathered to watch movies while enjoying a comforting meal. It was also a way for the veterans to share their stories with the community. The clubhouse taught younger generations the significance of the nisei veterans and how they created a foundation for the opportunities we have today.

“Mostly, it was special to see the strong camaraderie among members of the 100th Infantry Battalion that remained strong for decades after WWII,” Naguwa said.

Ikuma has lived more in a lifetime than most, and throughout his long life he learned a valuable lesson that he wishes to share with others. Although it might seem somewhat simple, it is often forgotten by most:

“Be truthful to others, as well as yourself,” Ikuma said. “Be a good person, and treat yourself and treat others correctly.”


Daria Stapolsky is a sophomore at Moanalua High School.


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