Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

Hilo, Hawai‘i. March 2017

Mary Fran and I loved Hilo. After Oahu, the Big Island is out favorite. Hilo is such a great city with beautiful parks (Queen Liliuokalani), an interesting downtown, and a regular farmer’s market where you can purchase all manner of great produce and products. We bought lychee and mangoes. Mary Fran bought some hand-painted sarongs.

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Hilo Farmer’s Market

Having come from the Orange Cottage at Mokuleia, we were prepared for the accommodations in Hilo to be a step down. That, they were. We had a condo on Banyan Drive overlooking Hilo Harbor. Of all the places we stayed on the trip, this one was the worst in terms of upkeep. It was clean, but old and badly in need of renovation. The carpet was worn and ugly, the paint needed to be freshened. The unit itself was small and cramped, especially the kitchen area.

The lanai was tiny compared to all of the other places we stayed, but it was still large enough for breakfast in the morning and cocktails in the evening. It looked over Hilo Harbor, which is small and not very attractive. It is a working harbor, after all. There are docks and warehouses and equipment. There are lights and noise. Still, it had a certain beauty in the mornings when the sun rose.

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Cruise Ship Arrival in Hilo

At first light, paddle boarders and canoeists would appear on the harbor. Soon after, a cruise ship would arrive. We watched three cruise ships arrive in the four mornings we stayed there. In the evenings, we watched them leave. It is a tradition for the Kamehameha Canoe Club to escort the cruise ships out of the harbor in the evenings. Two or three outrigger canoes would paddle out alongside the liner until it cleared the harbor entrance.

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The Banyan Tree planted by Babe Ruth in front of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Banyan Drive, one of the oldest streets in Hilo, is lined with Banyan trees planted by royalty, community leaders, and visiting VIPs. Every tree has a plaque denoting the person who planted it and the date it was planted. A short walk in one direction from the condo, took us to Verna’s III Drive Inn and Ken’s house of Pancakes. A slightly longer walk in the other direction took us to Queen Liliuokalani Gardens. Next door to our condo is the Naniloa Hotel and beyond that, the Hilo Hawaiian. In both places, you can find live music almost every night. Sometimes a combo, and sometimes a lone singer with a guitar. Always someone from the audience gets up to dance.

8A35D734-578B-4662-9F3F-6209B5A5940FYou can’t visit Hawai‘I without experiencing a Hawaiian plate which you can find at drive inns on every island. Verna’s Drive Inn in Hilo is one such place. It’s fairly typical in its menu and it’s service. There is no indoor dining, but you can eat at one or two tables outside. Most people prefer to eat elsewhere—home or the beach. There is no drive up window. You walk up to the window on which is taped the extensive menu. There are breakfast offerings such as Spam and eggs, or loco mocos. There are fast food offering such as burgers, hot dogs, fries. Best of all are the Hawaiian plate or plate lunch offerings. These usually include one or two meats such as shoyu chicken, roast pork, kalua pork, kalbi beef, mahi mahi, lau lau, and more. Each plate comes with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. Kimchi is usually extra. Mega calories. We had one plate which fed both of us for two meals.

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Shoyu Chicken and Pork Plate from Verna’s

Another place for mega calories is Ken’s House of Pancakes, which claims to have been voted the best breakfast every year since 1997. Ken’s is not a drive inn. It is inside dining. The menu is also extensive. You can view it here. When you walk in, you will notice the statue of a sumo wrestler and a gong. Some of the items on the menu are sumo-size, i.e. gigantic. Most others can be sumo’ed up. Whenever someone orders a sumo, the waitperson hits the gong. We settled for normal size, but still felt over-stuffed on departure.

Poke Update

Two weeks ago I wrote about poke. Today, a real Aloha Friday, we learned that a poke place is coming to our neighbor hood, within walking distance. Coming Soon! Can’t wait.

Go For Broke

In September 1944, after securing the Arno River, the Fifth Army planned to continue pushing north to the Gothic Line, which the Germans had established in the Appennine Mountains. At the same time, the Seventh Army was in France moving up the Rhône River. The Allied command made the decision to detach the 442nd Regimental Combat Team from the Fifth Army and send it to France to join the Seventh Army. Accordingly, the 442nd returned to Naples where they boarded transport ships for Marseilles. If the campaign from Salerno to the Arno was brutal, it was only going to get worse.

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442nd Marching in France

The 442nd arrived in Marseilles on September 30 and traveled 500 miles on foot or in boxcars up the Rhône Valley to the Vosges Mountains. In mid-October, they reached the town of Bruyeres in Northeast France, only 40 miles from Germany. Hitler had ordered that these mountains were to be defended at all costs because they were the last line of defense before Germany.

Bruyeres was a quaint little town in a valley between four hills, which the Allies labeled A, B, C, and D. To take Bruyeres, the 442nd had to take the hills. The 100th was assigned to take A and the 2nd was assigned to take B. The Germans had the high ground and and the weather on their side. The hills were more than 1000 feet high, covered with thick pine forests and shrouded in fog. A cold rain poured down.

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442nd near Bruyeres, france

After three days of fighting and repeated attacks from the Germans, the 100th took Hill A, and the 2nd Battalion took Hill B, both with the help of artillery fire from the 522nd Artillery Brigade.. The 3rd Battalion forced the Germans out of the town of Bruyeres, but they were still in control of Hills C and D. During the fight to take the remaining hills, the Germans fired at and killed a Nisei soldier on a stretcher. The audacity of the act so infuriated the Nisei that they charged up the hill and annihilated the Germans. Nearby, another wounded soldier came under attack. Robert Kuroda came to the rescue and killed a number of Germans with his rifle and grenades. He was killed, but was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, as reported earlier. https://marktroyauthor.com/2017/07/28/aloha-friday-7282017

Finally, the 442nd captured hills C and D and pushed the Germans north into a forested area called Belmont. One of the Nisei shot and killed a German officer and captured a complete set of German defense plans.

Medal of Honor

Shinyei Nakamine was born in Waianae, Oahu. Waianae is on the Leeward Coast. He enlisted in the US Army one month before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He volunteered for the 100th Infantry Battalion. Nakamine was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for advancing on enemy forces when his own unit was pinned down. He was subsequently killed during the fight. After review by the Army, the Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor Citation
Nakamine, Shinyei
Rank: Private
Unit: 100th Infantry Battalion, Company B
Born: January 21, 1920, Waianae, Hawai‘i
Died: June 2, 1944, La Torreto, Italy

Private Shinyei Nakamine distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 2 June 1944, near La Torreto, Italy. During an attack, Private Nakamine’s platoon became pinned down by intense machine gun crossfire from a small knoll 200 yards to the front. On his own initiative, Private Nakamine crawled toward one of the hostile weapons. Reaching a point 25 yards from the enemy, he charged the machine gun nest, firing his submachine gun, and killed three enemy soldiers and captured two. Later that afternoon, Private Nakamine discovered an enemy soldier on the right flank of his platoon’s position. Crawling 25 yards from his position, Private Nakamine opened fire and killed the soldier. Then, seeing a machine gun nest to his front approximately 75 yards away, he returned to his platoon and led an automatic rifle team toward the enemy. Under covering fire from his team, Private Nakamine crawled to a point 25 yards from the nest and threw hand grenades at the enemy soldiers, wounding one and capturing four. Spotting another machine gun nest 100 yards to his right flank, he led the automatic rifle team toward the hostile position but was killed by a burst of machine gun fire. Private Nakamine’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

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