Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawai‘i

One of our favorite places on the Big Island is the Hamakua Coast, which goes from Hilo to Waipio Valley. It was once an area of sugar cane plantations, but with the end of sugar in Hawai‘i in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the area has become bedroom communities for Hilo, thriving on quaint retail and restaurants.

The coast is rugged with few good beaches, but spectacular views Also spectacular vegetation. Following are just a few of the sights.



Rainbow. Falls, Wailuku River, Hilo, Hawai‘I

Starting in Hilo, you can visit Rainbow Falls, a short distance from the city.

Honomu is one of the small towns that grew up around the sugar mill. As with many small towns in Hawai‘i, you can find a mix of ethnicity and religions. Here on the main street, a Japanese Hongwanji Buddhist temple stands next to a Catholic Church.


Hongwanji Temple, Honomu, Hawai‘I


Catholic Church, Honomu, Hawai‘I

Just past Honomu is Akaka Falls State Park, a verdant area whose main attraction is the 442 foot Akaka Falls.


Akaka Falls, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawai‘I

Waipio Valley, once the permanent residence of Hawaiian kings, has a curving black sand beach, one of the best surfing beaches on the island, but difficult to get to. The valley floor is 2,000 feet below the surrounding terrain. The road to the valley is the steepest road in the United States and traversible only with a four-wheel drive. Much of the valley is owned by Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate and preserved for its cultural significance. The few residents in the valley tend the taro farms.


Waipio Valley, Big Island of Hawai‘I

Kahuluokalae, the Monk Seal

In previous posts I told you about Kaimana, the monk seal born on Kaimana Beach in Waikiki. Kaimana was one of four pups born on Oahu this year. The most recent birth occurred on the North Shore in July. It was unnamed until now. Meet Kahuluokalae. Read about him here. Kahuluoklae joins Kaimana (female), Aka (male), and Wailea (female). All are doing fine.

Go For Broke

The Vosges Mountains

After six days of fighting to liberate the lost battalion, a battle which has become one of the top battles in US Army history, the 442nd deserved a rest. They had taken many casualties with the dead and wounded outnumbering the living. K company had 17men remaining out of 186 and I company was down to 8 of 185. They had been in non-stop combat for 16 days. Rest was not to be, however. General Dahlquist ordered the Nisei to keep pushing. A lot of German units remained through the region.

For 17 more days, the 442nd fought to secure the remainder of the Vosges forest. The entire Vosges campaign lasted 34 days including the battles at Bruyeres, Biffontaine, liberating the lost battalion, and driving the Germans from the rest of the forest. The 442nd lost 216 men killed and 856 wounded.

General Dahlquist’s command has been questioned by many. Although he accomplished much in the campaign, his victories came at considerable cost to the men he commanded. The town of Biffontaine, where many men were wounded or killed, was sparsely populated and strategically insignificant. The lost battalion would not have needed to be rescued had they not been sent to an area so far from friendly forces and away from radio contact. Although the men of the 442nd went into combat without complaint, many of the officers were of the opinion that Dahlquist considered the Nisei expendable.

Dahlquist also appeared oblivious to the suffering of the men he commanded. On November 12, Dahlquist ordered the 442nd to a review and award ceremony. He is said to have been irritated that only 18 men of K company and 8 men of I company turned out. It fell to the commanding officer to explain that most of the men were in the hospital and could not attend.


442nd RCT, Vosges Mountains, The Lost Battalion Campaign

The bravery and sacrifices of the men of the 442nd in the Vosges Mountains has been recognized by many. A commissioned painting depicting the rescue of the lost battalion hangs in the Pentagon. The towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine have erected monuments to the men of the 442nd commemorating the liberation of their towns. The road to the monument in Bruyeres has been named “The Avenue of the 442nd Infantry Regiment.” The Bruyeres monument can be viewed here.


Medals Of Honor

James K. Okubo
Born: May 30, 1920, Anacortes, WA
Death: January 29, 1967, Detroit, MI
Rank: Technician Fifth Grade
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Okubo joined the Army in May, 1943. His family was interned at the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California and late in the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. He was the only medic to receive the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor citation

Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 28 and 29 October and 4 November 1944, in the Foret Domaniale de Champ, near Biffontaine, eastern France. On 28 October, under strong enemy fire coming from behind mine fields and roadblocks, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo, a medic, crawled 150 yards to within 40 yards of the enemy lines. Two grenades were thrown at him while he left his last covered position to carry back wounded comrades. Under constant barrages of enemy small arms and machine gun fire, he treated 17 men on 28 October and 8 more men on 29 October. On 4 November, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo ran 75 yards under grazing machine gun fire and, while exposed to hostile fire directed at him, evacuated and treated a seriously wounded crewman from a burning tank, who otherwise would have died. Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo’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.


Joe M. Nishimoto
Born: February 21, 1919, Fresno, CA
Died: November 15, 1944, La Houssiere, France
Rank: Private First Class
Unit: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Nishimoto was interned at the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas. He enlisted in the Army in October, 1943.

Medal Of Honor Citation

Private First Class Joe M. Nishimoto distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 7 November 1944, near La Houssiere, France. After three days of unsuccessful attempts by his company to dislodge the enemy from a strongly defended ridge, Private First Class Nishimoto, as acting squad leader, boldly crawled forward through a heavily mined and booby-trapped area. Spotting a machine gun nest, he hurled a grenade and destroyed the emplacement. Then, circling to the rear of another machine gun position, he fired his submachine gun at point-blank range, killing one gunner and wounding another. Pursuing two enemy riflemen, Private First Class Nishimoto killed one, while the other hastily retreated. Continuing his determined assault, he drove another machine gun crew from its position. The enemy, with their key strong points taken, were forced to withdraw from this sector. Private First Class Nishimoto’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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