Urabe in uniform
Sgt. Howard Urabe

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa awarded posthumous degrees to seven Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets who were killed in action during World War II while serving with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The degrees were presented to the next-of-kin of these fallen warriors during the ROTC Spring 2012 Commissioning Ceremony on May 14.

The honorees

  • Daniel Betsui (Hanapēpē, Kauaʻi)
  • Jenhatsu Chinen (Helemano, Oʻahu)
  • Robert Murata (Honolulu, Oʻahu)
  • Grover Nagaji (Honolulu, Oʻahu)
  • Akio Nishikawa (Pāʻia, Maui)
  • Hiroichi Tomita (Wailuku, Maui)
  • Howard Urabe (Kapaʻa, Kauaʻi)

The formation of the Varsity Victory Volunteers

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 Hawaiʻi Territorial Guard, which was assigned to guard military installations on Oʻahu. A month later, members who were of Japanese ancestry were expelled from the HTG because of their ethnicity.

The students petitioned Delos Emmons, the military governor of the Territory of Hawaiʻi, and were allowed to form a civilian labor battalion that became known as the Varsity Victory Volunteers. The VVV dug ditches, built roads and military installations, strung barbed wire and broke rocks at Kolekole quarry

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 announced that the university would honor these seven men by awarding them posthumous degrees.

“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,” said Hinshaw.

This story was adapted from a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa news release.