Moriso Teraoka
100th Infantry Battalion

Military Enlistment

After graduating from high school in 1942, Moriso works for the Hilo Sugar Company in Wainaku.

In 1943, the War Department announces it is forming an all Nisei combat team. Moriso walks to Hilo to volunteer. He is the only one from his camp to enlist.

The Big Island volunteers travel to Honolulu by steamship, where they join the 442nd RCT. A few days later, the 442nd sails to the mainland on board the Lurline for basic training.

[The following text is excerpted from "My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" and "Mother's Hands" by Moriso Teraoka and Go For Broke National Education Center's oral history interview of Moriso Teraoka (Go For Broke)]

I made a huge leap to adulthood in March of 1943. The United States had declared war against Japan in December of 1941 after Japan’s surprise attack of Pearl Harbor. The War Department decided to allow Japanese Americans to form a Regimental Infantry Combat Team.

I had graduated from high school in 1942 and was a general mill worker at Hilo Sugar Company in 1943. On that particular day in March, I walked to the draft board in Hilo from Wainaku after the day’s work was done at the mill. I volunteered to join the army. I never discussed my intention with anyone. I was the only one in the camp to volunteer.

Moriso Teraoka and an unidentified young girl in yard of Wainaku home before he was inducted in the Army. Hilo, Hawaii. March 1943.
Moriso Teraoka in yard of Wainaku home before he was inducted in the Army. Hilo, Hawaii. March 1943.

Father’s Reaction


My father must have been sick in his stomach when he found out but then, you know, he accepted my decision.

I know after the war my mother told me, oh, he couldn’t sleep for many days. He never said anything.
(Go For Broke)

Sennin Bari

Mother’s love sent me off with a waistband with one thousand stitches she had collected from one thousand women. Every stitch represented the spiritual support of the seamstress, with hopes of my safe return from the war. She must have asked every woman in our plantation and surrounding community, and her Buddhist temple members for their spiritual knot on the waistband. She must have asked Japanese strangers on the sidewalks in Hilo town to garner and fill the belt with red threaded knots on a band of white muslin cloth several layers thick.

This was a cultural practice extended to loved ones who went off to war. Originating in Japan, their soldier received from their loved one this sennin bari to protect the wearer during combat.

I always carried my sennin bari in my backpack or stored away in my duffle bag throughout my service days. Who is to say that the sennin bari did not protect me from harm’s way?

Many of my comrades had such a belt from their mothers, too.

Departure

The day before I was to leave plantation life, Father asked me to go to every family in our Japanese community and ask them to watch over my parents. “Doozo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu,” are the words I said.

All the volunteers from the Big Island boarded the inter-island steamship Hualalai on March 22, 1943, and docked at Honolulu Harbor the next day. Still seasick, we were marched to the grounds of Iolani Palace and sworn into the army. We then hiked back to the train at the former Oahu Railroad Station across from Aala Park, and rode back to Schofied Barracks the same evening.

Shortly thereafter, the entire contingent of volunteers sailed to the mainland on board the Lurline, which was converted into a troopship.

"My Legacy: The Inheritance of a Will" and "Mother's Hands" are reprinted with the permission of Moriso Teraoka. Excerpts of Moriso Teraoka's oral history transcript are courtesy of the Go For Broke National Education Center. Photographs courtesy of Moriso Teraoka.

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