On March 20, 1937, 12-year-old Kapaa Grammar School student Arthur “Jun” Saiki was standing on a bridge straddling Kapaa’s Waipouli Stream with a group of his young friends, watching a torrent of muddy storm water flow beneath him that had risen three feet, almost to bridge level.
Meanwhile, toddler George Kojima was playing upstream of the bridge on an embankment alongside the stream’s rushing waters.
Suddenly, Arthur saw little George falling into the stream, where he was carried by its strong current downstream toward the bridge.
Arthur jumped in without hesitation, grabbed hold of George — who could not swim — and with all his might raised the child’s head above water.
A split second later, as they passed under the bridge, Arthur — by an extraordinary effort of strength and will — stopped their progress downstream by grasping a plank beneath the bridge with one hand, while holding George in his opposite arm.
He then dragged himself and the nearly exhausted boy from plank to plank under the bridge, until he reached the safety of the stream’s edge.
In doing so, he saved the life of George Kojima, who most certainly would have drowned.
Over a year later, on Thursday, Sept. 15, 1938, Arthur was awarded a life saving medal by Harvey Jensen, the Department Commander of the Hawaii American Legion, at a special assembly of Kapaa Grammar School presided by Principal George Raymond in the school’s auditorium.
Manuel S. Carvalho, the Kauai American Legion Post Commander, had attempted to get a Carnegie Hero Medal for Arthur, but when he learned that the medal was not awarded outside the Mainland United States, he then set about obtaining another medal for the boy from within Hawaii.
Arthur, who passed away in 2008, went on to serve in the Army during World War II, marry Miss Nancy Iwasaki, raise a family and retire as a carpenter.
Also an Army veteran, George Kojima retired as a butcher with Kojima Store in Kapaa.