Island History for Friday, August 5, 2011

Born and raised in Hanapepe and educated at Mid-Pacific Institute and the University of Hawai‘i, Army Captain Richard Betsui (1909-1994) served with the Office of Strategic Services, Detachment 101, in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II.

A forerunner of the CIA, the OSS, led by William “Wild Bill” Donovan, was created as a U.S. intelligence agency during the war with the mission of carrying out espionage activities behind enemy lines.

In the China-Burma-India Theater, Detachment 101 soldiers parachuted behind Japanese enemy lines into remote areas to organize resistance groups that ambushed patrols, rescued downed American pilots, cleared jungle landing strips, blew up bridges, rail lines and supply dumps, and cut off supply and communication lines. Detachment 101 also interrogated prisoners.

Betsui’s introduction to the OSS began with a talk given to him and over 100 other 442nd Regimental Combat Team volunteers by Dr. Daniel Buchanan at Camp Shelby, Miss., in July 1943.

Buchanan asked: “You are being recruited for a special dangerous mission in the Far East … A mission more hazardous than combat, so hazardous that it may be a one-way street. Do you still want to volunteer?” Not one soldier wavered.

Of those 100 Nisei volunteers, Betsui was among 23 selected to undergo OSS training in Illinois, Minnesota and Catalina Island. The training included Morse code, radio operation and repair, Japanese language, and Ranger tactics and techniques.

Only Betsui and 13 others successfully completed training and were sent to India, where they were assigned classified missions with Detachment 101 in China, Burma and India, with Betsui serving in India and Burma. 

After World War II, Betsui married Doris Mikasa and they raised three daughters.  He taught high school math on O‘ahu and was vice principal of Waialua High School and Leilehua Intermediate and High School.

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