PUHI — Four generations of Ikito “Ike” Muraoka’s family were on hand Saturday when the 100/442 Regimental Combat Team veteran was inducted as Chevalier into France’s National Order of the Legion of Honor Saturday during ceremonies hosted at the packed-to-overflowing social center at the Regency at Puakea.
“For our generation, it’s so hard to realize what they went through,” said John Mihara, one of Muraoka’s grandchildren, who flew in from Oahu for the award that was presented by Guillaume D. Maman, the Honorary Consul of France in Hawaii.
La Legion D’Honneur Decoration is the highest French Order of merit for military and civil merits and was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, explained Theresa V. Tilley Maman, Guillaume’s wife. She served as hostess for the ceremony that included the participation of the French, American, and Hawaii anthems, and Kauai dignitaries joining to proclaim Saturday as Ikito “Ike” Muraoka Day.
“This is a special recognition,” Theresa said. “There are only a handful of World War veterans, including celebrated generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, and Admiral Chester Nimitz that have been inducted into the National Order of the Legion of Honor.”
For Guillaume, the presence of four generations was especially appreciated because the Legion of Honor serves as a model for future generations.
Muraoka, who will celebrate his 98th birthday in October, served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion that contributed to the World War II liberation of France during the Rhineland-Vosges.
“Ike was 18 years old for only two days when he entered southern France to save a group of Texas soldiers,” Theresa said. “These soldiers were known as ‘The Lost Battalion’ and were stranded for days on a ridge surrounded by German soldiers. Imagine having your birthday on Oct. 17, then having to enter battle two days later on Oct. 19.”
Ike, the youngest of 10 children born to Hiroki and Fui Muraoka, immigrated from Kumamoto, Japan. He was inducted into the Army in March, 1943 and trained as an infantry assault rifleman assigned to I Company, 3rd Infantry Battalion, 442nd RCT, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. He became attached to the Medical Detachment of the 100th Battalion as a combat medic after being trained in combat medical training following his arrival in the European Theater.
“The 100th/442nd were successful in rescuing The Lost Battalion,” said Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami. “But they lost 800 men along the way. Ike’s wartime service eventually earned him a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and the Congressional Gold Medal that was awarded to all members of the 100th/442nd, and the Military Intelligence Service.”
Kawakami said following the War, Ike continued to serve others and his community in Hawaii with humility and dedication.
Following his education at the Honolulu Business College and getting married to his wife Yoneko Nancy Arakaki, Ike returned to Kauai where he started his post-war career as the assistant paymaster for Clark-Halawa Rock Company. He became the chief clerk at Young Brothers and went on to serve as an officer in the Kauai Police Department for 16 years.
His tenure with KPD led him to work with one of the court judges — Norito Kawakami — whose family had launched the Big Save Markets grocery store chain
“Judge Kawakami invited Ike to join the family business,” the mayor said. “Ike worked long days and weeks, eventually working his way to become the vice president of finance, and serving on the company’s board of directors before retiring. But Ike was not done serving the community. He became the first former police officer to be appointed by Eduardo Malapit to the Kauai County Police Commission where he served for eight years, two as its chairman.”
Ike, who lost Nancy in August 2018, has two daughters — Victoria Kiikuni (Gary), and Patricia Mihara (Ronald), grandchildren Marisa Sugano (David), and John Mihara (Kori Nishi), and one great grandchild, Megan Sugano.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.