Hawaii Swimming Legacy

Halo Takashi Hirose

__This story is about wartime and swimming. To include more than those two parts will necessarily mean a story too long. In particular, we have omitted the juice or spicy. Nevertheless, we promise adventure and romance.

__Halo was in one of the earliest replacement groups when the 100th sounded its needs. From Camp Shelby, where he was attached to Company M, 3rd Battalion, he was transported across the Atlantic. Once in Italy, his assignment was the D Company. But we are getting ahead of the saga.

__Swimming took up much of the youthful days of our acclaimed subject. Most of us know the tales of learning and practicing in the ditches of Puunene, Maui, under the guidance of renowned Coach Sakamoto. At fifteen, Halo began to claim championships as 100 meter freestylist, winning at the Hawaiian, National, Pan-American, Big Ten NCAA, and even the World in Berlin. He was member of the mythical Olympic Team, 1940-44, which was not able to show its prowess due to the war.

__Travels were many and to distant lands. Mr. Hirose swam in Austria, Hungary, Ecuador, among other places, setting a world record with a 400 meter freestyle relay team in 1938 in Germany at the tender age of sixteen. It is thought that Halo is the first AJA (American Japanese Asian) to represent our flag in international competition. A touching story is told of when, at fifteen, he was on a train from New York to Los Angeles with a few dollars. Young Takashi ate a few peanuts. A kindly porter understood his plight and gave him sandwiches several times ~ "greatest thing to happen!"

__1939 saw our champion on the US team to Pan America Games, going through Panama Canal. The coach was Mike Peppe. Upon matriculation at Ohio State in 1945 after discharge, he was coached by this same mentor.

Team-mate Keo Nakama and right, Halo Hirose

__After Pearl Harbor, UH ROTC became part of the Territorial Guard. Takashi, dressed in T-shirt, Khakis and zori, and two boys, appeared at the ROTC building They were handed Springfields with five rounds of ammo and taken to Diamond Head. But, guess what - the firing pins were missing, removed for safety purpose by rotcy. What would have ensued if the enemy had invaded Waikiki ? When all AJAs were deactivated, Halo became a fireman for a year. Then the cry for volunteers was sounded and from Washington Intermediate, he and Sunshine, with others, were herded into blacked out trucks, not knowing to where. Buddy Abreu was there to offer encouragement as he bid the boys adieu. Speculations ran rampant. However, destination was Schofield.

__As noted above, M Company was to be Halo's home base at Camp Shelby. It was a time for serious military training. There's no denial about an abundance of beer-imbibing and fun with a beckoning pair of dice. There was camaraderie with kotonks (mainland Japanese) and buddaheads (local Japanese). He and Beppu and Sunshine spent passes in and around Hattisburg and many more in New Orleans.

__So - with the heavy losses incurred by the 100th, Halo was sent overseas - to Italy and assigned to D Company. Jumping out of the truck, he was rudely greeted by Sakae Takahashi, "You damn fool!" But it was an advantage to be with the experienced soldiers. Their expertise aided the neophytes in combat. Some weeks or months passed holed up in old farm houses. Then orders came to move up.

__All the way to Auzio it was like New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July. One can imagine, with 350 guns firing round after round, lighting up the sky. The noise was relentless, but of what power it spoke! Halo's group was a machine gun platoon firing tracer bullets as targets for the big guns in the rear. The foe could only retreat. There, our young soldier sighted the first of the casualties - unbelievable, unbearable and downright scary. The 100th was first to reach Rome, but was halted to allow brass to make initial entry. The boys missed out on the greetings by the senoritas and the flowing of vino.

__Next came southern France - we know it as Bruyeres. Women collaborators had hair shorn and were paraded through the streets. Fighting in the Vosges Mountain was at night when the nose in front of you could not be seen. But a night to remember was when fried chicken and musubi were to be served for dinner. For real! The chicken made it up the hill, but the musubi, with kotonk Ariyoshi in charge was lost in the darkness and silence. When dawn broke, COLD musubi was served - and eaten with relish. That guy was so close, but was not allowed to yell out and thus, was lost! Thereafter, he went by the name Musubihead.

__In November 1944, trench feet got the better of our gunner in Southern France. Freezing and wet conditions caused toes to swell. He was unable to wear boots. Incapacitated, Halo was hospitalized from then to July the next year. Soon he was sailing into Boston, then to rehab in Illinois, to Washington and Hawaii and discharge.

__It wasn't long before we find him enrolling at Ohio State and plunging back to swimming and more traveling - Honolulu, San Diego, Columbus, Terre Haute. A treasured telegram from AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) invited Halo to the Grand Prix in Paris. A side excursion to see the Notre Dame Cathedral was made. He hobnobbed with royalty at the Grand Prix and met King Farouk's nephew, Prince Ratib, who invited Halo to Egypt. No one in his right mind will pass up the sights of Cairo, Alexandria, the Nile, Six weeks of rare hospitality was enjoyed. the adventure included leaving his last twenty dollars to the prince's friend. held at the border in Algiers, for lack of travel documents. The admiration from the prince reached untold heights.

__Stranded, once back in Paris, Halo had to wait a month to get passage on freighter back to New York. Needless to say, he was met with suspension from AAU for prolonging his trip. An opportunity to meet a beauty did not pan out when Kiyomi failed to appear at a New Year party. But the nine months spent in New York were all thrilling and memorable and romantic and total bliss.

__Graduation came in 1949 and he did more studies in Chino, California. Back home finally in Honolulu, Halo was assigned to the First Circuit Adult Probation Division. He retired in 1982, when Nihon Sport in Japan hired him to coach the company swim team. More adventure was had during the six years spent in the Land of the Rising Sun, with jaunts to Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan.

__What an endless stream of action. He could write a book. Halo regrets not being at home after the war when the boys, now turned men, started to come back to Hawaii. He felt like a stranger when they met up. The understanding is that a dear friend urged him to be attached to A - T. And the chapter is richer for it. It was a filmed history of how Mr. Hirose endeared himself to the myriad of A-T offsprings in their days of innocence, as he took the role of Santa year after year and distributed many a gift. Mahalo for the memories.

1938_____National AAU_____2nd 200m & 4th in 100m Free, 15yrs old
1939_____National AAU_____4th in 100m Freestyle
1940_____National AAU_____2nd 100m Free
1941_____National AAU_____1st 100m Free
1st 800m Free Relay: Bunmei & Keo Nakama, Jose Balmores, Halo Hirose

World War II

1945_____Ohio State University, Freshmen
1946_____Big Ten 100 yds. Free Champ, NCAA 100 yds Free Champ, OSU won Big Ten, NCAA and AAU Team Championships