Son of Hawaii all-star returns father's Japanese rifle prize

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Dec 06 2012 11:06:00 PM HST

A war relic is headed back to its homeland in Japan.

HONOLULU -

"Anyone who's been in battle recognizes there are great sacrifices made on both sides," said Queen Lilioukalani Trustee and former Hawaii judge Tom Kaulukukui.

"It's been in my family for nearly 70 years," he told KITV reporter Lara Yamada, holding the rifle his father gave him so many years ago.

But nearing the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kaulukukui realized it was time to tell its story and return it home.

"He played a number of sports," he said of his father Tom Kalukukui Sr. 

He was an outstanding athlete in Hawaii, an All-American who played many sports including football, baseball and volleyball.

By the end of World War II, he was on his way to Japan.

His team would win the Army Pacific Championship in Tokyo, but it was the prizes that stunned them the most.

"The team was taken to a room where he said there was a pile of captured Japanese weapons and they were told take whatever they want," said Kaulukukui.

"This translates to Okazaki Naval Air Group," read Japan American Society of Hawaii President Ed Hawkins.

When he heard of the story, he wanted to help.

He learned that soon-to-be kamikaze pilots trained with that type of rifle.

Hawkins, along with the help of a friend, found a museum for it in Kanoya, Japan.

"About half of all the Kamikaze missions launched against the U.S. Fleet flew from Kanoya," said Hawkins.

"Somebody had this at a garage sale in Kailua," said Fort DeRussy Army Museum historian Sheldon Tyau, who was pointing to a rare bomber site in a glass case.

He said the war artifacts and collector's items are the reason so many people visit Hawaii's Fort DeRussy museum.

"The Pacific battles were some of the fiercest that were fought. These were kids that were 17, 18, 19 years old," he said.

The rifle was only here briefly at Fort DeRussy museum, but it was the perfect place for a handing over ceremony.

The halls are filled with memorabilia from past wars and from the people who served in them.

"I was moved to send it back to Japan because it represents the courage of their soldiers. It didn't take long to figure out it's the right thing to do," said Kaulukukui.

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