Toshiyuki Nakasone
1399th Engineer Construction Battalion

GI Bill

Toshiyuki is discharged in January 1946.

With the aid of the GI Bill and wages from part-time jobs, he resumes studies at the University of Hawaii (UH).

Among more notable changes at UH is the change in the male-female ratio. With many returning veterans not yet on campus, women outnumber men. Among the women is Grace Tsugawa whom Toshiyuki marries after graduation in 1947.

He earns his fifth-year diploma in education in 1948.

I don’t know the exact date [I was discharged] but it was the first week of January 1946. And then the second semester had started at the university in February, I think, so that’s when I went back to school.

So the timing was perfect. [I went under the GI Bill] and I stayed at A [Atherton] House.

No ceremony [when we were discharged]. We just had a regular discharge and get our discharge paper and leave. But I don’t recall if they gave us any kind of a discharge cash. Just about when we were ready to go out, then some new recruits started to come in, too.

Cost of Education

[Before the war] I used to work three hours every day on campus making a fabulous seventy-five cents a day, twenty-five cents an hour. But then in those days twenty-five cents go a long way. That was for my [room] and board but my tuition came from my parents, I guess.

We used to work in the Pioneer Mill Company then Baldwin Packers Company but every paycheck all went to my mom and she was the one that kept track of all finances. She was the one that provided all the financial help that we needed.

But I knew also that when I went to university I went to apply for some kind of a program where you apply to work and then that was the one that I worked for three hours a day, every day.

Toshiyuki Nakasone. University graduation photo.
Toshiyuki Nakasone. University graduation photo.

[The GI Bill] took care of my tuition and some of my — the housing at Atherton House. But I also used to go to the YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association] to work at night. The YMCA used to be located at Nuuanu, the one right in town. Good thing the bus went right by Atherton House and straight to the YMCA.

I used to open the YMCA for night, from about six to nine o’clock. And I would close the place and then go home. Then on weekends, when they had some kind of program for the young kids, like swimming and gym, I used to go and work. So that kind of helped too but most of it is when I went home for summer.

I used to work with Baldwin Packers. I used to work in a cannery. Most of us in Lahaina, we used to work for the sugar plantation first. But that was very cheap pay, twenty-five cents a day. And we wait to go to the pineapple fields to pick pineapple and that was, I think like thirteen or fourteen cents an hour.

We just waited to get into the cannery where they were paying twenty-three to twenty-five cents an hour, you see. I think that was the routine we all had growing up in the plantation community. Same with my brother, they all went through the process.

[I didn’t consider going to a Mainland college] because while I was in the service, my brother [Nobu] decided to go to University of Hawaii and he was thinking about getting into medicine. And so my mother and my dad used to always tell us to keep as much money as you can and whatever you don’t need, send ’em home.

So we used to send home. Even when I was in the service, I used to send money home whenever I could because we had a place to sleep and we had food. So I sent money.

You see when [Nobu] got accepted to go to Harvard, that was in 1943 — he also had volunteered to go into 442nd, see. That’s when 442nd I think started recruiting. But when he got accepted to go to Harvard he decided to go to school instead. Of course he went into the service after he did his internship. But because he accepted to go to Harvard and Harvard is Ivy League school, they don’t offer scholarships, yeah. So we all contributed in helping him to finance his college education.

Even after I got married, we contributed as much as we could.

Returning to University of Hawaii

[I was out of school for] almost 3½ years. It was kind of an adjustment in a way.

The first thing is, not too many men on the campus. Many of [the men] didn’t come back yet, like the 442nd people didn’t come back [to the university] until the following year, I think.

In fact when I went back to TC [Teachers College] and took this secondary education class, Dr. [Robert] Clopton. In the class of about thirty, only three of us men, the rest were all wahines.

That’s where I met my wife [Grace Suzuko Tsugawa].

Grace and Toshiyuki Nakasone. UH Graduation. 1947.
Grace and Toshiyuki Nakasone. UH Graduation. 1947.

But anyway, that was when we were in the class and when we were discussing anything about school programs and Clopton would ask me, “Oh, Toshi, you want to be a coach, what are you going to coach?” and stuff like that. I said, “I don’t know. I just looking forward to coaching, I don’t know whatever sport it is.”

I enjoyed his class and he was another professor who I got to know pretty good. After that semester was over, he called me in and he said, “I’m glad you came, and I’m glad you gonna go and continue education, and from my understanding of what you’ve been doing, I think you’re gonna be a very successful coach.” That’s what he told me. So I said, “Oh, thank you.”

Student Teaching at Central Intermediate School

My senior year, I did my student teaching at Central Intermediate School and my supervisor was Ralph Kiyosaki, the state superintendent of schools [1967 – 70]. After I finished that, I really learned a lot from him. I graduated in [19]47 and got my teaching degree.

I went to summer school to start working for my fifth-year diploma.

Then, I was scheduled to go and teach on the Big Island when my former Sunday school teacher, Carl Weimer who was principal at Kahuku [School], we were in a philosophy class together. And he asked me if I had my assignment, I said, “Yeah, I’m going to Kohala.” He said, “Would you like to go to Kahuku?” I said, “Gee, by all means,” so I did sign up to go to Kahuku.


I married after I graduated, June 1947. I met [my wife Grace] a year-and-a-half earlier and she was in education too, see.

Wedding photo. Toshiyuki Nakasone and Grace Tsugawa.
Wedding photo. Toshiyuki Nakasone and Grace Tsugawa.

Farrington High School

[Prior to Kahuku], I did my fifth-year certificate through my teaching experience at Farrington [High School], the first semester, with Mildred Kosaki.

She was my supervisor. She was another wonderful supervisor. And I continued my teaching at Farrington that year because the guy that was supposed to be there didn’t come back from military service until the following semester.

So that’s when I went to Kahuku in 1948.

Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.

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