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206th Army Ground Forces Band

The 206th Army Ground Forces Band during the first formal review of the Nisei combat team at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Led by Sergeant Jun Yamamoto, the 206th Army Ground Forces Band was an important component of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Although they did not engage in combat, they had a significant role in the war. The band was responsible for bolstering the morale of the members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In addition to providing entertainment for the troops, its duty was also to maintain the traditions of military ceremonies.

The men traveled with the regiment and moved around with other units wherever they were needed. While many other band members in other Caucasian units served as litter bearers for their regiment, the 206th men did not. Although they were willing to do so, the Colonel disallowed this because each individual was essential to the band, and any losses would not be replaced. They did occasionally serve guard duty, however.1

The "Shelby Hawaiians" visit Walter Reed Hospital, giving an informal concert of Hawaiian music and dancing. Courtesy of Gretchen Van Tassel, War Relocation Authority

Referring to themselves as the “Shelby Hawaiians,” the band provided a lifeline for many of the 442nd soldiers from Hawaii, putting on song and dance shows with familiar Hawaiian music. The band members played ukulele and steel guitar and performed hula for their audience.2 Although the music recalled “home” for the Nisei from Hawaii, it was enjoyed by many other units as well.3

The band performed at variety shows, parades, formations, and church services. It also was present for more somber occasions, providing the music for the memorials of fallen soldiers.


1Edward Kanaya, Hanashi Oral History, Tape #1, 13:00, Go For Broke National Education Center website, accessed on February 13, 2015,; and Tape #2, 16:35,

2Franklin Odo, No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawaii (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004), p. 236.

3Dorothy Matsuo, From Boyhood to War: History and Anecdotes of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Honolulu, HI: Mutual Pub. Co., 1992), pp. 224-225.

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