Swimmer Takashi “Halo” Hirose Elected to ISHOF First Japanese-American to Swim for the USA

16 year old Halo returns

from Europe a hero

in Hawaii, Honolulu

Advertiser, Sept. 29, 1938

FORT LAUDERDALE – The International
Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) announced today that Takashi
HaloHirose will become
one of seventeen (17) honorees to enter the International Swimming Hall of Fame
as the Class of 2017. Hirose is  the
fifth individual to be named for ceremonies to be held August 25-27, in Fort
Lauderdale. Previously, swimmer Wu Chuanyu (CHN), diver
Zhang Xiuwei
(CHN), long distance swimmer Walter Poenisch (USA) and photojournalist Heinz
Kluetmeier have been announced. Hirose will enter the Hall of Fame in the Pioneer
category.  The Pioneer category was
created to honor great achievements that have been overlooked by the fog of
time or special circumstances that interfered with their careers, such as
accidents, war or politics.

Its about time,says Richard SonnyTanabe, a member of
the 1956 US Olympic team and past president of the Hawaiian Swimming Hall of
Halo made a
tremendous contribution not only to Hawaiian swimming, but international
Swimming as well.

“A fitting and deserving tribute,” says Olympic gold
medalist Steve Clark. “In
his day, ‘Halo” was one of the fastest
swimmers in the world, and thanks to Julie Checkoway, author of the best
selling book, ‘The
Three Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their
Quest for Olympic Glory’ his
amazing story is being remembered.”

L to R:  Keo Nakama, Coach
Soichi Sakamoto, Takashi Hirose

Like many poor, Japanese-Americans
kids whose parents worked as laborers on Hawaiian island of Mauis
Pu’unene’s sugar plantation, he began by swimming in irrigation ditches for
fun, before joining Soichi Sakamoto’s famed “Three Year Swim Club” in
1937.  It was Sakamoto’s dream to have some of
his swimmers represent the United States, in the home of their ancestors, at
the Olympic Games in Tokyo, in 1940. One year after joining the club, at the
age 15, Hirose placed second in the 200-meter freestyle, just inches behind
future Hall of Famer and 1936 Olympic Champion Adolph Kiefer, and fourth in the
100 free at the US National AAU meet. His performance earned him a spot on a US
team that toured Europe and he was a member of the United States’ 400-meter
freestyle relay team that set a world record in Germany. Halo thus became the
first AJA (American Japanese Asian) to represent the USA in international
competition. In 1939 he was selected for the US team that toured south America.
He was a shoe-in for the 1940 Olympic team, but his and Sakamoto’s dreams were dashed be
cancellation of the Games. It was small consolation that he, along with his
Maui teammates Keo Nakama and Fujiko Katsutani were selected for the USA’s Olympic Swimming
Teams that never got to compete in 1940. 
After winning the US National 100m title in 1941 came The Three-Year Swim Club has been
optioned for possible film development. Along with Keo Nakama, Bill Smith, Jose
Balmores, James Tanaka, Charlie Oda, Fujiko Katsutani and others who trained under
Sakamoto, and used swimming to “get
away from the plantations,”
Halo Hirose brought national and international acclaim to Hawai’i
swimming. Takeshi “Halo” Hirose passed away at
the age of 79, on August 24, 2002.  He is
survived by his daughter, Sono Hirose Hulbert, who will receive his award in

LtR:US Champion relay of Sakamoto’s Maui Swim Club;

Jose Balmores, Takashi (Halo) Hirose, William Neunzig and

Kyoshi “Keo” Nakama

Pearl Harbor and
once Japanese Americans were permitted, he volunteered to fight in Europe as a
member of the 442nd “Nisei” Regimental Combat
Team. On the battlefield he gained almost as many honors as he had in swimming
events in Hawaii, the USA, South America, Germany, Austria and Hungary. A
member of a machine gun platoon through some of the heaviest fighting in France
and Italy, Hirose received five battle stars, the combat infantry badge and a
Presidential Unit Citation. In November of 1944, he contracted “trench foot” during deployment in
France and was paralyzed from the hips down. 
It was feared that he might lose his feet. Although he recovered the use
of his legs after six months in rehabilitation, he would feel the effects of “trench foot” for the remainder of
his life.  After the war, Hirose followed
his Maui teammate, Keo Nakama to the Ohio State University where he became a
three-time All-American for the Buckeyes. Although he was an NCAA champion in
the 100 free and helped Ohio State win Big Ten, NCAA and AAU team titles,
Hirose was denied his opportunity to swim in the Olympic Games in 1940 and
1944, and his war injuries no doubt affected his chances to make the US team in
1948. The story of Halo and the


International Hall of Fame, established in 1965, is a not-for-profit
educational organization located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its mission is to
promote the benefits and importance of swimming as a key to fitness, good
health, quality of life, and the water safety of all adults and children.  It accomplishes
this through operation of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a dynamic
shrine dedicated to preserving the history of swimming, the memory and
recognition of the famous swimmers, divers, water polo players, synchronized swimmers
and people involved in life saving activities and education whose lives and
accomplishments inspire, educate, and provide role models for people around the
world. For more information contact Bruce Wigo at 954-462-6536 ext. 201, or by
email bwigo@ishof.org

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