OSAKA, Japan – Kiyoshi Inaoka recalled as a young Japanese orphan looking up at a tall figure towering over him. As his eyes focused, he saw a pale-faced man, wearing a tan, brown shirt adorned with shiny medals and a unique taro leaf cloth patch with a yellow lightning bolt patch sewn on his shoulder.
Sixty-five years later, Inaoka returned to the Holy Family Home orphanage here, where he had spent his youth, to raise a glass to toast the arrival of six U.S. Army Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 27th Infantry Regiment, historically named the “Wolfhounds.” In 1957 the Wolfhounds welcomed Inaoka and three other orphans to Hawaii. The orphans were greeted by Hawaiian dignitaries and U.S. Army Wolfhound Soldiers and it created a lifetime memory for Inaoka, who would also be the first child to be adopted to a family outside of Japan, 8 years after the first Wolfhound discovered the orphanage.
“Even though the Soldier I met 65 years ago is not here, but the generations of the same Wolfhounds are here today,” he said. “It makes me happy to be here with you today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget what Wolfhounds have done for me and the Holy Family Home.”
The Soldiers traveled from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the Aloha Osaka tradition.
The start of something meaningful
The relationship began in 1949, when the tall U.S. Soldier assigned to the regiment, stationed in Japan, visited the orphanage. Then Sgt. 1st Class Hugh O'Reilly was taken back at the deplorable conditions in the home, which had children with little food, clothing and inadequate housing.
Born in 1914, O'Reilly, a New York native, enlisted at 18 and spent most of his time in Hawaii and New York before leaving the Army in 1941. Upon the United States’ entry into World War II, he quickly enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Guadalcanal, New Caledonia and Guam with an anti-aircraft unit. In 1948 he enlisted in the Army where he was assigned to the fabled 27th Infantry Regiment.
After visiting the orphanage the same day, O’Reilly requested help and donations from members of the Wolfhound units and raised $143, which he donated to the orphanage. He subsequently organized his Wolfhound company to adopt the orphanage to further support them. For the next six months, he and other members of the company would help repair the orphanage.
“The charity and selflessness that SGM O’Reilly began 73 years ago transformed an idea continues to this day that invigorates and drives a unique culture into the spirit of every Wolfhound Soldier today,” said 1st Lt. Samuel Pool, an infantry officer assigned to the regiment’s 1st Battalion.
Holy Family Home- A Community home
A few years later, the O’Reilly and the 27th Infantry Regiment deployed to the Korean peninsula during the Korean War. However, O’Reilly continued the tradition of supporting the home while in Korea and in 1951 he managed to collect nearly $10,500 in donations for the home.
The orphanage is currently home to approximately 180 children, 30 of whom are infants. It is comprised of employees and volunteers. Local community member and business’ also provided support to make this event happen.
“This couldn’t have been possible without support from the local businesses, community, staff and anonymous doners that also helped us to bring about this landmark event, according to Alan Okami, president, Peace Bridge. Peace Bridge was not formed until 2007 after Hugh O'Reilly, Sr. passed away.
This year, however, Peace Bridge wanted to bring more joy to more than just a few children. They wanted all the children in the orphanage to see Hawaii. They instead hosted the "Hawaii in Osaka" and invited the Wolfhounds to continue the long-storied tradition.
“On behalf of the Wolfhounds, we would like to thank the Holy Family Home, Peace Bridge, U.S. Army Japan, U.S. Consulate General, the Osaka City Council, the Wolfhound Association to help making this possible,” said Pool. “This is one of the most important and longest-lasting civil-military relationships in Japan and U.S. Army history and it continues because of your hard work.”
A New Wolfpack- Same hunger… for something more meaningful
Throughout the ages the images of young Soldiers protecting, and safeguarding children always bring a sense of peace and a sense of purpose for them in a faraway land, said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Aguilar, a native of the Philippines and an infantryman with 2nd Bn., 27th Inf. Reg. “It's being a part of something bigger than yourself and seeing the happiness of the kids makes it that much more special.”
With the combined efforts, donations and coordination from Peace Bridge, Wolfhound Association, Soldiers, family members of the 27th Inf. Reg. and the support of the Army leadership in U.S. Army Pacific, U.S. Army Japan and 25th Inf. Div., the Wolfhounds and Peace Bridge were able to bring some of the ‘Aloha Spirit’ to the children.
“Since 1949, through numerous wars, deployments, recessions, natural disasters, typhoons and now a pandemic, no matter what difficulties we will face, the Wolfhounds will continue to fight 110% to keep this tradition alive,” said Pool. “I can speak confidently that every Wolfhound wishes they could be here right now.”
As the American Wolfhound Soldiers towered over the young orphans, they hear something of amazement. A U.S. Army Soldier speaking to them in their native language. "Good morning, my name is Pool, it is very nice to meet you,” said the leader to the Wolfpack in fluent Japanese.
The staff and children look at each other as if they couldn't believe it was him talking. Pool, lived in Japan when his family was stationed here as a child and attended a Japanese school and learned the language.
As the children were coloring and participating in some games, activities and coloring they slowly moved closer to the Wolfhound Soldiers and began talking, smiling and laughing.
“Having to follow Covid-19 protocols for the past 2 1/2 years, this was an event that was well received by the children,” said Wayne Takahashi, treasurer of Peace Bridge. “The smiles on the faces of the children as they participated in the activities and received prizes and their personalized Wolfhound t-shirts was priceless.”
On Christmas day in 1949, one Wolfhound Soldier, who wanted to bring peace and love to the children of the Holy Family Home in Japan.
“The Wolfhounds commitment to Holy Family Home has continued every year since to ensure at least one gift is presented to each child,” said Takahashi. “During the two years following COVID-19, the Wolfhounds still sent over 30 boxes of gifts to ensure each child had one gift on Christmas Day.
This bond ultimately created one of the most important legacies in the U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Regiment history, which has never faltered.
“The real gift is the Soldiers being here spending time with the children,” said Huge O’Reilly Jr., son of SGM O’Reilly and vice president of Peace Bridge. “The Soldiers are the heroes, and you can see all around the orphanage are images of the Wolfhounds from the last 73 years and the children will remember this day for their rest of their lives.”
For more information on the history of SGM O’Reilly and how to donate or provide support for the Peace Bridge organization, visit www.peace-bridge.org.
If you are past or present Wolfhound Soldier please visit the 27th Infantry Regimental Historical Society at www.wolfhoundpack.org