JAN 1, 1932: Yetsuo Higa hangs with the big boys

On this date in 1932, young Yetsuo Higa added to his growing legend.

Higa ran five miles in 30 minutes, 25.6 seconds to finish third in the annual Diamond Head run. The event was a largely military affair, but Higa helped his Leilehua Mules won the civilian trophy aided by teammates Raymond Chinen and Yunjo Tanaka. Six Mules finished in the top 25.

Higa, who was born in Honokaa, was regarded as one of the best athletes in Wahiawa at the time, winning a free-throw challenge with 19 out of 20 when it was an event in track and field and excelling in baseball.


Higa’s athletic exploits were a small part of his legacy when he died in 2000.

Three years after graduating from Leilehua, Higa joined his father’s trucking business when he wasn’t starring in various baseball leagues. He eventually took over the business and grew it from one truck to 75 with branches in Guam, Tokyo, Okinawa, Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong and Paris.


He was also credited with opening some of the first Pepsi-Cola bottling plants and Domino’s Pizza stores in Japan. He also brought the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees to Hawaii and Japan for exhibition tours.

A story repeated in each obituary on him claims that Higa sent his trucks to Pearl Harbor to haul away debris on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 only to be turned away because he was Japanese-American.


He eventually was cleared to help and when the Navy called him to ask for the bill, he declined it and called it his duty to help his country.

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