American Forces Press Service
Photos Courtesy Individual Families
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2000 Perhaps the greatest tribute
22 World War II Asian American Medal of Honor recipients can receive
comes from a soldier who saw the war from the perspective of the
a special Medal of Honor luncheon June 21 at the Washington Hilton
Hotel, Army Secretary Louis Caldera recalled for the audience
the words of wartime "The Stars and Stripes" newspaper
cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who wrote admiringly after the war of
the Japanese American soldiers he'd seen:
"No combat unit in the Army could exceed [them] in loyalty,
hard work, courage and sacrifice. Hardly a man of them hasn't
been decorated at least twice, and their casualty lists were appalling....
A lot of us in Italy used to scratch our heads and wonder how
we would feel if we were wearing the uniform of a country that
mistreated our families. Most of us came to the conclusion that
we would be pretty damn sulky about it, and we marveled at those
guys who didn't sulk ... and showed more character and guts per
man than any 10 of the rest of us ... . We were proud to be wearing
the same uniform."
next day, June 22, when Caldera inducted the 22 heroes into the
Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, he said, "We will never forget
Barney Hajiro,whose uphill charge against heavy
fire in the forests of eastern France remains legendary even among
his battle-hardened comrades.
"His was among many outstanding acts of bravery during the
famous battle to rescue the 'Lost Battalion' (the Texas National
Guard 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment), which had been
encircled by the enemy and was in imminent danger of annihilation,"
Caldera said. "In that fearful engagement, the 442nd Regimental
Combat Team suffered about 800 casualties to save 211 Texans
four Nisei soldiers killed or wounded for each fellow soldier
was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor on Oct. 19, 22 and 29,
1944, near Bruyeres and Biffontaine, France.
said America should never forgetTech.
Sgt. James K. Okubo, a medic a noncombatant
who took his duty to care for the wounded so seriously
that time and again he dashed and crawled across open field to
rescue injured men at the front line. He shielding them with his
body from withering machine gun fire and mortar attack even as
he treated them and carried them to safety.
Medal of Honor was bestowed on Okubo for heroism on Oct. 28 and
29, and Nov. 4, 1944, with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team near
Biffontaine, France. According to his citation, "Under constant
barrages of enemy small arms and machine gun fire, Okubo treated
17 men on Oct. 28 and eight more on Oct. 29. On Nov. 4, Okubo
ran 75 yards under grazing machine gun fire and, while exposed
to hostile fire directed at him, evacuated and treated a seriously
wounded crewman from a burning tank, who otherwise would have
recalled the sacrifice of Pfc.
Kiyoshi Muranaga,a 442nd Regimental Combat Team
mortarman who held his position as his company dispersed and sought
cover from enemy gunfire.
exposing his position to the enemy, he called down his own death
as he dueled one-on-one, but hopelessly outmatched, with the heavier
artillery of a deadly German 88 mm self-propelled gun in order
to protect his comrades," Caldera said. Muranaga was killed
when an 88 mm shell scored a direct hit on his position. His heroic
actions took place on June 26, 1944, near Suvereto, Italy.
"And we will never forget the many others represented here
today who, on distant shores, on countless battlefields, risked
all they hold dear to carry out their duty," the secretary
exploits of the nation's 22 newest Medal of Honor recipients are
not widely known, though the heroes in their time were recognized
with Distinguished Service Crosses, the second highest valor award.
Now upgraded to Medal of Honor status following a military review
of their records and President Clinton's approval, however, their
names are indelibly etched into the annals of military and American
Mikio Hasemoto,100th Infantry Battalion,
distinguished himself on Nov. 29, 1943, near Cerasuolo, Italy.
About 40 enemy soldiers armed with machine guns, machine pistols,
rifles and grenades attacked the left flank of his platoon. When
two enemy machine gunners advanced on him, Hasemoto, an automatic
rifleman, challenged them, firing four magazines before his weapon
was hit and damaged. He ran 10 yards to the rear, secured another
automatic rifle and continued to fire until his weapon jammed.
Hasemoto and his squad leader had killed about 20 enemy soldiers.
Hasemoto ran through a barrage of enemy machine gun fire to pick
up an M-1 rifle. He and the squad leader killed 10 more enemy
soldiers. With only three enemy left, the two GIs charged forward,
killed one, wounded another and captured the third. The next day,
Hasemoto was killed while repelling an enemy attack.
Shizuya Hayashi,100th Infantry Battalion, was cited
for heroism on Nov. 29, 1943, near Cerasuolo, Italy. During a
flank assault on high ground held by the enemy, he rose alone
in the face of grenade, rifle and machine gun fire. Firing his
automatic rifle from the hip, he charged an enemy machine gun,
killing seven enemy in the nest and two more as they fled. The
platoon then advanced about 200 yards when an enemy anti-aircraft
gun opened fire on the men. Hayashi returned fire, killing nine
enemy soldiers, capturing four and forcing the others to flee.
Sgt. Yeiki Kobashigawa,100th
Infantry Battalion, distinguished himself in action on June 2,
1944, near Lanuvio, Italy. During an attack, his platoon encountered
strong enemy resistance from a series of machine guns. Observing
a nest about 50 yards away, he crawled forward with one of his
men, threw a grenade and then charged the enemy with his submachine
gun while a fellow soldier provided covering fire. He killed one
enemy soldier and captured two prisoners.
as Kobashigawa and his comrade took the first nest, another machine
gun opened fire on them from 50 yards ahead. Directing a squad
into the captured position, Kobashigawa and another soldier advanced
against the second gun. After throwing grenades into the position,
he provided cover fire while his comrade charged and captured
four prisoners. Discovering four more machine gun nests, he led
a squad in neutralizing two of them.
Infantry Battalion, distinguished himself on July 7, 1944, near
Castellina, Italy. While serving as first scout, Moto observed
a machine gun nest that was impeding his platoon. Making his way
to within 10 paces of the hostile position, he killed the enemy
gunner, but came under fire from the assistant gunner. Crawling
to the rear of the position, Moto surprised the enemy soldier,
who quickly surrendered.
his prisoner with him, Moto holed up near a house and guarded
it to prevent the enemy from using it as an observation post.
Observing an enemy machine gun team moving into position, he opened
fire and forced them to flee.
enemy sniper in another house severely wounded Moto. Applying
first aid to his wound, he eluded sniper fire and made his way
to the rear for treatment. As he crossed a road, he spotted an
enemy machine gun nest and opened fire, wounding two of the three
soldiers occupying the position. He advanced on the nest, ordered
the enemy to surrender and opened fire when he received no answer.
The enemy soldiers then quickly surrendered.
Masato Nakae,100th Infantry Battalion, was
cited for heroism on Aug. 19, 1944, near Pisa, Italy. When his
submachine gun was damaged by a shell fragment during a fierce
attack, Nakae quickly picked up a wounded comrade's M-1 rifle
and fired rifle grenades at the steadily advancing enemy. He also
threw six grenades and forced the enemy to withdraw. Seriously
wounded by shrapnel during an enemy mortar barrage, Nakae refused
to surrender his position and continued firing at the advancing
enemy. He inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, breaking up
the attack and causing the enemy to withdraw.
Shinyei Nakamine,100th Infantry Battalion,
received the Medal of Honor for valor June 2, 1944, near La Torreto,
Italy. When his platoon was pinned down by intense machine gun
crossfire, Nakamine crawled within 25 yards of one position and
then charged it firing his submachine gun, killing three enemy
soldiers and capturing two.
that afternoon, Nakamine discovered an enemy soldier on the right
flank of his platoon's position. Crawling 25 yards, Nakamine opened
fire and killed the enemy. Then, seeing a machine gun nest about
25 yards to his front, he led an automatic rifle team against
it. Under covering fire, he crawled to within 25 yards of the
nest and neutralized it with hand grenades, wounding one enemy
soldier and capturing four. He was leading the automatic rifle
team against a second nest about 100 yards to his right when he
was killed by a burst of machine gun fire.
William K. Nakamura, 442nd Regimental Combat
Team, distinguished himself in action on July 4, 1944, near Castellina,
Italy. During a fierce firefight, his platoon was pinned down
by enemy machine gun fire from a concealed position. Nakamura
crawled about 20 yards toward the hostile nest with enemy machine
gun fire barely missing him. When he was about 15 yards from the
enemy's position, he quickly raised to a kneeling position and
blasted the nest with a hail of hand grenades.
his company was ordered to withdraw from the crest of a hill so
that a mortar barrage could be placed on the ridge, Nakamura remained
in position to cover his comrades' withdrawal.When deadly machine
gun fire pinned down the company, Nakamura crawled within range
of the enemy position and opened fire, pinning down the machine
gunner. The unit completed its withdrawal, but Nakamura was killed
during his heroic stand.
Sgt. Allan M. Ohata,100th Infantry Battalion,
was cited for heroism on Nov. 29 and 30, 1943, near Cerasuolo,
Italy. Ohata, his squad leader and three other men were ordered
to protect their platoon's left flank against an attacking force
of 40 men, armed with machine guns, machine pistols and rifles.
He posted an automatic rifleman 15 yards to his left, and together
the team delivered effective fire against the enemy. The automatic
rifleman called for assistance when his weapon was shot and damaged.
his own safety, Ohata sprinted through heavy machine gun fire,
reached his comrade's position, immediately sprayed 10 enemy soldiers
and successfully covered the man's withdrawal to replace his damaged
weapon. Ohata and the automatic rifleman held their positions
and killed some 37 enemy. Then the men charged and captured the
three remaining soldiers. Later, the two stopped another attacking
force of 14, killing four and wounding three while the others
fled. The next day, the two men again held their ground against
waves of enemy soldiers and staved off all attacks.
Sgt. Kazuo Otani,442nd Regimental Combat
Team, was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism on July 15, 1944,
near Pieve Di S. Luce, Italy. Otani's platoon was attacking a
hill when pinned down in a wheat field by concentrated fire from
enemy machine gun and sniper fire. Realizing the danger confronting
his platoon, Otani left his cover and killed a sniper who was
firing with deadly effect upon his men. Then, followed by a steady
stream of machine gun bullets, he dashed across the open field
toward the cover of a base of a cliff. Directing his men to crawl
to the safety of his position, he decoyed enemy gunners as they
opened fire on the advancing GIs.
Organizing his men to guard against a possible enemy counterattack,
Otani again made his way across the open field, shouting instructions
to stranded men while continuing to draw enemy fire. Reaching
the rear of the platoon position, he took partial cover in a shallow
ditch and directed covering fire for the men who had begun to
When one of his men was seriously wounded, he ordered the rest
to remain under cover. Otani crawled to the wounded soldier, who
was lying on open ground in full view of the enemy. Dragging the
wounded soldier to a shallow ditch, Otani was killed by machine
gun fire while administering first aid to the soldier.
Sgt. Ted T. Tanouye, 442nd Regimental Combat
Team, distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action
on July 7, 1944, near Molino A Ventoabbto, Italy. Tanouye led
his platoon in an attack to capture the crest of a strategically
important hill that afforded little cover or concealment. Noticing
an enemy crew placing a machine gun to his left front, Tanouye
crept forward and opened fire, killing or wounding three and causing
two others to flee. An enemy soldier immediately opened fire on
him with a machine pistol, but missed. Tanouye returned the fire
and killed or wounded three more enemy soldiers.
advancing forward, Tanouye's left arm was severely wounded by
grenade bursts. Sighting an enemy-held trench, he raked the position
with submachine gun fire and wounded several enemy troops. Running
out of ammunition, he crawled about 20 yards to obtain several
clips from a comrade on his left flank. He then sighted an enemy
with a machine pistol who had pinned down his men. Tanouye crawled
forward a few yards and threw a hand grenade into the position,
silencing the pistol fire.
then located another enemy machine gun firing down the slope of
the hill, opened fire on it and silenced that position. Drawing
fire from a machine pistol nest above him, he opened fire on it
and wounded three of its occupants. Finally taking his objective,
Tanouye organized a defensive position of the reverse slope of
the hill before accepting first aid treatment and evacuation.
Joe Hayashi,442nd Regimental Combat Team,
was presented the Medal of Honor for gallantry on April 20 and
22, 1945, near Tendola, Italy. Ordered to attack a strongly defended
hill that commanded all approaches to the village of Tendola,
Hayashi led his men to a point within 75 yards of enemy positions
before they were
detected and fired upon. After dragging his wounded comrades to
safety, he returned alone and exposed himself to small arms fire
in order to direct and adjust mortar fire against hostile emplacements.
attacking the hill with the remaining men of his squad, Hayashi
attained his objective and discovered that the mortars had neutralized
three machine guns, killed 27 and wounded many others.
attacking Tendola two days later, Hayashi maneuvered his squad
up a steep terraced hill to within 100 yards of the enemy. Crawling
under intense fire to a hostile machine gun position, he threw
a grenade, killing one enemy soldier and forcing the other members
of the gun crew to surrender.
four enemy machine guns firing on his platoon, he knocked out
one nest with a grenade and engaged a second, killing four enemy
soldiers and forcing the rest to flee. Attempting to pursue the
enemy, Hayashi was mortally wounded by a burst of machine pistol
Joe M. Nishimoto,442nd Regimental Combat
Team, was cited for heroism on Nov. 7, 1944, near La Houssiere,
France. After three days of unsuccessful attempts by his company
to dislodge the enemy from a strongly defended ridge, Nishimoto,
as acting squad leader, crawled forward through a heavily mined
and booby-trapped area. Spotting a machine gun nest, he hurled
a grenade and destroyed it.
to the rear of another nest, he knocked it out with point-blank
submachine gun fire. Pursuing two fleeing riflemen, Nishimoto
killed one and captured the other. He then drove a third crew
from its position. The enemy force, their key strong points taken,
withdrew from that sector.
Sgt. Yukio Okutsu,442nd Regimental Combat
Team, distinguished himself in April 1945 on Mount Belvedere,
Italy. While his platoon was halted by the crossfire of three
machine guns, Okutsu crawled through heavy fire to within 30 yards
of one emplacement and destroyed it with two hand grenades. Crawling
and dashing from cover-to-cover, he silencing a second machine
gun with a grenade and then advanced on the third through heavy
small arms fire when he was stunned momentarily by glancing rifle
fire off his helmet.
recovered quickly and charged several enemy riflemen with his
submachine gun, forcing them to withdraw. He then rushed a fourth
gun nest from the flank and captured the weapon and its crew.
His singlehanded actions enabled his platoon to resume its assault
on a vital objective.
Frank H. Ono,442nd Regimental Combat Team,
was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor on July 4,1944, near
Castellina, Italy. In attacking a heavily defended hill, Ono's
squad was caught in a hail of fire from well entrenched enemy
soldiers. Ono opened fire with his automatic rifle and silenced
one machine gun 300 hundred yards to his front.
Advancing through incessant fire, Ono killed a sniper and, while
the squad leader reorganized the platoon in the rear, defended
the critical position alone. A burst of enemy machine pistol fire
wrenched Ono's weapon from his grasp as enemy troops closed on
him. Hurling hand grenades, he forced the enemy to retreat and
defended his position until the rest of the platoon arrived.
Taking a wounded comrade's rifle, Ono again joined in the assault.
He boldly ran through withering automatic, small arms and mortar
fire to render first aid to his platoon leader and a seriously
wounded rifleman. When the platoon was ordered to withdraw, Ono
occupied virtually unprotected positions near the crest of the
hill, engaging an enemy machine gun on an adjoining ridge and
exchanging fire with snipers armed with machine pistols.
Disregarding his own safety, he made himself the constant target
of concentrated enemy fire until the platoon reached the comparative
safety of a draw. He then descended the hill in stages, firing
his rifle, until he rejoined the platoon.
George T. Sakato,442nd Regimental Combat
Team, distinguished himself in action on Oct. 29, 1944, near Biffontaine,
France. After his platoon destroyed two enemy defense lines, during
which Sakato killed five enemy soldiers and captured four, the
unit was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Disregarding the enemy
assault, he made a one-man rush that encouraged his platoon to
charge and destroy the enemy stronghold.
His squad leader killed, Sakato took charge and continued his
relentless tactics. He used an enemy rifle and pistol to stop
an organized enemy attack, killing 12 enemy, wounding two, capturing
four and assisting in taking 30 other prisoners. His gallantry
and fighting spirit turned impending defeat into victory and helped
his platoon complete its mission.
Lt. Daniel K. Inouye,now a U.S. senator,
was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism on April 21, 1945,
in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended
ridge guarding an important road junction, Inouye directed his
platoon through a hail of automatic weapons and small arms fire
to capture an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to
within 40 yards of the hostile force. The enemy, emplaced in bunkers
and rock formations, halted the advance with crossfire from three
Inouye boldly crawled up the treacherous slope to within five
yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying
it. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized
a second machine gun nest with submachine gun fire.
Although wounded by a sniper's bullet, he continued to engage
other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade
shattered his right arm. Despite intense pain, he refused evacuation
and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was
broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions.
Lt. Rudolph B. Davila,7th Infantry, was
honored for heroism on May 28, 1944, near Artena, Italy. During
the offensive that broke through the German mountain strongholds
surrounding the Anzio beachhead, (then staff sergeant) Davila
risked death to provide heavy weapons support for a beleaguered
Caught on an exposed hillside by heavy fire from a well-entrenched
enemy force, his machine gunners were reluctant to risk putting
their guns into action.
Davila crawled 50 yards to the nearest enemy machine gun nest
and opened fire on the enemy from the kneeling position, ignoring
return fire that struck his tripod and passed between his legs.
Ordering a gunner to take over, he crawled forward to a vantage
point and directed fire with hand and arm signals until both hostile
machine guns were silenced.
Bringing his three remaining machine guns into action, he drove
the enemy back 200 yards. Though wounded in the leg, he dashed
to a burning tank and engaged a second enemy force from its turret.
Dismounting, he advanced 130 yards in short rushes, crawled 20
yards and charged into an enemy-held house and eliminated the
five defenders with a hand grenade and rifle fire. Climbing to
the attic, he straddled a large shell hole in the wall and opened
fire on the enemy. Although the walls of the house were crumbling,
he continued to fire until he had destroyed two more machine guns.
Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda,442nd Regimental Combat
Team, earned his Medal of Honor on Oct. 20, 1944, near Bruyeres,
France. While leading his men in an effort to eliminate snipers
and machine gun nests, Kuroda encountered heavy enemy machine
gun fire from a heavily wooded slope. Unable to pinpoint the nest,
he maneuvered under fire toward the crest of the ridge and located
it. He then advanced to within 10 yards of the nest and killed
three enemy gunners with grenades. He fired all his rifle ammunition,
killing or wounding at least another three of them.
As Kuroda expended the last of his ammo, he saw an American officer
felled by machine gun fire from an adjacent hill. He rushed to
the officer's aid, but found the man was already dead. Picking
up a submachine gun, he advanced through continuous fire to the
second machine gun emplacement and destroyed it. As he turned
to fire on other enemy soldiers, he was killed by a sniper.
Francis B. Wai,34th Infantry, was honoredfor
valor on Oct. 20, 1944, at Leyte, the Philippines. Wai landed
at Red Beach, Leyte, in the face of accurate, concentrated enemy
fire from gun positions in a palm grove bounded by submerged rice
paddies. Finding the first four waves leaderless, disorganized
and pinned down on the open beach, he immediately assumed command.
Disregarding heavy enemy fire, he moved inland without cover through
the rice paddies. The men, inspired by his cool demeanor and example,
followed him. During his advance, Wai repeatedly pinpointed enemy
strong points by exposing his position and drawing their fire.
He was killed while leading an assault on the last Japanese pillbox
in the area.
Ten of the 22 Asian American Medal of Honor recipients survived
the war, though three have died in the interim. The seven living
recipients honored in Washington were Davila of Vista, Calif.;
Hajiro of Waipahu, Hawaii; Shizuya Hayashi of Pearl City, Hawaii;
Inouye of Honolulu, Hawaii; Kobashigawa of Waianae, Hawaii; Okutsu
of Hilo, Hawaii; and Sakato of Denver.
"The blessings of freedom and prosperity that we all enjoy
today are your legacy," Caldera told the seven. "You
are the Private Ryans not the mythical Private Ryans of
the silver screen, but the real life Private Ryans or better
said, the Private Hayashis and Sergeant Okutsus who saved
the world from tyranny and oppression.