Private First Class Kiyoshi K. Muranaga, USA (June 26, 1944)

Kiyoshi K. Muranaga was born in Los Angeles, California on February 16, 1922 to Japanese immigrant parents. An American citizen by birth, he was living in Gardena, California when he was interred with his family in the Granada War Relocation Center in Colorado.

Records indicate he was drafted into the United States Army on May 29, 1943 and he was trained as a mortarman and placed in Company F, 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all-Nisei (second generation Japanese-American) unit. The 442nd RCT’s first day in combat was seventy years ago today, June 26, 1944. They had recently been united with the pioneer Nisei army unit, the 100th Infantry Battalion.

As Muranaga and his comrades moved into the attack near Suvereto (Belvedere), Italy, they came under heavy fires from Nazi German forces in strongly fortified positions, including by an 88mm gun. His mortar squad leader ordered them to withdraw due to their exposed position, but he stayed at his weapon and attempted to destroy the 88mm gun single-handed.

Kiyoshi Muranaga’s first – and only – day of combat was one of the greatest of our Nation’s history.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

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Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*MURANAGA, KIYOSHI K.

Private First Class Kiyoshi K. Muranaga distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 26 June 1944, near Suvereto, Italy. Private First Class Muranaga’s company encountered a strong enemy force in commanding positions and with superior firepower. An enemy 88mm self-propelled gun opened direct fire on the company, causing the men to disperse and seek cover. Private First Class Muranaga’s mortar squad was ordered to action, but the terrain made it impossible to set up their weapons. The squad leader, realizing the vulnerability of the mortar position, moved his men away from the gun to positions of relative safety. Because of the heavy casualties being inflicted on his company, Private First Class Muranaga, who served as a gunner, attempted to neutralize the 88mm weapon alone. Voluntarily remaining at his gun position, Private First Class Muranaga manned the mortar himself and opened fire on the enemy gun at a range of approximately 400 yards. With his third round, he was able to correct his fire so that the shell landed directly in front of the enemy gun. Meanwhile, the enemy crew, immediately aware of the source of mortar fire, turned their 88mm weapon directly on Private First Class Muranaga’s position. Before Private First Class Muranaga could fire a fourth round, an 88mm shell scored a direct hit on his position, killing him instantly. Because of the accuracy of Private First Class Muranaga’s previous fire, the enemy soldiers decided not to risk further exposure and immediately abandoned their position. Private First Class Muranaga’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Kiyoshi Muranaga posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross originally for his heroism. In the late 1990s, a review of service records identified him as one soldier who had been denied proper recognition due to racial discrimination.

The Medal of Honor he so justly deserved was presented to his family on June 21, 2000 at the White House by President Bill Clinton. Muranaga rests in peace in the Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles.

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