In the late 1990s, the United States Army began a review of the service records of Japanese-Americans who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor during World War II to determine if any of them had been denied the Medal of Honor due to racial prejudice.
Two of the soldiers whose decorations were found to be insufficient and thus upgraded to our nation’s highest honor were Yeiki Kobashigawa and Shinyei Nakamine, who fought as part of the all-Nisei (born Japanese-Americans and citizens, sons of Japanese immigrants) 100th Infantry Battalion attached to the 34th Infantry Division in Italy on June 2-3, 1944.
Yeiki Kobashigawa (born September 28, 1917 in Hilo, Hawaii) was a Technical Sergeant and one of his platoon’s senior non-commissioned officers when he was instrumental in taking out four Nazi machine gun positions both by his individual heroism and his inspiring leadership under fire.
Citation: Technical Sergeant Yeiki Kobashigawa distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 2 June 1944, in the vicinity of Lanuvio, Italy. During an attack, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa’s platoon encountered strong enemy resistance from a series of machine guns providing supporting fire. Observing a machine gun nest 50 yards from his position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa 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. Meanwhile, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa and his comrade were fired upon by another machine gun 50 yards ahead. Directing a squad to advance to his first position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa again moved forward with a fellow soldier to subdue the second machine gun nest. After throwing grenades into the position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa provided close supporting fire while a fellow soldier charged, capturing four prisoners. On the alert for other machine gun nests, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa discovered four more, and skillfully led a squad in neutralizing two of them. Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa’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.
Kobashigawa later received an officer’s commission and was promoted to Second Lieutenant. He was still living and received his Medal of Honor from President Bill Clinton at the White House on June 21, 2000. Kobashigawa passed away on March 31, 2005 and was laid to rest in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Shinyei Nakamine (born January 21, 1920, in Waianae, Oahu, Hawaii) was a rifleman who also charged several enemy machine gun positions, destroying two and killing several enemy soldiers before he was slain.
Citation: Private Shinyei Nakamine distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 2 June 1944, near La Torreto, Italy. During an attack, Private Nakamine’s platoon became pinned down by intense machine gun crossfire from a small knoll 200 yards to the front. On his own initiative, Private Nakamine crawled toward one of the hostile weapons. Reaching a point 25 yards from the enemy, he charged the machine gun nest, firing his submachine gun, and killed three enemy soldiers and captured two. Later that afternoon, Private Nakamine discovered an enemy soldier on the right flank of his platoon’s position. Crawling 25 yards from his position, Private Nakamine opened fire and killed the soldier. Then, seeing a machine gun nest to his front approximately 75 yards away, he returned to his platoon and led an automatic rifle team toward the enemy. Under covering fire from his team, Private Nakamine crawled to a point 25 yards from the nest and threw hand grenades at the enemy soldiers, wounding one and capturing four. Spotting another machine gun nest 100 yards to his right flank, he led the automatic rifle team toward the hostile position but was killed by a burst of machine gun fire. Private Nakamine’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.
Private Nakamine’s remains were repatriated to the United States and to his home of Hawaii. He is also buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.