On July 4, 1944 two Privates First Class of the regiment went above and beyond the normal call of duty in the face of our Nazi German enemies and received our Nation’s highest honor.
William Kenzo Nakamura was born in Seattle, Washington on January 21, 1922. He enlisted in the United States Army on July 27, 1943 from the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho where he had been interred with his family with the deportation of Japanese-Americans from the west coast of the United States.
Both men were soldiers with Company G, 2nd Battalion of the 442nd. Seventy years ago today, they both covered their comrades in solo stands under withering enemy fires at Hill 140 near Castellina, Italy.
*NAKAMURA, WILLIAM K.
Citation: Private First Class William K. Nakamura distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 4 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. During a fierce firefight, Private First Class Nakamura’s platoon became pinned down by enemy machine gun fire from a concealed position. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura crawled 20 yards toward the hostile nest with fire from the enemy machine gun barely missing him. Reaching a point 15 yards from the position, he quickly raised himself to a kneeling position and threw four hand grenades, killing or wounding at least three of the enemy soldiers. The enemy weapon silenced, Private First Class Nakamura crawled back to his platoon, which was able to continue its advance as a result of his courageous action. Later, his company was ordered to withdraw from the crest of a hill so that a mortar barrage could be placed on the ridge. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura remained in position to cover his comrades’ withdrawal. While moving toward the safety of a wooded draw, his platoon became pinned down by deadly machine gun fire. Crawling to a point from which he could fire on the enemy position, Private First Class Nakamura quickly and accurately fired his weapon to pin down the enemy machine gunners. His platoon was then able to withdraw to safety without further casualties. Private First Class Nakamura was killed during this heroic stand. Private First Class Nakamura’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.
Nakamura’s remains were repatriated to the United States. He rests in peace in his hometown’s Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park.
*ONO, FRANK H.
Citation: Private First Class Frank H. Ono distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 4 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. In attacking a heavily defended hill, Private First Class Ono’s squad was caught in a hail of formidable fire from the well-entrenched enemy. Private First Class Ono opened fire with his automatic rifle and silenced one machine gun 300 hundred yards to the right front. Advancing through incessant fire, he killed a sniper with another burst of fire, and while his squad leader reorganized the rest of the platoon in the rear, he alone defended the critical position. His weapon was then wrenched from his grasp by a burst of enemy machine pistol fire as enemy troops attempted to close in on him. Hurling hand grenades, Private First Class Ono forced the enemy to abandon the attempt, resolutely defending the newly won ground until the rest of the platoon moved forward. Taking a wounded comrade’s rifle, Private First Class Ono again joined in the assault. After killing two more enemy soldiers, he boldly ran through withering automatic, small arms, and mortar fire to render first aid to his platoon leader and a seriously wounded rifleman. In danger of being encircled, the platoon was ordered to withdraw. Volunteering to cover the platoon, Private First Class Ono occupied virtually unprotected positions near the crest of the hill, engaging an enemy machine gun emplaced on an adjoining ridge and exchanging fire with snipers armed with machine pistols. Completely 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. Private First Class Ono’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.
Ono survived the war and left the Army still as a Private First Class. He passed away at age 56 on May 5, 1980 and today rests in peace in the Highland Cemetery of North Judson, Indiana.
Both Nakamura and Ono were originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their heroism. Their awards were upgraded to the Medal of Honor in the 1990’s review of Japanese-American service records to identify those men whose proper recognition was denied due to racial discrimination. Their surviving families received their Medals at the White House from President Bill Clinton on June 21, 2000.