Masato Nakae was born in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii on December 20, 1917. He was drafted into the United States Army on February 8, 1942 and volunteered for duty with the all-Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) 100th Infantry Battalion, later part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
In action near Pisa, Italy on August 19, 1944, Nakae dropped his own damaged weapon, took a rifle from a wounded comrade and single-handedly beat back a Nazi attack, continuing his stand even after being wounded himself.
At the time, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The 1990’s review of Japanese-American service records determined that he was one of those who were denied proper recognition due to racial discrimination and his decoration was elevated on June 21, 2000 to our nation’s highest: the Medal of Honor.
Citation: Private Masato Nakae distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 19 August 1944, near Pisa, Italy. When his submachine gun was damaged by a shell fragment during a fierce attack by a superior enemy force, Private Nakae quickly picked up his wounded comrade’s M-1 rifle and fired rifle grenades at the steadily advancing enemy. As the hostile force continued to close in on his position, Private Nakae threw six grenades and forced them to withdraw. During a concentrated enemy mortar barrage that preceded the next assault by the enemy force, a mortar shell fragment seriously wounded Private Nakae. Despite his injury, he refused to surrender his position and continued firing at the advancing enemy. By inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy force, he finally succeeded in breaking up the attack and caused the enemy to withdraw. Private Nakae’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.
Sadly, Masato Nakae did not live to receive personally the recognition he so justly deserved. He passed away on September 4, 1998 and was laid to rest in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.