James K Okubo

Anacortes, Washington, US

U.S. Army

Tech 5, 442nd Regimental Combat Team

1/29/1967, Detroit, US


Medal of Honor citation:

Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 28 and 29 October and 4 November 1944, in the Foret Domaniale de Champ, near Biffontaine, eastern France. On 28 October, under strong enemy fire coming from behind mine fields and roadblocks, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo, a medic, crawled 150 yards to within 40 yards of the enemy lines. Two grenades were thrown at him while he left his last covered position to carry back wounded comrades. Under constant barrages of enemy small arms and machine gun fire, he treated 17 men on 28 October and 8 more men on 29 October. On 4 November, Technician Fifth Grade 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 died. Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo’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.

Okubo’s family was living in Bellingham, Wash., when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. They were first taken to Tule Lake relocation camp in California and finally relocated to the camp at Hart Mountain in Wyoming.

On May 20, 1943, just 10 days shy of his 23rd birthday, Okubo volunteered for the Army and was sent to Camp Shelby for basic training. He was trained as a medic and was attached to K Company during the fierce campaign against the Germans in France in October 1944. His commanding officers had put in for a Medal of Honor for Okubo. But the medal was downgraded to a Silver Star. Some said it was because Okubo was just a medic and not eligible for any higher award.

But Ed Ichiyama, a fellow 442nd RCT veteran who helped collect material for a review of Okubo’s records, said “mortar and artillery shells don’t discriminate, and it doesn’t matter if you are a medic and a noncombatant. The shells were bursting overhead, and despite all of that, he risked his life to administer to the needs of the wounded.”

Senator Akaka of Hawaii described Okubo’s heroism as “an inspiration to all who believe in duty, honor and service to one’s country. … He is a shining example of the sacrifices made by so many other Asian-Pacific Americans during World War II, who served our country so ably in spite of the difficulties they faced as members of a suspect minority.”

James Okubo died at age 47 in a traffic accident and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan.

James’ portrait is also on poster 11