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Joe Hayashi

Salinas, California, US

U.S. Army

SGT, 442nd Regimental Combat Team

4/22/1945, Tendola, Italy

Medal of Honor citation:

Private Joe Hayashi distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 20 and 22 April 1945, near Tendola, Italy. On 20 April 1945, ordered to attack a strongly defended hill that commanded all approaches to the village of Tendola, Private Hayashi skillfully led his men to a point within 75 yards of enemy positions before they were detected and fired upon. After dragging his wounded comrades to safety, he returned alone and exposed himself to small arms fire in order to direct and adjust mortar fire against hostile emplacements. Boldly attacking the hill with the remaining men of his squad, he attained his objective and discovered that the mortars had neutralized three machine guns, killed 27 men, and wounded many others. On 22 April 1945, attacking the village of Tendola, Private Hayashi maneuvered his squad up a steep, terraced hill to within 100 yards of the enemy. Crawling under intense fire to a hostile machine gun position, he threw a grenade, killing one enemy soldier and forcing the other members of the gun crew to surrender. Seeing four enemy machine guns delivering deadly fire upon other elements of his platoon, he threw another grenade, destroying a machine gun nest. He then crawled to the right flank of another machine gun position where he killed four enemy soldiers and forced the others to flee. Attempting to pursue the enemy, he was mortally wounded by a burst of machine pistol fire. The dauntless courage and exemplary leadership of Private Hayashi enabled his company to attain its objective. Private Hayashi’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.

Based on recollections from family members:

Uncle Joe was athletic, playing football and baseball. He loved the outdoors with surf fishing, fresh water fishing and hunting quail as his hobbies. He was active in the Boy Scouts with Troop 41 of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church. He took kendo at the Japanese Cultural Center. He also enjoyed raising pigeons. He was also mechanically inclined, fixing cars and building his own boat. Uncle Joe was an innovative person as my Aunt Chiye and Uncle Sei recall, bottling his own root beer. Uncle Sei remembers root beer bottle caps popping off at night.

Uncle Joe was remembered as being friendly, good-humored, straightforward and a fair person. He had many friends. He was not afraid of speaking his mind or defending himself or others as he did get in occasional fights. His leadership abilities were already well-defined in his youth.

Uncle Sei recalls that uncle Joe used to hang-out with Max Robinson, the brother of Jackie Robinson, on the playgrounds near Pepper Street in Pasadena. Max Robinson later participated in the 1936 Olympics.

Uncle Joe enlisted in the Army in March 1941. He was initially stationed at the Presidio, then went to Fort Sheridann, IL for 3 years, and then to Camp Shelby, MS. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant after leaving the Presidio and became a drill sergeant for Company K of the 442nd RCT at Camp Shelby. Uncle Joe was originally scheduled to go home on furlough at the end of 1941. He was informed that his furlough papers were ready to be picked up on Friday, 12/5/1941. However, he decided to wait until the following Monday to pick up his papers. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 12/7/1941 resulting in his orders being frozen. Due to the state of war declared against Japan on 12/8/1941 and the extreme prejudice already in existence against those of Japanese ancestry, Joe along with other Japanese American soldiers were actually held as prisoners-of-war at Fort Stockton in the latter part of 1941.

Uncle Joe was able to visit his family at the barbed-wire confines of Heart Mountain several times during the war. He also kept in touch through letters between his visits. Aunt Chiye recalls that Joe still remained very cheerful and friendly during his visits and doesn’t recall any comments about his family’s internment.

Uncle Joe’s stepfather began suffering from liver cancer after arriving at Heart Mountain. Several months before Joe’s stepfather passed away in December 1944, Uncle Joe contacted the American Red Cross to arrange better medical attention for his stepfather. Late one night, an ambulance secretly arrived at the camp and shuttled Joe’s stepfather and Uncle Sei to a hospital in Billings, MT, about an hour and a half away. He spent several hours at the hospital but the doctors could do nothing for him. The ambulance took him back to Heart Mountain. This event really showed the integrity, character and compassion, that Uncle Joe embodied.

Uncle Joe was cited for valor and heroism. He was shot by German sub-machine gun fire on 4/22/1944 and succumbed to his wounds out on the battlefield on April 23, 1944. He remained alive for several hours before expiring, and did not wish to be rescued in order to prevent his fellow soldiers from being fired upon by the Germans. Had Uncle Joe received medical attention, there is a possibility that he could have survived WW II.


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