Hiroshi Arisumi

Hiroshi Arisumi
Technician Fifth Grade
442nd Regimental Combat Team
232nd Engineer Company

Hiroshi Arisumi was born at his parents’ home in Olinda, Maui, Territory of Hawaii, on June 10, 1920, to Aikichi and Masu (Urata) Arisumi.  There were ten children in the Arisumi family:  sons Hiroshi, Satoji (“Butch”), Mitsuo, Masato, John Yoshio, Tadashi, and Toshio (“Joe”); and daughters Maisie, Aiko Helen, and Tokie.

Father Aikichi emigrated from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, on the Hong Kong Maru, arriving in Honolulu at the age of 18 on January 19, 1903.  Mother Masu emigrated from the village of Yonita, Kumamoto Prefecture, on the Manchuria Maru, arriving on September 28, 1915.  Aikichi worked for Worth Aiken’s horseback expedition company, giving tours to Haleakala before the summit road was built.  Hiroshi’s mother was a hostess who took care of tourists who stopped by their home.

Hiroshi later lived with his grandparents in Wailuku, so he could attend school.  Rather than going to high school, he attended the Maui Vocational School and learned carpentry.  He took a job as a carpenter for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.  By 1940, he lived with his family at Camp 6 in Kihei, where his father was the stableman in the sugar plantation stables, and Hiroshi was a carpenter for a home building contractor.

He registered for the draft on July 1, 1941, at Local Board No. 2 in Wailuku.  Hiroshi listed his father as his point of contact.  He was 5’5” tall and weighed 130 pounds.

Hiroshi enlisted on March 24, 1943, in the U.S. Army.  He was sent to the “tent city” known as Boom Town at Schofield Barracks on Oahu with other volunteers.  On March 2, they were given an aloha farewell ceremony at Iolani Palace.  On April 4, the new soldiers left on the S.S. Lurline for Oakland, California.  After arrival, they were sent by train across the US to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training.

Arisumi (second from left) with fellow 232nd men at Camp Shelby, 1943

Private Arisumi was assigned to the 232nd Engineer Company.  Following a year of basic, unit, and combat training and field maneuvers, he left Camp Shelby by train with the 442nd for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, on April 22, 1944.  They shipped out from nearby Hampton Roads to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in a large convoy of about 100 ships on May 2 and arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28.

Hiroshi fought in the Rome-Arno Campaign, entering combat on June 26 near Suvereto, north of Rome.  He later recalled that when they were at the Arno River just west of Florence, he and his fellow engineers dove into the cold water to probe for German mines using the bayonets attached to their rifles.

Arisumi in Italy, 1944

On September 27, 1944, Arisumi left Italy for France.  Once they arrived at Marseilles, they were in a bivouac area in nearby Septèmes until October 9, when they were transported north by truck convoy or rail boxcars to fight in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign.

In October-November 1944, the 442nd liberated the important rail and road junction of Bruyères, followed by Biffontaine, Belmont, and the famous “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” – the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment that had advanced beyond its support, surrounded by the enemy, and unable to extricate itself from this deadly situation.

Arisumi later recalled that in the Vosges Mountains the engineers assisted in clearing roadblocks and even building roads while under artillery and rifle fire.

Following the Vosges, Arisumi went with the 442nd for combat in the Rhineland-Maritime Alps  Campaign in Southern France.  This was also known as the “Champagne Campaign” as the men had frequent passes to Nice. 

Arisumi during the Champagne Campaign

They were in the area of Nice, Menton, and Sospel beginning on November 21, 1944.  The mission was to protect the right flank of the 6th Army Group and guard against an improbable, although possible, enemy breakthrough down the southern coast of France.  If the Germans had attacked in sufficient strength, there was nothing to stop them between the border and Marseilles except the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

The 442nd returned to Italy on March 25, 1945, for the Po Valley Campaign, leading to the end of the war in May.  The Combat Team’s presence in Italy was a closely kept secret as their mission was to crack the western anchor of the Germans’ Gothic Line, an elaborate system of fortifications hewn out of solid rock and reinforced with concrete.  The enemy’s positions were built for all-around protection and observation.

This campaign to secure the west end of the Gothic Line had initially been intended as a diversion for the Allies, as they were attacking farther east on the Italian Peninsula.  Thanks in large part to the actions of the 442nd, it turned into a full-scale attack routing the German Army and concluding with a complete breakthrough of the Gothic Line in the west of Italy.  For its part in this, the 442nd was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for the 10 days of bitter action from April 5 to 14.  On May 2, the war ended in Italy when the Germany army surrendered, ignoring Hitler’s orders to fight on.

Tec/5 Arisumi served during the occupation in Novi Ligure, Ghedi Airfield, Lecco, and finally, in the Florence/Pisa/Livorno area.  He returned to Honolulu on December 19, 1945, aboard the Army transport ship USAT Evangeline.

About his wartime service, Arisumi later recalled that all those who had signed up did not do so lightly.  They knew it was easily a one-way ticket.  While in Europe, he routinely sent his paycheck home to his family.  As he said:

I accepted inside myself that I wasn’t going to be coming home. You know, we were ready to die for our country to prove we were loyal Americans, but when we were there, we sure wanted to come home.

For his military service, Technician Fifth Grade Hiroshi Arisumi was awarded the:  Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge with one bronze oak leaf cluster, and Combat Infantryman Badge.  He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on October 5, 2010, along with the other veterans of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team.  This is the highest Congressional Civilian Medal.

Arisumi at Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Honolulu, 2010

After returning home from the war, he worked at Schofield Barracks and Pearl Harbor as a carpenter.  He became reacquainted with a former classmate from Maui, Edna Tsuneyo Narimasu – and they were married on June 27, 1947.  Over the years they raised three children.

Once back on Maui, Arisumi joined the Army Reserves, which on Maui was a construction engineer unit.  In 1952, he was offered a job at the sugar plantation company but turned it down.  At this time, he had taken a correspondence course on becoming a contractor – and he founded Arisumi Brothers construction company with his brother Mitsuo.  They built starter homes for plantation workers after the plantations stopped providing housing for their employees.  Over the years, more family members joined the company and thousands of homes on Maui were built by their firm.

One of Hiroshi’s goals was the construction of a building for the Maui veterans, which he was pivotal in accomplishing.  The Nisei Veterans Memorial Center is located in Kahului and Arisumi served as its President from 1993 to 1997 and 2003 to 2015.

His wife, Edna, died on September 9, 2000, and was buried at Makawao Veterans Cemetery.  Hiroshi later married Sue Tsuyako Fujihara, the daughter of Yosaku and Tsuneyo Fujihara of Waianae, Oahu.  She died on August 12, 2012.

In 2010, Hiroshi Arisumi was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, with gold and silver rays, by the Empire of Japan.  In 2015, he was awarded the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor) by the French government for his service in France during World War II.  He also received the Nihon Bunka Award from the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui.

Hiroshi Arisumi, about 2012

Arisumi was passionate about gardening and became well-known for producing delicious persimmons.  He was also involved in a number of nonprofit organizations.  In 2014, his children took him on a two-week trip to visit the places where he was in Italy and France during the war – particularly Anzio and Bruyères.

Hiroshi Arisumi died on March 8, 2019.  Survivors included his three children, seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren; brothers John, Mits, Tady, and Toshio, and sisters Helen Yamashige and Tokie Taira.  His funeral was held on April 6 at Pukalani Baptist Church.  He was buried on April 8 at Makawao Veterans Cemetery, Section 12, Plot 869.  His first wife, Edna, was buried with him.

Click on the following link to see his October 2, 2015, interview:

Interview with Hiroshi Arisumi – ʻUluʻulu: The Henry Kuʻualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawaiʻi (hawaii.edu)

His brothers served during the war:  Pfc. Tadashi Arisumi, 100th Battalion, A Company; Pfc. Satoji Arisumi, 100th Battalion, C Company.

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2020 and updated in 2023.

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