Asa Asami Higuchi
442nd Regimental Combat Team
2nd Battalion, Headquarters Company
Asa Asami Higuchi was born on January 3, 1924, in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. He was the second child of four born to Sadami and Chie (Matsushita) Higuchi. His siblings were Lucille Yukiye, Patty Sakiko, and Harold Tatsumi. Sadami and Shizue emigrated from Kiguchi District, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. Sadami arrived in Honolulu on November 11, 1910, on the Siberia Maru. Sadami later returned to Japan and accompanied his bride-to-be on the Korea Maru, arriving on October 27, 1914. They were married the next day, on October 28, at the U. S. Immigration Station in Honolulu. Sadami worked for the OR&L Company (Oahu Rail & Land) on King Street. In 1930, he was working as an Express Truck Driver. He later retired from Mid-Pacific Institute where he was a gardener.
Asami attended McKinley High School, where he was on the swim team. During his senior year, he was among the group of students who donated blood weekly to the Honolulu Blood-Plasma Bank. He was also named auditor of the school newspaper. He graduated in the Class of 1942 on June 7, where he and another student were in charge of the processional and recessional for the commencement program. Shortly thereafter, he registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, at Local Board No. 2, 3563 Waialae Avenue. At the time he was employed at Hawaiian Pineapple Company. He lived at 2997-A Kalakaua Avenue; his point of contact was Kameki Araki of 3101 Pacific Heights Road, Honolulu. He was 5’6” tall and weighed 130 pounds.
Ace, as Asami was known, enlisted in the Army on March 24, 1943. At that time, he had completed one year of college. He was sent to Boom Town, the “tent city” at Schofield Barracks where all the recent volunteers were housed. On March 28, they were given an aloha farewell ceremony by the community at Iolani Palace. On April 4, they left on the S.S. Lurline for San Francisco. After arriving on the mainland, Asami and the rest of the new soldiers were sent by train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training, arriving on April 18. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, Headquarters Company.
After a year of basic and specialized training and military exercises, they left by train for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, on April 22, 1944. On May 2, the 442nd left from nearby Hampton Roads in a convoy of over 100 troop ships.
Right – Asami with his cousin Shuichi Swanee Tomita in January 1944
Once in the Mediterranean, the ships carrying the bulk of the 2nd Battalion dropped out of the convoy and steamed into Oran, on the coast of North Africa, to discharge cargo. The other ships arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28. It is not known in which of these groups Higuchi was traveling.
The battalion spent a week at a staging area in Bagnoli, near Naples, before leaving on LSTs for Anzio on June 6, where they marched five miles to a bivouac area. From Anzio the 442nd went to a large bivouac area near Civitavecchia, north of Rome, where they went through additional training and final preparations for going to the front lines. The ships that had stopped in Oran arrived on June 17, going through the same processing as the other units that had arrived earlier.
The 442nd entered combat on June 26 near Suvereto in the Rome-Arno Campaign. During the summer, while the Combat Team was in the town of Vada on a break from the front lines, Ace was one of eleven 442nd men chosen to represent Fifth Army at the Allied Swimming Championships held in Rome. The 442nd team won the Mediterranean Theater title against competition that included former Olympic and national champions from all the Allied armed forces in the theater.
Higuchi participated in all the action seen by the 442nd in Italy. They left for France on September 27, 1944.
Once they arrived in Marseilles, the Combat Team was in a bivouac area in nearby Septèmes until October 9, when they were transported north to participate in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign. In October-November, the 442nd liberated the important road junction of Bruyères, followed by Biffontaine and the famous “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” – the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment that had advanced beyond its support, become surrounded by the enemy, and was unable to extricate itself.
Following the Vosges, Ace went with the 442nd for participation in the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign in Southern France. They were in the area of Nice, Menton, and Sospel beginning on November 21. The 442nd returned to Italy on March 25, 1945, for the Po Valley Campaign, leading to the end of the war in May.
Left: Asami and Elburn Reed, Rome Colosseum, summer 1944
During the occupation of Italy, Ace again participated in the 442nd swim team – giving an exhibition at the British troop’s “swanky” Kingfisher Club in Milan.
For his wartime service, Staff Sergeant Asa Asami Higuchi was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars; World War II Victory Medal; Army of Occupation Medal; Combat Infantryman Badge; and Distinguished Unit 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.
Ace returned home to Hawaii on December 17, 1945, on the USAT Aconcagua, arriving at 8:30 a.m. at Pier 26 in Honolulu. He was one of 551 veterans aboard the ship. Hundreds of family and friends gathered to greet the soldiers; however, they were quickly put on buses that took them to the Army Separation Center at Fort Kamehameha. Later in the day they were given passes and were to return in a few days for discharge from the Army. The Army had announced that access to Fort Kamehameha was not restricted and anyone going there in search of their returning veteran would be given assistance in finding him.
Right: Larry Higuichi, Senior Class 1949
Higuchi soon returned to his studies at the University of Hawaii (UH). He was in the ROTC program at UH and rose to the rank of Major. The UH unit spent the summer of 1948 training at Fort Lewis, Washington, where Ace earned a Sharpshooter Medal for expert marksmanship. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Psychology on June 14, 1949, and began working for the State of Hawaii Department of Public Welfare. He later went on to earn graduate degrees in Social Work.
On January 20, 1951, Ace married Edna Yoshiko Imahiro in Honolulu; they had two children – one boy and one girl. In 1979, he retired from the University of Hawaii as Associate Dean of Administrative Affairs. He then worked for the East-West Center at UH and retired from full-time employment in 1983, although he continued some part-time work until 1986.
Left: Higuchi in his later years
In the post-war years, he was an active member of the 442nd Veterans Club.
Asa Asami Higuchi passed away on July 22, 2021, and was buried with his wife, who predeceased him in 2008, in Diamond Head Memorial Park, Section A-66-C2. He was survived by his two children and one grandchild.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team with assistance from the Higuchi family in 2021.