Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
Choyei Oshiro was born in Haiku, Ulumalu, Maui, Territory of Hawaii, on March 5, 1923. He was one of six sons and one daughter of Nagaushi Chogiu and Uto (Higa) Oshiro. His parents emigrated from Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Chogiu was a laborer for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company; first on Maui, then on Lanai.
Choyei was educated at Lanai Elementary and High School. His siblings were: brothers Danny Nobuo, Chiyoshi, Richard Masaichi, Chogoro, and Choroku; and sister Doris Kameko.
Before entering the service, he was a tractor operator for Hawaiian Pineapple Co., Ltd. on Maui. Choyei registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, at Local Board No. 6, Lanai County Courthouse. He listed his father as his employer, and he worked for the Hawaiian Pineapple Corporation, Ltd. He was 5’2” tall and weighed 110 pounds.
Choyei Oshiro enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 24, 1943, at Wailuku, Maui. His civilian occupation was listed as “Semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers / bus, taxi, truck, and tractor.” He was sent to the “tent city” at Schofield Barracks with the other recruits. They were given a farewell aloha ceremony by the community on March 28 at Iolani Palace. On April 4, the new soldiers left on the S.S. Lurline for San Francisco enroute to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. After basic training, Choyei was assigned to 3rd Battalion, I Company.
After a year of training, the 442nd left Camp Shelby for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, on April 22, 1944. They shipped out to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in a large convoy of troop ships on May 2 and arrived in Naples, Italy, on May 28.
Choyei fought in the Rome-Arno Campaign, entering combat on June 26 near Suvereto. After fighting north up the Italian peninsula, the 442nd was sent to Marseilles, France, on September 27 to join in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign.
On October 10, 3rd Battalion was moved by rail from the staging area in Septemes, just outside Marseilles, up the Rhone Valley, north 500 miles to the battle front in northeastern France. They arrived in the assembly area at Charmois-devant-Bruyères at midnight on October 13. At 2:00 p.m. the next day, the Combat Team began moving into position to attack and drive the Germans out of the important road center of Bruyères the following morning.
After several days of intense fighting, the enemy had been cleared from the town and its surrounding hills, and on October 23 the 442nd was ordered to take the next town, Biffontaine. Finally on October 24 they were taken off the front lines and put in reserve in nearby Belmont for a rest after eight days of heavy fighting, little to no sleep, harsh weather conditions, and many casualties.
In the afternoon of October 26, the short rest was abruptly ended when the 442nd was ordered to go into the lines the next morning and fight through to rescue the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment. After moving too fast and over-reaching its support, they had become surrounded on three sides by the Germans. Attempts by the 141st and other units to free it had been unsuccessful, so the 442nd was called in.
The next few days saw intense combat to break through to the “lost battalion.” On October 29, 1944, the 100th and 3rd Battalions attacked at dawn. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting in the steep, forested hillside of the Vosges was slow-going; the Germans had dug in and controlled the high ground. Artillery fire was heavy and casualties on both sides were very high. By the end of the day, I Company had lost 5 killed and 40 wounded. It was during this fight that Private First Class Choyei Oshiro was killed.
According to his older brother, Pfc. Richard Masaichi Oshiro of I Company: “I didn’t see any of the 1st Squad boys. I found out they had been either wounded or killed. I felt sick. I also heard Sam Oshiro had been killed by tree-burst shrapnel about the same time as my kid brother.”
T/Sgt. Walter Tamotsu Okumoto, known as Joe, later recalled: “On VE Day…no one jumped around or celebrated or even yippeed….we just sat on our helmets without a word, each deep in his own thoughts. My thoughts were of Noboru Sakamoto, killed in Italy; Choyei Oshiro and Sam Oshiro, not related, killed in France in the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.” All three of them were in our squad…during basic training in Camp Shelby and during combat – we were a team. It was hard to lose buddies with whom we had trained and had become so attached to; our bond to each other was as great as that of blood brothers. Their deaths were and still are hard to accept.”
Pfc. Choyei Oshiro was interred at the U. S. Military Cemetery in Epinal, France.
For his military service, Private First Class Choyei Oshiro was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, 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.
In 1948, the remains of Americans buried overseas began slowly to return to the US, if the family so wished. As a result, on April 21, 1949, Pfc. Choyei Oshiro arrived home. The USAT Sergeant Jack J. Pendleton brought back 134 men, arriving at Honolulu Harbor’s Kapalama Basin. There were hundreds of family and friends present to attend the dockside service. The Secretary of Hawaii, Oren E. Long, officiated, the 264th Army Band played, and military Chaplains participated. One of the Chaplains was Hiro Higuchi, who had served in the 442nd with the men who were returning home that day. The caskets were stored in the Army mausoleum at Schofield Barracks pending final burial arrangements.
Pfc. Choyei Oshiro was interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl at 1:30 p.m. on July 28, 1949, Section D, Site 364. He was one of 20 war dead buried at Punchbowl that day. His government grave marker was ordered on January 13, 1950, from West Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
Choyei’s brother Richard Masaichi Oshiro also served in I Company, 442nd RCT.
Original Biography prepared by Americans of Japanese Ancestry World War II Memorial Alliance, and provided courtesy of Japanese American Living Legacy (http://www.jalivinglegacy.org/).
Researched and rewritten by 442nd S&D 6/11/2021.