Denis Masato Hashimoto

Denis Masato Hashimoto
Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, L Company

Denis Masato Hashimoto was born on September 14, 1920, in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii.  He was the son of Kakichi and Sono (Murai) Hashimoto.  He had five siblings:  brothers Yoshio, Nathan Masuo, and Bertram Minoru; and sisters Fumiko and Ellen Shizue.  Kakichi arrived from Tsuzu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, on the S.S. Siberia on July 8, 1907.  Sono arrived from Tsuzu on the S.S. Manchuria on May 21, 1912.

In 1918, the Hashimotos lived in Waianae, Oahu, and Kakichi worked for the sugar plantation.  By 1920, they had moved to Honolulu and lived on King Street.  Kakichi was a helper in an auto mechanic shop.  By 1930, they lived at 560 North King Street and Kakichi was a deep-sea fisherman.  Denis attended Kaiulani Elementary School and Kalakaua Intermediate School.  He graduated from McKinley High School on June 5, 1938.  After high school, Denis was a member of the Sea Scouts of the Ship Santa Maria, at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church.  At their first anniversary program in June 1939, he was promoted from Yeoman to Second Mate.

In 1940, the family lived at 586 North King Street.  Father Kakichi was in his own business as a fisherman.  Dennis worked at the Hawaiian Pineapple Company cannery in Iwilei as a checker.

Hashimoto signed his draft registration card on February 14, 1942, Local Board No. 6 at Kawananakoa School in Honolulu.  His point of contact was Richard Riuchi Machida.  He was 5’5½” tall and weighed 115 pounds.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 25, 1943, at the time, he was employed in the Research Department at the Hawaiian Pineapple Cannery.  Denis was sent to the “tent city” nicknamed Boomtown at Schofield Barracks with other volunteers from all over Hawaii.  They were given an aloha farewell ceremony at Iolani Palace on March 28.  The new soldiers sailed on the S.S. Lurline for Oakland, California, on April 2.  After arrival, they were sent by train across the US to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training.

At Camp Shelby, Denis was assigned to 3rd Battalion, L Company, 1st Platoon.  Following a year of basic, unit, combat, and specialized training and field maneuvers, he left with the 442nd by train on April 22, 1944, for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia.  On May 2 they left in a convoy of about a hundred ships from nearby Hampton Roads for the Theater of War.  A long and tedious voyage ended on May 28 when they arrived at Naples, Italy.

After a week at a staging area in Bagnoli, on the outskirts of the city, they left on an overnight trip by LST to the Anzio beachhead.  From there, they were sent around Rome to a large bivouac area at Civitavecchia about 50 miles north.  Between June 11 and 21, the Combat Team went through preparations for combat, including practicing marksmanship and small-unit tactics, and undergoing  arduous physical conditioning.  The Germans were being pushed north fairly rapidly, and the front was advancing quickly.

The 442nd moved to a forward assembly area at Grossetto on June 22, and then to Gavarrano on June 24.  On June 25, they marched 13 miles to their final assembly area.

The 442nd RCT entered combat on June 26, 1944, near Suvereto in the Rome-Arno Campaign.  The enemy was pushed north from Suvereto to the Cecina River by July 1.  By the next morning, the 100th and 2nd Battalions had crossed the easily fordable river.  Resistance was not heavy but was stiffening, indicating that the enemy would make a stand on the high ground at Hill 140 just north of the river.

On July 3, enemy artillery fire became increasingly heavy.  By 12:00 p.m. on July 4, the 3rd Battalion had crossed the river and relieved the 100th in position.  As this was done in broad daylight, it brought down a storm of enemy self-propelled and artillery fire, inflicting numerous casualties on the 442nd.  Tech/Sgt. Genro Kashiwa of L Company’s 1st Platoon later recalled about 3rd Battalion:

We were led to a roadway that ran down a small hill veering right down the slope.  This was an exposed road on an exposed hillside already zeroed in by German artillery.  Our orders were to run down the hill in groups of four to six men so that we would not present a good target for the German artillery…When we came down the hillside road, we went through a ditch…First Platoon was scattered in the hollow laying down, waiting for word to advance forward.  An enemy artillery shell fell into our midst, and three of our men were killed:  Denis Hashimoto, Mitsuo Furuichi, and Martin Iida.  I was shocked in realization that this was real war and that people close to you got killed.

Private Denis Masato Hashimoto was killed on this day – July 4, 1944.  According to the field hospital admission card, he was hit in the neck by artillery shells and shrapnel.

The men in his squad called him “Laughing Boy,” according to a 1997 newspaper account by his Squad leader, T/Sgt. Jacob Jichaku.  Hashimoto was his first casualty and he recalled that the image of his friend’s body lying face down in a vineyard ditch remained vivid more than 50 years later.

Hashimoto was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Follonica, Section C, Row 31, Grave 382.

On July 30, 1944, at 1:30 p.m. his family held a memorial service for Denis at the Nishi Hongwanji Temple on Fort Street.  And on August 3 at 9:00 a.m., they held a solemn requiem mass for their son at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church on North School Street.

On December 9, 1944, at McKinley High School a memorial service was held for 226 soldiers of the 442nd.  Hashimoto was among those who were honored by the school.  The ceremony was sponsored by the 100th Battalion Veterans Club 100, 442nd Veterans, the Women’s War Service Association, and the Emergency Service Committee.  The speaker was Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson.

For his wartime service, Private Denis Masato Hashimoto was awarded the following:  Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze star, World War II Victory Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge.  He was posthumously 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.

On July 24, 1947, father Kakichi Hashimoto died in Honolulu.

After the war, the US began to close many of its overseas military cemeteries.  The families of soldiers were given the choice of having their loved one returned home or moved to one of the few remaining cemeteries.  The Hashimoto family chose to have their son brought home.

As a result, Private Denis M. Hashimoto arrived on December 24, 1948, aboard the USAT Sinnett at 8:30 a.m. at Pearl Harbor’s Dock M-3.  He was among 122 war dead on the ship, which was greeted by over 700 family and friends as the 264th Army Band played Aloha-Oe.  A brief memorial service opened with a moment of silence, then a prayer by Army Chaplain Eugene L.A. Fisher.  Secretary of Hawaii Oren E. Long said in his remarks:

We are proud to have had such sons.  These men stood the test of action and added a new chapter of American heroism to our history.

A benediction by Navy Chaplain Wendell Wheeler concluded the service.  The crated and flag-draped caskets were taken to the Army Mausoleum at Schofield Barracks until funeral arrangement were made.

Private Denis M. Hashimoto was among the 20 war dead buried on July 28, 1949, in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).  He was laid to rest at 1:30 p.m. in Plot D, Grave 257.

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

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