Eiichi Fred Haita
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
Eiichi Fred Haita was born on October 14, 1915, in Havre, Montana. He was the second child of Bunsaku and Hana (Suyetsugu) Haita. His father, Bunsaku, immigrated to Hawaii on the S.S. Manchuria and arrived on June 20, 1905. He listed his home as Imamoto-mura, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, and his occupation as farm laborer. Bunsaku later moved to the mainland and worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad based in Havre. Hana arrived from Fukuoka and they married in Tacoma, Washington, on April 3, 1913.
Eiichi received his elementary and high school education in Japan as well as receiving additional high school education in the United States. He attended Pacific Foreign School in 1931-1932, and Garfield High School in Seattle for the school years 1932-1933 and 1933-1934. From December 1938 to October 1940, he was employed as a lumber mill laborer at Snoqualmie Falls, Washington. He was unemployed from October when the mill closed until he began working for Northern Pacific Railroad on December 29, 1940, in the Seattle roundhouse as an “engine wiper” earning 46¢ an hour, the same rate as his predecessor Floyd Hogan who had left the same day due to illness.
On October 9, 1941, the railroad granted him an indefinite leave of absence as he was entering military service. He was to return to their employ within 40 days of his honorable discharge from the military. At the time he was 5’6” tall and weighed 150 lbs. He listed as references Fred Y. Okada of 815 Maynard Avenue, manager of the Yakima Hotel in Seattle, and J.K. Sasaki, an O.T. contractor at 216 5th Avenue South in Seattle.
Corporal Eiichi Fred Haita went through basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas. After the 442nd RCT was activated at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in February 1943, he was transferred to join the regiment. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, I Company.
After over a year of training, Fred left Camp Shelby with the rest of the combat team on April 22, 1944, for Virginia and shipped out to Italy in a large convoy of troop transports on May 2.
The 442nd arrived in Naples in late May, and entered combat north of Rome near Suvereto on June 26, 1944.
Haita served in four of the 442nd campaigns: Rome-Arno in Italy; Rhineland Campaigns –Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps in France; and Po Valley back in Italy.
Eiichi was killed in action on April 21, 1945, in Fosdinovo, Italy. Since Cpl Haita was a radioman, he was in the I Company command post, in this case, an abandoned mine shaft which was shelled by the enemy. Acting Company Commander 1st Lt James Wheatley, acting 1st Sgt Lloyd Onoye, Sgt John Ogawa, and a communication man from 3rd Battalion Headquarters, Pfc Mamoru Kinoshita, were all killed in this single incident.
Corporal Fred Haita was buried in the wartime U.S. Military Cemetery at Castelfiorentino, southwest of Florence, Italy, opened for soldiers who died in battle in this area.
Corporal Eiichi Haita was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Corporal Haita 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 Army was beginning to close the smaller wartime cemeteries in Italy. They offered the family the choice of having their son moved to the large U.S. Military Cemetery in Florence or returned home. As his parents had returned to Japan, he was sent there and reinterred in Kokura, Kumamoto Prefecture.
According to a notice in the JACL Pacific Citizen newspaper:
An American soldier of Japanese ancestry, a native of Montana, and a former resident of Seattle who was killed in action with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team April 21, 1945, just days before the end of the war in Italy, will be buried in the soil of Japan, the country of his parents. Corporal Eiichi Fred Haita who was born in Havre, Montana in 1915 remained in the United States when the parents returned to Japan with Eiichi’s brother, Haruyuki. When the war came, he joined the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team and saw action in Italy and France. Corporal Fred Haita was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Castelfiorentino, Italy. Mr. and Mrs. Bunsaku Haita of Kokura requested their son’s body be returned to Japan for burial. The parents wrote the Eighth Army, “Our declining years would be made much happier if your government returned the body of our son to Japan, who was killed in the war on foreign soil.” Army officials said the policy of returning the bodies of American war dead to any burial point designated by next of kin would be served.
Corporal Haita’s name appears on the NVC Foundation Japanese American Memorial Wall in Seattle, Washington, Brick No. 2664, Column 26, Row 26. It also is on the Go For Broke Monument in Los Angeles, California, Panel 7B, Rose 72.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.