Frank Ichiro Mizufuka

Frank Ichiro Mizufuka
Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
2nd Battalion, F Company

Frank Ichiro Mizufuka was born on October 26, 1919, in the Dominguez area of Los Angeles, California.  He was the eldest son of Isaburo and Mizuye (Tanaka) Mizufuka.  His siblings were:  brothers Shiro Jack, Joe Tadashi, and Akira George; and sister Shirley Kazuko.  An earlier child did not survive childhood.

Isaburo emigrated from Takase-machi, Tamana, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, in November 1907.  In July 1915, he left Los Angeles on the Shinyo Maru.  He and Mizuye were married that November in Tamana.  Isaburo and Mizuye left for the US, arriving in San Francisco on April 2, 1916, on the Nippon Maru.  Mizuye (also spelled Mizue) was a native of Komona, Kumamoto Prefecture.

In June 1917, Isaburo, a self-employed gardener with a wife and one child, signed his World War I draft registration card.  They lived at 1029 South El Molino Street in Los Angeles.  In 1920, Isaburo and his family lived on Wilmington Road in the Domiguez area of Los Angeles, where he operated a truck farm.

In 1930, the family lived in Whittier where Isaburo was a farm laborer.  In 1936, Ichiro, known also as Frank, graduated from Whittier Union High School where he was on the football and track teams.  Four years later, in 1940, they lived at 4917 Imperial Boulevard in Whittier, Isaburo was a flower grower and the three oldest boys worked for him.

After high school, Frank attended Fullerton Junior College, graduating in 1941.  While there, he was on the championship wrestling team and was offered an athletic scholarship.  He also qualified in the Western regional trials for a berth on the Olympic team.  He signed his draft registration card on July 1, 1941, Local Board No. 269, at 331 Bellflower Boulevard.  He lived with his family on Route 1 in Whittier (Imperial Boulevard and 1st Street), his father was his point of contact, and he was 5’7” tall and weighed 132 pounds.  He was employed as a nursery worker.

A few months later, Frank was drafted in the 18th draft round for his draft board in Whittier, on November 5, 1941, at Fort MacArthur in nearby San Pedro.  At the time, his occupation was listed as “nursery operator/flower grower.”  He was sent to Camp Roberts, in Monterey and San Obispo Counties, for basic training, and assigned to C Company, 83rd Training Battalion.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his unit was occupied with digging trenches and standing 24-hour guard duty.  Soon, all the camp’s Nisei soldiers were sent by train to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, for more basic training.

After this training period, as non-Nisei soldiers were being shipped overseas for combat, the Nisei were assigned to desk jobs.  Mizufuka became a clerk in the camp commander’s headquarters detachment office.  While at Camp Robinson, he participated in athletics, and won the Arkansas State AAU wrestling title.  He rose to the rank of Sergeant and was transferred to the personnel office of the hospital detachment, working in the medical discharge section.

Following is what Frank wrote about his time at Camp Robinson:

Evacuees from Santa Anita, Tanforan, and other assembly centers were rapidly occupying Rohwer and Jerome relocation camps in Arkansas.  Coincidentally, my parents and other members of the family were sent to Rohwer from Santa Anita.  Many weekends, a group of us rented a car and drove down to the camps.  Jerome was our favorite because they had a USO and many hostesses to welcome the GIs.  The USO was organized and led by the “Sweetheart of the GIs,” Mary Nakahara (now Yuri Kochiyama of New York).

Frank’s parents and siblings had been evacuated to the Santa Anita Assembly Center in April 1942, and sent in September to the Rohwer WRA Camp in Arkansas.  They were released between August to November 1945, with the exception of Shirley, who was released in April 1943.

Frank applied to be a commissioned officer, but before he learned if that was approved, he was given the option of remaining at a stateside desk job, or being sent to the European Theater of War, specifically to the 442nd RCT – already fighting in Italy and in need of replacements.

Frank chose to go to the war zone – and was sent to Camp McClellan, Alabama, for combat training as an infantryman.  Afterward, he and others were sent by train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, then Fort Meade, Maryland, before heading to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, for shipment to Europe.

On August 24, 1944, they left in a large convoy of ships and arrived after several weeks at Oran, Algeria, for a brief stop before arriving at Naples, Italy.  At a staging area in nearby Bagnoli, they met up with their new unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  Frank was assigned as a bazooka man in 2nd Battalion, F Company, 3rd Platoon, 1st Squad.

The 442nd left Naples on a troop ship on September 27 for Marseilles, France, to fight in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign.  After landing at Septèmes, near Marseilles, they were transported over 500 miles north by rail boxcars and truck convoys to the Vosges Mountains and entered combat there on October 14.

Their first objective was to liberate the important rail and road junction of Bruyères.  Following a two-day stalemate, a plan was implemented in the early morning hours of October 21, 1944, to encircle the Germans along a railroad track and on the forward face of one of the hills that surrounded the town.  This plan was called the O’Connor Task Force, which consisted of men from Companies F and L of the 442nd.  To accomplish their mission, they had to infiltrate 1.5 miles through heavily forested, enemy-held terrain.  They succeeded in routing at least three German battalions, killing 80 men with small arms and nearly 300 men with artillery, capturing 56 men, and destroying much enemy equipment.  Following is what Frank wrote about this action:

On the 21st of October, the O’Connor Task Force was conceived and put into operation, led by Companies F and L to flank the enemy and attack them from the rear.  We advanced toward our objective under the cover of early morning darkness.  Shortly after daybreak, we approached a clearing with some farmhouses scattered throughout the valley.  Beyond the farmhouses, at the far end of the meadow, a German tank appeared.  The tank kept us from advancing.  The Bazooka Team was summoned.  Tito Okamoto and I crawled up to the barn of one of the farmhouses and fired two rounds from our bazooka, but to no avail, as the tank countered with a couple rounds of its 88mm tank gun.  The second round from the tank was a direct hit on the barn where we had taken cover.  Both of us were seriously wounded.  The medics were summoned, and German prisoners we had previously captured in one of the farmhouses carried us on litters to an awaiting jeep.  I was taken back to a field hospital for emergency surgery, and later back to a hospital at Epinal, France.

During this action, Mizufuka was seriously wounded in his chest.  He spent the next few months at Epinal, followed by hospitals in Dijon and Aix-en-Provence.  At one point, he lay on a litter all day at an airfield in Dijon awaiting an airplane to take him to the US, before it was determined that patients with lung and respiratory wounds could not fly due to cabin pressurization concerns.  Finally, he was shipped home from Marseilles and arrived at New York in March 1945.  He was able to attend a welcome home dinner at Club 400 on Fifth Avenue and have his photo taken with band leader Tommy Dorsey.

Frank later wrote the following about his six days in combat and his wounding:

Thankful that I survived the war.  I prayed every moment I had.  I was frightened and so miserable from the rain, cold and swollen feet.  When I was wounded and sent back to the field hospital, I accepted prayers from the chaplains of all faiths.

After arriving at the Percy Jones General Hospital at Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Michigan, he underwent another operation to remove more shrapnel from his lung.  While recovering, he served in the personnel section of the medical detachment and was promoted again.  Finally, in June 1945, he was discharged from the U.S. Army while at Camp Custer.

For his military service, Private First Class Frank I. Mizufuka was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign with one bronze star, World War II Victory Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Expert Rifleman 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.

After the war, Frank changed his surname from Mizufuka to Mizuo.  He wanted to settle in Chicago, and enrolled in an engineering course at Northwestern University in Evanston.  Later, he was employed by General American Transportation Corporation, makers of tanks and box railroad cars.  On July 9, 1948, Frank married Hedy H. Maeyama in Cook County, Illinois.  Hedy was born in 1924.  Over the years, they raised a family of two sons.

In 1950, they returned to Los Angeles, where they and their son Barry lived with Frank’s parents, Isaburo and Mizuye.  Frank had started an insurance agency handling life, accident, health, and casualty coverages.  He was an extra for two weeks on the MGM film, Go For Broke.  He later said that it was like “being in the army all over again.  We wore GI clothes, played poker, and rolled the dice whenever we were not on call.”

On February 15, 1955, Frank’s father Isaburo Mizufuka became a naturalized U.S. citizen at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.  At the time, he and his wife were living at 1437 Bogota Court, San Pedro.  Mizuye became a U.S. citizen in December 1980.

In June 1967, Frank and Hedy divorced in Solano County, California.

Frank later married Sophia Jung Oh, who was born in Korea in 1943.  He spent 15 years working in electronics and space systems at Hoffman Electronics in Los Angeles and at TRW Space Systems in nearby Redondo Beach.  He was part of the team on the Apollo Moon Landing Project.  He later moved to the San Francisco area after jobs in the space sector became scarce.  He spent the next 20 years in the retail-merchandising field by purchasing a store from a friend.  The store was located at Ghirardelli Square and focused on nostalgic/vintage décor and merchandise.

He was an active member in the 442nd’s Fox Company Veterans Club, serving as President of the Southern California Chapter.

After retirement, he participated in the Senior Olympics, played golf, and enjoyed fishing, in addition to art classes and travelling.

On May 27, 2013, Frank was awarded the Légion d’honneur, the highest French order of merit, with six other World War II Veterans for their service in France.  The presentation was part of the Memorial Day ceremony at the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio and was made by Consul General Romain Serman.

Mizuo at the 2013 Presidio ceremony

Frank Ichiro (Mizufuka) Mizuo died on December 29, 2022, at the age of 103.  At the time, he was a resident of Daly City.  He was survived by wife, Sophia, sons Barry and Derrick (Rick) grandson Colin (son of Rick), stepson Chris, sister Shirley, and first wife, Hedy Mizuo (mother of his two sons).  He was buried on January 30, 2023, at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, California.

To read Frank’s full autobiography, click on the following link:  Frank I. Mizufuka | Japanese American Military Experience Database – Discover Nikkei.  To watch his 8-part oral interview conducted on July 20, 2003, by the Go For Broke National Education Center in Los Angeles, click on the following link:  Frank Mizufuka oral history interview, part 1 of 8, July 20, 2003 · Japanese American Military History Collective (

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2023, with assistance from his stepson Chris Chai, who is a member of the Sons & Daughters.

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