Gary Kazuo Uchida

Gary Kazuo Uchida, Sergeant, Headquarters Company, 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)

Gary Kazuo Uchida was born in Makaweli Valley, Kauai, T.H., on March 15, 1914.  He was the fourth child of Kameji and Yobu (Kato) Uchida.  Both his father and mother emigrated from Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan; Kameji, prior to his wife who arrived in 1906.  Kameji, who was a farmer, raised vegetables and was only 41 years old when he died of illness in 1919.  He left his widow and five small children ages 2-11, including Gary who was 4 years old.

Gary remembered his mom worked really hard on the plantation to raise the family by herself; he remembered his mom sometimes coming home and serving crackers for dinner because she was too tired to cook.  After Gary completed 10th grade at Waimea School, he was faced with working in the cane fields of Kauai as the high school was too far and travel was too expensive.  However, his sister, Shizuko Kitazaki, invited him to come to Oahu to live with her and her husband so he could continue his education.

Thus, in 1930 at age 16, Gary left his “county” home and went to the big city of Honolulu to live with his sister.  Years later, Gary was asked who the most influential person in his life was; he said it was his sister, Shizuko, because she gave him the opportunity to better his life.

In 1932, while he was still a senior at McKinley High School, Gary started working at the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki as a front office clerk.  He made this decision because the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and he knew jobs would be even scarcer after graduation.  He was able to continue his education by attending night classes and graduated in 1932 with his classmates.  He even went on to take night classes at the University of Hawaii.

He signed his WWII Draft Registration card on October 26, 1940, at Local Board No. 3.  He lived at 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, which was also his place of employment – the Halekulani Hotel.  He was 5’8-3/4”, 145 lbs.

After working 9 years at the Halekulani Hotel, he received his draft notice.  On June 30, 1941, he was inducted into the Army and assigned to Schofield Barracks.

His enlistment papers stated that his civilian occupation was hotel and restaurant management (Halekulani Hotel).  After basic training, Gary was assigned to the 298th Regiment, D Company.  He was an active service member at Schofield Barracks during the Japanese attack on Oahu, December 7, 1941.  During the attack, he reported to H Company, which defended the Kailua sector, and was assigned to an observation post on a hilltop called Puu o Emu (Note:  above Kailua on the Windward side of Oahu).

Gary wrote in his memoirs:  Our duty was to report the movements of all aircraft, its direction, elevation, type of aircraft, etc.  Also reported were all boats and violation of blackouts.  In our dugout was a powerful battery command scope which is usually used by the artillery.  Occasionally, I would go to the beach and dive for lobsters which were plentiful.

One day, the 298th was recalled to Schofield and our rifles were taken away from us.  Later on we found out that the Battle of Midway was about to take place.  The big question was how would the AJAs react if Oahu was invaded by the enemy?  We were not trusted.  All the AJA soldiers were herded together and on June 5, 1942, secretly shipped out of Honolulu without giving us an opportunity to say goodbye to family and friends.  While at sea the decisive battle of Midway was being fought.  Where were we headed for?  No one knew, not even the company officers.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, his unit became the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion.  On June 5, 1942, the battalion boarded the transport ship, the U.S. Army Troop Transport S.S. Maui, and departed Honolulu.  After a week at sea, the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, docking in Oakland, California, on June 12, 1942.  There, the unit was given a new name — the 100th Infantry Battalion.  The unit traveled to their new duty station by three trains, each taking a different route, to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.  On arrival at Camp McCoy, the unit name was changed to 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate). 

In July 1942, Gary was promoted to Communications Sergeant for A Company, then later, reassigned to S-2, Headquarters Company.  After training at Camp McCoy, and Camp Shelby, Mississippi, on August 21, 1943, the men boarded the SS James Parker at New York City as they began their 12-day voyage to Oran, Algeria, in North Africa. April 1944.

On September 19, 1943, the 100th boarded the landing craft Frederick Funston and arrived offshore of Salerno Beach at 8:00am on September 22.  The unit entered combat on September 27, 1943, near Salerno in southern Italy.  In late October 1943, the 100th was ordered west.  Gary participated in actions against the enemy in Italy, including River Crossing, St. Angelo, St. Angelo d’Alife, and Santa Maria Olivetto from September 30 to November 5, 1943.  The men crossed the Volturno River twice on their way to capturing several critical hills which were part of the German’s Winter Line of Defense.

On November 5, 1943, during a battle to take Hill 600 just north of Pozzilli, he participated in the third crossing of the Volturno River.  The Headquarters element was hit by German artillery and Gary was severely wounded in his knee and his arm, and a fragment (which was never removed) penetrated his helmet and entered his skull.  After being wounded, Gary was taken to the 182nd Station Hospital, Naples; then, transferred to the 4th Field Hospital, Naples.  He was evacuated farther south to Palermo, Sicily, for one night, then continued to the 33rd Field Hospital in Bizerte, Tunisia.  This was in December 1943.

On January 16, 1944, he was transferred to the 79th Station Hospital in Algiers.  He did not leave the combat theater until March 11, 1944.  On arrival back in the United States, he was transferred through a chain of hospitals – the Newton Baker General Hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia., to Schick General Hospital in Clinton, Iowa.  From Iowa, he was sent to Dibble General Hospital in Menlo Park, California, for neurosurgical treatment.  On September 30, 1944, Gary was sent to the Fort Lawton Station Hospital in Seattle, Washington, to wait for transportation to Honolulu.

He spent about a year in various military hospitals undergoing surgeries and recuperating before returning home.  He left Seattle for Honolulu by ship on October 10, 1944, arriving on October 17.  He was taken to Tripler Army Hospital until his release from Active Duty on February 19, 1945.

For his World War II service, he was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.

Upon his return to Honolulu, he returned to work at the Halekulani Hotel, and married Edna Sagara.  He worked his way up to become Vice President of the Halekulani Corporation and retired in 1977 after working for 44 years for the hotel.

Gary Kazuo Uchida passed away on December 21, 2008, in Honolulu.  He is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Section C11-O, Row 400, Site 413.  Survivors include his wife, two sons, two daughters, nine grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren.

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