442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
George Ikeda was born on October 10, 1924, in Holualoa, Hawaii island, Territory of Hawaii. He was one of six sons and three daughters of Shuzo and Sueno (Inaba) Ikeda. Father Shuzo was born in Kealakekua on Hawaii island. Shuzo’s parents were Kanjiro and Chise (Fujita) Ikeda from the village of Tadami, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, and they arrived in 1893. Both men were coffee farmers for the Captain Cook Coffee Company. Shuzo was also the manager of an auto supply store and ran Ikeda Service Station in Kona. Mother Sueno Ikeda was born in Holualoa and was a librarian at the Hawaii County Library.
George was educated at Holualoa School, and Konawaena Elementary and High Schools on the Big Island, and the University of Hawaii (UH) on Oahu. In high school, he was an honor student and active in sports – baseball and basketball. He was on the championship baseball team that won the Big Island junior interscholastic league in 1937. Before entering the service, he was employed as a painter.
While he was a student at UH, George registered for the draft on December 18, 1942, at Local Board No. 3 at the National Guard Armory in Honolulu. He lived at 2126 Wilder Avenue (near the UH), and his uncle Norman Inaba of 544 Kalihi Street was his point of contact. He was 5’4” tall and weighed 140 pounds.
George Ikeda enlisted in the Army at Schofield Barracks on March 30, 1943. At the time, his marital status was listed as “separated” and he had attended one year of college. He was in the “tent city” with other enlistees at Schofield Barracks. On April 4, they sailed on the S.S. Lurline to San Francisco. After a train trip across the US, they arrived at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
Following basic training, George was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, I Company. It was reported on November 15, from Camp Shelby, that he was recently promoted to Corporal.
After over a year of training, George shipped out to Europe with the 442nd on May 2, 1944, from Hampton Roads, Virginia, in a convoy of over 100 ships. They arrived in Naples, Italy, on May 28 and on June 26 entered combat near Suvereto, north of Rome. George was with the 442nd as it drove the Germans north to the Arno River, and liberated Pisa and Florence from the Nazis.
The 442nd was then sent to France to join in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign. He was in the battles that liberated the towns of Bruyères, Belmont, and Biffontaine, and the intense, vicious battle to rescue of the “Lost Battalion,” of the 141st Regiment that had been surrounded by the Germans who were intent on annihilating them. The Germans were shattered, but the 442ndhad lost many men, and was sent to the south of France to guard the border with Italy and rebuild its strength.
Ikeda participated in this Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign in southern France from late November 1944 to mid-March 1945, when the 442nd was transferred to General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army for participation in the Po Valley Campaign in northern Italy. They left for Italy from a staging area in Marseilles in relays on March 17, 18, and 19, arriving in Pisa on March 25. On March 28, the Combat Team left their Pisa staging area and moved to a bivouac at San Martino, near the walled city of Lucca. The move was made in absolute secrecy and under cover of darkness.
The Combat Team’s presence in Italy was a closely-kept secret as their mission was to attack the western anchor of the German’s Gothic Line, an elaborate system of fortifications hewn out of solid rock and reinforced with concrete. The attack by the 442nd was intended as a decoy, to cause the Germans to move key military forces to defend against the 442nd, weakening their line where the main Allied attack would occur. Climbing the mountains at night, on April 4 the Nisei soldiers surprised the Germans at dawn, rapidly capturing positions that had withstood Allied attacks for five months.
The 442nd quickly turned this successful decoy attack into a full-scale attack to break the German’s defenses on the western side of Italy. In combat in steep, high terrain, they pressed the attack on the Germans. On April 18, Technical Sergeant George Ikeda was killed in action near Castelpoggio during this successful liberation of northwestern Italy. The field hospital record states that he died from a head wound. He was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery in Granaglione, Section C, Row 8, No. 383.
Ikeda served in the following major campaigns of the 442nd: Rome-Arno in Italy; Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps in Italy; and Po Valley back in Italy.
For his military service, Technical Sergeant George Ikeda was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four 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.
Ikeda’s family held a memorial service for him on May 6, 1945, less than one month after his death. Many relatives and friends attended, including: his uncle Albert Inaba, principal of Molokai schools; Mr. and Mrs. Tadashi Ikeda, Mrs. Matsue Ikeda, Mrs. Esther Ikeda, all of Hilo; Sgt. Ralph Ikeda of Honolulu; and Miss Elaine Chong, Mrs. Virginia Sakamoto and Mr. Utotsu of Hilo.
On May 12, 1945, just before game time for the Holualoa team in the Kona Community baseball league, team members gathered around home plate for a moment of silence in memory of T/Sgt. George Ikeda who had recently been killed in Italy.
In 1948, the Army began the process of closing the smaller military cemeteries in Italy and offering the family the choice of reburial at the large U.S. Military Cemetery in Florence or returning home. Ikeda’s family chose to have his remains returned. He arrived on December 24, 1948, on the USAT Sinnett to Dock M-3 at Pearl Harbor with 121 other of Hawaii’s war dead. Over 700 family and friends were waiting on the pier where the 265th Army Band played Aloha Oe as the ship docked at 8:30 a.m. They were eulogized in a shipside service by the Secretary of Hawaii, Oren E. Long, who said, “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.” The caskets were taken to the Army mausoleum at Schofield Barracks awaiting burial arrangements.
After his remains were returned to Kona, his father Shuzo ordered his government tombstone – a flat marble marker with a Christian cross – on January 25, 1949. It was verified on March 6, and ordered to be shipped to Hilo from Green Mountain, Vermont, on July 15.
Mr. and Mrs. Shuzo Ikeda published a Card of Thanks in the Hilo newspaper thanking their son’s classmates, childhood friends, buddies, dear friends, and relatives for their many condolences and floral offerings. They also thanked the U.S. Army, Veterans, the American Legion, and the National Guard for courtesies extended.
The funeral service for Technical Sergeant George Ikeda was held at the Central Kona Union Church in Kealakekua on February 17, 1949. Officiating were Reverend Francis K. Endo, pastor of the church, and Reverend Masao Yamada, former chaplain of the 100th Infantry Battalion. Reverend Endo gave a message in Japanese and Reverend Yamada gave the eulogy in English. The young people’s choir took part in the music for the service. After the service, a military burial service at the church cemetery was conducted by the American Legion Post No. 20 and the local National Guard unit. Troop 26 of the Holualoa Boy Scouts, led by Scoutmaster Noboru Yamamoto, was present to pay tribute to their former Boy Scout.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.