Harold Seisuke Nakasone

Harold Seisuke Nakasone
1st Sergeant
442nd Regimental Combat Team|
Cannon Company

Harold Seisuke Nakasone was born on May 23, 1920, in Wahiawa, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii.  He was the third of five sons of Kamasuke and Nabe (Matsumura) Nakasone.  His father arrived from the village of Koya, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, on the S.S. Manchuria on February 15, 1906.  Nabe arrived on the Chiyo Maru on August 21, 1914, from Okinawa.  They were married on August 27, when he had been in Hawaii for eight years and she was a new arrival.

Their first two children, daughter Kanako and son Harry Seisho, were born and raised in Okinawa by family members and arrived in Honolulu in the 1920s.  Harold’s other brothers were:  Seiko; Richard (“Joe”) Seihachi; and Francis (“Frank”) Seikichi.  His parents initially worked on the sugar plantation near Waialua, where his father was a foreman and his mother a cane cutter.

By 1930, the family had moved to Honolulu and lived on Waiaka Road in Moiliili.  Father Kamasuke was employed at the pineapple cannery and also worked for a produce farmer.  Seisuke attended Prince Jonah Kuhio Elementary School where in 1932 he was a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA).  One of his teachers at Kuhio School gave him the name “Harold” as she could not pronounce “Seisuke.”

After completing Washington Intermediate School, he left school during his first year at McKinley High School to help his father run their new produce business.  By 1940, the family still lived on Waiaka Road and Harold was a salesman in the family wholesale vegetable business – Asahi Produce.

On July 8, 1941, Hal, as he was known, signed his draft registration card at Local Board No. 3.  He lived at 932 Waiaka Road, and his point of contact were his neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Kamajan Shimabukuro, at 916 Waiaka Road.  He was employed by his father at 1217 River Street and he was a produce salesman and deliveryman in his father’s wholesale produce business.  He was 5’8” tall and weighed 155 pounds.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked five months later, on December 7, Hal was fast asleep.  His mother awakened him as he had plans to go to the home of his friend Shinkyo Kuniyuki on King Street so they could go out for breakfast.  Just as they left the house, a stray bomb hit the home.  As it exploded, it killed a customer in the Kuniyuki family’s clothing business downstairs.

In January 1942, brother Seiko received his draft notice.  As he was getting married soon, Harold went to the draft board and requested switching places with his brother.  This request was granted and he enlisted on February 7, 1942, the day after Seiko’s wedding.

Nakasone was assigned to the 298th Infantry Regiment at Schofield Barracks and went through a form of basic training there, which included “close and extended order drill without arms, gas training, and military courtesy.”  On June 3, he was promoted to Sergeant and was then transferred on October 1, 1942, to the 370th Engineer Regiment, also at Schofield Barracks.  They were engaged as a labor battalion, doing such tasks as road work and busting “blue rock” basalt at Pupukea on the North Shore of Oahu.  He was promoted to 1st Sergeant on November 4.  As soon as it was announced that the Japanese American unit – the 442nd – was activated on February 1, 1943, Nakasone volunteered for it.

He was with the unit when it sailed from Honolulu on April 4 on the S.S. Lurline.  On the subsequent train trip from Oakland, California, across the US to Mississippi, the men were divided into three trains taking either a northern, central, or southern route.  Nakasone was on the train that took the northern route, making a brief stop in Chicago.

Upon arrival at Camp Shelby, 1st Sgt. Nakasone was assigned to 2nd Battalion, H Company.  Basic training began on May 10 and ended on August 23.  Soon afterward, the Combat Team decided to activate a Cannon Company, and Sgt. Nakasone requested and was transferred to it.  The fall months were taken up with unit and heavy weapons training, followed by field exercises in December.  In late January the 442nd began “D” series maneuvers in the DeSoto National Forest in Mississippi.  These were followed by a general brushing up on small unit tactics, and firing and marksmanship skills.  On February 15, the Combat Team was alerted to prepare for overseas movement.

In March 1944, Hal traveled briefly to Wisconsin where on the 21st he married Beverly Jane Reetz, in LaCrosse.  Beverly was the daughter of Walter Reetz, a truck driver for a transfer company, and his wife, Esther.  He then returned to Mississippi, where on April 22, he left Camp Shelby with the rest of the Combat Team by train headed to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia.

The 442nd left from nearby Hampton Roads, Virginia, in a convoy of over 100 ships on May 2.  They arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28.  After several days at a staging area in the suburb of Bagnoli, they left by LSTs for Anzio, and then were trucked to a large bivouac area at Civitavecchia, just north of Rome.  They entered combat on June 26 near Suvereto.

Nakasone served as a cannoneer and truck driver in Cannon Company during the Rome-Arno Campaign in Italy from June to September 1944.  He then fought in France in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign from October to November and the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign from November 1944 to March 1945.  He returned to Italy with the 442nd for the Po Valley Campaign.

On March 23, the Combat Team (minus the 522nd, which had been detached and sent to Germany) left Marseilles and arrived at Livorno on March 25.  They assembled at the Peninsular Base Section in Pisa where Cannon Company received six new howitzers.  On March 28, they moved to San Martino, a bivouac area north of the walled city of Lucca.  The time there was spent in zeroing in their new weapons and training long into the night with the new replacements who had not seen combat.

On the night of April 3, the 442nd left San Martino and moved to a forward assembly area at Pietrasanta, in preparation for the assault on Mt. Folgorito and Mt. Carchio.  With the 522nd’s absence, they were supported by other artillery units.  Cannon Company was emplaced in the vicinity of Ripa, where they fired the first of its 650 rounds in the opening salvo and harassing fire throughout the day.

After several days of fighting, the 442nd was ordered to secure the ground taken.  On April 9, while making a night move to the front lines near Montignoso under blackout conditions, Nakasone was driving a truck – the 4th Section prime mover – pulling one of the 105mm cannons as his company moved up toward the front line.  Unable to see well in the moonlight, the truck tipped over in a bomb crater at the edge of the road, pinning Nakasone underneath and injuring several men, one fatally.  After Nakasone was extricated, he was evacuated to a hospital where he spent the next three months recovering from injuries to his left side.  Back home, his name appeared on a list of Wisconsin’s war casualties dated May 1.

By the time Nakasone was well enough to leave the hospital, the soldiers with enough “points” (accumulated by factors such as time served overseas, wounding, a wife and/or child at home) were sent back to the US.  Nakasone was one of the first to leave.  He left Italy for North Africa, where he flew from Casablanca, Morocco, to Dakar, Senegal, then to Natal, Brazil, onward to British Guiana and Puerto Rico, before arriving in the US.  He was discharged from the Army at Fort Sheridan, in Chicago, Illinois.

For his service during World War II, 1st Sergeant Harold Seisuke Nakasone was awarded the following medals:  Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation 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.

By November 1945, Hal, wife Beverly, and daughter Sharon (born while he was in France) were living with his in-laws, Walter and Esther Reetz, in Strum, Wisconsin.  He was working as a truck driver.

The following summer, on June 20, 1946, the young family sailed from San Francisco to Honolulu on the S.S. Matsonia, arriving on June 26.  Hal worked at the family produce business, Sunset Produce Company, at 1220 River Street.  Two-and-one-half years later, on January 18, 1949, they left Honolulu on United Airlines and returned to Wisconsin.  By the following year, they had settled in Janesville where Hal was a driver, and then road supervisor, for an automobile transport company.  By 1952, they had moved to a house at 1530 Beloit Avenue, and Hal was employed by W.R. Anthony and Company.  They later returned to Hawaii, where they were divorced on February 28, 1956.

On September 8, 1957, Hal married Alice Junko (“June”) Shimabukuro, from Mountain View, Hawaii island.  June was working as a secretary in Honolulu at the time.  She was born on March 31, 1936, and was the daughter of Masei, a retired anthurium farmer, and his wife Kamato Shimabukuro, immigrants from Okinawa.  Over the years, Harold and June raised a family of four sons – Clendon, Scot, Derek, and Lance.  Nakasone worked for Schuman Carriage Company for over 20 years before he retired.  He was first a salesman, and when Schuman began selling the Subaru line of cars, he became the supervisor of that department.  Afterward, he and his wife lived for several years in Palmdale (northeast of Greater Los Angeles), California, and he worked in real estate with one of his brothers.  They made several trips to Japan over the years and also traveled to Bruyères and Nice to see where Hal had fought during the war.  He was a member of the 442nd Veterans Club and was a regular attendee at the annual 442nd Anniversary Banquet.  Beginning in the late 1960s, the family lived at 3243 Monsarrat Avenue in Honolulu.

Nakasone in his 442nd Veterans shirt and
garrison cap at an anniversary reunion

About 2017, in his late 90s, Hal was interviewed by a friend who later recalled how his mind was still very sharp.  He related how the men of Cannon Company with their 105mm howitzers provided combat support to the infantry battalions of the 442nd, close to the front lines, and he gave clear details about the steps to load a howitzer.  He said the men had used pidgin English and Japanese slang when they communicated on the radio, especially when calling in the coordinates while directing fire – a good way to confuse the Germans.  Hal even remembered how many charge bags were needed for different distances of firing.

In 2019, Nakasone’s application for the French Legion of Honor was submitted.  This is the highest honor that France bestows – and was awarded for military service in France during World War II.  On November 23, he was notified that the award had been approved by the French government.

Harold Seisuke Nakasone died six months before his 100th birthday, on November 24, 2019, in Maunalani Nursing Home.  He was survived by his five children, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.  He was inurned with his wife, June, who preceded him in death on November 20, 2010, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Section CT-7CC, Row 300, Site 326.  On his stone is engraved “Proudly Served” and “Go for Broke.”

June Nakasone in the 1990s

Postscript.  On March 23, 2024, the Nakasone family attended the 81st Anniversary Banquet of the 442nd RCT.  The French Legion of Honor was formally presented to the sons of Harold Nakasone by the Honorary Consul of France in Hawaii, Guillaume Maman, assisted by Jeffrey Morita who had researched and filed his medal application.

To watch Nakasone’s 4-part video interview conducted in Honolulu, go to: Harold Nakasone oral history interview, October 21, 2005 · Japanese American Military History Collective (omeka.net)

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2024.

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