Haruto Wilfred Iwamasa

Haruto Wilfred Iwamasa
Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
522nd Field Artillery Battalion, B Battery

Haruto Iwamasa was born on March 20, 1908, in Makapala, North Kohala District, Hawaii island, Territory of Hawaii.  He was one of the eleven children of Matsuemon and Tsugi (Hirotsu) Iwamasa:  sons Sadaichi, Yasuichi, Masaichi, Haruto, Richard Takeo, Masao, Yoshio, and Fred Matsuto, and daughters Sumiyo, Patsy Tsuruyo, and Fusako.

Haruto’s parents arrived from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, in 1898, after marrying the previous year.  They settled in North Kohala, where they worked as vegetable farmers.  By 1920, Matsuemon was working as a laborer on the Halawa sugar plantation.  By 1930, Matsuemon had retired, and the family was supported by Takeo, who worked on the sugar plantation, and Sumiyo, a dressmaker in a tailor shop.

In 1931, Haruto became a member of the newly formed Bachelors Club in North Kohala.  The young men met monthly for dinner at local chop suey restaurants and held an annual Bachelors Ball and Valentine’s Ball at St. Paul’s Hall.  At one meeting, Iwamasa gave a talk on “Agricultural Opportunities in One’s Own Backyard.”  By the next year, he was the club’s president.  He also joined the St. Augustine Social Club and participated in their dinners and overnight hunting trips on weekends.

Iwamasa married Fumiko Kimura of Honolulu, a graduate of McKinley High School and, in 1933, the University of Hawaii.  They applied for their marriage license in Hilo on March 29, 1937.  Shortly afterwards, the couple settled at 1682 Kilauea Avenue.  Haruto joined the Hilo YBA (Young Buddhists Association).  Fumiko was a member of several charitable organizations in addition to working full time.  The couple had a very active social life and their names often appeared in the Hilo Tribune-Herald.  They particularly enjoyed overnight camping trips to Kawaihae Beach with Haruto’s older brothers and their wives.

Haruto registered for the draft in 1940 (his card was not dated, but he was age 32) at Local Board No. 2 at the Professional Building in Hilo.  His wife, Fumiko, was listed as his point of contact.  They lived at 2459 Kilauea Avenue, and he was employed by Standard Oil Company of California.  He was 5’7” tall and weighed 143 pounds.

1940 at family home in Niulii.  Left:  Tsugi and Masaemon.  Right: Iwamasa children – L to R top/4th row:  Sadaichi, Yasuichi; 3rd row:  Takeo, Haruto, Masaichi; 2nd row: Sumiyo, Masao; bottom row/1st row:  Patsy Tsuruyo, Matsuto Fred, Fusako.  Behind Matsuto is Yoshio.

Haruto Iwamasa enlisted in the Army at Hilo, Hawaii island, on March 27, 1943.  At the time he was working as a salesclerk at Standard Oil Company in Mahukona.  He was sent to the “tent city” known as Boomtown at Schofield Barracks on Oahu where nearly all of the other new soldiers were already gathered.  He may have arrived just in time to attend the aloha farewell ceremony given by the community on March 28 at Iolani Palace.  On April 4, the new soldiers left on the S.S. Lurline for Oakland, California, from where they were sent by train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

Haruto was assigned to the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, B Battery.  He served in the 4th (“Pohaku”) Gun Section as a truck driver and in the Mess Section as a Cook’s Helper.  After a year of basic, combat, and specialty training and maneuvers, he left with the rest of the 442nd on April 22 for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia.  The Combat Team sailed to the Theater of War on May 2, 1944, from nearby Hampton Roads.  Most of the ships arrived at Naples, Italy (on west coast of Italy), on May 28.  The 522nd arrived in Brindisi and Bari on the east coast of Italy the same day.  The 522nd soldiers then travelled by rail boxcars to meet up with the rest of the 442nd at Naples.

The Battalion was at Staging Area No. 4 in Bagnoli, a bivouac near Naples, until June 6, when they sailed on LST 526 for the overnight trip to Anzio.  Upon arrival, they climbed over the side and down on rope nets to the heaving swells below.  From Anzio, on June 9 they were sent in a midnight truck convoy around the newly liberated city of Rome to a large bivouac at Civitavecchia.

They entered combat near Suvereto – in the Rome-Arno Campaign in Italy on June 26.  After driving the enemy north to the Arno River, on September 6 the 442nd was pulled from the lines and sent south to the port of Piombino, 14 miles from Suvereto.  From Piombino they sailed to Naples on September 11.  The 522nd sailed in the U.S.S. Richard K. Call, while the vehicles of the 522nd were driven to Naples by motor convoy.  On September 27, the 522nd sailed on the U.S.S. Thurston from Naples to France.  Upon arrival near Marseilles, they were transferred to LSIs (similar to LSTs) and landed on the beach in high seas, rain, wind, and mud.  The next day, they were sent by rail boxcars and motor convoy to Battalion Area No. 51, a bivouac near Septèmes.  During the 10-day stay in their bivouac, day passes to Marseilles were issued and men also helped unload cargo at the port.

The 522nd fought in support of the 442nd during the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign.  They left Septèmes by motor convoy on October 9 for the nearly 500-mile trip north to the Vosges Mountains.  After two overnight halts, they arrived at the Seventh Army assembly area near Pouxeux on October 11.  After going to two more assembly areas closer to the front, the attack began in the vicinity of Bruyères on October 14.

Pfc. Iwamasa was in combat during the bitter fighting to liberate the important rail and road junction of Bruyères, neighboring Biffontaine and Belmont, and the “Rescue of the Lost Battalion,” the 1st Battalion, 141st (Texas) Infantry that had advanced beyond the lines and was surrounded on three sides by the enemy.  Prior to the rescue of the 141st, the 522nd “saved” them by correctly questioning the 36th Division commander on his firing orders.  The 522nd forward observers noted that the firing coordinates were in the middle of the Lost Battalion’s position – so the coordinates were changed.

The weather was cold, wet, snowy, and miserable, as the men fought in the heavily wooded forests still in their summer uniforms.  They were subjected to living in water-logged foxholes, and incoming artillery raining down on them in “tree bursts.”  Many 442nd soldiers contracted trench foot during these terrible weather conditions.

After the fierce fighting in the Vosges, the 442nd was at half-strength due to high casualties, and was sent to the south of France.  There, they could rebuild to full combat strength while fighting in the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign.  This was primarily a mission of maintaining a defensive position to guard against enemy incursion from Italy to the east.

The 522nd left the lines on November 17 and moved to an assembly area near Cheniménil, eight miles southwest of Bruyères, and arrived near Nice on the Mediterranean coast on November 21.  The 442nd was in the area of Nice, Menton, Sospel, L’Escarène, and Peira Cava, and they received replacements during this time.  The period was relatively calm and was nicknamed the “Champagne Campaign” as the men were often given passes to Nice on the French Riviera.  While there, the 522nd was mostly stationed in Sospel and, later, Menton.  The drive to Sospel was 45 miles from the coast up steep, winding, and narrow mountain roads.

The time in France ended when the 442nd RCT was sent back to Italy on March 22-25, 1945, for combat in the Po Valley Campaign.  Commanders of the Fifth Army and the Seventh Army fought among themselves for the privilege of having the 522nd assigned to their commands in Italy or Germany.  As it turned out, the 522nd Battalion was detached and sent to Germany for combat with the Seventh Army in the Central Europe Campaign, adding firepower to its assault on the Siegfried Line.

The 522nd left Menton on March 9 and drove 500 miles north, arriving on March 12.  They crossed the Saar River into Germany at Kleinbittersdorf.  For the next two weeks, the Battalion supported a breakthrough of the Siegfried Line, captured a German 150mm howitzer and used it against the enemy, supported the 45th Infantry Division’s crossing of the Rhine River near Worms, and captured 21 prisoners.  The 522nd crossed the Rhine River in the middle of the night on March 27 and 28 on a treadway pontoon bridge.

During their time in Germany, the 522nd made 52 displacements over 617 miles and fired 15,219 rounds.  They were near Shaftlach in Bavaria, southern Germany, when the Germans surrendered on May 6, 1945.

During the occupation, the 522nd was stationed in the town of Donauworth on the Danube River.  B Battery was first quartered in Genderkingen, and after July 18 in Mertingen.  By late November, all the men had been sent back to the States.

On January 11, 1946, Iwamasa was among ten Big Island 442nd soldiers at Camp Beale, California, who had arrived from Europe and were awaiting transportation to Honolulu.  He and several hundred other returning soldiers arrived at Pier 40-B in Honolulu from San Francisco on January 23 on the USAT U.S. Grant.  They were greeted by the Royal Hawaiian Band and a throng of family and friends.  Ladies from the USO provided pineapple juice and cookies served on a table covered with ti leaves.  The men were sent to the Army Separation Center at nearby Fort Kamehameha for discharge – where Iwamasa was discharged on January 25.  He soon returned to the Big Island.

For his military service, Private First Class Haruto Iwamasa was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, and Army of Occupation Medal.   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 he arrived home in January 1946, Haruto and his brother Masao (who was also just home from the war), were given a welcome home party by their mother (their father had died at the beginning of the war) and brother Takeo and his wife at the family home in Makapala on February 2.  Also honored at the party were local Kohala friends Mitsuru Hirano and Katsuyoshi Takaki who were home on furlough, and other 442nd RCT friends who were recently discharged:  Masa and Matsu Komoto (both of 3rd Battalion, Headquarters Company), Akira Doi (K Company), Yutaka Nakashima (100th Battalion, Headquarters Company), Tadashi Umamoto (C Company), and from Kau District, Chikanori Fukunaga.

After the war, Iwamasa returned to his pre-war employment at Standard Oil in Waiakea.  By 1950, he was the head warehouse man.  He and Fumiko were living at 2459 Kilauea Avenue in Hilo.  She was employed as an assistant supervisor at the Department of Public Works.  They had no children.  Haruto joined the 442nd Veterans Club and in 1961 he joined the Hilo Chapter of the Lions Club.  In 1965, he was awarded the Lions’ Outstanding Achievement Award for his years of work on the Sight Conservation Committee.

Haruto Wilfred Iwamasa died on January 11, 1994, in Hilo Hospital.  He was a retired plant supervisor for Standard Oil and a member of the Chevron Retirees Association, Yamaguchi Kenjinkai, Hilo Hongwanji Mission, and Kinney Heights Kumiai.  His funeral service was held at Dodo Mortuary in Hilo on January 14.  His remains were shipped to Honolulu and he was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Section D, Site 213.  Fumiko died on August 15, 2009, and was buried with her husband.

Haruto Iwamasa had two brothers who served with the 442nd RCT:  Yoshio Iwamasa in 3rd Battalion, I Company, and Masao Iwamasa in 2nd Battalion, F Company.

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2023.

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