Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
Isamu Minatodani was born on March 22, 1923, in Kakaako, Honolulu, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. He was the youngest child of Tatsunosuke Nishimura and Kame Minatodani. Tatsunosuke and Kame were from Okikamuro in Oshima District, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and were married in 1898 in Japan, at which time he took his wife’s name as his surname and their family name. They arrived in Hawaii on the Kinshiu Maru on March 10, 1899.
Isamu had six brothers: Yoichi, Seiichi, Bunkichi, Masaharu, Joseph Eiichi; and Hirokichi; and three sisters: Yoshiyo, Torayo, and Haruko. Eiichi used Nishimura as his surname. The family moved to Honolulu about 1912 from the Big Island, where they had lived in Kona at Holualoa, Naalehu, and Honuapo.
Isamu’s parents died in 1923 and 1934, respectively. Tatsunosuke had been a deep-sea fisherman and a boat builder. Isamu attended Pohukaina School. In1938, he was Assistant Patrol Leader of Troop 13 of the Boy Scouts. He graduated from McKinley High School in 1941.
On June 30, 1942, Isamu registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, at Local Board No. 5, at Royal School on Punchbowl Street. He listed his oldest brother Yoichi (who had raised him after their parents died) as his point of contact; they both lived at 624 Quinn Lane. He was 5’7” tall and weighed 125 lbs. He was employed at W. O. Galloway, Canada Dry Bottling Company, on Kakaako Street and Reed Lane.
Private First Class Isamu Minatodani enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 25, 1943. His civilian occupation was listed “Packing, filling, labeling, marking, bottling, and related occupations.” He was employed by James W. Glover, Contractor, with E. E. Black, Ltd., as a carpenter in Honolulu.
Minatodani was sent to the “tent city” known as Boom Town at Schofield Barracks with the other new recruits. They were given a farewell aloha ceremony by the community on March 28 at Iolani Palace. On April 4, the new soldiers left on the S.S. Lurline for San Francisco enroute to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
At Camp Shelby Isamu was assigned to 3rd Battalion, I Company. After over a year of training, the 442nd left Camp Shelby for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, on April 22, 1944. They shipped out to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in a large convoy of troop ships on May 2 and arrived in Naples, Italy, the end of the month.
Isamu participated in the Rome-Arno Campaign in Italy. The 442nd was then sent to France on September 27, 1944, to join in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign.
Private First Class Isamu Minatodani was killed in combat in the Vosges Mountains on October 28, 1944, in the famous rescue of the “Lost Battalion.” This was the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry that had advanced too far and found itself surrounded on three sides by the enemy. Attempts to rescue it had failed. The 442nd, exhausted and depleted by nearly nonstop combat starting on October 15 to take nearby Bruyères, was ordered to rescue the trapped Texans.
Private First Class Isamu Minatodani was interred in the U.S. Military Cemetery in Epinal, France. His family held a memorial service for him at 1:00 p.m. on December 17 at the Nishi Hongwanji Mission on upper Fort Street.
For his service to his country, Private First Class Isamu Minatodani was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two 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.
On December 7, 1945, a memorial service for 226 soldiers of the 100th/442nd who were killed in action, including Pfc. Minatodani, was held at 1:30 p.m. at the McKinley High School auditorium. The program committee consisted of the 100th and 442nd Veterans Clubs, Women’s War Service Association, and Emergency Service Committee. The speaker was Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson.
In 1948, the remains of Americans buried overseas began slowly to return to the U.S. if the family so wished. Minatodani’s family chose to have his remains brought home. Private First Class Isamu Minatodani was interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Honolulu, Hawaii, Section D, Site 365 on July 28, 1949, at 1:30 p.m. There were 20 burials of returned war dead on this day. His family published a Card of Thanks in the newspaper on August 1 to their friends and relatives for the kindnesses shown and floral offerings received during their bereavement.
Original Biography prepared by Americans of Japanese Ancestry World War II Memorial Alliance, and provided courtesy of Japanese American Living Legacy (http://www.jalivinglegacy.org/)
Researched and rewritten by 442nd S&D 6/11/2021.