Itsuki Mitchell Oshita
Technician 5th Grade
442nd Regimental Combat Team
100th Battalion, Headquarters Company
Itsuki Mitchell Oshita was born in Eleele, Kauai, Territory of Hawaii, on June 26, 1917. His parents were Ikutaro and Haruno (Nagao) Oshita. Ikutaro was born on December 19, 1874, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. He had arrived in Hawaii sometime before 1893, as he left on March 18 of that year on the Miike Maru for Japan. Haruo was born around 1887, in Tomomura, Hiroshima Prefecture. She arrived in Hawaii in 1905, and married Ikutaro the same year. Itsuki was the fifth of six children: five boys – Wataru Harry, Satoru David, Masaru, Hiroshi, and Itsuki; followed by one girl, Suye, who was stillborn on February 3, 1919. Ikutaro worked as a laborer for McBryde Sugar Co.
On October 25, 1919, tragedy struck the family when Ikutaro drowned off Eleele Beach in a fishing accident. Itsuki was only 2 years old at the time, so he never really knew his father.
Without the family breadwinner, the family could not stay in their home on the sugar plantation. With five boys to feed, Haruno moved to Honolulu and lived with her brother Shimakichi Nagao and his wife Kino. They operated a chicken market at 395 N. King Street in Palama. Haruno worked at the market. The boys also worked at the market, plucking feathers each morning before they left for school.
On June 21, 1929, when Itsuki was 11 years old, his mother Haruno died of tuberculosis. His oldest brother Wataru Harry, age 22, became the head of the family. In 1930, the five brothers were living in an apartment at 427 N. King Street. Harry and David worked hard to pay the rent in the tenement building. The orphaned Itsuki grew up with friends at Palama Center, often begging for food.
In 1934, at the age of 17, Oshita won the Boys Clubs of America National Championship for the indoor pentathlon competition in the 100-lb. division as a member of the Palama Settlement Boys Club. The statistics for his all-around, well-balanced, winning performance were: 8’10¼” broad jump; 5’2” cross piece; 25’¾” triple jump; 19 times swayed the basket at shooting; and 45 pull-ups. Later that year he won the 10th Annual Best Boy Contest in the A Class division (boys over 100 pounds) at Palama Settlement, with competition in track and field and swimming events. He received a medal and a year’s membership at Palama.
Although he had a tough childhood, Itsuki eventually graduated from McKinley High School in 1935. While in high school he was in the school’s Chapter No. 2 of the Future Farmers of America. After high school he remained active in sports. He boxed locally in the flyweight division as a member of the Japanese American Athletic Association and played in the Citywide-Palama Barefoot Football League.
By 1940, Itsuki was living with brothers Harry and Hiroshi in an apartment at 641 S. Beretania Street and he was working as a repairman in an auto repair shop.
According to his Draft Registration card, signed on October 26, 1940, at Local Board No. 5 in Honolulu, Oshita was 5’4” tall and weighed 129 pounds. He listed his home address as 641 S. Beretania Street and his point of contact was his brother Harry Wataru Oshita. He was employed at Frias Auto Paint Shop on 521 Halekauwila Street.
On June 6, 1941, it was announced that Tony, as Itsuki was known, was to be inducted into the Army later that month. On the 22nd, he was among the 104 draftees that were honored at an aloha ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at the Kokusai Theater, which was sponsored by the United Japanese Society. Speakers were Society President Taichi Sato, Mayor Lester A. Petrie, George S. Waterhouse, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and Col. Perry M. Smoot, Territorial Director of the Selective Service.
On June 30, 1941, Tony was inducted into the U.S. Army. After basic training at Schofield Barracks, he was assigned to Service Company of the 298th Infantry Regiment at Schofield.
In June 1942, Private Itsuki Oshita departed Honolulu on the U.S. Army transport ship, USAT Maui, with the contingent of soldiers that were designated the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) when they arrived in Oakland, California. Following initial training at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, they went to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for more training, including military maneuvers at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. They left Camp Shelby on August 11, 1943, for the 2-day train trip to New Jersey.
On August 21 they went by train to Brooklyn, New York, ferried to Staten Island, and boarded the S.S. James Parker for the 12-day Atlantic crossing. On the ship manifest Oshita was listed as a member of Headquarters Company, Service Company, Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon. The 100th arrived in Oran, Algeria, on September 2 where they remained for nearly three weeks. Three weeks later the 100th arrived in Salerno, Italy, to participate in the Naples-Foggia Campaign.
During the war, Oshita served the 100th as a truck driver assigned to Headquarters Company in the motor pool division.
Itsuki served in the following campaigns: Naples-Foggia and Rome-Arno in Italy; Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps in France; and Po Valley back in Italy.
On July 18, 1945, he was among 11 soldiers from the 100th Battalion flown from Italy to Miami, Florida, enroute home. They were sent to Camp Blanding in Florida to await further travel arrangements to Hawaii.
On September 25, 1945, Tony Oshita was honorably discharged from the Army. According to his discharge papers, his qualifications included Marksman Rifle M1 (February 10, 1943), Combat Infantryman (April 7, 1944), Marksman BAR (September 12, 1941), and Motor Vehicle Drivers Badge (1942).
For his wartime service, Technician 5th Grade Itsuki Oshita was awarded the following: Bronze Star Medal; Good Conduct Medal; American Defense Service Medal with clasp; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with five bronze stars; World War II Victory Medal; Army of Occupation Medal; Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit 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.
After the war, Itsuki remained in Honolulu. He applied to Pearl Harbor for work, but was rejected because he did not have any citizenship papers, even though he had just served in the U.S. Army and had a Form DD214. He and his friends then applied for a job at Hickam Air Force Base and he was accepted to work as a fireman. He also played golf with the Palama Golf Club.
Itsuki married Hayako “Elsie” Kurasaki (born on May 16, 1921, in Kapaa, Kauai) on April 10, 1948, in Honolulu. They raised a family of three children. Itsuki continued to work as a fireman, and over the years was promoted to hose-man, driver, crew chief, and eventually Captain. He retired from Hickam as a Captain at age 56.
In his retirement, Itsuki and Elsie Oshita enjoyed travelling, especially to Japan. On one trip they visited his cousin Katsumi Nagao with whom the family had lived when he was a child in Honolulu. Before the war Katsumi had moved to Japan and been trained as a kamikaze pilot in the Imperial forces. Fortunately, he was never assigned a mission before the war ended.
In November 2011, at a special ceremony in Washington DC, Itsuki Mitchell Oshita was posthumously presented the Bronze Star Medal, as he had been awarded a Combat Infantryman Badge. His widow Hayako Oshita accepted the medal.
Itsuki Oshita passed away at age 79 on July 15, 1996. His wife Elsie Hayako Oshita was a dedicated volunteer at the 100th Clubhouse in Honolulu for many years. She passed away on September 19, 2019, at the age of 98. Survivors included their three children and four grandchildren. Tony and Elsie were inurned in the Columbarium at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Plot CT3-K, Row 500, Site 502.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.