Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, K Company
Iwao Takemoto was born on April 24, 1922, in Kapaa, Kauai, Territory of Hawaii. He was the son of Hikoju and Fusano (Takabayashi) Takemoto. His siblings were: brothers Tom Tsutomo and Shomito; sisters Celia Ayano, Nancy Sadako, and Haruyo.
His parents emigrated from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, in 1895. Hikoju and Fusano both worked for a sugar plantation until 1940, when they changed to working in a pineapple cannery. Hikoju was also a Minister in the Tenrikyo Church.
Blodie, as Iwao was known, graduated from Kalaheo High School in 1940, where it was reported that he was an “outstanding star” in track and football. He also played for the Pono Athletic Club’s 125-pound barefoot football team, which was sponsored by Hawaiian Canneries in Kapaa. The following year he graduated from Kalaheo Vocational School. He moved to Honolulu after school, and before entering the service, he was employed as a welder for Hawaiian Construction Company doing work for the U.S. Army Engineering Department.
He registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, Local Board No. 3 in Honolulu He was 5’7” tall and weighed 160 pounds. His address was 932-D Hausten Street, Honolulu, and he listed his sister, Sadako Takemoto, in Kapaa as his point of contact. He was employed by Hawaiian Constructors located at Base YO-6 on Date Street.
Takemoto enlisted in the U.S. Army at Schofield Barracks, Oahu, on March 24, 1943. His civilian occupation was given as “Semiskilled welder and flame-cutter.” He was sent to the “tent city” known as Boomtown at Schofield Barracks with other 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.
After months of training, Blodie left Camp Shelby with the 442nd 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 at Naples, Italy, on May 28. He entered battle near Suvereto north of Rome on June 26. Blodie fought in the Rome-Arno Campaign, up the western side of Italy, driving the German Army north of the Arno River.
On September 27, 1944, the 442nd was pulled out of the battle lines and sent by ship to Marseilles, France, then traveled north 500 miles to the battle front in northeastern France to join the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign. Their first objective was to liberate the important road junction of Bruyères in the Vosges Mountains. The intense battles to liberate Bruyères and neighboring Biffontaine lasted from October 16 to 24. The combat team was then put into reserve in Belmont for a brief rest. After two days, on the afternoon of October 26, they were ordered to the front lines again to aid in the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” – the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment. This battalion had gotten ahead of the lines and was surrounded on three sides by the enemy. Attempts by the 141st and other units to free it had been unsuccessful, so the 442nd was called in.
On October 27, all three battalions were in line abreast and launched an attack against the Germans. At 3:30 p.m. the Germans launched a counter-attack against I and K Companies. When their tanks were knocked out, the Germans slowly withdrew. As night fell, the 3rd Battalion did not pursue, since it was impossible to maintain control in the pitch darkness. The next morning the Regiment resumed its assault on the German line.
It was during this operation that Private First Class Iwao Takemoto was killed on October 31, 1944.
Pfc. Iwao Takemoto was interred in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Epinal, France. His death was announced in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on November 25, with his memorial service held in Kapaa on November 26.
For his military service, Private First Class Iwao Takemoto was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, 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. Iwao 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.
When the Army was closing the many, small wartime cemeteries in Europe in 1948, the Takemoto family was given the choice to have his remains shipped home or remain at the large cemetery at Epinal. They chose to have Iwao’s body brought home.
On September 1, 1948, Iwao Takemoto was among 78 soldiers whose remains arrived in Honolulu from San Francisco on the USAT Dalton Victory at Pier 40 at 1:00 p.m. This was the first of the ships bearing Hawaii’s fallen sons to return home. Earlier that morning in waters off Diamond Head, the Coast Guard cutter Iroquois and the Navy destroyer escort George circled the choppy seas to meet the Dalton Victory. Four 442nd veterans were aboard the Iroquois and each dropped a giant orchid, rose, and anthurium wreath into the ocean next to the Dalton Victory. As the ship entered Honolulu Harbor, a 21-gun salute was fired from Fort Armstrong, and Army, Navy, and Marine planes flew overhead. As the ship docked at Pier 40, church bells tolled throughout Honolulu. Hundreds and family and friends were there to greet the ship. George Miki, President of the 442nd Veterans Club, and Earl Finch of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were on the dock to welcome the soldiers home and talk to the parents who were awaiting the arrival of the ship. The flag-draped caskets were held at the Army mausoleum at Schofield Barracks pending burial arrangements.
The following day there was a memorial processional with the caskets of two anonymous soldiers carried on caissons through downtown to a service at Iolani Palace, where they later lay in state in the Throne Room.
On October 6, the caskets bearing the remains of Pfc. Iwao Takemoto and five other 442nd war dead on the S.S. Hualalai, an inter-island steamer, arrived at Port Allen, Kauai. The ship was met by a large contingent of family, friends, military and civic representatives, and a National Guard unit. Initially, the caskets were taken to the Kauai Mortuary, then with their military escorts to the homes of the families: three on the east and three on the west side of the island.
The next day, home and church services were held in Waimea and Kapaa before processions formed in both towns for the trip to the cemetery. The burial of all six men was held with military rites at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery in Hanapepe. The sermon was delivered by 442nd Chaplain Hiro Higuchi, who said in part that the dead had done their part and it was up to those left behind to do what they could to preserve the peace for which the fallen heroes fought. All arrangements were made by Ben Tashiro, commander of Kauai Post No. 2, American Legion, in conjunction with the Kauai Veterans Club.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.