James Junichi Kagihara
Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, Headquarters Company
James Junichi Kagihara was born on September 27, 1917, in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. He was one of three sons and one daughter of Tahei and Oman Kagihara. They had arrived together on the SS Doric from Japan on August 3, 1897. Taihei was an express (transit truck) owner/operator.
Kagihara was a 1935 graduate of McKinley High School. He was an all-around athlete, starring especially in swimming, baseball, and basketball. After high school he became a member of the Japanese Rowing Club of Honolulu.
James signed his WWII Draft Registration card on October 26, 1940, Local Board No. 3 at the National Guard Armory. He was living at 960 Kaheka Lane and employed by Cooke Trust Company Ltd. at 926 Fort Street. His point of contact was his brother Dr. Frederick Sadame Kagihara of 1907 Coyne Street. James was 5’4” tall and weighed 140 lbs.
On March 24, 1943, he was inducted into the U. S. Army at Schofield Barracks on Oahu. His civilian occupation was listed as “clerks, general office.” He was in Schofield’s “tent city” with other inductees. On March 28 they were given a community farewell at Iolani Palace and on April 4 they sailed on the S.S. Lurline to San Francisco. After a train trip across the US, they arrived at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training.
Kagihara served in all the campaigns of the 442nd: Rome-Arno in Italy, Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps in France, and Po Valley back in Italy.
Private First Class James Junichi Kagihara died from wounds received in action in Italy during the Po Valley Campaign on April 16, 1945. He was admitted to an aid station with severe head and leg injuries caused by an artillery shell. After amputation and a transfusion, he died.
Kagihara was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Castelfiorentino, Tuscany, Italy. On May 6, 1945, a memorial service was held by his family at the Nishi Hongwanji in Honolulu. A Gold Star flag was presented to his brother Dr. Kagihara during the service, which ended with Taps by 100th Battalion veteran Richard K. Mizuta. Dr. Kagihara also donated $150 in James’ memory to the Hawaii War Veterans Memorial Fund and the Hawaii Chapter of the American Red Cross.
For his military service Private First Class James Junichi Kagihara was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Presidential Unit Citation. 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.
In 1949, the family was given the choice of having his remains returned home. As a result, he was shipped to Honolulu, arriving on July 11, 1949, on the military transport ship Captain Arlo L. Olsen with 34 other war dead. This was the sixth such ship to arrive, and it was greeted by a large crowd. Acting Governor Oren E. Long delivered a eulogy and Army chaplains conducted a memorial service following the 9:00 a.m. berthing.
The funeral service and burial for James Junichi Kagihara were at 11:00 a.m. in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on August 15, 1949, Section D, Site 491. This was one of 18 such funerals that day. A Card of Thanks from James’ family was printed in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on August 18 for the many kindnesses and floral offerings of relatives, friends, and especially Cooke Trust Company, Kaheka Young Men’s Association, and Club 442.
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/)