Joel “Yoyan” Yoshiyuki Fujita was born February 1, 1920 in Ewa, Hawaii to Ito and Mineichi Fujita, a machinist on the sugar cane plantation. After graduating high school, Joel briefly worked as a truck driver on the plantation before taking a job as a display man at M. McInerny Co. in Honolulu. When enlistment in the Army was opened to Japanese-Americans once again, he promptly joined, enlisting on March 23, 1943.
Following training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, Joel was assigned to the 442nd’s Headquarters Company, Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon. He deployed to Europe as a tactical map specialist, responsible for creating and maintaining the critical tactical maps for the Regimental Headquarters. He also served as a reconnaissance scout and in the lead up to the battle in the Vosges Mountains, he reported vital details of German defenses to the 442nd’s officers.
Technician 5th Class Fujita served in four Allied Offensive Campaigns: the Rome-Arno, Northern Apennines, Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps, and Po Valley. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster (2nd award); Army Good Conduct Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Bronze Campaign/Battle Stars; World War II Victory Medal; Distinguished Unit Badge; Combat Infantryman Badge; Expert Badge with Rifle Bar; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II.
Following the war, Joel worked as a sign painter for the state of Hawaii. He married Frances Ohori on August 21, 1948. They had two children. On November 30, 2019 in a small private ceremony, Joel Fujita was conferred the French Chevalier (Knight) Medal by Mr. Guillaume Maman, French Honorary Consul in Hawaii.
Joel passed away June 4, 2020.