Juneus Tetsu Oba

Juneus Tetsu Oba
Staff Sergeant
442nd Regimental Combat Team
2nd Battalion, E Company

Juneus Tetsu Oba was born on June 2, 1924, in Portland, Oregon, to Yoshisuke and Masue (Koyama) Oba.  He was the second of three sons:  brothers Stanley Takashi and Calvin Hiroshi.

Yoshisuke Oba’s family were descendants of the samurai class.  After the samurai system was dissolved in the 1870s, many, including the Obas, became hotel keepers.  His family property was a ryokan (traditional inn) and sake brewery located over a stream in Nagano Prefecture.  Behind it was the old family cemetery with ancient headstones going back centuries.

Yoshisuke emigrated from the village of Katagiri, Nagano Prefecture, arriving on the S.S. Empress of China at Vancouver, British Columbia, on April 16, 1906, at the age of 20, as a silk weaver enroute to Portland where his uncle Masuki Shimamura resided, c/o Ban Co., 7th Avenue North.  When he signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918, he was living at 133 East 30th Street in Portland and employed as a driver for the Crescent Murphy Brothers Laundry at 31st and East Alder Streets.

Sometime in 1919, Yoshisuke returned to Katagiri and was married on November 13 to Masue Koyama of Takafuku-machi, Nagano Prefecture.  They arrived in Seattle on July 2, 1920, on the Africa Maru, and went home to Portland.  In the 1920s, they lived at 269 Larrabee Street with Yoshisuke’s brother Kyo H. Oba and his wife Tomio, owners of a grocery store at 595 Wash.

By 1930, the family lived at 269 Larrabee Street, Portland.  Yoshisuke was still employed as a driver for Crescent Murphy Brothers Laundry.  By 1940, they were living at and managing the Stone Hotel at 1610 S.W. 1st Avenue.  Masue ran the facility while Yoshisuke worked at the WOL Co. sawmill.  Juneus later recalled chopping wood for the stoves and cleaning guest rooms, which he really disliked.

The family was evacuated to the Portland WCCA Assembly Center in the spring of 1942.  While there, Juneus signed his WWII Draft Registration card on June 30, Local Board No. 95.  Shortly after, a request for volunteers to work on farms in Idaho was announced.  Juneus volunteered, and so his residence at the Assembly Center was crossed out and “c/o Leo Thorsen, Route 4, Wieser, Idaho,” was written in.  At the time, he was 5’10” tall and weighed 160 pounds.

He returned to the WCCA Assembly Center at the end of the summer after working in Idaho on sugar beet farms.

On September 8, 1942, with the exception of son Stanley, who had enlisted on January 12, the Oba family was incarcerated at Minidoka WRA Relocation Center, in Hunt, Idaho.

Juneus continued his employment as a sugar beet harvester in the summer of 1943.  He made a trip to Butte, Montana, where he married Nobuko Mae Konno of Redmond, Oregon, daughter of Kiyoshi and Ito (Tsurumaki) Konno, on June 18, 1943.  Mae had been evacuated to the Portland WCCA Assembly Center in May 1942 and incarcerated from September 11 to December 10, 1942, at Heart Mountain WRA Relocation Center in Powell, Wyoming.  She was released for employment in Ontario, Oregon.  As the camps were closed after the war, the Obas were released to return to Portland.  Mother Masue and brother Calvin were released on July 21, 1945 and father Yoshisuke was released on June 26.

A week after his wedding, on June 26, Juneus enlisted the U.S. Army.  He was officially released from Minidoka WRA Relocation Center on August 20, 1943.

Oba was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, E Company.  After basic training, he was chosen as a BAR man and received specialized training in the Browning Automatic Rifle.  After nearly a year of combat training and field maneuvers, he left by train from Camp Shelby on April 22, 1944, with the Combat Team.  They arrived at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, and left from nearby Hampton Roads on May 2 in a convoy of over 100 ships for the Theater of War.

Once they arrived in the Mediterranean, the ship that carried most of the 2nd Battalion left the convoy and headed for port in Oran, Algeria.  After offloading cargo, they rejoined the regiment at Naples, Italy, on June 17.  The rest of the 442nd had arrived on May 28 and was by then in bivouac at nearby Bagnoli.  Second Battalion followed the same route.  They then went by LSTs to Anzio and were trucked around Rome to a larger bivouac near Civitavecchia, about fifty miles north.

The 442nd, with Oba, entered combat on June 26, 1944, near Suvereto, in the Rome-Arno Campaign.  After driving the enemy north to the Arno River, they were pulled from the lines and sent to Naples for shipment to France, where they joined in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign.  They arrived at Marseilles on September 29 after a 2-day voyage, and bivouacked at nearby Septèmes prior to traveling over 500 miles north by truck or rail boxcars to the Vosges.

Oba was in combat for the next month during the bitter fighting to liberate the important rail junction of Bruyères, neighboring Biffontaine and Belmont, and the “Rescue of the Lost Battalion,” the 1st Battalion, 141st (Texas) Infantry that had advanced beyond the lines and was surrounded on three sides by the enemy.  The weather was cold, wet, snowy, and miserable, as the men fought in the heavily wooded forests still in their summer uniforms.  They were subjected to living in foxholes, and incoming artillery raining down on them in “tree bursts.”  At one point, foxhole mate Pfc. Lawson Sakai told Oba that the last round fired at them had wounded him.  Oba did not want to be taken off the lines, so he was treated only at an aid station.

After the fierce fighting in the Vosges, the 442nd was now at half strength, and was sent to the south of France.  There, they could rebuild to full combat strength while participating in the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign, which was mostly a defensive position guarding the French-Italian border from attack by the German Army in Italy.  The 442nd was there from November 23, 1944, until March 15, 1945, when they were relieved and moved in relays to the new staging area at Marseilles.  On March 20-22, the 442nd (without its 522nd Field Artillery Battalion who were sent to Germany) left France to fight in the Po Valley Campaign for the final push to defeat the Nazis in Italy.  They arrived at the Peninsular Base Section in Pisa on March 25 and were assigned to Fifth Army.

The objective of the 442nd was to execute a surprise diversionary attack on the western anchor of the German Gothic Line.  This elaborate system of fortifications had been attacked in the fall of 1944, but no one had yet been able to pry the Germans loose from the western end.  The Gothic Line in this area was hewn out of solid rock, reinforced with concrete, and constructed to give all-around protection and observation.  The Germans were dug into mountain peaks rising almost sheer from the coastal plain, bare of vegetation save for scanty scrub growth.

The Combat Team left their initial staging area and moved to a bivouac at San Martino, near the walled city of Lucca.  Starting on April 3, the 442nd conducted a surprise attack on the Germans at Mount Folgorito.  By April 6 the 2nd Battalion, with S/Sgt. Oba, had gained the ridge of Mount Folgorito and was poised for an attack on Mount Carchio and Mount Belvedere to the north, the peak that looked down on the city of Massa.  By noon, F Company had reduced Mount Carchio while the rest of the 2nd Battalion began working on the wide, rolling top of Mount Belvedere, which was defended by the veteran troops of the crack Machine Gun Battalion Kesselring.  The enemy battered the 442nd attackers with a steady stream of mortar fire, to no avail, and were defeated.

After these battles, the 442nd moved farther north, finally taking Aulla on April 25, penetrating as far north as Torino.  The 442nd’s diversionary attack was relentlessly pursued by the Combat Team, resulting in a complete breakthrough of the Gothic Line in the west.  Despite orders from Hitler to fight on, the German forces in Italy surrendered on May 2, 1945, a week before the rest of the German forces in Europe surrendered.  Nearly two weeks later, Juneus Oba was listed on an Army Wounded list in the Idaho Statemen.

Oba was with the 442nd while in occupation at Ghedi Airport guarding and processing German prisoners, the move to Lecco, and the return to the Livorno/Pisa/Florence area on July 12 for further guard duty.  The exact date that S/Sgt. Oba left Italy is not known.

For his World War II service, Staff Sergeant Juneus Tetsu Oba received the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge with two oak leaf clusters, and Combat Infantryman Badge.  He was posthumously 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 Oba returned to Oregon, he reenlisted in the Army and went on reserve status as he studied at the University of Portland.  In February 1946, he became the treasurer of Portland Chapter No. 1, American Veterans Committee, at the organizational meeting of the first Oregon unit  He also was a member of the Portland Chapter of the JACL (Japanese American Citizens League).  In 1948, he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree.  While in college, he worked also at the post office and he and Mae belonged to the Northminster Presbyterian Church.  His parents had returned to Portland where they ran the US Hotel for a few years while they lived in Vanport, a housing development by the Columbia River.  The town was destroyed by a flood on May 31, 1948, and Yoshisuke saved his grandson Richard carrying him through the floodwaters.

Oba remained for a career in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps.  On December 6, 1948, his status changed to Second Lieutenant, Quartermaster Reserves.  He was stationed at Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 56th Quartermaster Base Depot, in Giessen, north of Frankfurt, Germany, until 1951.  Lieutenant Oba then attended Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Virginia, graduating on July 3, 1953.  Oba was the top man in the Company Officers Course, and received the Quartermaster Association’s Honor Graduate Award  .  Later tours of duty included Quartermaster Logistics Headquarters in Chicago; two tours of duty in Korea, followed by Munich, Germany, and two tours in Vietnam.

Parents Yoshisuke and Masue became naturalized US citizens on November 11, 1954, in Portland.  Sometime afterwards, they returned to Nagano, Japan, and died there in 1968 and 1961, respectively.  Their elaborate tombstone in the family cemetery included an inscription telling of their years living in Oregon.

The last week of May 1967, Captain Oba made a surprise visit to the 442nd Veterans Club at 933 Wiliwili Street in Honolulu.  He was enroute from Vietnam to Chicago, having spent 11 months as advisor to the Vietnam Army.  Easy Chapter members entertained him with a Chinese dinner at Wo Fat’s Restaurant, a visit to the Bowl-o-Drome where the 442nd league was in session, and a party at the Evergreen.

In October 1962, Major Oba attended the 17th Reunion of the Liberation of Bruyères along with other 442nd Veterans.  He recalled in an interview that it was …  Nothing but rain.  And the World Series was just over.  That’s what I remember about Bruyères – and its kindness to us.

Lieutenant Colonel Juneus T. Oba died on December 28, 1968, at Letterman General Hospital at the Presidio in San Francisco, California  At the time, he was the Deputy Commander of the Army’s Logistical Control for the Pacific, serving in Vietnam.  He was buried on January 6, 1969, at San Francisco National Cemetery, Presidio, Section H, Site 103.  Survivors included his wife, Mae, children Richard Juneus, John Stanley, and Ilene Teresa, and brother Calvin Oba.  Mae died on December 20, 1995, and was buried with her husband.  On his tombstone is inscribed:  Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and Purple Heart Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

In 2001, Lieutenant Colonel Juneus T. Oba was posthumously presented the Distinguished Members of the Corps Award by the Army Quartermaster Foundation.  The DMOC Award honors select individuals who have made “Distinguished Contributions to the Quartermaster Corps,” and who by virtue of prestige, status, and experience will assist in fostering pride and esprit, heritage and tradition.

His brother Private Stanley T. Oba served in G Company, 442nd RCT, and was killed in action on April 19, 1945.

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2023 with assistance by his son, Richard Juneus Oba, who is a Lifetime Member.

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