Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
522nd Field Artillery Battalion, Service Battery
Jusei Higa was born on July 21, 1921, in Lahaina, Maui, Territory of Hawaii, to Sabueo and Mutaru (Tengan) Higa. Jusei had three brothers – Senkai, Saijiro, and Shigeru, and two sisters – Chiyoko Doris, and Fumiko. His parents emigrated from Gushikawa Prefecture, Japan, in 1909 and 1911, respectively. Mutaru arrived in Honolulu on the S.S. Korea on September 9, 1911; Sabueo and Mutaru were married that day at the U. S. Immigration Station.
Jusei attended grammar school in Lahaina. He registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, at Local Board No. 5, 212 Tax Office Building, Beretania Street in Honolulu. He was employed by the Honolulu City and County Board of Water Supply. His point of contact was his brother Senkai Higa, 2232 Pauoa Road, Honolulu. Jusei was 5’6” tall and weighed 133 pounds.
Higa enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 25, 1943. At the time, he was employed as a houseman and yardman. He was sent to Boom Town, the “tent city” at Schofield Barracks where all the recent volunteers were housed. On March 28, they were given an aloha farewell ceremony by the community at Iolani Palace. On April 4, they left on the S.S. Lurline for San Francisco.
After arriving on the mainland, Jusei and the rest of the new soldiers were sent by train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training, arriving on April 18. He was assigned to Service Battery, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. After a year of basic and specialized training and military exercises, they left on April 22, 1944, by train for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. On May 2, the 522nd left from nearby Hampton Roads on the USAT Johns Hopkins in a convoy of over 100 troop ships, arriving at Brindisi and Bari, Italy, on May 28. They went by train to Naples, arriving on May 29, where they met up with the rest of the 442nd. After a week in a bivouac area in the nearby town of Bagnoli, they left on the LST 526 for Anzio, arriving on June 7. The 442nd entered combat on June 26 near Suvereto in the Rome-Arno Campaign. Jusei was present for all the action seen by the 522nd in Italy.
On September 10, 1944, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion left Rosignano on the S.S. Richard K. Call for the overnight trip to Qualiano, where they were in another bivouac area until September 21. Following six days in the staging area at Bagnoli near Naples, they left on the U.S.S. Thurston for France on September 27.
Once they arrived in Marseilles, the Combat Team was in a bivouac area in nearby Septèmes until October 9, when they were transported north to participate in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign. In October-November, the 522nd Field Artillery helped to liberate the important road junction of Bruyères, followed by Biffontaine, and the famous “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” – the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment that had advanced beyond its support, become surrounded by the enemy, and was unable to extricate itself.
Following the Vosges, Jusei went with the 442nd for participation in the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign in southern France. They were in the area of Nice, Menton, and Sospel beginning on November 21. Service Battery was stationed and housed in Ville Franche, near Nice, in the estate known as La Leopolda, the winter home of King Leopold of Belgium.
On March 9, 1945, the 522nd Field Artillery was detached from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and assigned to General Alexander Patch’s Seventh Army to add fire power for its assault on the Siegfried Line in Germany.
The 522nd Field Artillery left Menton and convoyed north. They entered Germany at Kleinbittersdorf on March 12, 1945. The fast-moving 522nd moved constantly, giving chase to the retreating enemy across southern Germany toward the Austrian border. During the German campaign, the Battalion made 52 displacements until the war ended on V-E Day on May 8. The war ended while they were in Schaftlach, south of Munich.
The Battalion moved from Schaftlach on May 9, north to the area of Donauworth. Service Battery was assigned to the town of Baumenheim for the balance of the occupation. The 522nd was deactivated on October 5, 1945, and men with more than 70 “points” began preparing for the long journey home.
Pfc. Higa arrived back in Hawaii on February 5, 1946, on the troop ship USAT President Buchanan, one of 253 returning veterans. The Hawaiian contingent boarded the vessel on January 21 and were held on the ship for five days before leaving port. On January 26, the ship sailed from Wilmington, California, but suffered a series of breakdowns at sea. It finally arrived at Pier 39-D after a 10-day voyage. Of the returning veterans, 75 had been marooned on the mainland for as long as four months awaiting transportation home. This was due to the failure of the War Department to issue proper orders assuring prompt return of the veterans to Hawaii, and the inability of the Los Angeles port of embarkation to furnish adequate ground transportation. Jusei was discharged from the Army at the separation center at Fort Kamehameha.
For his wartime service, Private First Class Jusei Higa was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, and Army of Occupation Medal. 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, Jusei married Janet Tomoyo Tokuda on November 23, 1946, in Honolulu. They had three children – one boy and two girls. Jusei worked as a painter for the federal government’s Public Work Center. He was a member of Aza Gushikawa Doshi Kai.
Jusei passed away on March 19, 2017, in Honolulu. His funeral service was held on April 13 at Hosoi Garden Mortuary. He was preceded in death by his son. His survivors included his wife, two daughters, four grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2022.