Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
Katsumi Fujii was born on September 16, 1916, in Berkeley, California. He was the elder of the two sons of Fusakichi and Kimino (Otsuka) Fujii. His brother was Tsugio. His father arrived at Honolulu on the Korea Maru on November 2, 1906, as a single man at the age of 20. He was from Kamihonami, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.
By 1916 he was married, as on April 28 Fusakichi and his wife arrived in San Francisco from Honolulu on the Seattle Maru. They were held at the port until May 3 as he had pterygium (conjunctivitis or pink eye) and she was pregnant.
In 1918, the family lived at 2641 Dana Street in Berkeley and Fusakichi was self-employed as a day worker. In 1929, the family lived at 706 Madison Street, Oakland. In 1932, the family lived in Oakland at 235 30th Street.
Katsumi was sent to stay with his grandfather, Sakichi Fujii, in the village of Kamihonami, Kaho District, Fukuoka Prefecture. He returned at age 17 on September 11, 1934, on the Asama Maru.
Before the war, Katsumi worked with his father who was a self-employed gardener for private homeowners.
Fujii signed his draft registration card on October 16, 1940, Local Board No. 72 in Oakland. He was living with his family at 828 27th Street in Oakland. He was self-employed and was 5’4” tall and weighed 126 pounds. His father was listed as his point of contact.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 10, 1941, in San Francisco. His civilian occupation was listed as “Gardener, landscaper” and he had completed one year of high school. Available records do not state where Katsumi was stationed prior to being transferred to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training in April 1943. He was assigned to the Regimental Headquarters Company.
Katsumi’s parents and brother Tsugio Tom were evacuated to the Tanforan WCCA Assembly Center in the spring of 1942. It was located at the Tanforan Race Track in San Bruno, California. Tsugio was incarcerated on September 11 and his parents on October 1 at the Central Utah WRA Internment Center on October 1, 1942. Topaz, as it was known, was located in west-central Utah. Tsugio was released on November 29, 1945, to go to Detroit, Michigan. Fusakichi and Kimino were released on September 29, 1945, to return home to Oakland.
After a year of training, Katsumi left Camp Shelby with the rest of the 442nd on April 22, 1943, for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. On May 2, 1944, they left from nearby Hampton Roads in a convoy of over 100 ships. They arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28.
The Combat Team went into combat on June 26 near Suvereto. After pushing the Germans north to the Arno River, they were pulled from the fighting in Italy and sent to France on September 27, 1944.
Pfc. Fujii participated in the following campaigns: Rome-Arno in Italy, Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps in France, and Po Valley back in Italy.
For his military service, he was awarded the following: Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge with one oak leaf cluster. He also 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, Fujii returned to Oakland and continued in his profession as a self-employed gardener. He married Fumiko Otsuka of Oakland. She was the daughter of Tomio and Asana (Iwamoto) Otsuka who emigrated from Kaho District, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. The Otsuka family had been incarcerated at Tule Lake WRA Internment Camp in northern California during the war. Over the years, Katsumi and Fumiko raised a family of one daughter and two sons. They lived at 1434 Whittle Avenue, Oakland.
In May 1953, Fujii was a founding member and the treasurer of the Japanese-American Citizens League, Oakland Chapter.
On January 31, 1971, Fumiko Otsuka Fujii died at the age of 47, in Oakland. He later married Toyoko Kanzaki.
Katsumi Fujii died on November 26, 1993, in Oakland. He was survived by his wife Toyoko and his three children. He was inurned with his first wife Fumiko and his parents at Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, in the Outdoor Garden Mausoleum 2, Niche 26, Tier 5. His second wife, Toyoko, died in 2017.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2022.