442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
Masayoshi Nakamura was born on June 16, 1921, in Hilo, Hawaii island, Territory of Hawaii. He was one of six children of Kanichiro and Misao (Futagawa) Nakamura. His siblings were: brothers – Yoshinari, Takeo, and Francis Seiichi; sisters – Dorothy Fumie and Irene Aiko.
Kanichiro was born on September 5, 1894, at Honomu, Hilo, Hawaii island. He was the son of Mantaro and Otake (Shinkawa) Nakamura, who emigrated on January 10, 1894, from the village of Niho, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Mantaro worked for the Honomu Sugar Plantation on the Big Island as a field laborer. In 1913, Mantaro returned to Japan, where he lived until his return to Hawaii in 1918.
Misao arrived in 1915 from Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Kanichiro and Misao were married on November 28, 1917, in Hilo. Kanichiro worked for the Honomu Sugar Plantation. In 1923, the family moved to Waialae, Oahu, where Kanichiro worked in a plantation store. By 1930, he was manager of the Waialae Store – a grocery/general store. The store closed in 1932 during the Great Depression economy. He then started a nursery business, which he ran until his retirement.
Masayoshi graduated from McKinley High School in 1939, and worked for a private plumbing contractor as a “tin man.” In February 1942, he got a job with the Honolulu Board of Water Supply at Beretania and Alapai Streets.
Masa, as he was known, registered for the draft at Local Board No. 3 in Honolulu on February 14, 1942. He was living with his family at 2842 Date Street, and his point of contact was his father. Masa was 5’3” tall and weighed 127 pounds.
Masa enlisted in the U. S. Army on March 24, 1943. His civilian occupation was listed as “Skilled mechanic and repairman.” 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, Masa 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 the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 3rd Battalion, I Company, 3rd Platoon, 2nd Squad.
After a year of basic and specialized training and military exercises, they left by train for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, on April 22, 1944. On May 2, the 442nd left from nearby Hampton Roads in a convoy of over 100 ships, and arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28.
The battalion spent a week at a staging area in Bagnoli, near Naples, before leaving on LSTs for Anzio on June 6, where they marched five miles to a bivouac area. From Anzio, the 442nd went to a large bivouac area near Civitavecchia, north of Rome, where they went through additional training and final preparations for going to the front lines. The 442nd entered combat on June 26 near Suvereto in the Rome-Arno Campaign.
Masa fought in all battles of the 442nd in the Rome-Arno Campaign. The Combat Team left for France on September 27. Once they arrived in Marseilles, they were 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 1944, the 442nd liberated the important rail and 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. Masa was wounded by machine-gun fire during the rescue on October 29, when his company charged up the mountain into the face of the dug-in Germans. It was reported in the Honolulu newspapers in January 1945, that Pfc. Masayoshi Nakamura had been wounded.
Following the vicious battles in the Vosges, Masa 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, 1944. The mission was to protect the east flank of the 6th Army Group and guard against an improbable, although possible, enemy breakthrough down the southern coast of France. If the Germans had attacked in sufficient strength, there was nothing to stop them between the border and Marseilles, except the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The 442nd returned to Italy on March 25, 1945, for the Po Valley Campaign, leading to the end of the war in May.
The Combat Team’s presence in Italy was a closely-kept secret as their mission was to attack the western anchor of the Germans’ Gothic Line, an elaborate system of fortifications hewn out of solid rock and reinforced with concrete. The enemy’s positions were built for all-around protection and observation. On March 28, the Combat Team left their Pisa staging area and moved to a bivouac at San Martino, near the walled city of Lucca. The move was made in absolute secrecy and under cover of darkness. While in bivouac, they went through more training – with the new replacements, who had seen little or no combat, practicing small-unit problems with their squads and platoons far into the night.
On April 3 at 7:45 p.m., the 3rd Battalion moved under cover of darkness to a forward assembly area in the small town of Azzano on Mount Cavallo.
On April 4, S/Sgt. Nakamura’s 3rd Battalion remained hidden in houses and olive groves. That night, I and L Companies and the machine-gun platoon of M Company began the climb up Mount Folgorito at 10:00 p.m. This climb required five hours under full equipment, and a misstep meant a fall of between 15 to 150 feet down the mountainside. They arrived about 5:30 a.m., and by 7:30 a.m. the ridgeline was secure. The Nazi gun positions were taken almost without a struggle due to the complete surprise the Combat Team had achieved.
On April 10, the Regiment had advanced north to the Frigido River, which it crossed and then drove 3,000 yards north to occupy the high ground before the center of the town of Carrara. The Germans began shelling the city and surrounding area controlled by the 442nd, keeping the area under heavy artillery fire for several days. During this campaign, Masa was wounded two more times in April: once by artillery fragments in his wrist and again by artillery fragments to his buttocks and hip area. In both cases he was treated and released from an aid station.
This campaign to secure the west end of the Gothic Line had initially been intended as a diversion for the Allies, as they were attacking farther east on the Italian Peninsula. Thanks in large part to the aggressive actions of the 442nd, it had ended up being a full-scale breakthrough and the west coast was liberated. For its part in this, the 442nd was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for the 10 days of bitter action from April 5 to 14. On May 2, the war ended in Italy. In the following days, Masa found himself guarding German prisoners as part of the 442nd’s occupation duties.
For his military service, Staff Sergeant Masayoshi Nakamura was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster, 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, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge. 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.
Masa’s return to Hawaii was a long journey. First, by B-17 from Naples, Italy, to Dakar, North Africa, then to Brazil, and to Miami, Florida. From Miami, he traveled by train to across the country to Camp Beale, California. From there, he went by train to Fort Lawton, Washington. He boarded the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill, which sailed via San Francisco to Pearl Harbor. He arrived at Pearl Harbor on October 1, 1945, and was discharged on October 22.
Masa returned to work for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. On January 28, 1956, he married Helen Yoshino Maruyama. Over the years, they raised a family of two daughters. In 1960, he transferred to the Waste Water Department where he worked as an inspector for the City and County of Honolulu until his retirement in December 1977. He was also the owner/operator of K. Nakamura Nursery.
Right: Masa in retirement
In 2017, Masa was awarded the French Legion of Honor by the government of France. This is the highest honor given by France and it was given for his service in France during the war.
Masayoshi Nakamura died on October 3, 2019, in Honolulu. He was interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), Honolulu, Section CT12H, Row 300, Site 343.
His brother, Yoshinari Nakamura, served as a Pfc. in the 100th Infantry Battalion, C Company.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the Regimental Combat Team in 2022.