442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, L Company
Noboru Fujinaka was born on September 15, 1921, in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. He was the son of Nijiu and Matsuno Violet (Shiigi) Fujinaka.
Noboru’s father Nijiu was born in Spreckelsville, Maui, in 1890, the son of Jusaburo and Suye (Okimura) Fujinaka. Suye was from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. Noboru’s mother Matsuno emigrated in 1902 from Japan at the age of 2 with her parents Murajiro and Sato Shiigi. Noboru had seven siblings: older brother Giichi and sisters Hazel Kazue, Bettie Chiyono, Alice Yaeko, Jeanne Eiko, Grace Hisako, and Francine Nobue (born after Noboru’s death).
Noboru attended Waialae Elementary School, Liliuokalani Intermediate School, and McKinley High Schools, before graduating in 1941 from Mid-Pacific Institute. While at Mid-Pac, he was in the Christian Endeavor Society and an intramural group, the Millsonians. He then attended the University of Hawaii (UH) for one year. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he began doing defense work.
The date that he signed his draft registration card was not found in our research.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 23, 1943. His occupation was listed as carpenter and he had completed one year of college. He was sent to the “tent city” nicknamed Boomtown at Schofield Barracks with other volunteers. On March 28, they were given an aloha farewell ceremony at Iolani Palace and on April 4 they departed on the S.S. Lurline for San Francisco. After a train trip across the US, the new soldiers arrived at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training. Noboru was assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 3rd Battalion, L Company.
Following a year of basic, unit, and combat training and field maneuvers, the 442nd left Camp Shelby by train on April 22, 1944, and arrived two days later at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. They departed from nearby Hampton Roads on May 2 in a convoy of 100 ships. L Company was aboard the Liberty ship S.S. George W. Campbell.
The Combat Team arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28 and spent a week in a bivouac area in Bagnoli, near Naples. They then departed on LSTs for Anzio and a truck convoy around the newly liberated city of Rome to a new bivouac area at Civitavecchia. While there, they underwent final preparations to go to the front lines.
The 442nd entered combat on June 26, 1944, near Suvereto. After liberating Suvereto and Belvedere, they continued to push the enemy north. During July, Noboru Fujinaka was injured in his abdomen by artillery shell fragments and admitted to the hospital. Upon recovering, he was returned to duty.
After serving in the Rome-Arno Campaign, where the Combat Team engaged in battles pushing the Germans north of the Arno River and liberating several towns including Livorno, Fujinaka left Italy on September 27, 1944, for the 442nd’s combat in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign in France.
After arriving on September 29, 3rd Battalion was moved from the staging area in Septèmes, just outside Marseilles, on October 10, 500 miles by rail up the Rhone Valley north to the Vosges Mountains. They arrived in the assembly area at Charmois-devant-Bruyères at midnight on October 13. On October 15, the Combat Team attacked the Nazis who were holding the important rail and road center of Bruyères.
Following the liberation of Bruyères,on October 23, the 442nd liberated the next town, Biffontaine. Finally, on October 24 they were taken off the front lines and put in reserve in nearby Belmont for a rest after eight days of heavy fighting, little to no sleep, harsh weather conditions, and many casualties.
On the afternoon of October 26, the short rest ended abruptly when the 442nd was ordered to return to the front lines the next morning and fight through to rescue the “Lost Battalion,” the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment. After moving too fast and over-reaching its support, they had become surrounded on three sides by the enemy and were unable to extricate themselves. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 141st Infantry Regiment had tried to rescue them along with other units, but were thrown back each time they attacked.
The 442nd’s 3rd Battalion moved out at 4:00 a.m. on October 27. The men were forced to march in column, with each man holding on to the pack of the man in front of him, as they could not see each other in the darkness. By 2:00 p.m. they were in line with the other two infantry battalions of the 442nd. The attack moved slowly and encountered heavy resistance from enemy infantry and incessant mortar concentrations. The fighting was severe. All units resumed the attack on the morning of October 28, with resistance as fierce as ever. Third Battalion encountered a series of manned roadblocks in its advance up the hill.
Staff Sergeant Nobuo Fujinaka was killed on October 28, 194, while attempting to deliver medical aid to the wounded men of his platoon in the vicinity of La Houssière. He was later awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his action.
S/Sgt. Fujinaka was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Epinal, France, about 23 miles away from where he was killed. His family held a memorial service for him at 11:00 a.m. on November 26, 1944, at Nishi Hongwanji on upper Fort Street in Honolulu.
For his wartime service during World War II, Staff Sergeant Noboru Fujinaka was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge with one oak leaf cluster, and Combat Infantryman 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.
On December 1, 1944, the Fujinaka family printed a Card of Thanks in the Honolulu Advertiser to express their gratitude to their family and friends for the many floral offerings and kindnesses shown during their recent bereavement.
In late March 1945, a private ceremony was held at the Fujinaka home at 507 Oili Street for the posthumous presentation of S/Sgt. Fujinaka’s Purple Heart Medal. The medal was presented to his mother, Mrs. Matsuno Fujinaka, by Lieutenant Colonel Corwin H. Olds, Chaplain, Pacific Base Command, on behalf of Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas.
On June 12, 1945, UH paid tribute to its sixty former students who lost their lives during World War II. The tribute was a moment of silence during the annual commencement ceremony at the outdoor theater on campus. Noboru Fujinaka was among those being remembered.
On December 9, 1945, Sgt. Fujinaka was among the 226 fallen soldiers who were honored at a Memorial Service held at McKinley High School auditorium at 2:00 p.m. Testimonials were given by veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the main address by Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, commander of U.S. Army Forces – Pacific Area.
In January 1946, a private ceremony was again held at the Fujinaka home for the posthumous presentation of Sgt. Fujinaka’s Bronze Star Medal for the action in France when he lost his life. It was presented to his father, Nijiu Fujinaka, by Lieutenant Colonel Edward M. Blight, Assistant Executive, representing Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas.
After the war, the Army began to close most of the overseas wartime cemeteries. Families were given the choice of having their loved one reinterred in one of the few remaining cemeteries or returned home. The Fujinaka family chose to have Noboru’s remains return.
On September 1, 1948, Noboru Fujinaka was among 78 soldiers whose remains arrived in Honolulu Harbor from San Francisco on the USAT Dalton Victory at Pier 40 at 1:00 p.m. This was the first of the ships bearing Hawaii’s fallen sons to return home.
Earlier that morning in waters off Diamond Head, the Coast Guard cutter Iroquois and the Navy destroyer escort George circled the choppy seas to meet the Dalton Victory. Four 442nd veterans were aboard the Iroquois and each dropped a giant orchid, rose, and anthurium wreath into the ocean next to the Dalton Victory. As the ship entered the harbor, a 21-gun salute was fired from Fort Armstrong, and Army, Navy, and Marine planes flew overhead. As the ship docked, church bells tolled throughout Honolulu.
Hundreds and family and friends were there to greet the ship. George Miki, President of the 442nd Veterans Club, and Earl Finch of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were on the dock to welcome the soldiers home and talk to the parents who were awaiting the arrival of the ship. The flag-draped caskets were held at the Army mausoleum at Schofield Barracks pending burial arrangements. The following day there was a memorial processional with the caskets of two anonymous soldiers carried on caissons through downtown to a service at Iolani Palace, where they later lay in state in the Throne Room.
The caskets of the returned soldiers were stored at the Army Mausoleum at Schofield Barracks awaiting final burial arrangements.
Noboru Fujinaka was reinterred on July 25, 1949, at 3:00 p.m. in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Section D, Site 107.
His brother Max Giichi Fujinaka served as a Technician 5th Grade in the 442nd RCT, 3rd Battalion, Headquarters Company.
Researched and written by the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2022.