Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
Nobuo Amakawa was born on August 1, 1920, in Wailuku, Maui, Territory of Hawaii. He was the son of Shinichi Amakawa and his wife Carol Takiko Hirose, known as Take. Shinichi was born in Pearl City, Oahu, to Iwajiro Amakawa, who emigrated from Japan on February 17, 1886, from Yamaguchi Prefecture. Nobuo’s mother Take was born in Suo-Oshima, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and she arrived in Hawaii in 1919. Nobuo was the oldest of the two sons and three daughters in the family.
His father, Shinichi, was born in Hawaii to Iwajiro Amakawa, who emigrated from Japan on February 17, 1886. Iwajiro worked as a field hand on the Waianae Plantation. After several years of working for families, he started his own construction business on King Street in Honolulu. Shinichi learned the carpentry trade there. Nobuo’s mother, Carol Takiko, was born in Suo-Oshima, Yamaguchi, Japan.
After Nobuo’s birth, the family relocated back to Oahu, and Nobuo was educated at Pohukaina School, Washington Intermediate School, and McKinley High School, graduating in the Class of 1937.
Nobuo registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, Local Board No. 5, Royal School, Punchbowl Street. At the time he was living with his family at 593 Cooke Street, Kakaako, Honolulu. He and his father were employed by the U.S.E.D. (U.S. Engineers Dept.) at Schofield Barracks as carpenters. His point of contact was his father, Paul S. Amakawa. He was 5’6” tall and weighed 138 lbs.
In early 1943, the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was approved and the call for Nisei volunteers went out. Nobuo was one of the 2,645 Nisei selected from the 10,000 in Hawaii that answered that call, and on March 25, 1943, he was enlisted in the U.S. Army at Schofield Barracks. At the time, he had attended one year of college and his civilian occupation was listed as carpenter. He was in the “tent city,” called Boom Town, with the other 442nd enlistees at Schofield Barracks. On March 28 they were given a community farewell at Iolani Palace. On April 4 they sailed on the S.S. Lurline to San Francisco. After a train trip across the US, they arrived at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, I Company, 1st Platoon.
Amakawa shipped out to Europe with the 442nd on May 2, 1944, from Hampton Roads, Virginia, in a convoy of over 100 ships. After arriving in Naples, Italy and entering combat near Suvereto on June 26, he served in the Rome-Arno Campaign. The Combat Team was sent to France the end of September and participated in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign.
After liberating the Vosges town of Bruyères on October 19, the 442nd was given a short rest only to be ordered to join in the fight to rescue the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment. Ordered to advance beyond the lines and surrounded by the enemy, the 141st was trapped. The 141st and other units had been unable to free the Texas men, so the 442nd was called in. The “Rescue of the Lost Battalion,” as it was later called, ended in victory for the 442nd, but at great loss of life.
It was in this battle that Pfc. Amakawa was killed on October 27, 1944, by a sniper shot to his neck. He was posthumously awarded Silver Star Medal; the citation is below.
AWARD, POSTHUMOUS, OF THE SILVER STAR
(SEC I, GO No 15 Hq 6th Army Group, 9 Mar 1945)
NOBUO AMAKAWA, Private First Class, Infantry, Company I, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for gallantry in action on 27 October 1944, in France, while acting as flank security for his company during an approach march. Upon sighting an enemy machine gun emplacement 20 yards away, Private Amakawa warned his men of the danger in time for them to seek cover before the enemy machine gun and its supporting weapons opened fire upon the company’s column. Realizing that the company was pinned down by the intense enemy fire, Private Amakawa and a comrade fearlessly advanced within 10 yards of the hostile relentless advance of their opponents, the enemy machine gunners abandoned their positions and withdrew. While subsequently clearing the area of snipers Private Amakawa was mortally wounded in the neck by a sniper bullet. Next of kin: Mrs. Take Amakawa (Mother), 563 Cooke Street, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii.
His last letter, written one to two days prior to his death to his mother, reads: Dear Mom: Missing you is putting it mild. Other boys say their Mom is swell, but I think you’re wonderful. I know I don’t have to tell you how I feel, because there never will be another sweetheart like you. Thoughts of you are always with me. Wherever you may be, you are my happiness. To be near you is something to look forward to, so until that day, I’ll be thinking of you, and with this message, I am sending a carload of love. Your loving son, Nobuo. P.S. It is an honor for a boy to stand for his country and to defend the rights which he treasures dearly. I will do my utmost, so you may be assured that I shall never disgrace the name of my family, nor the fame of my country.
Pfc Amakawa was interred in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Epinal, France. On November 23, 1944, his family held a memorial service for him at Nishi Hongwanji Temple on Fort Street in Honolulu. He was survived by his parents, one brother, and three sisters. On December 14 his family posted a Card of Thanks in the Honolulu Advertiser for the many floral offerings at the service. They announced that in lieu of observing the usual 40 days of distributing coffee they would donate money to the Red Cross in their son’s memory.
On December 9, 1944, at McKinley High School a memorial service was held for 226 soldiers of the 442nd. The ceremony was sponsored by the 100th Battalion Veterans Club 100, 442nd Veterans, the Women’s War Service Association, and the Emergency Service Committee. The speaker was Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson.
During the week of June 25-29, 1945, Lt. Col. Corwin H. Olds, Chaplain of Central Pacific Base Command, made private posthumous award presentations to ten Honolulu families in their homes. Mrs. Take Amakawa accepted the Silver Star for her son at the family home at 563 Cooke Street in Kakaako.
An In Memoriam to Pfc. Nobuo Amakawa’s memory was printed in the McKinley High School Daily Pinion newsletter on June 4, 1945. In it, a former classmate wrote of him: “He won the affection of many people with his cheerfulness and was very affectionate to his parents while being very kind and considerate to his younger brothers and sisters.”
For his military service, Private First Class Nobuo Amakawa was awarded the Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, WWII Victory Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Nobuo 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.
In 1948, many war dead were returned home from military cemeteries in Europe. On September 1, Nobuo Amakawa was among 78 soldiers whose remains arrived in Honolulu from San Francisco on the USAT Dalton Victory at Pier 40 at 1:00 p.m. Chaplain Hiro Higuchi of the 442nd placed one memorial wreath for each of the major islands of Hawaii in the ocean path of the Dalton Victory as it steamed toward Honolulu Harbor on its final day. George Miki, President of the 442nd Veterans Club, and Earl Finch of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were at the dock to welcome the soldiers home and talk to the fathers who were awaiting the arrival of the ship. The flag-draped caskets were held at the Army mausoleum on Oahu pending final burial arrangements.
Private First Class Nobuo Amakawa was interred on July 22, 1949, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Honolulu, Section D, Site 116.
Researched and written by the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd RCT in 2021 and updated in 2023.