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 and Carol Takiko (Hirose) Amakawa. Shinichi was born in Pearl City, Oahu, to Iwajiro Amakawa, who emigrated from Japan on February 17, 1886, from Yamaguchi Prefecture. Nobuo’s mother, known as “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.
After Nobuo’s birth, the family moved 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 as carpenters by the U.S.E.D. (U.S. Engineering Department) at Schofield Barracks. His point of contact was his father, Paul S. Amakawa. He was 5’6” tall and weighed 138 pounds.
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 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 Boom Town, the “tent city” at Schofield Barracks, with the other 442nd enlistees. 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, on May 28 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. As later described by his fellow I Company comrade, Henry Isao Nakada: “The next morning we started out with Nobuo Amakawa, Daniel ‘Eskay’ Arata, and me as scouts. We were about 75 yards ahead of the company when we ran into a couple of machine gun nests: Amakawa was killed, Arata wounded, and I dove under a holly bush.”
He was posthumously awarded the 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, Pfc. 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 to his motherone to two days prior to his death, 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, a memorial service was held at McKinley High School for 226 soldiers of the 442nd. The ceremony was sponsored by the 100th Battalion Veterans Club 100, 442nd Veterans, Women’s War Service Association, and 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, World War II Victory Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Nobuo was posthumously 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 pm. 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 at Schofield Barracks 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 & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.