Nobuo John Takayama
Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, L Company
Nobuo John Takayama was born on May 28, 1921, in Ookala, north of Hilo, Hawaii island, Territory of Hawaii. He was one of five sons and five daughters of Shojiro and Iishi Takayama who had arrived from Kawasa-mura, Hiroshima Prefecture, on the S.S. Korea on November 21, 1907. Their passage was paid by Shojiro’s father, Kyuemon Takayama. They were married in Japan and had one child born there before emigrating. His siblings were: Sakuichi, Ethel Haruko, Mitsue, Dorothy Shizue, Yoshito Jack, Mae Toshiko, Tadao, Toyoko, and Teruko.
In 1930, Nobuo and his family were living in the Ohara Camp on the Hamakua coast north of Hilo. His father worked for the sugar plantation.
Nobuo attended Ookala Elementary and Laupahoehoe Intermediate Schools before the family moved to Waiakea Camp #5, another plantation camp on the outskirts of Hilo.
In1940, Nobuo’s father was a laborer on the Waiakea sugar plantation and Nobuo was living at home at Waiakea Camp #5 with his family. He was unemployed. He graduated from Hilo High School in 1940, where he was considered an outstanding athlete.
When John, as he was also known, signed his draft registration card in Honolulu on February 15, 1942, Local Board No. 6, at the National Guard Armory, he was living at 488 North King Street and was employed by Henry Wong of 1221 Farrington Street. He worked at Hawaiian Oke and Liquors, Ltd., 102 North Hotel Street. John was 5’5” tall and weighed 125 pounds. His point of contact was his father Shojiro Takayama of Waiakea Camp #4.
John enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 25, 1943. His civilian occupation was listed as “Semi-skilled chauffeur/driver, bus/taxi/truck/tractor.” He was sent to Boom Town, the “tent city” at Schofield Barracks for initial training. He was at the community aloha farewell ceremony at Iolani Palace on March 28, and shipped to San Francisco on April 4 on the S.S. Lurline with the rest of the new soldiers. From there the Nisei went by train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where they underwent basic training. Takayama was assigned to L Company of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
After a year of training, on April 22, 1944, John left with the Combat Team for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, and shipped out on 4 May from nearby Hampton Roads, Virginia. They sailed in a large convoy of ships carrying the men of the 442nd to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. The 442nd arrived at Naples, Italy on May 28 and went to Staging Area #4 at nearby Bagnoli to prepare for movement to the front lines.
On June 6, the 442nd moved out by sea on LSTs and arrived at the Anzio beachhead the next morning. On June 9, they convoyed north through Rome, finally arriving at the bivouac area near Civitavecchia the next night. After over two weeks of further training, they entered combat on June 26 near Suvereto in the Rome-Arno Campaign.
By July 3, the Combat Team had pushed the enemy 62 miles up the Italian Peninsula to a point just north of the Cecina River. The main line of resistance was a hill that they called “Hill 140.” The battle to take this position was so intense that it was nicknamed “Little Cassino,” in reference to the earlier devastating battle of Monte Cassino south of Rome. The Germans held two key observation posts, Hill 140 and the town of Rosignano Marittimo near the coast. On July 3, enemy artillery fire became increasingly heavy.
By noon on July 4, Takayama’s 3rd Battalion had relieved the 100th Battalion in position. The relief, carried out in daylight, brought on a storm of enemy self-propelled and artillery fire, causing heavy casualties. One machine gun squad of Takayama’s L Company was wiped out completely by a single shell burst. Third Battalion was under heavy artillery for five hours. The Regimental Executive Officer, Lt. Colonel Virgil R. Miller, had to assume command of the battalion and reorganize it. He initiated a limited attack late in the afternoon and 3rd Battalion was able to gain a little ground, improving its position somewhat.
Pfc. John Nobuo Takayama was killed at some point during this intense fighting on July 4, 1944. He was buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Follonica, Italy, Plot B, Row 24, No. 280.
The notice of Takayama’s death appeared on August 8, 1944, in the Honolulu Advertiser. The article noted that he and his brother, Yoshito Jack Takayama, who was killed in Italy three days after John, were believed to be the first 442nd brothers from Hawaii to be killed in combat.
A joint memorial service was held for the Takayama brothers at 2:00 p.m. on August 20, 1944, at the Hilo Hongwanji Mission.
For his military service, Private First Class Nobuo John Takayama was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze star, World War II Victory Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge. John was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on October 5, 2010, along with the other servicemen of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team. This is the highest Congressional Civilian Medal.
The Waiakea-uka Athletic Club dedicated a large stone memorial on May 3, 1946, to the five soldiers of the Waiakea-uka Camp who lost their lives in Europe. The memorial was placed in the small camp cemetery on the outskirts of Hilo. The soldiers memorialized were: Kazuo Goya, Nobuo John Takayama, Yoshito Jack Takayama, Hidetoshi Tokusato, and Yoshio Jacob Yoshimura.
In 1949, families were given the choice of having their soldier’s remains moved from the many U.S. military wartime cemeteries across Italy and reburied in the large cemetery in Florence – or shipped home. John’s parents chose the latter and his remains were sent to Hawaii in early 1949. He was buried in the Hawaii Veterans Cemetery in Hilo on August 17, 1949.
His father Shojiro Takayama, of 2412 Kinoole Street, Hilo, applied for his military tombstone on the same day.
On August 21, his family printed a Card of Thanks in the Hilo Tribune-Herald to recognize the family and friends who sent floral offerings and kind expressions of sympathy following the funeral and burial. They especially thanked the Kumiai Section 1; AJA Veterans Council; Waiakea-uka Veterans Club; American Legion Hilo Post No. 3; American Legion Annex; Hilo Betsuin; Kamehameha Garment Co., and Waiakea-uka Civic Club.
John’s brother Yoshito Jack Takayama served in the 442nd RCT, K Company, and was also killed in action in Rome-Arno Campaign.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.