442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
Seikichi Ganeko was born on January 15, 1925, in Kapaa, Kauai, Territory of Hawaii. He was one of three sons and three daughters of Chosho and Kamato (Nagamine) Ganeko, who emigrated from Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Chosho arrived on the SS Korea on February 7, 1908, and worked on a pineapple plantation. Kamoto arrived on the Tenyo Maru on August 11, 1922, from Kushimura, Okinawa Prefecture.
Seikichi registered for the draft on January 15, 1943, at Local Board No.1, Makaweli School, Kauai. He was 5”4½” tall and weighed 140 lbs. He was a junior and an Honor Student at Waimea High School when he left school and volunteered for military service.
Seikichi Ganeko was inducted into the Army at Hanapepe, Kauai, on March 12, 1943. He was sent to Oahu and was in the “tent city” with other inductees at Schofield Barracks. After the March 28 community farewell ceremony at Iolani Palace, they sailed on April 4 on the S.S. Lurline to San Francisco. After a train trip across the country, they arrived at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Seikichi was assigned to 3rd Battalion, I Company following basic training.
After over a year of training, Ganeko left Camp Shelby with the 442nd on April 22, 1944, for Virginia. On May 2 they left Hampton Roads by troop ship in a convoy of over 100 ships enroute to the European Theater. The 442nd arrived in Naples, Italy, the end of May.
By the time the 442nd entered combat for the first time on June 26 near Suvereto, 19-year-old Seikichi had risen in rank to Staff Sergeant. His company was heavily engaged in the battles at Belvedere that day and Sassetta the next day.
Staff Sergeant Seikichi Ganeko was killed in action during the fight to take Sassetta on June 27, 1944, in the Rome-Arno campaign. The aid station record states that he was shot in the abdomen. The heroic actions that caused his death warranted the Silver Star Medal, which was awarded to him posthumously on August 22, 1944, per General Orders No. 82, Headquarters 34th Infantry Division. The citation reads:
SEIKICHI GANEKO, Staff Sergeant, Infantry, Company I, 442nd Regimental Combat Team For gallantry in action on 27 June 1944, in the vicinity of Sassetta, Italy. When the combat patrol of which he was a member was halted by machine gun fire from an emplacement in a concrete building supported by other enemy emplacements in its background, Sgt. Ganeko advanced alone to destroy the machine gun nest from a closer position. Although aware of the fact that the gun was supported by another machine gun, four machine pistols, and about six snipers on its flanks less than 100 yards away, he proceeded to crawl over open ground toward the gun. Within 15 yards of the building he pulled the pin from a hand grenade and prepared to throw when a sniper’s bullet mortally wounded him. Unable to throw the grenade, but aware of the fact that the grenade endangered the men around him, he called “Hey! Somebody get the grenade from me, I’m shot!” Although dying from his wound he managed to hold down the handle until a comrade reached him and relieved him of the grenade. The outstanding courage and disregard for personal safety of Sgt. Ganeko is worthy of the highest praise and a credit to the Armed Forces of the United States. Entered military service from Kekaha, Territory of Hawaii. Next of kin: Mr. Chosho Ganeko (Father), Mana, Kekaha, Kauai, Territory of Hawaii.
For his military service, Staff Sergeant Seikichi Ganeko 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 one bronze star, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Distinguished Unit Badge.
Seikichi 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 November 1948, the 300 residents of Mana dedicated the Seikichi Ganeko Memorial Swimming Pool that they had built in their spare time over the previous five months. They raised the necessary funds and supplied all the labor and materials, with the plans, pipes, and flood lights provided by the Kekaha Plantation Company.
When the Army was closing the many small wartime cemeteries in Europe in 1948-1949, the Ganeko family was given the choice to have his remains shipped home or moved to the large U.S. Military Cemetery in Florence. They chose to have his body brought home. As a result, Sergeant Ganeko returned home to Hawaii on April 21, 1949, on the USAT Sergeant Jack J. Pendleton with 133 other war dead. A shipside service was held and many family and friends attended. The main speaker, Oren E. Long, Secretary of Hawaii, eulogized the men, saying, “They were volunteers in the struggle to preserve democracy. Hawaii is proud to have such sons.” The remains were held in the Army mausoleum on Oahu until arrangements were made for shipment to Kauai and burial there.
At some point in late April to May, Ganeko’s remains were returned to Kauai from Honolulu. Ganeko’s father made application for his government tombstone on May 31, 1949, and stated his grave was unmarked. The original application was sent for verification on June 29, renewed on November 25, and the tombstone was shipped from W. Chelmsford, Massachusetts on December 1, 1949. The regiment is stated “442nd Rgt. Inf.” and someone marked next to that “100 Inf. Bn.” His tombstone erroneously states he was in the 100th Battalion. Staff Sergeant Seikichi Ganeko, 3rd Battalion, I Company, was interred at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery, Hanapepe, Kauai, Hawaii.
Excerpts taken from In Freedom’s Cause: A Record of the Men of Hawaii Who Died in the Second World War (1949) with permission from The University of Hawaii Press.
Original Biography prepared by Americans of Japanese Ancestry World War II Memorial Alliance, and provided courtesy of Japanese American Living Legacy (http://www.jalivinglegacy.org/)
Researched and rewritten by 442nd S&D 5/31/2021.