Shigeo Richard Kanehira

Shigeo Richard Kanehira
Technical Sergeant
442nd Regimental Combat Team
2nd Battalion, E Company

Shigeo Richard Kanehira was born on May 27, 1921, in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, to Yasutaro and Miyo (Kanzaki) Kanehira.  There were ten children in the family:  sons Shinyei, Tamotsu, Yoshio Kenneth, Shigeo Richard, Sueo, Clifford Kazuyoshi, and James Nobuaki – in addition to three who did not survive to adulthood – Kiichi (died 1910), Haruko (died 1916), and Fumiko (died 1930).

Yasutaro, also known as Hotaro, and Miyo had arrived in 1908 from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.  By 1920 they were living on Asylum Road and Hotaro was a farmer.

In 1930, the family was living at 1520 Palama Street.  Father Hotaro and oldest brother Shinyei were employed as chauffeurs at a taxi cab company.  Shigeo attended Likelike Elementary School, where in 1933 he participated in the school’s vegetable garden project.  He graduated from Farrington High School in 1939.  By 1940, the family’s address was 1520-A7 Iao Lane, around the corner from Palama Street.  Hotaro was the owner of his own taxi cab company and Shigeo was employed as a salesman at a retail grocery store.

Shigeo signed his draft registration card on February 2, 1942, Local Board No. 6 at the Kawananakoa School.  His residence was 1520 Palama Street, and he was employed by E.E. Black & Co. of Kawaiahao Street, but working at West Loch in Ewa.  His point of contact was George Kato, 641 North School Street.  He was 5’5” tall and weighed 120 pounds.

On March 27, 1943, Shigeo married Rosalie Tome Ouchi, a native of Honolulu who was born on October 3, 1920.  He enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 15, 1944.  His civilian occupation was listed as “Semi-skilled chauffeur and driver.”  After induction at Schofield Barracks, he was sent to the mainland for basic and combat training in the 442nd RCT.

Shigeo arrived in the Theater of War while the 442nd was already in France, likely at the end of the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign in November 1944.  The Combat Team had lost so many men in battle in the Vosges – both killed and wounded – that it was below combat strength.  They were sent to southern France for the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign where they received many replacements.  The mission in southern France was mostly a defensive position to guard against Germans coming across the border from Italy.  The men were quartered around Nice and rotated duty in the mountains.  For this reason, its nickname was the “Champagne Campaign.”

Shigeo was assigned to 2nd Battalion, E Company.  After months in southern France, on March 25, 1945, the 442nd arrived in Italy from France to fight in the Po Valley Campaign, and Kanehira was with them.  The influx of replacements had put the 442nd back at combat strength.  The objective was to participate in a surprise diversionary attack on the western anchor of the German Gothic Line that ran across the Italian peninsula.  This elaborate system of fortifications had been attacked in the fall of 1944, but no one had yet been able to pry the Germans loose from the western end.  The Gothic Line in this area was hewn out of solid rock, reinforced with concrete, and constructed to give all-around protection and observation.  The Germans were dug into mountain peaks rising almost sheer from the coastal plain, bare of vegetation save for scanty scrub growth.

The Combat Team left their staging area and moved to a bivouac at San Martino, near the walled city of Lucca.  The move was made in absolute secrecy, under cover of darkness.  In the new bivouac area, all units utilized their time for training.  Makeshift ranges were set up, and the men spent hours adjusting their weapons to the greatest possible accuracy.  The new replacements who had little or no combat experience practiced small-unit problems with their squads and platoons far into the night.

Starting on April 3, the 442nd conducted a surprise attack on the Germans at Mount Folgorito.  By April 6 the 2nd Battalion had gained the ridge of Mount Folgorito and was poised for an attack on Mount Carchio and also on Mount Belvedere to the north, the peak that looked down on the city of Massa.  By noon, F Company had reduced Mount Carchio while the rest of the 2nd Battalion began working on the wide, rolling top of Mount Belvedere, which was defended by the veteran troops of the crack Machine Gun Battalion Kesselring.  The enemy battered the 442nd attackers with a steady stream of mortar fire, to no avail, and were defeated.

After these battles, the 442nd moved farther north, finally taking Aulla on April 25, penetrating as far north as Torino.  The 442nd’s diversionary attack was relentlessly pursued by the Combat Team, resulting in a complete breakthrough of the Gothic Line in the west.  Despite orders from Hitler to fight on, the German forces in Italy surrendered on May 2, 1945, a week before the rest of the German forces in Europe surrendered.

Following this, T/Sgt. Kanehira was with the 442nd as they moved to bivouac at Novi Ligure, then on May 17 to Ghedi Airport to guard and process German prisoners.  On June 14, they were transferred to nearby Lecco for more occupation duties.  On June 22, 1946, they departed from Livorno on the S.S. Wilson Victory.

Kanehira was in the group of over 500 442nd soldiers who arrived in New York at Pier 84 in the Hudson River on July 2 aboard the troopship Wilson Victory.  From the dock, hula dancers threw the soldiers fresh lei that had been flown in from Hawaii.  Two fireboats spouted water all around the harbor, three bombers dived low over the ship, and the Fort Hamilton Army band played rousing songs.

From New York, the men were transported to nearby Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where they participated in a welcome home parade.  They were taken to their quarters and each man was given three new uniforms.  Following this, the official welcome ceremony took place – Congressional Delegate Joseph R. Farrington of Hawaii spoke, as did former Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy and Col. Alfred A. Pursall, former commander of the 442nd’s Third Battalion.  Finally, 442nd patron Earl Finch of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, gave them a picnic with 250 watermelon and a committee of women gave them fresh lei made by the citizens of Hawaii.

The men were next transported to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where they were quartered for their July 16 parade up Constitution Avenue in Washington DC to the Ellipse where a Presidential review was held.  President Harry S. Truman presented the last of their Distinguished Unit Citations – now called the Presidential Unit Citation – as he attached the battle streamer to the 442nd flag.  Afterwards, they returned to New York to begin the long trip home to Hawaii.

Below:  August 9, 1946, 1st Sgt. Thomas Harimoto on the left with the 442nd flag and T/Sgt. Shigeo Kanehira on the right with the 100th flag

Shigeo arrived home with 240 other returning veterans, as the S.S. Waterbury Victory docked at Pier 40-A on August 9, 1946, after a voyage from Staten Island, New York, through the Panama Canal, and across to the Islands.  A large welcome ceremony was held at Iolani Palace.  For the long voyage from Italy to Hawaii, Kanehira had been assigned as the color guard for the 100th Infantry Battalion flag.

On August 10, he was quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser in a brief interview of veterans waiting to start their discharge process.  He said he was a house painter before the war and he now wanted to own his own business.  “Nothing really big.  I just want to do my own contracting and be my own boss.”  Another goal was to take his wife on a visit to Japan.

Below:  Shigeo and wife Rosalie reunite upon his return

Kanehira was discharged on August 15, 1946, at the separation center at Schofield Barracks.

For his military service, Technical Sergeant Shigeo Richard Kanehira was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, 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.

In 1950, Shigeo and Rosalie were living at 1010-E Rawlins Lane with their eldest child.  He was the proprietor of a print shop.  His mother died in 1956, followed by his father in 1960.  In June 1958, he and his wife completed the building of their house at Wailani Tract #4 in Waipahu.  He later began a career with the Navy, retiring as Supervisor of the Navy Public Works Center.  In addition to being a member of the 442nd Veterans Club and the Waipahu United Church of Christ, he was also a member of several groups – Waipahu AJA Baseball Club, Waipahu Cosmopolitan Senior Citizens Club, and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Post 3845, where he was a past commander).

Above:  Kanehira family after both sons returned from the war.  Front row L to R:  Janet, Paul (wife and son of Tamotsu), Yasutaro Hotaro Kanehira, Miyo Kanehira, Yae Kanzaki (Miyo’s mother), Sadae, and Chester (wife and son of Yoshio).  Back row L to R:  Tamotsu, James, Rosalie (wife of Richard), Shinyei, Shigeo Richard, Hanako (wife of Shinyei), Clifford, Sueo, and Yoshio.

Shigeo Richard Kanehira died on November 30, 1987.  His funeral was held at the Waipahu United Church of Christ.  He was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Section T, Site 25-C.  He was survived by his wife, Rosalie, one son and one daughter, three grandchildren, and brothers Tamotsu, Yoshio Kenneth, Clifford Kazuyoshi, Sueo, and James Nobuaki.  Rosalie died on July 11, 2013, and was buried with her husband.

His brother Sueo Kanehira served in the 442nd RCT, Co. H.

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2023.

Comments are closed.