Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
Shigeo Tabuchi was born on October 21, 1916, in Los Angeles, California. He was the eldest of three children of Buntaro and Yuki (Oku) Tabuchi. His father emigrated from the village of Nakatsu, Takeno District, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, in 1900. His mother, Yuki, arrived in Seattle on October 19, 1912, aboard the Awa Maru accompanied by Buntaro’s brother Denzo Tabuchi. They were married on December 11, 1912, in Seattle. At the time Buntaro was living in Portland, Oregon. In 1914, he listed on his WWI draft card that he was a chauffeur for a private family. By 1917, Buntaro, Yuki, and Shigeo were living in Imperial Country, California. In the 1920 Federal Census, they were employed as laborer and cook, respectively, on a produce ranch in Heber, Imperial County. In the 1930 Federal Census, Buntaro and Shigeo were living with brother Denzo and Denzo’s wife and son in Los Angeles, and he was a chauffeur for a private family. Buntaro and Yuki divorced in 1939. In 1941, Yuki married Tomo Shimizu.
Shigeo attended the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. He signed his World War II Draft Registration card on October 16, 1940, Local Board No. 233, Los Angeles. He was 5’3” tall and weighed 127 pounds. His address was 1510 W. 35th Place, Los Angeles and his point of contact was Mr. Hideo Sato, a friend, who lived at 460 E. 4th Street. He was employed by K. Hirose, whose address was the same as Shigeo’s.
Shigeo was employed as a jackhammer operator before being drafted into the U.S. Army on July 7, 1941, in Los Angeles, as part of a “fishbowl” lottery pick.
On September 24, 1942, his father was incarcerated at Granada (also known as Amache) WRA Center in Granada, southwest Colorado. His mother, Mrs. Yuki Shimizu, was incarcerated on October 7, 1942, at Rohwer WRA in Desha County, Arkansas.
Following induction into the Army, Shigeo Tabuchi trained at several different posts, including: Camp Wolters, Texas; Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana; Fort McClellan, Alabama; and Fort Meade, Maryland, before being transferred to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. He was assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 3rd Battalion, I Company on September 18, 1944. He was one of 672 replacements sent to Italy to replace combat losses. There would be no opportunity for orientation or getting acquainted with fellow comrades before the Combat Team was ordered back to the front line.
Shigeo experienced traveling from the Replacement Depot to the Staging Area Number 1, at what had once been the University of Naples. On September 26 and 27, the 442nd troops boarded light assault boats, which shuttled them out to the waiting Navy transports. At precisely 12:00 p.m. on September 27, 1944, the regiment sailed for Marseilles, France, aboard the transports Thurston, Dickman, Chase, and Henrico.
Ahead lay the bitterest fighting the men were ever to see. The troops went ashore on September 30. By the following morning, most of the unit had moved about ten miles by train to a staging area in the vicinity of Septemes, just outside Marseilles. At this time, the staging area consisted of several open fields on top of a hill. Living conditions for the first two or three days were not especially bad, although the wind blew constantly. All companies drew new machine guns, mortars, and bazookas, and proceeded to test them on whatever suitable ground could be found.
Meanwhile, Seventh Army Headquarters was moving heaven and earth to get the Combat Team to the battle lines. Delta Base Section had no transportation it could spare. Matters stood there for a day or so, until Colonel Pence was notified that a Quarter Master Truck Company was on its way from Epinal, 500 miles away, to pick up the unit and take it to the front. The final decision was that the bulk of the Combat Team would move by truck, while the 3rd Battalion moved by rail. After three days of traveling in the rain and bivouacking in pastures, all elements, except the 3rd Battalion, closed into an assembly area at Charmois-devant-Bruyères at 12:30 p.m. on October 11, 1944. The 3rd Battalion, which had left by train a day ahead on October 10, had rattled up the Rhone Valley in a weird assortment of “40 and 8” boxcars.
On the afternoon of October 26, the Regiment was ordered to the front lines again to aid in the rescue of the Lost Battalion – the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment. This battalion had gotten ahead of the lines and was surrounded on three sides by the enemy. Attempts by the 141st and other units to free it had been unsuccessful, so the 442nd was assigned the mission.
The initial objective of the Texas “lost battalion” had been to clear the Germans from the entire long, densely forested ridge where it had become surrounded – until their rescue by the 442nd. After the rescue had been effected, the 442nd’s 3rd Battalion was then ordered to push on down to the end of this ridge. On November 4, 1944, Pfc. Tabuchi was killed by artillery fire during this action to take the ridge from the Germans. The hospital admission card said that he was hit in the general area of his back by artillery shell/fragments. (Note: The fighting on this mountain would go on for five more days. The German line was completely shattered, but 442nd losses were so great that the Combat Team was temporarily ineffective as a fighting force.)
Private First Class Shigeo Tabuchi was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery in nearby Epinal.
For his military service, Private First Class Shigeo Tabuchi was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze star, World War II Victory Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, and Combat Infantryman Badge. Shigeo 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, the remains of Americans buried overseas began slowly to return to the U.S. if the family so wished. He was brought home per his father’s wishes. The USAT Lawrence Victory arrived at the Brooklyn Army Base in New York Harbor at 9:00 a.m. on May 7, 1949. On board were the remains of 73 war dead from Southern California, including Pfc. Shigeo Tabuchi. There were a total of 4,183 returning war dead on the ship. Mayor O’Dwyer of New York ordered all flags to be lowered to half-staff in tribute to the American soldiers whose bodies were brought home. A public memorial service was held at dockside on Pier 3 at 58th Street and First Avenue in Brooklyn at 11:00 a.m.
Pfc. Shigeo Tabuchi was reinterred in Section A of the Nisei Soldiers Plot, next to the Nisei Veterans Memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles. His father George Buntaro Tabuchi, of 2935 South Budlong Avenue, Los Angeles, ordered his flat granite government headstone to be shipped from West Chelmsford, Massachusetts – the order was verified on July 17, 1948, and confirmed by them on September 9, 1948. Shigeo was also survived by his mother Yuki Shimizu, sister Yukie, and brother, Hiroshi.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.