442nd Regimental Combat Team
3rd Battalion, I Company
Shigeo Taketa was born on July 1, 1924, in Papaaloa, Hawaii island, Territory of Hawaii, to Gokichi and Fujiyo (Okazaki) Taketa. There were seven children in the Taketa family: daughters Shiye Gladys and Tsumoe Jean; and sons Shigeru, Shigeo, Shigeto, and Shiro.
Father Gokichi arrived in Hawaii on the S.S. Amiral Fourichon on March 14, 1907, from the village of Kanane, Takata District, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Fujiyo arrived in March 1914 and they were married on March 31 at the U.S. Immigration Station in Honolulu. In 1930, they were living in Kaiwilahilahi, North Hilo, Hawaii island, where he worked in the Laupahoehoe Sugar Plantation mill and she worked in the cane fields. By 1940, they lived in Papaaloa Village and he was a carpenter at the sugar mill.
Shigeto was educated at the schools in Laupahoehoe. He signed his draft registration card on June 30, 1942, Local Board No 3, M.S. Botelho Building in Honokaa. His point of contact was his father and they lived in Papaaloa. Shigeto worked for the Laupahoehoe Sugar Company in Papaaloa. He was 5’3½” tall and weighed 122 pounds.
After two years of high school, Taketa volunteered for the U.S. Army. On March 16, 1943, he was among 32 Honokaa men and 272 inductees from the Big Island who assembled at the Hilo Armory at 1:00 p.m., then marched to the park opposite the Federal Building on Waianuenue Avenue for the Army ceremony. Following the oath of induction given by Colonel Foster G. Hetzel, commander of the Hawaii Service Command, a brief address was given by Brigadier General Herbert D. Gibson, Commanding General of the Hawaii District. An Army band provided patriotic music. That week, Shigeto’s parents held a farewell dinner in his honor.
After a steamer trip to Honolulu, Shigeto was taken to the “tent city” at Schofield Barracks, known as Boom Town, where the new soldiers were housed. On March 28, they were given an aloha farewell ceremony at Iolani Palace by the community. They left on April 4 on the S.S. Lurline for San Francisco.
Following a train trip across the US, the new soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team arrived at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for basic training. Shigeto was assigned to 3rd Battalion, I Company.
After a year of training, Shigeto left Camp Shelby on April 22, 1944, by train for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. They shipped out to Europe on May 2, 1944, from nearby Hampton Roads, Virginia, in a convoy of over 100 ships. They arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28.
Taketa and the 442nd entered battle near Suvereto north of Rome on June 26. Shigeo fought in the Rome-Arno Campaign, up the western side of Italy, driving the German Army north of the Arno River.
On September 27, 1944, the 442nd was pulled out of the battle lines and sent by ship to Marseilles, France.
From Marseilles, the 442nd traveled north 500 miles to the battle front in northeastern France to join the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign. Their first objective was to liberate the important road and rail junction of Bruyères in the Vosges Mountains. The intense battles to liberate Bruyères and neighboring Biffontaine lasted from October 16-24. The Combat Team was then put into reserve in nearby Belmont for a brief rest. After two days, on the afternoon of October 26, they were 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 called in.
On October 29, 1944, the 100th and 3rd Battalions attacked at dawn. Fierce fighting in the steep, forested hillside of the Vosges was slow-going; the Germans had dug in and controlled the high ground. Artillery fire was heavy and casualties on both sides were very high. By the end of the day, I Company had suffered heavy losses and casualties and only eight riflemen remained from a full complement of 150.
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.
The 442nd’s 3rd Battalion was then immediately ordered to push on down to the end of this ridge. On November 3, the enemy attempted to break through the 3rd Battalion’s thinly held line, but I and L Companies caught the attackers in a crossfire and drove them off. The commanding general now decided that it was necessary for the 442nd to clear the ridge down to the valley floor. As the 3rd Battalion attacked toward the valley, it met fire grazing up the hill.
It was during this attack on November 4, 1944, that Private Shigeto Taketo was killed by artillery fire. The fighting would go on until November 9. The German line was completely shattered, but 442nd losses were so great that the Combat Team was temporarily ineffective as a fighting force.
Private Shigeto Taketa was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery at nearby Epinal. His death was reported in the Hilo Tribune-Herald on December 19, 1944. His family printed a Card of Thanks in the newspaper for all the floral offerings and sympathy from family and friends. They especially thanked the AJA Morale Committee, American Legion, Laupahoehoe Sugar Company, Laupahoehoe School, Boy Scouts, and Hawaii Rifles.
Right: Shigeto’s parents receiving his Purple Heart Medal
On March 26, 1945, at a ceremony held in their Papaaloa home, Gokichi and Fuji Taketa received their son’s Purple Heart Medal from Major Lester W. Bryan, District Intelligence Officer.
For his military service, Private Shigeto Taketa was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, World War II Victory 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 1948, the US began to close most of the wartime cemeteries. They gave families the option of having their son returned home or being reburied at one of the few cemeteries that would remain. As a result, the Taketa family chose to have Shigeto returned home.
On December 24, 1948, his remains were among those of 122 war dead to arrive at 8:30 a.m. at Pier M-3 in Pearl Harbor on the USAT Sinnett. This was the third ship to bring home the remains of Hawaii’s sons. A dockside ceremony was held for over 700 family and friends. Secretary of Hawaii Oren E. Long gave a brief address in which he said, We are proud to have had such sons. These men stood the test of action and added a new chapter of American heroism to our history. Army Chaplain E.L. Kirtley offered prayers, and the 264th Army Band played Aloha Oe. The caskets were then taken to the Army Mausoleum at Schofield Barracks pending final funeral arrangements.
His remains were shipped onward to Hilo on the steamer Humuula, arriving on March 3. On March 5, memorial and burial services were held at 3:45 p.m. for Private Shigeto Taketa at the East Hawaii Veterans Cemetery at Homelani in Hilo. On March 15, his family printed a Card of Thanks in the Hilo Tribune-Herald for the floral tributes and sympathies of friends and family, particularly the Papaaloa Hongwanji Ryodan, Papaaloa YBA, Laupahoehoe Sugar Company Garage Boys, AJA Veterans Council, American Legion Hilo Post No. 3, and Laupahoehoe Hawaii National Guard.
His brother, Pfc. Shigeo Taketa served in the 442nd RCT in Regimental Headquarters Company.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2022.