Suematsu Omi

Suematsu Omi
100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), C Company

Suematsu Omi was born on December 27, 1919, in Huleia, Lihue, Kauai, Territory of Hawaii, to Hisanoshin and Yasue (Kawaguchi) Oumi.  He was one of nine children.  His siblings were:  brothers Hisao, Hitoji, and Tsutomu; and sisters Kathleen Torae, Sizue, Helene Ishie, Alice Tomie, and Mildred Emiko.  His father arrived in Hawaii in 1897, from Higashizuka, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, as a contract laborer at Lihue Sugar Plantation.  His mother Yasue was born on the Koloa Sugar Company plantation to Isokichi and Sato (Murakami) Kawaguchi.  They had arrived from Saidosho, Tagawa District, Fukuoka Prefecture in 1898.

On July 1, 1941, Suematsu registered for the draft.  He was living at 646 South King Street in Honolulu and employed as a carpenter with the Pacific Bridge Company at Pearl Harbor.  He was 5’7½” tall and weighed 145 pounds.  His point of contact was his mother Yasue Omi in Lihue.

On March 25, 1943, Omi enlisted in the U.S. Army in Honolulu and was sent to the “tent city” known as Boom Town at Schofield Barracks.  On March 28 about 2,500 new soldiers, selected from about 10,000 Japanese American applicants, including Suematsu, were bade farewell by the community at an aloha ceremony at Iolani Palace.  They sailed on the S.S. Lurline for San Francisco on April 4.  From there he and the others were sent by train across the country to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.  He went through training at Camp Shelby.  His initial company assignment has not been identified.

Omi was among the 40 officers and 530 soldiers sent as replacements from the 442nd to the 100th in three separate groups in early 1944.  After the heavy losses incurred by the 100th Infantry Battalion in the Naples-Foggia Campaign, particularly during the 40-day battle for Monte Cassino, they needed replacements for their casualties that had reduced their fighting strength.  He was there in late May 23 when the 100th participated in the breakout from the Anzio beachhead as the Allies were able to restart the drive to Rome.

On June 2, 1944, the 100th was in battle around Lanuvio about 19 miles southeast of Rome – the push on the final German stronghold south of Rome.  Suematsu Omi was seriously wounded on this day.  No record was found of the nature of his wounds.  He was sent to a field hospital for immediate attention, before being sent to another Army hospital for recovery.

Omi was sent to Kennedy General (Military) Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to continue his recovery.  He was not physically able to return to his unit in Italy.

On December 29, 1944, Suematsu Omi was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army at Kennedy General Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee.

For his wartime service, Private Suematsu Omi was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze star, World War II Victory Medal, 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.

After his discharge from the Army, Suematsu Omi soon married Bonnie Louise Bunch Cooley, whom he had met while he was at Camp Shelby.  She was from nearby Jones County, Mississippi.

After the war, Omi and his wife moved to Honolulu.  On July 31, 1947, he was among the 252 disabled veterans of the 442nd who were the special guests of General John E. Hull and Governor Ingram M. Stainback at Fort Shafter; the occasion was the reactivation of the 100th/442nd as a Reserve unit of the U.S. Army.

The Omi family remained in Honolulu for four years, during which time they built a house and their family grew.  In April 1950, they moved to the mainland and lived in Colorado Springs. 

Omi Family in 1950

In the 1950s, Suematsu, known as Sat, became one of the leading beauticians in Colorado Springs and the owner of Aloha Beauty Salon, and then he and his wife divorced.

Suematsu retired to Las Vegas, Nevada, and died there on December 6, 2005.  He was survived by three sisters, a son, two daughters, two step-daughters, and seven grandchildren.  One daughter predeceased him.

Suematsu Omi was buried in the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.  His grave is located in Plot U-0951.

Researched and written by the & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat team in 2020 and updated 2023.

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