Suematsu Omi

Suematsu Omi was born December 27, 1919, in Huleia, Lihue, Kauai, T.H. to Hisanoshin and Yasue (Kawaguchi) Oumi.  He was the fifth of nine children and the third son.  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 WWII draft.  He was living at 646 S. King Street in Honolulu and employed as a carpenter with the Pacific Bridge Company at Pearl Harbor.  He was 5’7-1/2″, 145 lbs.  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 taken to Schofield Barracks.  On March 28 about 2,500 inductees, 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 SS Lurline for San Francisco on April 4.  From there he and the others were on a special train trip across the country to Mississippi.  He went through training at Camp Shelby.

Omi was among the 40 officers and 530 soldiers sent as replacements from the 442nd to the 100th in three separate groups after the heavy losses incurred by the 100th Infantry Battalion in the Naples-Foggia Campaign, particularly during the 40-day battle for Monte Cassino.  It is not known exactly when he arrived in Italy.  He could have arrived in January, February, or March 1944.  He would have been there on May 23 when the 100th participated in the breakout from the Anzio beach head 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 would have been sent to a field hospital for immediate attention, before being sent to another Army hospital for recovery.

At some point after his June 2 wounding, 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, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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.

They 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.  In the 1950s, Suematsu, known as Sat, became one of the leading beauticians in Colorado Springs and the owner of Aloha Beauty Salon, and 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.

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