Tetsuo Tateishi

Tetsuo Tateishi
Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
100th Infantry Battalion, A Company

Tetsuo Tateishi was born on April 4, 1917, to Tetsuzo and Yuki (Komata) Tateishi in Kaneohe, Territory of Hawaii.  He was the only son of six children.  His sisters were Kiyomi, Haruko, Shizuko, Chiyono, and Kiyoko.  His parents emigrated from the village of Sasai, Karita City, Takata District, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, arriving at Honolulu on the Siberia Maru on February 4, 1907.

Father Tetsuzo worked on road construction as a laborer, and lived at Heeia near Kaneohe.  By 1918, he was working for Libby, McNeil & Libby as a stableman at their plantation and living at Pali Camp in Heeia.  In 1920, the family was still near Kaneohe and father Tetsuzo was working on a rice plantation.  By 1930, he was a luna (foreman) for the Honolulu Plantation Company (pineapple), mother Yuki was a laborer on the plantation, and the family was living in Waialua on the Waimea (Yoshida) Camp.  In 1940, they had moved to Aiea and were living in the sugar plantation’s Mall Camp where Tetsuzo was a watchman and Tetsuo was a clerk in the plantation office.

 Tetsuo graduated from McKinley High School.  He was active in the Young Buddhist Association (YBA), representing Aiea in the 1937 YBA island-wide oratory contest.  He was a member of the Aiea Hongwanji Mission; and was the Aiea delegate to the 11th Territorial YBA Convention in 1940.

On October 26, 1940, Tetsuo registered for the draft at Local Board 9, Waialua Fire Station, Waialua.  He was living with his family in Aiea, and working for the Honolulu Sake Brewery and Ice Company at 235 Booth Road, Honolulu.  His father was his point of contact; he was 5’2” tall and weighed 121 pounds.

Tetsuo was inducted into the 298th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, G Company, on December 10, 1940.  He had completed one year of college, and his civilian occupation was listed as  “Clerk, Office General.”  He was sent to Schofield Barracks for basic training.  He was an active service member at Schofield Barracks when the Japanese attacked Oahu on December 7, 1941.

Right:  Tetsuo while in the 298th Infantry

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 1st Battalion of the 298th was stationed at Schofield Barracks, while the 2nd Battalion had been protecting the shoreline of Windward Oahu.  For the next six months, through most of summer, soldiers in the 298th Infantry continued to patrol the shorelines of Oahu, string barbed wire, and man machine gun emplacements.

By late spring of 1942, troop reinforcements had arrived in Hawaii.  In May, the 298th was placed in reserve and the mainland troops took over their defense positions.  In late May, General George Marshall, the Army’s Chief of Staff, ordered the formation of the Hawaii Provisional Infantry Battalion to be made up of the Nisei soldiers from the 298th and 299th.  The unit was to leave Hawaii on the first available transport.

On June 5, 1942, Tetsuo boarded the USAT Maui with the battalion and departed Honolulu.  After a week at sea, the Hawaii Provisional Infantry Battalion sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, docking at Oakland, California, on June 12, 1942.  The unit was given a new name – the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate).  The unit traveled to their new duty station by three trains, each taking a different route, to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

After six months of training at Camp McCoy, Tetsuo was transferred to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, with the 100th Battalion.  Combat training continued, along with unit maneuvers at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.

The battalion departed Camp Shelby on August 11, 1943, by train and reached Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, two days later.  On August 21, Tetsuo and the Nisei soldiers of the 100th moved by train to Brooklyn, ferried to Staten Island, and boarded the S.S. James Parker, a troopship recently converted from a banana and tourist ship.  They sailed in a convoy the next day at dusk.  On September 2, the battalion landed at Oran in North Africa and was assigned to the 34th (“Red Bull”) Division.

On September 19, 1943, the 100th boarded the landing craft Frederick Funston and arrived offshore of Salerno, Italy, at 8:00 a.m. on September 22.  Tetsuo entered combat on September 29 with the 100th near Salerno.

In late October 1943, the 100th was ordered west.  Tetsuo participated in actions against the enemy in Italy, including River Crossing, St. Angelo, St. Angelo D’Alife, and Santa Maria Olivetto from September 30 to November 5, 1943.  The men crossed the Volturno River twice on their way to capturing several critical hills that were part of the German’s Winter Line of Defense.  These battles were part of the Naples-Foggia Campaign.

The 442nd arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28, 1944.  The 100th was placed under the command of the 442nd on June 11, 1944.  The now combined 100/442nd entered combat near Suvereto on June 26 during the Rome-Arno Campaign.

It was reported in the Honolulu newspapers that while in Belvedere on June 27, 1944, Pfc. Tateishi and three other soldiers. who were being used as “runners” for their company, were able to capture a house occupied by Germans, kill one, seriously wound another, capture three prisoners, and free three American soldiers being held captive.  The runners were passing by an isolated house when they were fired on by snipers inside.  The 100th men opened fire and forced the Germans to stop firing.  Pfc. Maeda of Hilo then threw a grenade into the house, which brought forth yells from Americans inside.  Pfc. Tateishi ordered them to come out with their hands in the air.  The Americans came out and said there were still German snipers inside.  Tateishi went to the open door and demanded that the Germans come out.  It took several rifle shots before they finally came out with their hands held high.  This incident was interesting enough that the War Department made public the Fifth Army dispatch they had received.

In the first week of September, the Combat Team began withdrawing from the battlefront south to the Naples area.  On September 27, they left Naples and landed at Marseilles, France, on September 30 for participation in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign in northeast France.

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 to 24.  The Combat Team was then put into reserve in Belmont for a rest.  After only two days, on the afternoon of October 26, they were ordered to the front lines again to rescue of the “Lost Battalion” – the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment.  The rescue was accomplished by October 30, 1944, with heavy casualties and loss of life of the Nisei soldiers.

The Combat Team was now at less than half its strength, and it needed time to receive a large number of replacements and build back to an effective combat unit.  The 442nd was therefore pulled from the line and sent to holding defensive positions along the French-Italian border in southeast France.  This the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign.

The Combat Team was next sent back to Italy for the Po Valley Campaign, the final attacks to liberate Italy from the Nazis.

Pfc. Tateishi was wounded twice during his time in Europe, but no records were found giving the date and place.

After serving in the Po Valley Campaign, Tetsuo was among the first to return to Hawaii after Germany surrendered in Italy on May 2.  Due to his time overseas, 32 months, and his two wounds, he had at least 85 “points,” which was enough to qualify for an early return.  When he was discharged in Honolulu on May 23, 1945, he was in the first group of soldiers who qualified under this new point system.

For his military service, Private First Class Tetsuo Tateishi was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver star and two bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge.  Tetsuo 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. 

Tetsuo married Hanako Ishiguri on April 12, 1952, in Honolulu.  They lived in Aiea and he worked in the office of Honolulu Sake Brewery and Ice Company.  Over the years, they raised a family of two sons.  He later worked for Walker-Moody Construction Co. Ltd., from whom he retired.

He was an active member of the 100th Infantry Battalion veterans club, known as Club 100.  Tetsuo was one of 137 men of the 100th who were interviewed for the Hanashi Oral History Project.  The interview may be accessed by contacting the Go For Broke National Education Center in Los Angeles at http://www.goforbroke.org.

In 1986, Tateishi was among a group of A Company veterans who toured the battle sites of Italy and France.  He had a wonderful time and said his favorite place was Bruyères because of the hospitality the locals showed to their visitors.

Tateishi was awarded the French Legion of Honor at the Hawaii State Capitol on September 21, 2017, by Honorary Consul of France, Guillaume Maman.  This is the highest honor France bestows and is only given to living veterans who fought in France.

On October 11, 2016, Tetsuo Tateishi died.  He was survived by his wife, two sons, and one granddaughter. He was interred in the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery, Kaneohe, Section 2A, Plot 308.  Hanako died the following year, on April 2, 2017, and was interred with her husband.

Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2022.

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