Utah Utaka Ibata
442nd Regimental Combat Team
Utah Utaka Ibata was born on May 22, 1920, in Lewellen, Garden County, Nebraska, the son of Ishido George and Sada (Tajima) Ibata. He had six siblings: brothers Ralph Minoru, Thomas Takisha, and Sam Saburo, and sisters Aya Lily, Mary Sachi, and Nellie S. Utah’s parents emigrated from Niigata Prefecture, Japan, in 1906 and 1910, respectively. They were married upon Sada’s arrival in Seattle. At that time, Ishido was a Colorado resident.
In 1930, the family lived on their farm and owned their house in Dawson County. In 1936, Utah was on the Cozad High School Honor Roll. In 1938, he was on the production staff of Cozad High School’s junior class play. Just after graduating in 1939, it was announced that Utah won the University of Nebraska Regents’ Scholarship for the school year 1939-1940. He was one of 250 recipients among 2,463 applicants. While at the university his freshman year, he was on the boxing team and entered in the District Golden Gloves Tournament.
By the spring of 1940, the family lived in Dawson County and Ishido rented the farm he operated and their house. In 1955, Ishido’s petition for citizenship was recommended for approval in the U.S. Federal Court, in Denver, Colorado.
Utah signed his draft registration card on July 1, 1940, Dawson County Local Board in Nebraska. His father George was his point of contact and the family was living on Route 2 in Cozad, Dawson County. Utah was a student and was also engaged in farming with his father. He was 5’8” tall and weighed 135 pounds.
In July 1941, his name was sixth of the list of Dawson County men who were to be called up for the draft. No records were found concerning Ibata’s enlistment date in the U.S. Army other than the enlistment place was Lincoln, Nebraska.
Utah was assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for training – and he was assigned to L Company. At some point over the next year, he was transferred to Cannon Company. After nearly a year, the Combat Team left Camp Shelby by train on April 22, 1944, for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. On May 2, they left from nearby Hampton Roads in a large convoy of troop ships and arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28.
The 442nd entered combat in the Rome-Arno Campaign on June 26, 1944, near Suvereto. A month later, Utah wrote to his hometown newspaper, The Cozad Local, about the war:
It’s grim, rotten business here on the Italian front where life is so precious and yet rendered so valueless by the ever-present threat of death and the ease with which it can be taken.
By September, the 442nd had reached Arno River. They were then pulled from the battlefront and left Italy on September 27 for Marseilles, France, to join in the Rhineland-Vosges Campaign. On arrival in Marseilles, the Combat Team was in a bivouac area in nearby Septèmes until October 9, when they were transported north to join the battle in the Vosges Mountains. Ibata’s letter to The Cozad Local, written on October 5 from Septèmes, reads in part:
Several of the fellows were in the tent speaking what they thought was French. So far, it’s just been a mixture of French, Hawaiian, chopped up Italian, and some Yankee talk with a strong southern accent – quite a mess. Should be some nightmare when we throw the German language into the pot.
In October-November, the 442nd liberated the important road junction of Bruyères, followed by Biffontaine, and the famous “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” – the 1st Battalion of the 141st (Texas) Infantry Regiment that had advanced beyond its support, become surrounded by the enemy, and was unable to extricate itself.
After intense and costly battles in the Vosges Mountains, the 442nd left on November 19 by truck convoy for southern France. They remained in the area of Nice and Menton on the coast and Sospel and Peira Cava in the mountains for several months – this was the Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaign.
On March 20-22, the 442nd returned to Italy for the Po Valley Campaign. In early part of April, the Combat Team set off in the mountainous area of the west coast of northern Italy with the mission of attacking the western anchor of the Gothic Line. In what was ordered as a diversionary attack to draw off critical German army units from the Gothic Line center, the 442nd RCT rapidly crushed the German defenses, and continued on the attack, turning the planned diversion into a full-scale breakthrough of the vaunted Gothic Line, liberating the west of Italy all the way to Turin.
On May 2, the war ended in Italy. In the following days, Corporal Ibata found himself guarding German prisoners as part of the 442nd’s occupation duties. He also took advantage of the opportunity the Army offered – he attended a four-week term at the Mediterranean Theater’s university study center in Florence. In August 1945, Ibata sent three books to his hometown library in Cozad: A Selection of War Cartoons, by Sgt. Bill Mauldin; Pup Tent Poets of the Stars and Stripes (Mediterranean); and Mission Accomplished: Africa, Sicily, and Italy.
On December 18, 1945, The Cozad Local reported that Utah had recently been discharged from the Army and returned home to Cozad after serving over three years with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Italy and France.
For his military service, Utah was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Distinguished Unit Badge with oak leaf cluster, and a 5th Army Citation. 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 the war, Utah returned home to the University of Nebraska for the school year 1946-1947. He graduated in the summer of 1948 and accepted a job in Chicago. By 1953, he was living at 600 American Avenue in Long Beach, California, where he and Mikiko Dotemoto were married on November 7, 1953. They lived in Long Beach and Los Angeles over the succeeding decades.
In 1973, he was employed in the City of Long Beach testing laboratory as senior materials testing chemist. He also worked for Chem City Chemical & Testing Laboratory.
Right: Ibata in the lab, 1973
Utah and Mikiko had no children, but there were many nieces and nephews from his large family.
Ibata donated to the Go For Broke National Education Center monument and his name appears on the plaque on Panel 9A, Row 77.
Utah Ibata died on April 5, 2018. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Cypress, Orange County, California. His grave is in the Garden of Protection, Map 08, Lot 6941, Space 2A. His grave marker is inscribed, “Go For Broke 442nd RCT.”
His brother Thomas T. Ibata served as a Tech Sergeant in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theater during World War II. His brother-in-law, Robert Minoru Sasaki, served as a Sergeant in L Company, 442nd RCT.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.