William Tsutomu Furumasu
Technical Fifth Grade
442nd Regimental Combat Team
522nd Field Artillery Battalion, Service Battery
William Tsutomu Furumasu was born on March 16, 1916, in Montavilla, Oregon, near Portland. He was the oldest son of the eight children of Kakutaro and Osayo (Kumamoto) Furumasu. Tsutomu’s siblings were: sisters Ichiko, Fumiko, Toshiko, and Mina (died in infancy); and brothers Charles Takamasa, Yoshio, and Isamu. Kakutaro emigrated from the village of Kawasako, Yamagata District, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, on the Seattle Maru, arriving on April 20, 1911, in Tacoma, Washington. Osayo emigrated from the village of Hara, Hiroshima Prefecture, on the Chicago Maru, arriving on January 27, 1912, in Tacoma. They had been married in Japan on February 18, 1911.
They initially settled in Clackamas County, Oregon, just south of Portland. In 1920, Kakutaro was a truck farmer in Clackamas County. By 1930, his wife Osayo had died and he was widowed, owned his own farm, and his widowed sister-in-law Ine Furumasu was living with the large family. In 1940, the family was living in Yamhill County, southwest of Portland, where Kakutaro was working on a farm.
Billy or Bill, as Tsutomu was known, completed grammar school in Gaston, Oregon, in Washington County, west of Portland. He did not attend high school.
Billy Furumasu registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, at Local Board No. 2 in Washington County. His point of contact was his father, and his employment was working for his father on their onion truck farm on RFD 2 in Gaston. He was 5’2” tall and weighed 120 pounds.
On January 12, 1942, Billy enlisted in the U.S. Army at Portland, Oregon. Where he received basic training and his initial assignment in 1942 are not known.
A month after Billy entered the Army, Executive Order 9066 was issued, mandating the forced evacuation of all Japanese from the West Coast. At first, voluntary evacuation was encouraged. It was soon followed by the mandatory evacuation that resulted in incarceration in assembly centers and then in internment camps. Billy’s family in Oregon chose to move to Idaho, rather than being sent to a WRA internment camp. They settled in Coeur D’Alene at 3404 North 15th Street.
Early in the following year, 1943, Billy was transferred to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), which was activated on February 1 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. He was assigned to the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, Service Battery, and was among the enlisted men of the training cadre. From February 1 to April 18 the cadre was given an intensive course of training. The 2,700 new soldiers from Hawaii arrived on April 18 – and other volunteers had been arriving in small groups from mainland states. Basic training of the 522nd began on May 10, led by the officers and enlisted cadre – and it concluded on August 30, 1943.
Following a year of unit training, the Combat Team left Camp Shelby on April 22, 1944, for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. On May 2, they departed from nearby Hampton Roads in a convoy of over 100 ships enroute to Europe. The 522nd was aboard the transport ship John Hopkins, which arrived at the east coast of Italy. The main body of the Battalion disembarked at Brindisi and the remainder at Bari. The rest of the 442nd had landed on May 28 in Naples on the west coast. After debarking, the 522nd soldiers loaded into “40 and 8” railroad boxcars from WWI, and traveled to Bagnoli, near Naples, where their howitzers, vehicles, and other equipment had been delivered. They got down to the task of getting prepared for combat. A week later they were ready, and on June 6, they boarded the US LST 526 at Port Nisidra and sailed to the Anzio beachhead. From there to June 11, the Battalion continued to move north, conducting training enroute, and rejoined the 442nd infantry battalions near Civitavecchia.
On June 26, the first artillery rounds were fired against the Germans near Suvereto in support of the 442nd RCT. The 522nd’s howitzers continued their fire support of the advance of the RCT infantry battalions as they pushed the Germans north. On September 11, the Battalion was moved from Pisa back to Naples aboard the USS Richard K. Call; then, on September 27 boarded the USS Thurston and shipped to Marseilles for the battles through France. Billy Furumasu participated in all the battles of the Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps Campaigns in France.
In February 1945, the 522nd was reassigned to the Seventh Army to add its firepower to the assault on the Siegfried Line in the German homeland. Often the lead element in the chase across Germany, the 522nd made 52 displacements, firing 15,019 rounds, from March 12 to the end of the war on May 9, 1945. In the last week of April, elements of the Battalion stumbled into the horrifying death camps of the Dachau Concentration Complex, and is credited with liberating at least one of the subcamps and rescuing thousands of prisoners from the “Dachau Death March.” Additionally, they liberated French Army prisoners from another prison camp. When the war ended, the Battalion was assigned security missions around Donauworth, 72 miles northwest of Munich. Billy also fought in this Central Europe Campaign.
Below: Service Battery at Baumenheim during the occupation; T/5 Billy Furumasu is front row, 4th from left
Billy was discharged from the Army on December 7, 1945. He returned home to his family who were living in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.
For his military service, Technician Fifth Grade Billy Tsutomu Furumasu was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, and Army of Occupation Medal. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on October 5, 2010, along with the other members of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team. This is the highest Congressional Civilian Medal.
On February 27, 1950, he married Fujie Uyetake of Coeur D’Alene. On April 19, 1955, his father Kakutaro became a US citizen. Billy and his wife settled in Green Acres, Washington, where he was a farmer. Over the years, they raised a family of two sons. He was a member of the Spokane Valley Garden Club and was active with the Boy Scouts of America, Troop 63.
Billy Tsutomu Furumasu passed away on June 9, 1997, in Green Acres, Spokane County, Washington. He was interred in the Pines Cemetery, Spokane County. Fujie died on February 14, 2021, in Spokane and was buried next to her husband.
Billy’s brother, Corporal Charles Takamasa Furumasu served in 2nd Battalion, G Company of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.