Yasunori Deguchi

Yasunori Deguchi
Technical Sergeant
442nd Regimental Combat Team
2nd Battalion, F Company

Yasunori Deguchi was born on November 18, 1924, in Kealakekua, Hawaii island, Territory of Hawaii.  He was one of nine children of Yonesaku and Hajime (Yoshioka) Deguchi.  His siblings were:  boys –Yasuo, Yasumitsu (“Yash”), Allen Tamotsu; girls – Fujie, Mutsumi, Tsutae Patsy (“Star”), Mitsue, and Itsumi.

Yonesaku emigrated in 1899 from Japan.  He worked initially as a servant on a coffee farm on the Big Island.  In 1915, Hajime emigrated from the village of Koshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, on the Shinyo Maru, arriving in Honolulu on May 31, 1915.  Shortly thereafter, they were married in Honolulu on June 12, 1915.  By 1930, they were living on the Kona Belt Road where he was working on a coffee farm.  Before 1940, he was running his own coffee farm.

In 1942, Yasunori graduated from Konawaena High School, Kona, where he had played on the basketball team.  Later that year, he registered for the draft on December 26, 1942, at Local Board No. 5, Kailua, Hawaii island.  He listed his sister, Fujie Inouye, as his point of contact.  They both lived in Captain Cook.  He was working for T. Kakemoto, Honaunau, Keei, Hawaii island.  At the time he was 5’6” tall and weighed 121 pounds.

On March 18, 1943, Yasunori enlisted in the U.S. Army.  His occupation was listed as “Semi-skilled chauffeurs and drivers.”  He was sent to the “tent city,” known as Boom Town, at Schofield Barracks.  All the men assembled at Schofield were given a farewell aloha ceremony by the community the next day, March 28, at Iolani Palace.  On April 4, the new soldiers left on the S.S. Lurline for San Francisco enroute to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.  Yasunori was assigned to2nd Battalion, F Company, 3rd Platoon.

Right:  Deguchi at Camp Shelby, 1943-44

After basic and field training, the soldiers were given furloughs to visit such cities as Chicago, Washington, or New York.  Deguchi went to Washington, then on to Utica, New York, to visit the family of George Blatt, a soldier he had known in Hawaii.  He had a wonderful couple of days with the hospitable Blatt family.

Following over a year of training, Yasunori left Camp Shelby with the 442nd on April 22, 1944, for Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia.  They shipped out to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations from nearby Hampton Roads in a large convoy of troop ships on May 2, and arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28 to join in the Rome-Arno Campaign.

Yasunori first entered combat on June 26, when the Regiment engaged German forces at the village of Belvedere in Suvereto, Tuscany.  Second and Third Battalions were the first to engage the enemy, in a fierce firefight.  F Company bore the brunt of the fighting.  The 442nd encountered heavy resistance from German forces in each town, as they pushed north to the Arno River. when they reached the Arno River on July 25.  Yasunori was wounded during one of the final battles.  The 442nd suffered casualties of 1,272 men (17 missing, 44 non-combat injuries, 972 wounded, and 239 killed) in the process, a distance of only 40 miles.

In August 1944, it was reported in the Hilo Tribune-Herald thatPfc. Deguchi was recovering from wounds he suffered in the combat in Italy.

The Combat Team rested from July 25 to August 15, and then went back on line to patrol the Arno.  Crossing the Arno on August 31 was relatively uneventful, as they were guarding the north side of the river in order for bridges to be built.  On September 11, the 442nd was detached from the Fifth Army and then attached to the 36th Infantry Division of the Seventh Army to engage in the battles to liberate France from the Nazis.  The Regiment was pulled from the front lines and sent to Naples.  The 442nd then convoyed by ship from Naples to the south of France, landing near Marseilles on September 30. After a short time to prepare, they traveled 500 miles through the Rhone Valley, by truck and by rail boxcar, arriving October 13 at the front lines in the Vosges Mountains near the German border.

On October 14, 1944, the 442nd began moving into position in the late afternoon preparing to assault Hills A, B, C, and D that surrounded Bruyères.  These hills were strong enemy defensive positions that had to be defeated in order to drive the Germans out and secure the city and valley rail and road network.  After liberating Bruyères, the Regiment went on to liberate nearby Biffontaine and Belmont.  Then they were pulled off the battle line to rest and recuperate.  After less than two days in reserve, the 442nd was ordered back into battle to rescue of the “Lost Battalion,” two miles east of Biffontaine.  After days of non-stop fighting that caused many killed and wounded, the Combat Team was victorious over the Nazis and rescued the “Lost Battalion” of the 141st Infantry Regiment from Texas.  But victory had been at high cost to the Nisei, with many soldiers now in battlefield hospitals or cemeteries. The 442nd had lost half its soldiers and therefore could no longer be combat effective.  It needed replacements and time to rebuild.

Following these deadly battles through the Vosges Mountains, the 442nd was sent to the Maritime Alps and the French Riviera.  The 442nd guarded and patrolled a twelve- to fourteen-mile front line segment of the French-Italian border, mostly very high mountain terrain.  The 442nd experienced additional losses as patrols sometimes ran into enemy patrols, or stepped on enemy and allied land mines.  Occasionally, soldiers of the 442nd captured spies and saboteurs.

On March 23, 1945, the 442nd shipped out from Marseilles to Livorno, Italy, where it was attached to the 92nd Division of the Fifth Army. The Allied armies had been stalemated at the Gothic Line in Italy for the prior five months.  The 442nd faced extremely tough terrain, where the saw-toothed Apennine Mountains rose up from the Ligurian Sea.  Starting from the northeast, the peaks hugged the east coast of Italy and stretched diagonally southward across the Italy – a natural defensive line that had been heavily fortified by the German Army.  To the north and east, on the other side of the mountains, was the wide, flat Po River Valley that led to the Austrian Alps – the last barrier to Germany.  The 442nd mounted a surprise diversionary attack on the west flank of the Gothic Line.  The objective was to draw off critical German Army forces weaking their defenses of the center of the line where the main Allied attack would occur. 

On April 3, the 442nd moved into position under the cover of nightfall to hide from the Germans who had good sight lines from their location on the mountain ridges and tops.  The next day, the 442nd waited in hiding until day turned into night.  They then climbed the steep mountains in total silence.  At 5:00 a.m. the following morning, they were on the top and ready to strike.  A little over 30 minutes later objectives “Georgia” and Mount Folgorito were taken, cracking the Gothic Line.  They achieved complete surprise and forced the enemy to retreat.  Not satisfied with this victory, the 442nd rapidly continued the attack, driving the Nazis from the mountains and achieving a complete breakthrough of the Gothic line, liberating the west of Italy to Turin with the aid of Italian partisans.  In the days that followed, Germans began to surrender in the hundreds and thousands to the Allied Armies.  This was 442nd’s final World War II combat action.  On May 2, the war ended in Italy, followed six days later by victory in Europe.

During occupation duties in Italy, Yasunori was with the Combat Team in May and June at Ghedi Air Field processing German POWs.  During this time, he was able to go on passes to Paris, Geneva, and Venice.  In late July, the 442nd moved south to Livorno for duty guarding German POWs and the seaport.

Left:  Deguchi in Italy during the occupation, 1945

Yasunori left Europe the end of October 1945.  He arrived back to Honolulu on December 17, 1945, on the USAT Aconcagua at Pier 26 at 9:00 a.m.  Thousands of friends and family were there with lei and gifts to meet the more than 500 soldiers, but were held back from the pier.  The Army quickly loaded the men onto waiting busses and took them to the Army Separation Center at Fort Kamehameha for processing.  They were then given time off with orders to return later for discharge.  After his discharge, Deguchi returned to the Big Island.

For his military service in World War II, T/Sgt. Yasunori Deguchi 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 Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge with one bronze oak leaf cluster.  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.

Right:  T/Sgt. Deguchi at the end of the war wearing his Eisenhower uniform jacket

In the late 1940s, “Muggs,” as he was known, played on the Captain Cook softball team and in the Kona mixed bowling league.  He also served as treasurer of the Kona Young People’s group in Kona.  In 1950, he joined the Hawaii National Guard as Second Lieutenant in the 487th Field Artillery Battalion, C Battery, based in Kona.  He retired as a First Lieutenant from the National Guard in 1965.

In June 1951, he married Helen Toyoko Honda.  They raised two sons.  He was employed by the Kona Community Federal Credit Union, from which he retired as the Assistant Manager.

He was a member of the Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and Kyodan, Kona Lions Club, Kona Japanese Civic Association, Keei Mura Kimiai, American Legion Post No. 20, National Guard Association, Hawaii National Guard Retired Reserve, Retired Officers Association, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (JCCH), Japanese American National Museum (JANM), and National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS).

Over the years, Yasunori Deguchi was a frequent attendee at the 442nd Veterans Reunions in Honolulu.  On July 2, 2014, he was awarded the French National Order of the Legion of Honor.

Left:  Deguchi in 2001 wearing his 442nd Veteran’s shirt and garrison cap with his military ribbons

Helen Deguchi died on June 30, 2002.  Yasunori died on December 28, 2019, in Kona at the age of 95.  He was survived by his two sons and two grandchildren.  He and Helen were inurned in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), Section CT7-C, Row 100, Site 120.

To view Deguchi’s wartime photos with his comments, see:

442nd Regimental Combat Team – Community of Memory (smugmug.com)

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

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