Yoshiaki “Sharkey” Kobatake

Yoshiaki “Sharkey” Kobatake was born at 1:30am on June 9th, 1917 in Lahaina, Maui to Toyo (Kodama) and Yitaro Kobatake, both originally from Hiroshima, Japan. (Some records give his birthdate as June 20, but his original birth certificate, entered a month after his birth, gives the date as June 9th.) His father was a plantation laborer and his mother worked at home. He was the first of their four children together.

He worked at the Pioneer Mill Company in Lahaina until the Army began accepting Japanese-American volunteers. He enlisted in the Army on March 25, 1943 and would’ve been sent to Camp Shelby, MS soon after for basic training. He was assigned to the 522nd Artillery, Battery C. Although specific records for him aren’t available, he likely would have deployed to Italy first, then fought in France, including during the Rescue of the Lost Battalion. He was with the 522nd when they were separated from the 442nd and sent into Germany, and as a forward observer, he was one of the first to enter the Dachau Concentration Camp. He would later remark that he “didn’t liberate the survivors – I only entered, that’s all.”

After the war, he married Thelma and they had four children. He worked as an Inspector for the U.S. Customs Service. He died December 11, 1993 and is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).

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