Yoshio Jacob Yoshimura
Private First Class
442nd Regimental Combat Team
2nd Battalion, G Company
Yoshio Jacob Yoshimura was born on May 12, 1917, in Waiakea-uka Camp 6, Hawaii island, Territory of Hawaii. He was the second child and eldest of six sons of Choichi and Ise (Ueoka) Yoshimura. Choichi emigrated from Kuga-gun, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, on the Nippon Maru, arriving in Honolulu on December 11, 1906. Ise emigrated from Fauyikawa, Yamaguchi Prefecture, arriving on the SS Siberia on January 5, 1914. Choichi and Ise were married on January 8, 1914, in Honolulu.
In 1940, the family was living on Waiakea Road in Hilo. Choichi was a sugar plantation worker and Yoshio was a reforestation worker.
Yoshio registered for the draft on October 26, 1940, at Local Board No. 2 in Hilo. He was employed at the Hilo Yacht Club at Keaukaha. His point of contact was his father, Choichi. He was 5’2” tall and weighed 112 pounds.
On March 27, 1943, Yoshio enlisted in the U.S. Army at Hilo. A group of 146 Big Island volunteers answered roll call at the Hilo Armory; then marched to Kalakaua Park where Colonel Foster G. Hetzel, Commanding Officer of the Hawaii Service Command, administered the enlistment oath. This was the second enlistment of Big Island men that were accepted for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Yoshio had attended one year of high school. His civilian occupation was listed as “unskilled amusement, recreation, and motion picture occupations.”
He was sent to Boom Town, the “tent city” at Schofield Barracks, with the other recruits. They were given an aloha farewell ceremony by the community on 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. Following basic training, Yoshio was assigned to 2nd Battalion, G Company.
After over a year at Camp Shelby, the 442nd left by train for Virginia on April 22, 1944. They shipped out from Hampton Roads to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations on May 2 in a large convoy of troop ships and arrived at Naples on May 28. Most of the 2nd Battalion companies were on a ship that left the convoy and entered port in Oran, Algeria. After offloading cargo, they rejoined the regiment on June 17 in Naples, Italy. The 442nd entered combat on June 26 near Suvereto in the Rome-Arno Campaign.
Yoshimura served in four of the campaigns of the 442nd: Rome-Arno in Italy, Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps in France, and Po Valley back in Italy.
After spending the winter of 1944-1945, in the area of Nice and the mountains north of the city, the Combat Team was sent back to Italy for the Po Valley Campaign. Its mission was to conduct a decoy attack on the western end of the Germans’ Gothic Line in the final push to drive them out of Italy. This area contained an elaborate system of fortifications, hewn out of solid rock and reinforced with concrete. They were built to give all-around protection to the Germans – and they were dug into mountain peaks rising almost sheer from the coastal plain, giving the enemy unlimited observation of the coast.
The 442nd left France on March 20-22, 1945 for Pisa, Italy. From the staging area there, the regiment left on March 28 to a bivouac area at San Martino, near Lucca. After several months of not engaging in heavy combat, all units utilized their available hours for training, including practicing small-unit problems with their squads and platoons far into the night.
On April 5, 2nd Battalion with G Company was committed to the attack. It gained the ridge at 2,800-foot Mt. Folgorito and was poised for an attack on Mt. Carchio and Mt. Belvedere to the north. The attack was successful in driving the Germans off the high ground, and the decoy was turned into a full-on breakthrough of the Gothic Line, causing the Germans to divert important military resources to try and stop the 442nd. As a result, the German Army in the center of their defense line was weakened and the main allied attack could also not be stopped. The 442nd had captured the western part of Italy north as far as Turin, the main attack to capture Bologna was successful, and the Germany army in Italy surrendered on May 2, despite orders from Hitler to fight on. For its part in achieving this victory, the 442nd was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for the 10 days of bitter action from April 5 to 14.
During these furious battles, on April 8, G Company was attacking Colle Tecchione, a spur that ran west from Mt Belvedere and ended on the eastern outskirts of the town of Massa. G Company came under constant artillery and mortar fire. The leading men came under small-arms fire after they had gone about 200 yards down the spur. Yoshio was seriously wounded during the battle. He was taken to a field hospital where he died of wounds. He was buried the following day in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Castelfiorentino, near Florence, in Section Y, Row 371, Site 3442.
Yoshimura’s death was officially reported in the Hilo Herald-Tribune on May 17. On May 19, 1945, his family printed a Card of Thanks in the newspaper for the expressions of sympathy and floral offerings from friends and family. They especially thanked the AJA Morale Committee, Waiakea-uka Young People’s Club, and the Waiakea-uka community.
For his military service, Yoshio was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on October 5, 2010, along with the other servicemen of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team. This is the highest Congressional Civilian Medal.
The Waiakea-uka Athletic Club dedicated a large stone memorial on May 3, 1946, to the five soldiers of the Waiakea-uka Camp who lost their lives in Europe. The memorial was placed in the small camp cemetery on the outskirts of Hilo. The soldiers memorialized were: Kazuo Goya, Nobuo John Takayama, Yoshito Jack Takayama, Hidetoshi Tokusato, and Yoshio Jacob Yoshimura.
In 1948, the Army began the process of closing the smaller military cemeteries in Italy, and offered families the choice of reburial of their loved one at the large U.S. Military Cemetery in Florence or returning him for reburial at a cemetery designed by the family. Pfc. Yoshimura’s family requested his remains be sent home to Hawaii. The flag-draped casket arrived at Honolulu on the USAT Sinnet, arriving into Pearl Harbor at 8:30 am on December 24, 1949. There were 122 Hawaii war dead on the ship, including 22 from the Big Island. A group of about 700 was there to greet the ship. The dockside memorial service included a eulogy by Secretary of Hawaii Oren E. Long, a prayer by Army Chaplain Eugene L.A. Fisher, a moment of silence, and the 264th Army band playing Aloha Oe. The benediction was given by Navy Chaplain Wendell Wheeler. After the caskets were brought ashore, they were taken to the Army mausoleum at Schofield Barracks pending funeral arrangements.
The final leg of the journey was by the steamer Hualalai to Hilo in on January 14, 1949.
On January 14, 1949, his brother Hideo applied for military tombstone for Jacob’s grave. Pfc. Yoshimura’s military funeral was held at 4:00 pm on January 15, 1949, at the Hawaii Veterans Cemetery at Homelani in Hilo, along with four other soldiers who returned the previous day.
On July 9, 1989, the flag that had draped Yoshimura’s coffin on his return trip home was presented by his brother, Mitsuo Yoshimura, to the 100th/442nd Army Reserves in his memory. The presentation was made in a ceremony at Kuroda Field, Fort DeRussy, in Honolulu at 11:30 am at a battalion formation consisting of three companies with over 250 men. It was accepted by Lt. Col. Robert G.F. Lee, battalion commander, and was to be displayed in a place of honor at the battalion’s headquarters, Turner Hall, Fort DeRussy.
Jacob’s brother Mitsuo Yoshimura served in C Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd RCT
Researched and written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.