A QUIET HERO - Staff Sgt. Allan M. Ohata, U.S. Army, Medal of Honor, WW II (1918-1977)
BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Sakuhei and Kuma Ohata had eight children. We all know that parents are not supposed to have favorites; however it was a well-known fact that Allan was his mother’s favorite.
The Ohata’s had a small flower garden business and all of the children helped out, but Allan was the only one that didn’t grumble. Allan was not a grumbler. What he was, was determined to do his best at everything he did. He did it quietly with no grumbling or moaning. He was a quiet achiever.
Allan M. Ohata was born on September 18, 1918. As well as helping in his family business he graduated from McKinley High, and attended the Kalihi Japanese School.
In November of 1941 Allan Ohata was working with his brother, Donald in a surplus parts business when he was inducted into the Army a month before Pearl Harbor. It was a year and a half later when Allan Ohata, along with 1,300 young Nisei boys, sailed out of Honolulu Harbor in June 1942 for the European battlefields. This group of young men would become the 100th Infantry Battalion, one of the most highly decorated units in World War II. This fact becomes even more significant because whilst the 100th was fighting their way through Europe, many of them had families who were in detention camps because of their Japanese ethnicity.
It was in the early morning hours of September 22, 1943 when Ohata and his fellow Nisei climbed down the troop transport rope ladder into landing barges and moved through the surf to land and set foot on Italian soil. It would be a week before the young Nisei would be tested in battle. Now, a week later and with the beach at Salerno a hundred miles behind them, the young, untested Nisei boys from Hawaii moved into position for their first battlefield encounter. They spent the night behind the cover of a small hill, getting ready to move out the following morning.
Other than sporadic harassment by enemy planes, the beachhead area had been cleared of enemy action by the time the 100th landed. But in the process of withdrawing into the foothills of the nearby Apennines mountain range, the enemy had blown up all bridges and laid a host of mines on roadways, hiding them on every conceivable pathway as they pulled back from one foothill to the next. The rearguard of the enemy could have been anywhere- hiding in isolated farmhouses, firing from between groves of trees, or waiting just around the next turn in the road.
As fate would have it, of all nights, the autumn rainy season began. The recently dug foxholes were practically useless as they filled up with water as fast as they could be dug. When Ohata and the Nisei’s moved out in the morning it was still raining. A platoon from B Company was to suffer the first fatality. As they moved through a bend in the road, the enemy opened fire. In the ensuing battle, Sgt. Joe Takata would earn the distinction of being the first 100th battalion soldier to be killed in action.
There were many other casualties that first day and the many days and weeks that followed. Many young Nisei were to meet their fate in towns with strange names such as Chiusano, Montefalcione, Caserta, the Volturno River, Alife, Venafro, and many others. The 100th battalion was to become known as the “Purple Heart Battalion”.
It was on November 29 and 30 that Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), Ohata’s unit, were to be tested. Ohata, who was by then a Sergeant, his squad leader and three other men were ordered to protect his platoon’s left flank that was being attacked by an enemy force of at least 40 men.
Ohata sent his automatic rifleman to his far left, about 15 yards from his own position. Taking his position, Sergeant Ohata delivered effective fire against the advancing enemy. The rifleman he had sent to his left called for assistance when his automatic rifle was shot and damaged. Without thinking about his own safety, Ohata left his position and moved 15 yards through heavy machine gun fire. Arriving at his rifleman’s position, he opened fire on the enemies’ position. Ohata killed ten enemy soldiers and covered his rifleman’s retreat to replace his damaged weapon. Between Ohata and the rifleman they killed 37 enemy soldiers. Ohata and the rifleman charged the three remaining soldiers and captured them. Ohata and the rifleman then stopped another attacking force of 14, killing four and wounding three while the others fled. The following day the automatic rifleman and Ohata held their flank with grim determination and staved off all attacks.
Medal of Honor
Awarded for actions during the World War II
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Allan M. Ohata (ASN: 30101888), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), attached to the 34th Infantry Division, in action against the enemy on 29 and 30 November 1943, near Cerasuolo, Italy. Sergeant Ohata, his squad leader, and three men were ordered to protect his platoon's left flank against an attacking enemy force of 40 men, armed with machine guns, machine pistols, and rifles. He posted one of his men, an automatic rifleman, on the extreme left, 15 yards from his own position. Taking his position, Sergeant Ohata delivered effective fire against the advancing enemy. The man to his left called for assistance when his automatic rifle was shot and damaged. With utter disregard for his personal safety, Sergeant Ohata left his position and advanced 15 yards through heavy machine gun fire. Reaching his comrade's position, he immediately fired upon the enemy, killing ten enemy soldiers and successfully covering his comrade's withdrawal to replace his damaged weapon. Sergeant Ohata and the automatic rifleman held their position and killed 37 enemy soldiers. Both men then charged the three remaining soldiers and captured them. Later, Sergeant Ohata and the automatic rifleman stopped another attacking force of 14, killing four and wounding three while the others fled. The following day he and the automatic rifleman held their flank with grim determination and staved off all attacks. Staff Sergeant Ohata's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
Action Date: November 29 & 30, 1943
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Company: Company B
Battalion: 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)
Division: 34th Infantry Division
Only one Medal of Honor was presented to a Japanese-American soldier during World War II, despite the fact that these soldiers, despite intense prejudice at home in the USA, were among the most decorated soldiers of the war. Following a review in the late 1990s of Distinguished Service Cross awards to Japanese Americans, the DSC previously awarded to Allan Ohata was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Though he survived the war, Allan Ohata died in 1977 and the award was presented posthumously by President Bill Clinton on June 21, 2000.
Staff Sergeant Allan M. Ohata is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. His grave is located in Section III Site 474.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.
Much of the material in this article was gleaned from an excellent article written by Ben Tamashiro that appeared in the Hawaii Herald in October of 1985.
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