Tech Sgt Yeiki Kobashigawa with Medal of Honor
Tech Sgt Yeiki Kobashigawa with Medal of Honor

BY DUANE A VACHON – Yeiki was born to Shintsu and Kame Kobashigawa on September 28, 1917, in Waikea, on the Big Island. At an early age his family moved to Waianae, Oahu, where his father was engaged in farming. Yeiki went to school in Waianae and after graduation he worked as a mechanic/truck driver for the Waianae Plantation. Interestingly Shintsu is one of three Wai’anae residents who received the Medal of Honor.

Before World War II, he worked at the Wai’anae Sugar Plantation. He played baseball for the Japanese-American leagues and  even though he was a right hand batter he was known as lefty because he pitched left handed.

Yeiki joined the Army in November 1941. and like many of his army buddies who became a part of the Hawaii Provisional Army and then the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), he went from Oahu to Wisconsin, and on to Camp Shelby. As a member of Company B, his company commander was Captain Sakae Takahashi.

After the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, Yeiki saw service in Africa, Italy and France. He was promoted rapidly and regularly, and gained a chest full of medals and at least one bullet wound during the war. –

During the Salerno to Cassino campaign in Italy, Yeiki suffered injuries to his chest. After recuperating he rejoined his unit and went on to distinguish himself by extraordinary heroism on June 2, 1994, near Lanuvio, Italy. The citation for the Distinguished Service Cross which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor reads:

. . . During an attack, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa’s platoon encountered strong enemy resistance from a series of machine guns providing supporting fire. Observing a machine gun nest 50 yards from his position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa crawled forward with one of his men, threw a grenade and then charged the enemy with his submachine gun while a fellow soldier provided covering fire. He killed one enemy soldier and captured two prisoners. Meanwhile, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa and his comrade were fired upon by another machine gun 50 yards ahead. Directing a squad to advance to his first position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa again moved forward with a fellow soldier to subdue the second machine gun nest. After throwing grenades into the position, Sergeant Kobashigawa provided close suporting fire while a fellow soldier charged, capturing four prisoners. On the alert for other machine gun nests, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa discovered four more, and skillfully led a squad in neutralizing two of them. . . (Hawaii’s Medal of Honor Salute, August 25-27, 2000)

Medal of Honor citation

Citation:

Tech Sgt Yeiki Kobashigawo US Army Lanuvio Italy 1944

Technical Sergeant Yeiki Kobashigawa distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 2 June 1944, in the vicinity of Lanuvio, Italy. During an attack, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa’s platoon encountered strong enemy resistance from a series of machine guns providing supporting fire. Observing a machine gun nest 50 yards from his position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa crawled forward with one of his men, threw a grenade and then charged the enemy with his submachine gun while a fellow soldier provided covering fire. He killed one enemy soldier and captured two prisoners. Meanwhile, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa and his comrade were fired upon by another machine gun 50 yards ahead. Directing a squad to advance to his first position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa again moved forward with a fellow soldier to subdue the second machine gun nest. After throwing grenades into the position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa provided close supporting fire while a fellow soldier charged, capturing four prisoners. On the alert for other machine gun nests, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa discovered four more, and skillfully led a squad in neutralizing two of them. Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa’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.

 

In a interview Yeiki’s son Merle Kobashigawa told the story of his father’s reaction when the  Secretary of the Army Louis Calderato called his father in 2000 to tell him that President Clinton wanted to present him with the Medal of Honor, the elder Kobashigawa told Calderato to just put the medal in the mail.

“He said, ‘That was more than 50 years ago,’ ” Merle Kobashigawa said.

Merie had only found out about his father’s heroism when his daughter went on a field trip to Washington, D.C., and stumbled on her grandfather’s name in a display of Distinguished Service Cross recipients.

“That was a different generation,” the younger Kobashigawa said. “They were quiet, unassuming people.”

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.

 

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