Kaoru Moto was born on April 25, 1917, in Camp 1 of the sugar plantation town of Sprecklesville on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Moto’s father, Ryozo, immigrated to Hawaii in 1888 and had come to Hawaii from Hiroshima. Ryozo’s wife Sugayo also immigrated from Hiroshima 10 years after Ryozo. Moto had two siblings, Fusaya his sister and Mitugi, a younger brother. Both Moto and Mitugi served with 100th Battalion.
Like many vets who return from war, then and today, Moto found it difficult to settle. And also like many vets, Moto’s life changed for the good when he married a lady who would have a positive impact on his life. He met Violet Saito through a mutual friend. She was from Makawao, a small town on the lower slopes of Haleakala. They settled in Makawao and, largely on the strength of his war record, he was appointed the caretaker for the Maui Veterans Cemetery where he remained until his retirement 26 years later in 1978.
On July 7,1944, Charlie Company of the 100 Infantry Battalion after an all-night march came into the town of Castellina. Castellina was in the path of the 5th Army’s move up the Ligurian coast.
The Army’s report on the campaign tells of the fierce resistance put up by the enemy around Castellina inasmuch as it was the last favorable defensive terrain south of Leghorn. “The 135th and l68th Infantry Regiments of the 34th Division began to move across the flanking ridges, the 442nd Infantry attacked across a broader front”.
It took almost a week to capture Castellina and open the way for the 5th Army to continue their advance.
Moto was a scout leading his squad up onto the high ground around Castellina. When he came upon an enemy machine gun nest, he killed the gunner and captured another of the enemy. He was then directed to cover the flank of a nearby farmhouse. Keeping his eyes peeled– “Actually, we were surrounded by the enemy,” he says – he saw a machine gun crew setting up a position down in the gully. He can’t remember how many of the enemy there were in that group but he blasted them with his BAR and broke up that pack also. One of the enemy, however, escaped his fire, crept up the slope and from a distance fired at Moto, hitting him in the leg. Moto fired back at the lone gunman who disappeared. Then he sat back and bandaged his wound.
Nursing his injured left leg, he slowly worked his way down the slope to join the others in the platoon after being relieved of his position. Shortly, he spotted a group across the gully with a machine gun preparing to set it into place. He broke up that group with another blast from his BAR. One enemy soldier surrendered to him.
Moto had single-handedly destroyed three enemy gun concentrations and killed or captured a number of the enemy. For this effort he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), a medal second only to the nation’s highest, the Congressional Medal of Honor. The citation accompanying his award succinctly summed up the morning’s activity for Kaoru: “Private First Class Kaoru Moto’s exceptional courage, initiative and determination to destroy the enemy inspired confidence in his fellow soldiers, and his performance reflects the finest traditions of the Army of the United States.”
A 1990s review of service records for Asian Americans who received the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II led to Moto’s award being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 2000, his surviving family was presented with his Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-one other Asian Americans also received the medal during the ceremony, all but seven of them posthumously.
The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
to Moto, Kaoru
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company C, 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate). Place and date: Castellina, Italy, 7 July, 1944. Birth: Hawaii. Entered service at: Spreckelsville, Maui, Hawaii.
Private First Class Kaoru Moto distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 7 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. While serving as first scout, Private First Class Moto observed a machine gun nest that was hindering his platoon’s progress. On his own initiative, he made his way to a point ten paces from the hostile position, and killed the enemy machine gunner. Immediately, the enemy assistant gunner opened fire in the direction of Private First Class Moto. Crawling to the rear of the position, Private First Class Moto surprised the enemy soldier, who quickly surrendered. Taking his prisoner with him, Private First Class Moto took a position a few yards from a house to prevent the enemy from using the building as an observation post. While guarding the house and his prisoner, he observed an enemy machine gun team moving into position. He engaged them, and with deadly fire forced the enemy to withdraw. An enemy sniper located in another house fired at Private First Class Moto, severely wounding him. Applying first aid to his wound, he changed position to elude the sniper fire and to advance. Finally relieved of his position, he made his way to the rear for treatment. Crossing a road, he spotted an enemy machine gun nest. Opening fire, he wounded two of the three soldiers occupying the position. Not satisfied with this accomplishment, he then crawled forward to a better position and ordered the enemy soldier to surrender. Receiving no answer, Private First Class Moto fired at the position, and the soldiers surrendered. Private First Class Moto’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.
/s/ William Clinton President
Moto spent 26 years as the caretaker for the Maui Veterans Cemetery, looking after Veterans and their families. All of us who are veterans owe him a vote of thanks for that. Something that those reading this may not know, Moto made sure that all five of his children attended the University of Hawaii.
PFC Kaoru Moto is interned at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Court 2, Wall F, Row 400, Niche 422.
Tegara osele na wo nokose, is a Japanese saying that translated means “leave a name behind.” Moto’s mother often encouraged him with this saying after his return from the war.