Wednesday, June 8, 2016

One of the heroes of the "Purple Heart Battalion"


SHIZUYA HAYASHI was serving in the 65th Engineers in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed. After the attack, there was uncertainty about what to do with the Japanese Americans in this unit... [The following June] Hayashi and 1,400 other Nisei soldiers were sent to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, where they formed the 100th Infantry Battalion, the first combat unit in the history of the U.S. Army made up mainly of Japanese Americans. After more than a year of instruction, the 100th became the most intensively trained unit in the Army... It received its colors and the motto it had requested: Remember Pearl Harbor.

In September 1943, the 100th landed at Salerno, Italy, where the Germans were amazed to see Japanese Americans fighting against them...

Late on the afternoon of November 29, 1943, Private Hayashi's platoon was attacking the Germans... The Germans were firing their 88 mm artillery, called screaming mimis by the GIs... In an effort to find cover, the Americans stumbled through a minefield, setting off deadly explosions. A bullet grazed Hayashi in the neck; his commanding officer was shot in the back.

As night fell, Hayashi and two other GIs were separated from the rest of the platoon. After waiting all night to be rescued, Hayashi sent his two comrades to look for help at daybreak. Drawn by their loud conversation, the Germans opened fire and advanced on them. One German, looking for the two men, came within three feet of Hayashi, then fired at point-blank range. He missed, and Hayashi killed him. In the face of grenades and rifle and machine-gun fire, Hayashi rose, alone, and shooting his automatic rifle from the hip, charged a German machine-gun position, killing nine of the enemy. When his platoon tried to advance, and an enemy antiaircraft gun began to lob shells at them, Hayashi returned fire, killing nine more Germans. Then he came upon a boy, perhaps thirteen years old, in uniform, curled up and crying. Hayashi couldn't shoot -- he took the boy prisoner, along with three other Germans.

[from Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier]

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