As a veteran of the 442nd Combat Team of World War II, I participated in the Koloa Plantation Days Parade on July 29 with some of my former comrades. Since we are now all in our late 70s and 80s, with some in need of canes, walkers and even wheelchairs to get around, we rode on convertibles generously provided by a fellow veteran, Pundy Yokouchi. Some of our wives, sons and daughters, and even some of our grandchildren joined us in the parade.
The organizers of the parade honored Yukio Okutsu, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor, and the 100th/442nd veterans by having us lead the parade.
As we slowly rode through the town of Koloa with throngs of people on both sides of the roads and streets, I was greatly touched by the respectful and friendly waving and clapping of their hands. And their grateful shouts of “Thank you” over and over again along the parade route made tears well in my eyes.
Since Mr. Okutsu was born and raised in Koloa and is known by many old-timers who may be interested to know what he did to earn the Medal of Honor, I am making his citation a part of this letter: “Technical Sergeant Yukio Okutsu distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 7 April 1945, on Mount Belvedere, Italy. While his platoon was halted by the crossfire of three machine guns, Technical Sergeant Okutsu boldly crawled to within 30 yards of the nearest enemy emplacement through heavy fire. He destroyed the position with two accurately placed hand grenades, killing three machine gunners.
Crawling and dashing from cover to cover, he threw another grenade, silencing a second machine gun, wounding two enemy soldiers, and forcing two others to surrender. Seeing a third machine gun, which obstructed his platoon’s advance, he moved forward through heavy small arms fire and was stunned momentarily by rifle fire, which glanced off his helmet. Recovering, he bravely charged several enemy riflemen with his submachine gun, forcing them to withdraw from their positions.
Then, rushing the machine gun nest, he captured the weapon and its entire crew of four. By these single-handed actions, he enabled his platoon to resume its assault on a vital objective. The courageous performance of Technical Sergeant Okutsu against formidable odds was an inspiration to all. Technical Sergeant Okutsu’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.”
CLINTON I. SHIRAISHI Lihu’e