Island History for Friday, October 14, 2011

Kekaha, Kaua‘i-born-and-raised Hisae Shimatsu (1912-2002) had attended Kekaha School and had worked in the Kekaha Sugar Co. mill before joining the Army and serving with the 100th Infantry Bn. during WWII.

During the 100th Bn.’s battle on Hill 600 near Pozzilli, Italy in Nov., 1943, then platoon sergeant Shimatsu and his men, although outnumbered 4 to 1, stopped a counter-attack by about a company of German soldiers, killing half of them and dispersing the remainder.

For his leadership on Hill 600, Shimatsu was awarded a battlefield promotion to 2nd. Lt. on January 4, 1944.

Then, on Jan. 23, 1944, he was captured by German soldiers near Cassino, Italy and sent to Oflag 64, a German prison camp for officers located at Szubin, Poland.

In July, 1944, he was temporarily taken to Berlin for interrogation. The Germans were mainly curious to know whether he felt any allegiance to toward Japan. “Hell no,” he replied. “I’m an American citizen. I fight for America.”

Just prior to the Russian Army’s advance on Szubin, Poland on Jan. 21, 1945, Shimatsu and the other POWs of Oflag 64 were marched by their fleeing German captors toward another camp about 20 miles to the west.

During a rest break on the march, Shimatsu and fellow POW Lt. Samuel M. Sakamoto of Honolulu went into a barn and hid in the hay, and the Germans, terrified of being taken prisoner by the approaching Russian soldiers, wasted no time searching for them. Instead, they quickly marched off with the other POWs. Shimatsu and Sakamoto were free.

Lt. Shimatsu returned home to Kekaha in June 1945, where he and his wife, Tomoe, raised a family and where he eventually retired from Kekaha Sugar as a harvesting supervisor.

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