Wednesday, October 19, 2011

TFH 10/19: Private Barney F. Hajiro, USA

Barney Fushimi Hajiro was born on September 16, 1916 on Maui, Hawai'i to Japanese immigrant parents. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was drafted into the United States Army and served as a laborer in an engineering unit.

In early 1943, he volunteered to join the new US 442nd Infantry Regiment/Regimental Combat Team, composed entirely of Nisei - the children of Japanese immigrants. The 442nd Infantry served with distinction in Europe, and became the most decorated unit for its size in US Army history. For the approximately 14,000 Americans who served in the unit, 9,486 received Purple Hearts and the regiment as a whole earned an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations. The motto of the 442nd was "Go For Broke". Twenty-one of its members were recognized with our highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.

Initially, Barney Hajiro received the second-highest award for his wartime courage: the Distinguished Service Cross. During the 1990s, the Department of Defense reviewed the records of all African- and Asian-American recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross to determine if any of them were denied the Medal of Honor due to racial discrimination.

On June 21, 2000, Barney Hajiro was one of six living Asian-Americans who received their long-overdue recognition as being among our Nation's greatest heroes from President Bill Clinton at the White House. From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II:


Private Barney F. Hajiro distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 19, 22, and 29 October 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, eastern France. Private Hajiro, while acting as a sentry on top of an embankment on 19 October 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres, France, rendered assistance to allied troops attacking a house 200 yards away by exposing himself to enemy fire and directing fire at an enemy strong point. He assisted the unit on his right by firing his automatic rifle and killing or wounding two enemy snipers. On 22 October 1944, he and one comrade took up an outpost security position about 50 yards to the right front of their platoon, concealed themselves, and ambushed an 18-man, heavily armed, enemy patrol, killing two, wounding one, and taking the remainder as prisoners. On 29 October 1944, in a wooded area in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France, Private Hajiro initiated an attack up the slope of a hill referred to as "Suicide Hill" by running forward approximately 100 yards under fire. He then advanced ahead of his comrades about 10 yards, drawing fire and spotting camouflaged machine gun nests. He fearlessly met fire with fire and single-handedly destroyed two machine gun nests and killed two enemy snipers. As a result of Private Hajiro's heroic actions, the attack was successful. Private Hajiro's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Barney F. Hajiro passed away earlier this year on January 21, 2011 at age 94. At his death, he was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient. American heroism knows no racial boundaries. To him, all his 442nd RCT comrades, and others who have set aside the United States' imperfections in equality to forward the course of liberty by taking up arms, we are forever grateful.

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