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April 24, 2005

 

YEIKI KOBASHIGAWA /
CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT

Hero kept WWII deeds Quiet

President Bill Clinton presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Yeiki Kobashigawa of Waianae, Hawaii, during a ceremony in the Pavilion, South Lawn, at the White House. Kobashigawa, Tech. Sgt. of the 100th Infantry Battalion, led his platoon in destroying four German machine gun positions near Lanuvio, Italy, on June 2, 1944.

A chance visit revealed the soldier's heroism
By Leila Fujimori

Merle Kobashigawa knew little of his father's heroism during World War II until his daughter, visiting the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., called home with the revelation in 1980.

"She said, 'I saw Grandpa's name here for some kind of Distinguished Service Cross,'" Kobashigawa said.

A quiet, reserved man, Yeiki "Lefty" Kobashigawa never spoke about his wartime deeds with his family.

In 2000, Kobashigawa's Distinguished Service Cross was reviewed and upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Kobashigawa, a member of the famed 100th Battalion, died March 31 at age 87 in Ka Punawai Ola.

Kobashigawa traveled to Washington, D.C., to get his medal from President Bill Clinton.

To him, the Medal of Honor was "no big deal 54 years later, but for us it's a big deal, said his son, Merle, who spent 15 years in the military, and now serves as an Army advisor in Korea.

His father told the then Secretary of the Army, "It's so long ago, just send it in the mail," Merle Kobashigawa said.

Tech Sgt. Kobashigawa was recognized for leading his platoon in destroying four German machine gun nests near Lanuvio, Italy, on June 2, 1944.

He was nicknamed "Lefty" because he was a pitcher for the Waianae Plantation Co. and Downtown and rural Japanese-American leagues.

Born in Hilo, Kobashigawa worked for the plantation, and was inducted into the Army Nov. 16, 1941 at age 18.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Kobashigawa was then assigned to the Hawaii Army National Guard's 298th Regiment. That morning he was preparing for a baseball game when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

"I caught an Army truck which took us through Kolekole Pass back to Schofield ... but shortly after that, they took away our rifles," he told the Star-Bulletin in 2000. "I don't know what they thought we would do."

Kobashigawa was a retired maintenance mechanic with Hawaiian Cement Co.

His sister Ruby remembers her brother as a hard worker, physically very strong and quite reserved. Throughout his youth, Kobashigawa would work days for the plantation, then help out on the family truck farm.

He is survived by wife Haruko, sons Merle and Floyd, daughter Jill Yamashiro, brothers Seichi and Richard, and sister Ruby.

Kobashigawa will receive full military honors when he is inurned at the National Cemetery of the Pacific 11:30 a.m. at May 18.

Private services were held April 14.

 

2005, by Honolulu Star Bulletin
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