Salute to Shizuya Hayashi

Author: Joy Teraoka, Contributing Reporter
Puka Puka Parades, May 2008, 4/2008

Edited version of Joy Teraoka’s Looking Back from August 2002. Looking Back was a short bio of MOH Recipient Shizuya Hayashi

As we pulled into the parking lot of the beautiful DAV Veterans Memorial Park, we were greeted by Shizuya Hayashi who had been stuffing weeds into a large plastic bag. Every Thursday and Saturday he could be found working in the gardens where he volunteered his skill in operating the large hop-toe crane or in taking care of the many pieces of equipment necessary to maintain the park. He also weeded, trimmed or attended the plants as needed. With other DAV veterans he looked forward to serving the community in this way and at the same time getting together with his buddies to talk story.

At the time, Shizuya glowed with good health and physical strength, looking much younger than his eighty plus years. His soft-spoken manner and modesty hid the strength, courage and character that were at the core of his being and the attributes that helped him win the Medal of Honor on the battlefields of Italy.

Shizuya was born in Puuiki, a short distance from the Waialua Sugar Plantation, to Toichi and Noka Hayashi. He was the youngest of three boys. A sister died as an infant in a tragic accident on the sugar plantation where their mother worked.

Barefooted Shizuya attended school in the little country town of Waialua. On the plantation, being isolated from the city, Shizuya wasn’t aware of other job possibilities away from the rural scene. So, after completing the ninth grade, he worked long hours, with minimal pay and no promise of advancement on the sugar plantation as a happaiko mechanic for the harvesting equipment
As he approached the age of 22, yearning for more freedom from the confines of the plantation, Shizuya ran away from his job. On Ford Island he found work that allowed him to save enough money to finally purchase a small motorcycle. He then sold that one and bought a larger Harley Davidson, the joy of his new-found life. It represented to him the antithesis of the confining plantation.

In March of 1941, Hayashi was drafted into the Army. After basic training he was assigned to the 65th Engineers. However, when the Hawaii Provisional Army composed of AJA was secretly shipped to Oakland in June 1942, Hayashi and most other Nisei draftees, were included in this contingent. Historically, thereafter they became known as the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate). From there, as a private in Company E, Shizuya experienced the winter cold of Camp McCoy, Wisconsin and the sweltering heat of Camp Shelby, Mississippi in the South. From the very start, with purpose and determination, the 100th set outstanding records in both training on the field and in sports outside the army post. Hayashi recalled a comment made by Capt. Alex MacKenzie praising the Nisei soldiers. He said they were the best; even though they spoke in pidgin English much of the time, they were literate, highly intelligent and could follow written directions, something that posed a big problem with other units.

On August 11, 1943, the 100th left Camp Shelby to begin its historic overseas journey—first to Oran, Africa and then on to the battlefields of Italy. As one of Maj. Gen. Charles W. Ryder’s personally selected units, the 100th was assigned to the 34th Red Bull Division. One of their first battles was near Salerno. Wrinkling his nose as he recalled the stench of death and destruction, Hayashi said it was their first revelation of the devastating effects of war. As they marched all day and all night to reach their bivouac area, they could hear the harassing threat of German artillery fire—its booster shells bursting in repeated succession and its rapid gunfire ripping the air—terrifying and unnerving to the uninitiated.

In the heat of battle, Shizuya pensively stated that one’s initial instinct was for “survival,” to just keep moving, charging, going on. Remarkably, despite several close calls, he did not suffer any direct injuries. A bullet just grazed the back of his neck, another whizzed right between his legs (ouch) and in another incident, he felt the zing of a bullet across his back. To this, he shook his head incredulously. But, finally, it was trench foot suffered in Bruyeres that sent him to an army hospital.

As an E Company Browning automatic rifleman under Capt. Alex MacKenzie, Hayashi recalled the first crossing of the Volturno River when he spotted the dark helmets of the Germans downhill from where his platoon was advancing. Because of the trees, there was hesitancy about throwing grenades at the enemy, but Hayashi took a chance, jumped from his foxhole and threw his grenades at them. All the while, the Germans watched him, then retaliated by throwing two grenades that landed in his foxhole and blasted their machine pistols and rifle grenades at him. The earspiitting noise was so great, his hearing was permanently affected. In one incident, a German threw a grenade directly at him, but it didn’t explode- fortunately, it was a dud. Hayashi marveled in disbelief that he escaped injury or death during the many times he was directly exposed to danger.

One battle that lived vividly in his memory was when his unit discovered German enemy positions at close quarters. He fired his BAR killing several Jerries. He was about to aim his gun at another, when he noticed the soldier was a terrified youngster, crying for his mother, too paralyzed by fear to fire his own weapon. Even in the midst of fierce fighting for survival, Hayashi could not kill this child. The young German was then taken prisoner and saved from death. Astounded that a mere child was forced to fight for the Fuehrer, Hayashi still displayed feelings of compassion for another helpless human being.

In November 1943, the men of E and F companies were assigned to other companies as replacements for those depleted forces. Hayashi joined Company A under Capt. Mits Fukuda.

Hayashi’s heroism on November 29, 1943, near Cerasuolo (Colli), Italy, was where he distinguished himself in battle, earning the Distinguished Service Cross which was upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor in the year 2000, the Medaglia al Valore Militate (Italy) and the awe and respect of top military officers. To quote the Medal of Honor citation:

. . . During a flank assault on high ground held by the enemy, Private Hayashi rose alone in the face of grenade, rifle, and machine gun fire. Firing his automatic rifle from the hip, he charged and overtook an enemy machine gun position, killing seven men in the nest and two more as they fled. After a platoon advance of200 yards from this point, an enemy antiaircraft gun-position opened fire on the platoon. Private Hayashi returned fire at the hostile position, killing nine of the enemy, taking four prisoners, and forcing the remainder of the force to withdraw from the hill. Private Hayashi’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.

Hayashi fought throughout the 100th’s campaigns, continuing up the boot of Italy and on to France. In France, Hayashi was reassigned to Headquarters Company to guard prisoners. Finally, a victim of trench foot, he was hospitalized and sent to Camp Carson, Colorado, from where he was discharged.

In 1945, Shizuya returned to Hawaii on the converted SS. Lurline. After a spell of just resting and recuperating, Hayashi found work with a construction company, manning heavy equipment and becoming an expert crane operator and unbeatable pile driver. Some of the projects he worked on were Tripler Army Hospital and the Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center, the Sheraton, Ilikai and other hotels in Waikiki. Another job was driving pile into the ground off Waikiki. Every day he was taxied to his crane in a skiff. In addition, he helped construct about 90% of the water tanks on Oahu.
In 1947 he married Mavis Tomeno Imamura, who saw in her handsome husband, a quiet, unassuming hero who rarely called attention to himself. Mavis was the family cheerleader who eagerly shared the story of the 100th and its heroic part in WWII that earned Shizuya the Distinguished Service Cross citation. Unfortunately, Mavis passed away in October 1999 before knowing that Shizuya’s citation had been upgraded to the highest military honor of all–the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Asked if he ever thought of using the GI bill to go to college, Shizuya responded that he considered it but changed his mind when he learned his brother-in-law (Eugene Imamura, a 442nd vet) wanted to go to medical school. Even with the GI subsidy, it was not enough to cover all the expenses of med school, so Shizuya returned to work to help his brother-in-law pursue his studies. Although Dr. Imamura has now retired, because of Shizuya’s help, he became a successfully osteopathic surgeon. Shizuya’s generous, caring and unselfish attitude was very typical of his character, say his family members.

Upon receiving the CMOH, Hayashi was invited to many celebrations and conventions honoring the MOH recipients. Besides meeting President Bill Clinton at the White House, Hayashi attended some of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s annual conventions. These conventions are held in different states where businesses, non-profit organizations, benefactors, and the military host special celebrations for the CMOH veterans. During these convention weeks, the CMOH recipients reciprocated by serving as speakers at elementary, middle and high schools. They shared information about their backgrounds, what their battalions accomplished. Hayashi felt it was not only a privilege to attend these events, but he believed it was his obligation to represent all the Japanese American veterans who fought during WWII. He felt his mission was to inform the public of the history and accomplishments of the 100th/442nd veterans. It was for his fellow comrades that he proudly carried the banner proclaiming their loyalty, courage, sacrifices and service. Hayashi also stated that in meeting other MOH recipients, there was an instant rapport of respect and understanding among them because of their mutual experiences in combat.

In the 60 years since the war, memories that were so long suppressed are now being revived because he and other veterans finally began talking about the war. Some veterans are realizing that stuffing their stories and memories of buddies who did not return could be therapeutic as it helped resolve the trauma that emotionally touched their lives.

Hayashi’s daughter, “Mimi” Nakano (an associate professor at Leeward Community College and past president of the Sons and Daughters of the 100th Infantry Battalion) has stressed the importance of imparting to our descendants, the valuable lessons of discrimination and adversity the Nisei had to overcome for it teaches the next generation about the power of strong values, discipline, character and ethics. It defines them; it empowers them, and it becomes their responsibility to perpetuate this history and its values to their progeny. Surely, her father’s influence must have instilled in her this strong sense of commitment.

Although he was reticent and reserved, Hayashi was surprisingly well informed on a wide range of subjects. He was an avid reader and if engaged in conversation, he conveyed an impressive amount of knowledge about many topics.

Hayashi was content to spend time with his children, their families, and grandchildren. His children are daughter “Mimi” (Mary Anne), his son Grant, and youngest daughter Karen. Hayashi also enjoyed the camaraderie he shared with his DAV buddies. He devoted much of his free time maintaining the serenely beautiful gardens at Keehi Lagoon. This park is dedicated to those veterans who fought for their country in time of need. So until the end of his life, Hayashi honored his comrades in continuing his service to their park.

Our condolences to all his family members. No finer role model could we have asked for to represent the 100th Infantry Battalion.

To Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Shizuya Hayashi, we proudly salute you. You have honored us; we now honor you. We will surely miss you. May you rest in peace.