Salute to Yeiki Kobashigawa

Author: Jill Yamashiro
Puka Puka Parades, January 2003, #03-1

Essay written by Jill Yamashiro about her father, Yeiki Kobashigawa, a MOH awardee

Currently, we have two surviving 100th Infantry veterans who are Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Last month, in our column we saluted Shizuya Hayashi. In this issue, we are honoring the other recipient, Yeiki Kobashigawa of Waianae.

Yeiki Kobashigawa’s daughter, Jill Yamashiro, wrote a beautiful essay about her father which was featured in another organization’s publication. We asked if we could share it with our readers and she graciously obliged. I hope you will be as touched by her report I was.


YEIKI KOBASHIGAWA was drafted into the army just before Pearl Harbor and became part of the highly decorated 100th Battalion. He was awarded various honors and medals from the US Army and government of France. Yeiki earned a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant. He is married to HARUKO MIYASHIRO of Olaa, Hawaii and has three children and two grandchildren. Since retiring from Hawaiian Cement in 1979, he has spent his time fishing, gardening and tending to home projects.

A quiet, hard-working and humble life for 82 years became an honored and highly celebrated one in May 2000. A call from the Pentagon was received informing my dad that the Distinguished Service Cross he was awarded for combat in World War II on June 2, 1944, was being upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor. The quiet life hasn’t been the same ever since.

My dad’s reaction to this announcement was a mere, “that’s nice.” He was not interested in making the long trip to DC from Hawaii because of a knee injury received during World War II that has ailed him for over 56 years. The rest of the family was far more excited about this honor than my dad, at that time. He felt that enlisting in the Army and going off to war was his duty as an American representing his family. My dad went to war to do what his country needed of him. It wasn’t about the medals. He was there to do a job, with honor, to protect our country and his fellow soldiers.
With some coercion from the family, we gradually convinced him to attend the presentation, and he eventually looked forward to shaking hands with the President

The week of June 19, 2000, will be remembered forever. Eleven members of our family traveled to Washington, DC, from Hawaii, California and Florida to attend the presentation of the Medal of Honor to 22 Asian Americans on June 21, 2000 by President Clinton.

From the moment we all began arriving in DC, until we were all on planes heading home, two wonderful Army officers who were at our sides during the entire trip escorted us. They became part of our family. All of the families were treated like royalty, including police escorts through DC while we made our way to the White House, Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon for the various events.

On June 21, 2000, we were escorted through the streets of Washington, DC, in buses escorted by motorcycle police officers who stopped traffic at intersections, running red lights, as we made our way to the White House. People on the streets, not knowing who we were, waved at the buses as we passed. The children on our bus were so excited at all the hoopla we created.

When we arrived at the White House, passing through bomb sniffing dogs and through several security stops, we made our way into the White House for a lavish reception, including champagne, hors d’oeuvres and music. When President Clinton arrived via helicopter on the White House lawn, the Medal of Honor recipients were escorted into a private room to meet with the President prior to the actual ceremony as family members and guests were assembling into the tent on the South Lawn.

There were over 500 people attending this event and our family was seated in the first row designated for the families, behind several rows of political guests such as Secretary Donna Shalala, Senators Ted Kennedy, Strom Thurmond and Bob Dole, Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki and other Army generals.
It was an exciting time for all of us to watch my dad receive the Medal of Honor from President Clinton, after a reading of his citation that earned him this prestigious and highly coveted medal. We were proud beyond words.

After the medal ceremony, the families were taken back to the White House where the rooms that held the lavish pre-ceremony reception were miraculously cleared and in place were 22 chairs. Each of the medal recipients and their families gathered while the President made his way from family to family for the “official” White House family photos. He was very gracious and friendly as he shook hands with all of us prior to the photo taking.

In addition to the actual White House medal ceremony, the Medal of Honor recipients and their families took part in a Twilight Tattoo; memorial service for the WWII soldiers that were killed in action or have since passed away, held at Ft Myers Chapel; laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery where my dad represented the 100th Battalion; induction into the Hal1 of Heroes at the Pentagon and various receptions.

While our schedule was quite full, we did manage to take in some of the sights of Washington, DC, such as the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, US Mint, Washington Monument and several Smithsonian Museums.

It was a wonderful trip and one that will be remembered for the rest of our lives. We are truly blessed for my dad being able to make the trip to receive this honor, as he truly deserved to be there. However, we were saddened that not all of the 22 recipients were as fortunate and have great empathy for their families. Keeping the 100th/442nd legacy alive for all who served in WWII is our goal for the future.

Editor’s note: I would like to add a bit more on Yeiki Kobashigawa.

Yeiki was born to Shintsu and Kame Kobashigawa on September 28, 1917, in Waikea, on the Big Island. At an early age his family moved to Waianae, Oahu, where his father was engaged in farming. Yeiki went to school in Waianae and after graduation he worked as a mechanic/truck driver for the Waianae Plantation.

In 1942 Yeiki was drafted into the army, and like many of his army buddies who became a part of the Hawaii Provisional Army and then the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), he went from Oahu to Wisconsin, and on to Camp Shelby. As a member of Company B, his company commander was Captain Sakae Takahashi.

During the Salerno to Cassino campaign in Italy, Kobashigawa suffered injuries to his chest. After recuperating he rejoined his unit and went on to distinguish himself by extraordinary heroism on June 2, 1994, near Lanuvio, Italy. The citation for the Distinguished Service Cross which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor reads:

. . . During an attack, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa’s platoon encountered strong enemy resistance from a series of machine guns providing supporting fire. Observing a machine gun nest 50 yards from his position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa crawled forward with one of his men, threw a grenade and then charged the enemy with his submachine gun while a fellow soldier provided covering fire. He killed one enemy soldier and captured two prisoners. Meanwhile, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa and his comrade were fired upon by another machine gun 50 yards ahead. Directing a squad to advance to his first position, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa again moved forward with a fellow soldier to subdue the second machine gun nest. After throwing grenades into the position, Sergeant Kobashigawa provided close suporting fire while a fellow soldier charged, capturing four prisoners. On the alert for other machine gun nests, Technical Sergeant Kobashigawa discovered four more, and skillfully led a squad in neutralizing two of them. . . (Hawaii’s Medal of Honor Salute, August 25-27, 2000)

A right knee wound which he suffered about this time, continued to plague him throughout his life. It was after Lanuvio that he won a field commission promoting him to 2nd lieutenant He fought through the many campaigns in Italy and France.

During a recent interview with Saburo Ishitani (Co. C, 60 mm. mortar weapons sergeant and forward observer) he related an incident involving Kobashigawa during the 100th Infantry’s fighting in Italy. Ishitani’s platoon was waiting for action on the left side of an open space area that was divided by a low ditch. On the other side slightly behind them was another ditch covered by tall trees. Because of the danger of tree bursts from enemy missiles, the 100th soldiers preferred positioning themselves in the open areas. He believes a group from Co. B was situated in this area. Lying ahead of the 100th squads were three German machine-gun nests positioned in a triangular formation to protect a nearby incline where an Italian farmhouse hid a German tank. As a forward observer, Ishitani had established his observation post (o.p.) in the front of the left side where his view was clear and unobstructed. As he was watching, out of nowhere he saw several American Sherman tanks advance into the wide open area. Then he heard noises and sounds. The German tank had lumbered out of the farmhouse and knocked out the first American tank; a few moments later more American tanks were obliterated. Soon the American tank detachment stopped their advance. Then there was silence. Suddenly he saw a group of men moving quietly like “Indian scouts.” Although from his position Ishitani couldn’t see the German machine gun nests, he observed the soldiers moving ever so quietly about. As the leader approached the German position, he stood up, quickly threw his grenade into the German nest and discharged his rifle, subduing the enemy. All this was done with such skillful stealth that it did not alert the other supporting German nests. Then, from that position on the left, the group moved to the right-side and with equal finesse, quietly but effectively snuffed out that enemy’s nest. Once again, they repeated the same tactic, wiping out the German nest in front of the farmhouse, forcing the German tank to retreat. This triangular movement, attacking with flawless precision in such a quiet way without alerting any of the opposing German nests, left Ishitani in awe of what he had witnessed. It was almost spellbinding. Later Ishitani learned that Yeiki Kobashigawa of Company B was the leader of that group of men who so impressed him with their combat skill. Ishitani repeatedly emphasized that the coordination, communication and teamwork which was manifest in the extraordinary quietness, smoothness and skillfulness of that group was because of their outstanding leader, Yeiki Kobashigawa. Ishitani, who fought from the beginning of the war in Europe from Salerno and Cassino to the Po Valley, said that what he observed during that battle was the best tactical movement he had ever witnessed in his combat career. {Interview of S. Ishitani by J. Teraoka on December 13, 2002, at the 100th Inf. Bn. Veterans clubhouse.)

After the war, Kobashigawa returned to Hawaii, then worked for Gaspro Hawaii and later for Hawaiian Cement until his retirement in 1979.

Kobashigawa was recognized as a natural athlete. When he played baseball with the 100th team, Ray Nosaka remembers Yeiki as an outstanding fast ball pitcher. Perhaps it was this athletic ability that also served him well on the battlefields of Europe where his accuracy in throwing grenades was crucial.

It is evident, in the loving words with which Yeiki’s daughter, Jill, describes her father, he is a man dedicated to his family. His quiet soft-spoken nature, his humbleness and generosity toward others are endearing traits that his family cherishes. He worked hard never complaining, undertaking “labor intensive jobs” during his working years. Yeiki never spent money on himself, but gave generously to his family. He handily repaired what needed fixing around the house or his cars. Yeiki eagerly helped others, even without their asking, encouraging and supporting his family and friends in their undertakings. To many Kobashigawa has been an unassuming and inspiring mentor and role model.

Today Yeiki has slowed down and the glories of his past feats are becoming a dim memory to him, but his family and friends will never forget the legacy of courage, loyalty, strength and sacrifice he has given to all of us.

We are proud to salute and honor Yeiki Kobashigawa, a true hero of the 100th Infantry Battalion.