Cassino Memorial Dedication Brings Memories of a Beloved Brother
In 1944, Hideyuki Hayashida was laid to rest in peaceful Makawao Veterans Cemetery in Upcountry Maui. He had come home to stay.
“Hide-chan,” as he was affectionately known to his family, was the third of Minoru and Masue Hayashida’s four children — and their only son. His parents had immigrated to Hawaii from Kumamoto, Japan. The Hayashida children grew up in East Maui, where their father operated a small store.
Hayashida was working as a dental technician when he was drafted into the 299th Infantry Regiment of the Hawaii National Guard just a month before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. After the war broke out, the 299th, made up of soldiers from the Neighbor Islands, was merged with the Oahu-based 298th Infantry Regiment. Together, they became the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion. In June 1942, the 1,432-member battalion sailed for the West Coast. Upon their arrival in Oakland, California, the unit was renamed the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate).
One month after Hayashida shipped out, his wife Hatsuyo gave birth to their baby on Maui. But the young father would not live to hold his son in his arms. Hideyuki Hayashida was killed in action on the approach to Cassino. He was 24 years old at the time. When Army officials gathered up his personal belongings, they found in his wallet a picture of his infant son.
Hatsuyo Hayashida moved to Honolulu to attend business school and later worked for an insurance company. She never married again and raised their son as a single parent.
Fast forward to May 1990, 46 years after Hayashida was killed in action in the bloody battle for Monte Cassino. On the island of Maui, Hayashida’s younger sister, Fusae Yamato, was busy preparing for her trip to Italy to see with her own eyes where “Hide-chan” had died while fighting for his country in World War II. Hayashida was a medic in the 100th Infantry Battalion when he was killed in action on January 10, 1944, near Cassino.
“I don’t know how I’ll be,” she said in a telephone interview. She paused in the conversation and the sound of sniffles can be heard. Time heals, and yet it doesn’t.
The journey to Cassino would finally put to rest Yamato’s long-held desire to visit the area where her brother died. In 1983, she had come close to fulfilling that wish during a trip to Europe with her family. But she fell ill and was forced to return to Maui.
“After all these years, I still shed tears,” she said. So when Yamato learned about the planned trip to Cassino to dedicate a monument honoring the 100th, she knew she had to join the group to finally put Hide-chan to rest in her heart.
Yamato and her husband Shiro, a 100th Battalion veteran, were among the nine people from Hawaii planning to attend the monument dedication ceremony on the now-peaceful and rebuilt grounds of Monte Cassino.
The tribute to the Nisei soldiers was initiated by Georges Henri, then-mayor of Biffontaine, France, and Jean Bianchetti, a French citizen of Italian descent, who earlier had erected a monument dedicated to the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team at the site of the “Lost Battalion” rescue in Biffontaine. A delegation from Biffontaine and a group from the larger Vosges Mountain region of France planned to travel to Cassino and join grateful area residents.
The Monte Cassino monument is a visible tribute to the men of the 100th. For decades, the townspeople have floated flowers in the nearby Volturno River in memory of the Nisei soldiers from Hawaii who died at Cassino.
In 1944, the valley town of Cassino lay in the path of the mountaintop abbey of Monte Cassino, which the Germans had seized and were using as an observation point overlooking the main highway to Rome. They were determined to hold on to this strategic location.
Prior to taking over the abbey, the Germans had flooded the valley by diverting the flow of the Rapido River. Before they could even attempt to take the mountain from the enemy, the 100th had to cross a submerged road and make their way through flooded farmlands, irrigation ditches and fields in which land mines had been planted. The men scaled walls and braved their way across open fields, where so many of them were picked off by crack German snipers.
At Cassino, four 100th officers and 44 enlisted men were killed in action; another 150 were wounded. After four months in combat, the 100th was being referred to as “The Purple Heart Battalion.”
Cassino also marked the end of the road for the original 100th Infantry Battalion that had left Honolulu in June 1942. In March 1944, the first contingent of replacements from the 442nd — 10 officers and 151 enlisted men — arrived from Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to replenish the 100th, and in August, the 100th was formally attached to the 442nd, becoming its 1st Battalion, but retaining its identity as the 100th Infantry Battalion.
Hideyuki Hayashida would have been proud of his son. Ronald Hideo Hayashida grew up to become a college professor on the East Coast. On vacations back to Hawaii, he took his daughter, Alix Hideko, to Makawao to visit the grave of the father he never had a chance to know.
–by Karleen C. Chinen
Karleen Chinen is the editor of the Hawaii Herald, Hawaii’s Japanese-American Journal, and a writer. She is the daughter of Wallace Seiko Chinen, who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, E and D Companies. This article originally appeared in the Hawaii Herald in 1990.