A Maui Vet Remembers

Pfc. Hideo Nagata-no relation to Tom Nagata-died that day near Sant’ Angelo D’Alife and Venafro in Italy. He was 27 and a student at Maui Vocational School when he was inducted into the Army in December 1940. Hideo was the son of Uichi and Matsu Nagata. He had received his education at Paia School and Maui High School

“We sat side-by-side in class, same name,” Nagata said, adding that his friend was the first in their class to die in battle. Tom Nagata remembers him as a quiet, easy-going fellow who played a mean game of checkers.

“Each time you see a friend fall, you suffer,” Nagata said, pausing for several seconds before continuing. “War is a lot of suffering.”

He digressed from the subject of death, talking about digging foxholes and then finding them covered in mud after a rain. When he returned to the subject, Nagata said “always behind in your mind, ‘you could be next.'”

But during battle, “you don’t worry about those things,” Nagata continued. “In battle, things get hot and heavy. You do your job and get out. After the battle you think about those things.”

“War is not glory,” he said later in the interview. “You have to consider the possibility of pain and getting killed.”

And seeing others die.

Out on night patrol, his unit’s advance was halted near a ditch by a mine field. Unbeknownst to them, the Germans had zeroed in on the ditch.

As Nagata stood outside the ditch, the Germans fired on his unit. His friend, who was in a ditch a short distance away, was hit. The bullet pierced his helmet and entered his temple.

“I felt for a pulse … He died in my arms.

“The funny part is you think you’re safe sitting in the ditch, and it’s the most dangerous spot.”

When the conversation turned to the death of friends, Nagata would stare at a point to his left. His thoughts seemed to focus on his friends of the past as the present faded out of his consciousness. His voice softened and I could see a little sadness in his face.

“I always think about them (the men killed in action),” Nagata said. “They died so young. That’s a sacrifice.”

Later in the interview he said, “For us, the living, we are thankful that we’re alive. When we think of the KIA, we are sad.”

Two other men were in his thoughts this day. Sgt. Yoji Yasui, 26, a University of Hawaii graduate, was an editor for the Maui Newspaper Company when he was inducted into the Army in March of 1941. He died Dec. 1, 1943 near Ceresuolo and Cassino. Yasui, who was raised in Wailuku, was the son of Satosuke and Kiyoko Yasui. He had received his Maui education at Wailuku Elementary School and Maui High School. Nagata recalled that he was a “real serious” guy in high school.

“He led a platoon up the hill … they were waiting for them,” Nagata said. “He got shot right through the heart.”

Sgt. Katsuichi Jinnohara, a 26 year- old from Paia, died a day later on the same hill near Scapoli and Colli. He was a good soldier and a very serious guy, Nagata recalled. Jinnohara was the son of Enkichi and Yoshi Jinnohara. He had received his education at Paia School and Maui High School, and was employed as a clerk for the Otani Fish Market in Honolulu when he was inducted into the Army less than a month before Pearl Harbor was bombed.

We were all too serious,” Nagata added. “After all, in war, death is always around the corner.”

Nagata worked for the U.S. Postal Service after the war until he retired in 1980. These days, he spends much of his free time fishing.

His friends-Sakamoto, Nagata, Yasui and Jinnohara-haven’t been forgotten. They are among the 30 Maui “sons” who were killed in action and who are buried at Makawao Veterans Cemetery in the cool of Upcountry Maui. Their graves lie beneath the flag of their country, at the foot of the flag pole which is lit up at night.

It’s a blustery, but peaceful place. Flowers splash color in front of their white gravestones. The wind seems to drown out the roar of passing cars.

For me, at least, the men of the 100th who never returned to the Valley Isle are no longer totally nameless. There are the gravestones I saw and the descriptions of one Maui “son” who returned.

This article appeared in the June 19, 1992 issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of the formation of the 100th Infantry Battalion. It has been reprinted courtesy of The Hawaii Herald, Hawaii’s Japanese American Journal and the author Lee Imada.

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