Fujii & Nakamura Streets


A part of Semi Nakamura’s world died that day in January 1944 when military officials came to her home in Wailua to tell her that her eldest son Yoshimitsu had died fighting for his country. His letters home-especially those he wrote during basic training at Camps McCoy and Shelby-were always bright and cheery. He wrote about new adventures … never of the fear he felt in his heart, or about the misery of being stuck in a foxhole on a cold, wet night.

“He never wrote about things out there. I guess he didn’t want us to worry,” said Misao Nakamura, his youngest sister. As hard as he tried to divert his family’s attention from the dangers of war, Semi Nakamura was still his mother, and her fears would not subside until he returned safe from the war. She worried about him constantly, said Misao, who still lives on Kauai.

Yoshimitsu-“Nii-san” to his younger brothers and sisters-became the “man of the house” when his father Gorohachi died in 1938. Gorohachi and Semi, immigrants from Kumamoto-ken, raised seven children; Yoshimitsu was their second child. He was born Dec. 1, 1913, attended Anahola School and then enrolled in Kalaheo Vocational School where he trained to become an auto mechanic.

He was working as an auto mechanic at Lihue Plantation’s shop in Hanamaulu when he was drafted into the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion in March of 1941. Nakamura trained at Schofield Barracks and at camps McCoy and Shelby on the Mainland. It was the first time he had seen the world outside his Garden Island home.

Some 14 years separated Misao and her eldest brother; she was just a teenager when he was drafted. He’d buy souvenir banners and pins and send them home. Misao remembers especially the colorful nightgown he sent her. “It was just my size,” she laughed.

While in training, he and his buddies ventured to New York City on a weekend pass. His letters home afterwards reflected his awe at seeing buildings that almost touched the sky, and the thrill of seeing the Statue of Liberty. He even bought a bronze statue of Lady Liberty and sent it home to his mother.

Those are the memories Misao Nakamura-the youngest in the family-lives with. “Nii-san” was a kind, soft-spoken, soft-hearted gentleman. “I never heard him raise his voice,” she said.

Neither did his Army buddies. “He was a very quiet person, very conscientious,” recalled Martin Tohara, who served as First Sergeant for the 100th’s “D (Dog)” Company. Nakamura, who was in charge of “D” Company’s machine gun section, was one of the first members of the 100th to be promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Misao was at home with her mother when they were informed that Yoshimitsu had died Jan. 10, 1944 during an enemy artillery attack on the flats near Venafro near southern Italy. “It was a good thing I was here. She took it hard.”

Nakamura was awarded the Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and Ribbon, American Campaign Medal and Ribbon, European- African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and Ribbon, and World War II Victory Medal and Ribbon.

The 100th boys from Kauai who survived the war always spoke highly of “Yoshi”-of his kind-heartedness, generosity and good nature.

Every September for the last 45 years, Misao and others in the Nakamura family have joined Kauai veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion at the veterans cemetery in Hanapepe to honor the memory of the Garden Island boys who lost their lives in World War II, as well as those who have since passed on.

Although a part of her mother’s world died with Yoshimitsu’s passing, Misao Nakamura knows her mother was proud and happy to learn that Nakamura Street had been named for Yoshimitsu. There aren’t many people on Kauai who know the story behind the street names, she says. “Maybe only those who live in that ‘camp.’ It’s kinda sad ….”

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.