Takeshi Kawakami

A Company

Takeshi Kawakami was born in Hilo, Hawaii on August 3, 1924. He happily just celebrated his 95th birthday.

His enlisted nickname was “Joe Black,” mostly because the Caucasian army staff had problems with his given name, and he was so dark from spending all his time in the sun playing football and surfing in Hawaii. He was the quarterback at Hilo High and loved sports in his youth.

Along with a group of high school friends, he enlisted in March 1943, prior to his graduation date, and joined the newly formed 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The school gave all of them their diplomas despite the fact they never completed their senior year.

The 442nd was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for basic training. Private First Class Kawakami arrived in Italy as a member of the first group of “replacement” soldiers to join the depleted 100th Infantry Battalion and was assigned to Company A. Landing in Naples, they were deployed to the Anzio beachhead on March 26, 1944.

He remembers having to dig his own foxhole in the still frozen ground, and how cold it was for them. They only fought at night. He still remembers seeing a pigeon land on the ground, and having gotten a medal for marksmanship, he thought he could make a hot meal for him and his buddies. He said “We gonna be eating some pigeon tonight” and fired at the poor unsuspecting bird. Well, not only did he miss the bird, but his shot sparked a fierce firestorm of a response from the Germans, which initiated an evening gunfight that he and his buddies would never forget……needless to say, he never fired at another pigeon for the rest of his service!

From Anzio he traveled to Rome, through Florence and then to France. From March 1944 to October 1945 he participated in the Rome-Arno, Northern Apennines, Rhineland, and Po Valley campaigns. On October 20, 1944, he was wounded in France from a bomb explosion. He remembers marching to Nice and Monte Carlo, in France and then his Regiment was sent back to Italy. Toward the end of his European service, he recalls being near the city of Giulino, Azzano, Italy when Mussolini was executed, prior to his deployment back to the United States in late 1945.