Fukuda’s Heroism Reflects 100th’s War Record

Author: John Tsukano
Puka Puka Parades, October-December 1987, v.41 no.4

Newspaper article on Mitsuyoshi Fukuda’s successes in World War II and his desire to form a reunion visit to Camp McCoy

Mitsuyoshi Fukuda was a platoon leader when Company A of the 100th Infantry Battalion trained at Fort (then Camp) McCoy from June 1942 to January 1943. He will be among the 40 veterans and their wives who will visit the installation this weekend.

In a letter to the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office, Fukuda asked assistance in arranging a reunion visit here in advance of the group’s visit to the opening of the Smithsonian Institute’s exhibit on the relocation of the Japanese from the West Coast during World War II. “The group is very anxious to revisit Camp McCoy and its neighboring towns,” says Fukuda in that letter.

“The formation of the 100th Infantry Battalion in June 1942 was the War Department’s solution to their dilemma of what to do with the Japanese American servicemen who were already in the armed forces when the war broke out with Japan, Fukuda said. The question at that time was the loyalty of the Japanese Americans if faced in combat with the Japanese army. The War Department decided to form a separate unit made up of Japanese Americans, send them for training in the interior and see what happened, he explains. The 100th Infantry Battalion was the first unit to train at Camp McCoy’s new facilities which were constructed in 1942.

The six months of training at Camp McCoy were rough, but our social life in Wisconsin was a most pleasant and welcome surprise to all the men of the 100th.” Fukuda wrote. “Therefore, there is a feeling of nostalgia, almost home sickness for Camp McCoy and its neighboring towns shared by all men of the 100th.”

No mention of the units fame, or in particular, Fukuda’s fame, is made in the letter. But rather, there is a sense of gratitude for the post and the people who treated these soldiers so well during the time they spent here.

The story of Fukuda, however, is one for the record books The following story, included in the book “Bridges of Love” by John Tsukano, was written Oct 29, 1945, by Honolulu Star-Bulletin War Correspondent Lyn Crost. The dateline is Naples, Italy.

“Maj. Mitsuyoshi Fukuda, 28, executive officer of the 442nd Infantry Combat Team, is scheduled to leave by plane from Naples today for America.

“He is the last original member of the 100th Battalion to leave European soil.

“Maj. Fukuda’s flight by Army transport command plane has been approved by officials as a special recognition of the 100th Battalion’s war record and is a tribute to the major.

“When Maj. Fukuda was appointed commanding officer of the 100th, known as the Purple Heart Battalion, he became the first American of Japanese ancestry to command an infantry battalion in the history of the United States Army.

“Precedent was broken again when he was promoted to his present position as executive officer of the 442nd. He is the only Nisei combat officer in the United States Army to hold field rank.

“Prior to his departure. Maj. Fukuda had led the 100th Battalion in its last parade when the unit received its Presidential Unit Citation.

“The major has accumulated 126 points toward his discharge since he left his position as a teacher at Kona High School on the Big Island three days after the Pearl Harbor attack to join the Army as a Reserve officer,

“He wears five battle stars on his European theater ribbon and one for Pearl Harbor. He also wears the Silver Star and the Presidential Unit citation with two stars.

“Starting as platoon commander, Maj. Fukuda came up the hard way through company commander to battalion executive, to regimental executive of the 442nd, the second highest position in the regiment.

“He led Company E rifle platoon in the breakout after the Salerno landings and in the crossings of the Volturno and Rapido rivers. He was promoted to captain and given command of Company A in December 1943.

-He participated in the battles of Cassino, Anzio and every important action up the Italian peninsula to Leghorn.

“He was then given leave in the United States and returned to join his outfit in the French Maritime Alps at which time he was made executive of the 100th.

When the 442nd returned to Italy for the final campaign, he led a ‘Fukuda task force’ on a two-day mission through enemy territory and secured the strategic town of Aulla.

“His Silver Star was awarded for leading his company through an enemy mine field during the first Italian Campaign.