Kei Tanahashi (KIA 4 July 1944)

Sexo Male
Fecha de Nacimiento 1918-10-5
Lugar de Nacimiento Los Angeles CA, U.S.A.
Inducted 1943-6-23, Fort Benning GA
Tipo de Alistamiento Volunteer
Afiliación Militar Army
Tipo de servicio prestado War
Tipo de unidad militar Combat
Unidades a las que sirvió Company G, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Fifth Army
Especialidad militar Infantryman
Asignado Camp Shelby, MS; Italy
Retirado KIA - Castellina It
Responsabilidad en la unidad Infantry
Batallas principales (si sirvió en una zona de guerra) Lt. Tanahashi's platoon was attacking Hill 140 near Castellina, Italy when he was wounded and subsequently succumbed. He and others were wounded and when the medics arrived he ordered that the others be treated before him although he was the most seriously wounded. After complying with his orders the medics returned to find him deceased. He died silently with four bullet wounds across his chest
Reconocimientos, medallas, menciones (individuales o de la unidad) Silver Star
Purple Heart
Combat Infantryman Badge

The report of Lt. Tanahashi's death brought the following statement from his mother, Mrs. Kin Tanahashi, in camp:

'Kei always told me of his loyalty as a citizen, and I am glad that he could do just a little for his country in her hour of need. I hope that his death will help the public realize that we are Americans fighting for America, too. I have lived in this country for over 30 years and it is my country just as it was Kei's and I feel just the way he felt - that of any American loving his country.'

Información adicional Attended Amelia and Utah Street grammar schools; Lincoln High School. Graduated UCLA in 1939, president of Bruins Club, a member of Scabbard and Blade, Capt. in ROTC. Sent to Pomona Assembly Ctr, then to Heart Mt. Relocation Ctr. 9/23/42 University of Nebraska at Lincoln; 6/23/43 inducted at Ft. Benning, GA; 3/30/44 married Joy Kikugawa in New Orleans, LA; 5/44 sent overseas.

by Jun Yamamoto, 442nd RCT veteran, Company L, 3rd Battalion.

I met Kei when I joined the Koyasan (Daishi Mission) Boy Scouts Troop 379 in April 1935. He was an Eagle Scout and Junior Assistant Scout Master and attending UCLA where he was a cadet officer in the ROTC besides his major study. In his sophmore year he was honored as a member of Sophmore Service, an honor society. He received his Bachelors Degree and was commissioned a second lietenant in the reserve in 1939.

He was a natural leader of men with talent, discipline, compassion and instilled into the men, trust and faith in him and to themselves.

Troop 379 had a nationally recognized drum and bugle corp that travelled by train across the US in 1935 stopping at major cities to parade and tour, enroute to Washington, DC for the Boy Scout National Jamboree that was cancelled due to an infantile paralysis epidemic. Not to be dismayed, the troop continued as a goodwill tour.

Kei created marching drill formations for the corp to perform in the parades. The corp performed in parades such as the Pasadena New Years Rose Parade, the American Legion National Convention parade down Hollywood Blvd., National BPOE, coliseum festivities, Los Angeles County Juvenile Hall with Jackie Cooper and Nisei Week parade to name a few. I believe the credit for its success goes to Kei and the Drum and Bugle Master, Mr. Nako.

When the troop went to summer camp at Brighton Beach in Terminal Island, Kei was the troop leader and planned the activities for each day from rank testing, training, merit badges to recreation.

There were six patrols and each patrol was responsible for their menu and cooking each day. Usually two boys out of eight would do the cooking. No canned food was allowed, so we had to show our cooking skills. Each evening, Kei would eat with a different patrol and check the menu. The day that Henry Masuda and I were the cooks, unbeknownst to us, Kei picked our patrol to dine with but we had messed up.

Neither Henry nor I knew much about cooking but we started cutting the vegetables and built the fire. I washed the rice with ocean water thinking it was naturally salty so no added salt was needed and we would save our drinking water; soaked the corn with the husks on in the ocean water and put them in the fire so that all that would have to be added was butter. Henry was trying to follow someone's recipe and was intricately and tediously preparing the meat and vegetables to cook and, as I recall, instead of separate dishes, we wound up with something between stew and hash! The rice and corn were overly salty! The rest of the boys in the patrol were disgruntled. Kei sat down at the table with the patrol and with one look at the spread, asked to see the menu...needless to say, Henry and I had to sit at the table and eat and eat and eat because we looked hungry! It was a good thing that my mother had sent a large box of sushi with Dr. Murakami that the rest of the boys didn't starve. The moral is that Kei is good at telling you off and making one feel complimented at the same time! He mentioned something about 'doing a good job...but follow the menu to a 'T' tomorrow.'

Kei's character trait was to see that everyone was secure and any work order that he gave was one that he would do himself. It was a mutual trust among us.

When the war broke out, we were evacuated to internment camps. My folks and I chose to go to Manzanar, a place we knew not where, but only that it was going to be a permanent camp in California. Other choices were Santa Anita and Pomona. Little Tokyo was split up with a majority going to Santa Anita and finally Heart Mountain. Kei's family went to Heart Mountain.

Like many of the men in camp, I did a stint at the camouflage factory, took leave from camp to top sugar beets in Idaho, returned and went to work in the hospital with plans to leave and join my school friends at Park College, Missouri.

In late December soon after I returned to camp, a 442nd RCT recruiting poster appeared on the bath house wall stating plans for an all volunteer combat unit.

After answering the famous 'loyalty questionnaire', I went to the administration building and enlisted. Park College was now out of question.

I was inducted into the army the first of May 1943 at Ft. Douglas, Salt Lake City, UT. I reported to Camp Shelby, MS after a leave to go to Los Angeles and Manzanar thinking that it would be the last time I would see my folks and they in turn would see me in uniform. I was assigned to 'L' Company, 3rd Battalion.

During my basic training I kept an eye out for Kei, since he was a reserve Lt. and I felt that he wouldn't miss this show. I spotted him one afternoon running the road with his platoon and asked a GI 'What company?', with the response 'G.' That evening I went to the 'G' Company CO who gave me Kei's hutment number. I found his quarters and he was very surprised to see me. We had a long chat and he mentioned that Yoshiharu Aoyama and Takao Tanabe had also volunteered from their respective Army units to join the 442nd. We were the only Koyasan men.

We met again a few days later and this time with Yoshiharu and Takao. It was a nice reunion with a lot to talk about since we lost track of each other a few years before the war.

On another occasion, Kei mentioned that he was going on a furlough back to Heart Mountain while he had the chance. When he returned he was all smiles and stated that he had met a beautiful young lady he saw at the Camp and a friend had introduced him to her. He couldn't get her out of his mind and said that he was going to marry her. Her name was Joy. A few weeks later, I think it was about July, a wedding in the 442nd chapel was held. Unfortunately, I don't remember who officiated. It was probably either Chaplin West of Chaplin Yamada. I believe both have passed away. We were awed by Joy's beauty and she was a very beautiful bride.

They rented a cottage in Hattiesburg as I recall, for the period of time that we would be training in Camp Shelby. The one problem was that Kei was ordered to be Officer-of-the-Day on several weekends.

Kei mentioned that he wasn't in very good standing with his CO. I have forgotten the could have been either Capt. Graham or possibly Capt. Hempstead ... or neither. It's been so long ago. In any case, Kei wouldn't give up his men for a transfer. Both have a justified point. It is unfortunate that the CO was not aware of the way our parents raised us in attitude and character to work with one another.

Kei, in the tradition of Japanese ancestry and a leader, found that it is vital to have the trust and faith of his men to follow him in battle and obey orders no matter how difficult. His platoon were men from Hawaii who knew not his ways and character as a 'Kotonk' officer instead of 'Haole' and who could neither speak pidgin english not understand it for sometime. He found it necessary to develop 'mutual trust' in a hurry.

One step was to stand at the mess hall door each evening to see that all of his men were present for dinner. Satisfied, he then went to the Officers Mess and with proper apologies sat down with the other officers and the Captain. The Captain would not accept this daily action and let Kei know that he expected him to be at the officers' table when he walked in.

Kei explained his reason for the action and because he continued to wait at the enlisted men's door until all his men were in, he was reprimanded by the CO to weekend Officer-of-the-Day duty. This continued even after he married Joy. Fortunately, he was able to go home during the week days.

Before we left Camp Shelby, Kei had the full confidence of his men and he was at ease.

One evening after coming back from a three day field training exercise, Kei left a message for me to come to his hutment. I went and Yoshiharu was already there. Kei had received word that Tak Tanabe was transferred out of the 442nd for special training and would be incognito for the rest of the war. This shocked us and our count now was three.

After defeating the 69th Division in maneuvers in three days (a battle of at least one week plus was anticipated), accomplished by capturing General Bolte and his staff at GHQ plus the motor pool, Division Mess, etc., and wiping them out, the referees declared the maneuvers over.

This was followed with celebrations in Hattiesburg by the men of the 442nd. When the 69th men showed up at the 'White Kitchen' (restaurant), they were ready to fight. They were bigger, heavier and taller and their mistake was to call us 'G__D__Japs'. All the men got into the free-for-all, breaking chairs, glasses, windows, etc. and the 69th learned something from us.

The MP's reported to General Bolte that the 442nd did a great deal of damage to the White Kitchen in Hattiesburg and would have to pay. Col. Pence was informed and did his own investigation and backed us up by telling the General that the men started fighting when the 69th called them 'Japs'. He said damages would be paid out the Regiment's treasury and restricted the men to the 442nd area for one week and when it was lifted, we could not go to the 69th Division bus stop. We had to catch the bus within our bounds.

About March 1944, we went through general inspection and passed in review before Gen. Marshall who then declared the 442nd ready for combat.

On the evening of April 21, Yoshiharu and I went to Kei's quarters for a farewell session. We were due to pull out of Camp Shelby the next day for Newport News, VA. Kei had an article about statistics for men going into battle. I have forgotten the exact ratios or percentages, but recall only that most would come home with a wound, followed by unscathed, and finally killed-in-action. To be truthful, we were of the opinion that we would not be coming home but the three of us would try to keep in touch. We were scattered with Kei in 'G' Company, 2nd Battalion. Yoshiharu had transferred to Cannon Company and I was in 'L' Company, 3rd Battalion.

I never had the opportunity to see any of them once we landed in Italy. Most of the time I knew where 'G' Company was but Cannon was a question.

We moved into actual battle on June 26, 1944 at Grosseto and that was our 'baptism by fire'. Our objective was Belvedere. It was taken approximately by 1800 hours.

On June 27, we liberated Sasseta and continued a night attack getting behind the German lines, being detected, and because of complete darkness, our attack line lost contact. Under heavy mortar and machine gun fire, we held our ground deciding to attack at dawn. The Germans had escaped leaving their bivoac intact and two heavy machine guns. Our count at daylight was two men killed by mortars. 'G' Company was on our right and behind.

On July 3, Hill 140 was in sight and proved to be a real battle. The Germans had the advantage of high ground, always looking down on us and had zeroed in their artillery on strategic approaches.

On July 4, 'L' Company relieved the 100th Battalion under a heavy artillery barrage and lost a complete machine gun squad when one shell made a direct hit. The battle for Hill 140 was on. 'G' Company was given a frontal attack to Hill 140. 'L' Company was on the right and crawled and ran up a stream bed about a 1000 yards to the rear of Hill 140. We reached the base and had to climb straight up a cliff of rock. We had no ropes and the climb was very tedious and slow since the cracks in the rock was all that could be gripped using our hands and feet. Hardly half of the 1st platoon made it to the top and before the rest of the company could get up, a German purely by accident, apotted one of our men coming over the top and a hand-to-hand fight ensued. The men waiting to go up were under heavy mortar fire. A few men came back down and we held the ground.

During the night 'L' Company moved out to attack around the hill still to the right of 'G' Company and crawled under darkness to within a few feet of the German line. At the break of dawn the surprise attack took place and the capture of Hill 140 was accomplished. 'G' Company on the frontal attack were met with heavy machine gun fire and I believe that was when Lt. Kei Tanahashi and two other men were hit.

I learned from one of the 'G' Company men who hailed me down as we were passing to take over the point that Kei was killed. In his true character, he refused to be treated by medics who had come to him first. I understand that he told him to treat his other men first and then come back to him. The aid man tried to tell him that he was the most seriously wounded and should be treated first. This was to no avail. The medic treated the two other men and when he went back to Kei, he found him dead. He died silently with four bullet wound in his chest.

Two days later, Corporal Yoshiharu Aoyama also died of his wounds when he was working as forward observer for Cannon Company and had a direct hit by an artillery shell.

Two young men from Koyasan Boy Scouts who were on a mission to prove their loyalty to the United States with action and gave their lives in the hope that justice would prevail, that the discrimination against us would no longer inhibit our dreams for a full and happy life.

I have often heard from the men in my company the question 'Why did you volunteer? You have no home address and you were in a concentration camp!'.

These questions came up when our men on a three day pass had hired a taxi to take them to visit Rohwer and Jerome Camps and were surprised to learn about the evacuation and internment.

This also helped them to understand why we speak as we do; that we were neither putting on an air nor being conceited,nor feeling superior to them. We did not know, speak or understand pidgin english.

When they went to Arkansas they heard everyone speaking 'non pidgin english'!

I had no more fights but was taught 'The kind!'(d is silent) which was a good thing since I use it in aural communications overseas instead of phoenetic code.

I hope this gives you some enlightenment about two close buddies of mine who gave their lives and allowed me to live and enjoy the fruits that they never had.

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