WASHINGTON – Technical Sergeant Shinyei Rocky Matayoshi will be inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes on Tuesday as a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism during World War II as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
This marks the 29th Distinguished Service Cross awarded to the 100th Battalion and 442nd RCT.
This will be the second time Matayoshi receives the medal. The general order authorizing the medal was lost in a fire in 1973 at the National Records facility in St. Louis, Mo. A new general order was issued in January, restoring a long overdue recognition to Matayoshi.
“What we did in the service opened the doors for everybody — not only the Japanese, but everybody,” said Matayoshi in an interview conducted by the Army and posted on YouTube.
“Congratulations, Rocky, on receiving this overdue recognition. You and your brothers in arms taught America a vital lesson that is still valid today,” said Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) last Thursday. “Being an American is not a matter of one’s ethnic heritage or race; it is defined by patriotism and a willingness to sacrifice for one’s country. Anyone who questions the patriotism of Americans of different ethnic backgrounds must confront the example of the Japanese American heroes of World War II.”
Matayoshi was born in 1924 in the sugar plantation town of Koloa on the island of Kauai. He was a senior at Kauai High School when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Shortly after the attack, his father was arrested and sent to a detention center for Japanese Americans in Santa Fe, N.M.
Matayoshi left school to work for the sugar plantation to help with the war effort and support his family. When the call for volunteers for the 442nd was announced in February 1942, he was one of three in his community to volunteer. He was assigned to Company G, 2nd Battalion of the 442nd and reported for roll call every day except for two days when he was confined to the field hospital for illness.
On April 7,1945, Matayoshi ordered his platoon to advance up the steep slopes of Mt. Belvedere to seize the heavily fortified forest areas that were under enemy control. As the platoon approached the elevated ridge line, it was attacked by intense machine-gun fire from at least five enemy machine gun nests from frontal, left and right flanks.
Matayoshi did not waver despite enduring an overabundance of devastating automatic and small-arms fire while attacking the first machine gun nest.
While suppressing the enemy with his Thompson machine gun and throwing hand grenades, he killed four enemy soldiers and took one prisoner. Despite the intensive barrage of enemy firepower directed against him, Matayoshi moved forward and led the direct assault, destroying three other machine gun nests and killing or wounding approximately 15 enemy soldiers, some as close as five-meter range.
He secured the key terrain, paving the way for the battalion’s pursuit of the retreating enemy soldiers.
Matayoshi’s combat philosophy was to serve as his own scout — and to take the highest-risk assignments for himself.
The citation states that he “distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.”
In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross and the Congressional Gold Medal recently bestowed on all members of the 442nd and 100th, Matayoshi received the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service, the Purple Heart Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Citation, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one Bronze Service Star, the European-African Campaign Medal with four Bronze Service Stars and one Arrowhead, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Matayoshi married Elsie Goya of Honolulu, and they have four children. After attending Wilson Community College and the Illinois Institute of Technology, he worked in an auto body shop and part-time at a gas station. His children all earned full scholarships to fund their undergraduate degrees. Two of his children earned doctorates, one in physiology and the other in biophysics, and another earned a master’s degree in biology — all on fellowships.