Real heroes are, to a person, humble. They don’t sound their own horns to draw attention to themselves. They come home from their wars and go on with life, doing what must be done by way of their natural duties toward family and neighbor, community and country. This story is about one such hero.
This story comes out of Honolulu, Hawaii. A local TV news station produced the video you will see here. It seems that a man had purchased an old house in Honolulu and in the process of gutting it to begin to remodel it, he found something that had been put up on a closet shelf and forgotten over the almost 8 decades since WWII.
What he found was a Bronze Star, still in its original box.
The cardboard box it had been stored in had almost disintegrated, but the hinged box that the Bronze Star had been issued in was still intact. The Medal inside was inscribed with the hero’s name: Shigeo A. Higa.
To make a long story short, the medal has been returned to the daughter of the recipient, Amy Higa.
What struck me more than anything about this story was that Shigeo Higa’s family knew that he had fought in WWII, in the European Theater with the famous all-Japanese unit the 442nd Infantry Regiment. But they did not know that he was one of the decorated heroes of that unit.
If you remember, the unit’s motto was “Go For Broke.” It was the most highly decorated unit in the war. The 442nd, at its height, had 14,000 men. They received more than 18,000 awards in less than two years. This includes over 4,000 Purple Hearts, over 4,000 Bronze Stars (plus 1,000 Oak Leaf Clusters for a second award), 8 Presidential Unit Citations (5 earned within one month), 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars (plus 28 Oak Leaf Clusters for a second award), 22 Legion of Merit Medals, 15 Soldier’s Medals and 21 Medals of Honor.
The unit had three Infantry battalions, one artillery battalion and was attached to the 34th Infantry Division. The 442nd saw battle in the Naples-Foggia area, then in Rome, before being moved north to fight in Southern France, then the Rhineland and Central Europe. Elements also fought in the Northern Appennines and the Po Valley of the Italian boot.
Shigeo A. Higa was just one of these men who fought the good fight, both on the battlefields of Europe and the discrimination and internment of their own families back here at home. Higa came home to Honolulu after the war and went to work in a local company, Pacific Concrete and Rock. He might have been the one who packed that Bronze Star away in the dark corner of a closet almost 80 years ago.
According to his daughter, Amy, he never talked about his time in the war. That was not unusual. Most who survive and come home from the wild wizardry of war with all of its horrors, are more than happy to just try to go on with life, to get back to some kind of normalcy. Though the memories of those battlefields and their lost friends remain with them for the rest of their lives, they generally understand that not sharing such memories with family would be the best for all. They just went to work, paid the bills, loved their spouses and their children like fathers are supposed to do.
Shigeo A. Higa was one of those humble heroes. It may have been a matter of pure, serendipitous luck that his Bronze Star Medal was found by someone who was tearing down the old family home. But what a grace it was too. Now his family has that medal and knows just a little bit more about their noble, hard working father, something that shows that their father, who fought for the country despite the internment of his family for being Japanese, walked with and among an entire regiment of heroes…
And he was one of them.
Learn more in the video below.
The Veterans Site honors the memory of Shigeo A. Higa and his fellow heroes of the 42nd Infantry Regiment. The sacrifices and commitment they gave to the nation under the circumstance of the times is a model of patriotism for all of us. To all of those who remain among us from the 442nd Infantry Regiment we say, “Go For Broke!” Whizzco