Roy Fujiwara - 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Congressional Gold Medal Recipient celebrated his 100th B-Day with us at the Home of the Brave Museum. Roy was a BAR man - Browning Automatic Rifle (machine gunner). Heres's his story:
Roy enlisted in the U.S. Army at Ft. Lewis and was assigned for shovel and dirt work duty until he was sent to Camp Roberts, California, and on to Little Rock, Arkansas, by troop train. When the people saw all the Nisei soldiers, they thought they were being invaded by enemy soldiers! Roy said the next few years were spent training at Ft. Robinson, Ft. McClarin, and Camp Shelby and becoming a T-5 rank and a cook. He trained for everything in the infantry but his specialty was to be ‘bayonet quick’ which would help during close combat.
Roy said he ‘mixed-it up’ with the Hawaii Boys when the Mainlanders and Hawaii Nisei were first having trouble getting along. The Hawaiians were loud and spoke “pigeon English” and seemed to have more money, were great tippers, more popular with the girls and they had little respect for the Mainlanders. They took a bus trip, led by Daniel Inouye, to a nearby Japanese American Internment camp. There the Hawaiians were completely surprised to learn that the Nisei Mainlanders volunteered from these camps while their families were incarcerated behind barbed wire fences! When they returned from this trip, the Hawaiians and Mainlanders came together!
The company was shipped to Glasgow, Scotland, on the Queen Mary and then by train to England. In Epinal, France, they joined the few men of the 442nd RCT who were left after they had rescued the Texas Lost Battalion. Roy said he was shocked at the loss of Nisei soldiers lives! Only a couple hundred left of the original regiment.
During the Thanksgiving season he spent a lot of time on the French border where he could see the Germans soldiers across the mountains. Roy had sentry duty and set up trip wires with grenades and had a rifle inside his sleeping bag. Sentry duty was the scariest and Nisei soldiers resorted to using Hawaiian Pigeon language for passwords because the enemy wouldn’t understand and couldn’t mimic them.
At Mt. Folgorito, after other divisions had previously attempted many times to break the German Gothic Line, the Army sent for the 442nd RCT. Their Colonel promised that the 442nd could accomplish the task within 24 hours! They climbed the backside of the mountain, which others had not attempted, a terrain that was a slippery, sheer, granite cliff – “unclimbable even by goats.” In the black of night, in total silence and carrying all their gear, they climbed for 8 hours! Roy had to carry the BAR rifle as well as his other gear, and he showed us a bowling ball he had brought to illustrate the BAR’s weight, challenging us to carry it! At daybreak, they caught the Germans asleep and cracked the Gothic Line in 32 minutes! Roy says it was their “Go For Broke” spirit that propelled them to succeed!
Roy was shot by a sniper in the face, just below his eye (the bullet going out through his neck and entering his shoulder) but he considers himself lucky to be alive. He was transported by medics in a stretcher, which took 8 hours to make the descent. He says he was conscious the whole time as he was worked on and taken by jeep to the emergency field aid station and then transferred to Naples for surgery and hospitalization. They wired his mouth shut for one month during which he could only eat raw eggs and jello and consequently lost so much weight that he was reduced to 98 pounds! He also suffered trench feet, a common malady among the soldiers, and had to go to Marseille for treatment. Roy returned to Beaumont, Texas, by troop ship for reconstructive surgery.
Post war, Roy became a furrier and worked for Frederick & Nelson, starting in 1950. He likes to think of himself as having “broken the color line” at Fredericks. He rose in the company to a position where he was responsible for the distribution of merchandise throughout the nation.
When he went to war, Roy said that he felt he was never coming home…but he did. He feels that the real heroes are those who did not return and paid tribute to all who sacrificed their lives. Roy says, “Because I am a veteran of the famed 442nd RCT, it has opened numerous opportunities for me, and I have received a lot of respect and made many friendships from people around the world”.