100th Bn/442nd RCT
March 4, 1915 - Oct. 23, 1943
Jan. 9, 1917 - Oct. 17 1944
On the black granite walls of the Japanese American National War Memorial Court are listed the names of those who made the highest sacrifice for this country. On these walls one can see multiples of identical last names, but few of these sets contain the names of brothers, such as the case for Matsuei and Tokio Ajitomi.
Matsuei, Tokio and their youngest brother Yoshio were born in the town of Lahaina, Maui. As youngsters they accompanied their parents to Okinawa, Japan and there their sister Haruko was born. As teenagers they returned to Lahaina and as young men were inducted into the Hawaii Army National Guard. When WWII began, Japanese Americans in the Hawaii Army National Guard were expelled but later joined the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion, the first racially segregated unit of mostly Japanese Americans and the predecessor to the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) of the U.S Army.
The 100th Battalion was the first all Japanese American U.S. Army unit. Its exemplary performance fighting in southern Italy would open the door for the formation of a much larger unit, a regiment, also to be comprised fully of Japanese American enlisted men. This regiment would become the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
In September 1943, the 100th Battalion, with the Ajitomi brothers’ Company C, became part of an American force that began pushing the German Army out of the southern part of Italy. A veteran of Company C stated that the two Ajitomi brothers were quiet men and always together. They also were described as good soldiers, disciplined and dependable. It was in a battle, in an town called Alife, Italy, that Matsuei lost his life after receiving a severe wound to the head. Tokio was said to have been filled with overwhelming grief for the loss of his older brother.
After the successful Italian campaign, the 100th Battalion, now a unit within the 442nd RCT, was moved north to France in October 1944. The regiment became situated outside the town of Bruyeres, located in the northeastern part of France. To take control of the area from the enemy, the 442nd was required to seize four hills. It was during this assault that Tokio was killed by German machine gun fire.
For the freedoms we are privileged to have as Americans, we are greatly indebted not only to the heroes who gave up their lives but also to their families, such as the Ajitomis.
Many thanks to Robert Ajitomi for providing these photos of his uncles. Gratitude and acknowledgement also goes to Karleen Chinen for her inspiring article about the brothers from which some information was obtained for this short biography.