Staff Sergeant Company F, 2nd Battalion 442nd Regimental Combat Team U.S. Army
Nov. 30, 1918 – Aug. 27, 1944
Fountain Valley, California
Kazuo “Kaz” Masuda was born into a large farming family in Fountain Valley, California. He and his family labored all week on the farm and attended Wintersburg Presbyterian Church on Sundays. Masuda graduated Huntington Beach High School in 1936 and was drafted into military service in 1940. While Masuda began his service with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, his family was forced to leave their farm and sent to the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas.
On July 6, 1944, in Pastina, Italy, while manning an observation post forward of the main unit, Staff Sgt. Masuda and his men came under an intense enemy attack. Needing heavier fire power, he crawled 200 yards for more ammunition and a mortar tube. He and his men proceeded to repulse the enemy attack for twelve hours.
A mission on August 27 had Sgt. Masuda and two of his men perform a night patrol across the Arno river. The men came under fire and Masuda was killed while holding his position to cover his men’s withdrawal. For his acts of courage, Sgt. Masuda would be posthumously awarded our country’s second highest award for valor.
Back in the United States, like many other Japanese Americans returning to their homes from camps, the Masudas received threats of violence. To help reduce the negative attitudes of the public against Japanese Americans, the government sent famed General Joseph Stillwell to present, in a public ceremony, Kazuo’s Distinguished Service Cross to his family. While speaking at a rally in Orange County later that day, a young Army captain, actor Ronald Reagan, stated the following.
“The blood that has soaked the sands of a beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world; the only country not founded on race, but on a way and an ideal. ...Mr. and Mrs. Masuda, just as one member of the family of Americans, speaking to another member I want to say for what your son Kazuo did—Thanks.”
Forty four years later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (Japanese American Redress). The redress included a national apology for the unjust actions of this country based on racial prejudice towards Japanese Americans during WWII. At the signing ceremony, the President recalled the racism that the Masuda Family had to endure, the heroism of Kazuo, and the part he played in their story.