Saturday, June 2, 2018

WW2 Fallen - Medal of Honor hero Kazuo Otani, 442nd Infantry Regiment

Staff Sergeant Kazuo Otani served with the 442nd Infantry Regiment in Italy. 
Kazuo Otani never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on June 2, 1918 in California. His parents Yoichi and Shigeo were both born in Japan and came to America in 1900. His father worked as a farmer and later as a fruit farm laborer. Kazuo had two older sisters and four younger brothers. By 1940 Kazuo had completed four years of high school and was living with his family and probably worked as a fruit farm laborer.

Kazuo was drafted into the Army on February 16, 1942. In August 1942 his family was transported to be interned at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona. They would remain there until August 1945.

Kazuo volunteered to serve in the all Nisei 442nd Infantry Regiment which was activated in February 1943. He became a staff sergeant in Company G, 2nd Battalion.His unit arrived in Italy in May 1944 and first saw action in Tuscany near the end of June.

On July 15, 1944 Company G was fighting near Pieve di Santa Luce when Sgt. Otani's men became pinned in the open by enemy snipers and machine gun fire. Sgt. Otani extracted all his men to safety and was killed by enemy machine gun fire when he returned to render aid to a wounded soldier. He was originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross that month, but it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in June 2000.

Sgt. Otani's Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

Staff Sergeant Kazuo Otani distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 15 July 1944, near Pieve Di S. Luce, Italy. 

Advancing to attack a hill objective, Staff Sergeant Otani's platoon became pinned down in a wheat field by concentrated fire from enemy machine gun and sniper positions. Realizing the danger confronting his platoon, Staff Sergeant Otani left his cover and shot and killed a sniper who was firing with deadly effect upon the platoon. 

Followed by a steady stream of machine gun bullets, Staff Sergeant Otani then dashed across the open wheat field toward the foot of a cliff, and directed his men to crawl to the cover of the cliff. When the movement of the platoon drew heavy enemy fire, he dashed along the cliff toward the left flank, exposing himself to enemy fire. By attracting the attention of the enemy, he enabled the men closest to the cliff to reach cover. Organizing these men to guard against possible enemy counterattack, Staff Sergeant Otani again made his way across the open field, shouting instructions to the stranded men while continuing to draw enemy fire. 

Reaching the rear of the platoon position, he took partial cover in a shallow ditch and directed covering fire for the men who had begun to move forward. At this point, one of his men became seriously wounded. Ordering his men to remain under cover, Staff Sergeant Otani crawled to the wounded soldier who was lying on open ground in full view of the enemy. Dragging the wounded soldier to a shallow ditch, Staff Sergeant Otani proceeded to render first aid treatment, but was mortally wounded by machine gun fire. 

Staff Sergeant Otani's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

His grave is at Liberty Veterans Cemetery in Fresno, California.

Thank you Kazuo for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Kazuo.

Last year on this date I profiled Bertram Butz, 7th Armored Division. You can read about Bertram here.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

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