b. 16/09/1916 Puunene, Hawaii. d. 21/01/2011 Waipahu, Hawaii.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 29/10/1944 near Bruyeres and Biffontaine, France.
Hajiro was born into modest means in Hawaii in 1916. After dropping out of school in his teens, he went to work 10 hours a day to help feed his family before being drafted into the Army in 1942, shortly after the Pearl Harbor bombings. But the 25-year-old wasn’t allowed to take up arms because of his ancestry — his parents had emigrated from Japan. Instead, he was assigned to ditch-digging.
Hajiro wanted to fight to prove his devotion to the U.S. He got his chance in March 1943, when he volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a newly formed unit of second-generation Japanese-Americans. They would become a storied unit who fought in Italy before being reassigned to the invasion of southern France in 1944.
On October 19, 1944, Hajiro was near the town of Bruyeres acting as a sentry to help allied troops attack a house 200 yards from him. He knowingly put himself in danger by standing on an embankment to draw enemy fire toward him instead of his fellow soldiers, all while directing fire back at them and taking down two enemy snipers by himself.
A few days later, on October 22, Hajiro again showed his bravery in action. He and another soldier managed to ambush 18 enemy soldiers patrolling not far from their own platoon. The enemy was heavily armed, but Hajiro and the other soldier still managed to kill two of them, injure another and take the rest prisoner.
A week after that, on October 29, the 442nd was fighting near the village of Biffontaine when Hajiro began an attack up a slope known as “Suicide Hill.” Despite the obvious inclinations of that name, Hajiro pressed on further than the rest of his unit while under heavy fire. Undeterred, he spotted two camouflaged machine gun nests and fired back at them, single handedly destroyed both and killing two enemy snipers. Thanks to his bravery, the attack up Suicide Hill was successful. Hajiro was shot four times during the battle, but insisted that the other wounded men in the unit be evacuated and get treatment first. The 442nd would go on to help liberate Bruyeres and Biffontaine and also rescue a battalion that had been cut off from its division. To this day, they are still one of the most decorated units in military history.
Despite those accolades, Hajiro had to wait several decades for his Medal of Honor. While his commanding officers recommended the nation’s highest award for him, he was initially only awarded the Distinguished Service Cross because of discrimination at the time against Japanese-Americans. It wasn’t until the 1990s that his service record was reviewed and the medal was upgraded. President Bill Clinton presented him with the Medal of Honor on June 21, 2000.
Hajiro lived a long life after the war, passing away at 94. He died on January 21, 2011, and was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Hawaii.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Private Barney F. Hajiro distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 19, 22, and 29 October 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, eastern France. Private Hajiro, while acting as a sentry on top of an embankment on 19 October 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres, France, rendered assistance to allied troops attacking a house 200 yards away by exposing himself to enemy fire and directing fire at an enemy strong point. He assisted the unit on his right by firing his automatic rifle and killing or wounding two enemy snipers. On 22 October 1944, he and one comrade took up an outpost security position about 50 yards to the right front of their platoon, concealed themselves, and ambushed an 18-man heavily armed, enemy patrol, killing two, wounding one, and taking the remainder as prisoners. On 29 October 1944, in a wooded area in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France, Private Hajiro initiated an attack up the slope of a hill referred to as “Suicide Hill” by running forward approximately 100 yards under fire. He then advanced ahead of his comrades about 10 yards, drawing fire and spotting camouflaged machine gun nests. He fearlessly met fire with fire and single-handedly destroyed two machine gun nests and killed two enemy snipers. As a result of Private Hajiro’s heroic actions, the attack was successful. Private Hajiro’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit, and the United States Army.
BURIAL LOCATION: NATIONAL MEMORIAL CEMETERY OF THE PACIFIC, HONOLULU, HAWAII.
SECTION G, LOT 75.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.