b. 22/07/1928 Honolulu, Hawaii. d. 06/03/1967 Vietnam.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 01/12/1966 near Phu Huu 2, Kim Son Valley, Vietnam.
Kaneshiro was born July 22, 1928, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Japanese immigrants. He was the 8th of 16 children – nine boys and seven girls – and grew up working on his family’s farm. He graduated from Leilehua High School in June 1946 and worked for several civilian employers before enlisting in the Army on April 2, 1959, four months before Hawaii became a state.
The 30-year-old was initially stationed on Oahu with the 25th Infantry Division and served in noncombat tours in Japan and South Korea. At some point, Kaneshiro married his girlfriend, Mitsuko, and they had five children.Kaneshiro was eventually reassigned to the 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. In July 1966, he deployed to Vietnam.Kaneshiro was about four months into his deployment when he found himself as the leader of a squadron that was part of a search-and-destroy mission along Vietnam’s central coast. They were trying to rout the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters from the Kim Son Valley.
On the morning of December 1, 1966, their platoon came upon a village. Two of the platoon’s squads had deployed to its center, while Kaneshiro’s squad scouted more open terrain to the village’s east. No one in the platoon knew the village was heavily fortified with a bunker and concealed trench system that was harboring a massive force of enemy fighters.
Those fighters eventually burst from the trenches, laying heavy machine gun and small arms fire on the U.S. soldiers in the village center. The attack killed the platoon leader and its point man, wounded four others and pinned down the rest of the soldiers.
Kaneshiro and his squad heard the assault and moved toward the sounds of gunfire. The staff sergeant saw that if anyone was going to survive, the fire from the trench had to be stopped. He ordered his men take cover, then crawled forward to attack the enemy alone, armed with only six grenades and his M-16 rifle.
While flattened to the ground, Kaneshiro threw his first grenade from the trench wall into an opening in the bunker, which took out the machine gunner who was firing at the pinned-down Americans. He then jumped into the trench and went to work. Over a distance of about 115 feet, Kaneshiro took out one enemy group with his rifle and two others with his remaining grenades. By the end of his sweep, the pinned-down Americans who were still in fighting shape were able to get back up and move their dead and wounded. Thanks to Kaneshiro’s incredible bravery, the squads were able to get to safety and reorganize as a platoon, which led to many saved lives and a successful withdrawal from the village.
Kaneshiro survived the ordeal but unfortunately didn’t survive the war. He was shot and killed on March 6, 1967, as he tried to help a wounded comrade during an ambush, according to an article in the Honolulu Advertiser. He was 38.
Before his death, Kaneshiro had been awarded the Silver Star for his actions in the Kim Son Valley. According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, he was being considered for the Medal of Honor at the time. Instead, his Silver Star was upgraded to the military’s second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, in October 1967. Over the past few years, the U.S. military has reviewed past service member awards to see if any should be upgraded, particularly for minorities who may have been overlooked due to bias and bigotry. In December 2021, the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress waived the time limit that required Medals of Honor be awarded within five years of the combat action.
That legislation paved the way for something Kaneshiro’s children had been requesting since the 1990s — that their father’s Distinguished Service Cross be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. They finally got the call approving the upgrade in June 2022.
“My whole body was shaking,” Kaneshiro’s eldest daughter, Naomi Viloria, told Stars and Stripes newspaper of the call from President Joseph R. Biden. “Sometimes I try to imagine what [my dad] went through — like, would I be able to do that? It’s very inspiring that he was just fearless. Or maybe he had fear, but he did it anyway. That takes a lot of courage, to do that alone. Since he was so humble, I believe in his mind he was just serving his country.” Unfortunately, Kaneshiro’s wife, Mitsuko, died a few weeks before the news came.
On July 5, 2022, Biden awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to Kaneshiro. It was received by his youngest son, John, who was 4 months old when his father deployed to Vietnam. John Kaneshiro followed in his dad’s footsteps by joining the Army; he reached the rank of master sergeant before retirement.
“I’m very proud to accept the Medal of Honor on behalf of my family and just say, ‘Yes, dad, this is for you,'” John Kaneshiro said.
Staff Sergeant Edward N. Kaneshiro distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an Infantry Squad Leader with Troop C, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division near Phu Huu 2, Kim Son Valley, Republic of Vietnam, on 1 December 1966. Not knowing that the village was heavily fortified with a fully bunkered and concealed trench system and garrisoned by North Vietnamese troops in vastly superior force, two squads of the platoon had deployed to its center, while Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro and his squad scouted the more open terrain to the east of the village. Sensing the opportunity to ambush the Infantry squads, the entrenched enemy force erupted with machine gun and small arms fire against the two squads at the center of the village, killing the platoon leader and the point man, wounding four others, then successfully suppressing the surviving soldiers. Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro moved with his men to the sounds of the fire. Swiftly reading the situation, seeing that the fire from the trench had to be stopped if anyone was to survive, he first deployed his men to cover, then crawled forward to attack the enemy force alone. He began by throwing grenades from the parapet while flattened to the ground, successfully throwing the first grenade through the aperture of the bunker, eliminating the machine gunner who had opened the action. With five grenades remaining and his rifle to sustain his assault, Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro jumped into the trench to sweep its length where it fronted the two pinned squads. Over the distance of about 35 meters, he worked the ditch alone, destroying one enemy group with rifle fire and two others with grenades. By the end of his sweep, the able-bodied survivors of the two squads were again standing and preparing to move the dead and wounded. Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro’s actions enabled the orderly extrication and reorganization of the platoon which ultimately led to a successful withdrawal from the village. Staff Sergeant Kaneshiro’s conspicuous gallantry and uncommon heroism under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
BURIAL LOCATION: NATIONAL MEMORIAL CEMETERY OF THE PACIFIC, HONOLULU, HAWAII.
SECTION W, SITE 262.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.