b. 21/01/1922 Seattle, Washington. d. 04/07/1944 near Castellina, Italy.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 04/07/1944 near Castellina, Italy.
Nakamura, a Nisei, was born in Seattle’s Japantown (in what’s now known as the International District) to Japanese immigrant parents. He attended Seattle’s Washington Middle School and graduated from its Garfield High School. He attended the University of Washington and lived in the University Students Club, a fraternal association for Japanese-American students. Nakamura’s family was interned in Minidoka in Idaho during World War II, starting in 1942, following the signing of Executive Order 9066.
Nakamura joined the US Army in July 1943. Nakamura volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This army unit was mostly made up of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.
On July 4, 1944, Nakamura was serving as a private first class in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. On that day, near Castellina Marittima, Italy, he single-handedly destroyed an enemy machine gun emplacement and later volunteered to cover his unit’s withdrawal. He was then killed while attacking another machine gun nest which was firing on his platoon.
For his actions in July 1944, he was posthumously awarded the Army’s second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross. A 1990s review of service records for Asian Americans who received the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II led to Nakamura’s award being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 2000, his surviving family was presented with his Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-one other Asian Americans also received the medal during the ceremony, all but seven of them posthumously.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Private First Class William K. Nakamura distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 4 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. During a fierce firefight, Private First Class Nakamura’s platoon became pinned down by enemy machine gun fire from a concealed position. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura crawled 20 yards toward the hostile nest with fire from the enemy machine gun barely missing him. Reaching a point 15 yards from the position, he quickly raised himself to a kneeling position and threw four hand grenades, killing or wounding a least three of the enemy soldiers. The enemy weapon silenced, Private First Class Nakamura crawled back to his platoon, which was able to continue its advance as a result of his couraageous action. Later, his company was ordered to withdraw from the crest of the hill so that a mortar barrage could be placed on the ridge. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura remained in position to cover his comrades’ withdrawl. While moving toward the safety of a wooded draw, his platoon became pinned down by deadly machine gun fire. Crawling to a point from which he could fire on the enemy position, Private First Class Nakamura quickly and accurately fired his weapon to pin down the enemy machine gunners. His platoon was then able to withdraw to safety without further casualties. Private First Class Nakamura was killed during this heroic stand. Private First Class Nakamura’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.
BURIAL LOCATION: EVERGREEN-WASHELLI MEMORIAL PARK, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON.
WASHELLI VETERAN’S SECTION, LEXINGTON W, GRAVE 28.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.