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Shortly after the Pearl Harbour attack, Barney Hajiro wanted in on the fight. He volunteered as an infantryman in 1943 with the almost exclusively Japanese 442nd Regiment.
In October 1944, he was ordered to advance up a position in the Vosges Mountain chillingly called "Suicide Hill". On the other side were the beleagured 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, the "Lost Battalion" surrounded from all sides by the German army. On his left and right, men were picked off as they slowly climbed up the rocky slope. After every burst of machine gun fire, a man fell. Hajiro's comrades were all dead and dying below him the 100 meter uphill scramble. His company was virtually annihilated.
He crested the hill, rushing 10 meters ahead of what was left his company. Within spitting distance, he destroyed two machine gun nests, and additionally killed two snipers. Of the 185 men in Hajiro's company, only 6 others were with him at the top of suicide hill still standing. By capturing "Suicide Hill", they helped rescue 221 of the 275 trapped Texas soldiers.
The sight of a "Jap" in an American military hospital infuriated ill-informed civilians who regularly subjected him to verbal abuse, even into the years after the war. Despite his unquestionable service and heroics "I didn't bomb Pearl Harbor". For his actions in October 1944, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and promoted to Private First Class. His injuries were severe enough that he was medical discharged from the army. It was poetic justice that he later became a security guard at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. After a comprehensive review in the 1990s, his medal was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2000.
Barney the BAR gunner, died in 2011 at age 94. At the time, he was the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor.
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