SHIZUYA HAYASHI / 1917-2008
Pearl City vet earned WWII Medal of Honor
The nisei vet was honored for his charge on German gunners
STORY SUMMARY »
» More obituaries
Eight years ago, Shizuya Hayashi got a surprise phone call from the secretary of the Army: He had been awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in World War II.
Hayashi, who served with the 100th Battalion, easily recalled that Italian battlefield on Nov. 29, 1943. "There were mines all around. I remember a sniper bullet passing by my neck. ... A lot of boys got hit in that minefield."
Hayashi, then 26, charged a German machine-gun nest, killing nearly 20 enemy soldiers and taking four prisoner.
On Wednesday, at the age of 90, the Pearl City veteran died after a battle with cancer.
FULL STORY »
ASSOCIATED PRESS / JUNE 2000
President Bill Clinton presents the Medal of Honor to Shizuya Hayashi during a ceremony at the White House. Hayashi, who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion during World War II, died Wednesday at age 90.
Shizuya "Cesar" Hayashi, one of 22 Asian Americans whose Distinguished Service Cross medals were upgraded to the Medal of Honor eight years ago, died Wednesday of cancer.
Hayashi, 90, was among the 20 soldiers, including Sen. Daniel Inouye, who were members of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who, decades later, won recognition for their heroism in World War II. Only seven were alive to attend the special White House ceremony in June 2000.
Hayashi was drafted in March 1941 and was given the nickname "Cesar" because his sergeant could not pronounce his name.
"I guess Cesar is closest they could get to Shizuya," Hayashi told the Star-Bulletin before the ceremony. "But my friends still call me Cesar today."
Yesterday, Inouye recalled sitting next him at the White House before President Bill Clinton hung the Medal of Honor around their necks.
"It was a humbling experience," Inouye said, "and it was made more touching and meaningful when I learned that Shizuya also shared my sentiment: that we were accepting this special honor on behalf of the men with whom we served, and especially those who did return home when the war ended.
"Shizuya Hayashi will always exemplify the legacy of the nisei soldiers: determined defenders committed to serving our country with honor - even when many of our own countrymen at that time doubted our patriotism and our willingness to serve in harm's way."
Sen. Daniel Akaka proved instrumental in arranging the honors for the 22 former servicemen. He pressed the Pentagon to review the service records of Hayashi and his colleagues, who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and then authored the law that resulted in upgrading them to the Medal of Honor.
On Nov. 29, 1943 - the day after he turned 26 - Hayashi was on patrol near Cerasuolo, Italy.
"I really didn't know where we were," Hayashi recalled. "I remember it being mountainous, with the Germans always looking down on us. That's why there was always a lot of casualties.
"The Germans always were so well camouflaged. Then there were the 88 mm cannons, the 'screaming meemies' ... that took out a lot of the boys, catching them in the back."
Armed with a Browning automatic rifle, Hayashi, a member of A Company, charged a German machine-gun nest, firing from his hip. "Things happened so fast that now it seems so crazy."
He took out the machine-gun nest, killing seven men in the nest and two more as they fled. He then killed nine counter-attackers, took four prisoners and forced the remainder of the force to withdraw from the hill.
Hayashi recalls facing an armed teenage German soldier. "He was crying ... holding up his burp gun ... but I couldn't shoot him. ... I just told all of them to get up."
One of the surrendering German soldiers had an Iron Cross, which Hayashi took to remind him of the encounter.
During the past few years, Hayashi, who lived in Pearl City, would routinely spend part of his day with other veterans tending the gardens and buildings of the Disabled American Veterans facility at Keehi Lagoon.
He is survived by a son and two daughters. Funeral services are pending.