Top honor goes to isle soldier


POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For nearly a decade, George Kahoohanohano has lobbied Congress to win recognition for his uncle Anthony Kahoohanohano, who died during the Korean War after killing 13 enemy soldiers—two with a shovel—as he covered the withdrawal of his squad.

Today, when President Barack Obama signs this year's defense authorization bill, Pfc. Anthony Kahoohanohano's Distinguished Service Cross will be upgraded to the nation's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

“;It's been a long process,”; said George Kahoohanohano, a former Maui police captain who is now business agent for the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. “;We've been waiting for this since 1951.”;

Kahoohanohano was notified of the pending legislation by the office of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who inserted the provision in the defense bill.

“;This award is well deserved,”; Akaka said yesterday. “;Anthony T. Kahoohanohano gave his life to save his fellow soldiers. Critically injured and running out of ammo, he continued fighting as his unit moved to safety, sacrificing himself to save his comrades. This act of heroism must not be forgotten. Pfc. Kahoohanohano's bravery, gallantry and self-sacrifice leave a legacy that his family, Hawaii and the entire nation can be proud of.”;


Kahoohanohano, from Maui, was 19 when he was killed Sept. 1, 1951, at Chupa-ri on the Korean peninsula. He was assigned to Company H, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, and was in charge of a machine gun squad supporting another Army company when the enemy attacked.

The citation for his Distinguished Service Cross says, “;Because of the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, it was necessary for the friendly troops to execute a limited withdrawal.”;

Kahoohanohano's squad provided covering fire for the withdrawing forces. Wounded in the shoulder, Ka-hoohanohano “;gathered a supply of grenades and ammunition and returned to his original position to face the enemy alone.”;

The enemy concentrated on Kahoohanohano's position, and when he ran out of ammunition, he continued to fight with a shovel. His stand inspired U.S. forces to launch a counterattack, the Army citation said.

The bodies of 13 enemy soldiers were found in Kahoohanohano's position. Two had been beaten to death with the shovel.

The late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink took up Kahoohanohano's cause in 1999. Akaka followed up with a 2004 letter to acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee.

In March, Army Secretary Pete Geren wrote to Akaka that the Senior Army Decorations Board reviewed the case and recommended Kahoohanohano be awarded the Medal of Honor.

In endorsing that recommendation, Geren said, “;This brave soldier clearly distinguished himself through his courageous actions. The Army and the nation are forever grateful for his heroic service.”;

George Kahoohanohano said part of the delay by the Pentagon was blamed on a fire at the Army's personnel branch in the 1960s that destroyed records of many soldiers.

He credits Akaka's staff for recovering many of his uncle's records, including an autopsy that revealed that he had been wounded many times.

Re-examining examples of wartime valor has been a steady endeavor for Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

In 1996 he asked the Pentagon to review the records of 22 Asian-Americans who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II.

Four years later, President Bill Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony to those soldiers, including Sen. Daniel Inouye, or their surviving relatives.

Twenty of the honorees are members of the famed 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Obama is expected to hold a similar White House ceremony for Kahoohanohano.

Last month, Obama presided over his first Medal of Honor ceremony with a presentation to the family of Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti, who died in Afghanistan.

Of the 19 Medal of Honor recipients who were born in Hawaii, only Inouye and Barney Hajiro are still alive. Also living in Hawaii is retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Allan Kellogg, born in Bridgeport, Conn., who received his medal for service in the Vietnam War.