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Celebration of heroes


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Hawaii Army Museum's Gallery of Heroes, in special ceremonies Friday, will recognize a Japanese-American recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross and upgrade the status of a Korean War soldier posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Honored at the 1 p.m. Fort DeRussy ceremony will be:

» Pvt. Thomas Yoshimi Ono, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while serving with Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion, on June 2, 1944, near La Torretto, Italy.

» Pfc. Anthony Kahoohanohano, already honored by the museum for his Distinguished Service Cross for sacrificing his life to save fellow soldiers on 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. Last year his award was upgraded to the nation's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

The Distinguished Service Cross is the nation's second-highest award for valor in combat, following the Medal of Honor.

Since the end of the Korean War, Kahoohanohano's family on Maui has lobbied Congress to win recognition for the soldier who died after killing 13 enemy soldiers—two with a shovel—as he covered the withdrawal of his squad.

Last year, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka inserted a provision in the defense authorization bill that upgraded Kahoohanohano's medal when it became law in October. However, the Medal of Honor has never been presented to his family.

George Kahoohanohano said that nearly two dozen relatives, most of them from Maui, plan to attend Friday's ceremony.

“;For my family it's a two-sided thing,”; said Kahoohanohano. “;We're happy it is going to happen, yet we are disappointed it took so long.”;

Kahoohanohano said the Maui family has been waiting since October to hear from the White House on a special Medal of Honor ceremony for the soldier killed at 19.

AFTER WORLD WAR II, Ono remained in the Army until he retired in 1966 at Fort Riley, Kan., according to his daughter, Jane Pennington, who lives in Maryland. He retired in Hawaii and worked for 20 years for the U.S. Postal Service until he died in 1990. He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

Pennington said her father never discussed his war years.

“;He never spoke of the war or being taken as a prisoner (in the Korean War),”; she said in a phone interview from Maryland.

The Ono family will be represented by his sister, Jean Ho, the youngest of three girls and six boys in the Ono family, which used to live in Kalihi.

Ho recalls her brother being discharged from the Army after World War II and then re-enlisting.

“;He was serving in Japan when he was sent to Korea, where he became a prisoner of war,”; Ho recalled.

In World War II, Ono's squad was the leading point for an attack on a German machine gun nest. Ono and two other 100th Battalion soldiers crawled 100 yards through a wheat field and were within 10 yards when they hurled grenades, killing three enemy soldiers.

They were then attacked by a two machine guns from another position. The Hawaii soldiers attacked the second position, killing two German soldiers, wounding one and capturing four others.

Later in the day, Ono's platoon was again attacked. Ono and two soldiers crawled through a vineyard, coming within 10 feet of the enemy, and then attacked using their bayonets. The three nisei soldiers captured eight German soldiers.

Ono later served in the Korean War and was a prisoner of war at Ch'ang-Song from April 25, 1951, until Aug. 20, 1953.

The Gallery of Heroes was conceived to honor Hawaii's citizens who are recipients of the nation's two highest awards of valor, the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, or its equivalents, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross.