ARMY RESERVE PHOTO
The Pacific Army Reserve will honor Maui native Army Pfc. Kaoru Moto by naming the Maui Army Reserve Center in Wailuku after him. In June 2000 Moto was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor during his service in World War II as part of the 100th Battalion.
Site to honor
An Army Reserve Center will bear
the name of Medal of Honor recipient
and Maui native Kaoru Moto
Army Pfc. Kaoru Moto never knew he would get the country's highest honor for World War II heroics when he attacked a machine-gun nest in Italy and then captured a house used as an observation post.
Moto took a prisoner and, although wounded, continued to defend his position in Castellina from being retaken by the Germans. Later he spotted another machine-gun nest and opened fire, wounding two Germans and capturing several others.
ARMY RESERVE PHOTO
Army Pfc. Kaoru Moto
As one of the original members of the 100th Battalion, a unit composed mainly of Japanese Americans, Moto was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the country's second-highest medal for valor, on July 7, 1944.
In June 2000, Moto was finally recognized for his valor when his Distinguished Service Cross medal was elevated to the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony presided over by Bill Clinton. But Moto died in 1992 at the age of 75. He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. A half century later, his bravery is still remembered.
On Saturday, the Pacific Army Reserve will continue to honor the lifelong Maui native by naming the 32-year-old Army Reserve Center in Wailuku after him. The dedication ceremony at 1686 Kaahumanu Ave. will begin at 10 a.m.
His widow, Violet, 81, believes her husband would have been touched.
"He was proud of his Distinguished Service Cross, which is displayed at the Punenene museum honoring Maui's sugar plantation workers," she said. The Army Reserve hopes to be able to display that medal as well as Moto's Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Italian and French decorations that are equivalent to the U.S. military's Distinguished Service Cross.
Violet Moto said her husband went to work in the cane fields of Maui after grammar school.
"He only attended grammar school after being born in Camp 2 in Sprecklesville," she said. "He never went to high school and went to work in the cane fields."
Violet Moto said she believed that her husband was a member of the 298th Infantry Regiment, a Hawaii Army National Guard unit, and later became one of the original members of the 100th Battalion, which later became a part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
"Maybe because of his background," Violet Moto added, "he stressed education for our five children ... and they all got college degrees."
Brian Moto, one of five children and now Maui corporation counsel, said his father, like many members of his generation, never talked about his wartime experiences.
"At least not with us as family members," said Brian Moto. "But it was different with his war-time buddies."
"I recall as a child hearing his veteran friends say," Brian Moto added, "that he should have received the Medal of Honor. I heard it at Club 100 picnics and parties -- any gatherings when they (wartime veterans) got together."
"It came as a surprise when the Army Reserve contacted us several weeks ago and told us what it wanted to do."
Only one of Moto's three sons, Buster, enlisted in the military and served in the Vietnam War veteran. Buster Moto died of cancer a few years ago.
"He would have been very happy," Brian Moto said, "and proud ... proud that an AJA (American of Japanese ancestry) would receive so much recognition."
Moto was 27 when he took out two German gun emplacements and received the Distinguished Service Cross.
Last year on Memorial Day, a plaque posthumously honoring Moto, a member of 100th Battalion's Charlie Company, was unveiled at the Maui Veterans Cemetery in Makawao, where Moto worked for 62 years as a caretaker before he retired in 1979.
There are now 29 Medal of Honor recipients buried at Punchbowl -- one from the Spanish-American War, 22 from World War II and three each from the Korean and Vietnam wars. Not all of them were Hawaii residents. Each of their headstones bears a replica of the Medal of Honor.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka's legislation in 2000 upgraded 19 of the 52 Distinguished Service Crosses and one Silver Star Medal won by soldiers of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat team to the Medal of Honor.
Besides the 21 Medals of Honor earned by the 100th/442nd, the Army unit earned 9,486 Purple Hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 559 Silver Stars and 33 Distinguished Service Crosses, making it "the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the United States."