Military gallery inducts
2 local heroes

Medal recipients from two
wars are honored by the Army
Museum at Fort DeRussy

A Korean War Army lieutenant and a Vietnam War Huey helicopter gunship door gunner will be newest members to be inducted later this month in the Hawaii Army Museum's Gallery of Heroes.


Toshio Aoyagi: Single-handedly took a well-defended North Korean ridge despite a stomach wound

Toshio Aoyagi, 78, was a first lieutenant and an infantry platoon leader when he attacked a North Korean position by himself on Oct. 14, 1951, at Chungre-ri, earning him the Distinguished Service Cross -- the nation's second-highest medal for valor.

Spc. 5 Dennis Fujii, 56, earned his Distinguished Service Cross in Feb. 18-22, 1971, while serving as a UH-1 helicopter medevac crew chief in Laos. He stayed behind after his helicopter crashed to aid the wounded while directing helicopter gunship fire.

Fujii and Aoyagi will join the 41 recipients of the nation's highest awards for valor who are already enshrined in the Army museum at Waikiki's Fort DeRussy. Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, will be the guest speaker at the May 20 ceremony, which will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Of the 41 Hawaii soldiers and Navy officers whose portraits hang in the gallery, 39 served in the Army. Two, Cmdr. Gordon P. Chung-Hoon and Lt. Cmdr. Bernard Clarey, were awarded the Navy Cross.

(One of Pearl Harbor's advanced guided-missile destroyers is named after Chung-Hoon, a Hawaii-born sailor who commanded a World War II destroyer. Clarey, a World War II submarine captain, rose to the rank of four-star admiral and commanded the Pacific Fleet from 1970 to 1973 before retiring in Hawaii.)

By wars, 21 medals were awarded in World War II, 16 in Korea and four in Vietnam.

All but one of the 41 portraits, along with the 20 featuring Hawaii's recipients, which hang in an adjacent gallery, are displayed in koa display cases fashioned by Thomas "Tosh" Nakano.

Fujii enlisted in the Army in 1967 while still at Waimea High School and, after serving a year with the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam, re-enlisted because he "wanted to get into aviation."


Dennis Fujii: Showed courage under fire for days after his copter was shot down in Laos

Fujii ended up as a Huey helicopter door gunner and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Aviation. While assigned as a crew chief aboard a helicopter ambulance of the 237th Medical Detachment, Fujii's helicopter was shot down on Feb. 19, 1971, while approaching a heavily defended landing zone. A second helicopter was able to rescue all of the crewmen except Fujii. Throughout the night and the next day, Fujii administered first aid to wounded South Vietnamese soldiers. For more than 17 hours, Fujii repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to call down air strikes. On Feb. 20, another rescue attempt failed when the helicopter he had boarded was shot down. He was finally rescued two days later.

In Vietnam, Fujii received his Distinguished Service Cross from Maj. Gen. Fred Weyand, then commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division.

Last year Fujii was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in recognition of the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star he was awarded while trying to aid wounded soldiers in Laos in 1971.

The Hall of Fame is located in the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Ala. Other soldiers from Hawaii who have been honored by the Army Aviation Association of America are Command Sgt. Maj. Willy Wilson and Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Yano, a Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient.

Last week Fujii said that "it feels good that so many people have been recognized by the Army Museum, but it's also sad that others didn't get recognized while they were alive."

Fujii stayed in the Army for nearly four years and re-enlisted and served in the Hawaii Army National Guard and the Pacific Army Reserve and was given a medical discharge.

Aoyagi was drafted in 1945 after graduating from Konawaena High School and stayed in the Army for 30 years, retiring as a colonel, the last 10 years as intelligence officer.

During the year Aoyagi was in Korea, he also earned the Silver Star and Bronze Star medal with a "V" device for valor and received a battlefield commission in August 1951 just before he earned his Distinguished Service Medal.

Aoyagi said he spent most of his combat tour in Chorwon Valley just below the 38th parallel. "Our last battles were the hardest," Aoyagi recalled. "The mountains were very high, very, very high. The enemy was at the crest and we had to attack up hill. It was very difficult."

On Oct. 4, 1951, he was ordered to lead his platoon in an attack against "a well-entrenched hostile force occupying a strategic slope." Within 30 yards of the enemy lines, Aoyagi's platoon came under heavy fire and was pinned down.

Aoyagi's radio was shot from his hand, so he gathered extra grenades and magazines for his carbine and charged alone, taking out three enemy posts. Aoyagi was wounded in the stomach, but continued the attack. After ensuring his platoon was deployed in a defensive position, Aoyagi was evacuated for medical treatment.



Distinguished Service Cross

» Sgt. Kenneth Andrade (Vietnam)
» Pvt. Masao Awakuni (WWII)
» Lt. Gen. Edgar Doleman (WWII)
» Staff Sgt. Yoshimi Fujiwara (WWII)
» Lt. Lester Gamble (WWII)
» Pvt. Jesse Hirata (WWII)
» 2nd Lt. Mineo Inuzuka (Korea)
» Master Sgt. Edward Ishibashi (Korea)
» Pfc. James Kawamura (Korea)
» Pfc. Anthony Kahoohanohano (Korea)
» Pfc. Leroy St. John Kauhini (Korea)
» Lt. Col. John Kizirian (Vietnam)
» Sgt. Robert Kobashigawa (Korea)
» Pfc. Haruto Kuroda (WWII)
» 2nd. Lt. Albert MacDonald (Korea)
» Sgt. Shinyei Matayoshi (WWII)
» 1st Lt. David Milotta (WWII)
» Staff Sgt. Fujio Miyamoto (WWII)
» 2nd. Lt. Takeichi Miyashiro (WWII)
» Cpl. Eiji Morishige (Korea)
>>Pfc. Fumio Moriyama (Korea)
» Cpl. Harold Nakata (Korea)
» Pfc. Arthur Okamura (WWII)
» Pvt. Thomas Ono (WWII)
» Pvt. Bruno Orig (Korea)
» 2nd Lt. Masanao Otake (WWII)
» Tech. Sgt. Claude Phillips (WWII)
» Sgt. Benjamin Ponciano (Korea)
» Sgt. 1st. Class John Reinburg III (Vietnam)
» 2nd Lt. Frederick Schaefer (WWII)
» Capt. Ernest Schauer (Korea)
» Sgt. Shigeo Takata (WWII)
» Staff Sgt. Tsuneo Takemoto (WWII)
» 1st. Lt. Leonard Warner (Korea)
» Maj. Gen. Fred Weyand (Vietnam)
» Pfc. Thomas Yamanaga (WWII)
» Staff Sgt. Gordon Yamashiro (WWII)
» Sgt. 1st Class Henry Yoda (Korea)
» Staff Sgt. Yukio Yokota (WWII)

Navy Cross

» Cmdr. Gordon Chung-Hoon (WWII)
» Lt. Cmdr. Bernard Clarey (WWII)

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