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Military gallery inducts
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."
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.
41 MEMBERS OF HAWAII'S