William Kenzo Nakamura (William Kenzo Nakamura)

William Kenzo Nakamura

World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Killed by a sniper’s bullet on the outskirts of Castellina, Italy. A tragic story great courage following being rousted from his home, along with many others of his heritage, this native son of Seattle, was not considered such as he was of Japanese descent. Just a month after Pearl Harbor his mother died of cancer. His father, George Takichi Nakamura, a former sword-maker in Japan, worked as a barber. Two months later the rest of his family and all other Japanese Americans in the Puget Sound area were evacuated to relocation centers. This family went to Minidoka Relocation Center near Hunt, Idaho. At the time he was an undergraduate student at the University of Washington. His older brother George and he both enlisted in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, in large part to prove their patriotism to the U.S. and as their sister Oshima said “that they were not the enemy.” Made up almost entirely of Japanese Americans, kids scorned and reviled, the 442nd would go on to become the most decorated military unit in U.S. history fighting in eight major campaigns in Italy, France and Germany and suffering more than 8800 casualties. On July 4, on what was known on military maps as Hill 140, one of the bloodiest battles of the war took place. Major Orville Cresap Shirey, of the 442nd, author of “Americans: The Story of the 442nd Combat Team,” describes the heroism: “Private First Class William L. Nakamura, in the initial attack, crawled to within fifteen yards of an enemy machine gun that had pinned down his platoon, silenced the gun, and killed the crew with hand grenades. Later, when the platoon was being pulled back it was again pinned down by fire from concealed machine guns. Private First Class Nakamura crawled to a point from which he could observe the guns and fired clip after clip of ammunition with his rifle, keeping the enemy gunners down until his platoon reached cover.” He was later found in this last position with a bullet wound to the head. A sniper shot. “It took the United States government 56 years to acknowledge that military racism had deprived Nakamura and many other soldiers of color the honor they deserved,” Seattle City Councilwoman Jan Drago said. Not only did he at this late date in June of 2000 receive the country’s highest military honor, for which he had been recommended at the time by his commanding officer, but the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle has been named for him. (bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm)


  • January, 21, 1922
  • USA


  • July, 07, 1944
  • Italy


  • Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park
  • Washington
  • USA

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