William K. Nakamura

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For the judoka 1996 Summer Olympics Gold Medal recipient (1973–), see Kenzo Nakamura.
William Kenzo Nakamura
Head of a smiling young man wearing a peaked cap with a round medallion on the front and a military jacket over a shirt and tie.
Private First Class William Nakamura
Born (1922-01-21)January 21, 1922
Died July 4, 1944(1944-07-04) (aged 22)
near Castellina[disambiguation needed], Italy
Place of burial Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle, Washington
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1943–1944
Rank Private First Class
Unit 442nd Regimental Combat Team
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Medal of Honor

William Kenzo Nakamura (January 21, 1922 – July 4, 1944) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.[1]

Early life[edit]

Nakamura was born in Seattle to Japanese immigrant parents.[2] He is a Nisei, which means that he is a second generation Japanese-American.

His family was interned in Minidoka in Idaho during World War II.[3]


Nakamura joined the US Army in July 1943.[4]

Nakamura volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team.[5] This army unit was mostly made up of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.[6]

On July 4, 1944, Nakamura was serving as a private first class in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. On that day, near Castellina, Italy, he single-handedly destroyed an enemy machine gun emplacement and later volunteered to cover his unit's withdrawal. He was then killed while attacking another machine gun nest which was firing on his platoon.

For his actions in July 1944, he was posthumously awarded the Army's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross.[7] A 1990s review of service records for Asian Americans who received the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II led to Nakamura's award being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 2000, his surviving family was presented with his Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-one other Asian Americans also received the medal during the ceremony, all but seven of them posthumously.

Nakamura, aged 22 at his death, was buried in Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle, Washington.

The William Kenzo Nakamura United States Courthouse in Seattle, Washington is named in his honor.[2]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Private First Class Nakamura's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

Private First Class William K. Nakamura distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 4 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. During a fierce firefight, Private First Class Nakamura's platoon became pinned down by enemy machine gun fire from a concealed position. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura crawled 20 yards toward the hostile nest with fire from the enemy machine gun barely missing him. Reaching a point 15 yards from the position, he quickly raised himself to a kneeling position and threw four hand grenades, killing or wounding at least three of the enemy soldiers. The enemy weapon silenced, Private First Class Nakamura crawled back to his platoon, which was able to continue its advance as a result of his courageous action. Later, his company was ordered to withdraw from the crest of a hill so that a mortar barrage could be placed on the ridge. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura remained in position to cover his comrades' withdrawal. While moving toward the safety of a wooded draw, his platoon became pinned down by deadly machine gun fire. Crawling to a point from which he could fire on the enemy position, Private First Class Nakamura quickly and accurately fired his weapon to pin down the enemy machine gunners. His platoon was then able to withdraw to safety without further casualties. Private First Class Nakamura was killed during this heroic stand. Private First Class Nakamura's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ US Army Center of Military History, "Medal of Honor Recipients, World War II (M-S)"; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  2. ^ a b Hicks, Erin. "Our Back Pages: Final Honors," Columns (University of Washington Alumni Magazine). June 2004; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  3. ^ Hicks, "Our Back Pages"; U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Japanese-American Internee Data File, 1942-1946 #15457D (Nakamura, William); retrieved 2012-12-7.
  4. ^ U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), WWII Army Enlistment Record #39918272 (Nakamura, William K.); retrieved 2012-12-7.
  5. ^ Go for Broke National Education Center, "Medal of Honor Recipient Private First Class William K. Nakamura"; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  6. ^ "100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry" at Global Security.org; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  7. ^ "21 Asian American World War II Vets to Get Medal of Honor" at University of Hawaii Digital History; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  8. ^ Gomez-Granger, Julissa. (2008). Medal of Honor Recipients: 1979-2008, "Nakamura, William K.," p. 15 [PDF 19 of 44]; retrieved 2012-12-7.

External links[edit]