William K. Nakamura

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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
DiedJuly 4, 1944(1944-07-04) (aged 22)
near Castellina Marittima, Italy
Place of burial
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1943–1944
RankPrivate First Class
Unit442nd Regimental Combat Team
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsMedal 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, a Nisei, was born in Seattle's Japantown (in what's now known as the International District) to Japanese immigrant parents.[2] He attended Seattle's Washington Middle School and graduated from its Garfield High School.[3]

Nakamura's family was interned in Minidoka in Idaho during World War II, starting in 1942.[4]


Nakamura joined the US Army in July 1943.[5]

Nakamura volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team.[6] This army unit was mostly made up of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.[7]

On July 4, 1944, Nakamura was serving as a private first class in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. On that day, near Castellina Marittima, 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.[8] 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.[9]

University of Washington Medal of Honor Memorial[edit]

At the University of Washington in February 2006, a resolution recommending a memorial be erected to honor fighter ace and alumnus Pappy Boyington for his service during World War II was raised and defeated[10] during a meeting of the student senate.[11] Some people did not believe the resolution's sponsor had fully addressed the financial and logistical problems of installing a memorial, and some were questioning the widely held assumption that all warriors and acts of war are automatically worthy of memorialization. The story was picked up by some blogs and conservative news outlets, focusing on two statements made by student senators during the meeting.[12] One student senator, Ashley Miller, said that the UW already had many monuments to "rich, white men" (Boyington claimed partial Sioux ancestry[13] and was not rich);[14] another, Jill Edwards, questioned whether the UW should memorialize a person who killed others, summarized in the minutes as saying "she didn't believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce."[15]

After its defeat, a new version of the original resolution was submitted that called for a memorial to all eight UW alumni who received the Medal of Honor after attending the UW.[16][17] On April 4, 2006, the resolution passed by a vote of 64 to 14 with several abstentions, on a roll call vote. The University of Washington Medal of Honor memorial was constructed at the south end of Memorial Way (17th Ave NE), north of Red Square, in the interior of a traffic circle between Parrington and Kane Halls (47°39′26″N 122°18′35″W / 47.6573°N 122.3097°W / 47.6573; -122.3097). Privately funded, it was completed in time for a Veterans Day dedication in November 2009.[18] In addition to Greg Boyington, it honors Deming Bronson, Bruce Crandall, Robert Galer, John Hawk, Robert Leisy, William Nakamura, and Archie Van Winkle.[19][20][21]

Ordinary individuals
facing extraordinary circumstances
with courage and selflessness
answer the call
and change the course of destiny.
                               Medal of Honor

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. ^ Banel, Feliks (July 3, 2019), "Death in the Family", MyNorthwest
  4. ^ "Japanese American Internee Data File: William Nakamura". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  5. ^ U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), WWII Army Enlistment Record #39918272 (Nakamura, William K.); retrieved 2012-12-7.
  6. ^ Go for Broke National Education Center, "Medal of Honor Recipient Private First Class William K. Nakamura"; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  7. ^ "100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry" at Global Security.org; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  8. ^ "21 Asian American World War II Vets to Get Medal of Honor" at University of Hawaii Digital History; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  9. ^ Gomez-Granger, Julissa. (2008). Medal of Honor Recipients: 1979-2008, "Nakamura, William K.," p. 15 [PDF 19 of 44]; retrieved 2012-12-7.
  10. ^ "A Resolution to Calling for a Tribute for Col. Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington, USMC", Resolution R-12-18, Associated Students of the University of Washington Student Senate, submitted 01/11/2006. (retrieved February 24, 2006)
  11. ^ Boyington memorial — A word from the Senate, The Daily, February 17, 2006. (retrieved February 24, 2006)
  12. ^ Flickinger, Christopher. "Marines Not Welcome at University of Washington", Human Events ", February 20, 2006.
  13. ^ "Great Sioux Nation Medal of Honor Recipients". Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  14. ^ Muir, Florabel (July 16, 1967). "Pappy Boiyngton is ill, destitute". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. (New York News). p. 12.
  15. ^ UW Senate minutes
  16. ^ Frey, Christine (February 21, 2006). "Boyington memorial for UW revisited". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  17. ^ "A Resolution Calling a Memorial for UW Alumni awarded the Medal of Honor", Resolution R-12-16, Associated Students of the University of Washington Student Senate, submitted 02/17/2006.
  18. ^ "Honoring the men behind the Medals of Honor with ceremony, exhibit ", University of Washington News, 10 November 2009.
  19. ^ O'Donnell, Catherine (October 21, 2009). "New UW memorial honors alumni who hold the Congressional Medal of Honor". University of Washington. UW News. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  20. ^ Broom, Jack (November 10, 2009). "UW to honor war heroes with Medal of Honor memorial". Seattle Times. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  21. ^ "University of Washington Medal of Honor Memorial Dedication". U.S. Militaria Forum. Retrieved October 9, 2015.

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