Reserve center in Italy renamed to honor WWII hero
Stars and Stripes June 1, 2003
LONGARE, Italy — Janice Yokoyama Trubitt and Jerene Wachtel never met their uncle. Pfc. Sadao “Spud” Munemori died serving his country in World War II, earning the Medal of Honor in the process.
But they know him about as well as anyone could, under the circumstances.
“My mother had told us a lot about the events,” said Wachtel, a Connecticut resident.
“And we read all the letters he wrote home during the war.”
In honor of Munemori, the Southern European Task Force Augmentation Unit and 663rd Movement Control Team voted to name their refurbished Army Reserve Center in Longare, a suburb of Vicenza, after the World War II hero.
“This is quite an honor,” said Yokoyama Trubitt.
“After all these years, it’s amazing to see that his memory is still alive,” Wachtel said.
The plaque that was dedicated Friday will grace one of the two buildings where the Army reservists meet and drill each month.
Munemori’s family read his letters while being held at the Manzinar Camp in California. Japanese-Americans, especially on the West Coast, were feared and generally disliked after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and many of them were rounded up and relocated to detention camps.
That didn’t stop hundreds of young Japanese-Americans, such as Munemori, from joining the U.S. military, or, in some cases, rejoining after they had been kicked out in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Munemori’s Medal of Honor was the only one awarded during the war. On the first day of fighting in the Po Valley campaign in Italy, the 22-year-old single-handedly took out two enemy machine guns and started making his way back to his men. But he spotted a grenade that had landed near two of them and dived on it, absorbing the blast with his body.
The 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were composed primarily of Asian Americans. In World War II, the units were involved in some of the heaviest fighting, and earned honor after honor.
“For its size and time in combat … the 442nd is the most decorated military unit in American history,” said Brig. Gen. David T. Zabecki, commander of the 7th Army Reserve Command.
During their European campaigns, members of the 100th and 442nd earned 23 Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Star medals and 3,600 Purple Hearts.
Trubitt and Wachtel made the trip from the States for the dedication ceremony, which was attended by Italian dignitaries and American military personnel.
Their mother, Yaeko Yokoyama, was Munemori’s last surviving sibling. The third of five children, she died in February.
They learned more about the uncle they never knew on a trip to Italy with their mother. During that trip in 2000, the Italians dedicated a statue in Munemori’s honor in Seravazza, near the battlefield where he died.