5 WWII soldiers awarded posthumous Purple Heart medals 80 years after plane crash


Five Hawaiian men who served with Japanese-language linguists during World War II were posthumously awarded Purple Heart medals nearly eight decades after they died in a plane crash.

Key points:

  • The recipients were Joseph Kuwada, Haruyuki Ikemoto, Kazuyoshi Inouye, Wilfred Motokane and Masaru Sogi.

  • The five men were among 31 killed when their C-46 transport plane hit a cliff and crashed in Okinawa on Aug. 13, 1945.

  • Records indicate that only two of the 31 men aboard the plane received Purple Heart medals, prompting researchers to discover the oversight and advocate for the remaining soldiers’ families to receive recognition.

The details:

  • “I don’t have words. I’m just overwhelmed,” Wilfred, Ikemoto’s brother, said at the ceremony in Pearl Harbor on Friday, according to the Associated Press. “I’m just happy that he got recognized.”

  • The soldiers were part of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), a U.S. Army unit primarily composed of Japanese Americans. These soldiers played crucial roles as cultural liaisons during the occupation of Japan.

  • Retired Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, whose father served in the MIS, presented the medals to the families of the soldiers. He stated:

“What these MIS soldiers brought to the occupation of Japan was an understanding of culture that could take what was the vanquished to work with the victor. I’m very proud of all the MIS soldiers not only during combat, but also during the occupation.”

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  • The Purple Heart medal, known as a symbol of courage and sacrifice, is a U.S. military award awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed on duty.

  • The Army is urging family members of the remaining 24 men to get in touch so that their loved ones can also receive recognition.


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