Legacy of Kaoru Moto, World War II Veteran Who Served in Japanese American Battalion, Lives On
2023/07/20

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The following story was submitted by DAV, an organization that aims to empower veterans by fighting for their interests on Capitol Hill, educating the public about the sacrifices and needs of veterans as they transition back to civilian life, and ensuring that they can access all benefits available to them. You can read more about them here.

Brian Moto's late father, World War II veteran Kaoru Moto, didn't talk about the war in front of his children, and Brian and his siblings knew better than to ask. Instead, they learned bits and pieces of their father's story from other veterans and members of the local DAV chapter in Maui, where Kaoru Moto was a lifetime member.

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"And they would say, 'Oh, your father was a very brave man," Brian Moto remembered.

The citation for the Distinguished Service Cross awarded to his father told more of the story. Over the years, Brian would read many accounts detailing his father's heroic actions on July 7, 1944, near Castellina, Italy.

That day, Kaoru Moto was the scout leading his platoon to higher ground. After he spotted a machine gun nest, Moto killed one German gunner and captured another. Taking his prisoner with him, Moto took cover at a house a few yards away.

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He soon realized he was surrounded by Germans and engaged them with fire, forcing most of them to withdraw. Then a single remaining sniper fired at Moto and struck his left leg, severely wounding him.

After the deadly attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on Dec. 7, 1941, Americans of Japanese ancestry were eyed with suspicion and became targets of discrimination. Over the next few years, roughly 120,000 people of Japanese descent were incarcerated in camps in the U.S.

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Today, Kaoru Moto's Medal of Honor is displayed in an exhibit, "Nisei Soldier Experience", at the National Museum of the United States Army.

After Kaoru Moto returned from war, he met and married Violet Saito and the two had five children. Having grown up poor in the sugar camps of Maui and unable to get more than a grade school education, Kaoru Moto yearned for his children to go to college. Brian fulfilled his father's dream thanks in part to a DAV scholarship he earned as a youth volunteer.

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