Private First Class
C Company, 100th Infantry Battalion
Before the War
John “Johnny” Akimoto was born on September 22, 1924 to Masanori and Mary “Miki” Shiratori Akimoto. He was the seventh of eight children and the youngest of four brothers. After spending his early years in Idaho Falls, Idaho, he moved with his family to Los Angeles, California in 1928. He attended 36th Street Elementary School, Forshay Junior High School, and Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. He planned to go on to college like his oldest brother, Ned. However, his plans were interrupted.
Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. A few weeks later, in early 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. This executive order authorized the military to remove people from their homes that were considered “enemy aliens” of the United States, specifically, Japanese Americans along the West Coast. The U.S. government relocated Johnny and his family to the Santa Anita Race Track Civilian Assembly Center.
The family used their Idaho connections to become farm laborers in the sugar beet fields near Lincoln, Idaho. Later, Johnny and then his parents moved to the Amache Internment Camp in Colorado. On April 7, 1943, Johnny was one of the first two volunteers for the 100th Infantry Battalion from the Amache Internment Camp.
Johnny received his basic training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. His brothers, Victor and Ted, and his brother-in-law, Bill Kajikawa, joined him there. At Camp Shelby, Johnny received training as a machine gunner for the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, C Company. His first assignment was to replace troops destined for the Italian campaign.
He served in the Battle of Anzio and the Rome to Arno Campaign in Italy. In late 1943, Johnny landed on the beaches near Anzio, Italy. This was an important part of the southern European campaign for the Allies due to its close proximity to Rome. The objective was to capitalize on the victories in North Africa by continuing to pressure the Axis in southern Europe. By doing so, the Allies could better prepare for a full scale invasion at Normandy in summer 1944 and help to reduce the tremendous battering that the Russians were withstanding on the eastern front.
The battle for Anzio started in January 1944 and lasted for nearly five months. Johnny’s unit replaced the troops killed or injured in the initial landings and battles. The terrain was terrible. The Allied troops were stuck in a vast marshland surrounded by German and Italian troops who could shoot from the hillsides. The battle saw nearly 40,000 Allied casualties, including 7,000 killed and 33,000 wounded or missing in action. While in combat, Johnny earned a Bronze Star for his bravery.
Private First Class Johnny Akimoto became ill and died of acute hepatitis on August 2, 1944. He was awarded the Bronze Star, European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Victory Medal, and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Johnny's contributions helped the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team receive over 18,000 individual decorations making them the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. He is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France, the largest of the American World War II cemeteries in Europe. Next to him lies his brother, Private Victor Akimoto, in a section where 26 brothers are laid to rest. To learn more about the Akimoto family's experiences during World War II, please download the book, When the Akimotos Went to War.
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Akimoto Family Photographs. 1890 - 2011. Courtesy of Sara Akimoto.
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Letters from Johnny Akimoto to Akimoto Family Members, 1942 - 1944. Courtesy of Gay Sato.
Letters from Victor Akimoto to Akimoto Family Members, 1942 - 1944. Courtesy of Gay Sato.
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Sara Akimoto to Matthew Elms Email Correspondence, 2015. Courtesy of Matthew Elms.
Summer Akimoto to Matthew Elms Email Correspondence, 2015. Courtesy of Matthew Elms.
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