Goichi Suehiro was born on May 1, 1921, in Kāne‘ohe, O‘ahu. He was named for the date he was born – go is five in Japanese (for his birth month) and ichi is one (for his birth date). He was one of ten children of Sanjuro and Matsuno (Matsumoto) Suehiro. His father arrived from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, and his mother from Hiroshima Prefecture in 1898 and 1910, respectively. By 1920, Sanjuro was working on a rice farm in Kāne‘ohe.
Goichi graduated from Benjamin Parker High School in 1940. On Feb. 15, 1942, he signed his draft registration card. At the time he was employed by James W. Glover at Pearl City Salvage Area.
When the call for volunteers was issued in February 1943, Goichi and his brother Masato volunteered. Masato was chosen, but Goichi was not – so he complained to the local draft board and was inducted on March 30, 1943. At the time, he was employed as a carpenter.
After arriving at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for basic training, he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, F Company, 4th Platoon (a weapons platoon) as a machine gun squad leader. He left the U.S. with the Combat Team on April 22, 1944, for the Mediterranean Theater. The ships carrying most of 2nd Battalion docked in Oran, on the coast of North Africa, to discharge cargo. The other ships arrived at Naples, Italy, on May 28. The ships that had stopped in Oran arrived in Italy on June 17.
On June 26, 1944, the 442nd RCT moved to the front lines for their first combat engagement – this was the Rome-Arno Campaign.
Later that summer, the 442nd RCT was across from Florence on the Arno River, guarding against intrusion by the Germans. Squads stood guard duty at several machine gun nests. Staff Sergeant Sadao Okuhara was partnered with Goichi for their four-hour shifts. He later related several incidents when Suehiro crawled through the brush to see if the noise they heard was an enemy patrol, only to find lizards. On another night, when they heard crunching sounds, they were sure it was a German soldier. Suddenly, a cat chasing a rabbit jumped out of the bush. It took them almost an hour to wind down from the stress of thinking they were nearly discovered by the enemy.
Staff Sergeant Okuhara later summarized his friend thus: “… Goichi is one hell of a soldier … probably the only soldier in F Co. who spent every combat day on the firing line. He never came back from the lines for any reason.” Once, when they reached a rest area after days of combat, Suehiro said he was going to the hospital as he had shrapnel in his leg from a wounding a few days earlier. He had not gone to the hospital at the time as he knew they would get a rest period soon and “the men needed me.”
This photo became one of the most iconic of the 442nd RCT. It was taken on Nov. 13, 1944, in the area of St. Dié, France. While there, Suehiro was wounded, he saw shrapnel sticking out of his stomach and simply pulled it out. A medic came, but Suehiro refused to leave the front line. Later, a doctor wanted to send him to the hospital; however, he refused and he remained with his company.
In late March 1945, the 442nd RCT returned to Italy for the final push on the Gothic Line during the Po Valley Campaign. Suehiro later recalled that on the first day that F Company was on the Gothic Line, they were being shot at by the Germans from the left side. The men had to run one at a time in an effort to cross unscathed the saddle between Mt. Carchio and Mt. Belvedere. Later, when they saw enemy tanks approaching with the hatches open, they threw grenades into the open hatches, but they all missed.
While in Italy during the closing weeks of the war in Europe, Goichi was wounded on the underpart of his left arm. He was seen by a medic but, once again, would not leave his company.
After V-E Day on May 8, 1945, Suehiro was in Italy during the occupation. He was finally sent home and reached Hawai‘i to be discharged on Dec. 30, 1945.
For his wartime service, Sergeant Goichi Suehiro was awarded, among other medals, the Bronze Star, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Distinguished Unit Badge with oak leaf cluster.
In February 1952, Goichi married Yaeko Ibara, originally from Waimea, Kaua‘i. They raised a family of two sons and lived in Kāne‘ohe. He was employed by the Fire Department and worked at Pearl Harbor, Fort DeRussy, Fort Ruger, Fort Kamehameha, Tripler Army General Hospital, and Schofield Barracks.
Goichi Suehiro died on Sept. 14, 2008, in Kāne‘ohe. He was survived by his wife and sons.
Researched/written by the Sons & Daughters of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 2021.