To honor her father, Maui woman travels 8,000 miles to retrace his footsteps during WWII

Her father, Toshio Kubota, was a soldier in the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Published: May. 31, 2022 at 6:54 PM HST|Updated: May. 31, 2022 at 10:02 PM HST
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KAHULUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - To commemorate Memorial Day and honor her father, a Maui woman traveled nearly 8,000 miles to retrace her father’s footsteps during World War II.

Accompanied by a close friend and non-profit organization Toscana 44, Valerie Matsunaga trekked to the top of Hill 140.

Her father, Toshio Kubota, was a soldier in the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

“He describes himself as, ‘an ordinary rifleman Private First Class,’ but he received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star,” Matsunaga said.

The special segregated unit, made of mostly Nisei — second-generation Japanese Americans — was organized to fight in Europe.

And fight they did.

In 1944, her father lost his leg during a bloody battle in Italy.

In retracing her father’s steps, Matsunaga saw caves and trenches that soldiers hid in nearly 80 years ago.

“We lost the most Nisei soldiers in this one battle,” said Matsunaga’s friend, Linda Nguyen. “I learned that in Italy everybody just wanted to forget about the war because it happened in their own home. It was such a traumatic experience. Nobody talks about it.”

Even the Mayor of Castellina had ‘chicken skin’ as a result of the ceremony said Kubota’s daughter.

Grateful her father survived that day to share his story with her, Matsunaga said she can now share it with future generations.

“The legacy of the Nisei was, ‘okage sama de — for the sake of the children,” Matsunaga said.

She hopes to educate the world on the sacrifices made nearly 80 years ago, encouraging young people to think about about their own legacy.

Meanwhile, efforts for educational sites along Hill 140 are underway.

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