The Last Battle of Shiro Kashino

(Extracted from THE HAWAII HERALD, March 6, 1998 -- written by William Y. Thompson)

It was 1943 and America was at war. A call went out for volunteers for an all-Nisei unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Shiro Kashino was one of those who responded. At the time, he and his siblings were in a relocation center in Minidoka, Idaho. They had been forcefully evacuated from their home in Seattle. Despite some reservations, the call to serve his country was over-powering.

This particular story begins in October of 1944 when the 442nd was transferred to the 36th "Texas" Division. There, in the bitter cold and wet Vosges Mountains of northeastern France, the epic campaign for control of a strategic transportation center, St. Die, was fought. After freeing the key town of Bruyeres, the 442nd, despite many casualties from the brutal fighting, was ordered back into action. This time it was to rescue the "Lost Battalion," the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry, that had penetrated far into enemy territory and was now cut-off from the rest of the 36th Division.  During the campaign, Staff Sgt. Shiro Kashino was wounded but returned to action only to receive a more serious wound. He was evacuated to England for medical treatment.

When his wound healed, Kashino was offered another assignment which would not involve further combat. He refused and in January 1945, chose to return to his unit, Item Company, 3rd Battalion. The 442nd was then stationed in Southern France to regroup after its heroic battle in the Vosges Mountains. Its assignment was to help guard the French-Italian border. The men could relax during their off-duty hours and enjoy the pleasures of the Cote d' Azur.

It was during this period when the Item Company men were enjoying drinks at a bar-dance hall that an incident occurred that would forever impact Kashino's life. A scuffle broke out between one of the men and the Military Police (MP) officer on duty. Kashino and others rushed to stop the fight from escalating. After calm was restored, all agreed it was a case of misunderstanding; they shook hands and parted in belief that the matter was over.

Two days later on February 16, led by the battalion commander, a contingent of MPs swooped down on Item Company. Ten men were hauled off for questioning. Later, four were arrested and placed in the stockade. Kashino was one of the four. There they remained imprisoned awaiting trial.

A month passed and in mid-March, the 442nd was given it new assignment. The unit, including those in the stockade, was sent to Italy and placed under the command of the 92nd Division. A few days before combat, the four were released from the stockade there and three of them, including Kashino, were eventually returned to Item Company for combat duty.

The 442nd entered battle on April 5, 1945, and in a matter of hours breached the Gothic Line which had held back the Allied Army for six months. In a few more days the Gothic Line was smashed and the 92nd Division began a relentless pursuit of the German army. Kashino was wounded three times. None of his wounds were serious enough to prevent him from returning to the front lines. In one of the acts of bravery, he was cited for gallantry in action and was subsequently awarded the Silver Star.

The war in Italy ended on May 2 with the surrender of the German forces. Much to his surprise, Kashino once again became a "resident" of the stockade. A few days later, he faced a special court martial and was found guilty. He was demoted to private; sentenced to six months in the stockade; and fined part of his pay for six months - the maximum penalty for a special court-martial.

He was released from the stockade in July as the authorities considered his service on the front lines a part of his punishment. Far away in the Pacific, atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan stopped fighting. The formal surrender was on September 2, bringing an end to World War II. The Army started sending the troops home on a point system decided by length of service, awards won, etc. With his six Purple Heart awards, Bronze Star, Silver Star and other decorations, Kashino was among the first to be shipped home in September of 1945. He was discharged the following month in October.

Years later, at a reunion in 1983, Kashino was on the receiving end of jokes on his court-martial record. Listening in on this friendly jesting was Sadaichi Kubota, a battlefield commissioned officer who had been Kashino's platoon leader. Kubota realized that this was wrong. The 3rd Battalion Chaplain, Masao Yamada, had mentioned to Kubota back in France that the MP officer had called the battalion headquarters in Southern France and requested that the charges against the men involved in the bar room incident be dropped. Why then was the special court martial convened? Kubota urged Kashino to appeal his case.

The first appeal was made in 1985, and then again in 1994, to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. Both times the appeals were filed without action as the Army Board had no information on Kashino's court-martial. Kashino himself did not have any record of his trial. He had requested the Army Military Records Branch for his court-martial records. The response was that his records had been destroyed in a fire. He had run into a dead end.

Kashino's battle to clear his name took on a new strategy at this point. Kubota wrote to Senator Daniel Inouye and Representative Patsy Mink for assistance in retrieving Kashino's records. The Army's initial response to both legislators remained the same - no records available. But when they were ready to admit defeat, to the amazement of all, the Army wrote to Rep. Mink in October 1995 saying Kashino's records had been located and would be mailed shortly. This was the special court-martial order. Other trial records had been destroyed as prescribed by law. Ten years had elapsed since the first request for records was made.

With these records, Kashino learned the true nature of the charges filed against him and the name of the MP officer involved in the barroom incident. Kashino's Item Company buddies in California, Washington and Hawaii were contacted for additional information in support of his new application. Archival materials were examined for more evidence. Slowly a solid case began to take shape. The Army Board had helpfully suggested that a statement from Chaplain Yamada or the soldier who had started the scuffle would improve his chances. Since the Chaplain had passed away several years ago, the only recourse was to question the soldier around whom the scuffle began. He was bitter over the incident and wanted nothing to do with this matter at first. After Kubota and other Item Company veterans visited with him, the soldier relented and submitted an affidavit attesting to his role in the incident. With this and other affidavits from those familiar with the incident, Kashino completed documenting his case. He submitted it to the Army Board in June 1996.

Kashino's new appeal cited several deviations from court-martial regulations. One required a speedy trial after arrest. Why was the trial delayed for three months? Another regulation required appointment of a defense counsel for special court martial trials. Why was there no defense counsel for Kashino? The special court-martial orders stated that Kashino pleaded guilty. Why was this since Kashino claimed otherwise? Since the trial was delayed, it was held in Italy and not France where the incident occurred. Why was there a change in venue which worked against the accused?

The Army Board for Correction of Military Records notified Kashino in August 1996 that a favorable finding had been reached on his new appeal. Kashino's records were corrected to restore his rank to Staff Sergeant. His fines were remitted. Kashino was elated at this decision. However, the Board cautioned that the finality of his conviction by court-martial still stood, as only the Judge Advocate General has the authority to grant such relief.

Shiro Kashino and his wife, Louise, then made a decision to go this last step. It would be difficult as the deadline to file appeals had expired years ago. But there was hope as the regulation stated applications for relief must be filed on or before the last day of the two-year period when the sentence is approved unless the accused establishes good cause for failure to file within that time.

Kashino, Kubota and their friends began the painstaking task of preparing the application to the Judge Advocate General for relief of his conviction. They had to establish the good cause for failure to file within the deadline. Nearly all the pieces of the incident and participants had been put into place. The one major missing piece was the MP officer. He had been with the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment that was part of the military force guarding the French-Italian border. Assuming he survived the war, he would be living nearly half a world away. Attempts were made to locate him but were unsuccessful. Then suddenly it happened - a breakthrough!

Clarence Taba, who had been Kashino's 1st Sgt., met a banker from Puerto Rico at a national conference of bankers in Honolulu. When Taba mentioned the search for the MP officer, the banker revealed that officer was his personal friend! Soon arrangements were made for Taba, who planned to visit Puerto Rico on business, to meet this officer. Then correspondence followed which resulted in an affidavit from the officer attesting to the tact he had asked that charges be dropped. This corroborated what Kubota earlier reported on his conversation with Chaplain Yamada. The officer further stated he was unaware of the court-martial as he was not informed. He also confirmed the statement of Kashino and others that they all shook hands after the incident.

The final step was now ready to be taken. After preparing the application for relief to the Judge Advocate General, Kashino became ill from cancer that had appeared five years earlier. In mid-May, he entered the hospital to be under doctor's care. While there, he signed his formal application on May 30, 1997. He wanted to make a commitment as he felt uneasy about the treatment he had to undergo. He had also prepared a statement, to support his formal application, which he intended to sign after receiving the affidavit from Puerto Rico.

The affidavit from Puerto Rico reached the Item Company team in Honolulu on June l0th. A day later, a call was made to Seattle to tell Kashino the good news. Instead, Louise Kashino sadly informed his Hawaii buddies that he had just passed away. He went into a coma on June 8th and failed to pull through.

Mrs. Kashino, who had courageously stood by her husband throughout these trying months, endorsed his statement and submitted it to the Judge Advocate General on June 13, 1997. She had promised Shiro that if he was unable to do so, she would carry on.

Three months later, the Judge Advocate General notified Mrs. Kashino that the application for relief was denied as the deadline for filing had passed and that no facts had been provided to extend the statute of limitations. In September, Mrs. Kashino wrote again imploring the Judge Advocate General to reconsider his decision. She requested a reexamination of the application and, especially, the affidavit of the MP officer which Kashino had claimed was new evidence and not available until recently. She concluded her letter by saying:

I respectfully request your reconsideration of the decision to deny the Application for Relief of Shiro Kashino, and do so with the best wishes and prayers of my husband's war-time comrades. I am committed to carrying out my husband's "last battle" to clear his Army record - what he considered to be a precious legacy to his family If his application can be reconsidered and the stigma of a court-martial of dubious circumstances erased, we will all be grateful knowing that justice has been served and my husband vindicated. If the application is once again denied, my only consolation will be the fact that he died not knowing he had lost his "last battle."

On December 15, 1497, Louise Kashino received a letter containing the final decision of the Judge Advocate General. With some trepidation she opened and read the contents:

Based on the entire file and information provided in all documents submitted with this appeal, I have determined that there is 'good cause' in the interests of justice to consider this appeal even though it was not filed within the statute of limitations. Mr. Kashino's appeal is granted and his court-martial conviction is set aside.

(signed) Walter B. Huffman
Major General, US Army
The Judge Advocate General

To the surprise of Mrs. Kashino, the Judge Advocate General added a touching personal footnote to his decision:

Your husband was an American Hero -- and that is how he should be remembered." 

It was an emotional moment as tears filled her eyes and her heart swelled with pride, then relief.  Shiro Kashino had won his "last battle"!

There would be time later to express gratitude for the compassion shown by the military authorities in correcting an injustice. For now, it was time to be thankful for the comradeship of veterans who had rallied in support of Shiro.

Who was this Shiro Kashino who evoked such sympathy and support from his war-time buddies? This can best be summed up in the statement made to writer Theima Chang by war hero Barney Hajiro, another Item Company veteran. Hajiro was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross after his nomination for the Congressional Medal-of Honor was rejected. Hajiro characterized Kashino as the greatest soldier I ever saw. We looked up to him." That is a soldier's way of describing a hero among heroes.


(Reprint courtesy of The Hawaii Herald)