Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

Masa Takeba

 

Date and Place of Birth: April 24, 1918 Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands
Date and Place of Death: January 10, 1944
Baseball Experience: Amateur
Position:
Rank: Sergeant
Military Unit: Company B, 100th Infantry Battalion US Army
Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations

 

With utter disregard for his own safety, Sgt Takeba ran over the open terrain to his wounded comrade. Although bullets were flying all around him, Sgt Takeba picked up the man and carried him 75 yards over exposed rocky terrain to a covered position.

Award of Oak Leaf Cluster for Silver Star (posthumously)

 

Masaharu "Masa" Takeba was born on April 24, 1918 in Honolulu, Oahu. He attended McKinley High School, Oahu.

 

Before entering the service, he was employed as a table captain at the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in Honolulu.

 

Takeba was inducted in the Army on June 30, 1941 and initially served with the 298th Infantry Regiment at Schofield Barracks. Like many people in Hawaii, he was Nisei - second-generation Japanese, and on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, everything changed. Americans of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii were treated with suspicion and those in military service found their duties suddenly reduced to menial tasks.

 

Eventually, the 100th Battalion was formed, a fighting unit made up entirely of second-generation Japanese. Shiyama took basic training with the 100th at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, and quickly became a part of the 100th "Aloha" baseball team. The Aloha team initially played against the military police unit at Camp McCoy but soon found competition in nearby towns. In February 1943, the 100th Battalion moved to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for advanced unit training where the Aloha team continued to play.

 

The 100th Battalion left Camp Shelby for North Africa on August 11, 1943. They landed at Oran, Algeria on September 2, where they guarded supply trains for a couple of weeks. It was in North Africa that the Aloha baseball team played their last game. It was against the 168th Infantry Regiment.

 

 

On September 19, 1943, the 100th Battalion left the relative safety of North Africa for Italy. They landed at Salerno and went into combat against the Germans on September 29.

 

Sergeant Takeba, who had earned a Silver and Bronze Star, was killed in action on January 9, 1944 near San Vittore, Italy. He was posthumously awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster for his Silver Star. The citation read:

For gallantry in action on 7 January 1944, in the vicinity of Cervaro, Italy. Sgt. Takeba, acting as platoon sergeant led his men in occupying part of the north end of Hill 1109, without knowing that the enemy was on the top of hill approximately 200 yards away. With excellent observation the enemy immediately delivered heavy mortar, machine gun and rifle fire on Sgt Takeba and his  platoon. One of his men was hit by an enemy sniper and seriously wounded. Notifying his second-in command that he was going to advance forward and at the same time take the wounded man to cover, he instructed the platoon to cover his advance.

 

With utter disregard for his own safety, Sgt Takeba ran over the open terrain to his wounded comrade. Although bullets were flying all around him, Sgt Takeba picked up the man and carried him 75 yards over exposed rocky terrain to a covered position. By his heroic deed in the face of heavy enemy fire, Sgt Takeba saved the life of his comrade who undoubtedly would have been killed if left on the open terrain exposed to further enemy fire.

The coolness, courage and excellent leadership of Sgt Takeba was highly commendable and in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service.

 

He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

 

Thanks to Kerry Yo Nakagawa of the Nisei Baseball Research Project and Hawaii State Library for help with this biography. Photo of 100th Battalion team courtesy of Sons and Daughters of the 100th Infantry Battalion Archives. Visit www.ajawarvets.org for more information on Americans of Japanese ancestry servicemen.

 

Added September 12, 2006

 

Copyright © 2007 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.