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Hajiro was born in Hawaii to Japanese immigrant parents He is a Nisei, which means that he is a second generation Japanese-American. He grew up in a rural area. According to a friend who spoke at his funeral,
"As a plantation boy, he probably learned some things from his Japanese schoolteacher or principal. . . . He respected his principal and his family values. It all comes together; it builds a guy."
For his actions in October 1944, Hajiro was awarded the Army's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). In the 1990s, there was a review of service records of Asian Americans who received the DSC during World War II. Hajiro's award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. In a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 2000, he was presented with his medal by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-one other Asian Americans also received the medal during the ceremony, but only seven of them were still alive.
Medal of Honor citation
Hajiro's Medal of Honor recognized his conduct in frontline fighting in eastern France in 1944. He helped attack a house, captured a numerically superior force; and without help from others, he silenced two machine gun nests.
The words of Hajiro's citation explain:
Private Barney F. Hajiro distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 19, 22, and October 29, 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres and Biffontaine, eastern France. Private Hajiro, while acting as a sentry on top of an embankment on October 19, 1944, in the vicinity of Bruyeres, France, rendered assistance to allied troops attacking a house 200 yards away by exposing himself to enemy fire and directing fire at an enemy strong point. He assisted the unit on his right by firing his automatic rifle and killing or wounding two enemy snipers. On October 22, 1944, he and one comrade took up an outpost security position about 50 yards to the right front of their platoon, concealed themselves, and ambushed an 18-man, heavily armed, enemy patrol, killing two, wounding one, and taking the remainder as prisoners. On October 29, 1944, in a wooded area in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France, Private Hajiro initiated an attack up the slope of a hill referred to as "Suicide Hill" by running forward approximately 100 yards under fire. He then advanced ahead of his comrades about 10 yards, drawing fire and spotting camouflaged machine gun nests. He fearlessly met fire with fire and single-handedly destroyed two machine gun nests and killed two enemy snipers. As a result of Private Hajiro's heroic actions, the attack was successful. Private Hajiro's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit, and the United States Army.
- Martin, Douglas. "Barney Hajiro, Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 94," The New York Times, February 2, 2011; retrieved 2012-12-7.
- US Army Center of Military History (CMH), "Medal of Honor Recipients, World War II (G-L)"; retrieved 2012-12-7.
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- Imada, Lee. "'Plantation boy’ turned hero," Maui News, February 13, 2011; retrieved 2012-12-7.
- U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), WWII Army Enlistment Record #30102563 (Hajiro, Barney F.); retrieved 2012-12-7.
- Go for Broke National Education Center, "Medal of Honor Recipient Private Barney F. Hajiro"; retrieved 2012-12-7.
- "100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry" at Global Security.org; retrieved 2012-12-7.
- "21 Asian American World War II Vets to Get Medal of Honor" at University of Hawaii Digital History; retrieved 2012-12-5.
- Kakesako, Gregg K. "Honor overdue," Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Hawaii). November 11, 1996; retrieved 2012-12-7.
- Vorsino, Mary. "France honors isle hero," Honolulu Star-Bulletin. October 15, 2004; retrieved 2012-12-7.
- CMH, "Asian Pacific American Medal of Honor recipients"; retrieved 2012-12-28.
- Gomez-Granger, Julissa. (2008). Medal of Honor Recipients: 1979-2008, "Hajiro, Barney F.," p. 8-9 [PDF 12-13 of 44]; retrieved 2012-12-7.