A Nisei On Corregidor
This is more than the story of one soldier.

It is a story about loyalty and the admiration of comrades.

It is about the struggle for recognition of deeds performed long ago, forgotten by many and remembered by a few.

It is about the lives that were saved as a result of one man's courage.

Harry Akune, shortly after the war
Harry Akune, in a photo
taken shortly after the war

Harry Akune was detailed to the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team led by then-Colonel George M. Jones. Even though Akune never attended jump school he volunteered to jump into Corregidor with the 503rd when they were given the mission to retake the island from the Japanese.

His exploits went unrecognized for many years before they became fully known to his comrades who then began their quest for his recognition. The 503rd collected the information they'd need and Jack Herzig wrote a letter describing the material that the members of the 503rd had been able to assimilate. As a retired Brigadier General, Jones made a request that Harry Akune be inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame. The General described Akune's actions on Corregidor and Harry is finally invited to the Ceremony honoring his service during the war.

Harry, his brother and friends in Boulder - 1943
Harry [right] and his brother [left], with friends in Boulder, CO in 1943.
The Citation

Harry M. Akune entered the United States Army on 12 December 1942 from the Amache Relocation Camp, Colorado, where he and his family had been relocated as part of the government's action to remove 120,000 Japanese Americans from the west coast during World War II. After graduating from the Military Intelligence Service Language School, he served as a Translator/Interpreter to the US 33d Infantry Division in British New Guinea in May 1944 and then to the US 6th Army in Hollandia, British New Guinea, as part of the Allied Translator and Interpreter Service. In November, 1944 then-Specialist Akune was attached to the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team to provide intelligence services for the amphibious invasion of Mindoro Island which became a vital base for our aerial war against the main Japanese forces in the Philippines on the island of Luzon.

The 503d Parachute RCT became the lead unit in retaking the fortress of Corregidor, key to Manila harbor and the site of the surrender of American and Filipino forces in 1942, the greatest defeat in American military history. General (then Colonel) George M. Jones, commanding the American Rock Force, recognizing the valuable services that Specialist Akune could provide, personally asked him if he would volunteer in what became the most daring and dangerous airborne assault in the Pacific war. Specialist Akune replied that he already felt as though he was a member of the 503d and would be honored to continue to serve with them.

Without formal parachutist training, on 16 February 1945, Specialist Akune was among the first Americans to land among the splintered tree stumps, rubble, and enemy fire on the heavily-defended island fortress. As with most parachute operations, the initial period required every soldier to fight as infantry, and Specialist Akune joined his fellow troopers in firefights and assaults on the rapidly-reforming enemy garrison. Later he would participate as an infantryman in a number of combat patrols.

Shortly after the landing, Specialist Akune was able to extract timely and valuable intelligence from the few prisoners taken and documents he translated. This included the fact that the enemy commander had been killed just before the airborne landing, that severe damage had been done to the Japanese communication system, that the strength of the opposition was 5,000 and not the 850 previously estimated and that the nature of the enemy force included a number of highly-motivated Japanese Imperial Marines who would not hesitate to give their lives while taking ours. These findings enabled our land forces to design the most effective offensive.

Specialist Akune also discovered that there were 100 enemy motor boats packed with explosives in hidden caves around the island ready to destroy Allied shipping, thereby allowing the Navy to take timely countermeasures to avoid losses. Specialist Akune demonstrated that a human intelligence capability is essential for success in a wide variety of combat situations. The 503d After Action Report recommended that an intelligence specialist be permanently assigned to every combat operation.

Colonel Jones and his staff have stated many times that the personal bravery and truly outstanding actions of Specialist Akune allowed our forces to take rapid and effective offensive action against a larger enemy force, thereby shortening the duration of the campaign and significantly reducing the number of American casualties. Specialist Akune has enjoyed the admiration, affection and gratitude of his fellow paratroopers who consider him one of their very own.