Honor Their Service: Sergeant Kenneth Higashi
SPEARFISH, SD — A World War II veteran was honored Friday in Spearfish.
Kenneth Higashi was a member of Company C, 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
It’s also known as the ‘Purple Heart Battalion’ for the number of deaths and injuries sustained during the liberation of France.
Sergeant Higashi, a 97 year old spearfish resident, was not only recognized by the country he served, but by the country in which he served.
“He’s from Spearfish, graduated high school here in 1941 as a Japanese-American in this town,” said Brian Hambek, Commander of the Spearfish American Legion Post 164.
Just a few months later was the attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that changed daily life for many Japanese-Americans.
After seeing his father taken to an internment camp, Higashi was given a choice: internment or service.
The rest is history.
He was an infantry assault squad leader and his battalion was tasked with freeing French towns under German siege.
Eventually their task turned to saving their own; the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry regiment who were trapped behind enemy lines.
The mission claimed the lives of hundreds of men.
Through the remainder of the war Higashi served in numerous missions until he was shot in the knees.
His strength and determination on display as he refused aid in favor of his comrades, crawling his way back to base camp.
Higashi was honorably discharged in 1945.
Now, almost three quarters of century later, he’s recognized for his courage with France’s highest medal of distinction, the French Legion of Honor.
“We talk about these gentleman like Sergeant Higashi as the greatest generation,” continued Hambek, “And the fact is that you can interview all the generals and sergeant majors and myself in the country, but what this man did trumps everything we could ever do.”
“It’s a true honor to be here to recognize one who I consider to be one of America’s great heroes,” said Major General Jeff Marlette, Adjutant General, South Dakota National Guard.
He’s also decorated with numerous medals including the Bronze Star medal, Purple Heart, and the United States Congressional Gold Medal.