A Maui man who died fighting in Korea in 1951 will get a long-delayed Medal of Honor for his bravery on May 2, when President Barack Obama will make the award to his relatives at the White House, officials said.
Army Pfc. Anthony T. Kahoohanohano gave his life in a one-man stand against overwhelming numbers of enemy troops so fellow soldiers could survive.
As enemy troops tried to overrun Kahoohanohano’s gun emplacement, the 21-year-old from Wailuku fought back with bullets, grenades and then his hands, according to a Distinguished Service Cross citation presented to the family in 1952.
"Private Kahoohanohano fought fiercely and courageously, delivering deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy" until he was killed, the citation states.
U.S. troops subsequently found 11 dead enemy soldiers in front of Kahoohanohano’s position, and two in the gun emplacement itself who had been beaten to death with an entrenching tool.
The upgrade to the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, was approved by Congress in 2009 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Kahoohanohano’s sister, Elaine Kahoohanohano, and brother, Eugene Kahoohanohano, will join the president at the White House to "commemorate their brother’s example of selfless service and sacrifice," the White House said.
The addition of Kahoohanohano’s name to the Medal of Honor roll represented a more than decadelong effort by his family and Hawaii lawmakers to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross he received and to give him the recognition they said he deserved.
The quest by the family started by Abel Kahoohanohano Sr., one of Anthony’s brothers, and taken up by Abel’s son, George Kahoohanohano, after his father died.
A recommendation for a Medal of Honor was made by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink in 2001 but the request was denied by the Army. U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, then took up the cause.
Former Army Secretary Pete Geren wrote to Akaka saying that after giving the request "careful, personal consideration, I have determined that the Medal of Honor is the appropriate award to recognize Private First Class Kahoohanohano’s heroic actions."
All six Kahoohanohano brothers served in the military — four in the active duty Army, one in the Marines and another in the National Guard.
Kahoohanohano, who was with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, of the 7th Infantry Division, was in charge of a machine gun squad supporting a company of soldiers as a much larger enemy force advanced in the vicinity of Chup’a-ri, Korea, on Sept. 1, 1951.
According to the posthumously awarded Distinguished Service Cross citation, as the men fell back, Kahoohanohano — although already wounded in the shoulder — ordered his squad to a more defensible position while he gathered grenades and returned alone to the machine gun post.
"When his ammunition was depleted, he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed," a White House statement said. "His heroic stand so inspired his comrades that they launched a counterattack that completely repulsed the enemy."
In 2009, Madeline Kahoohanohano remembered Anthony, her brother-in-law, as a fearless man of his word. The son of a police officer, he was a football and basketball standout at St. Anthony’s School for Boys.
"He didn’t seem to be afraid of anyone," Madeline Kahoohanohano said at the time. "He always was a toughie. He always used to stand up — even for his younger brothers. He would step up and protect his younger brothers."