The Taro Leaf-let (Blog)
The Taro Leaflet is a blog published to celebrates the history of the 24th Infantry Division and other items of interest to members of the 24th Infantry Division Association.
Redemption at Leyte: U.S. Army Captain Francis B. Wai
By Dieter Stenger, U.S. Army Center of Military History
Around the same time General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore on October 20, 1944 at Leyte, Philippines, and delivered his famous radio message to the Filipino people, declaring his return "as the voice of freedom" during the "hour of their redemption," Captain Francis B. Wai fought the Japanese with the greatest valor until he was killed in action for the principles of MacArthur’s declaration.
The strategic invasion of Leyte of the Philippines island group began on October 17, 1944, in order to cut the Japanese sea lines of communication and threaten Japan's internal communications within the archipelago. Captain Francis B. Wai, of Honolulu, Hawaii, served with the 34th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division out of Schofield Barracks, Oahu. He was one of only a few Asian-American officers in the U.S. Army in 1944.
The 24th Division was one of two belonging to X Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert. Together with Maj. Gen. John R. Hodge's XXIV Corps that formed the U.S. Sixth Army under Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, both corps came ashore at Leyte in the face of light Japanese resistance.
The assault beach (Red) assigned to the 24th Division was narrow but consisted of firm sand. Behind the beach the Japanese established a tank obstacle, tunnels and well-concealed pillboxes among thick jungle growth and marshy ground. Open rice paddies fringed Hill 522, the most prominent terrain feature, which dominated the beaches and roads in the surrounding area.
The 34th Infantry led the attack, landing the regiment in battalion columns. The Japanese allowed the first wave to land but unleashed mortar and machine gun fire when the following waves were 2,000-3,000 meters offshore, inflicting heavy casualties. Japanese gunfire from positions located in a palm grove frustrated the assault.
With many senior NCOs and officers either killed or wounded, Captain Wai found the beaches crowded with disorganized and pinned down soldiers. When Company K ran into a series of five defensive pillboxes, Captain Wai took command of the situation and issued orders. Disregarding heavy enemy machine gun fire, Wai moved inland without cover and inspired the men to follow. During the advance, Captain Wai deliberately exposed himself to draw Japanese fire from enemy strong points in order to reveal their locations. The pillboxes were systematically neutralized with BARs and hand grenades. Wai was killed while leading an assault against the last remaining Japanese pillbox.
Harold Rant, a wire technician from the Headquarters Battalion said of Wai, "A hero came forth but we knew he had come to die. He was a big Hawaiian captain, one of the most popular officers." Rant added, "Word passed that he was really ripping and had knocked out three pillboxes. With real luck, he was jumping, running, dodging, and crawling under machine gun fire to get hand-grenades into the fortresses. At about the fifth one they got him, laced him with fire and he was hit ten times through the chest."
Captain Wai was largely responsible for the speed by which the beachhead was secured. For his actions, Captain Wai posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross.
On June 21, 2000, Captain Wai's Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor was donated by the brother, Robert Wai, to the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, Fort DeRussy, Hawaii. The medal is part of the U.S. Army Historical Collection.
Master Sgt. Keeble Medal of Honor Recipient
The inspiring story of Medal of Honor recipient Army Master Sgt. Woodrow Keeble (Eagle Feather), who distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Sangsan-ni, Korea, on October 20, 1951.
Produced by Army Sgt. Brian Buckwalter
Video courtesy of the Pentagon Channel
(LENGTH – 23.36)
A photo and biography of Pvt. 1st Class James H. Diamond is displayed at the James H. Diamond Elementary School during the facility's ribbon cutting ceremony at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Aug. 24, 2017. After a three-year-long building phase, the school officially opened for the 2017-2018 school year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sierra A. Melendez.),
School Named in Honor of 24th ID MOH Recipient Officially Opens at New Facility
The new James H. Diamond Elementary School at Fort Stewart, Georgia officially opened to the public during the facility's ribbon cutting ceremony at Fort Stewart on Aug. 24, 2017.
The school was named after Pvt. 1st Class James H. Diamond, a 24th Infantry Division soldier who was killed in action while trying to save the lives of his comrades in the Philippines in 1945. Diamond was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valiant and intrepid actions. Originally called the Fort Stewart Elementary School, the school was renamed for Diamond in 1982.
Construction on the $40 million facility began in October of 2014 about 1.5 miles east of the existing facility. The original school, built in 1963, did not meet current Americans with Disabilities Act criteria or satisfy current design standards of the Department of Defense Education Activity. There are three schools located at Fort Stewart including Diamond, Kessler and Murray Elementary Schools.
The new school features an open layout with operable wall panels that slide open, promoting a collaborative educational environment. The two-story, 122,000 square foot facility also includes a kitchen and teachers' area for each quad of classrooms, an outside amphitheater with a stage, gymnasium, three playgrounds and an energy system that tracks electricity-saving efforts.
Diamond’s great niece, Kelly Strozier, and great nephews Scott Evers and Jarrod Gruber, were present for the ceremony and boasted on the warm welcome they were given by the 3rd Infantry Division which is currently garrisoned at Fort Stewart. Fort Stewart was the home of the 24th Infantry Division from 1975 to 1996.
“It’s great to see how the service continues to put family first,” said Evers. “He [Diamond] would absolutely be amazed by this facility. He continues to make an impact so long after his death, and it’s comforting to see he isn’t forgotten.”
James H. Diamond joined the Army from Gulfport, Mississippi in September 1943. He served as a Private First Class in Company D, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.
On May 8, 1945, and the following six days, at Mintal, Mindanao, the Philippines, Diamond repeatedly distinguished himself by his actions in battle and by volunteering for hazardous assignments, such as evacuating wounded and repairing a bridge under heavy fire. On May 14, Diamond was killed after running through intense hostile fire to reach an abandoned machine gun during a mission to evacuate wounded soldiers. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on March 6, 1946. PFC Diamond, aged 20 at his death, is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Gulfport, Mississippi.
Original Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Sierra A. Melendez,
50th Public Affairs Detachment, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs.
(From left to right) Dr. Christy Huddleson, Department of Defense Education Activity Americas Southeast District Superintendent; Col. Jason A. Wolter, Fort Stewart garrison commander; Nathanial Aguilar, Diamond Elementary student; Ms. Kathleen Reiss, DoDEA Americas South Carolina/Fort Stewart community superintendent; Shalayah Dukes, Diamond Elementary student; Scott Evers, great nephew of Pvt. 1st Class James H. Diamond; Kelly Strozier, great niece of Pvt. 1st Class James H. Diamond; and Jarrod Gruber, great-great nephew of Pvt. 1st Class James H. Diamond, cut a ribbon formally celebrating the opening of the modern, state-of-the-art James H. Diamond Elementary School at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Aug. 24, 2017. After a three-year-long building phase, the school officially opened for the 2017-2018 school year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sierra A. Melendez.)