Memorial Day 2021: University City’s own Masayoshi “Mas” Tsuida

Grace and Masayoshi "Mas" Tsuida

Although Memorial Day officially takes place at the end of the month, today University City celebrates early and remembers one of its own, with Profile of a Patriot by Jerry Herrman: Have you known anyone who was a member of a fighting force whose unit was the most heavily decorated American infantry unit of WWII? If you drove or walked the north side of Governor Drive across the street from Carl’s Jr., you may have seen or met Masayoshi “Mas” Tsuida sweeping the area around the front of his house, or, in past years, seen him walking on nearby streets. Mas was a member of an elite Army unit in Europe during WWII. How he came to be in that position is in itself a remarkable story.

The year was 1941 and five years previously Mas had graduated from San Diego High School where he enjoyed wrestling and playing football. Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a deep-sea fisherman. Pearl Harbor was bombed while he and his father were aboard their boat (The Westgate) in the Pacific Ocean near Panama. When the boat returned to San Diego Mas was inducted into the US Army in February 1942. Shortly thereafter, under Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mas’ family along with other Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were placed in barbed wired internment camps. His father was sent to a camp in New Mexico while his mother and four siblings were sent to Poston, AZ.

While on leave from the Army, Mas visited his family at the camp and became interested in a lovely young woman by the name of Grace. They wrote to each other and subsequently married on February 27, 1944, at the Post Chapel at Fort Riley.

In response to the War Department’s call to form a segregated Japanese American Army unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), comprised almost entirely of second-generation Japanese Americans (known as Nisei) was organized in March 1943. These soldiers fought in Europe in the last two years of World War II.

Following infantry training, Mas was sent to Europe in March1944 and was wounded with shrapnel during one of the worst campaigns of the war – fighting the Germans in the Vosges Mountains of France. Mas’ unit (100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team) liberated the French towns of Biffontaine and Bruyeres from the German Army. A unit of the 141st Infantry Regiment comprised of the Texas National Guard became trapped on top of a mountain, short of water and food, and pounded by German artillery. After two other battalions were unable to extricate this Texas “Lost Battalion”, the 442nd and 100th Battalion were sent to rescue them.

After five days of ferocious combat with the Germans in mud and freezing weather, they reached the Texans, and within days rescued them. The 442nd suffered 1,000 casualties – 800 wounded and 200 killed in action. In 1962, Texas Governor John Connally paid tribute to the members of these units by making them all honorary Texans. In Bruyeres, the townspeople later built a monument to honor the Japanese American “Gentlemen” soldiers of the US Army who had rescued them. Additionally, in 2014 Mas and other veterans from his unit received the Legion of Honor Medal from the French Consul. The 442nd/100th BN is recognized as the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the US military.

Upon their return to the U.S., President Harry Truman held a special ceremony at the White House for them where he told the 100/442 troops, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to tell you what you have done for this country. You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice and you won!”

Mas returned to the U. S. in November 1945. On December 2, 1945, he received an honorable discharge having been awarded a Purple Heart Medal, a Bronze Star Medal, a Service Stripe, two Overseas Service Bars, an American Campaign Medal, a European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Battle Stars, a Good Conduct Medal, and a World War II Victory Medal Lapel Button.

Upon his return to civilian life in San Diego, Mas worked another 38 years as a commercial fisherman, during which he spent long periods out at sea. In 1970 Mas, Grace, and three of their children moved to University City.

After retirement, Mas was a hardcore Chargers Fan and he was seen frequently in the front yard or sitting on his front porch. He would wave to or talk with people who were walking by. Many in the neighborhood knew Mas and Grace. Mas was the patriarch of the family and was active in family events, leading by example. Sadly, Masayoshi Tsuida passed away in his home on January 31, 2021 at age 101.

Read the obituary for Masayoshi Tsuida in the San Diego Union


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