Francis Shigeo Takemoto, 89, a decorated World War II infantry officer who later, while serving in the Hawaiian National Guard, became the first Japanese American to reach the rank of brigadier general, died May 26 in Honolulu. Takemoto died in his sleep, apparently of causes related to aging.
Born in Honolulu to Japanese immigrant parents, Takemoto graduated from the University of Hawaii, where he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant through the Reserve Officer Training Program in 1935.
He added a teaching degree from UC Santa Barbara and taught mathematics until he was called to active duty when the U.S. entered World War II.
Takemoto fought with the 100th Infantry Battalion of the famed 442nd “Go for Broke” regiment in Anzio, Italy. Wounded in the head by shrapnel, he earned a Purple Heart, four battle stars, the Victory medal and a Presidential Citation with cluster.
At war’s end, Takemoto returned to teaching and later became an elementary school principal in Honolulu.
But he also joined the Hawaiian National Guard, helped reorganize it, and rose in the ranks. In 1964, he made history when Hawaii Gov. John A. Burns pinned the stars of a brigadier general on his uniform.
He will be buried June 11 at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Oahu’s Punchbowl, with a 21-gun salute, but by his preference, without the cannon salute normally accorded a general.