SEPTEMBER 17, 1951


Born in Waiʻanae, Oahu, Pililaʻau was attending Cannon Business School when drafted into the Army in March 1951 & sent to Korea with Company C, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. After fighting in the Battle of Bloody Ridge, Company C was tasked to take one of Heartbreak Ridge’s peaks. When the attack stalled, his platoon set up a defensive perimeter. When other units began to attack the peak and Pilila’au’s platoon withdrew, his squad stayed to cover the retreat. One of the last to leave, he was hit by friendly fire. Staying, he used up his ammunition, threw his grenades, and finally threw rocks before charging the enemy–trench knife in one hand & punching with the other–before being bayonetted. His platoon found him with 40 dead enemy soldiers near him. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor (MOH) in 1952–the 1st Hawaiian MOH recipient. In 2000, the U.S. Navy christened a Military Sealift Command cargo ship, the USNS Pilila’au (T-AKR-304), in his honor. 

  “Private First Class Herbert K. Pililaau,” Veterans Legacy Education.  Retrieved 3/13/2022, HerbertKPililaau.pdf (
Photo:  U.S. Army, 1951. Public Domain. 

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