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Soldiers who died in a plane crash during WWII are awarded Purple Heart medals, nearly 79 years later

Photos of Hawaii men who got awarded with Purple Heart (Via Alex Roy/Shutterstock)

The families of five men from Hawaii who served as Japanese-language translators during World War II received Purple Heart medals on Friday, almost 80 years after their deaths in a plane crash towards the end of the war.

“I can’t express it. I’m just overwhelmed,” said Wilfred Ikemoto, emotional as he spoke about the long-awaited recognition given to his older brother Haruyuki.

Haruyuki Ikemoto was one of 31 men killed when their C-46 transport plane crashed into a cliff while attempting to land in Okinawa, Japan, on August 13, 1945.

“I’m just glad that he was acknowledged,” Ikemoto said.

According to Army records, only two out of the 31 men had received Purple Heart medals, which are given to soldiers wounded or killed in action against an enemy.

Members of the Sogi family (Via Alex Roy/Shutterstock)

Recently, researchers in Hawaii and Minnesota discovered this oversight, prompting the Army to agree to award medals to the families of the other 29 men who were not previously recognized.

The researchers located families of the five men from Hawaii, and the Army is now urging relatives of the remaining 24 men to come forward so their loved ones can also be honored.

Haruyuki Ikemoto, the fourth of ten children, was the first in his family to attend college at the University of Hawaii. He was a talented photographer who developed film in a makeshift darkroom at home.

“I remember him as probably the smartest and most talented in our family,” said Wilfred Ikemoto, who was 10 years old when his brother passed away.

The plane carried 12 paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division, five soldiers from a Counter-intelligence Detachment assigned to the paratroopers, 10 Japanese American linguists in the Military Intelligence Service, and four crew members.

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