b. 10/10/1928 Waianae, Hawaii. d. 17/09/1951 Pia-ri, Korea.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 17/09/1951 Pia-ri, Korea.
Pililaau was born and raised in Waianae to William Kaluhi Pililaau and Abigail Keolalani Kailieha, in a working-class suburb of Honolulu in what was then the Territory of Hawaii. He was the ninth of fourteen children, nine brothers and five sisters. His parents were both Native Hawaiians and his mother, Abigail, spoke English and Hawaiian. She was the daughter of Luka (Kailieha) Norton. Pililaau was a talented singer and ukulele player and an avid reader. After graduating from Waipahu High School in 1948, he studied administration, secretarial work, and accounting at Cannon Business School.
Drafted into the Army, he attended basic training at Fort Shafter. He briefly considered declaring himself a conscientious objector, as his Christian faith made him unsure of killing others, but decided against this idea. He was sent to Korea in March 1951 and served as a private first class with Company C, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Volunteering to be his squad's automatic rifleman, Pililaau carried a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). In August he participated in the Battle of Bloody Ridge, in which the 2nd Infantry Division attacked and captured a ridge in east central Korea. Their next objective was a hill mass just to the north, near Pia-ri, which would come to be known as Heartbreak Ridge.
Pfc. Pililaau, a member of Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. The enemy sent wave after wave of fanatical troops against his platoon which held a key terrain feature on "Heartbreak Ridge." Valiantly defending its position, the unit repulsed each attack until ammunition became practically exhausted and it was ordered to withdraw to a new position. Voluntarily remaining behind to cover the withdrawal, Pfc. Pililaau fired his automatic weapon into the ranks of the assailants, threw all his grenades and, with ammunition exhausted, closed with the foe in hand-to-hand combat, courageously fighting with his trench knife and bare fists until finally overcome and mortally wounded. When the position was subsequently retaken, more than 40 enemy dead were counted in the area he had so valiantly defended. His heroic devotion to duty, indomitable fighting spirit, and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.
BURIAL LOCATION: NATIONAL MEMORIAL CEMETERY OF PACIFIC, HONOLULU.
Section P, Site 127
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