Rocky Y. Hirokawa (1970/03/08)

Rocky was one month short of a leave in Japan when his firebase was overrun.

Rocky Yukio Hirokawa, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Ichiro Hirokawa, was born on May 6, 1949, in Denver Colorado. His father, who was in the farming and poultry business, moved the family to Torrance, California, where Rocky entered high school. Ichiro's work brought the Hirokawa family to the Pajaro Valley in March 1966 and Rocky enrolled in Watsonville High School. In high school his friends remembered him "as a very quiet and helpful student," and "as a person easy to get along with and nice to be around." His father's work caused his parents to move to Gardena, California, during his senior year; however, Rocky remained at the Watsonville home of his aunt in order to finish school. Following graduation from high school in June 1967, he re-joined his parents in Southern California.

Hirokawa was drafted into the US Army in September 1968 and sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington. During his basic and advanced training, the army detected leadership potential in him and sent him to their NCO Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. A Combat Leadership NCO Course at Fort Ord, California, followed.

On September 2,1969, Rocky was sent to Vietnam and assigned as a squad leader in Company A, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Air Cav. Division. He participated in a number of patrols and missions and earned his first Bronze Star on January 9, 1970, in Phuoc Long Province. The citation read:
“When his unit became engaged, with a determined enemy force, with disregard for his own safety, he [Hirokawa] exposed himself to the hostile fire as he moved forward to the point of heaviest contact. He then began placing a heavy volume of suppressive fire on the enemy positions, to cover the medics while they treated the wounded.”

On March 8, 1970, Hirokawa and his platoon were participating in the Parrot's Beak March in Tay Ninh Province when they were ambushed.
“Sergeant Hirokawa immediately and with complete disregard for his own safety, charged through the intense enemy fire, setting up his machine gun and directing the suppressive fire of his men on the enemy positions. Although wounded, he courageously moved on, issuing orders and supervising his men. When another barrage of enemy mortar rounds landed near him, he received several pieces of shrapnel, but continued to lead his men on the attack.”

Over half of Company C was med-evacuated but it was too late for Rocky. His friend Robert (Cowboy) Estep, who was also wounded, moved over and offered comfort to Sergeant Hirokawa before he died.

His body was recovered and following a funeral service in Gardena, was buried in San Pedro, California. In addition to receiving a second Bronze Star, Rocky Hirokawa received the Purple Heart for this action.

(VVMW; WHSM; WRP March 16, 1970)

Creator: Nelson, Robert L.
Source: Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010.
Date: Undated
Type: OBIT
Coverage: 1970s
Rights: Reproduced by permission of Robert L. Nelson and The Museum of Art & History.
Identifier: RO-HIROKAWA

Citation

Nelson, Robert L. “Rocky Y. Hirokawa (1970/03/08).” Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010. SCPL Local History. https://history.santacruzpl.org/omeka/items/show/4917. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.