A Soldier's Story: Private First Class Herbert Kailieha Pililaau


Private First Class Herbert Kailieha Pililaau was born on October 10, 1928, in Wai'anae, Hawaii.  He was a talented musician and ukulele player and was known to be an avid reader.  He graduated from Waipahu High School in 1948 and briefly attended Canon Business School.  

A devout Christian, Private First Class Pililaau briefly considered registering as a conscientious objector but would ultimately reconcile his faith with the Korean War and accepted his draft registration. He enlisted in the US Army and trained as a rifleman. Private First Class Pililaau deployed to Korea with the 23rd Infantry Regiment in March 1951.

Private First Class Herbert Pililaau earned a Congressional Medal of Honor on September 17, 1951, during the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.  While his unit was attempting to take Hill 931, the enemy sent repeated attacks, disabling the unit and forcing a retreat.  Private First Class Pililaau remained behind at his post and provided cover fire.  As the enemy began to overrun his position and he ran out of ammunition, Private First Class threw rocks and fought hand to hand, using his trench knife.  He was eventually overwhelmed.   When the hill was finally secured and his position reached, Private First Class Pililaau was surrounded by the bodies of 40 enemy soldiers.

He rests at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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