Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Daniel Inouye Interview
Narrator: Sen. Daniel Inouye
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Beverly Kashino (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 30, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-idaniel-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Senator, over the years you've developed a relationship with Shiro Kashino. I guess, the first question I have for you is how did the two of you meet?

DI: Well, it was after the war, because in an organization such as a regiment or battalion, you generally got acquainted with men of your platoon or your company at the most. Your neighbors, you may know a few of them, but as a general rule you stayed within your company confines, but after the war in discussing veteran matters with fellow veterans, it was unavoidable. The leader of the veterans in the Seattle area was Kash -- Kashino. So if you want to discuss anything about the 442nd, you have to touch base with Kash.

TI: And what kind of man was Kash?

DI: He was up front, he was honest, he had a good sense of humor, and although he knew that the charges against him were false and should have been cleared, he kept on working.

TI: In Seattle, Kash was known as a very good fighter while in Europe. In a similar way you were also known as a very good fighter in Europe. And the question I have is what are the factors or characteristics that make a good fighter?

DI: I don't know what you mean by good fighters, but Kash and I were considered gentle people, but there is something that happens to a person when there's a cause. One must keep in mind that the people who stepped forward and volunteered, I think, constituted a rather special breed. I'm not suggesting we were supermen or people better than the rest, but when you consider the times like Kash, volunteering from a camp, a concentration camp, to serve and defend a country that had incarcerated him, that's extraordinary. When I first learned about these camps and visited one of those, I had to ask myself the question -- would I have volunteered. To this day I'm not able to give an honest response because I can't say honestly yes, I would have or no, I would not have. But the fact that hundreds upon hundreds volunteered under those conditions is not only historic, it's almost unbelievable. I don't suppose there's any similar chapter in our history, the history of the United States, where people in large numbers stood up and said we're going to defend a country that is doing us harm. And when you look back to the life in the camps, here again children standing up before school and pledging allegiance to the flag, it's almost beyond comprehension. And when you consider the buildup of animosity and hatred in certain circles and to have these men step forward, that's extraordinary.

TI: No, I agree. They were extraordinary men. Last year Shiro Kashino --

DI: But they were not brutes. In ordinary life I'm certain Kash, before he got into the service, was a fun loving, young fellow like all of us. In fact, if you look over the list of those who have received medals, they're not the huge, brutish looking men. They usually look angelic. [Laughs]

TI: In fact, I've known the Kashino family for thirty years and knew Bev's father, and I didn't even know this side of him 'til later on as I did research so you're right, he was a very gentle man.

BK: However, he did get in his fair amount of squabbles before, during, and after the war.

DI: All of us this have those problems. [Laughs]

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Well, in thinking about Shiro, Shiro died last year and I know that he really wanted to come to this reunion in particular to see you and his other comrades. In his stead Bev and the family came. What thoughts do you have or words do you have for Bev and the rest of the family about her father?

DI: Well, I'm really sorry that he's not here with us for this reunion, which in all likelihood is our very last one, a national one. The companies will continue to have their annual gatherings, but when you consider that the average age of the men in the regiment must be at this moment about seventy-seven, five years from now the average age will be eighty-two. And according to statistics and the census, we don't live forever, so this may be our last gathering. But I'm certain Kash is happy wherever he is, because he obviously would be with his men.

TI: When you think about this being possibly the last national reunion, what would you like to see happen at this last reunion with the men?

DI: Nothing extraordinary because our work has been done. I think if we can leave this place knowing that the future is in good hands because in this convention you will note the active work of the sons and daughters, for example. I think that in and of itself should please us that for some, the work will continue, our message will be heard for generations to come. So we're going to have fun. We're not going to come forth and pass resolutions of massive importance, calling upon the Congress to pass this law, that law. We're not going to do those things. I think for the most part, the convention's highlights would be the company gatherings. Kash's company will get together, I Company will get together, K Company, E Company. And we'll be rehashing the war and the war will get bigger and bigger and the heroics get [Laughs] much more valorous.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Let's switch gears a little bit now and talk about more about your personal history. And why don't we start back to 1922 and a piece of legislation that happened back then, and why don't you just talk about that a little bit.

DI: Well, I was born in 1924, but I became aware of the Supreme Court decision of 1922 rather early in my life. That decision declared that Japanese were not qualified for citizenship, and as a result of that, the practical effect was that a Japanese could not be naturalized. And in more practical terms, my father who was born in Japan, came over as a child of two, got his education here, paid his taxes, and served well, could not be naturalized. And when he married my mother who was born in Hawaii and a citizen, therefore, the moment she got married, she lost her citizenship because of a law that was passed. In 1924 a law was passed in the Congress, approved by the President, that said if a people is to be found unqualified for citizenship, their homeland would not qualify to receive a quota. See, this was the quota legislation. China would get so many, Korea so many etceteras, and in the case of Japan, it was singled out. The one country in the world without any immigration so if you use this as a background, I think one can understand why certain levels of animosity developed and existed prior to December the 7th. We as young people had no idea what was going on, but I knew that my mother had lost her citizenship.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Let's now jump forward now to December 7th, 1941, the day that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and let's talk specifically about your experiences as a young man, I believe, eighteen years old at that time.

DI: I was seventeen at that time and a senior in high school. I was well aware of the events of 1922 and '24. And although our neighbors were very friendly and understanding, when the news of December the 7th finally hit me and I realized what had happened, I sort of concluded that the end of the world was here as far as our future is concerned. Because after all, the men who piloted those planes looked like us, looked like me. And who knows, some may have been related, cousins or something like that, because I do have relatives in Japan, all of us have. So it was a difficult time, but our neighbors accepted us. They understood the problems that we had. They felt sorry for us that we were singled out for special treatment by the FBI. And I was, believe it or not, an employee of the federal government soon after December the 7th. I was a member of the first aid station and had been training for over a year. For some reason we anticipated problems in Hawaii. In fact, on December the 7th there were bomb shelters already built so it was wasn't anything new, and we were already training for over a year on how to participate in mass injuries or mass evacuations. And so when December the 7th came, the aid station was already established, and I was put on the federal payroll as a member of the civil defense agency.

TI: And describe what was happening at the aid stations after the attack.

DI: Well, I've been told -- I have no way of documenting this -- I may very likely have picked up the first civilian dead of December the 7th. What had happened in the hysteria of the initial bombing when our anti-aircraft units went into operation, I think some of the men got so excited that they forgot to put the timer on. See, these shells have to be timed so that it will burst at a certain height, and if the planes are coming in at so many feet, you set it up for that height. Well, there were, I would say, about ten shells during that period that somehow failed to have these timers and many of them fell in our neighborhood, and so the aid station in which I worked was called upon to do the work. And I led the stretcher team that picked up this elderly Japanese lady who was just having her breakfast at that time, I think, oblivious to the fact that an attack was in progress, and a shell just went through the roof and sliced her head.

TI: I mean, probably at that moment you couldn't think about this, but do you ever reflect back on the ironies of, in the planes the pilots were Japanese, and perhaps the first is a civilian, this is the first time I've heard this, was a Japanese.

DI: My first reaction as a young man was anger to think that my future was now destroyed because of the stupid act on the part of the Japanese. I was like most people, I had no idea as to what was happening diplomatically, and I had no idea as to whether such justification existed. All I knew is that these people who looked like me, dropped those bombs and, therefore, had an impact on my future, which it did.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: I'm going to now jump forward to, because later you enrolled at the University of Hawaii as a pre-med student, and the government then asked Americans of Japanese ancestry to volunteer for military service. And I wanted to ask you what your reaction was when you heard about this.

DI: Well, we greeted this with jubilation. Now keep in mind that on February 19th, the executive order was issued authorizing the army to set up concentration camps. Now, we in Hawaii had no idea that these camps had been established, all we knew was that every so often we would hear that so and so disappeared. I had no idea that there was a camp in Ewa on this island until after the war, that some of my neighbors were there, school teachers and priests. And there were those who just disappeared from our neighborhood, and we found out after the war that they were in other camps on the mainland. There were hundreds from Hawaii who were shipped out, but the major numbers of us were not affected. We were left here.

TI: And then going back to your case so when the government said Americans of Japanese ancestry could volunteer for the service --

DI: Well, we had asked for it. On March 17th when the government of the United States designated Japanese as 4-C, which is a designation for enemy alien, many of us took this as personal matter, an insult to us. We considered ourselves just as good Americans as our neighbors, and so we began petitioning Washington. We began offering ourselves to do anything, dig ditches, string barbed wire, what have you. And an organization called the Varsity Victory Volunteers was formed, made up of university students who went out to dig trenches and put up barbed wires, and I was too young for that, but then I also signed these petitions. And when the president of the United States issued a statement saying that, "Americanism is a matter of mind and heart, it is not and has never been a matter of race or color," and declared that if we wished we can volunteer and become part of this special combat team, and when that announcement was made, together with several of my classmates, we literally ran from the campus to the draft board. That's a couple of miles. We ran there and we signed up.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And after you signed up and went back home, what did your mother and father say?

DI: Well, they anticipated that. In fact, in most homes very quietly they must have said, shikata ga nai. They anticipated this. And naturally no mother or father would want to see their sons leave and possibly not return, but they sensed the mission and, I think, approved.

BK: Given your mother had lost her citizenship upon marrying your father, with that in your mind did that enter your mind as Japanese Americans were classified as enemy aliens at that time in terms of what would happen to you, what would happen to Japanese Americans?

DI: Well, knowing that and having that in the back of my mind, that's why I was angry that this event very likely could have shattered all of my dreams of the future. But when the opportunity was presented to us to sign up and volunteer, I think I reached a conclusion that many others reached that this was the opportunity we have been waiting for possibly to be able to demonstrate once and for all that we are Americans, unhyphenated Americans. So that's why over 85 percent of the eligible men in Hawaii volunteered.

TI: You were upset that your dreams were sort of upset in terms of, because of the war, the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor. Tell me, what were some your dreams?

DI: Well, I wanted to be a physician, a surgeon to be precise. I wanted to be part of the mainstream of the United States, raise a family, and have a practice. You know, these are dreams, but then when this war came around, I could see a future made up of a segregation of good Americans and bad Americans. And knowing what had happened in '22 and '24, I thought, I could just imagine what was in stock for us.

TI: And earlier you had mentioned you had anger towards the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbor. Did you also have anger toward the American government as a young man because of sort of this segregation happening?

DI: No, not much. I think one should remember the times and should recall that early immigrants, my grandparents and my parents, came from a society and a background that's quite different from today. They, for the most part, were not successes in their communities. If they were, they wouldn't be here. They would have stayed back there. Why should they want to move out to a strange land not knowing what is in the future? And where they came from, for centuries they had lived a life of classes, above oppressing the ones below. That was part of the life, samurai and those below that, the rich and the poor. So it was just transferring the head man from a yellow man to a white man. And so you found Japanese workers to be rather docile and "Hai, hai, hai." And in fact, in many cases some of the plantation workers looked upon their new bosses to be much more liberal and understanding than the bosses in Japan. So the part of life was that you don't condemn your bosses.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Going back to volunteering, as gung-ho as you were to volunteer, in your autobiography as I read it, there was a case where you almost didn't get into the 442. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

DI: Well, I was in pre-med and that put me in a different category because our nation was at that moment looking for doctors because they knew that the casualties would be high. And secondly and most importantly, I was then employed in a job that was considered essential: the aid station. And when the draft board advised me that that was the reason for being turned down, I immediately, without hesitation, quit school and quit my job. That afternoon I resigned and I reported back to the draft board and said, "I'm ready now." So officially I was second to the last as far as the regiment is concerned. My serial number is 30106416. The last serial number for the men who left Hawaii on the first batch is 30106417. [Laughs]

TI: That's a good story. I liked that when I read it.

DI: In fact, when they had the big parade to say good-bye to the men and they all assembled in front of the palace, I was in the crowd saying good-bye to them.

TI: Because at that point you didn't know yet.

DI: I got in about three days before we left.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Well, and then shortly after that, after you got in, the inductees assembled at Schofield, and they took a train part way to the pier, but then you had to march about a mile to get to the pier. Can you tell us about that?

DI: The train ended at the Oahu railway station, which is in Iwilei, and from that point we walked until Pier 7. The Lurline, the great passenger vessel, was painted gray and converted into a troop ship. We, all of us, carried huge duffel bags. We were not soldiers at that point, no training. Our uniforms didn't fit and we carried ukuleles and guitars and all kinds of things like that, very unmilitary-like, and we were not in condition obviously. And so it was a rag tag group of -- we looked like prisoners. And on each side were scores of military police, tall, white officers and men with guns and rifles, and telling to us stay in line. And then for some reason the word had gone out into the community that we were leaving that day. Although it was supposed to be a military secret, thousands of parents and family members were lined up along the street there, and you can hear them calling out the names of their sons or their sweethearts or their wives or husbands. And once in a while some person would run up, and the MP would rush out, grab that person, "Get back." And so the departure was not one that we should have anticipated. Departure from any country for men who go off to war is a glorious sign, a glorious scene, with band music and flowers, but this was not the case. They could have put all our bags in a truck, easily done that, and we could have walked head up. Instead we dragged ourselves. [Laughs] I will never forgive my country for doing that because the parents looking at this, this may have been the last sight of their sons. To see their sons dragging themselves, looking like prisoners, is not a sight that parents should recall 'cause that's the last view.

TI: Later as a senator, did you ever look into why it was done this way or as a senator did you ever do anything?

DI: No, there is no way. That's military orders, some foolish commander, some colonel, or some captain, or maybe trucks were not available. I have no idea. I don't question them, but I thought it was ridiculous.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Let's now go to Camp Shelby and describe what Camp Shelby was like when you first arrived.

DI: I think you should go a few days before Camp Shelby.

TI: Okay. Let's go a few days before.

DI: When we were on the ship, we had no idea where we were headed for. We knew we were going to the mainland, and when we saw the Golden Gate, it was a beautiful sight. We landed in Oakland and we got on trains. And we did our traveling 24 hours and the only time the train stopped to let us off to stretch ourselves was at night. When you think back, it's understandable. If we went through a town or city and let us off at three o'clock in the afternoon and we walked out, people might stone us, they might think we're prisoners and so everything was done at night. Just about the time we left Oakland, the word spread around that we were headed for Mississippi. I'm telling you, the reaction was just one of disbelief and horror because after all the only thing we knew about Mississippi as young men was that Mississippi was a state where they lynch people, that they didn't like colored people, and we were colored. And so all these scenarios became part of our imagination. What's going to happen to us? Are they going to put us in a special camp? But I must say this much, though the Mississippians treated blacks strangely, they accorded us a lot of friendship. They opened up their homes. In fact, in the early days and throughout our training, the USO operated and young ladies served us coffee, danced with us and such. And something strange happened the first month we were there, we received a letter, which was read by every company commander to the assembled company, and the letter was from the Governor of the state of Mississippi. And it went something like, "Welcome to Mississippi. You will do your training here to prepare yourselves for service to our country. While you are here, you will be considered white." [Laughs] When we heard that, I thought, "Oh, my God. We're haoles now." [Laughs] And my company commander was a young man from Hawaii and so he was brought up living with us. He was furious. He put on dark glasses on that day because he didn't want us to see his eyes of anger, but he was required. He said, "I have to read this because I'm ordered to read this."

TI: I don't quite understand. Why was he so angry?

DI: That we would continue to be targets of discrimination, either reverse or otherwise. And then we were told that we should conduct ourselves like white people so we can't sit in the last three rows of a bus, which we thought was ridiculous. We're standing while the three last rows are empty, no one is sitting there. And we have to go to a restaurant that's declared to be white. And I learned a phrase. As a young child there was a theater here, Hawaii Theater, with a mezzanine, and the mezzanine was for us the preferred area because you could look at the screen without anyone obstructing your view, and it was called "nigger heaven." And I didn't think much about it. "Let's go up to 'nigger heaven.'" Then in Mississippi I realized why, because in movie houses there were mezzanines in just about every movie house and that's where the African Americans were required to sit. They could not sit in the lower floor with the rest of the white people. They all had to sit up there and it was called "nigger heaven."

TI: And this term went all the way to Hawaii even though it wasn't practiced in Hawaii, this segregation.

DI: Yeah, somehow it got to us, but at that time we had no idea why it was called "nigger heaven." We thought it was called that because it was very dark up there.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: At Shelby this is where the Hawaiian contingent met a lot of the Americans of Japanese ancestry from the mainland. Tell me how that went, what the relationship was between the mainlanders and the Hawaiians?

DI: Well, the original encounter, I'm sorry to tell you, was not positive, it was not friendly. Both sides, especially the Hawaiian side, looked upon the others with some, I would say, well, distrust. For one thing it was easy to note that the mainland Japanese spoke a better brand of English. We, for the most part, spoke pidgin, which was absolutely foreign to the mainlanders because our pidgin was very unique and exclusive for Hawaii. It was a mixture of Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and a combination of strange construction. And so oftentimes people like Kash might be listening in to our conversation, and they would smile because it's funny, and some of the Hawaii guys didn't take that too well, "What are you laughing at?" And bang and fights became commonplace. It got so bad that at one stage during the early days of our training, senior officers of the regiment seriously discussed the possibility of disbanding the regiment, that if we could not work together, how can we ever consider going into combat together. Because a unit had to work together in discipline. And so frantically they tried all kinds of things: psychological gatherings, discussion groups, social hours. But fights continued and the kotonks would go on their own and we would go on our own. Then suddenly -- I don't know whose bright idea it was -- each company received invitations from two camps. Now keep in mind, we had no idea about these camps because to begin with our relationship wasn't good and they didn't tell us. They never discussed the camps. And so I think Jerome and Rohwer were the two camps in Arkansas. E Company received invitations from the people of Rohwer, Arkansas. I think the whole battalion went there. Each company sent about fifteen men or so, and by coincidence when we lined up, we were all from Hawaii, not a single mainlander. And for the most part, we were noncommission officers, opinion molders. I was a corporal at that time so I was one of those invited. And we thought well, we're going off to Rohwer and there's a large Japanese community -- we didn't know the community was in a camp. And so we got ourselves all gussied up, getting ready for a weekend with the young ladies. We had our ukuleles with us, and our guitars, and we left Mississippi early in the morning because it was going to be a long drive into Arkansas. Then I remember when we turned the corner, the bend of the road, and the valley came into view, and what we saw was row after row of barracks. Now, we thought this was a military camp and that we going to pass that to go someplace else. But no, we came up to this camp and stopped. High barbed wire fences and there are machine gun towers all around the camp with men there with machine guns. And greeting us at the camp, at the gate, were men in uniform with rifles and bayonets. We are in uniform and I thought, "What in the world is happening?" Then you look into the camp and there they were. And then it dawned on us what had happened, and at that moment thank God the men had the good sense not to search us. I can imagine if the guards began searching us. I think we would have had some bloodshed around there. But then the gates were opened and we were escorted in. And we found that these barracks had been vacated by families who either doubled up with other families so that we could stay in the barracks. And we said no, we'll sleep in the trucks or in the mess hall. And we tried our best to be happy and sociable, but it's not easy realizing what was happening there. And when we left, the atmosphere was totally different. Because when we arrived, we were all singing and playing ukuleles and having a great time, and when we left, it was absolute silence all the way to Mississippi. No one talked. And I can imagine what was going through their minds, and I think almost all of us must have asked ourselves -- would we have volunteered? That's a good question.

TI: And when you got back...

DI: Then when we got back, we could hardly wait to tell the fellows. And this is what they anticipated and so overnight the regiment was formed. Next morning you had the 442nd.

TI: That's a wonderful story.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: If things didn't work out and, in fact, some Nisei were unhappy that they were treated differently and assigned to a segregated unit at first, how do you feel about this? Do you think the Niseis would have fought as well if they were assigned individually to integrated units?

DI: No. I think number one, the realities of that time dictated that it should have been a segregated one. Because if I was sent in some other unit, I don't expect white men at that time or black men to treat me as their brothers, so what's the mission. But when we train together and fought as a unit with one goal in mind and one mission in mind, I think success was guaranteed. After the first battle and knowing what the 100th had done, I think most of us left Mississippi knowing that our mission would be accomplished.

TI: Something, as a Sansei, I thought about this. If we still had a segregated army during the Vietnam war because my older brother was of that era and if the infantry brigade was made up of --

DI: Officially the army became integrated during the time of Truman.

TI: No, I realize that, and this is more of a hypothetical, that if an infantry brigade was made up of volunteers from Hawaii and mainland Sanseis... I guess the question is how well do you think they would have performed compared to the 442? Sort of a Sansei generation...

DI: I think that's a bad comparison 'cause after all we had a mission. We were there for a purpose, it was not just being drafted and having to fight a war. We were there to prove once and for all that we were just as good as others, that we were Americans. In Vietnam it was not a matter of these men who were drafted, reluctantly got in. You can't make a comparison like that.

TI: Okay. I guess one of the things I'm looking for is the 442, there was a real specialness, a real togetherness, and part of that was a sense that there were all Japanese Americans, Americans of Japanese ancestry.

DI: It had to be that way.

TI: And whether or not that strength of being so close was a good thing that the military, the army, should also be thinking about in the future in terms of how do you create that closeness because that closeness can be such a powerful thing.

DI: Well, the military is a transient organization. Transient in the sense that unlike the 442nd, you do not train and fight as a unit. They go off to other units, replacements come in, and as a result it's very difficult to build up "espirit de corps." In the case of the 442nd, it was a natural. We all looked alike, we had the same mission, and we knew what we're there for -- no if's or but's.

TI: Right. And that's what I've learned, it's such a powerful thing.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Well, let's move towards Europe and when you crossed the Atlantic, it took almost a month for to you cross the Atlantic to reach Europe. What were you and the others thinking as you approached the landing in Europe?

DI: Well, I think all of us, in fact, 100 percent of us on the last days just before landing, must have had (much) going through our minds because you could sense the change. The first few weeks, you had a lot of activity: gambling, and singing, and carousing. But the last week gambling became a rarity, there was very little singing, people were just quiet. And you would see them standing on the deck looking out into the horizon and obviously thinking, doing a lot of thinking, and among that thinking was, "I hope I do well. I hope I do well." In fact, after our first battle, the encounter with the enemy, and we got together. I'm a curious fellow, so I asked each one of them, "What were you thinking about just before we got into battle?" Because we know at what point you're going to cross the line of departure and you know that at a certain point they're going to start shooting at you. What were your thoughts? And everyone had the same answer in a different way. One would say, "Boy, I hope I don't bring shame." Another would say, "I hope I do well. I hope I don't become a coward." It was something like my father said to me just before I got on the truck to leave. He said, "Whatever you do, don't dishonor the country or dishonor the family." And that's what it was. And for men of my generation, bringing shame upon the family or dishonoring the family was an important thing. And as a result there are certain statistics that we never think about, we just take for granted. For example, in Europe there were certain units where one half of the men had venereal disease, one half. In the 442nd it was a rarity. It was really rare. In my company only one person had it, and he had it before he came in. He was cured, but he was always identified as a VD and he never got promoted. There was an officer who got court martialed because he got gonorrhea. I think it's easy to say that our regiment was the cleanest in the whole United States military: army, navy, marine, air force.

TI: Because the men were just so careful because they did not want to bring shame to --

DI: They didn't want to go home with VD. That would bring shame upon the family and what young lady would marry him, right?

TI: That's interesting.

DI: And as a result this was very important. And so you would see gentle people who would fight like tigers because they wanted to bring glory and not shame.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And for you, how were those first few days? Were you thinking similar things?

DI: All of us were afraid. In fact, we would kid ourselves. I remember the first bombardment. We were walking along this roadway and all of a sudden artillery shells came pouring in. This is something we had never experienced. Over here, boom. And so the men just hit the ground on the road and here I am looking around and you would see here and there puddles of water. They're urinating 'cause of fear. Sphincter muscles get loose, it's a natural reaction. And I remember, couple of them were rather embarrassed. I said, "Nothing to be embarrassed about. This is natural." And after a while you learn to control fear, but to say that no one is afraid, that person must be insane. Every battle I went into, I was afraid.

TI: In those early days, those early battle days, how did death of a comrade effect the men in these early days?

DI: Well, blood was not a commonplace occurrence. You saw blood when you gashed yourself or you stepped on a nail or something like that, but to see the gore and the ripped out bodies and half a face gone, that's a new experience unless you got involved in some terrible automobile accident. And so to see that was devastating for some of us. It took us a little while to get over it, but once you get to see death... becomes commonplace. And you don't forget them, but we'll move on to the next day. I lost many friends.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

BK: In the first campaign, in your journey to Washington you spoke of Captain Ensminger and that he was a special person. He was your first captain and he died in the first campaign.

DI: He was the first casualty. He was our company commander, but he was promoted to become the battalion company commander. He was in command of the Second Battalion Company and Headquarters Company, and he got shot. Artillery shell just landed on him so on day one he was killed.

BK: That must have been pretty demoralizing.

DI: He was a good man; he was a good friend of ours. Well, it was, we got a little shaken by that when the news reached us, but you learn to overcome that, most of us. There are some who -- not too many -- who to this day carry the scars. I know of one person in our battalion who had to undergo psychiatric treatment, which is astounding to think that just one. I would think it should be commonplace, but that's another thing about don't bring shame. Even if you have that feeling, you don't want to share it with others and suggest to others that something's wrong.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: As the unit lost their officers, they had to be replaced and people received battlefield commissions. You were one of the ones who received a battlefield commission. Why were you chosen to be an officer?

DI: Well, I've asked myself that question: why was I selected? I was nineteen when I was leading my platoon, and I was told later that on my twentieth birthday my company commander, without my knowledge, had submitted my name for commission. And it took about a month and half to process that and so in November I got my commission. Frankly, I wasn't too happy about that because I wanted to remain an enlisted man to have the life with all the men and gamble and do things like that.

TI: But what were some of the reasons you think you were chosen? I know you thought about this.

DI: Well, I know that I was considered a good patrol leader. In fact, I remember in Italy in the early days of the war, the Second Battalion had to replace the Third Battalion -- that's Kash's battalion -- and the replacement had to be done during the day, which is a tricky maneuver in broad daylight to move a battalion of troops to replace another battalion elsewhere because the casualties are high. And I don't know why, but they called upon E Company to send a special patrol and my company commander just said, "You go." And I said, "What's my mission?" And he says, "Find a trail from here to there." And so you had to be out of the sight of the enemy. Well, what had happened along walking on this trail along the mountainside away out of the sight of the enemy, I came across stacks of 442nd Third Battalion men. They were just lined up dead. This was the job of the grave registration officer, ready to be picked up and taken away. And so I looked at them and I (said to myself), "Oh, this is horrible thing to have a whole battalion pass by and see these dozens of men lined up dead." All shapes and maybe some with no heads and all of that business. So I told my squad let's back up and then we went down into the valley, and we went up again to join the trail. So I got back to the battalion and I told the battalion commander, "I'm ready." He says, "Okay. Lead the way." And so I started leading the whole battalion (to the bend in the trail a short distance from the 442 dead) and then at this point I went down (into the valley). The word came down from the colonel, "Hold it." And he called me back and he says, "What in the hell is happening here? Why don't you just continue?" I said, "Colonel, if you go further around the bend, there are several dozen dead, all lined up in all conditions, and I don't think you want your men to pass by that and throw up and faint." And at that point I became his favorite patrol leader. I think I asked for it so after that he thought I was great, and every time he had some special patrol he would say, "Inouye, you go." I became pretty good at it.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: When you received your battlefield commission, this was right about the time of the Battle of the Lost Battalion, and you, I think, rejoined the 442 right after that battle. And an event that happened right after that battle was that General Dahlquist requested a retreat parade where he had the 442 assemble so that he could address them. Describe what happened at this event.

DI: Well, when the battle ended, I was then an officer, officer for a couple of days. I was told that the colonel received a message from General Dahlquist ordering him to assemble the 442nd in some field so that he could address us and give us the official thanks and gratitude of the 36th Division. And so we were called to participate in a retreat parade, which is the high formal parade where the band marches and each company in turn, we go through a whole ritual of, "E Company all present and accounted for, F Company all present and accounted for." And so we assembled in the field and the general looked out at the regiment and he started berating the colonel, actually scolding him. And I got this from officers who were there, he said, "Colonel, I told you to have the whole regiment out here, but apparently you disobeyed my orders and you sent most of your men out on furlough or passes." And the colonel turned around and said, "This is the regiment. Only two men from each company are left in the company area to guard the equipment. The rest of them are all here." And he was so dumbfounded, he could not talk. See, what he had seen was, for example, I think it was K Company, the company commander was a staff sergeant and there were nine men behind him, two men in the company area -- a total of twelve survived the Lost Battalion battle. I Company was almost close to that. The company with the largest number of personnel was my company, E Company. We had forty-two men, but when you consider that full contingent of officers and men of a company was a hundred and ninety-seven... and granted that we went into battle, we were already cut by one third because we were in battle elsewhere. But to come down to that number with 800 casualties, the general could not speak. He presented a plaque. That plaque was somehow handed over to a clerk, and that plaque ended up in somebody's duffel bag, and it was not located until long after the war. And right after that our colonel asked for reassignment. He says, "I can't continue this."

TI: Because of what, working under the General Dahlquist?

DI: To be called upon to lead his men to death. You see, we knew we were expendable. We knew that we were so good that we were requested by other units to serve as shock troops or assault troops. That's what we were. We were put from one area to another. And after the Lost Battalion we went down to the south to regroup ourselves and get replacements. When we went back to Italy, we were the assault troops to lead the last charge.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: I want to go back to get your impressions as a new officer when you saw how devastated the 442 was. What was going through your mind?

DI: You described it rather correctly because when I was informed that the adjutant of the regiment wanted to see me, we were all set to cross the line. In other words, to go into combat. I had already ordered the men to take off their packs, just to carry the ammo and water and medicine. That means you going to get into heavy combat. And here I was looking at my clock waiting for my time to come and this messenger comes up and says, "Hey, the captain want to see you." So I thought well, there must be a change of orders or something so sensitive that they can't go through the walkie talkie. And so I went back, he gave me an envelope, and he says, "The adjutant wants to see you." For a moment I thought now, what have I done wrong. You see the adjutant's for court martial and so I got on the jeep and they drove me back to Bruyeres where the headquarters was, and I reported and the sergeant saluted me. I looked around and didn't occur to me he was saluting me, and then I went in and I says, "Sergeant Inouye reporting." I says, "Well... what am I here for?" He says, "Well, you're an officer now." He says, "All you got to do is take the oath." It was so unexpected. I didn't know what was going on and then I took the oath, took a physical, and I found that I was physically underweight. Can you imagine I was 115? [Laughs] My waist was something like 27, but hard as nails. [Laughs] My hair was down to my shoulders because we were in combat for about a month and a half without break and so it was long. So I got a haircut and then when I got back to the front, the war was just about over as far as the battle of the Lost Battalion. I got into the last... oh, hour or so, but by then it was all over. When I left my platoon, my platoon was one of the smaller ones. I left with about eighteen men, I believe, when I came back we had eleven, so seven casualties. Fortunately they were wounded, but none were killed.

TI: And so you saw that the devastation in your platoon as well as --

DI: So technically I did not participate in the heat of the Lost Battalion battle. I participated in the battles preceding that.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Later on -- and we probably won't get into it very much -- but you take pride as an officer of not having fatalities or very many fatalities in your --

DI: I had only one.

TI: And I was wondering if in your mind as an officer you really thought about the orders or the actions to really protect your men and if watching what happened to the Lost Battalion if that influenced that?

DI: For one thing I did what an officer was not supposed to do. The common practice, don't get too close to your men. Don't get intimate with them because the loss would be so devastating. But I made up my mind that I had to know each person as intimately as I can because I wanted to be selective. I did not believe in calling up my platoon and saying, "I need six volunteers." That's nonsense. If I've got a mission that's a deadly one, I'm going to surround myself with men that I can depend upon, men who are well trained and who have the discipline. And so I got to know every one of them. Now, for example, we had to censor letters. Today I don't think they do that, but at that time one of the responsibilities was to look at letters and if anything wrong was put on it, you cut it out or cross it out because this was military secret. And in these letters often times the innermost thoughts are expressed. Let's say you're married and you just got word from your wife that you're a father of a son now, first son. And you write back and say, "Oh, I'm going to do everything to go home. I want to see Toshio," or what have you. At that point you may not be the type of person I would want in a deadly patrol 'cause you would be too cautious, right? If I got another letter that I'm censoring and that letter said, "I just heard from Jack that you're messing around with so and so. Well, these things happen. Wait until I get back, I'll..." All that stuff is down here and I'm reading it. You're in no shape for rational thinking and discipline. I'm not going to take you. And so I used to go out on many, many patrols. In fact, during a period of sixty days I remember I led seventy-two patrols. That's a lot of patrols, more than one a day. And of the seventy-two patrols, I would say that at least ten of them were rigged with the understanding of the colonel because I could not pick certain people all the time. So I would have to have some rigged patrols where I would involve the others and make them think that this is a real bloody one. And if you started yelling out, "Throw that grenade," they were going to hear things [Laughs] even if a German is not there.

TI: So this was very important for the morale of your group across the board that everyone feel like they were a key component. Even though you realized that...

DI: Absolutely. When I felt that a man was getting close to breaking up, the stress was too great, 'cause all of us are in the same condition. We need a little break. I would see to it that there was some reason without losing face -- I remember, for example, I took off a fellow's glasses. I say, "It's dirty." And I made believe I was cleaning it and I dropped it and I stepped on it. And I said, "Oh, I'm sorry." I said, "You better go back and get a new pair." Well, we all had extra pairs in the duffel bag, but I say, "You go back and get a new one." And then I'd call up the captain and I would say, "Keep him there for about a week. Don't send him back."

TI: That's amazing. That's interesting.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

BK: How did you develop that management style? I mean, that's a management style.

DI: I don't know what you call it. I just wanted to go home. I wanted to stay alive. [Laughs]

BK: Did anybody use those techniques, Captain Crowley or anybody else that you had worked with?

DI: I don't know. All I know is that after every battle, you let the men out. We have a weekend pass or something like that, and what I always did was I stayed back. I let all of them go and I would tell them, "Go out and do anything you want. Get drunk, have a good time, but you be back here within twenty-four hours, not for three days -- twenty-four hours. Just don't kill someone that's all or violate the laws." And so my platoon would come back after twelve hours of absolute chaotic fun and come back loaded and drunk, but we trained so that when we got back into combat two or three days later, we were full, fresh, trained, ready to go, alert, no hangovers. And when you lead a platoon of that caliber, you're in good shape.

TI: Wonderful.

DI: They are alert. I wanted to get home. It's that simple. [Laughs]

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Well, I'd like to go into Italy and talk a little bit about the fighting in Italy because that's where you were wounded and would like to understand how you lost part of your arm. So if you could talk about this.

DI: Well, I think it's true that there are moments in combat that you get temporarily insane, I think, because a rational person, a reasonable person, would not do those things. Now, in my case, I was in charge of this platoon and as we progressed during the morning, I was shot through the guts. And the messenger walking behind me said, "Hey, you're bleeding." I thought some rocket hit me or something like that and I looked around and it was nothing. So when he said I'm bleeding, I put my hand there and sure enough there's blood, but it did not hurt. One thing about internal injury, there are not too many pain nerve endings there. So I said well, it's not bleeding too badly. I keep on going. And then all hell broke loose. That's when the machine guns stopped us and so by luck, I knocked out the first one and the second one. I'm getting ready with a grenade in my hand, and when I turned around I saw this German standing just about fifteen feet away with his rifle grenade aimed at me. Thank God he was a lousy shot, he hit my elbow instead of me. And so I'm happy I had the presence of mind, I began looking for my grenade. I told them, "Hit the ground," because there's a grenade somewhere. It was in my right hand. It was frozen -- at that moment I think muscles all froze -- so I took it out and threw it at him.

TI: So you took it out of your right hand, the grenade?

DI: Yeah. And now, my limb is just hanging with shreds and it's flapping and the blood is just shooting out, and you got to be crazy for me to pick up my tommy gun and move forward and fire. Then I got hit in the leg and I rolled down the hill, and then I applied the tourniquet and told them to keep on going until everything was over. But, you see, you might say that's heroics, but if I had to think about it today, you don't think I'd be charging in there like that. The first injury I would say good-bye, I'm going. But at that time I suppose I was young and mission was very important.

TI: Well, thank very much for your time. This has been a wonderful interview.

DI: We're bunch a crazy men, weren't we?

TI: It's an incredible story and that's why we're here capturing... thank you so much for your time.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.