Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Genro Kashiwa Interview
Narrator: Genro Kashiwa
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: February 20, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-kgenro-01

<Begin Segment 1>

BN: Anyway, to begin with, we're here on February 20, 2012, with Mr. Genro Kashiwa, who has graciously agreed to be interviewed. We're here at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. And we're going to start with your parents. And if you could let us know their names and what you know about when they were born and raised.

GK: My father's name was Ryuten Kashiwa. And he was born in Fukui-ken, Japan. His family background is all priests. They were priests for a small temple in Fukui. And I don't know what year it was, but the bishop of the Hongwanji mission, I think his name was Imamura, he went back to Japan to recruit priests for the Hawaii Hongwanji mission. And he went to Fukui-ken and recruited my father. And the story behind that was that it was, I think, during the Russo-Japanese War. And all of the young men went off to war. And my father was somehow left behind in Fukui-ken. And he was so embarrassed that he didn't go to war. That when Bishop Imamura came to Fukui-ken to recruit priests, he consented to come to Hawaii. And he was first assigned to Kohala, a place called Niuli. Evidently there were many Japanese at that time there. And he served as priest for Niuli Hongwanji for about, I don't know how many years, but about five years. And during that period, two children were born. My elder sister, Shigeko Izumi, who married Dr. Izumi of Wailuku Maui, and they lived in Wailuku for some time, and they had three children, I think. One was Gerald Izumi, I think he's in California now, and Carl Izumi, he's in Honolulu, and Earl Izumi, I think he lives on Maui. And the next child was Shiro Kashiwa. He married Mildred Aiko Yamagata from the Big Island. And he had two children. One was Greg Kashiwa, who still lives in a home on the beach side in Kalanianaole. And another child was Wendy, and I think she's on the mainland. And then the other... there were eight in the family, children, and there was Irene Yoshiko Franks, whose husband was Paul Franks, and they had a son named Billy Franks. I think he's a doctor now in California. And there was a Lester Tetsuo Kashiwa who became a doctor after graduating from University of Michigan. And he used to practice in Wailuku Maui together with my brother-in-law, Dr. Izumi. And he had many children.

And one thing that's interesting is that my next sister was sent to Japan to study there, I think, and that was just during the war. And she couldn't come back because of the war. And I heard that my father was very worried about her, and that's one of the reasons why he wanted to go back to Japan initially from the internment camp. But he decided not to and remained in Hawaii.

BN: What was that sister's name?

GK: Who are we talking about now? (Atsuko Ainge) couldn't come back from Japan so she stayed over there. And she finally married a haole serviceman and she had two children. And after Atsuko was... I was next in line.

BN: That's number six if I'm counting right.

GK: Yes. And below me was Judy Takako, and her married name is Kawabata. And I think she had a show over here just the other day.

BN: Yeah, who I just found out was your sister, but yeah.

GK: And the last was Herbert Koro Kashiwa, who went to... I don't know where he studied on the mainland, but he became a professor. And he married Ann Murayama, Lahaina family.

BN: So all eight of you were born in Hawaii.

GK: Hawaii, yes. Two in island of Hawaii, Niuli, two in Hana, and the rest in Waialua.

BN: Did your mother come over at the same time? I mean, were they already married?

GK: No. My father requested that they sent a bride to him.

BN: I see.

GK: And I think that was in... well, he was in Kohala, Niuli. Because the first two children were born in Niuli.

BN: So she was a "picture bride"?

GK: Somebody selected her because my father requested, and she was sent over. And I think when my father was in Kohala Niuli, because they had two children there.

BN: What was her family name?

GK: Oh. Her first name was Yukiko, and (last name was) Matsubara. She was the daughter of a physician, I think, over there (in Japan).

BN: So by the time you were born, you're already number six.

GK: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

BN: And they had been in Kohala and then you said in Hana (Maui).

GK: Hana. Then two were born (in Hana), and the rest of us (four) were born in Waialua.

BN: And in each case, your father is assigned to a different temple in each place?

GK: That's right.

BN: And was he in Waialua pretty much continuously from the time you were born 'til the war, then?

GK: Yeah. And after the war, they asked him whether he wanted to go to Japan and he said, no, he wanted to come back to Hawaii because all his children were here. And when he came back, I think in 1945, they told him that... well, he was elected as the bishop of Hongwanji (Temple). So he moved from Waialua to the residence on Fort Street, Pali Highway. And about the same time that the war ended -- yeah, war ended, that's why he came back. Well, war ended for me and I came back. And I was discharged in Schofield Barracks. So I hadn't heard that my father moved. So from Schofield Barracks I went back to Waialua thinking that my home was there. Well, the people down there says, "No, you don't live over here anymore." So I was really surprised.

BN: So, now to go back, do you know about when your father was born?

GK: [Gestures off camera]. She knows.

BN: 1883? So you were born; what were the first things you remember when, growing up in Waialua?

GK: Well, our temple was in Waialua, and next to the temple was a camp named Hachikinya ("eight houses" in Japanese). And I suppose there were eight houses at one time over there. Because there was another camp further up the mountainside, and that camp's name was Shikinya ("four houses"). So I don't know exactly, but during those days, they lived in barracks and they walked to the place of their work, which is the cane field. And that's why they had these Hachikinya and Shikinya.

BN: Did your family live actually at the temple?

GK: Yes. As far as I remember, we lived next to the temple.

BN: Then you're, basically all the community is all plantation workers.

GK: Yeah. And then they had Japanese school. And my father used to run the Japanese school. It had about first to eighth grades, I think.

BN: Was that also at the temple?

GK: Huh?

BN: Was that also, the Japanese school was part of the temple.

GK: Yes, uh-huh. And they have Japanese schoolteachers. One was the Masuda family who lived right next to the temple. And one was the Iinuma family. And Iinuma family lived in the camp, Mill Camp. And one of the things that I remember, it's very interesting, was next to the Mill Camp, there was a Japanese Christian church. And I think the name of the reverend was Fukuda. And I remember one of the sons used to ride a motorcycle. And to me, at that time, that was something great. And his name was Yank Fukuda. But how they ran the Japanese Christian church, church right next to the Japanese community is a wonder.

BN: So what school did you go to?

GK: Oh, I went to the Waialua elementary school, which was about a mile away from my home. And the building is still there. And I used to walk every day, one mile, to the school and back. And it's amazing the way they time that thing, because you go to the school, English school, you came back, and the community, there's nobody home. So the Japanese school was sort of a babysitter until the parents came home from work. It's amazing that they had such a thing. But I heard that before my time, there were many Japanese children, who couldn't commute from faraway places to the schools, the English school and Japanese school. So they had what they call kishikusha (dormitory). And I understand that the children from the faraway places used to live over there as a dormitory.

BN: The Japanese school was, was part of the temple.

GK: Yes, right next to the temple.

BN: So you would walk a mile away to school and then come right back home essentially to attend Japanese school pretty much every day.

GK: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BN: Were you involved in sports?

GK: Oh. All the boys were involved in sports, but I was very poor in sports. So they put me on a team, but I always played right field where the balls don't come.

BN: This is baseball.

GK: Baseball.

BN: What about beach and water kind of sports? Because you're right there by the ocean.

GK: Oh. Well, we used to live about half a mile from the beach, Puuiki Beach. And what I remember my young kid days, was that we used to go camping at Puuiki Beach. And we learned how to swim there all by ourselves. But the thing I remember about going camping that was a big thing, and we would bring our dinner. And the dinner was a loaf of bread, and you would cut the bread in half. At that time, they didn't have sliced, you see. And then you scoop out the inside of one half, and you pour a can of pork and beans into it. And you ate that, and that was dinner.

BN: Now you mentioned that your family went back several generations of priests.

GK: Yes.

BN: Was there assumption that you or your brothers would also enter into, be Buddhist priests?

GK: I suppose so, but we, the children were never convinced. They didn't want to become priests. So my brother became a lawyer, and then doctor, and then myself a lawyer, and then the last one became a professor at University of Washington.

BN: And your father, there was no pressure to...

GK: Oh, no. We just refused.

BN: Growing up, because your father was a priest, was he particularly strict in terms of enforcing that you spoke Japanese? I mean, how was the family?

GK: My father left most of the raising of the children to my mother. And my mother was so-called strict person, like when it came time to volunteer for 442nd in 1943, I think, March, I didn't want to go because it was a volunteer thing. And I didn't want to volunteer. Well, lot of my friends, we were at the University of Hawaii then, they volunteered and formed a labor group called VVV, Varsity Victory Volunteers. And they were allowed to clear the brushes around the island. Well, I didn't want to do that, so I started to work. And I worked as a carpenter when I didn't know how to do carpentry work. But I remember my specialty was to build outhouses for the miners who were digging tunnels in Kipapa Gulch, for instance. That was the ammunition tunnel, I think. Well, I joined the group that made the outhouses, so I became a specialty.

BN: We need them.

GK: Yeah.

BN: Just to kind of finish up with how the childhood, the youth period, did you do mochitsuki and other kinds of, Bon dance, those, participate in those types of things?

GK: Definitely Bon dance, but mochitsuki, I was too young, I think. But I remember all the Bon dance because it was held in, right next to the church.

BN: How big of a temple was it? Do you have a sense of how many people attended? Was it pretty big?

GK: No, it was not that big, because, well, the special services got big, but the monthly services were not very big. And my job for the monthly services that I remember was to pass out the zabuton (cushions) because they used to all sit on the floor. And the other job that I had was to make the hot water for the tea. And I had to time it right so that when the service ended, the water would be hot.

BN: Relative to your other, to your friends, people you grew up with, did the fact that you grew up in the temple, as the son of a priest, did you feel like you were raised more, kind of Japanesey?

GK: Not especially. But the thing that I remember was when growing up, they used to have community baths. One in our camp, and the other in the next camp. And the community baths, you have one big bath for the men and one big bath for the women. Well, one of the baths in the next camp was one big bath, and the partition was put down to separate the males from the females. But that partition did not go right down to the bottom of the bathtub. So I remember diving under the partition to the other side.

BN: How old were you then?

GK: I don't remember.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

BN: Was the area you lived in... I mean, was it segregated by ethnicity, pretty much everybody was Japanese?

GK: Oh, yes. Yes. And then we had the other camp where the Portuguese lived. And we didn't call them Portuguese, it was "Portogee."

BN: Among the Japanese who lived there, were they mostly, was there a dominant group in terms of where they were from in Japan?

GK: Not that I remember. But there was one place called the section camp, and that was where the people lived that took care of the railroad tracks of Oahu Railway. And that camp, I remember, were all from one prefecture, Kumamoto-ken. And they speak a different kind of Japanese. But I remember that from that camp, they used to take care of the tracks. And they used to have a small car that ran on the track. In the beginning, it was a car that you had to pump, hand. And later on, they got a gasoline car to do that.

BN: Where did you go to high school?

GK: Oh, I went to Waialua High School until my senior year. And for my senior year, I went to McKinley High School.

BN: Why did you switch over?

GK: Well, according to what my brother told me, was that if I go to Waialua High School and graduate there, I won't be able to go to University of Hawaii. I don't know why, but that's what he said. So for my senior year, high school, I went to McKinley and I lived with my brother. But that wasn't the reason why I had to go to McKinley. I believe that my mother had a hard time raising all the children, so I was sent out to live with my brother.

BN: Where did your brother live?

GK: Kaimuki. Nineteenth Avenue.

BN: Which brother was this?

GK: The eldest, Shiro. He was, by then, an attorney. He graduated University of Michigan, I think.

BN: So you graduated from McKinley High in what year?

GK: Huh?

BN: What year did you graduate?

GK: 1939 or '40.

BN: And you went on to the University of Hawaii.

GK: Yes. And I was in the second year, I think, the war started.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

BN: What were you doing the day of Pearl Harbor? What do you remember of December 7th?

GK: It wasn't anything special because I used to live with my brother.

BN: In Kaimuki.

GK: Yeah. So I didn't realize that it was such a big thing when the war started. But I heard the Japanese ship were to the north of Oahu, and they flew over Kahuku and Waialua to attack Schofield Barracks and Kaneohe Marine Base. But what I heard about that situation was there were two planes outside of Schofield Barracks, and they were in an area not, right next to Haleiwa. And those two planes, I think, were the only ones not destroyed, so they went out to attack the Japanese planes.

BN: How did you actually hear about the attack?

GK: The attack? I don't know. I don't remember.

BN: That was a Sunday, Sunday morning.

GK: Yeah. But I believe my younger sister and brother were, came to Honolulu to watch a football game, I think, and were living with us in Kaimuki.

BN: That weekend?

GK: Yeah, that day.

BN: When was your father arrested?

GK: Oh, the very first day. That's because he was considered agent for the Japanese government. And the reason is, he used to take all the birth records and death records for the Japanese consulate. So he was one of the first ones to be taken, interned. And the thing that I heard that's really amazing was that my mother was not taken. So there's nobody to conduct (religious) services, so my mother used to conduct the services. Like they had many war casualties, and they had to have services for them. But in Waialua there was only one temple that was open, and that was the Sotoshu, I think. The minister there, I don't think he was taken. Was it Tottori?

BN: I thought almost all of them were taken. Who was actually home? Who actually was still in Waialua at the time?

GK: Oh, my sister Irene Yoshiko. She was at home, and, well, the other brother was in Maui, and the next sister was in Japan.

BN: What about the two youngest? Were they also still at home?

GK: Yeah. My sister Takako and my youngest brother Koro.

BN: Did you know where your father was?

GK: No. For the longest time we didn't know where he was. And when somehow at Camp Shelby I found out that he was in Crystal City, that's where I went to visit him.

BN: But between December 7th and when you were at Camp Shelby...

GK: '43, 1943, after basic training.

BN: So what happened with... did school just go on after December 7th, or was there, what happened in terms of your own life at that time?

GK: Oh. Like I said, there was, that group formed by the university students, triple-V. And they helped with the defense work. Well, I went to work for the (used) defense job at that time as a carpenter.

BN: But you're still going to school, though.

GK: Oh, yeah.

BN: You're still going to school also?

GK: No. School terminated because of the war. And I continued so many years later.

BN: The people that formed the VVV, a lot of them were ROTC.

GK: Yes.

BN: You knew a lot of those...

GK: Oh, yes. We were classmates in U.H. Like Ted Tsukiyama was very active in there. And Sparky Matsunaga, he was a lieutenant I think.

BN: So school had kind of, was postponed I guess and you're doing carpentry work. How long did that go on?

GK: What?

BN: How long did that go on? Did school start up again?

GK: I think the school started out, but I didn't want to go back because I was working (at the rate of) fifty cents an hour, four bucks a day.

BN: You mentioned that you had the one sister who was in Japan at that time. Was your family able to communicate with her?

GK: No.

BN: So you didn't know what was going on.

GK: Yeah. That's why my father was very worried, and he wanted to go back.

BN: Do you know where in Japan she was?

GK: Kyoto I guess.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BN: So I guess it was about a year later, in 1943, that they announced the formation of the 442nd and there was a call for volunteers.

GK: Yes. And I remember that incident because I did not want to volunteer. And there was a call for all the young people to join, I don't know what the... join the army. And I remember going to the Waialua fire station to join up. And I think my mother is the one, she told me, "You volunteer. This is your country." So I had to go.

BN: Even though her, even though your father had been interned.

GK: Oh, yes.

BN: She was, was she angry about that, or what was her views about...

GK: Oh, I think she, her feeling was that, well, it cannot be helped. So that's why she did all the services as the priest of the temple. And, you know, when the boys died in the war, they had a service over here.

BN: So at her urging, you did volunteer.

GK: Yes.

BN: Were you a part of that first group?

GK: Yes, I was.

BN: It was something like ten thousand people tried to sign up, and they could only take about a quarter.

GK: Yeah. I remember we went to the Waialua fire station first, and then we were transferred to Schofield, and then we marched down King Street (to the ship in port).

BN: So you were part of that big group that was sent off at Iolani Palace?

GK: (Yes), we had to carry the big bag.

BN: The big bag?

GK: Duffel bag.

BN: And then from there, you went off to basic training?

GK: Camp Shelby. And I was assigned to 3rd Battalion, Company L, 1st Platoon. And I went right through the war like that.


BN: We were just going to start talking about your volunteering and going off and beginning your basic training. I was going to ask you for your recollections of basic training. You mentioned a little bit about the whole Buddhaheads and kotonks that you met in basic training. Did you want to talk a little bit about that?

GK: Yeah. Well, part of the problem that caused the problem in basic training was that all of the noncoms were from the mainland. And they happened to be drafted before the war, and they finished their basic training. So they became the cadres. So all of the cadres, sergeants, were kotonks. And that didn't help the situation. But I wasn't involved in that because, I don't know, I don't remember whether it was a fight between the kotonks or fight between the island boys and the haoles, but practically every night at the PX beer garden, there would be a fight. And that's about a block away from where I used to stay. They come down and wake everybody up, say, "Wake up, you have to go to fight at the beer garden." But that's how the boys were.

BN: What is your recollection on where the terms came from?

GK: Huh?

BN: Those terms "Buddhahead" and "kotonk." Like Buddhahead, was that something that was used before the war?

GK: No. I don't think so. And kotonk, I don't think so.

BN: Something that was coined at that time. Was there... I mean, based on your own experiences, was there a real sharp distinction between the two groups?

GK: Well, like I said, all the noncoms were kotonks. And they used to give the orders and we didn't like it. But after the others came in from the relocation camp, and then we realized that they volunteered from a relocation camp, everything stopped. Like close by to Camp Shelby was Jerome (relocation camp). And we used to go there on the weekends just to eat rice.

BN: You actually went on, you actually visited the camp?

GK: Yeah.

BN: What did you think?

GK: Oh, it didn't impress me too much one way or the other. Because we were only interested in eating rice.

BN: Not the girls?

GK: No.

BN: You also mentioned, you know, the South, getting a sense of the segregation, the treatment of the African Americans.

GK: African... oh. Yeah, when we joined the 92nd Division, that was in April... March, April, 1945. And the African Americans didn't move from the place where we left them. And so I understand that somebody asked them why they didn't move, they didn't go forward. And the answer was, "This is a white man's war." And I could see (why they said) that.

BN: As Japanese, people of Japanese ancestry in the South, where did you fit in?

GK: Oh. That's where when we first went to Camp Shelby, we didn't know how they were gonna treat us. So in our first furlough visit to Hattiesburg, we'd catch the bus. And we thought we'd have to sit in the back with all the blacks. No. They said, no, we don't sit in the back, so we sat in the front. But I noticed that the blacks, even the other day, when we went to Las Vegas, the blacks naturally went first to the back of the bus. That's how bad it was. And I don't blame them for saying, "This is a white man's war."

<End Segment 6> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BN: What other memories do you have of the basic training? Is there anything else you wanted to mention?

GK: Well, they made us to go on a thirty mile hike and things like that. I didn't appreciate that. But you see, L Company was that last rifle company, so we ended up (in an area) next to the swamp. (...) It was terrible.

BN: How were the assignments made?

GK: What?

BN: I mean, how did you end up getting assigned to L Company?

GK: L Company, I don't know. But within the company, it's all by alphabetical order. So I was in 1st Platoon.

BN: Were you aware of, while you're, even while you're training, the 100th was already in Europe. Were you aware of what's going on with the 100th Battalion?

GK: We heard about, while we were training, about the 100th, what they did at Cassino and Rapido River and all that. And one of the things that really struck me was the first to get killed in 100th was Joe Takata. And he was in our camp in Waialua. And the first to be killed in the 3rd Battalion was Fred Kameda, (of the) same camp. And first to be killed in L Company was a guy who used to live across the street from me. So all the first to be killed from the mill camp and our area.

BN: All from Waialua?

GK: That's nothing to be proud of, but that's how it happened.

BN: Joe Takata was also a star baseball...

GK: Joe Takata.

BN: Baseball player.

GK: Yeah. The Kameda family was (in) baseball, too.

BN: You mentioned -- now skipping forward a little bit -- that you were in Newport News, Virginia, in 1944, just prior to shipping out. And you mentioned that the group would get in fights with Caucasian groups every night.

GK: Oh, yes. I don't know, that's the nature of the Hawaii boys, I think. And then on the ship, nothing but gambling.

BN: And then you arrived in Naples?

GK: Yeah.

BN: How were you... what was the reception, or how did the locals receive you?

GK: I didn't get into contact with the locals, 'cause we only stayed in camp.

BN: Then I guess in June of '44 you met up with the 100th and saw your first (combat) action.

GK: Yeah. That I remember. We were in a battle close to Arno River, I think. And we were on the high ground, and we had to go down a hill to a low area where the 100th was stationed. And then we didn't know what war was. So we just took our time, walked down the hill, oh, the 100th boys really gave us hell. They knew that that place was under fire. They told us, "You darn fools."

BN: What happened after that?

GK: Oh, I don't know. It was, to me anyway, my rifle company was kind of calm. But we reached the Arno River and some boys had to cross, and some M Company boys crossed, and I think got killed, I think, shot. And I think the company commander got killed, too.

BN: Did you, in your recollection of this, you also wrote about an incident where you came across a peach orchard?

GK: Oh, yeah. I thought that was just like mango. You eat half ripe mango and it was real good, right? But that peach, you don't eat half ripe. All kind of runs and everything.

BN: You ended up hospitalized?

GK: Yeah.

BN: You mentioned also that after you rejoined the company, the Vada rest area, there was a truck explosion.

GK: Oh, yeah. That was a demonstration of mines, and they had a truck full of mines. And right after the class, we came back to our area, oh, the truck blew up. And gee, I don't know how many got killed at the time.

BN: But that was an accident. It wasn't a matter of...

GK: Yeah, accident.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BN: And then in August of '44, Florence, Arno River. I wanted to ask, have you recount Bruyeres and Biffontaine.

GK: France? Oh, yeah. Well, Bruyeres, just so happened that the lead company in the attack of Bruyeres was L Company. And then L Company, the first platoon to go into Bruyeres was the 2nd Platoon. And the lieutenant was Lieutenant Roger Smith. He used to be a football player for University of Hawaii. Anyway, so 2nd Platoon went into Bruyeres first, and we were, 1st Platoon was outside Bruyeres in a clump of trees. Then something happened in Bruyeres, and Lieutenant Roger Smith came running out from Bruyeres to the clump of trees that we were at. He says, "Oh, I'm hit, I'm hit." So we looked at him and found out that he was hit in the pick handle that he was carrying. But he didn't know, I guess. He came running back and said, "I'm hit."

But Bruyeres, what I remember about Bruyeres is that we went into Bruyeres from one end of the town. And the other end, I don't know what outfit was going into Bruyeres from the other end, and there were, they had some tanks. And here I was walking in a ditch, advancing forward (to go into Bruyeres), then this tank at the other end thought I was a German. So they fired at me. And that thing went right over, the missile went right over my head and into the bank of the ditch. And good thing they were firing armor piercing, it didn't explode. Otherwise I'd be dead. But when we went into Bruyeres, the thing that I noticed was we had to go into the basement of the houses. And all of the basements were connected. So we went in the basement for quite a ways, and came out at the other end where there was a road going into the town square. And so we went into the road right at the entrance of the town square. And we saw this German tank on the other side. And I had with me the bazooka man from the 3rd Platoon, and his name was, I think, Whitey Kurosaki or something like that. And with that .37 (mm bazooka), this big, he wanted to fire at the tank, Panther tank or something like that. And they have an 88-milimeter. So I told that guy, "Don't you fire at that tank." He quite peeved that I stopped him. Because if ever the tank turned around and fired the .88 at us, oh my god.

In fact, we passed through Bruyeres and we hit the railroad track on the other side of town. And somebody thought of a maneuver to go to the side and back of the Germans, and that was called the O'Conner Task Force. And we went around and went into the farmhouses and came down towards Bruyeres, (through) the farmhouses. Well, when we were in one of the houses there, farmhouses, the tank fired at us. You know that '88 (in front of him)? And some of our men... in fact, I think it was Hideo Higa says he saw the .88 millimeter bullet passing right through the farmhouse. And that was the O'Conner Task Force.

BN: Why was it called the O'Conner Task Force?

GK: It was led by Major O'Conner. I think it was Company L and Company F (in the Task Force).


BN: You wrote about, at about this time, you encountered some Vietnamese soldiers?

GK: Oh, that was in... that was in France. And, oh, that was after the "Lost Battalion." (The rescue of the) Lost Battalion was on October 28th, and we were in reserve. But they committed us to chase after the Germans. So we turned right to chase after the Germans. And at the end of the mountain ridge, the Germans had a defense line. And we were shooting at them in the forest so it wasn't too far. I would say thirty yards distance, we were firing at each other. Then all of a sudden, Paul Matsumoto, he was an assistant jeep driver, he came up with the jeep and the trailer, and he had what they call a Mermite can full of hot food. And he says, "Oh, you guys got to eat the hot food." I said, "Hey, but we're firing at the Germans over there thirty yards in front of us." He said, "No, you've got to eat (the hot food)." So I had to get two men from the line, come back to eat the hot food, and then go back, and the next two men got to come back. Whoever heard of any soldier eating hot food while he's shooting at the enemy? But that's what happened. But, you know, I still don't know how the jeep driver, Paul Matsumoto, ever came up from the rear through the forest to where we were. And after that, they had to go back. He made it all right, but that's something else.

BN: Now you were, you mentioned, hit on the shoulder.

GK: Oh, from the treeburst. And on the left shoulder, and it was, I didn't want to look. I didn't know what hit that. So they told me to go back to the aid station. So I went back to the aid station and the doctors over there, I think one doctor was Dr. Kawaoka. They treated all the really wounded guys, one arm gone and all that. By the time they came to me, it was two o'clock in the morning. And the doctor said, "Open up your shirt." I opened up, "Where did you get hit?" "Over here." And he looked at the shoulder and he saw one drop of blood all dried up. Kawaoka looked at me and he says, "Hey, Kashiwa, scared, huh?" I says, "You're darn right I'm scared," (I replied). That was something.

BN: But amazingly that was the, that was the only time that you were wounded.

GK: Yeah. And then my left finger, something happened to it. And they gave me a Purple Heart. Oh, that's where that 3rd Platoon went down the mountainside to the farmhouses, and then they secured the farmhouse, and somebody from 3rd Platoon came back up. And we were at the top. And the guy was Robert Sasaki. He was a 442nd executive secretary for a long time. So he came up and I didn't see him wounded in any way, so I asked him, "Robert, why you come back?" He says, "Oh, I got trench feet." And that's the first time anybody got trench feet. But I didn't know what it was. So I looked at him and I thought, "Oh, these darn Goldbrick." I didn't know that it was that swollen (and sore). That's when all that trench feet started.

BN: You actually were, met... when you actually reached the members of the Lost Battalion, do you remember what the reaction was?

GK: Oh. We were in a reserve company so we don't know. But I and K was the ones that attacked. And they really caught hell. And I don't know how many men left in I Company, but I think K Company was only eight men left. But we were, L Company reserved for, we weren't that bad. But after that, we had a regimental parade and everybody came out for the parade in the open field. And I don't know who it was, but the commanding officer was really peeved because I and K Company, so few men coming out. And he scolded the 442nd officer, says, "Why didn't all the men come out?" The officer said, "That's all that's left of I and K." That was real bad.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BN: After the rescue of the Lost Battalion, you wrote that you moved on to... I don't know how to pronounce this...

GK: La Housiere. Oh, you know there, at the end of the mountain range, the 3rd Platoon went down and Sasaki came up. And 1st Platoon went down after that, to the right of the 3rd Platoon. And then all of a sudden, we see about five guys coming out from the German side. And they were Vietnamese or something like that, they spoke French. And they saw us, they didn't know what to make of us (Oriental guys). But what they did was they had something in their hands. They offered that to us, said, "Pomme de terre, pomme de terre." Good thing I knew what that was in French, potatoes. But that's what they (said and) they were surprised to see us. They were running away, so we sent then back, and I don't know what happened to them, but I remember that incident, pomme de terre. Good thing I knew (a few French words).

BN: How did you know?

GK: Oh, I knew a little French.

BN: La Housiere?

GK: La Housiere. What about La Housiere?

BN: Just what happened?

GK: Oh. We didn't go, actually, into La Housiere, but we were close to La Housiere, so that was one of our objectives, I think. And so we didn't go into La Housiere at all.

BN: But you were...

GK: Right next to La Housiere.


GK: After the rescue of the Lost Battalion, we were chasing the Germans, and we couldn't go forward because there was a German machine gun firing right across, and we were firing back at the Germans. So I went to check to the right where the German machine gun was, and they were about to withdraw. So I came back and says, "Okay, let's go." And we rushed forward at the German line of defense, and that's when they say, well, I killed so many and all that. I don't know.

BN: But did you know that they were withdrawing?

GK: Oh, the machine gun stopped.

BN: Oh, it stopped. But you didn't know that they had stopped permanently, I suppose.

GK: No, no. So we went forward, but it was that they withdrew same time. But oh, that machine gun was firing right across in front of us. And then at that time, I was in the back of the line. And this big guy, George Miyoko, he was one of those guys, real curious about things. So he was trying to disarm a German mine. But that German mine blew up and killed that George Miyoko right there. But the thing that's really close to me was that Hideo Higa, who lives right across the street from us in Aina Haina, (...) he came from 1st Battalion to L Company. And he used to follow around Miyoko, George Miyoko. But that day, Hideo Higa got hit in the leg. So he wasn't following Miyoko, otherwise he'd be killed, too. But that's why I say that good thing Hideo Higa got hit, and he lost his leg, you know. If it wasn't for that, he'd be killed with George Miyoko. That's how the war goes.

BN: And it's after, after this, November, you arrived at Sospel? Thanksgiving, and cold and raw through December. Do you have any, what do you recall from that time?

GK: Oh, you know, we were on the mountaintop in a hut. And from there, the road began to wind down to Sospel. And that was December. Well, the funny thing that happened to me was that I heard, somebody told me, said, "Oh, your mother died." And that hit me. I've seen a lot of people got shot and killed, but it didn't quite hit me as hard as when I heard my mother died. And that was a different feeling. I don't know why. And here I've seen guys got killed, hit, wounded, but (hearing that my mother died was) a different feeling. Amazing, huh?

BN: Had she been ill?

GK: They didn't tell me.

BN: So it was completely out of the blue.

GK: [Nods] Back home, they didn't want to send any kind of bad news to the front because they figured we'd be careless and get shot or something like that.

BN: Were you able to keep in touch with your family at all?

GK: I used to write when I was in Camp Shelby to the members of my family that remained back in Waialua.

BN: But once you were in Europe...

GK: No. I used to write home, but they didn't write any bad news to me.

BN: Or any news at all. So you really didn't know what was going on.

GK: Like when I went back, they weren't living there anymore. Nobody told me that.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

BN: Skipping ahead a little to, you went back to Italy in March of '45 and assigned, you mentioned you were assigned to the 92nd Division and then to Azzano. And can you talk about that and about Mt. Folgorito?

GK: Oh. Well, I don't quite remember, but it took us about two days to reach Azzano. And Azzano was on the mountain slope opposite from Folgorito. So they told us to stay hidden in our houses. And one morning, I think it was one o'clock in the morning, they told us, "Okay, we're going to go and attack." So we started from Azzano, and it just happened that that attack, 3rd Battalion went straight down and went straight up to Mt. Folgorito. 100th Battalion was on the left of 3rd Battalion, and they attacked. Mountain called Cerrita or something like that. And 2nd Battalion was on the right. They went straight down, came up, and then they turned right to attack the Germans. Well, 3rd Battalion went down, came up, and that's when L Company was the lead company. So we took all that morning, from the night we started to go down to the bottom, and came up at about seven o'clock the next morning to Mt. Folgorito. And the Germans didn't realize that we were gonna do that and come up in the back of them. So when they saw us in the back of them, they started to shoot. And 3rd Platoon was attacking to the right of us. 1st Platoon was attacking straight ahead for Folgorito. And I was watching this 3rd Platoon sergeant (Sgt. Sagimori), who was a platoon leader, crawling -- not crawling, but half bent and walking forward. And all of a sudden he got hit, and I was watching him. He just fell right down and was dead right there. And from our platoon, this sergeant Masami Kasadate, he was watching over a rock at the Germans, and he decided that he's gonna peer over the rock. And he put his head out, and boom, he got hit. But it went right through his eyes, I think, but he didn't die. And there was this medic named Feb Yokoi, and he was attached to 1st Platoon. He had to hold Kasadari in his lap, and he had to stay there for I don't know how long, many, many hours, until somebody brought up a stretcher. But I know that we couldn't help him, because we had to attack and capture the defense position on Mt. Folgorito. And that's when our platoon leader (Lt. Koizumi), because of all the crossfire, we couldn't advance. So he went back to company headquarters to get instructions on how, what we're gonna do. And while he was in company headquarters, he was the Lieutenant Koizumi, a mortar shell came down and burst nearby where he was. And he was wounded, and the runner named George Yasukawa was wounded. And Paul Matsumoto, he was wounded. And Paul used to be the carrier of the radio equipment. And they all survived, but I got word that they were wounded. So I'm in command, and all this crossfire.

I called the men back in to the mountainside where we wouldn't get the crossfire, and we were there, lined up. And then our objective was straight up, so I got the men lined up, and then I told them, "Okay, we're going to climb up this eighty degree slope. Ninety degrees is straight up, eighty degree slope. So about five of us started to climb. And when we climb, it's just like standing up, you know. We reached the top, we didn't know what it was up there. So when about three or four of us got to the top, I said, "Okay, let's go." So we stood up, we went forward. We didn't know what (was there) then we went a few steps forward, and we see this trench covered with boards and rocks on top. So about three of us put our rifles into the trench, and we all fired one clip, that's eight rounds. Well, the Germans all ran away and came out the mouth of the trench, and they went running down the hillside. Well, I was on the right (side), so I jumped down to the mouth of the trench and saw this machine gun, German machine gun, all set to fire. So I turned it around and fired at the Germans fleeing down the mountainside. Well, later on I found out that the German machine gun had the leaf sight up like this, and the front sight was a pole like this. And you're supposed to aim from the leaf to the front. And then here I was aiming from the leaf to the front of the barrel, (not the front sight), and that put the shots way overhead (of the fleeing enemy). And besides that, they were running downhill. So I shoot the whole belt of machine gun, nobody fell down. They kept on running. But that night, they counterattacked. So we set ourselves up.

But we couldn't go to investigate the cave, because the Germans on the other side were gonna shoot at us. So we had to wait until it was dark. So as soon as it got dark, I took two men and myself, went over to the cave. And I was on top of the cave with my rifle ready to shoot. And Joe Wakamatsu from Fife, Washington, he was a really reliable guy, so I used him. Said, "Let's go and find out what's in the cave." So I was on top of the cave and Joe Wakamatsu's going down, and then he asked the Germans over there, "How many in the cave?" I think he said three, I think. But he reported to me, three. I said, "Oh, have them come out." Only two came out. So I told Joe Wakamatsu, said, "Joe, turn around and fire into the cave." Well, he was turning around, and he pulled the trigger too fast, and that kicked him. He rolled down the mountain. And I thought somebody in the cave shot him. So I told the Germans to come out. This is the way I told my grandson the story. I said, "Comon zee." I was telling the story to my grandson, I said, "I told the Germans, 'Comon zee here with your hands up and your pants down.'" So my grandson remembers that story. He says, "Comon zee here with your hands up and your pants down."

But we captured the two Germans and came up to our trench, and then we had to take the prisoners down to the company headquarters. And there was a trail that came out from company headquarters to where we were. Well, it was a real small trail, and getting dark, they missed the trail. They had to go (all the way down to the bottom of) the valley. And what happened with the two prisoners and this... I think it was Joe Wakamatsu, and I think it was John Kanda, who became a doctor later, from Washington. I think he passed away. Anyway, they couldn't handle the prisoners, so I don't know what happened, if the prisoners attacked them or something, I think they shot at the prisoners because they tried to attack them. Well, here this Wakamatsu, he was one of the guys, he lost his balance and he rolled right down to the bottom of the steep hillside. And then somehow he started to come up. In the meantime, it got dark, and we got to the Germans and sent the Germans back. Well, in the trench on top of the hill, this Sergeant Roy Uyeno, second squad (leader), was guarding the rear end of the trench. And Sergeant Kishimoto, Kiyoshi Kishimoto was guarding the mouth of the trench. And like I said, I was in the middle, but I could only make a small opening to put my head out. I couldn't put my body out. So about two o'clock in the morning, I hear these rocks rolling down (in front of me). And I waited until the time when the rocks started rolling right (in front of) me. So when the rocks started rolling right (in front of) me, I yelled out. I said, "Roy," Roy Uyeno, he was on guard, I said, "turn around and fire to the rear." Well, I thought Roy Uyeno was facing the other way (so he had to) turn around and fire at this German coming up. Well, he was facing (towards me) to where we were. So I said, "Roy, fire to the rear," he turned around and fired. Just then, Wakamatsu came up. He said, "Hey don't fire at me." That was a comedy of errors.

BN: And you thought that Wakamatsu had been shot.

GK: Yeah. He rolled down. And he came up. And when he came up, I scolded the Germans, I said, "You killed my friend," and all that. And Joe came up and he says, "Kashiwa, I'm okay." And after that, he rolled down again when we were taking the Germans down. But I had to use him because he was really reliable. That's why I asked you, "Where are you gonna take this thing?" Because he was from Fife, Washington. And there was another guy from Bainbridge, I think, Washington, and I think it was this guy Kanda.

BN: I'm sure they all know them. Is he related to the Wakamatsu who played, who was the manager of, baseball player, played major league baseball?

GK: No, not that one.

BN: Not that one. They're from up there.

GK: Wakamatsu? He's from Fife.

BN: Uh-huh, Fife.

GK: In fact, I brought over this thing. Just to... when I heard that somebody from Seattle, you know, I wanted to make sure that Wakamatsu was mentioned, and I want to give you his army serial number. My job during the war was platoon guide. And platoon guide had to keep track of the men in the company, so I made this list. And Wakamatsu, Joseph Wakamatsu, 39913345. That's his serial number. And I wanted to make sure that you have that, because you said something about Seattle. That's him. See, all of us (from Hawaii had) 3010 serial number, but he's from the mainland, so 3991. But the interesting thing about this is that my duty to keep track of the roster for the 1st Platoon, and I crossed out those who got killed, and I added the names of those who came afterwards, joined us. Like... gee, I don't have it. But you know who finally joined us, 1st Platoon? I don't know whether it was 1st Platoon or he joined our Company L, Matsuo Takabuki and Stanley Watanabe. You see, they were left as cadre for the 1st Battalion. And they train all the recruits coming in. But just before the end of the war, they sent them to join the 442nd and they happened to be assigned to Company L. And that's how we got Matsuo Takabuki and Stanley Watanabe. And then we had lot of replacements starting with (3,991), all mainland. Yeah, they're all mainland.

BN: So you remained as a platoon guide throughout the...

GK: See, the platoon guide didn't have any squad. But he was second in command of the platoon, noncom. But I didn't have any men, so relieved me. But the platoon guide in the parade is the first to march. In the war, he's the last man. That's how I survived.

BN: But on a couple of occasions you ended up taking a leave because of...

GK: Oh. That was during the second time... no, no. Just before we left France, because all the people got injured and nobody but I became the command of the platoon.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BN: I wanted to move on next to, towards the end of the war, or the end of the war in Europe. I guess you were in, you next went to, next to Massa?

GK: Oh, after Folgorito we went to Massa. And the next town was Massa and Carrara. Carrara is a very famous name where they mined marble. You heard of Carrara marble? That's where it came from.

BN: Then you described encountering an enemy soldier that possibly both of you thought initially was friendly, and neither of you ended up shooting, near [inaudible]. Do you recall that?

GK: I don't remember. But I remember this one. After Folgorito, the Germans started to withdraw, and like I said, 2nd Battalion went down and turned right, and they chased the Germans. And that's when Senator Inouye was in 2nd Battalion, one of the companies, and he earned his medal in that, pursuing the Germans. That was after I (took) Folgorito.

BN: You wrote also that that's where you learned of the death of President Roosevelt.

GK: Yeah. And funny kind... well, he wasn't close to us, but when we heard that he died, something hit us, like we didn't have a leader. Funny kind. I don't know why, but... but you know that incident there, after Folgorito we chased the Germans up north. And while we were on the mountainside, and then somebody else was shooting the Germans on the coastal line. Well, on the mountainside, we hit a streetcar going down the mountain to... I don't know whether it's Genoa or La Spezia. I think it's Genoa. So we rode the streetcar and liberated the town. I think it was Genoa.

BN: What do you remember about V-E Day?

GK: V-E Day? I don't know. I don't know the exact... what date was that?

BN: Oh, I should have brought that. It was in May, but I don't know the exact date. 15th?

GK: Because Folgorito was April 5th, so May, I don't...

BN: May 8th...

GK: We were chasing the Germans out. And I think it was right before they surrendered. That's when we processed them way up north, Lake Como, something like that.

BN: But the interesting thing is that we were guarding the prisoner of war camp, and April, because the cherries ripened about that time. So all the farmers around there brought the cherries to sell to the Germans, so we were guarding the Germans. I said, "You cannot do that." You could not sell to the prisoners. So what we did was we bought the cherries from the farmers, turned right around, sell it to the Germans, that's how we made money. But they had a lot of money because in one incident, when they were processing the German army, M Company boys ran across a box full of money, liras, and they took that. Well, the headquarters found out that somebody took the box full of money, so they said, "Okay, inspection. Everybody, inspection," they're trying to find the money. Well, we were L Company, right next to M Company, and M Company boys took the money. And then when they heard that we were going to have inspection, they hid the money. Know where they hid it? You know the open air toilet they dig? They put it in there. So the boys had a field day. They went and bought motorcycle and everything, they were riding around, but they were M Company. [Laughs]

BN: So you didn't see any of that.

GK: Oh, no.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BN: Now, you weren't able to get enough points to be discharged right away.

GK: Yeah.

BN: So what did you do for the next few months?

GK: Oh, we were housed in a, you know the tents, big tents. And I don't know what we did, but we were housed there, and I didn't have enough points. Eighty points, I think, and you had to have eighty-five. Well, when I received word that I got a Silver Medal for that Folgorito thing, that was five points, so I had eighty-five points. So I was one of the first guys to go back home.

BN: And then you mentioned that when you got back, you found out that your family wasn't in Waialua.

GK: Yeah.

BN: Did you end up rejoining the family?

GK: Yeah. But at the temple, my family lived there. But I got my GI Bill of Rights, (for) five years (of education). So I went to University of Michigan, two years undergrad and three years law school. So GI Bill really helped me. Otherwise I couldn't afford that.

BN: Did you, when you returned, did you talk to your father about his internment period and what was his...

GK: I didn't talk very much with him.

BN: So you must not have been in Hawaii very long then before you went to Michigan?

GK: I don't know whether I finished sophomore at UH, but I had five years of free education, so I went.

BN: I know in Senator Inouye's book, he recounts his discussions with... I forget who it was now. Anyway, about how, going off and serving in the 442nd and being wounded, it changed his attitude towards what he felt was possible in Hawaii. Did you come back changed? Did you feel politicized or empowered after what you had done in Europe?

GK: Oh, yes. Because the community attitude changed. We were second class citizens, but after we came back from the war, 442nd, the attitude towards us changed. It's no longer second class citizens. Like before the war, during the war, when I went to work USED, United States Engineering Department, and we had a black badge restriction. So after the war, nothing like that.

BN: And the black badge was just Japanese had to wear, the black badge.

GK: Yeah. Restricted so you cannot go in anywhere.

BN: What made you pursue law specifically?

GK: Oh. Well, my brother was a lawyer, and he went to University of Michigan, so I had five years of education, so I used, I was a sophomore when the war started. I went to Michigan two years undergrad, graduated, and went three years law school.

BN: And then came back?

GK: Uh-huh.

BN: Were you active in the 442nd organization after the war?

GK: At first, no, because I was too busy with my law practice. But after I retired, I'm very active in the veterans club. And I go to a meeting, L Company meeting once a month, but very few nowadays.

BN: Did you ever talk to your father about the internment, his experiences?

GK: No. Because, like I say, he was interested in going back to Japan. He said he wants to help my sister up there. And even before the war, we never talked to him. It's my mother that controlled everything.

BN: But then she passed away.

GK: Yeah.

BN: Then what happened to the sister that was in camp?

GK: Oh. She got married to a haole GI in Japan.

BN: After the war?

GK: Yeah. And then she had two children, I think.

BN: But eventually came back here?

GK: No.

BN: The mainland?

GK: No, here.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BN: I know you went on the trip, the fiftieth anniversary trip up the Bruyeres and Biffontaine commemoration. Can you talk a little bit about the meeting of that?

GK: Well, it wasn't such a big thing except I went to the forest where we were.

BN: And that was the first time since...

GK: Where all the treeburst was. So one day, I was sitting next to a 522nd Artillery boy, so I was scolding him, I said, "You caused all the treebursts." He didn't like it. It wasn't him, though, it was the enemy.

BN: And then you were also instrumental in compiling the, kind of the memoirs of L Company also.

GK: Yeah. Well, see, what happened was that I wrote my memoirs and I was urging all the others to write. In fact, I used my rank. I said, "I'm your sergeant, you got to write." But just then, Hanamura, Howie Hanamura wrote his. So we just happened to put the two together, and then all the others started to come in. Like you noticed that one of the boys wrote, and he didn't want to write. So he finally wrote, and he referred back to my article and said, "On page so and so you wrote something, and at that time I was doing this." I think it was the attack on Folgorito. But Howie Hanamura did a good job. He started off from before the war. And the daughter is... what's her daughter's name?

BN: Wendy?

GK: Wendy. She was the go-getter. I think she even took the father up to Folgorito again.

BN: She's the one who became a TV reporter. Tell me about the recent, the Legion of Honor award.

GK: Oh. That, I don't know how it happened, but it must have been that after the Lost Battalion, we went to the right to chase the Germans, and I got the Silver Star. So Barney Hajiro was the one that got the Medal of Honor, and he was in I Company, I think, that attacked the Germans for the Lost Battalion. So, but like I say, it's a good thing I was in L Company, reserve. Otherwise I'd be killed or dead in the Rescue of the Lost Battalion.

BN: Did you actually go to France for that? This Legion of Honor?

GK: No, no. You see, my law partner was Pat Lee. He was a consulate, honorary consulate for France. So I think after Barney Hajiro, I was the next in line for having earned a medal. So when the ship came in, French ship, they honored me with the award of the Legion of Honor, and it was awarded to me on the ship, French ship.


BN: Just wanted to ask you about the importance of kind of capturing this history and why you feel it's important... and then you were mentioning, telling the stories to your grandson for the younger generation to know about this history.

GK: Oh. I was very willing to do this interview because you mentioned Seattle. And I don't know whether this is going back to Seattle or not...

BN: It is.

GK: But there were boys in my platoon from Seattle, and the one that I mentioned was Joe Wakamatsu. And he was a very reliable person in my platoon. And he's from Fife. I don't know where exactly Fife is. And there was a guy from Bainbridge Island, too, John Kanda. He was in our platoon, and he became a doctor, I think.

Off camera: Jack Sameshima.

BN: She says Jack Sameshima.

GK: Oh, Jack Sameshima, yeah. Mercer Island.

BN: So quite a few from the Pacific Northwest.

GK: Oh, yeah.

BN: This is all in L Company.

GK: Uh-huh, our platoon.

BN: In your platoon. Is there... given that a lot of students, younger people, will be referring to this, anything important that you feel like you want to share with the younger generation?

GK: Yeah. And that is, the formation of the 442nd and participation of the 442nd in the European war, I think really helped the status of the Japanese in the United States. Because I don't think anybody would make funny kind of remarks like they used to. And I think that's because of 442nd and the war record, like the Battle of Mt. Folgorito.

BN: Thank you very much.

GK: Okay.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.