Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sadaichi Kubota Interview
Narrator: Sadaichi Kubota
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 1, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-ksadaichi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

SK: I expected to see a blonde girl or the woman of the house face-to-face. Then the door opens and here's this little girl smiling (saying), "Please come in." And we had dinner. The thing is that (this) country boy never knew how to formally use the utensils, and there's sets of utensils there. Oh, my goodness.

TI: Lots of forks, lots of spoons...

SK: Oh yeah. [Laughs] That's right.

TI: You have about three forks and...

SK: And chicken, southern fried chicken. Gee.

TI: And you wanted to just pick it up and eat it. [Laughs]

SK: Yeah, I didn't know what to -- what I would do is just pick it up with my fingers and just munch on it. I think Mr. Beall sensed my uneasiness, so he said, "You know, Corporal, we Southerners eat chicken with our fingers." Oh, that was the cue, he picked it up. "Let us eat." And after dinner --

TI: Did he do that for your benefit? Do you think he usually ate with his fingers, or --

SK: No. I think...

TI: He just did it for you.

SK: I think he sensed my uneasiness.

TI: But normally, they would use a fork and a knife.

SK: Yes. That's what I figured, you see, because all those things were set up over there. Well, anyway, after dinner we went into the living room, just like this, and we were sitting on a couch like that. My (friend was here, and myself, and the couple over here, and as I recall, the mother sat over there, the father sat over there, and the two children sat over here. And we were talking about... mainly they were asking about Hawaii. So, this little girl moved over here. They are foreign, and she kind of crawled up, not crawled, but moved up to my side and she kept looking at me, and I'm kind of uneasy, huh?

TI: Because she was just around the side just looking like this on the --

SK: Yeah, something, you see? And suddenly she said, "Corporal Kubota," -- or just Corporal -- "I just love your black hair." Oh, my goodness. I just blushed and at that time, too. I felt like just hugging her and say, "Oh, thank you," but I didn't do that. But I still remember that. And years later, as a matter of fact, 1995, we went to Mississippi and I wrote. I didn't know whether they were alive or moved away or anything so I wrote to the postmaster at Andalusia. These are the things that happened and I would sort of like to meet with the Beall family, any one of them. And I didn't get an answer from the Beall family nor the postmaster so I (thought), "Well, what the heck, maybe they're all gone." So when we went to Hattiesburg, that's where we (stayed) before going to Camp Shelby. At the hotel -- well, in the letter I said I will be at this certain hotel on a certain day, and if it's possible I would like to meet them. If not, a phone call will be very much appreciated. So when I went there, there's a message for me. This, the girl who registered us said, "Oh, Mr. Kubota, there's a message for you." I read, and it says Gail -- her name was Gail -- Gail Harper. Gee, I knew a Gail, but Harper I didn't know. So I called -- oh, the number -- so I asked the girl at the registration office how can I get out of state (...) by phone. She said, "No, that's, that's local phone number." So I dialed, a couple times. The first time nobody answered, second time, this was about ten o'clock already and this woman answered, and I said, "Oh, I'm Sadaichi Kubota, are you Gail Beall?" She says, "Yes, yes." And I was really surprised that I would meet one of the families in Hattiesburg because I thought no one would be there. (As) I took a small gift, (...) I told her that if we, "I'm so busy with all the activities going on, but then I would like to meet with you if possible. But if we cannot, then I will leave this small gift at the desk so please pick it up." So she said, "No, we'll come," so she and her husband came. Well, I didn't know how she looked like. I was waiting at the entrance of the hotel and then this woman came directly at me. She gave me a big hug. Wow. [Laughs] And (said), "I'm Gail Beall Harper. I'm married to my husband Glenn." Oh, so we had a nice reunion, but that hug she gave me was really something - big reunion.

TI: And she remembered thatm that dinner when you came over?

SK: Yes. She said she kind of vaguely remember -- she was about five -- vaguely remember, but she remembers two soldiers coming to her home. She mentioned that her brother -- he was about seven years old at the time -- said he remembered us coming in and what we talked about.

TI: Did she remember anything about what her parents or brother said about the two soldiers, about what they talked about that you were from Hawaii and what that meant?

SK: Evidently because that letter that I sent, the copy to the bank, there was a Larry something who forwarded the letter to Mrs. Beall, the elderly woman, and she phoned her daughter that I was coming. So this is how... I'm assuming the mother talked to her daughter about this meeting we had in 1943 so she was kind of prepared and it was a good reunion.

TI: Interesting.

SK: Very interesting. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: I want to learn a little bit more about Hawaii when you were growing up. So why don't you tell me first when and where you were born.

SK: Born March 19, 1921, so I just made seventy-seven and in Hilo, Hawaii. It's a small plantation camp called Amauulu and I stayed there practically all my life. Born there, grew up there, high school, and for a short period I... what? I graduated in 1939 so I worked at a sake brewery. You know what sake is?

TI: Right, uh-huh.

SK: (From) about, let's see, 1939 until early 1941, then I went to Honolulu to work in the defense project.

TI: Okay. But going back to your childhood, growing up in Hilo, What was it like for you growing up in Hilo?

SK: Well, I knew we didn't have much money. Parents were poor, I knew that, but we weren't deprived of anything. Parents, my mother worked as a (housemaid) for (the) plantation. It was a boarding house and she kept the house there, and my father worked for the plantation, of course. And on his spare time he grew veggies in the garden plot about 200 yards away. And I grew up as a happy child, actually. Although I knew that we were poor, but we were provided (with) whatever things we wanted.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Well, when you think about your childhood versus your grandchildren and growing up in Hawaii today, do you think your childhood was, was a better place to grow up as child than today?

SK: Yes. When you say meeting people, building characters, and stuff like that, I think our time was a better time. Nowadays, 'cause you have your TVs and other medias to learn from, but... what do you call it now? It's too artificial, I think, now, but during the old days, our parents were strict, of course, and you followed the line and don't waver and stuff like that. So by comparison, I think we had a better life although it was hard on us. For instance, our grandchildren, we just dote on them. We give them whatever they want -- [laughs] -- things like that. We never had that.

TI: So when you think about that, that now your grandchildren get so much, do you think it should be different for them? Do you think sometimes it might be better to maybe bring them to Hilo or raise them there, or a simpler life and less artificial things?

SK: No, no. I think it's better for them to live here. They'll get more information, and to live a life that we lived, I don't think it's (good) for them anymore because science has progressed and everything has gone far beyond what we had. So I believe for our children, our grandchildren, to live in such a place as Honolulu it (would) be good, I guess.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Can you think of some of the things when you said life was hard, but they helped build character. What are some examples of that?

SK: Well, when I say hard, we had to work. Help dad take care of the garden, and my father had a small plot of caneland so during the growing season we helped there. If you know what I mean by hoe-hana, with a garden hoe. Grass, to keep the grass from overtaking the cane stalks, we used to hoe it, instead of hand weeding, just hoe it. And came, when the cane grew a little older then all the dried leaves, we had to take them down so that the rats won't get (them). So these are things we did. And then schooling, too. We had Japanese school. After our public school we went to Japanese school, and I think this is where we learned -- for me, at least -- to be, to accept the values of life, too. We had a teacher. He was born in Kauai so he's, he's a Kibei -- born here, raised in Japan, and came back -- and he taught us Japanese language and we had ministers also. Our school was Hilo Hongwanji Mission School so we were sort of, the school was affiliated with the church so we had the ministers themselves teach Japanese to us. And never have I heard (them) saying that, "This is Japan. You learn about Japanese culture and everything," that, "You are a Japanese national." None of that, but they always taught us that, "You are a Japanese so grow up like a Japanese, (have) honesty and gimu, on, and all that.

TI: Wait. I don't know about that. Explain to me what those terms mean.

SK: Okay. Gimu is responsibility, on is loyalty, and all these things.

TI: And loyalty to your family or friends?

SK: Family. To the country, mainly, to the country, yes. And especially this teacher who was born in Kauai, he always stressed loyalty to your own country. So when the war broke out, oh, there's no question, "America is my country." So there were many stories about teachers from Japan teaching the traditions of Japan and you become more or less Japan Japanese, but as far as I know, our teachers always taught us to be real good Americans so this I appreciated very much.

TI: How did they teach you these values? Was it through stories or was it through lectures or how did they teach you?

SK: Stories, lectures, and we used to read books because the books, stories in the books, sort of gave us an idea about the values, too, and this became our textbooks also, okay? -- to learn Japanese language as well as to learn the values of a human being. I guess that's it, but they always stressed on being Americans, not Japan Japanese.

TI: Now, how about your parents? I'm sure you got lots of values from your mother and father also.

SK: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Tell me first where your mother and father came from.

SK: Well, actually, my mother was born in Hawaii, in Hilo, but as an infant she was taken to Japan so in her birth certificate, Koseki Tohon, the Japanese registry, she's listed as born in Japan in Hiroshima, you see. My father was born in Hiroshima (...), and as a young man of nineteen he came to Hawaii under the sponsorship of his father, (...) my grandfather.

TI: Explain that again. Your grandfather sponsored your father.

SK: Yeah, that's right. My father -- no, my grandfather was here already. I don't know what year he came. He was here already and because the plantation wanted more workers, my grandfather called my father over.

TI: Okay. So your grandmother was still in Japan raising your father, and your grandfather was here working.

SK: That's right, that's right.

TI: Now, was that a pretty common thing?

SK: Common thing, common thing. And even in my family it's the same thing. So my father worked for a few years in Hilo on the plantation, went back to marry my mother. So my mother came from this family to my father's family, and they got married and soon after, he came back to Hawaii, leaving my mother over there.

TI: In Hiroshima?

SK: Yeah, in Hiroshima. And at that time, already my older brother -- he is ten years my senior -- was conceived (and my father returned to Hilo). So (Mother) gave birth to my older brother in Japan, and she stayed there for a few years, and she came to Hawaii alone leaving my older brother in Japan under the care of my father's sister.

TI: So your family was all over the place. [Laughs]

SK: Yes, that's right.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And your older brother, did he always stay in Japan or did he ever come to --

SK: Yes, he did come to Hawaii at age ten or eleven, I guess, and he stayed here for about six years, then he said that he preferred education in Japan so he went back to Japan and graduated from Nihon University. And he was in the Japanese diplomatic corps and worked in Shanghai and then the war broke out. But he visited Hawaii (once) when he was a university student. He represented Japan as one of the students at an international students conference in California someplace, and on his way back to Japan he stopped over here.

TI: How did the family... was the family pretty proud of him that he got a college education in Japan, and he was with the diplomatic corps? That sounds pretty impressive.

SK: Yeah, that's right. But my parents always said, "We're very sorry that we deprived you" -- myself, my brother and my sisters -- of higher education because they sent all their earnings to Japan to educate my brother. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: And this is sort of a tangent, but what happened to your oldest brother during the war?

SK: Well, we lost communications. So after the war ended, he repatriated to Osaka and stayed there and this is where I met him. That's a story in itself because we wondered what happened to him because all communications gone, but then my younger brother served as an interpreter in the China-Burma-India Theater of War, you see.

TI: That's with the MIS?

SK: Yes, with MIS. He ended up in Shanghai (where) he used to visit this corner coffee shop. He told the Japanese proprietor, "I have a brother here in Shanghai, but I don't know what happened to him." So the man said, "We have a Japanese newspaper here. Why don't you put an ad in there?" So he did and couple days later my older brother came to meet my younger brother at this coffee shop, and they had a great reunion. And, of course, I didn't know this at that time. For myself, I was being sent home to be discharged so I told my parents that I would like to remain in the army for a little while more. They asked me why. I (said), "Well, I'm concerned (about) my older brother. I don't know what happened to him and I would like to look for him." So I asked the authorities here if I could extend my service, they said, "Yeah, okay." I told them, "I know a few Japanese language and if I'm given a little more training, I'm quite sure I could be of use to the army, military," so they said, "Okay." So on my way to Minnesota, Minneapolis, where the Japanese school used to be, I stopped over at Camp Beale, I think. And my brother -- I didn't know that my brother was there -- he came to see me at the officer's section. And I was surprised to hear that he found my brother in Shanghai, you see, and he told me the story about the ad in the paper. So I was kind of relieved that at least he was safe and he was alive, so when I was in Fort Snelling studying, (...) a letter came from one Miss Hadley. I thought that was strange, but then -- because this letter was sent to my home in Hilo, and my sisters forwarded the letter to me and in it it said that she had met my brother.

TI: Your oldest brother?

SK: Older brother, yeah, that he was all right and he's relocated in Osaka. So that gave me more incentive to get through with school and be sent to Japan. So when I reached Japan, I headed straight for GHQ, and she happened to be one of the secretaries working for General MacArthur. And I always wondered how in heck she got in touch with my brother so I'm assuming that all the (names of the repatriates) would go through her desk so I assume that she saw my brother's name and found out where he lived so she contacted him, yeah. So anyway, when I met Miss Hadley she said, "Oh, yeah. He's okay." So like a nice lady she phoned the Osaka office to send a message to my brother that I was in Tokyo so a couple days later he came to Tokyo and we met.

TI: And describe what it was like when you, when you first saw him.

SK: Oh, it was really terrific, yeah. He was really thin, skin and bone, and I told him, "Let's take a bath together." We were in the NYK building. We took a shower and oh, my goodness, I could just see his ribs. And he explained to me that (they) survived on grass and potato, young shoots of potatoes, Irish potatoes, and stuff like that, sweet potatoes. And I really felt bad, but at least I knew that he was alive. So we had a nice reunion.

TI: What was his reaction when he saw you? What did he say to you?

SK: Same thing.

TI: He was happy to see you.

SK: Yes. He (said), "Sadaichi." Yeah, I still remember. (...) "Yoku kite kureta" -- "I'm glad that you came" -- yeah. So we had a nice reunion, yeah. Then I had a chance to take a troop of about 200 from Zama to Kokura -- that's in Kyushu -- and along the way he said, "I'll meet you at Itsukaichi." That's in Hiroshima. That's where my parents came from. So on my return, after delivering the troops, on my return to Zama I stopped over at Itsukaichi, and I met my brother over there again, and I met my other relatives so that's really nice. But the thing (is) that when I first enlisted, there was a call for Niseis to volunteer, so without even asking my parents, I went immediately to the board and registered, and then I went home to tell my parents about it. And they said, "Why did you do it now? Can't you wait?" I (said), "Well, since Japan and America are at war and I'm an American citizen, it was my duty to enlist." They (said), "What about your brother? He's a Japanese citizen." "Well, I know he's a Japanese citizen and he may be in the war right now. I don't know because our communication has ended." But after explaining to my parents that it is a must for me and they were concerned (also); they said, "It's okay, we understand your feelings so just do your best, just do your best."

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: When you volunteered, did you know that you were going to fight in Europe rather than in the Pacific?

SK: No, no.

TI: So there was a chance that you might be fighting against your brother.

SK: Exactly, this was my primary concern. My fear that if we were sent down to the South Pacific or somewhere's fighting the Japanese, there is always a chance we'll be shooting at each other, brother to brother. That was my only fear, but after our training they said that we're going to be sent to Europe. (That's) why I was kind of relieved. (When) I told my brother about this, he said, "Well, I'm glad we" -- actually he stayed with the consulate right through, and he said if he were in the military, he would have held a major's or lieutenant colonel's rank because of his work with the consulate. So I said, "Well, I'm glad you weren't called up."

TI: Did he ever talk much about Shanghai and the things he did with the Japanese? Did you ever have lots of conversations about that?

SK: Not too much on that one, all he said was that he did whatever the consulate had to be, to be doing. So not much about life there, but I know that he got married while in Shanghai to a Japanese woman, of course, who was born in Shanghai because her parents, her father was an engineer and he ran more or less a factory in Shanghai, and she was born there and then that's where they met.

TI: After the war, what type of work could your brother get? Here he is college-educated, held a high position in the consulate, what type of work was he able to do after the war?

SK: Well, he worked for the Japanese government as a purchasing agent, so he negotiated with the American military people. For instance, the military people would like to have this particular land, so my brother was responsible in negotiating with the military people.

TI: Now, did your brother speak English?

SK: Oh, yes, yes. Fluent English. So that's (the reason), after he retired from that position, he was hired by the Sasebo Ship Building Company, (and once) he represented the ship building company to go to New York (and see GE to honor the contract to deliver a generator). I guess the contract called for delivery at a certain time. It wasn't being delivered (on time) so he went over to negotiate (...). So he, I don't know how long he was with that company, but he retired from that position at age fifty-five or so.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Let's now jump back to December 7, 1941, and describe for me what happened to you on that day and how you heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

SK: Yeah. Well, as I told you, I was working in Oahu.

TI: That's right. Let's talk a little bit about that first. You went to Oahu to work in the defense?

SK: Defense project.

TI: Tell me a little bit about that what you were doing.

SK: Well, I was hired as a carpenter helper. I was a carpenter with the plantation, but as far as building construction is concerned, I wasn't too, too much up on it, you see, so I said, "I can help as a carpenter." So they hired me as a carpenter helper (at) fifty cents an hour, you know? That was big money in those days. [Laughs] So anyway, we built those barracks, three-, four-story-high barracks, concrete. So what I did was help the carpenters strip the forms. Those days not those brick building, but poured concrete so you need forms, and those -- after this particular floor was completed -- we took off all the nails and carried the forms up to the next stage. So it was really a heavy job, very hard. The ply boards are soaked with water so this is the reason those 4 x 8 ply boards were real heavy, but we managed. We were young those days. We managed to take it up and the carpenters put it together and built it up.

TI: Was there a lot of construction before the war started for the Defense?

SK: Yes, yes. I guess America knew about the coming war so construction was good. It was good money, too, so this is the reason from working as a handyman with the brewer, sake brewer company, I took this chance in coming to Honolulu. Well, primarily it was to (...) go to school, one of the business schools over here. That's why I left (home) early summer, work through the summer, earn some money, and use that as tuition to go to school, business school.

TI: And what year was this?

SK: This was 1941.

TI: Okay, so right before the war started.

SK: That's right.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

SK: So after the summer ended before school started, I said, "Well, the money is good so I better stick on working." And then I was living with a family, friend of the family, and Sunday morning I was strolling the street after breakfast, and I see puffs of smoke up in the sky towards Pearl Harbor. I told myself, "Gee, what the heck is going on?" Then I saw planes swooping down, but yet I cannot see the insignia so I don't know whether it's an attack or anything. And then I saw cars, not the normal speed, they're really speeding, so I hurriedly went back to my, to the home, turned on the radio, then I heard the words: this is the real thing, this is war. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor and my, just, hair just rose up, but at that time I said, "Gee, what a dumb thing to do, to attack Pearl Harbor like this." But I didn't know the real reason, being a country boy, never read the newspapers that much, but then I thought what a shame that two countries would be fighting like this. And then (...) announcer said, "All soldiers, all in the military return to your base," so I saw men in uniform taking (...) street (cars) or personal (cars) heading toward Fort Shafter or whatever. Then we continued to work as laborers.

TI: Before we go on, I mean, when, and so after the attack and you heard the radio and you saw the men, what did you think would happen to you? I mean, did you think about the pilots in those planes were Japanese, that you were of Japanese ancestry. What were you thinking at that point?

SK: Well, I was twenty-one years old at that time, so I thought, "Well, this is war. I guess I'm going to be involved also." That was my first thought, yeah. But then being Japanese myself, I thought, "Gee, what a tragedy to be fighting my own countrymen, yeah, my own race." But then I said, "Well" -- I'm thinking to myself -- "well, if we have to fight, it can't be helped. They'll fight for their country and I'll have to fight for my country." Practically the same thing I told my parents, my thoughts were in that line. So I worked for about a couple weeks after that here in Honolulu, and then I went back home just to be beside my -- stay at my parents' home and...

TI: Why did you do that? Because I would think there was lots of work that needed to be done on Oahu. Were there, did you feel a need to go back to Hilo? Did your parents need you?

SK: Well, yeah. I realized there would be more money here in Honolulu, but then I felt that my parents needed me in Hilo because to my family, my siblings, I was Anisan, the big brother. My big brother is in Japan and we had not much contact so my siblings, younger siblings, considered me as a big brother, you see. So this is the reason, too, I felt I should go home and well, work there.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

SK: But prior to going back we were called out for about a week. We didn't do anything as far as construction is concerned. Then we were called back to work and this time (...) to clean up. Oh, what a mess. What a mess, I tell you. All those barracks that we built was just torn to pieces. [Laughs] And some of those already occupied buildings, we had to move bodies out, go through the rubbles and pull out dead bodies, and all those things. It was really a bad experience, yeah. And I found shrapnels with Japanese wordings on it so that showed proof that the Japanese came.

TI: What were you feelings of the workers as you did this cleanup? Was it anger, was it fear, or what were people thinking?

SK: I guess more anger. We, in our group, we had a mixed group of workers -- Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos, and especially the Filipinos were kind of antagonistic towards us because the Japanese invaded the Philippines so they had bad feelings towards us. And the, we didn't -- at that time we didn't have much hakujin workers in the labor area, and most of the carpenters were Japanese, the older people. They were good at carpentry. So bad feelings -- it was only the very few people kind of looked at us with scorn and said, "What the heck you Japanese doing here working in the military area?" But to me it just rubbed off my shoulders. "If you think of me that way, it's okay. It's your own thinking," so I just kept on working. I worked for about a month or so, cleanup, then I went back to Hilo, and I worked for the sugar company at that time before I enlisted with the 442.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Well, after you volunteered, where did you have to go to be inducted into the military?

SK: Well, we had a national guard armory so that's where the... what board you call that? The draft board, the draft board was located in one of the rooms over there, too, but we were sworn in in this big armory. I believe we were about... roughly count about 300 of us because I was in the second call. I enlisted, we went through the physicals and testings, and this group went first. They were called and sent to Honolulu, and about two weeks later, I guess, we were called. And this is where we were sworn in, and from there we boarded one of the inter-island small ship and went over to Honolulu.

TI: Were there any last words before you left on the ship from your parents?

SK: Oh, yes, yes. They just said,"Shikkari yatte koi" -- Do your best. Yeah, do your best. And I told my parents that I may not come back alive, but like the old Japanese, "Sho ga nai." Can't be helped, yeah. I still remember those words. So, of course, my father is very stoic, you know, always held his head high. My mother, of course, cried right through. My two sisters were at the departure area. Oh, yeah, from there, from the armory we march over to a place called Kalakaua Park. It's only about few hundred yards from the armory so we marched over there, and there we heard speeches by the various community leaders about doing a great thing by enlisting. So after that we boarded trucks and went to the pier, yeah. At that time we had an old family friend, old man, a Chinese, Chinese. Very good family friend. I didn't cry. I shed no tears up until I said goodbye to him and shucks, big tears rolling down his cheek and I had to, I was very emotional because he was very close to our family and my younger brother, who was with the MIS, was very close to him also. As a matter of fact, he used to sleep at his home, that Chinese old man, so he was very sad that we were going to war. Until then I just took it for granted that well, goodbye, see you when I come back, but with this old man, I just became emotional.

TI: Do you remember any words that he told you as you left?

SK: I kind of forgot what he said, but my brother's name is Yoshio and he told me something like, "Take good care of your brother, Yoshio," because (he was really the old man's) pet, you see.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

SK: And my brother was in Honolulu working. When I enlisted, I wrote (...) my brother (to say), because I enlisted, "Please stay back. We are only two in the family, two boys in the family, so will you please stay back? I've enlisted." He sent me the same type of letter. [Laughs]

TI: At the same time?

SK: Same time. I guess our letters crossed. He told me to stay home because he enlisted, but we ended up in the same battalion. I was with 3rd Battalion. I was with I Company and he was with L Company, but the way we parted is that after our basic training, there was a team from Fort Snelling that came down and interviewed those of us who had Japanese language training. To that team I said, "No, I'd rather stay with my boys here," and I guess I was... I guess I was a staff sergeant at that time already, so my brother came up to me and (said), "What shall I do? They've asked me to go up to Fort Snelling." I said, "Personally I would rather you get away from 3rd Battalion. I don't want to see you here. I would rather you go to be one of the MIS members because at least" -- what do you say? Out of sight, out of mind or out of mind, out of sight. My reasoning is that we're in the same battalion. I, K and L will be fighting together. If he were in combat with me at the same time, I would be constantly worried about my brother so this is the reason I said, "I would rather you go to wherever they will send you, but not be with me in the same place." So he said, "Yeah, I think that's best," so he joined the MIS group.

TI: Was it common for brothers to be in the 442 at the same time?

SK: Yes, uh-huh. There is the Oshiro brothers, I know, (these) are two brothers in the same company. Usually they'll separate the brothers, you see, but these Oshiro brothers were in the same company, the same platoon also so that makes it (even) closer together. And I recall this incident where one brother was killed, and this other brother went berserk. He ran towards the enemy, but his buddies had to tackle him and keep him down because I guess yake inside, so angry that whatever source that killed him, he was going to kill them also. But it's a good thing. One brother got killed, but he survived, but I remember his buddies telling me they had to literally hold him down so that he won't get away to attack the enemy.

TI: Yeah. It must have been very difficult to see your brother.

SK: Very difficult, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Let's go to Camp Shelby and talk about when you got to Camp Shelby. What was it like?

SK: Oh, Camp Shelby was a desolate place as I remember, sand, no grass in the company area, maybe pine trees here and there, barracks, and must have been used by the National Guard or something like that. I don't know, but it was an old building, anyway. And the latrine was about a hundred yards away, things like that, and the bathroom, the shower room was another hundred yards or so away and everything is community thing. But being brought up in a plantation community, this was not new to me because during the old, during our time, I remember we had outhouses. I grew up in that kind of situation, and the outhouse was maybe about fifty feet away from the home itself until the plantation decided to -- the houses were all helter-skelter -- until the plantation decided to systematize the homes all lined up so that was okay. And at that time we had regular sewer system, though, not regular toilets, sewer system. There was a water catchment up there and you released the water at a certain time and by trough the water ran down and took our waste away, that kind of situation. So to me, the only uncomfortable thing was I'm sitting next to somebody whom I didn't know and doing my business. That was kind of uncomfortable, but I got used to it. He does the same thing that I (did). [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Well, when you arrived, first arrived, at Camp Shelby, already there were the mainlander Japanese Americans. How did the two groups get along?

SK: Well, as I recall -- with me, I take a person as he is, not in general, so I felt I got along well with the mainland Niseis, but there were some who... what you call it? Didn't get along, I guess, with them. Mainly because most of them were noncoms already.

TI: The mainland Japanese Americans Niseis?

SK: Yeah, mainland Niseis, and they gave the orders. And us Hawaiians don't like to take orders from another Japanese -- [laughs] -- so that was my feeling anyway. But I think I got along well with everybody because I got along with -- I mean, I respected a guy as he is right there and then. So that was all right for me.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: But later on you were promoted to corporal and then later on to sergeant and then staff sergeant --

SK: Yes, yes.

TI: -- during, at Camp Shelby. Why were you selected to be promoted?

SK: I have been thinking about what the heck happened along the way, but my platoon leader, that officer, used to take me aside and says, "Kubota, if this kind of situation -- out in the field training" -- says, "what would you do?" I (...)... being a brand new soldier I didn't know what the heck (to say). I just gave any kind of answer. He (said), "Well, if I were in this kind of situation I would do this, this, this." So indirectly he was giving me personal training. This is what I felt afterwards.

Then, too, this is how I feel, I tried to think ahead in a kind of given situation what would I do. So even little things like folding your tent, shelter half we used to call it in those days. I carried one half and my partner carried the other half so we built, put the two together and made our shelter half, our shelter. We both slept in this (tent). Inside this shelter half we have (rolled) our blankets, then we put it on our back, strap it on our pack. To make it small I say, "Yeah, well, how can do I this?" So I was thinking of ways to make it smaller, tight. I think the lieutenant saw this so he (said), "Kubota, will you do (that) -- show the others what you were doing right now." So I (say), "Well, this is what I'm doing to keep the shelter half tight so it won't fly out." So that was one situation. Another situation I remember, we were (on) individual soldier's training. The normal thing (to do) is to run forward, drop on the ground, and shoulder the rifle, and fire. I'm thinking to myself if I drop over there then shoulder the rifle, the enemy will see where I dropped, and they will have plenty of time to shoot at me. So I thought well, I'll drop and I'll roll a few feet to the right or to the left. That will give, that will not give the enemy time to aim at me. And I guess the officer saw that, too. He (said), "Kubota, will you show what you did right now?" So maybe that's the reason I was promoted to corporal. [Laughs] Yeah, this is how I feel and from there it was buck sergeant and then I took over the squad as a staff sergeant.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: And when you took over a squad and you had your men, how did you lead them? I mean, what would you do? Would you do anything different than the other sergeants, do you think?

SK: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I took every man for himself. I didn't want to discriminate one against the other so I treated all those guys equally. Maybe this is the reason, too, we respect, the respect for each other was really great. And here's a good story where I learned that the men really, my squad members, really liked me. For Christmas I got a cake from my sisters and somehow I was out training. I came home late. All the squad members were -- the squad occupies one barrack, you see. They said, "Hey, Kubota, come on, come on. Someone sent you a cake over here." "Oh, yeah, okay." So I just took off my equipment and then above our bed there's the shelf and there's a box. And I took it down and it (...) didn't (feel) like cake, not heavy like cake, so I took it down and I opened it and there was one piece of cake left for me. [Laughs] Shucks.

TI: [Laughs] And the men were all there laughing?

SK: Yeah. They ate it. They ate everything except this one piece. So then I thought, well, son-of-a-gun. If they play jokes on me like this, I guess I'm in. You know what I mean.

TI: That your men felt comfortable enough with you and liked you enough to do that because if you were more aloof they would not, they would not take your cake.

SK: Yeah, that's right. So I felt good. Although they played a mean trick on me, I felt good. The second time -- this was on my birthday, March -- I got a cake. I guess they opened it. Maybe they would have played the same trick on me, but then on it says, "Happy Birthday Big Brother." [Laughs] So this one they didn't touch.

TI: Because they wanted you to see the -- [laughs]

SK: Yeah. So anyway, right there and then -- I have a picture of that cutting the cake and those guys eating the cake.

TI: I'd like to see that.

SK: So we shared that cake, but I guess this is how we got along.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: A little bit later in training I wanted to ask about, a man joined your unit, Shiro Kashino, and I wanted to ask you about Shiro a little bit and what kind of man was Shiro?

SK: Shiro, when I first met him, he was quite outgoing, outgoing fellow, but not boastful, outgoing, but not boastful. And I thought we got along very nicely and he was a big fellow, huh. At that time I thought he was a 6-footer. I'm small and I remember -- you see, he came a little late. He came a little late, but then he caught up with us quite fast and after training, we do individual soldier's training and I remember this particular time. We were all sitting together, the squad, telling each other how we should protect ourselves in hand-to-hand combat. One of our members, he knew his judo and more jujitsu. It's a little different from judo, jujitsu. So he was showing us what to do in case he's attacked, and he did a good job on one of our guys, flying, flying leg scissors and all those body attacks like that. And then he said, "Sergeant, why don't you do it, show your judo?" Well, I told him that I took a little judo and I had a brown belt. It's not quite black belt, you see, so he said, "Why don't you do your judo on Kashino?" and I said, "No, no." Well, he goaded me and he goaded me, see? So I said, "Well, okay. Kash, let's try." So my famous one is seoinage, that's (to) go under him and then just lift him up and throw him over my shoulder. So we are sparring a little bit and I went under him, and that bugger just grabbed me by my waistline, lifted me up -- [laughs] -- and I couldn't do anything. And he laughed and said, "You wiry bugger, you." [Laughs] But these are the things that we did for fun too, but (it was) all (...) towards training, what we could do. But this is the type of guy Shiro was at the beginning, anyway. And, too, during his drinking hours, after hours, he didn't drink too much, but after couple he would stand on the dining room -- actually the mess hall, mess hall dining table, and he'll dance and gyrate around singing the "Famous Tangerine." [Laughs] And he used to make us laugh and I really appreciated him, made it light for us, not just training, training, training. But he made us laugh all the time so that was good.

TI: So even though he was a mainland Nisei, he fit really, in really well with the Hawaiians.

SK: That's the amazing thing, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: But let's, let's now continue and let's talk about -- let's pick it up where from Shelby, United States. You took a ship to Europe and it took a while going across the Atlantic. But as you got closer and closer to Europe, what kind of thoughts did you have about, about landing at Europe and what were you expecting?

SK: Well, at that time I guess... well, I guess, here comes war. I may die. I may live, I don't know. So that was my primary thought, and, of course, everybody going into war is afraid of what's going to happen. So I felt a little afraid, but yet, what the heck, it's going to be a shooting war. I might come back dead so it didn't bother me too much although I was afraid. But when you are faced with the enemy, that becomes a little different story, too.

TI: How about your men, did you say anything to your men as you got closer to Europe about what they should do?

SK: Yeah. Well, the same old story: we are a team so let's work together. The thing with us Niseis is that we looked after each other. We were very, very close so whatever that fellow did, we watched over, and if you got hurt, we made sure that he's evacuated or stuff like that. So as far as talking to the men, that's what -- well, I was a squad leader at that time so I believe I got them together and said, "Let's work together, look out for each other," so I think this is about it.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: What was it like when you landed on the ground?

SK: Landed in Italy actually, Naples. Naples was bombarded so it was quite a bit busted up, but we were taken to a place, oh, about a few miles away from Naples itself, anyway, it's barracked in a university building. From there we were given passes so I went to Pompeii and looked around. From there we were transported by train or trucks. I don't remember, but beyond Rome to a place called Civitavecchia. That's when we joined together with the 100 Battalion. So the 100 Battalion is one battalion. When we left Shelby, the first battalion -- we had three battalion: 1st Battalion, 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion. So the 1st Battalion was kind of broken up and the men were sent over to the 2nd and 3rd Battalion. So I guess this was all planned because when we went to Italy, then the 100th became our 1st Battalion.

TI: And did some of the men from the 1st Battalion go to the 100th also, too, as replacements?

SK: Yes, that's right. Well, even before that, even before, during training, there was a call for replacement for the 100, and I remember one of our guys went and no sooner he went, we got report that he was killed. We felt bad, but that's what happened. Many of our guys went as replacement. And, of course, as I said, 100th became the 1st Battalion and then the 2nd Battalion was intact, 3rd Battalion was intact, so we made the regiment. But the 100th kept its designation as the 100th Battalion, it's separate, right? So the whole thing was the regiment.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Tell me about those first few days of fighting when you first got there.

SK: Oh boy, I tell you. We were being trucked to the front and along the roadside, I saw a couple, three dead Germans and my stomach kind of turned. First time I'm seeing a dead person like that. So I guess the others felt the same thing. Well, this is war. Kill or get killed. So we went... gee, I forgot what the place was. It was a small village and (...) we were the leading element, and from our, from our platoon, we were the first squad. The second squad was sent first and we were held back, and before going about hundred yards, we were fired upon, and we were pinned down, of course. And one of our guys in the second (squad) never even had a chance to fire his automatic rifle. He was killed right there and then. He was a good ballplayer here, in the islands. Then we were told to relieve these guys so we went this way, climbed up the hill, small hill, and at that time we were being fired upon, but we fired back, of course. Then in the meantime, because of this pressure on (the enemy), (the second squad was) able to withdraw so when (...) this squad withdrew, we were told to withdraw ourselves. And at that time, 'cause we were being fired on as we went back, one by one we would go back. One withdraws, the others will be firing so that he will be safe coming back. And this one, Fred Matsumura, he was my second-in-command. I heard him swearing up and down. "What the heck happened, Fred?" He said, "Look at my bullet." In a Garand rifle we have a clip with (...) ten rounds like that. This bullet, it's kept over here. This bullet went right between the two rows of clip ammunition, and if it were closer, it would have, it would have ripped open his belly.

TI: Because if the bullet hit the other bullets, it would just have exploded?

SK: No, no. It didn't explode. It didn't explode because it didn't hit the primer. It didn't hit the primer, you see, so it just passed through the two rows of bullets.

TI: Okay.

SK: He showed me (the clip), said, "Oh, my goodness. You got good life, being saved like that,"(I told him). Thereafter, we were ordered to move forward along the roadside.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

SK: Then it's the aftermath of chaos. We saw tanks, trucks, German enemy trucks, equipment, and small cars like our jeep, and bodies hanging out from the turret of the tanks, trucks' windshield all busted up, and the driver and his rider all shot to pieces. Then I later learned that because we were stopped, the 100th Battalion made sort of an end run and caught the Germans unaware while they were withdrawing and they really (got) busted (...) up. Oh, golly, and in that process, too, they captured (...) artillery pieces, too. (...) The 100 did a good job in... what do you call that? Sometimes I get lost with words, but anyway, took them by surprise as they withdrew, you see, so...

TI: In the 100th they were much more experienced.

SK: Much more experienced, right.

TI: They had been there for quite a bit of time before the 442.

SK: Yes, that's right.

TI: And when you saw what they did, were you pretty impressed, I guess?

SK: Very much impressed.

TI: With what they did? Did it make you feel a little inadequate?

SK: [Laughs] That's right. We are just new soldiers coming up, raw soldiers, as far as battle is concerned and here we see all this dead bodies. I really, at that time praised, got good words about the 100th Battalion boys, but, of course, their leaders were good, too. Their leaders, (...) platoon leaders or company commanders were mostly Niseis, too, so they knew what they were doing, although, the head commander was Colonel Turner, is a local man.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

SK: After that we advanced and, I guess, this is the first time I saw a German right there in front of me. We were strung along, ready to go forward, and we were waiting for orders to go forward. Then about 200 yards away I see medics moving back and forth so I went to investigate. Here on the ground I saw a good-looking German. Blond, big fellow, SS on his collar. So I asked the medic, "What happened?" He (said), "The darn fool refused our medical aid." "So what happened?" "Oh, he bled to death." So I guess it told me how proud the SS men were for the fatherland. Kill or be killed. It's okay, I got killed. So actually he died because he bled to death.

TI: And how did that make you feel about the German or SS?

SK: Oh, I felt bad in a way, but yet happy that one German was out of the way.

TI: Did that give you a sense of more respect for the German soldiers?

SK: Respect, yeah, very much. It seems like he was an officer. I really don't know at that time, but yes, I respected the German SS. I mean, refusing aid and just dying away.

TI: And what did that make you feel like what to expect when you fought the Germans, did you think that it was going to be harder?

SK: That they were good soldiers, yeah, that we have to be more careful and fight just as hard as they. I had a kind of queasy feeling, too, seeing a dead man right there in front of my eyes.

TI: So, who had just, just died.

SK: Just died, yeah. But my respect for the Germans (was) very high at that time.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Now, are there any battles that stick out in your memory that you participated in that you can tell me about?

SK: Yeah. You see, we all go together so it's hard to say this battle was one this battle... but this one particular time, my platoon sergeant got wounded so he asked me to take his place. So I became the platoon sergeant after that, and my second-in-command Matsumura was made staff -- no, my squad leader, and I believe Kash was made assistant squad leader at that time. But, anyway, we were (assigned as a) recon combat patrol to recon, reconnoiter, the area and if possible, fight. So this is wine-growing area so the fields are bare at that time, recon time, so we dispersed ourself and going forward, and we came to a narrow ditch. Well, it was a man-made water area, oh, about ten, fifteen feet in width and on the other side was a kind of flat area and that went up like this. We didn't know what was on the other side, but it was a long thing. When we reached there, my scout yelled, "Hey, look at the dirty looking goat." The goat was grazing along the edge of this pond, then I saw couple Germans stick their (heads) out and blast us. I got three guys killed right there and then. But, anyway, I told those guys, "Okay, go against the bank over there." And we didn't know what was going on the other side so we threw grenades and then we (waited for the explosion). Right after that we go over so that they won't have a chance to fire back. That was the intention. So we went over we saw Germans in the (dry canal) -- it was a man-made canal, that's right, like that see. They were (dug in) over there. Had they been awake, they would have been, we would have been fired (upon) when we were about 200, 300 yards away. They were asleep. One German I saw was dead in his foxhole, his shoes neatly placed on the side of his foxhole. One of our boys just shot him there, and there were a few of the soldiers running this way and we fired upon them. And we didn't know how many was killed, but then that was the first skirmish we had by our platoon itself. Usually it's two platoons going forward and one is in reserve, you see, so normally we don't have hand-to-hand combat at that time, but this particular time we were real close to the enemy.

TI: What was going through your mind when it was over? You had just lost three of your boys, you had just been in a skirmish, you've killed German soldiers, what kind of things do you think about at that point?

SK: It's really... just fire. That's all. No feeling. Our aim is to kill, you see, so that's what we did. I remember Kash using his BAR (Narr. note: Browning Automatic Rifle) to fire, but I felt that -- I did a crazy thing at that time, as I think about it now. His BAR wasn't taking effect because he wasn't using his tripod, I mean, bipod. Normally (...) a bipod (is used) and (...) the (rifle's butt) on his shoulder and fire this way, see, that would be more accurate, but he was firing from his hip. So I remember distinctly telling Kash, "Hey, use my shoulder." That was a stupid thing to do, but I felt that it would be more accurate for him to fire. Later I learned those guys running (away), (...) we got six Germans killed so I felt that Kashino's BAR did the trick.

TI: And he used your shoulder?

SK: Yeah.

TI: Now, why did you think that was a mistake, then?

SK: Afterwards I thought it was a mistake because if the Germans had fired back, I was... [laughs]

TI: You would have been Kashino's shield. [Laughs]

SK: Yes, yes, I tell you. But when you come to that kind of situation, you'll do anything, anything, to do what you are supposed to do. Oh, my goodness. But I think we laughed at it afterwards, but his accurate firing, I think, got the six running away.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

SK: But I'm sorry to say it, (...) we had this lieutenant. After we met this fire (...), he just froze and he just froze over there, more or less. So I had to take command and tell (others) what to do, and we couldn't move because we were being fired from this building and this building. But here's a good story where I really respected our field artillery people, very accurate. I tell you, it's terrific. We were along this bank over here being fired upon. Well, anyway, we didn't know what was going beyond this (mound) so I called for artillery fire, and I gave them the coordinates where they should fire, and they fired one round first, smoke. You know what smoke is.

TI: Why don't you describe it for me.

SK: Okay. It's actually, it's a smoke shell. It lands and it's to say this is where...

TI: Where you're going to land.

SK: Where you're going to fire.

TI: And then you can adjust from there.

SK: Yes, adjust, left or right or far or near. So I said, "That was a little too far. You going to fire another smoke?" He says, "Oh, no need, Kubota." "Okay." So they just bombarded that area. And then at the beginning the rounds were going (in) high then (they) started coming closer and closer over our heads. At least, I could feel the -- what you call the vibration or whatever. You know, when a car passes you, you can feel that. At least, I felt that the round's coming right over our heads. So I called the artillery people, "Hey, (you're coming) too close to us. 'Nough already. Pau, pau." And they said, "No worry, Kubota, no worry." [Laughs] Reassuring us that their firing is accurate, you see. (So I said), "Okay, okay."

TI: But you could feel the shells coming right by like the wind coming right by.

SK: That's right, that's right. The wind. I tell you, but the next one is this (...) sniper, is firing from this building so I said, again on the map, "You see this dark spot building?" "Okay, we see that." "They're firing at us. I'm quite sure there are a bunch of guys in there. Could you direct some fire on that one?" They said, "Okay." "You going to throw smoke?" "No, no, no. We know where to fire," and five or six rounds, just, that building just went down. Oh, I just raised my hat and said, "Thank you." Then we were able to withdraw. This was late evening already, late afternoon, so we were able to withdraw. I guess we did, carried out our (assignment).

TI: I want to go back and ask about the lieutenant. You said that in the heat of the battle he froze. So when a situation like that happens and you retreat and go back, how do you deal with that? How do you handle that situation?

SK: I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything. When we came back he just stayed put in his own area, in his platoon command. So (it) was dark already when we went back so I saw him sitting there and doing nothing so I took it upon myself to report to company headquarters, what happened, but I said nothing about that officer. But pretty soon a new replacement came in, a new officer came in.

TI: And how did that happen? Do you think the officer just said that he couldn't do it anymore or did someone else report that he couldn't do it?

SK: I don't know. I didn't report him, maybe our boys reported him. I don't know, but about a week or so later a new officer came in and during that period I took command of the platoon.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Which I want to get into, eventually you got a battlefield commission to become an officer.

SK: Yeah.

TI: Can you tell me about that and how that happened?

SK: You know, I feel, I know it's because of my platoon members I got elevated. This was after the rescue of the Lost Battalion in France. I was wounded and (...) evacuated to (an evac) hospital this time, and I learned that the company or the regiment was being sent down south so I asked the nurse over there in charge of our ward, "I heard that the regiment is pulling out. Can I go out?" She said, "Well, soldier, yours is a head wound so I don't know whether we can allow that, but I'll ask the commandant." So she came back and told me, "Yes, he said you can go. There is a mail truck coming in tomorrow morning at a certain time so you can jump on (it) and go." So me, with my bandage still on my head and with my helmet on the side, I rejoined the company. Then at the company site, the company commander called me and said, "Kubota, I want you to accept a field commission." I said, well, first I said, "No," captain -- oh, it was Lieutenant Wheatley at that time. "Lieutenant, I'm not fit to command. I refuse." So he said, "Well, what are your duties now?" "Well, as a platoon sergeant, I take care of this and this." "Isn't that the same duty as a platoon leader, (an) officer would do?" "Well, more or less." "Well, you are doing the same thing so we want to you accept this promotion." So I said, "No, I refuse. I refuse." So anyway --

TI: Now, what were the real reasons? Why did you not want to be an officer?

SK: I had a high school education, just a high school education. All the officers, college grads and they've had further training at OCS, Officer Candidate School, and things like that so I felt inadequate at that time.

TI: But on the battlefield you were a good squad leader. I mean, you did a really good job out there.

SK: Well, that's what I felt, but at that time I felt I wasn't, I didn't warrant an officer's position so I refused, but he said, "Think about it." I said, "Yes, Lieutenant. I thought about it and I refuse." So I went back to that platoon area. And then the platoon guys, my platoon members, heard about it. I guess they knew about it already before I even went to see the lieutenant, and they told me, "Kubota, go accept the position. We'll help you. We'll do all we can to help you." That made me feel good. I knew that my platoon members were all back of me, but I told them, "I would rather be with you guys, not be an officer in a separate..." But that was that, (and) we pulled down (...) south, to (...) southern France (on) Christmas Day, Christmas Day, the lieutenant said, "Kubota," -- sergeant, I guess I was a tech sergeant, so sergeant -- "General Devers" -- I think -- "wants to see you in his office. Here's a jeep so you go with, go with Maeda." So I went down and here I see one man from... he's a big island person, too, Yoshida. Incidentally, he was the only ranking noncom right after the Lost Battalion. He was a ranking noncom. He was just a staff sergeant. He was there, too. I said, "What you here for?" "I don't know." And there was Shig Teraji from 3rd Battalion headquarters, he was there, too. I guess he knew more or less what was happening. So inside of me I kind of suspected that the general wanted to see us because of the promotion. So as soon as we entered, he says, "I want to congratulate you boys on becoming, I mean, accepting this commission." I said, hey. [Laughs] I was going to tell him that no, I didn't accept, but then I was too late.

TI: Because it's hard to say no to a general after he says that.

SK: Yeah. So anyway, he told us of his story. He was an enlistee during World War I, enlisted, and he climbed himself up to become a brigadier general, you see, so I was very impressed with his story, with the man himself, too, very humble type of person. So he swore us in and (said), "Well, you're brand-new second lieutenants." [Laughs] So we three left in our own jeep and we returned to the company (area) and here our boys lined up, my 2nd Platoon members, all lined up and saluting me. [Laughs] I can't forget that.

TI: It seems like there was a very special feeling in your platoon.

SK: I felt that way, too, and I was happy, very happy, that they accepted me as such.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

SK: But I guess being an officer had, had its privileges, too. We went to resort areas -- like (cannes while) the enlisted man went to common areas, so it was all right. But when it comes time to lead men, it really hurt me because I'm telling these guys, "Hey, you going die." You know what I mean? I give them an assignment and even as a platoon sergeant, when I asked those guys to go out and carry out a certain duty, I waited until the last man came back, made sure that everybody was well. One time I sent this squad out and the squad sergeant wasn't there so I said, "Hey, what happened to Kiichi?" "You know, that bugger, he got shot up, and he was supposed to be the first one out, but he told the medics, 'Go take the other guys first,' and he was the last man to be evacuated." So this is the type of guys we had, really tough outside and inside, too.

TI: It sounds like one of the things you found as an officer, there is a lot of heavy responsibility for the men, and you felt responsible to try and keep them as safe as possible.

SK: That's it, yeah. The loss of hair is because of that. [Laughs]

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: We're running a little short on time so I'm going to now jump forward to a reunion, 1983, and this was a reunion -- I'm going to start talking about, a little bit more about Shiro Kashino. Can you talk about -- well, maybe I should even back up and when you think about Shiro Kashino, there was an incident he had in Europe where he was court-martialed. Can you describe a little bit about why he was court-martialed and what happened?

SK: Well, as far as I know -- this I'm hearing from a third person -- that my platoon members went to a small village to have fun, relaxation, because we were in a situation where it was a stagnant type of situation. We just guarded the German-Italian -- I mean, the Franco-Italian border to prevent Germans from infiltrating through our lines, you see, so it was sort of a static situation, and so our boys had time to go down and relax. And then at that time it seems like one of our boys, a platoon member, was involved in a fight with a Puerto Rican officer, an MP officer, military police officer. And Shiro and Fred Matsumura heard the commotion. They didn't know what was happening, but they just saw a scuffle over there so they separated the two and that was it. According to Fred Matsumura, they parted in a friendly mood, this misunderstanding. But the following morning Kashino, Matsumura, James Matsuda -- he was the one that got involved in the fight -- and Tadao Hayashi. These four were kept back. There were about ten guys who were corralled and taken to the MP station and questioned. The others were released, but these four were kept back. And this MP officer and a few men, MPs, came down with our battalion commander, and I felt at that time, why would a battalion commander come and pick up Kashino and the rest of the guys, but it didn't dawn on me what was happening. These guys were incarcerated, put in the stockade (during our) the rest periods. So we were sent back to Italy and they were still in (the) stockade. When time came for combat, they rejoined us. We fought our way. Kashino did. [Inaudible] at that time, he earned this Silver Star at one of the skirmishes and after the war ended, back again to the stockade. Then came the court-martial (hearing).

TI: Going back, it seems a little odd that they would be released just to fight and then when they were done fighting they would be back in the stockade. Was that a common thing?

SK: I felt that if a prisoner is a prisoner, he is a prisoner, not sent back to fight. Well, I don't know what went wrong.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

SK: Later I learned, because Kashino wrote a story what happened in France. Kashino was sent to the battalion headquarters for water ration. When he was there he was with a group of other third battalion people, you see. They were told that ration truck is coming up so go and pick (the supplies) up. This is nighttime now, so Kashino told the battalion commander -- this is (...) Kashino's (story) now. I'm reading his story -- so the battalion commander told them to go. Kashino told the battalion commander, "You know, the Germans were here before us. They know every route there is. When they hear a truck, they know the sound of a truck, they know that something's happening. When the sound stops, they are going to throw heavy stuff. So we should wait a while." And Kashino said, "The battalion commander said, 'Go.'" Kashino told his guys, "We should wait a little while because this is going to happen." So others said, "(We must go) because it's the orders of the battalion commander, we should go," so they did, and lo and behold...

TI: A barrage came.

SK: A barrage came and Kashino is saying that (they had) to evacuate those killed and wounded, and when he went back to the battalion headquarters, he told the commander in no uncertain terms that we would rather have starved than getting our boys killed. So I think that was the point that irritated the battalion commander, and I think that was the reason Kashino and other three were kept in the stockade. I feel vengeance (was the cause). A lowly (foot soldier), Kashino, talking to the battalion commander (in this manner). This is the first time I've learned what had happened before, and now I'm thinking, through process of elimination, I guess, that because the battalion commander was angry at Kashino, these four were kept in the stockade.

TI: So that's why it makes more sense why that same battalion commander came down with the MPs and picked up those four.

SK: That's right. Why should he come? This is a company matter or the MP matter. And a few days later, Chaplain Yamada, he was our 3rd Battalion, 3rd Battalion chaplain, you see, he came to see me. He said Matsuda did the dirty work and he kept quiet as to who was to blame, who was the instigator, but he won't own up. He won't admit to the fact that he was the guy and so naturally the others (were) kept in the stockade. If he had (admitted to the blame), I think the other three would have been released, you see, so because he kept quiet all the other three were kept. But I'm glad that he owned up, though. He confessed in his affidavit.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: And let's talk about that story and because what happened was that Matsumura and Kashino both got a special court-martial and so that was a blemish on their record. And now let's go to 1983 when there was a reunion, and what I hear is that some of the boys were teasing Shiro about the court-martial. Can you explain that a little bit?

SK: Yeah. I distinctly remember that scene. We were having a party at Cest si bon in (Pago da Hotel), and we were all seated and Kashino came a little late. And from way on the other side -- and this is from another company, Company M guy yelling, "Hey Kashino, the snafu man." Snafu, situation normal, all fouled up or whatever F word you want to use. So Kashino just brushed it off his shoulder, said, "Oh, go to hell." "Go to hell." That's it.

TI: But it was an M Company person who said this and so most of the other companies knew about this situation?

SK: I'm quite sure. I'm quite sure, but I think M Company and I Company had the same banquet together, if I'm not mistaken. But I know this guy who made that remark. I know he's dead now, of course, but he made the remark and it really hurt me. Here Kashino is a well-liked person and a good soldier, good man, and yet even in joking manner for this guy to say something like that to Kashino, it made me feel bad. It made me feel... I was angry, too.

TI: Was the M Company person who said that, was it just as a joke or was it sort of, was he trying to get under Kashino's skin a little bit?

SK: Maybe it was just as a joke because Kashino is an outgoing guy, too, so maybe it was meant as a joke, too, but to me it really hit hard. I didn't feel that it was a joke. So (for) this (...) reason I wrote to Dan Inouye if he could do something about releasing Kashino from this court-martial conviction.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: And before you even contacted the Senator, did you talk to Kash about trying to do this?

SK: Yes, yes.

TI: And what did he say?

SK: Well, he said, "Go ahead if you can." First I wrote to Fred Matsumura. He was supposed to be my second-in-command from basic time so he said, "Yeah, go ahead," and he said, "That incident haunts me right through my life." So I said, "That's the reason, too, I want to get rid of this court-martial case against you guys." He gave me his permission. He says, "Yes, go ahead," and Kash said, "Go ahead," too. I wrote to Dan Inouye, and two years later he says, "Well, we did as much as we could, but we cannot do anything more." Oh, shucks, that really hurt me. I thought Dan would have much power to do something about it. And in the meantime I wrote to Patsy Mink and she did the same thing, to ask release from Kashino and Matsumura for their records to be taken out from the archives. Then same thing, the letter came (...) saying (they) looked into (the) files, but that area (of the archives) has been burned so there is most likely no record. And I don't know what happened, but Kashino's file went to him. The (papers) were singed, burnt, charred, but at least those, the records that we really wanted was there and --

TI: And this was much later. This was about ten years later, like 1995 --

SK: Yes, yes, that's right.

TI: -- that they got the records.

SK: That's right. So it took that long, but we kept on plugging, and I really admire Louise for saying, "Go ahead, go ahead." She's telling me at one point Kash was so disgusted. He said, "To heck with everything, don't do anything more," but I told Louise, "Let's keep on going regardless," so she consented and we did our best.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

SK: Then we sent the records to the Records Department. They turned it down (first), but there was a little hope. This guy (wrote Kashino) saying that if you can get affidavits from (witnesses) there might be a chance.

TI: An affidavit either from the chaplain or the person who actually hit the MP officer.

SK: Yes, yes. Chaplain (had already passed on) so we met this guy Matsuda (...). I met him three times. The third time he said, "Okay," through the insistence of his wife, too, so he consented to make a statement. We went down to the Patsy Mink's office. She wasn't there, of course. Her aide took the statement down and made a copy for us and he signed it. We made copies of it and sent (it in), and, of course, I got affidavits from other people, too, who were there.

TI: And how resistant was Matsuda to doing this at first?

SK: Oh, gee. At the beginning he (said), "No, I don't want to see you." He's our own man, our own platoon member, and, "I don't want to see you. I want to forget the whole thing. I don't want to talk about it anymore." He was really hard-headed. Even one of my friends who helped me, Bill Thompson, talked to him on the phone. Matsuda just gave him the works saying, "To heck with that. Who are you to tell me what to do?" Things like that. But finally I took one of our platoon members, one of the sergeants, down with me, too, and at that time he kind of softened up and that's when he said he will write, make a statement. And, of course, in the meantime, I asked (our) platoon members if they could send me affidavits, notarized, (addressing it): To Whom It May Concern, what had happened, and I wrote a long (statement) also. I think these are the records that gave proof that Kashino was not entirely wrong, you see. So, as far as the records were concerned, they gave him back his rank and the back pay.

TI: So you sent the package to the army board for correction of military records.

SK: That's the one.

TI: You sent a package and they restored Shiro's rank back to staff sergeant.

SK: That's right.

TI: And rescinded the fine that they had.

SK: That's right.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: But they could not overturn the court-martial because that was something they couldn't do, and they said you'd need to go to the judge advocate general to do this.

SK: Yes. See, that's when the records came and we found the name of the military police officer, but where to find him?

TI: But before you even decide that, so after Shiro's rank was restored, the fines rescinded, who wanted to keep going? Was it important for everybody to keep pursuing this and get the court-martial overturned or was it enough for Shiro and Louise, or what were they thinking?

SK: Well, I was not satisfied. I was not satisfied so I wrote again to Patsy Mink saying that this is what happening so far. Kashino got his records cleared, but his court-martial conviction is a more heavier problem than we thought. So she did write to the judge advocate office, but, anyway, we were told to find the person, Suro.

TI: The MP officer who was hit.

SK: Yeah. So where to find him? We didn't know. Fortunately -- I don't think you've met Clarence Taba. He was our first sergeant at one point. Anyway, he, he was the executive officer for the banker's association here, and they had a banker's association, banker's convention here and so it just so happened that a banker from Puerto Rico came. And (as) Clarence Taba (was) talking to the Puerto Rican banker, Clarence found out that this banker, Puerto Rican banker, knew Lieutenant Suro. So when he went back he made arrangement to meet with, or to call back Clarence Taba, you see. But in the meantime Clarence Taba had business down in Puerto Rico so he went down himself and met with Lieutenant Suro. He was a retired colonel at the time and the colonel assured Taba that he would do his best in order to help, you see. So he made his statement and we sent this to the judge advocate.

TI: And right at the point when you got the affidavit from Suro, unfortunately, Shiro passed away about the same time.

SK: That's right. I really felt bad. With all the work done up to that point and him not knowing that he was really freed from his conviction, but at least he knew that we were trying very hard to get to that point, you see. So for that I'm happy, too.

TI: So this package with Suro's affidavit was sent to the judge advocate general.

SK: Uh-huh.

TI: What happened next?

SK: He sent a very nice letter. The general sent a very nice letter saying that upon looking through the records, (he felt) that (Kashino) was wronged, something like that, anyway, and that his court-martial conviction would be erased. Yeah. And there's a personal note, too, by his own handwriting, the general's own handwriting (...), saying something like, "Kashino was a soldier's soldier and he should be respected as such." So we were happy that everything got cleared, but this Bill Thompson, as I said, you met him, I think if it weren't for him, this (problem) would have been dragged some more, too, because during my period of frustration (...) everything just stopped. We couldn't go forward and I was telling my frustration to Bill. Bill said, "Oh, let me help." And by golly, he dug into records and made research here and there, called his friend in Washington D.C. to look for records and stuff like that. Oh, he was of tremendous help, I tell you. If it weren't for him, we would still be working on this (problem).

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

TI: Well, later on we're going to talk with him together so we can talk a little bit more about that, but I wanted to sort of end the interview. Something that struck me as you told me about sort of in Europe how you led the boys and then even this whole episode with clearing Shiro's name, what strikes me is that even fifty years later, in some ways, you're still taking care of your men, that you're still looking out for them. And I was going to ask you, do you feel that way? Do you still feel responsibility for your men and to take, take care of them?

SK: It's strange I still have that feeling. So every now and then when we have a convention or get together like this, I make sure that, I want to make sure that everybody is okay. So last -- when was that? Couple years back when we had this reunion here, I called the 2nd Platoon members all together, those who were still alive. We had a great time talking about old times, and I wanted to make sure that everybody was okay up to that point. So I feel that way because they were responsible in saving my life, too. If it weren't for them, I think I would have been dead a long time ago, too. So I feel for them and I think they feel for me, too, so I'm very happy.

TI: Were there some members that after the war had a hard time adjusting sort of psychologically and did you know about that and did you try to help some of them?

SK: Not to that extent, yeah. I guess if there were any reports as such, I guess I would have jumped in and tried to do something, but there is a book published during our training -- at the end of our training. It's called the Album, Story of the 442, something like that. In it Kashino writes, "I'm glad I had an NC, noncom, like you," or something like, "Thanks very much." So we really had a very close tie. We respected each other. So I didn't know what he wrote at that time because the books were, the book was passed around and I sent it home, (thereafter). When I went home and saw this, Kashino's writing, I said, "Son-of-a-gun. I guess we did respect each other."

TI: One other thing, as sort of the leader of this group, for the boys who didn't come back, did you continue, did you go and try and meet with the families of some of the boys and talk with them?

SK: Yes, yes, we met. Especially those on the big island, yeah. And, of course, I don't know where the boys are. They're all scattered now. The last time I was in Seattle I saw one of the Seattle boys' name -- I mean, the grave at the same grave site where Kashino is buried right now. His name is Yukio Sato, yeah, so I paid my respect to him over there. I wanted to speak with anyone of the family, but I didn't have a chance.

TI: Because again, that goes back to the responsibility you feel for all the people, all the men, the ones who lived and died.

SK: Yeah. At least I want to let them know, as far as I know, how they got killed. But I'm really happy that those guys that we worked together are not mentally ill or anything, at least most of them are physically well so I'm really happy.

TI: Okay. Well, thank very much for your time.

SK: Thank you.

TI: This was a very good interview. I really enjoyed it.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.