Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Kan Tagami Interview
Narrator: Kan Tagami
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Mililani, Hawaii
Date: January 5, 2001
Densho ID: denshovh-tkan-01-0003

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gky: Right after you went to Camp Savage, they kept you there as a teacher for close to a year?

KT: Yes. After I graduated, they picked up ten students, and picked up ten students with the best grades and I was one of them.

gky: Okay, but, after a year, you requested to go overseas, and you were part of the Mars Task Force?

KT: Yes. I was there a year or so. I was due to go out with a team.

gky: In June 1944?

KT: Yeah, '44 or July, I think, June or July. So I took a team of Hawaiian students who graduated; there were fourteen of them, all young. That's another thing about Hawaiians, they were all young, you know, so they were more aggressive, naturally. But anyway, Hawaiians like to act together, you know, anything. They like to -- and they expect the team leaders to sort of be part of them. I didn't feel that way. I said, "Well, we're all in this together, but we don't need to live and drink and everything together, you know." And I was a senior officer, non-commissioned officer. I did what I wanted to do. But I was there when they needed me. For that reason, I think these people that were with me didn't feel that close to me, but that's natural for any American group put together. They do what they have to do, but they keep their own counsel, and the war wasn't going to last that long, or I thought. Anyway, Hawaiian kids needed special handling and I wasn't a Hawaiian so I believe there wasn't much really living together, and I didn't want that anyway. So, but we went, the team was assigned to the 124th Cavalry Regiment from Texas. And our mission was to go to India and then to Myitkyina, which is in Burma, to form up a unit to fight the Japanese. Well, the 124th Cavalry Regiment became 124th Cavalry Dismounted. Then later on, there wasn't a whiff of cavalry anymore; we a were plain, ordinary regiment, infantry regiment, and by the time we hit Burma, Myitkyina, we were plain, ordinary infantrymen. It's still called the 124th Cavalry Regiment. In the meantime, they had the remnants of the regiment that fought in Myitkyina, older group, and they formed the regiment of 475th Regiment. They had two regiments and that became the Mars Task Force. The Mars Task Force mission was to penetrate the Japanese line and go behind their line and force them to retreat, which we did quite well. I figure we must have marched, oh, 500 miles, literally walking, going back and forth. And we finally reached our goal, pushed the Japanese out of the terminal point of Burma Road.

gky: So your mission was successful?

KT: Yes, it was very successful.

gky: And, as a language specialist, what exactly did you do with the Mars Task Force?

KT: Well, our mission was to translate, interpret, and interrogate Japanese prisoners and documents. Because of our nature of -- we were just hitting the Japanese line from the rear and were getting some documents which were translated. And I interrogated one prisoner who was on the verge of dying because he was pretty heavily shot right here. I got some information which the regiment could use, and the documents were gathered by the team in the process. But the only prisoner of war that I remember is this fellow that died on me. He gave, he said, "Don't question me because, or kill me, because I'm not going to talk," you know. I told him, "Look, you might have a chance to go back home after the war if it ever comes, and you want to see your children, your wife?" And he broke down then. He says, "Yes, I do." "Well, you don't need to talk too much, just tell me what your regiment is and what their disposition is. If you don't know, tell me how many people in your regiment," I mean your company, which is, you could average it out. Out of 300 people, they only had fifty effective. The rest of them were either died or sick and wounded. So we figured with fifty, they can't have more than over a thousand people, you know, in the regiment. So we, based on that, we charged and captured. It was the last battle of Burma that we had. We took them and took the hill and the Japanese sort of slipped away. So that was very successful, because as soon as we captured the Burma Road at terminal point, the trucks start going to China because they were waiting. Mars Task Force, a part of it went to China, and others were special mission like me, they were sent to India, sent back to India. My team was taken away from me and they were sent to China.

I went back to India and at New Delhi, India, they gave me a commission, direct commission. In those days, the Nisei didn't get a chance to get a commission because, you know, they still had that -- but that taboo was broken. That's when I went back to Delhi, they opened up for commission for me and I became a commissioned officer, and they assigned me to a British unit, which was the 34th Army Corps destined for landing in Malaya, and I went along with them. One day, after the war was declared over, we moved in to Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and after Occupation was over, I was sent back to New Delhi and then home. But in between, before I joined the 34th Army Corps, my group, or my colonel, American colonel, wanted to take a dash down Burma Road, which they said was halfway over anyway, and go to Rangoon. I was called in one morning and they said you're assigned as one of the members of the team that penetrated Rangoon. So I went with him and we accomplished our mission. There was nobody there in Rangoon. The Japanese had pulled out and the, no troops, no Japanese troops, no American troops, no British troops, just us, fifteen people. We didn't have much to do except maybe check the government and it was all gone by then. I remember getting into trouble when the colonel wanted to inspect the bank, Bank of Burma. I said, "What for? Leave it go." But he went in there, made them open the bank vault and checked what's there. But we didn't do anything. We just sealed the bank and left.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.