Densho Digital Repository
Katsugo Miho Collection
Title: Katsugo Miho Interview IV
Narrator: Katsugo Miho
Interviewers: Michiko Kodama Nishimoto (primary), Warren Nishimoto (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: March 2, 2006
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1022-4-16

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MN: And there is a... well, I guess, when you folks landed in Palermo, Sicily, what were your initial observations of the people?

KN: We didn't meet any people. Before we come to Palermo, it was a historic day to pass Gibraltar Straits. Oh, Gibraltar, that rock, what a big disappointment. But that was our entrance into the... what sea now? Mediterranean Sea, yeah, the Gibraltar. And then we expected to reach Italy. And then we discovered that the boat that I was in, we stopped by overnight in Sicily. And we had heard about Sicily, we didn't get off the ship, we were only allowed to stay onboard ship. And the next day departed. And considering the geographic location, we were told that, well, following day we'll get to see Italy. And we expected Italy to be under so-called I don't know, stop order, whatever, but on the right hand side of the ship because Italy, Sicily, Italy, the foot of the Italy, and then we would get to see the land on the right hand. But a couple of days, it took us a couple of days from Sicily. We suddenly saw one morning when we got up, the land was on our left. And we got all excited because, which indicated that if the land was on the left, the right hand side was Greece. And Greece was then under control of Germany at that time of the war, but we had gone to the other side of the boot of Italy and we landed in a place called Brindisi. The infantry, bulk of the infantry went direct to Naples, but the artillery landed in Brindisi, and we joined the infantry in Naples after crossing the boot of Italy on train. It was a beautiful, beautiful train ride. I think it took us about two and a half days by train.

MN: Was it just the artillery?

KM: Just the artillery. The infantry had, you know, the ships had been all scattered all over. So the artillery landed in Brindisi and we took a train ride. And the towns of Italy was built in the era when wartime, in war, ancient days, everything was whoever controlled the hilltop controlled the site. And so most of the big cities, or most of the cities were built on hilltops. So you look at the scenic view of Italian towns, you had a castle, you have the church, and then you have this walled... invariably, there would be walls around the town. But when you get into the town, it was terrible because there was open sewer line. Everything was just thrown out of the second window from the one, out into the streets. So the smell, number one, was terrible, that I remember, of the first exposure to Italian towns, but it was very picturesque and beautiful from a distance. So we ended up in Naples, and we gathered forces in Naples. Some of us got to visit Pompeii, some of us got to visit... we didn't get to Pompeii, we got to visit, the group that I visited was called a place just on the outskirts of Naples, and it was called  Pozzuoli and we discovered they had Japan-style, called it, even though it was Japan-style, but they had sulfur baths. And we took a sulfur bath in Pozzuoli. Years later I found out that this was from ancient Roman days, sulfur bath was very popular in Italy. So probably the Japanese learned this, you know, onsen ofuro through the Italians.

MN: So in Italy you had an onsen experience.

KM: And then we had a couple days' visits in Naples. And the first exposure to Naples is when we go out into, when we went out to Naples, little kids, these raggedy rags kids were all over the streets. And sanitation was so bad at that time that either the first day or the second day that we were there, after we went into town, all of us had to be doused with... what kind of insecticide duster? I forgot what it's called, DDT? Yeah, we were doused with it because of the problem with lice in Naples. It was terrible, so all of us got doused. Wherever the station area or wherever, if we went to town, we had to come back, we had to get doused. But the ringing of this... I don't know what you call it, these little ragamuffin boys in the streets, not begging but approaching the GIs. And by that time, by the time we got to Naples, all of these raggedy-rag kids would come about. And I put down the typical phraseology that we were confronted with. And then these little raggedys would come up to us, "Joe Joe, Joe, cigarette, cigarette?" Chocolate? Chocolate? No chocolate? Mangiare, mangiare, come my house, mangiare. No chocolate? No chocolate?" Then they will end up, invariably end up with, "Signorina, signorina, my sister, young, young." And this solicitation was something which you cannot forget from the raggedy rag.. because Naples was really, at that time, it was shortly after the Germans had escaped away back to Anzio, and we had come up to Naples at the worst time of their rehabilitation after the Germans left. But this was a most common sight in Naples. But the Pozzuoli experience was really fantastic, taking the sulfur bath. To think that the ancient Germans did this, the ancient Romans did the same thing, you know?

MN: When... when the children would come up to you folks, and, you know, try to barter or trade...

KM: Most of us, you know, we accepted to go and eat spaghetti, that's how we ate spaghetti, to go to these private homes to eat spaghetti. There was no restaurant, the restaurants weren't open. All private home that they were soliciting. Of course, we were told, "Don't eat anything, you don't eat anything out on the streets," but we didn't care. So what? You're gonna end up, better end up in the hospital than go up in the front.

MN: You know, some men have told us stories about how they would barter cigarettes or food items. What do you recall about that? How much of a trade was going on?

KM: In Naples, basically, it was either paying for our meals with cigarette or chocolate candy. Cigarette was, no matter where, Italy, France, Germany, cigarette was the standard bartering merchandise.

MN: And when they say, "Chocolate?"

KM: Chocolate.

MN: Oh. Was it just part of your rations or something?

KM: Yeah, we had part of our ration, part of our C rations, part of our rations was chocolate. So we all had chocolates available.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.