The following is based on an interview with Mr. Wozumi in May 2011:
Ukichi Wozumi was born in Honolulu in 1918. His family lived in an area then called Alapai Camp, near the present day City Hall. Besides homes for families, it included a long building that housed single men and a communal bathhouse. He estimated that there were about 26 men from the Alapai Camp who joined the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Wozumi was inducted in the second draft on March 25, 1941 and assigned to the 3rd Engineers, 24th Division. Wozumi mentioned that there were about 200 Nisei men who were assigned to various Army engineer units.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Wozumi’s group was stationed in Kaneohe. He remembered their 1st Lieutenant, Harvey Fraser, defied Army orders to take guns from the Nisei soldiers because he trusted them. Wozumi said there were about 10 men who were later transferred from the 24th Division to the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion, which eventually became the 100th Infantry Battalion. Those transferred included Ed Ikuma, Bob Nakamura, and Robert Fukumoto of Headquarters Company, Richard Yoneshige and Alfred Nozawa of B Company and Takayuki Yamane of A Company.
Wozumi bought his camera before the battalion was shipped to North Africa and developed his film after he got back from Europe.
Notes from a visit with Mr. Wozumi, Monday, January 20, 2014:
When I was in A Company of the Third Engineers at Schofield Barracks, our company commander was 1st Lieutenant Harvey Frazier. On December 7th he refused to take away the rifles and ammunition from the Japanese American soldiers under his command; he said he trusted us. His intelligence was recognized and he was sent to the mainland. He attained the rank of Brigadier General and headed two colleges after the war. Ed Ikuma continued to correspond with him after the war. Richard Yoneshige was also in the company.
I grew up in Alapai Camp where Kapiolani Boulevard meets King Street – where the old Honolulu Advertiser building is. I think twenty six boys from the camp became soldiers in the 100th and 442nd. The Hamakado family lived in the back of the Wozumis. The Hamakados were fishermen and shared a home with the Watamotos. The Mizukamis lived next door.
Doc Kometani was in charge of the kitchen at a hotel in Menton (France). He made his men exchange supplies for food from the farmers. The farmers didn’t want money but wanted supplies. Doc took care of the hotel laundry workers so they in turn made hot water for the boys to bathe.
At Camp McCoy, it was Captain Clarence Johnson who taught the messenger squad how to make a skating rink. At midnight he sprayed water on the area.
When they left New York for Africa, each man was given two sheets but it was taken away when they reached Africa. The messenger squad used the sheets to pick up dead bodies. The squad did all kinds of jobs, but were not in combat.
There was no better soldier than Yeiki Kobashigawa according to Mr. Wozumi. Kobashigawa was not able to graduate from high school because he had to work to help support his family who were farmers in Waianae. One time when crossing a river, it was Kobashigawa who bent down to feel for wires in the water as the men crossed. He led a group to deliver twenty five jeeps to Epinal after the Germans overtook Northern France. Two men rode in each jeep, including Mr. Wozumi. Kobashigawa lived in an apartment for a short time in Germany after the war. He was one of six soldiers in B Company who got battlefield commissions.
The disabled men were sent to the Continental and Venice Depot Supply of the 5th and 7th Army between Heidelburg and a German twin city, Schleiden. They were no longer in any company or battalion and the Army didn’t know what to do with them. It formerly was a huge Army camp ground.
Mr. Wozumi was a chauffeur for Colonel Martin Craig, Jr. when the war ended. The colonel wanted to take Mr. Wozumi to Japan with him, but since he already had a wife and baby back home, he was not interested.
Rescue of the Lost Battalion: The 100th was on the right and the 442nd on the left. The 100th reached the Lost Battalion first but their radio was misplaced and their location could not be reported immediately. Mr. Wozumi was in this group as was Sergeant Masami Hamakado.