Author: Yasuo Takata, B Company
Title: Sports Recreation and Incidents
Source: Club 100 30th Anniversary Reunion, June 1972
Yasuo Takata writes about the leisure activities of the Cat Island group. He also touches upon their departure to North Africa.
Of course we have to mention the most sensational one first. Practically every night we had an “up-up” game going and all night since we didn’t have to go to work until 9 o’clock, that is, if one didn’t want any breakfast. It was a crazy game, guys trying to out bluff the others, while the “Hironoshin Furuhashi’s” were out swimming the bluffers. Then you had the “rocks”, “blue stones”, “third basemen” and the “blockers”. Name calling went on all night even worse ones than those I have mentioned. Doc and Slim were punching each other and calling each other names on practically every deal. There were wild ones like Herb, Lefty, Okum and Yasu trying to win only with a pair deuces. Then there were the unbelievers like Billy, Koyei, Hata and the other Lefty who won pots when they had the endurance to “swim” to the finish. The loot kept changing from one to the other. The winners bought cases of beer for the rest of the gang and the “serenaders”. Ray, with his guitar, had a bunch with him drinking beer with “pulehu” fish and oysters on the half shell for pupu. It was a good thing the dogs were so far away, otherwise they would have been howling in unison.
They, Ray and his gang, sounded good at our Christmas Party. “Thorope” was the hit, though, with the hula he danced, with a hula skirt made from a type of “Pili” grass. The main dish was the roast pig which had been faithfully fed and fattened from the day we had arrived on Ship Island. I didn’t see Herb kill the pig but I heard that someone went over to the Coast Guard to borrow some 30 calibre shells. We all had our rifles but no ammo. “Auwe, dey no trust us Buddaheads.” I almost forgot the fried shrimps which we got a full bucket of for half-a-buck. The Colonel, Lts Marzano and Tanaka enjoyed the tempura style fried shrimps and didn’t think anything about it until the CIA and Secret Service came to investigate the reports of strange soldiers stationed on Ship Island. After a thorough investigation, though, “auwe”, they found out only that two Hawaiians had rowed out to a shrimp boat to buy shrimps! Tokuji and Yasu couldn’t tell them we were Buddaheads training dogs so we told them we were Hawaiians, naturally. The secrecy was so rigid that all the letters written could not mention “islands”, “dogs” or anything sounding like it. Candy, being the censor, practically spent all his afternoons censoring letters. Too bad he didn’t understand Latin for when I came home, I found out that he had blacked out a Latin phrase. Pat, Ray and Bob really kept Candy busy. He must have enjoyed it though, I could hear him chuckling while reading.
The best sport was fishing. There were fish galore like old Hawaii. “When the boat no come no mo kaukau, you get the bamboo pole, catch some Fiddler crabs, go down the pier and catch fish for kaukau.” There were a couple of nights when all the gang, even the up-up gang, went fishing. “The white trout, dey run like hell. No nuff poles for everybody, so dey take turns with the bamboos. No need bait too. You just put white cloth on the hook. About 2 bags dey catch. But dey no forget da boys in Camp McCoy. Dey work hard to clean and dry 2 boxes of fish. Da dry fish pass the censor OK and on to Wisconsin.” There were plenty of mullets too, but they weren’t biting. We used a 3-prong stick hook for a while. We could snag some, but pretty soon the fish got wise and wouldn’t come close to shore. Then Slim borrowed a net from the Coast Guard, and caught the mullet by the bag. “Den one day, he see snake in da mullet pond. Pau, no mo fishing in da pond. But da good days no pau yet.” Attu, Ole man, and Fred found an oyster bed and brought back some. The oysters didn’t have a chance to get to the kitchen. A fire was made immediately and the oysters were eaten on the half shell. “Numba one pupu, dem! Just go slurp, slurp, slurp.” When the bed in Ship Island was cleaned out, they found more oyster beds on Cat Island. “Brudda, dem buddaheads tink dey get the Hawaiian Luau feet but one time on the oyster beds, pau. Auwe, the Luau feet all cut up. The next time dem bruddas all got GI shoes on!”
With the wide blue Gulf of Mexico all around us, we transplanted Hawaiians naturally went swimming. The water was rather cold, but invigorating. The haoles thought we were “pupule”. They warned us about Stingarees but we never saw one. We looked for “tako”, nary a one. The Coast Guardsmen told us there were Flounders but we couldn’t find any either. Maybe we missed them because we didn’t know what we were looking for — a fish with two eyes on the top and usually lying in the sand. Maybe if we had a torch we could have found them! But we were not permitted to do that. We had a “little Pearl Harbor” at Ft Massachusetts when we first launched the boats to go rowing. One by one the boats sank. Sabotage! Thanks to our master ship-fitters or boat fitters, Attu, Tokuji and ole man, the boats were fixed to remain a-float. After that we had more rowers than swimmers, but there was always a gallon can in the boat for bailing just in case! Not that we didn’t trust the workmanship of our ship fitters, but the materials they scrounged to caulk the boats with were in doubt!
The first thing we did when we landed on the island was to explore the old fort. Although my memory fails me, I believe the “Man without a Country” was imprisoned in the dungeon there first until taken on the ships he rode. There were stories about treasurers that the old pirates buried there but no one took the bait. However, we did explore the fort and dug around a little and came across a small ditch running under. We were puzzled by it but finally concluded that it was their sewage system! There was also a tall water tower where Yasu used to hide out from Candy whenever he was looking for a detail. Poor Tokuji and Badit, they got caught for details most of the time, and were endlessly rounding up the men.
We had electricity most of the time from a Disel engine generator, except when it broke down and our ace disel mechanic “Doc” tried to fix it. Doc took it all apart but when it came time to put it back “Pau kahana”. No can do. We had to call Gulfport for a repairman to fix it.
The highlight of the dog training session came when we were given tickets to the Sugar Bowl game at New Orleans. They were good seats. The game was won by the Tennessee “Vols” over Tulsa. The game was good but the Chop Suey we ate before the game was “mo betta”. On the way to the stadium, we spotted a Chop Suey joint so we made the truck driver stop. When we went in “Herb” took over. He made the haole waitresses join tables to make one big one. Then he told them to call the No. 1 Pake boss-man. When the boss came, Herb told him to make us a family style Chinese dinner, never mind the cost. “Da boss allee samee ‘Lau Yee Chai’ say me fixie numba one chinee dinner.” I don’t remember how many courses came out but we sure whacked a meal. The haole waitresses and the other haole patrons watched with big round eyes ready to pop out of the sockets! The waitresses said they never served that kind of dishes before and didn’t know how to charge us. But no sweat, No. 1 boss he fixed us up and it was very reasonable!
The game — well, Tennessee had too much power for Tulsa. The Tulsa passing attack was something to see, but it bogged down toward the end of the game. The score — don’t remember, but that was the first time we had seen a crowd of about 70,000 to 80,000 people.
There were many more incidents that happened, but we will have to have another reunion again to bring back our memories of the best days in our Army career! And this 30th Reunion could be just that — just what the Doc ordered!
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? Or was it a prelude to movement again — the dog trainers returned to McCoy, just prior to the battalion moving out to Shelby, Mississippi? A few weeks after the “secret” Platoon Section moved out for Ship Island, on the Thanksgiving week-end of November, 1942, also, around 60 “exiles” from the 100th were shipped out, on orders, bound for the Military Intelligence Service Language located at Camp Savage, Minnesota, eventually to become translators, interpreters and to be deployed with combat troops in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.
Another group of approximately 30 more “exiles” were also sent to this same school, the second week of December, and only a few weeks prior to the Battalion shipping out to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, because the quota for this school was not fulfilled by volunteers from the various relocation camps throughout the interior US.
These two groups were in the graduating class of June 1943 and are considered the forerunners of the many later MISers from the islands; therefore, they labelled [sic] themselves the SEMPAI GUMI — the fore-runners.
On the one hand, members were shipped out to train dogs for the Asiatic-Pacific theater, and on the other hand, others were transferred out to Camp Savage Language School to be trained as Japanese Language experts. Will these finally have face-to-face confrontations with the enemy Japs??
The unit was transferred to Camp Shelby, Mississippi the first of 1943 and came under command of the 85th Div Commanded by Gen Haislip. But orders for the 100th received directly from the Div G-3.
In April 1943, participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers that was to MAKE OR BREAK the 100th for COMBAT assignment. What a war game that was — jiggers, rain and mud! Swamps, but no alligators! Did we make it? After completion of the maneuvers stayed at Camp Clairbone, Louisiana for two weeks. Then returned, that was already June 1943, to find the 442nd Inf of volunteer AJA’s from the Mainland and Hawaii camped next door. “Cheez — my kid brother is here! My cousin is here!” Short, happy and yet somber [sic] reflective reunions were held. In July of 1943, the unit received its colors with the motto: “REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR!” We had passed the test!
Give Mississippi back to the Indians with its Jiggers, Swamps, Jim Crowism (we were classed as whites though!). And once again, passes to everywhere — as far as New York. On the move again? On the 11th of August, the 100th moved out of Camp Shelby to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. There were two AJA officers who were promoted to command rifle companies when the unit moved out of Shelby: Capt Taro Suzuki, Co. B and Capt Jack Mizuha, Co. D!
On embarkation orders on August 20, 1943, unit left by train for Brooklyn and subsequently at 5:00 a.m. the next morning, by ferry to board troop-ship the JAMES PARKER, a converted Banana cargo freighter and finally steamed out of New York Harbor, passed the Statue of Liberty, at dusk August 21, for DESTINATION UNKNOWN – again. Now we were crossing the Atlantic. Two oceans we had crossed! “Where are we going now?”
Unknown to us at that time, we had been tabbed for Mark Clark’s 5th Army! “I want you to know of my pride with having been associated with you in Italy. I want you to know a little bit of the ADVANCE WORK that went on in getting you to Italy. I know that, perhaps, you will not forgive me for being the guy who was responsible for your coming and taking so many casualties and losing so many men. But I had been with McNair, in charge of training, and I already knew about the organization of the 100th Battalion. I knew that it was to be followed by two more battalions and a regimental headquarters. And when I went to Italy, I ASKED GENERAL MARSHALL THAT THE 100TH BATTALION COME WITH ME. He gave me very strict personal instructions to permit you to battle under favorable conditions and report to him immediately the outcome in your first baptism of fire. And I remember there in Naples, when I committed you, and I sent back a telegram after your first engagement. I said, ‘They had performed magnificently on the field of battle. I’ve never had such fine soldiers. SEND ME ALL YOU GOT.’ And he did.” (General Mark Clark, 25th Silver Anniversary Reunion, Hawaii).
Twelve days later was the answer — Oran, Africa! “What are we here for?” Staged at Fleurus, a few miles outside of Oran. A few days later found that the unit had been attached to the 34th Div. (with the Red Bull shoulder patch) — a former National Guard unit from the Minnesota-Nebraska-Dakotas area, and one of the first units to be sent to Europe upon U. S. entry, and commanded by General Ryder, which was part of Gen Mark Clark’s 5th Army, replacing the 2nd Bn of the 133rd Regiment doing duty with Gen Eisenhower’s Hqtrs. elsewhere.
“The departure for North America brought out one of the real laughs from the war, for as you know, at the minute the alert was on, all passes were cancelled, telephone service was shut off and the telegraph office closed down and yet on our first night at sea, Secretary of War Stimson announced over the radio that the first contingent of American-Japanese soldiers had sailed for North America! I am sure we sailed to North America on the greatest gambling ship that’s ever been afloat. The specialties were crap shooting and poker and the money changed hands quickly and often. Our stay in North Africa was short but did offer many interesting events such as living in a cork forest and observing Arabs and their actions, and meeting and being assigned to the 34th Division.”