With the XIV Corp, New Caledonia, and the 85th Regt 40th Division, in Panay, P. I.
By Masami Tahira
While at OCS Brisbane Australia, during a practical lesson on the 81 MM Mortar, there was a misfire. So there they were, both gunner and assistant gunner hugging the ground, of course, afraid and unwilling to get the darn piece of explosive hunk of metal out of the barrel. After a while, all men being very quiet and not volunteering to do their “stuff,” I went forward and kicked the base of the barrel two or three times, keeping my face away from the opening of the barrel at the top. Why? I did not want my head blown off by an activated ammo in its flight. Satisfied that the ammo was really bad, I suggested that the gunner help me slide the shell out. Probably they thought me a show-off or a stupid Jap. Anyway, at my coaxing, the gunner came forward. I, in my most professional manner, directed the gunner to unlock the bottom of the barrel gently from the heavy metal base. That done, upon my command, I told him slowly but steadily raise the base of the barrel until it was parallel with the ground and hold it there. This he did nicely. You are doing fine, I commented him. What he had learned during the practice sessions, he was putting to good use. About two-thirds up the barrel, it is hinged to a bipod so the barrel does not move forward too much or sidewards. The ticklish part begins now, I told the gunner-helper. I was standing at the right side of the barrel, facing the upper end of the barrel, my hands both at the opening to catch the ammo as it slowly and gently slid out of the barrel. The gunner-helper did a good job of lifting the base end of the barrel. Little bit at a time according to my coaxing. When I got hold of the shoulder of the shell with my right hand, I drew the rest of the ammo out of the barrel and held it with both hands. An 81 MM shell is about fourteen to sixteen inches long. I pressed the button located at the top or head of the ammo to deactivate the plunger and told the gunner-helper to place a cotter pin in a tiny hole located at the end of the button. This deactivated the ammo. When the cotter pin was safely in its place, with a flourish I threw the ammo on a soft, sandy spot to show my contempt for the troublesome hunk of metal but still a dangerous explosive. So you see, I was hero in the eyes of my fellow officer candidates for a day. Six months of training with the 81 MM mortar with the 100th makes one a pretty good manipulator. Of course, the men didn’t know this, and I didn’t let them on to this either.”
With Richard Ishimoto, X Corps, ATIS Brisbane Australia
“On January 25, 1945, we left Dulog, Leyte and landed in Castillejos, Zambales, Luzon. That night I almost lost my life at the mess hall. A fierce-looking Filipino guerrilla mistook me for a Japanese soldier. He was about to bring down his “bolo” knife over my neck. Luckily an MP on guard duty nearby stopped the bolo knife from descending.” “In Grace, Paric, Manila, I was left in charge of a Propaganda Section writing all propaganda leaflets. On a mission, while going between American and Japanese lines to set up a radio receiver to listen in on the enemy, all hell broke loose, the Japanese let loose with their powerful 12″ guns and the Americans countered with their 155 howitzers! And here we were caught right in the middle of this barrage? I haven’t the words to describe the frightening evening spent that night. Miraculously, I am still alive today!”
Over the China-Burma-India Hump with Sadao Toyama [New Delhi, India linguist pool]
“Sometime during the Summer of 1945, around July, 20 of us with Eddie Mitsukado in charge were assigned to join the British forces in Bombay. With 3 jeeps, 2 trailers and one 3/4 ton truck, we drove from Delhi to Bombay. We were in Bombay when we heard of the bombing of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki, and of the Surrender of Japan.”
With Dick Oguro with the 6th Australian Division the Summer of 1945 Somewhere in New Guinea:
“At one time a great hullabaloo was raised because a Japanese general was reported found dead in a river bed high in the mountains, and we were asked to go and verify this report. Throughout our 7 mile trek through the thick jungle and underbrush of New Guinea’s inland we never encountered a wild animal, including a snake. How disappointing. The only thing that bothered us was the mosquitoes — Malaria carrying ones with long ‘needles’ and these really could give you a sting. And right through our mosquito nettings. Atabrine tablets kept us from breaking out with Malaria. Upon reaching the point the body was deposited, we made a certain identification. It definitely was not the bloated body of a general, but was that of a non-commissioned officer of a lesser rank than a sergeant.