In immediate charge of the AJA linguists was S/Sgt EDWARD MITSUKADO of Honolulu, a former court reporter and writer. Well read, soft spoken Eddie was a warm and compassionate leader, whose only notable fault was chronic forgetfulness. Eddie was the first among the seven team members to win Commissions via OCS and field promotions. Answering to the roll call were the following volunteers.
THOMAS K. TSUBOTA: A former bank employee, affectionately known as “kewpie”. A top-notch drill master, his somewhat detached and military demeanor belied a deep and abiding concern for the welfare of the men under his immediate command.
HERBERT Y. MIYASAKI: Pauuilo, Hawaii. Stocky, confident, a vigorous personality. A walking “Chamber of Commerce” for the then hoped for 49th State, whose strong provincialism was the cause of many heated discussions on the merits of the Paradise of the Pacific as a member state.
ROBERT Y. HONDA: Wahiawa, Oahu, who took a reduction in grade in order to accompany the team. A graduate of the U of H, a man of few well chosen words; a philosopher; he is credited with the classic remark, spoken in pidgin of the islands. “WAR, GOOD FUN EH?” This statement, we hasten to add, was made while the ominous sounds of battle were still distant rumblings.
ROY K. NAKADA: A diamond in the rough. Size almost kept him out of the service, but he managed to talk his way into uniform — not, so he confessed, because he aspired to be a soldier, but rather, because he couldn’t face his friends who had given him a warm send-off. A graduate of the U of Hawaii, glib; equally at home in the rough and tumble of barracks chatter or a lively discussion of “eggheads”.
All of the above named were original members of the 100th Infantry Bn (Sep) which in the winter of 42 was training at Camp McCoy Wisconsin.
ROY MATSUMOTO: Los Angeles. Slight of build, unobtrusive. Who would have suspected that he would become one of the great heroes of the Campaign???
BEN S. SUGETA: Los Angeles. Big, brawling, complete I extrovert. A graduate of a middle school in Japan, whose renditions of “Moro no Ishimatsu,” became a regular feature of our frequent “social events”.
GRANT HIRABAYASHI: Kent, Washington. One of the top students of the top class at Camp Savage. Gentle, meticulous. Grant broke an arm during training in India, but refused General Merrill’s offer to relieve him of his assignment. He fought through two-thirds of the campaign despite his inability to digest “K” rations, which was the steady diet for three months.
JIMMY YAMAGUCHI: Los Angeles, California. A competent linguist with a flair for oriental proverbs. An orator of considerable talent in the Japanese tongue.
RUSSEL K. KONO: Hilo, Hawaii. A Sansei and son of a World War I Vet. Tall, powerful of build. A law student at the U of Michigan before volunteering for Military Service.
HENRY GOSHO: Seattle, Washington. Aggressive and articulate, he earned among other things the nickname of “Horizontal Hank,” because of the many times he was pinned down by the enemy while serving with the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon. C
ALFIN KOBATA: Sacramento, California. Eternally gay, with a contagious kind of happiness which infected and inspired the team. Although a qualified and outstanding linguist (Middle School in Japan, Jr. College in California) Cal always subordinated his personal achievement to group effort.
HOWARD FURUMOTO: Hilo, Hawaii. Young, intense, and impulsive. Golden voiced Howard, once oratorical champ of the then Territory of Hawaii, was a student of veterinary medicine at Kansas State when he enlisted for Camp Savage.
Completing the list of 14 was the writer, who for reasons best known to him and his teammates was always bringing up the rear. I shall never cease to wonder how one with such a limited language ability (One prisoner suggested that I spoke Japanese with a western accent), and a physical and moral coward to boot, managed to stumble into such fast company. After almost a quarter of a century, it is difficult to recall with accuracy or honesty one’s experiences and emotions. Someone once asked me, “Why did you volunteer?” I would be the first to admit that it wasn’t heroics. In fact there were times in Burma when, if it were physically possible, I could have kicked myself for having been such an impetuous fool! Nor was I on a great crusade “to make America a better place for Japanese- Americans to live in,” because I never regarded my stint in uniform anything more or less than a right and a duty.
Perhaps the most compelling reason, presumably shared by all of the other Nisei volunteers, was the feeling that the war was passing us by at Ft. Snelling and we wanted desperately to be caught up in it somewhere, somehow. Once the decision was made, however, each of us vowed privately because we never discussed it as a group, to serve our country not just well, but better than any other American. (It might be of interest to note that Gosho, Matsumoto, Sugeta, and I had volunteered from behind the barbed wires of American’s concentration camps to serve in Military Intelligence.)