Author: Marie Yamashita
Puka Puka Parades, January 1995
Marie Yamashita reminisces about her late father Minoru Yamashita who was a cook during the war. This story was originally published for the Legacy Cookbook.
Minoru Yamashita (Service Company 442nd RCT) was a cook during the war, (he later became a chef with the SpenceCliff Corporation). I was lucky enough to meet two of this close friends (who served with him) last year in Hilo. They are, Mitsuomi Tanaka and Shun Hatada: Mr. Tanaka was Master Sergeant for Supply, so it was really good to know him well. Mr. Hatada was in the kitchen with my dad. (He is the owner of Hatada Bakery in Hilo).
Mr. Tanaka told me a story of the time they had to cook for the company. My dad told him, “let’s make meatloaf”. My dad told him to put ketchup on the top of the loaf before baking it. Mr. Tanaka was not sure that was a good idea. Don’t worry, they’ll eat it” said my dad. When it came for chow time, both wondered how the meatloaf would taste. No sooner than the first servings went out, they came back for seconds. What a relief!
Mr. Tanaka told me a lot of things that I probably forgot about that my dad told us of the war. I found out a lot of things that I never did hear about from my dad also. I heard that he was able to make shoyu out of the beef bouillon cubes. He needed it to make hekka for the guys. Also he told Mr. Tanaka that the secret of making good fried chicken was soaking it in salt water before frying it. The flavor will go right through the chicken down to the bone.
They also tried making kalua pork in the duffle bags. Local guys will get hungry for food back home so they wanted to eat kalua pig. The only problem was that they had to be careful about the kind of rocks they put in the imu. The rocks there were porous and if they were too big, they would explode when heated. Wow, what a sight that would have been! Flying pig!!!
Another story that I remember is that one night the officer in charge had to pick about six men to carry ammunition to a certain area. My dad and Mr. Tanaka just missed the count, they were next in line. Anyway, the men who were picked got caught on the way. The Germans took them to a deserted town to rest, then the 442 men got an idea. Of course if they talked in English they would be found out; they spoke in Japanese. They planned to ambush the Germans when they weren’t looking. As small as they were they were able to overcome their captors.
Everyone had to take turns on guard duty. My dad nor Mr. Tanaka had a rifle assigned to them but they were given one when it was their turn. They both decided to be together at the same post. What a pair?! Shelling was going on and of course both of them were really scared. My dad had this 1ittle pouch that his mom gave him (omamori?). It contained a few rice grains. My dad said a 1ittle prayer and ate one of the grains. Mr. Tanaka asked for one for good luck too. So both of them huddled in the foxhole and prayed that nothing would happen to them. Then my dad had to do a #2! He used his helmet since there was nowhere else to go. He washed it out with the dirt and sand around them. (Now this is the best part). Later, they were able to go back in the building, but there was still shelling outside. Then it stopped. Then men were getting hungry so my dad said he would go out and try and get some food from the camp. Because there was nothing available to put the food in, he put it in his helmet. He came to the great relief to the others that they had some food. He hesitated a long time but hunger took over and what the heck, he was hungry!
These are just a few things that happened to my dad. He died eleven years ago this month. He is greatly missed by all of us. We will never hear anymore stories from him, only through his friends. I was lucky to find these friends who could help me keep my memories of my dad alive. Don’t wait till it’s too late to do anything about these stories. I envy all of you who still have your fathers. Take care of them!