Memorial Address

Author: Mits Fukuda, A Company
Puka Puka Parades, July-August 1982, v. 36, no. 3

Memorial address given by Mits Fukuda for the 40 Anniversary. He speaks of the many memories that he has of war and the memories shared amongst the Veterans during the 40th reunion.

Club 100 Memorial Service
Ala Moana Hotel
Sunday, July 4, 1982

I am honored to be asked to deliver the Memorial Address this morning. But I feel quite inadequate to deliver anything quite so formal as a Memorial Address. In fact, the feeling I have today is very similar to the feeling I experienced when I entered the Army. I was teaching school in Kona. I was a reserve officer assigned on paper to Kilauea Military Camp in case of emergency. So, on December 7, when war broke out, I called KMC and was told to report to the 299th Hdq. in Hilo on Wednesday, December 10. My Army uniform was in Honolulu and it was impossible to get my uniform by Wednesday, so I reported to duty in my black coat, white shirt and tie. I don’t think I ever experienced the feeling of being so completely inappropriately dressed, so inadequately prepared for military service as I did that morning when I reported for military duty.

The past few days have been spent retelling stories, renewing friendships with old buddies, remembering the aches and pains and joys and thrills we experienced during those unforgettable 100th Bn. days, the glory days of the fighting 100th Bn.

We went all the way back to the day we were drafted and the basic training that we endured in Schofield Barracks.

Each of us recalled quite vividly what we were doing on the morning of December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. It was on December 7, after the attack, that it suddenly dawned on all of us that our enemy was Japan, and that our parents were Japanese, mostly still citizens of Japan, and that the language spoken in most of our homes was Japanese.

There was no way to erase those facts. We kept hoping that people in Hawaii and in the United States would realize that we were Niseis and Sanseis and that we were Americans and that our loyalty should not be questioned and we should be allowed to serve as any other citizen who wears the uniform of the United States Army.

However, each day we heard of new restrictions being placed on the Japanese people. We learned of the refusal of the Draft Board to draft young men of Japanese ancestry, the refusal of the Transport Command to allow Japanese longshoremen to work on the waterfront of the refusal of the Army to permit Japanese to work on any defense installation.

We learned of the mass evacuation of the Japanese people from the West Coast. These developments brought new fears that we would not be allowed to serve; that we would not be trusted to serve.

We remembered that day in May, 1942 when all soldiers of Japanese ancestry were called together wherever we were serving; we were told that we were going to be sent to Schofield Barracks for reassignment.

Then on through Massa and Carrara and Aulla and Genoa and Alexandria. It was anti-climactic by the time we received word that the Germans had surrendered.

We reminisced about the coral snakes and the chiggers and the ticks and armadillos and the Louisiana maneuvers. How we burned holes in our combat boots by putting them against burning pine logs to keep our feet warm. And we realized how poor the farm people in Louisiana and Mississippi were.

Then we remembered our first meeting with the men of the 442nd RCT when we returned to Camp Shelby after our Louisiana maneuvers in April, 1943. We had a lot of big brotherly advice to give to these young kids who had volunteered for the 442nd.

We glossed over our memories of that hot Mississippi summer. Then we talked about our train ride to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. How we were confined and not allowed to get out of Camp Kilmer. We heard that we were near New Brunswick and that Rutgers University was close by, but we never got to see anything outside of Camp Kilmer.

On August 20, 1943, we were herded out on a train to Statten [sic] Island and boarded the James Parker for destination unknown.

There were a few guys who were left behind in Camp Shelby because they couldn’t pass the physical exam. We remembered that there was a man who had an allergic reaction to ticks and chiggers.

At one point of our Atlantic crossing, something went haywire with the ship engines and we had to leave the convoy with only a destroyer looking after us. We were a sitting duck for an enemy sub. Some of us on the James Parker remembered back in early 1942, and very close to home, something did happen to the Royal T. Frank, a troop transport. It was sunk by a Japanese submarine between Maui and Hilo and some of the survivors of that sinking served with us in the 100th Bn. and some may be here with us this morning.

We saw the Rock of Gibraltar as we steamed into the Mediterranean Sea, and then we saw Oran. We remembered seeing people sleeping in the streets dressed in burlap sacks. We saw ox-drawn carts and streets littered with manure. We saw grape orchards but we were told not to eat the grapes because although they may look good, they would make us sick.

It was a cork forest in Oran that we found out that we were to become a part of the 34th Div. We also found out that cork came from the bark of trees. We were to serve with the 34 Div. for one year.

Most of our conversation during the last 3 days centered around our combat experience with the 34th Div., starting from Salerno through Benevento, up through Naples, the Volturno River Crossings, Cassino, Anzio, Rome, Belvedere, the Arno River, Leghorn, to France and Biffontaine. Then the champagne campaign in Southern France–magical names like Menton, Beausoleil, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Nice and Cannes.

Then for those who survived the champagne campaign, we had more battle stories after our return to Italy and the attack on the German Gothic Line on the Apennines Mountains. We remembered hills with names like Georgia, Ohio, Rocky Ridge.

Then on through Massa and Carrara and Aulla and Genoa and Alexandria. It was anti-climactic by the time we received word that the Germans had surrendered.

We remembered receiving the news with apprehension, with a great big question in our minds as to why they were doing this to us, and where they were going to send us. But down deep we were optimistic. We knew that someone, somewhere, in a high position would convince the Army that we are loyal Americans and that we are good soldeirs. [sic]

This optimism was to be tested over and over in the next several months. We hung on to this optimism in the unreal world we lived in during that period. We were uprooted from our usual normal world and placed into military service. Then Pearl Harbor came along, which created a turmoil in our lives. We were Japanese and the enemy was Japan. Then we learned that we would be removed from the defensive areas in Hawaii and moved to Schofield Barracks. We did not panic, we did not get into depression. In fact, there was this spirit of optimism that somehow things would work out.

We remembered the confusion in Schofield Barracks as we tried to reorganize into the 100th Prov. Bn. — to make new friends, to get assigned to new units, to write farewell letters, to make phone calls and to get last-minute passes.
There was actually an undercurrent of excitement, of adventure, together with the questions of where to and what for?

The trip across the Pacific on the SS Maui is now a hazy memory. All we remember of that trip are the crap games and long mess lines.

Then we were headed for Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, on a troop train. For most of us this was our first glimpse of the mainland U.S.A.

We talked fondly about Camp McCoy because most of our memories of Camp McCoy are pleasant memories. Playing football in the snow, seeing a bottle of milk standing out in the cold of winter with the cap floating above the bottle because the milk had frozen and expanded, sitting with a case of good Heileman beer brewed in LaCrosse and chug-a-lugging all night long until the case was gone. We remembered listening to Col. Turner tell us that we should not give a $20 tip to a cab driver and otherwise how to behave and more important, how not to behave, in LaCrosse, Wisconsin because our behavior would reflect on the people of Hawaii.

Of course, we also talked about some of the military training we received in the field and in the classroom in Camp McCoy.

A lot of our self-doubts about ourselves was erased by the friendly reaction and reception of the Wisconsin people. Many lasting friendships grew out of our stay in Wisconsin.

We had our difficulties such as when some of us tried to fight the entire Texas division.

We remembered that first Christmas away from home. In spite of our newfound Wisconsin friends, it was sad and lonely, Wisconsin was okay but Christmas was a time we wanted to spend with our families, and not 5,0OO miles away from home.

Then, on to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to face new experiences, new people. We remembered going to the town of Hattiesburg and wondering whether we should sit in the white section or the colored section of busses and movie theaters. Even though it was established that we were more white than black for busses and theaters, a few of our boys found out that if they wanted to marry a white female, they could not get married in the State of Mississippi or in many of the Southern states. They had to run off to a state that allowed mixed marriages.

We talked about the sounds of the German guns, from their diarrhea guns to the screaming meemies, to their high velocity tank guns, to their railroad guns.

We remembered the mines that were buried; wires that were strung to mines, mines that looked like spikes sticking out of the ground.

Our memories of dates and places were not precise. The faces we remembered were vague but it was a wonderful four days together.

And so until our next anniversary gathering, we will put away our memories and get back to our normal daily living. However, before we shut away our memories, we should remember that we are here this morning because we wanted to include, as part of our 40th anniversary celebration, the 374 men who were killed in combat overseas.

When we first came home to Hawaii after the war, back in 1945 and 1946, each of us visited the families of our buddies who did not return with us. It was most difficult for us to face the members of their families and try to explain how they died. We wanted to believe that somehow we would make up for the loss of their sons; that those of us who came back home would have the strength and the will and the fortitude to take the place of our buddies.

At that point in our lives we made a vow to look after the families of our buddies who died.

And now, 40 years later, we look back at the vows we made to our buddies and their families. Some of us can stand up and say that we have kept our word and that we looked after the families of the members who died.

Some of us can say that we put flowers on their graves of those buddies on every Memorial Day and visited the families of our buddies on these occasions.

Some of us will have to confess that we do not know what happened to their mothers and fathers, and wives and children because we failed to keep in touch with them. And that in time of need we were not there to lend a helping hand to their family members.

Some of us were too busy with our own lives, our own education and the education of our children, and getting ahead in our jobs.

But there is time. There are good many years ahead of us to do the things we promised our buddies that we will do for them. Let’s get on with the job. Let us make a vow once again that we will take care of our buddies and their loved ones. At our 50th anniversary we want to be able to say that we remembered our buddies who died for us.