Memories: The 100th Infantry Battalion (Sep)

Author: Saburo Nishime, D Company
Title: Memories: The 100th Infantry Battalion (Sep)
Publisher: Puka Puka Parades
Source: Puka Puka Parades, November 2003, #03-10

While still at Boom Town, the Battle of Midway was going on. All military were restricted to the base, so most of us had no chance to meet with our family members. I remember one fellow, Clifford Kutaka, managed to get out of the base and go into town. I asked Clifford how he did it. It was simple. He just showed his pass which he had held over from the last time he was in Boom Town. That pass was still good. I had my pass from the previous period, but now it was too late for the Battalion was ready to pull out.

Word came down that our organization would now be known as the Hawaiian Provincial Battalion. It was June of 1942 when the members of the Hawaiian Provincial Battalion got on the Oahu Railway coaches at Schofield Barracks. As the train moved out passed the Schofield Laundry, a group of tearful Nisei young women silently watched the coaches loaded with Nisei soldiers pass by, going on to whatever there was, in the future horizon to come.

At the Army Pier in Honolulu Harbor, all the Battalion members got on an old converted transport called the S.S. Maui. The S.S. Maui also served in World War I as a troop transport. We were all assigned to bunks stacked around four high in the hold of the ship. The maximum number of bunks was installed. The smell in the hold was really stinking bad, and the crowded condition aggravated all that was bad in the hold. I myself never went down in the hold to sleep. I slept on deck throughout the trip.

One afternoon, without fanfare, the S.S. Maui pulled anchor, and while coming on to Pier 11, which is near the Aloha Tower, there on the second balcony of Pier 11 was a lone young Nisei-looking wahine. She was running around all excited. Whoever the wahine was—probably somebody’s wife, daughter, or girlfriend-who knows? That wahine on the balcony of Pier 11 was soon left behind and the S.S. Maui sailed out of Honolulu Harbor.
On this trip there were quite a number of haole families, evacuating Hawaii without their male spouses. LTC Turner’s son, Bert, was a 15-year old kid with the Turner family. What Bert remembers about this trip was the constant sound of crackling of dice.

A few days out, the Battalion got news that the United States had scored a great victory at the Battle of Midway. This battle in the Pacific seemed to have turned the tide of the war with Japan.

Feeding the troops on these transport ships was a continuous all-day chore. Two huge meals were served to the troops. There was always a long line waiting to be served. The food was served on large iron food trays. During that period, aluminum was for making airplanes.

Us privates were always scheduled for K.P. duty. One found out early, the worst K.P. duty to get caught in was picking up the washed trays. The trays would just keep coming out of the washer, and with the huge number of troops on the ship, one would keep wondering when the hell the trays were going to stop coming. I found out early, the best thing to do when reporting for K.P. duty was to report early so one could pick what chore to do.

I happened to notice a lone albatross following the ship. I remember Shukichi Sato commenting that these birds would follow the ship all the way to port.

On this trip, I recall when a day when the ocean was almost smooth like glass. But, when nearing the California coast, the waves really got huge, and many of the troopers on K.P. duty got seasick and had to be replaced.

It was about the seventh day when the skyline of the Golden Gate Bridge, through the haze of the late afternoon, loomed straight ahead. As the S.S. Maui approached the Golden Gate Bridge, just about all of us 1,500 bumpkins from Hawaii were on the deck of the ship, looking up and staring at the massive structure of the bridge as the S.S. Maui passed under it and sailed into San Francisco Bay and continued on to dock at an Oakland pier.

The Battalion immediately boarded pullman coaches which were run by coal burning trains. About this time information was received indicating that the Battalion would now be called the 100th Infantry Battalion (SEP).

When we woke up the following morning we found that we were somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Looking out the window, although it was June, patches of snow still covered the ground.

As far as can be recalled about the next part of the journey, which was over the Rockies, were of rocks and more rocks, with no vegetation or trees in sight. When the train finally got to Salt Lake City, Utah, it was late in the afternoon. From Salt Lake City, it must have taken most of a 24-hour period to get to Grand Junction, Colorado, a town located 7,500 feet up in the Rockies.

Early the next morning, the porter informed us that we were now in Denver, Colorado. After leaving Denver, the travel was now through states where the chief farm product was corn. There were green fields of corn, corn, and more corn, all day long. I didn’t see any farmers around. An occasional jack rabbit could be seen.

Finally, arriving at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, the train pulled off to a siding and unloaded the members of the 100th Battalion. Camp McCoy at that time was a “tent city” for the troops.

It was here at Camp McCoy, the 100th Infantry Battalion really got organized. Numerous stories had been circulated on why the Niseis were shanghaied out of Hawaii, true or otherwise, but now at Camp McCoy, the 100th Infantry Battalion began extensive training to become a combat unit. I became a member of Dog Co. under Capt. Jack Johnson and later, under Capt. Jack Mizuha.

Notices were sent out to the companies for suggestions for a design for the 100th Infantry Battalion flag. Larry Sakoda, a member of our 2nd Platoon, submitted his design for the flag. Sakoda showed members of the 2nd Platoon his design. The design was an American Eagle with outspread wings, holding a ribbon in its beak with the words: REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR. The 100th Battalion command accepted Larry Sakoda’s portion of the design. The lower portion of the flag, which reads: ONE HUNDREDTH INFANTRY BATTALION was designed Keiichi Kimura of Hq. Co. This information came from Edward Ikuma of Hq. Co., who knew Keiichi Kimura. Kimura in post-war civilian life was an artist. The prize money for designing the 100th Battalion flag was $20, and the money was split between Larry Sakoda and Keiichi Kimura.

When the 100th Battalion first got to Camp McCoy, the troopers found that Wisconsin had plenty of beer. After a full day of training the beer drinkers would get together, along with their buddies, and buy a whole bunch of bottled beer. They would set the beer on the floor in front of them and start drinking. The haole soldiers would ask the buddaheads, “You drinking all that?” The 100th Battalion commander’s advice to the troopers was, “Don’t try to drink Wisconsin dry for this is where they brew all that beer.”

Charlie Diamond, who was not Japanese, was quite a character. We understand that Charlie was born in Tokyo, Japan, of Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian parents. Because of his birthplace, he was picked to be in the all-Nisei battalion. Charlie was older than most of us. Capt Jack Johnson appointed Charlie as motor vehicle NCO for Dog Company. Charlie served in that capacity and rotated home for discharge with the first group. Even in retirement Charlie still managed to score some credibility when interviewed by a stateside haole reporter.

At Camp McCoy, where the 100th Battalion was initially stationed, the following were the NCOICs in Dog Company: Martin Tohara was the 1st Sgt. of Dog Company; Herman Teruya was the T/sgt. of the 1st Platoon Heavy Machine Gun; Harry Miyamoto was the T/sgt of the 2nd Platoon Heavy Machine Gun; Tadayoshi Hamasaki was the T/sgt of the 3rd Platoon, 81MM Mortar. In combat all three of the above T/sgts were field commissioned as 2nd lieutenants. Lt. Herman Teruya was KIA at Anzio.

After having been in Camp McCoy for awhile, it wasn’t long before somebody came up with a Hawaiian logo for the 100th Infantry Battalion. It was “One Puka Puka.” One company had “One Puka Puka” laid out on the snow and that photo was shown in newspapers in Hawaii. We all referred to ourselves from Hawaii as buddaheads. The Hawaiian Niseis were still not in close contact with the mainland Niseis and considered the mainlanders as acting like a bunch of “hard heads,” and somebody came up to calling them a bunch of kotonks. Eventually these terms became permanent, and the Hawaiian Niseis were the buddaheads and the mainland Niseis were the kotonks.

The towns near Camp McCoy were Sparta and La Crosse, Wisconsin. The majority of the time, while the 100th Battalion was at Camp McCoy, there were only a few military troops around, so the 100th members managed to get around and meet the civilian population and made many friends. Also, quite a number got married to Wisconsin girls. The dance hall at La Crosse was highly patronized by the 100th soldiers.

Much later, the 2nd Division moved into this area, and some of the 100th members, while in town, had scuffles with the 2nd Division troopers. What can be said is the buddaheads of the 100th Battalion more than held their own against the 2nd Division troopers.

The training at Camp McCoy started off with the basics, which all of us had already gone through once before at Boom Town. The 100th Battalion organized a special platoon to be trained in marching like the West Point cadets. This platoon got to be a show piece and it made a number of trips for show purposes. Talking stories with Robert Sato, he said he was a member of this special platoon. There was a movie showing this special platoon, and at one time the 100th Battalion had this film (or maybe borrowed it). I wonder what became of it?

I recall one full dress parade while the 100th Battalion was in training at Camp McCoy. Since the 100th could not form a military band, a drum and bugle corps was formed. The drummer for the corps was Edward Harada of Dog Company. At that time the 100th Battalion was still training with the old 03 rifles. For the parade, all the companies assembled in company groups. Capt. Tare Suzuki called the battalion to attention. From the reviewing stand, LTC Turner barked out the command, “Pass in review.” The drum and bugle corps started off, followed by Hq., A, B, C, D, E, and F Companies. Seeing the troops in dress uniform and marching in perfect unison was enough to give one “goose pimples.” When each company marching group arrived just before the reviewing stand, the Company Commander, facing the company, would give the command, “Eyes right.” All heads would turn right in perfect alignment, with eyes on the reviewing stand. Passing the reviewing stand, the command would be, “Eyes front,” and the parade would continue on to the terminating point. There were a few civilian spectators who came to watch the parade.

It was in September 1942 when the majority of members from Hawaii were experiencing snow for the first time. Just about this time, the movie Holiday Inn was showing in the base theater. In this movie, Bing Crosby would come out and sing the all-time favorite, “White Christmas.” After the snow in September, it was a period of “Indian summer,” and the snows didn’t come again until Thanksgiving. After that it was snow, snow and more snow for the rest of the winter the 100th was at Camp McCoy. The song “White Christmas” would always bring on nostalgic memories of long, long ago at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

The second platoon will remember Lt. John Prentice who once was their platoon officer. In the dead of winter, with heavy snow on the ground, Lt. Prentice would call out, “Port arms,” then “double time march.” The platoon then would prance around in double time for the good part of an hour. This was SOP all the working days of the week. To us Lt. Prentice became known to the 2nd platoon troopers as “Double Time Prentice.” Later on, Lt Prentice transferred to the Hq. section. There Lt. Prentice took the Hq. section out on his well known “double time march.” Lt. Prentice practically “killed” the members of Hq. Section who weren’t conditioned for this “double time march” training. Lt. Prentice never got to be popular with his troopers in Hq. section.

It was well into the winter when an inspection team came to check if the 100th Battalion was qualified for combat. The 100th went out in the snow and went through a mock attack exercise. The 100th Battalion did extremely well, especially in the deployment and coordinated firing of the machine guns. The colonel with the inspection team declared that the 100th Infantry Battalion was ready for combat.

It was around Xmas of 1942 when I went over to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to visit my brother Ralph, who was a student at the University of Michigan. Together we wait to Detroit to see Irving Berlin’s stage show, This Is The Army.” This stage show, later on, was made into a movie, and Ronald Reagan was the Master of Ceremonies of the show.
On my way back from Ann Arbor, I met Juichi Muranaka and Kiyoto Mori in Chicago. Both of them were Dog Company members and were just back from visiting New York. The three of us went to see the Sonja Heme’s Ice Show. Kiyoto Mori was later KIA at Colli.

When we got back to Camp McCoy, it was January 1943. We got word that the 100th Battalion was moving out. The snow was still heavy on the ground when the 100th troopers boarded the pullman coaches and pulled out of Camp McCoy for good. For many members it was a fond farewell to friends, and to others who had girlfriends and wives.

The train travelling down south was soon out of the snow area. After an uneventful journey, the 100th Battalion finally got to its destination, which was Camp Shelby, Mississippi, near the town of Hattiesburg.