Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto
442nd Antitank Company

Convoy to Europe

The 442nd is deployed to Europe on May 1, 1944. They travel as part of a large convoy of ships.

The trip takes 28 days, as they zigzag across the Atlantic.

They land in Naples, where the 442nd is assigned to the 5th Army and is attached to the 34th Red Bull Division.

The 442nd heads out to Civitavecchia, northwest of Rome, to join the 100th.

Zig Zagging Across the Atlantic

So after the training at Camp Shelby, we were shipped out to go overseas from Camp — over in Virginia — Camp Patrick Henry or whatever, yeah, that’s where we were shipped out.

Took us twenty-eight days to cross the Atlantic. And we had a convoy ship of. . .I would think almost a hundred ships on this big convoy and we were second from the outside on the Liberty Ship. Two companies of us on that ship. And we had great big huge, a metal net, hanging from the derricks on the ship, from the front to the back, lowered down so that in case of the enemy German submarines come and shoot the torpedoes, those nets will catch the torpedoes and we won’t be destroyed.

Antitank
Antitank Company, 442nd RCT on ship enroute from France to Italy

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But the convoy, the inner part — we can see with the binoculars — they have passenger ships all loaded with soldiers, and a big mass of them are on that ship. And I understand they had some women service personnel on that ships, too. But when you look at the convoy, for miles, there’s big mass of us crossing, zigzag crossing the Atlantic. That’s why took us twenty-eight days.

So when we came to Rock of Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, it took us long days for each ship to go into Mediterranean. And our group, of course, went to Naples, by way of. . .Corsica, down that way. And between Corsica, Island of Corsica, and the foot of Italy, the country of Italy has more like a boot, so cross between the Straits of [Bonafacio]. And we can see all these people from the island of Corsica and the foot of Italy, they come out with the rowboats, and they know that so many ally ships passing through the straits, and here we throw the cigarettes and they would throw oranges to us.

Cigarettes must be hard to get for those people. And the sailors was telling us, “Hey, save your cigarette, don’t throw cigarettes, or any other thing, you know. Save it for yourself.” And we had chocolates, too, we toss the chocolate, they would throw oranges on our ship.

Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto on ship enroute from France to Italy
Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto on ship enroute from France to Italy

[The one month trip, it’s] kind of monotonous. Every day you would go up on the deck and just talk stories. Boys that gamble, well, they had the fun gambling. A lot of gambling going on, (chuckles) throw dice, card playing, and all that. So, the trip wasn’t so bad compared to coming back. Coming back from Europe after the war, that was a different kind of trip because the winter months in December was so rough.

And on our ship — chee, what was the name of the ship, I kind of forgot already. But we had some women service personnel coming back on our passenger ship. But they were in the cabins and we were down in the hold. I was assigned to the bottom in the hold where they had canvas bags. So that was that. But it was rough. And if you go up on the deck, you see the wave above your ship, and the next moment you see the wave below your ship. Was that big (chuckles).

Troop ship carrying 442nd RCT arriving at Leghorn, Italy
Troop ship carrying 442nd RCT arriving at Leghorn, Italy

Thoughts on the Merging of 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd RCT

Well, chee, for my feeling and information, it was more like two brothers get together. But we think of 100th as the older brother, and we’re the younger brothers to them. Because they were formerly national guard boys and they went through training before we did. And, of course, not only training, but they’re already regular soldiers with the national guard here in Hawaii. The 25th Division, 298th, and 299th. So we considered them — and in fact, when we were in Camp Shelby, they were telling us about their training in Camp Savage. So they act more like a big brother advising us what to do, what not to do, and then tell us — how should I say — “Do your duty, take it very seriously. Get your good training so you won’t get into a foolish situation.” So we learned the basic training real well, so is the maneuvering.

So going back to Italy to join up with the 100th Infantry, after we landed in Naples, we got all our equipments, and clothing, then we got on the LST [landing ship] and we sailed up to Civitavecchia, that’s above Rome, and we landed over there, and then caught up with the 100th. We formed a complete unit, 100th and the 442nd merged together. From then, we continue with the war going on in that part of the country.

Whitey Yamamoto's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Whitey Yamamoto.

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