Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto
442nd Antitank Company

Wartime Duties

As a jeep driver, Whitey is involved with reconnaissance. He helps determine the placement of antitank guns for each platoon.

He also delivers mail and hot meals to men in the battlefield.

Welders attach angled rods of iron to his jeep's front bumper to prevent decapitation from piano wire strung across a trail.

Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto and his jeep
Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto and his jeep

Now the actual, the work assigned us, fighting men. My position was to---being a jeep driver. The officer know what he’s supposed to be doing, looking for gun emplacement of the platoon with the antitank gun. This time, we. . . . At Camp Shelby, we had the 37-mm antitank gun, but when we went overseas, we were assigned with the 57-[mm] antitank gun. That’s a little bit bigger and was pulled with the weapon carrier vehicle. So it’s a little heavier gun.

And my position with the lieutenant and Toro Hirose, the sergeant, was to drive around, and locate where the regiment is and where the 1st Battalion, 2nd Battalion is located. To help set up the antitank gun so that the Germans won’t infiltrate from either the left side or the right side of the flanks. So, and then we assigned the platoons to set up their guns, in that position, until we were asked to move out again, advance. As the regiment advanced, then we have to do the same thing, to find a new location. So it’s a constant reconnaissance job for us to find a new position. And the terrain might be different, so it’s not always on the flat ground. Some on the hillside, and all that.

Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto at attention with assigned jeep
Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto at attention with assigned jeep

Well, once we selected the position for the platoon, then the lieutenant would tell that platoon, and that officer for the platoon, the lieutenant, “This is where your position is to set up your gun,” and it’s up to the platoon leader, the lieutenant, to do the job for themselves. And then we go to the second platoon position, then the third platoon. And the fourth platoon is the mining, mine and heavy weapons platoon. So they would be assigned to other positions, that way. So it’s always a constant reconnaissance that we do.

The army engineers, we had the 232nd [Combat] Engineer Company, they had their jobs where, depending if there’s no roads on the front line and the vehicles have to approach the company, go to the company, well, they would establish a makeshift roadway, or trail, so the jeep or trucks can approach to their own company. So that was their job. So we go accordingly, yeah? So they would let us know where the roads are made so the vehicles can go use that road, it’s a rough road.

Shiroku
Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto driving in France

The boys, when they out in the field, or in the position in the front line, they have C ration or K ration, but hot meals is very — we try to accommodate for the boys to have hot meals as much as possible. So, I was part of that transporting hot meals to the boys, to different platoons. And then do it during daylight hours if it’s safe enough to deliver those hot meals.

Otherwise, sometimes in a forest like that, at night, when we can make the trip, we would do it at night. But at night it’s more difficult to deliver the hot meal because you don’t know how the roads are, and hopefully we can find the road to get up to them. So we dropped them off, and then they would come in with a basket and collect all the food. Once that container is all taken out already, all the food is distributed among the boys, then we could come back and then we had the KP [kitchen patrol], our boys, we did that, we helped them out to clean the utensils and everything.

K Ration – Black Market
K Ration – Black Market

I would say nighttime [is more dangerous] because you have to be very careful as to where you driving into. But if it’s daylight, it makes it easier. But at night it’s difficult. But daylight, the enemies can spot you, watching your movement. So we have to be careful, try to conceal ourselves as much as possible.

So we have a small light on the headlight, but even at that, that won’t help anyway, to find your way to get to the boys, yeah. So we don’t use it. And usually when we go, we’d drop our windshield down and put the canvas over it. And, well, if you have your windshield down, you don’t want any reflection on the windshield to give away your position, so you drop it down and camouflage as much as possible.

Oh, another thing about our jeeps, when we got down in Naples, where we got our jeeps, we had the welders at the depot put up angled iron on the front bumper. One straight up and down and two support beams to retain its upright, vertical position, so that it’s above the windshield. And this angled iron has a slot that it can cut up, because the Germans are not dumb, they’re smart. They may string a piano wire across a trail, or street, or road, and then if you driving, it may, if you get involved, they cut your throat, and your head might fall in the back, and you’re gone. So these poles that was welded on to the front bumper — when we come across a German piano wire or so — that will cut the German piano wire, so that would save us from getting decapitated. I forgot to mention that. So that was one of them. So you hear, you see all the jeeps are going around with that poles in the front of your vehicle.

Shiroku
Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto and jeep with protective pole welded to front bumper

On a normal road, [jeeps] go pretty fast, like any other cars. Can go thirty-five, forty miles, fifty miles an hour. But that’s way — you were in the back already, where you safe. But on the front line, no, it’s a different story. You have to be very careful.

We always had the M1 rifle with us. We had our holsters for that. And then we carry our bags in the back of the vehicle, too. Just a small knapsack. But all our main personal possessions were always on the rear. So as we advanced, the boys would load up the duffle bags and everything and move forward. But once we were engaged in the front line — we engaged for about two weeks or so — then we would pull back for a week to get a hot shower, change of clothing, hot meals, and write letters. Or some of the boys would go on a path to visit in the cities or down in the village.

Poker game among 442nd RCT soldiers
Poker game among 442nd RCT soldiers

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

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