442nd Antitank Company
When Whitey returns to Honolulu, his foster father is principal at Leilehua High School on Oahu. Rather than going back to the island of Hawaii, he enrolls at Leilehua.
Due to their war service, veterans are granted school credits equivalent to a year of classes. Whitey graduates in June 1946.
[Coming home] was a happy occasion, like the rest of the boys, to be home again. And, of course, I came back with the rest of the boys just before New Year’s, or just about Christmastime. From Europe, across the country, and we landed here in Honolulu just before Christmas. So, being holiday season, and the boys are all jubilant about being at home, and Christmas, so they just said whenever you check in, just take your days off till after New Year, you come back to Fort Kam[ehameha], where we were assigned. And when we came back after the holidays, on January 3, I was discharged officially.
Leilehua High School
And the reason why I was returned to Leilehua instead of Big Island, is because my foster parents were assigned to Leilehua High School as a school principal. So that’s where I came back to. And I started on my education in high school. The nice part about the Board of Education, they gave us one year of credit for being in the service. For the boys, some like myself, we didn’t finish high school, but they gave us one-year credit in high school education.
So, in my position, I was in the eleventh grade because I left school when I was [tenth grade] to take care of my dad when he was really sick before the war. And that time before I got into the army, I was working already, instead of going back to school. Then I joined the army, more interrupted that way. So I went back to high school to finish up the high school education. But then I was more like transferred to senior class, so I was able to finish the senior class as a high school graduate in June.
It was kind of difficult for me to get back in the wagon again, to have the feeling of doing a lot of serious studies. But it took a little time to get to it, because I was able to complete the school, senior class school.
I haven’t got too close to [the younger students]. I guess the other students realized that I was a couple of years older and being a veteran coming back to school, so I feel as if probably they were reluctant to associate with me. And, of course, I would usually hang around the office because there’s nobody else about my age, talking to the school administrators or the clerks that were about my age, or older. And they wanted to know more about the war situation in Europe and want to ask questions, which I kind of reluctantly said too much about it. And I don’t think I want to repeat those things as a veteran. And I guess they understood.
I don’t think any other veterans were in high school at the time, Leilehua. I think I was the only one. Because the boys, my classmates from Laupahoehoe High School, they were already seniors at that time. And since I didn’t finish Laupahoehoe High School, and, like I mention again, I left the school at tenth grade, so those boys already finished their high school education. If they got their one-year credit for it, that’s automatically they got their high school diploma.
Whitey Yamamoto's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Whitey Yamamoto.