Ray Nosaka
100th Infantry Battalion, B Company

Secret Mission: Dog Training

In October 1942, 25 soldiers are selected from Company B for a secret training mission on Cat Island, Mississippi.

The men train dogs to deliver messages, locate the enemy, and attack the enemy. Under the mistaken notion that Japanese have a distinctive scent and that nisei can be used to train dogs for this scent, Ray and others are used as "dog bait."

Third Platoon, Baker Company

When we were in Camp McCoy, we used to grade the people by platoons. Happened to be, I was in the Baker Chapter and we came in first.

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Then about a month later, they picked twenty-five of us and I was one of the twenty-five [of the Third Platoon of Company B] selected.

Ray Nosaka in snow, Camp McCoy

Not officers, all enlisted personnel: privates, corporal, sergeant. And they told us that we're going to train, secret training, somewhere in the South.

So that morning, they said, "Don't say anything to your own buddies and don't goodbye, don't say anything." Seven o'clock, we rode the big truck and took us to Wheeler Field [Fort Williams]. And all of us went on a plane.

They didn't tell us where we're going to go, what we're going to do. It's a secret mission, they said. First, we thought we were home. The way they put it. Because as you go, the plane start going, it's getting more greener and greener when you look down. Chee, maybe we're home.

But the first stop says Memphis, Tennessee. That's where we first stopped, to fill up the gasoline and we couldn't get off because they don't want to know that we were there. So somebody bring us sandwich and we had lunch.

We never got off the plane. And then after all that, then we started flying again. And finally, we ended up at Gulfport [Mississippi] and coast guard. Two boats were waiting for us.

Ship Island

But they don't let us go until it's a little dark so nobody can see us. And secretly, we got off the plane and got on the boat. Had two coast guard boats and we went on there and then they took us to Ship Island.

Ship Island is a separate island from where we're going to train. The water is brackish and smell like rotten eggs. That's where Ship Island is located. So, for two weeks, we just do nothing, you do what you want. They don't tell us why.

Ray Nosaka fishing on Ship Island

[Ship Island] used to be Fort Massachusetts in the olden days. They have an old-style cannon, an old-style stone wall, and all that they have there. And we don't live in there but we live outside where the barracks, special for us. But even today, they still writing about Ship Island and Cat Island.

And then the one that wrote the book [Eyes of the Emperor], he [Graham Salisbury] went there himself. He's originally from Hilo, he lives in Oregon now. He still writes to me. So he sent me a book, the first one, about what they're going to write about. So he has little stories pertaining to Cat Island and Ship Island.

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After that second week ended, then Major [James] Lovell came and told us that we are going to train dogs and it's located in Cat Island, which is away from that.

Ray Nosaka on boat to Cat Island

Cat Island

I don't know why we're going to a dog training and they call it "Cat Island." So from Ship Island, the coast guard takes us over there and we come back. Every day we commute. They don't leave us there.

Training Scout Dogs

First part they start training was these [scout] dogs. And teach the dog how to find us.

Soon as he come, we fire the pistol and we give the meat from our hand, right around here and the dog walk away. And the next one, same thing, over and over.

And we do that about four hours, then they send us back home again, back to Ship Island. Every day we've been doing that.

We trained there four months, four months doing that. During that time, they have lots of storms over there, hurricane, like that. So one day, they had the hurricane where they pick us up, the boat going like this. Everybody hanging on.

And one guy fell down. So this Komatsu fell down and then this guy Nakano, he jump down and try to save him.

For that, he got a heroic because instead of the coast guard throwing something, they won't do it. Just like they telling him, "You die, all right." But this Nakano, he knows how to swim and so he dived down and saved him and he got the medal for that.

Training Attack Dogs

Then I was one of those that was selected to be - attack dogs.

And I've been bringing up all my life about dogs. I like dogs. But they gave me the assignment to attack dogs.

And they told us they put a guard over here and we stay like this. And then when the sergeant tell him, "Kill 'em," the dog come right up and bite us here, see.

Cat Island and Ship Island Gang

And we're supposed to momentarily fall with the dog. But first part, I was kind of stubborn, I stay like that. "Fall down, fall down." So when I fall down, the dog keep biting and then they take 'em away. And they do that over and over.

And then finally, the dog got a little more friendly with us. They tied the dog on the fence and they gave me like a whip to hit the dog. I go like this.

Oh, I feel so bad. That's why I hit like this. I get scolding, tell, "Hit it hard, some more hit" until the thing bleed. That's why the dog gets mad with you. And they tell 'em, "Kill him." I'm like this and, whoa, he bite me all over the place.

So I hit the dog until he bled, see. Then he tell me, "Okay, walk ten yards back, turn around and go this way." The dog was so mad at me because I hit him. Ho, he bite me, bite me like this. And then the sergeant comes, takes him away. And that's the attack dog.

Cat Island, dog training

And had one time when they called me for attack dog. They put me in a - you know da kine [whatchamacallit] hockey clothes with all the things and push me up on the tree. And then they gave me a pistol. And then the dog come looking for us. Soon as he spot us, I fire the pistol and I jump down from the tree. And three dogs, you know, attacking me like this, all over. And I couldn't - already so tired - so I fall down, they took the three dogs away. Three dogs just come one time. Boxer dog, had a German Shepherd dog, and one other dog. All you see so many different kinds of breeds over there, dogs.

Hide and Seek

Then we have another assignment where we go out and hide.

They used to have swamp. Under the swamp, get a lot of alligators. And full of mosquitoes. But we climb on a tree and we hide. If you fall down, you go right in the swamp and the alligators going bite you. So we hang on and the dog come looking for us. They find us and he walks away, go to the next place. Repeatedly doing it over and over.

Injuries

Oh, yeah [we got hurt during training]. We get scar over here. Because even if they put that, sometimes the dog doesn't go over here, he goes over here. That's when they pull the dog out. That's why I get bite on my leg, like that. Which the dog shouldn't do that, but he does that. By the time the trainer takes 'em away, he bites you already. So some of them had more serious injuries. But I didn't have that much injury, only was here and my feet but it went away.

When we get hurt like that, they have a dispensary over there that just takes care of us and let us go. But it's not a serious injury but it has blood. Some of them got medals for being faithful and things like that. All the people that went to attack dogs supposed get a special one but I didn't get anything. It doesn't matter, but, you know.

Dog trainers, Cat Island

That's one of the things that the Japanese Americans had to do, is all crazy things. Today, when you look back, you say, "How did that happen and why?" But today, even you go down Gulfport, Mississippi, you tell them about dog training, right away, they know about that because they're writing a lot of stories about us.

Ray Nosaka's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Ray Nosaka, Library of Congress, and U.S. Army Signal Corps Collection.

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