100th Infantry Battalion, B Company
September 1943, the 100th Infantry Battalion lands in Oran, North Africa. It is attached to the 34th Division.
First assignment: invasion of Italy.
Ray's first experience in war is a nightmare of attack planes, descending bombs, and unpredictable "screaming meemies."
When we go overseas, everybody got to go with the barracks bag, go up a step. And there's two sides. One guy's poking you here, the other guy poking you here.
On the boat, it was so crowded we only can eat two meals. By the time that next meal come already, dinnertime already. The next morning you go, already lunch gone already. So you eat only two times a day.
I think if one torpedo come, they kill everybody. All crowded, you know, so many.
And even at that, they don't tell us where we were going. Nobody knew about if we were going North Africa or Oran. They just said, "We don't know."
So I used to sleep on the deck because downstairs, they have all stacked up, just furniture or something. But I used to go down, always get an extra orange because I don't get seasick. But my close friend, he always get sick. He can't even peel an orange, he's just lying down. So I used to peel 'em and I used to feed 'em. He's that bad because he's a poor sailor. And we don't sleep in the bunk, we go on deck and sleep. So it's all open but that's how we went all the way up.
Oran, Africa, when we first went there, it's a lot of these kind people wear the kind funny kind of hat. Their uniform is, the civilians, they wear funny kinds of clothes. And even their food is different kind of food, yeah. So we cannot go in the restaurant and eat. You don't know what they're going to eat there.
When we first arrived at North Africa, that's Oran, we don't have any kitchen, so in our time we open our own food and eat just like that. Anytime you want to eat, you eat. There's no - anything hot, nothing. For two weeks like that. During the two weeks, they sent us to this prison where all the Italian people were prisoners, they're eating hot food and all that. Us guys, we eating the cold food (chuckles).
If they want to attack us, they can attack us because only two of us guarding a hundred guys. But they're so happy they get hot meals and us guys, we can't eat hot meals. So sometimes it's not fair, you know.
In North Africa, now and then, get a lot of sandstorms. So the third week, we finally got to line up to eat hot food, they established a kitchen. While we just had the first hot meal, we were so happy, sandstorm came. Covered all the hot food.
Ho, I was so hungry, I scrape off the sand, I just ate it (laughs). I couldn't believe that happened. Ordinarily, I wouldn't eat the sand but oh, was the first hot meal and that sand came. I scrape it off. I just ate it.
Like when we were in Italy, warfront, they had a lot of grapes. You know, fall time, we were so hungry for grapes or any kind of food while we're going through, so we ate a lot. Everybody got diarrhea because they overate the fruits. They're running out of toilet paper. Then we used to dig hole like this and each guy squat down on the hole like this. We got to line up to go sit on that, squat down because everybody got the diarrhea. We ran out of toilet paper and then we have to use the leaf a little bit to scrape us off.
And one day after we went to battle, you take a rest, they take turns and then we came back. That's when we like to take a bath, yeah, long time we no take a bath. So three of us, "Hey, let's go look for some well so we can wash ourselves." "Okay." So three of us finally found a well. "Hey, that's terrific." So we get the bucket, come down and we was washing. All nude already. All of a sudden, we hear somebody hissing, (makes noise) like that. We look up, five Italian ladies see us all naked, you know. (Laughs)
So we all embarrassed but we cannot do anything already, we say, "Ah, finish it up." Wipe us off, we took off.
[O]ur assignment was - they had the 34th Division and then when they said division, then they have - they're big, see - and they created 133rd Battalion. And out of that, they wanted us to join them.
But before we joined them, they want to be sure that we can be trusted. That's why they keep us long time in Africa.
Invasion of Italy
[Finally, General [Charles W.] Ryder said, "Let's take 'em in." So we went with them.
They took us on a ship, then we're going to invade Italy. And you know that when you come down from the ship, you cannot hold this way because all - otherwise the guy on top of you is going to step on your feet, so you go this way. But as soon as you go above this and that high, you got to jump down in a big boat, flat boat.
Hoo, us guys, short guys, boom, one by one, just like our leg going break because we get all the heavy stuff, ammunition and all that. Boom. And then the thing like this, get about thirty guys inside, thirty at a time. And we go around and around till it full. By that time, all seasick already because we're going around.
So they go like this, then they invade. But when they invade Salerno, some of them, they don't know how to swim, the haole guys. You know, the tanker stuck, they drown. Us guys, get till here but we know how to get through the water, so we were safe. But some of the white guys, they don't know how to swim, so they drown right over there.
And from Salerno, we start moving up, all the way. And even when you say "combat," it's really - I would say - just like an animal. Because you have to get raincoat but you cannot use it. And you sleep any old place, rain or shine and then all on hard ground, you dig a hole.
And on top of that, you get one grenade tied over here and you have all these bullets around your waist and then you have a backpack in the back. You try go with that all the time, all the time, chee, boy.
One of my sergeants, he had the grenade and somehow, when he was going to get off the truck, the thing came out and exploded. That's why he got his stomach, all shrapnel in here. I don't know why they gave us to tie it over here, the grenade. We cannot hide it anyplace, we tie 'em over here. The thing is heavy, the ammunition, and the rifle, and the backpack. So it's a cruel thing, combat.
Some of us, we go to Naples, this lieutenant told one of my buddies, "Can I borrow your infantry badge?" (Chuckles) You know, because they want to show the infantry - they're not combat soldiers. They want to borrow. That's how they respect a combat soldier.
One time we befriended an Italian boy - he was about, I believe, at that time, ten or twelve years old. He taught me that song (sings), "Oi Marie, oi Marie." And then about, eight years ago, I think, Bob Jones took a group and I was the president at that time for Club 100. So every time they come into group, they introduce me every town we go, see the mayor have to go up there.
Then I started wondering about this boy. He was only that age, by now he must be maybe fifty or something. I keep wondering, I wish I could meet that boy. Hard to believe but we used to get him cigarette, candy, so he could take home and then give it to the parents. But the only name I know, we used to call him Joe.
First Experience in War
[W]e were scared, you know. Because what they do is just keep bombing. We cannot even go close to them because they bomb from far place. And they have that other kind, they call "screaming meemie" it goes (makes noise) and you don't know when it's going to stop. Mmm-boom, like that. So if you hard luck at that time the screaming meemie comes and drop off, you're the hard-luck guy.
And same time, they get attack planes come down and just boom, boom, boom, boom. So on the road, we just spread out like that. That's when Koyei Matsumoto on this side, see. So he and I bump each other in the same hole. We look at each other, laughing. "I don't mean to take your place."
But all kinds of strange things happen. But now I look back, I say, chee, that was a wonderful experience. It was tough but I came out alive, so I feel very grateful.
And on top of that, I have my wife over there, she's very humble, very patient. And I never see her speak one bad thing about people, criticizing. Me, I'm the opposite, I just talk any kind, you know. But she's somebody special. I guess that's why I'm married that long.
Ray Nosaka's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Ray Nosaka, Library of Congress, U.S. Army Center of Military History, and U.S. Army Signal Corps.