1399th Engineer Construction Battalion
Out of work, Kenneth thinks he "might as well do something." Underage for the draft in February 1942, he volunteers for military service.
His father is "mad like hell," when he hears about Kenneth's enlistment.
En route to Oahu, Kenneth observes a few AJA draftees crying and embracing their parents aboard ship. He discovers the parents are being held in the upper deck of the ship and being transported to internment camps.
That was the last draft from Hilo. Well, not from Hilo, but the whole state [territory]. I know quite a bit [of people who were drafted]. Besides, I was the youngest. I was only twenty years old. The older ones would be about two, three years older than me. Up to age thirty-five.
We had the Hilo Armory. That's where the national guard used to train. So, just went over there, volunteered. And they just took examinations, all kinds of things. It was fast though.
I think I might have gotten in just when they were about ready to go to Honolulu. Because they didn't take too long. After I signed up, they said, "Hey, we going," - maybe must have been about two, three days - "report to the Hilo Armory in the morning. We going to sail." They didn't say when but we stayed there all day. About four o'clock we took off for Honolulu. That was fast.
Reasons for Volunteering
First of all, I didn't have a job. Besides, I figured, well, I might as well do something. So, I just volunteered. And, you know, when I volunteered, when my, especially my parents, my father, when he heard that, ho, he was mad like hell.
If I had a job, I don't think I would have volunteered. It's just, what's that, fate or circumstance.
Yeah, we had the idea that we, when you go into the army you going to the front. But things were different. We didn't expect that we were going to be discriminated, eh.
Transport to Honolulu
Being from Hilo, you know the shipping lanes weren't open yet because prior to that, about a month ago, they had a ship that sank off - was it Molokai or Maui? And quite a bit of Hilo people, Hilo soldiers, that 299th Infantry from Schofield that, after they finished training, they were going to come to Hilo. But, the boat hit a mine and they sank off. Royal T. Frank. [Military transport ship, Royal T. Frank, was torpedoed on January 28, 1942. Twenty-four men died.]
So when we came to Honolulu, we were the first since that time. No ships were available or were not going through the different islands. So we were the first ship to go, to open up to Honolulu. And I can't forget that because we had a couple of planes ahead of us leading the way and had about one ship ahead of us, leading the convoy.
Besides that - you know on that ship, we were on the lower deck; the second deck, we had parents that were going to relocation camp. And we didn't know about that. In fact, some of, I would say about three, four draftees, their parents were above deck. You should see them, ho, you know that was really something. You know, they're crying.
We found out because we go around, too, and then they go around the decks, this and that. And we found out some parents were up there. That was really something. See them hugging each other, crying, I tell you.
Usually the ship leaves, even during peace time, they leave at four o'clock and the next morning, about seven, eight o'clock we reach Honolulu. So when we reached Honolulu the next day, they took us by truck onto Schofield.
Kenneth Hagino's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photograph courtesy of U.S. Army Signal Corps.