1399th Engineer Construction Battalion
End of War
Discharged in January 1946, Kenneth signs up to work in Okinawa.
He supervises Japanese POWs and Okinawan laborers. He sees the laborers and their families, encamped behind barbed wire, guarded by marines.
A year later, he returns to Oahu, joins the Hawaii National Guard, and works as a civilian employee in the territory's military department. Later, after a stint in supply at Pearl Harbor, he becomes a supply inspector at Hickam Field.
I was discharged on January 1946. Actually, that was only about a month short of four years.
When they started to discharge the military people, they went on a point system. The people who had the most points, like seventy, eighty points, and we would just have about thirty or forty, they came from the highest to the lower group.
So when the system reached me, that was in January '46 and they gave me the orders to report to Hickam Field for discharge.
Work in Okinawa
After I got discharged, I didn't actually go to work right away. For about two, three months, I just took it easy. In other words, to rest my body or whatever.
And about April, there was a recruitment for Okinawa. And I signed up for that. I figured I could make some money there. I signed up as a bulldozer operator because I learned how to operate the bulldozer in the army. So I went as a bulldozer operator. You know, they were asking for equipment operators, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and so on. So that's how we went to Okinawa.
The U.S. army or the U.S. government [employed us].
Actually, when we reached the Okinawa, they were in a bad position. By that, I mean the war just ended and even Naha Harbor was all cluttered up. Just before that, they had a big typhoon, too. And we couldn't land in the Naha Harbor because ships were capsized, they were all over the place. So we had to land out in the ocean, near the harbor and come in carrying suitcases, carrying whatever, on the landing craft. That's how we came into Okinawa.
I went as a bulldozer operator but I only touched a bulldozer only about two, three times. The main thing was, we used to take care of the Okinawan laborers and at that time, there were still Japanese POWs [prisoners of war] from Japan. So we had to send them to work. To take care of them, what they were doing. And like we were just supervising [the POWs]. And the Okinawan people.
That was a simple job. When we landed in Okinawa, the Okinawan people were in a camp, now, surrounded by barbed wires. They were guarded by the marines there. And some of our group, they had relatives there and they brought whatever gifts they could.
But the thing is, every time they go into a camp, they had to get a pass to do that. And you asking for a pass every week, they started to get tired of that, so we used to sneak in between the barbed wires and go into the villages.
They had a hard time locating their relatives because they were all scattered around because of the war. And no records to show where so-and-so is. And actually when we visit a family, they were quartered in a big tent. There were maybe about three or four families in there. And every time we talking to, well, you figure a relative or somebody, you see the other people trying to hear what we talking about. That was funny.
You know the camps were surrounded by the marines. And almost every night when we used to go out visit them, chee, you hear nothing but somebody getting shot. It's like bang here, bang there, oh boy. I remember one time, I figured, chee, I don't know if they shooting us or what. I remember running outside and they started to raise rice. Rice is in a muddy area. Jesus Christ, you go into there, you fall into there, wow, you all muddy (laughs).
No danger but actually, the marines were guarding that. The reason was, they didn't open up the island because they started to open up only the ones that they knew that they can build houses or go to a certain area. Others, they don't know where to go, so they just left them in there. Until, well, later on they made everybody just get out. By then, I think I was gone by then.
We used to only work five days a week and Saturday, Sundays, we had free time and I figured, chee, how am I going to make money like this? No overtime eh? So when I went earlier, I went on a year's contract. And towards the end, I figured, chee, like this I can't make any money.
Hawaii National Guard
So I figured I wanted to go to Japan. But they told me, "You have to come back to Hawaii and enlist from Fort Shafter." So when I returned, there was no opening. They closed whatever job opportunities. So I figured, well, I have to work here now. So that's when I worked for the military department State [Territory] of Hawaii. I joined - well, the only reason was, you have to be in the guard, too. So I was back in the Hawaii National Guard for three years. So actually, I have about seven years of military service.
I was a civilian with the military department. But the thing is, you have to be in the national guard in that position. I was in the guard for three years but about two years went by. Naturally, I had applications for Hickam Field, Pearl Harbor supply center, this and that.
About two years, Pearl Harbor supply center called me to work for them. And I figured, I might as well go there because the pay that much higher than the State [Territory]. So I went, I wanted to get a discharge from the national guard but even the personnel officer knew me, since I was in the guard. He said, "No, you cannot get released."
So they put me on the national guard reserve list. And I started to work for the supply center. And lucky thing I did that because just as the three years were up, the Hawaii National Guard was called to service to Korea. And luckily, I didn't have to go.
And just from Pearl Harbor supply center, I went to Hickam Field as a supply inspector.
Kenneth Hagino's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photograph courtesy of 1399th Engineers Battalion Collection.