100th Infantry Battalion
One night in April 1945, Stanley and other prisoners think they hear the sound of American machine guns but nothing happens. The next night, everyone hears gunfire. No one sleeps. German guards either run away or prepare to surrender.
The next morning, an American tank group arrives.
The liberated prisoners are sent to southern France. Stanley is part of a group shipped to Boston, then sent to California by train.
Eventually, he returns home to Hilo.
The 500 of us, with the 499 haoles and myself, we were in the barn. And one night, we were sleeping directly on the ground with just hay. Just hay on the ground with a little blanket.
One night, it must have been about nine or ten o'clock, it was a little late, I heard a firefighting outside. You see, you can always tell the German machine gun and an American machine gun. American fires about six hundred rounds per minute, tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat. Whereas German, we nicknamed the German Maschinenpistole [tommy gun] as the "diarrhea" gun because it sounds, brrrt-brrrt-brrrt. That's how they fire, real fast. Twice as fast as an American gun.
One night, I heard that firing, tat-tat-tat-tat, brrrt-brrrt-brrrt, tat-tat-tat-tat, like that. So I woke up this Italian [American] kid next to me and I told him, "Hey, did you hear that?" Nobody seemed to have heard that. So I figured, chee, I wonder if I'm hearing things.
So next day, we walked the two, three miles to work, clearing up rubbles at the train junction and came back. That night, about seven o'clock, everybody heard that firing. And all the prisoners were probably 99 percent frontline soldiers. So they know what that was all about. Tat-tat-tat-tat, brrrt-brrrrt.
Everybody is excited, nobody went to sleep. And the guards, knowing - they had good guards and bad guards. And some of the haole guys was laying low for the bad guards. They wanted to lick, beat 'em up. But the bad ones, they just left. The good ones stayed back and they just piled their own rifles in a nice pile on the ground and they just waited for the Americans to come in.
But next morning, we were right next to a small village of maybe a dozen buildings. Every building had a white flag sticking out of the window, probably a piece of sheet. And then when the American tank group came rolling down the road and that's when we went up to them. They offered us the fresh American bread, which looked like cake to us, after eating 23 percent wood pulp bread.
But that's how we got liberated.
Then from there, we were sent to Reigensburg, where we took a flight from to Le Havre, France. At Le Havre, France - they debugged us for DDT [dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, an insecticide] all over our head and take a good hot bath to wash away all that bedbugs and fleas from us. And we got a new uniform.
End of War
The first thought come to your mind is now you're going back home. That's about the deepest I felt because you don't know what can happen. In fact, whenever we go to Munich to work for Stalag VII A, we go in a boxcar, in a train. And on the boxcar, they make sure that they have a cross on the top so that if the Americans should come, they're not supposed to strafe or bomb those group of boxcars with the crosses on.
Apparently, it's a known fact that there's German prisoners or Red Cross material in there. But what if something happened in the late evening? We used to sometimes work so late, that we used to come home after dark. And the Americans would bomb the railroad train. What if we were in there?
[Two weeks after being rescued, we ended up in Southern France.] We were shipped back to Boston. From Boston, we were shipped back, with train, all the way to California.
And we stayed in California, I think we were doing nothing there for about two months. Waiting. Just waiting your turn for shipping space. But at that time, I don't think they cared less whether you're a POW or combat veteran. So there's no priority whatsoever. The combat veterans I'd assume takes more priority than anybody else. The wounded ones, especially.
Being a Replacement
I don't know what happened to [Roy Nakamine or Oscar Miyashiro] or when they came back. In fact, to be real honest with you, when you are a replacement to any unit, you don't get to know everybody in the company. What happens is, you go from the 442nd to the 100th.
And then when you reach the 100th, they say, okay, you're first squad, second platoon. Now, that first squad, second platoon consists of maybe eight to twelve persons, depending on the strength of the unit. That's the only guys you associate with. You know "Oh, that guy is Warren," "Oh, that guy is Joe." You know what they look like but you don't get to know them real friendly way like the squad, your own squad. So on that basis, Oscar was a C Company with me.
The Lost Battalion happened about a day or two [after] I got captured, so I never heard about the Lost Battalion until I came back.
My feeling was, if I was there then, I could have been dead. Because that was a tough battle from what I read and heard guys talk about. Yeah, if I wasn't captured - in fact, I was one of the few that wasn't even scratched while in combat. From about April, May, June, July, August, September, October, say, about six, seven months, I didn't get wounded.
The story among the veterans at that time, in the front lines, is the longer you go without getting hit, the harder you'll get hit. In other words, like in my case, for seven months I wasn't even scratched by a bullet or shrapnel. So I was kind of concerned that, chee, am I next? If my turn comes, probably I might lose a leg or an arm or get killed or something. But on the opposite end, I got captured instead.
I've been trying to think how it felt when I got home but to me, it was just like I went to Honolulu and came back to Hilo.
It wasn't that exciting life that I went through. It never appeared to me that way. Nobody cared if I was a prisoner or not, so I didn't care myself.
The only thing I did was, after a few months of just playing around and doing nothing, I thought, chee, it might be a good idea to write down what I experienced. That's how I started my Stalag VII A story. That was as early as 1946, I think. That long ago I wrote. I wrote it out, typewrote it.
My niece tried to borrow that, take it to UH [University of Hawaii] and when she showed it to the teacher, no comment whatsoever. Good, bad. So I thought, chee, since I was just a high school graduate, this story must be written lousily. So I kept it in the drawer for years and I didn't show it to anybody.
I didn't have [the feeling that I accomplished something] at all, like I did something great, in a sense. It didn't occur to me that I did anything great or heroic or anything because I just had the feeling that I was in the service and just came out. Maybe if I lost a leg, or arm, or something, might have been a different story. But luckily, I didn't, so I didn't feel as - I don't think I felt the way I should have.
[My parents said] nothing much, not even "Welcome home." We just happy to see each other, that's all. Typical Japanese greeting. All my parents did was make a little party among the friends.
Stanley Akita's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of U.S. Air Force Academy Library Special Collections.