Ronald Oba
F Company, 442nd RCT

Military Service

From Camp Shelby, the 442nd is sent to Norfolk, Virginia where they board Liberty Ships at Newport News Harbor.

As they near Europe, they encounter a hurricane. Most everyone except Ronald is seasick. He fries two hundred pork chops but only three or four men show up to eat.

The 2nd Battalion, including F Company, is sent to Oran, Africa for two weeks. They are transported to Naples, Italy on a British ship, HMS Samaria, and assemble in Bagnoli, Italy.

Convoy Overseas

From Camp Shelby, we were sent to Norfolk, Virginia and we boarded Liberty Ships at Newport News Harbor.

Liberty Ship SS Carlos Carrillo

There were about a hundred fifty ships going to Europe and there were destroyers and submarines protecting us. The destroyers were going back and zigzagging all over the place. About five days out of port — oh, more than that — we were nearing Europe, we hit a hurricane.

Convoy crossing the Atlantic

It was so strong that the crewmember told me that we were pushed off course a hundred fifty miles. Again, everybody was seasick. And me, I come from Pearl Harbor, I used to fish over there all the time, so I was the only cook still standing on my feet.

The menu that day was fried pork chops. And like a damn fool, I didn’t think — you know they’re all seasick — I fried two hundred pork chops. And only about three, four, guys came up to eat. They’re all seasick. Mess sergeant was seasick, the first cooks were seasick, assistants were seasick, KPs were sick.

And Takao Hedani, H Company, for twenty-one days he didn’t get out of his bunk. He got dehydrated. They thought he was going to die. He was so seasick. Didn’t drink, didn’t eat, for twenty-one days. They were afraid that he might die but he survived. He was my kendo teacher at Aiea, Takao Hedani.

News of the 100th

[We heard the 100th Battalion] were getting busted up at Cassino. And they went to Salerno first — well, actually, Africa, for a little while, they were attached to the 34th Division. They went to Salerno and then they went up Italy into Cassino where they were just about cut to pieces.

Oran, Africa

[Going overseas] was a great adventure, we’re finally going overseas. We were training to fight. We were sent to Africa first, F Company, 2nd Battalion because 3rd and other people went to Naples already. They couldn’t take all of us, so we stayed in Africa for two weeks.

U.S. destroyer and aircraft carrier off North Africa

[We were in Oran] two weeks, until we were ready to move from Oran to Naples.

En route to Naples

After we landed in Oran and we did some guard duty, quartermaster, we finally got put on a British ship called the HMS Samaria and it took us about two, three days to get to Naples.

Being a cook, I was assigned to help the limey (a British person), we called them limey. They had a big vat, they would put all this oatmeal in there, they would boil and cook it till they all spill all over the floor, they didn’t care. Then they would put that whole thing in a bucket. The dining room was a long table, about ten guys can sit on one table, they would bring this bucket of cereal, bucket of tea with milk and sugar, other stuff and then we had apple and orange. That’s for breakfast.

Then lunchtime, they had kippers, you know, fish. Fish and what else there was? Bread. Then again, repeat. Fish sticks in the evening. Well, you’ve got to figure England was not rich and their rations were very meager. So that’s what we ate.

We could [not] understand limey talk. When we spoke to them, we said, “What the blimey f*ck did you say? We don’t understand.” The limeys used to get so mad at us, we don’t understand them but they can understand us. And everything is “blimey this” and “blimey that,” yeah. Sorry for the F word.

We finally reached Naples and we had to get off board by going down ropes because we couldn’t berth on a wharf. We went from one hull of a sunken ship to the next.

Bagnoli

Then we were sent to a little town called Bagnoli, where we assembled. All the boys remember Bagnoli because it’s the first time we are in foreign soil in Italy and, well, wartime is wartime. The little kids would come, said, “You want vino?” We would buy vino. They’d say, “We want cigarette, you want my sister?” All kinds of stuff all throughout Italy and France. Always peddling their sisters and whatnot.

That was the first time I drank champagne that was so good. There was running water, we put the champagne bottle, it got ice cold and we opened. Oh, was really good.

But then, as time went by, the GIs took advantage of the Italians and the Italians retaliated. They used to put kerosene in the wine. And some of the boys really got sick from drinking wine with kerosene in it.

Same with cigarettes. You would get a carton of cigarette and we would buy one carton for dollar half. And Whitey [Yamamoto] — I just talked to him this morning — he said, “Remember we used to take all the cigarettes out and slowly remove the wax paper and then we would put newspaper in there and then put it back and seal it tight?”

Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto in a candid moment
Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto in a candid moment

The Italians said, “Oh, this is unbroken.” We would sell for fifteen dollars. Then the MPs [military police] would stop us from black marketing. The Italians would take the carton and give us the money. They would find out there’s no cigarettes. But I said, “Whitey, you damn terrible, you. At least we put the top level all cigarettes.” The underneath was straw, you know. But he said, “Oh, no, we put newspaper in.”

I said, “In Naples, when I sold my cigarettes, mine was full.” We sold it for fifteen dollars. A young twelve-year-old kid paid two of us and he ran and we ran. I saw him give me ten and five. I look, I ended up with only five dollars. He was so fast, he actually put ten and five dollars and somehow take back the ten dollars. I ended up with five bucks, yeah. They were like that, they would steal you clean. Soon as you turn your back, they would cut your knapsack and steal whatever you had in there. It was terrible, wartime, yeah.

Ronald Oba's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Shiroku "Whitey" Yamamoto, U.S. Naval Historical Center, and Library of Congress, Office of War Information Collection.

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