F Company, 442nd RCT
Ronald travels in Europe while waiting to be sent home. When he receives permission to be discharged, he is shipped out from Italy to New Jersey.
His homecoming on Oahu in December 1945 is a quiet one.
He feels fortunate to have come back alive.
Waiting to go Home
They sent the boys home according to a point system. Of course, as infantry men, every month of combat, we got more points than people in the back. So the infantry boys were the first to be going home. The ones who went home were the draftees, they were in the army before us, so they had more points.
But in the meantime, while waiting, we had passes to go to Rome. We went to Rome, catch the Service Company truck, went running down to Rome. Once, I said, “Instead of going to Rome, I want to go to Peira Cava and visit my friends up there,” where we were there for one month or so. I caught the bus because the war was over, so I got a bus from Leghorn side, Genoa, all the way back to Nice. We went to Nice, I got on another bus — I had enough language to ask where is the bus station, which bus should I catch and where are you going.
The Maritime Alps, Mount Vesubie, Peira Cava and I went all the way, I had a nice visit with the family. I have a photo in there of Monique Millo. She was a middle-grade student. I corresponded with her for many, many years. I don’t know why we stopped corresponding but she used to write to me that she’s doing what grade in what, scores she made in English and algebra and all that stuff. So we corresponded for many years. So I went to visit. And, like Yoshitaka [Kuwaye], he went to visit the Hotel Helvetique in Nice. A lot of people went to revisit friends in Nice.
Was it Chomori? Somebody told me that he was sent to University of Florence. While taking courses there, he met a German. The war was over so he was attending classes at Florence. They got to talk to each other. And the German said, “Oh, I know you boys. You boys were across the river from us. I was over here and you guys were there.” They compared notes, and sure enough, they were enemies across the river. But then, after the war, they were at the University of Florence, going to school.
I left [Europe] in 1945. I came home just about Christmas, 1945, in Oahu. It took me maybe a little over a month. I probably got permission to go back, get discharged, in October or November. I was sent by troop ship from Italy all the way to Camp Kilmer. That’s where everybody ended up, Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. We were sort of quarantined at that camp for about one or two weeks. They check you, you don’t have diseases or whatever.
We went to visit New York and all that. We were not given passes every day so we all, every night, we would crawl underneath the fence and go visit New York anyway. And then we finally got on a B-24, I think, one of those airplanes. And there were ten of those planes, took ten plane loads of 442nd veterans all the way through Texas and all that, to California. And we ended up at Los Angeles — I think was Los Angeles. But the last plane, the tenth plane, where Masami Ohara was on, crashed into one of those mountains and almost everybody got killed. About three, four of them survived. Masami Ohara was one of them.
As I remember, we came home to Honolulu, and I don’t know whether it was the Lurline or Mariposa or what but I ended up at Fort Armstrong, which was the discharge center for returning veterans. And it was just about Christmastime and there were hardly any soldiers at Fort Armstrong, except a sergeant. And he said, “Welcome home, but there’s nothing for you to do so just go on home.”
I don’t know if he gave me any busfare or what but according to the army regulation, they were supposed to give us discharge monetary amount so you can go back to your hometown. Well, I think I must have caught the bus and went back all the way to Aiea. I got home, my parents were busy at the barbershop. Nobody said “Welcome Home.” I just went back to the back of the house, where the kitchen was and I just sat there thinking, “Whoa, what a long day. When are we going to have dinner?”
But the kids — my siblings — were all in school and my parents were busy and there was no wild celebration. I didn’t think anything bad about coming home quietly. Because I think our emotions were drained after going to war, getting nearly killed, losing so many of your friends, carrying them in mattress bags during the summer and winter times. Carrying a wounded guy through the Vosges Mountains for forty-five minutes, running through the forest and we finally got to the road. We don’t know where he went but later on we found out that he died from his abdominal wounds. So coming home, it was such a quiet, safe, tame area, that there was nothing to actually look forward to.
You’re home and lucky you come home back alive. And I always say, you know, a little hesitantly that, because we came back alive, we had a so-called “millionaire’s sojourn” into Europe. We were able to go to Switzerland, Rome, Paris, Nice and all that. And to me, this was like a millionaire’s trip, and we were lucky we came home alive. When I talk about all the wonderful trips, I always feel sorry for all the guys who died and were wounded and spent six months to a year and a half in army hospitals. Many of them spent so much time in the army hospitals.
Ronald Oba's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Ronald Oba and U.S. Army Signal Corps.