Elbert Arakawa
1399th Engineer Construction Battalion

Military Draft / Military Training

In March 1941, the army inducts Elbert in the second draft. Inductees report to Farrington High School and are trucked to Schofield Barracks.

Mainland cadre leads the men through basic training. Elbert handles the M1 Garand, carbine, and ’03 Springfield rifles. He practices close-order drills.

After basic training, Elbert is assigned to the 298 th Infantry Regiment. He volunteers for KP [kitchen patrol] duties because of his prior experience.


I was second draft. The army drafted me [March 1941] and I went to Schofield [Barracks].

Induction, Farrington High School

I had no choice. They call me, say, “You’re drafted.” So we have to report at Farrington High School, all of the boys in the neighborhood. So we had truckloads of boys. They brought the army trucks and then we went on the inside, the trucks. They took us down to the reception center. Schofield Barracks.

[My first unit was] Company A. I think those days we used to call ourselves 370th Engineers [Battalion (Special Services)]. But that’s after the [basic] training. [370th Engineer Battalion was activated on October 1, 1942.]

The first thing we did when you entered the army, they give us all kinds of injections: tetanus, typhoid and so on.

Basic Training

Then we went on training, rifle training. I had M1 [Garand rifle] as well as a carbine. Carbine was light, so easy but M1 was a little bit strong.

Japanese American Selective Service man

’03 [Springfield rifle] was really bad. You put ’em on the shoulder and you look at the target and the announcer tell you, “Pull slowly.” So you pull slowly. When it kicks, like a horse kick. Toom, like that. So first time you don’t know, so you do that. Next time, you know you going get a kick. So what you do is you do this [i.e., brace yourself] and then the bullet goes right into the ground. They call that, “Maggie’s drawers [a red flag waved from the rifle pits to indicate a complete miss of the target].” We had to rake ’em up.

I remember a guy who worked in the kitchen with me. Oh I forgot his name now. Anyway, he was on the range with me. He was in front of me, see. He cannot understand English too well. He one Japanese citizen, I mean, more Japanese than haole.

He was Kibei [nisei who had spent part of his youth in Japan and returned to the U.S.]. So when the lieutenant gave the order, he said, “Ready on the firing line.” When he said, “Ready on the firing line,” [the kibei] pull the trigger already. You know, you got to wait until the word “Fire.” And that thing it just went. Swollen up, over here, so strong, yeah. Oh, I look at that, I thought, “Gee whiz.”

You have to put the thing [i.e., butt of the rifle] right in your socket. So it won’t go up and hit your head, your face. So anyway, it was an experience. I thought that, too bad for him but he learned the hard way.

We had all kind of training. Rifle training, then we had a close-order drill. The men were assigned to latrine duty, guard duty, KP [kitchen patrol] but I was in the kitchen so I worked all that detail, I mean, job.

And so, when December 7, [1941] came, that’s when things start. No, wait a minute. Before that, I finished my training and then we closed down the place.

They told me to go to 298th [Infantry Regiment]. I cooked over there. Fifth [group of] draftees were called in to the reception center. [The center] told us to go back over there and cook. So I went back over there to cook. Before that it was all cadre, you know the cadre was training us, yeah.

But after the December 7 attack, the cadre and all the other people, they moved out. The local boys were mostly Japanese, I think, were stationed back over here. But we still had four companies [at the reception center], Company A, B, C, D.

Elbert Arakawa's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Elbert Arakawa, Hawaii State Archives, and U.S. Army Signal Corps.

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