Yuki Kitaoka
A Different View

Sparta, Wisconsin

AJAs of the 298th and 299th Infantry Regiments are placed in a provisional infantry battalion that later becomes the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate).

Beginning in June 1942, the 100th Battalion trains at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

In December, Yuki joins Takashi in Sparta, near Camp McCoy. Unaccustomed to winter, she faces new challenges.

When the 100th Battalion in January 1943 is assigned to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, she goes alone to Chicago.

Joining Takashi

When I think back, why did I go up [to join husband in Camp McCoy, Wisconsin]? I didn’t discuss it with anybody, I don’t remember anybody advising me. All I remember is getting letters from [my husband] and if I wanted to go up, contact the Red Cross. The Red Cross did everything.

I think my husband tried to tell me what was happening on his end of it. He was doing all this communication. I was just to do what the Red Cross told me to do. They told me to get to the pier -- I don’t know what number pier it was -- and we are to go into the battleship, as soon as we get there. So I went. And this woman [Mrs. John Yamada] was there, ahead of me, with a six-month-old baby, and she said she was going up with me.

So we got into the boat — that’s the first time I met her — we got into the battleship and I remember telling her, “Gosh, I don’t know how I’m going to take this trip because I get seasick even smelling the boat.” I was so bad when it came to riding the boat. So I remember going in there and we waited almost all day for the battleship to go. And I told her, “That’s funny, I’m not even seasick, I don’t even feel the boat moving.” Come to find out, the boat hadn’t left the harbor yet. (Laughs)

And we stayed in that battleship for three weeks, I was sick as a dog. But I remember them saying that they have to do that because of the bombs, you know, torpedoes. They have to go zigzagging.

So we landed, I don’t remember whether we landed in San Francisco or Los Angeles, but I got on the train. And we stopped in Denver and they let us go out for a break. First time I’ve ever seen snow. We went there in December. Then we went to Chicago, I think, then up to Wisconsin.

I guess I was thinking — everything was new and only haoles around, no more Orientals or anything. But it seems like I wasn’t scared or afraid — young and crazy.

I wanted to go, I didn’t think of any danger or anything. I remember my friends saying to me, “How can you think of going? You don’t know anybody. That’s the first time you left home. Aren’t you scared or anything?” I guess you’re numb at that point.

Well, [December] that’s when the Red Cross says, “Get ready, let’s go.” So the faster we went, the better it was. So, I just went. I can’t imagine why I went without a knowledge of what it was like up there, nothing. Nobody advised me that it was so cold that you need warm clothing, I just figured it myself.

I can’t remember [how my parents reacted]. I either was very defiant about going or something, I don’t think I listened to anybody. (Laughs) Because my sisters thought I was crazy.

Sparta, Wisconsin

All you want to do is, you’re young, you want to go see your husband. And he worked pretty hard on his end trying to get me there. And so, finally we got together.

[Takashi] had found a place in Sparta, [Wisconsin], a little house on the outskirts of Sparta. And I tell you, it was in the dead of winter and we gave the [John] Yamada [family] the living room to stay because of the [Yamada’s] baby.

[It was] the first time I’d seen a potbellied stove. You know, you sit around and get yourself warm. So I remember getting up the next morning, in the dead of winter, the baby, six-months old, all black. The soot, from the potbelly, had gotten on her. Oh, I tell you, poor thing.

And everything, frozen. We don’t know that [if] you keep the window open, everything in the house freezes. Bread, potato, everything. That was the first time I realized that you close up everything before you go to bed. Even the ice is inside the house, on the sheets on the window, had frozen. And eighty degrees in Hawaii, twenty below where we went. (Chuckles) You can imagine what we went through.

Soon after I reached there, I had to have winter clothes. No [winter] clothes over here [in Hawaii]. McInerny the only place and I couldn’t get anything warm to wear, except men’s things. I got a cloth coat that men wore, just to keep me warm until we got to Wisconsin. I remember buying a winter coat [on the Mainland]. I thought I’d buy me a fur coat, but you can’t buy a fur coat with a soldier’s salary. (Laughs)

So I ended up with a cloth coat, my first winter coat, with a fur collar. Lasted me all the time I was in the Mainland. But we did some shopping for warm clothes. Because up in Wisconsin, the only thing girls wore were snowsuits because it’s so cold. You know the snowsuits that have a hood and everything to keep yourself warm. Completely different from Hawaii but a good experience.

Yuki and Takashi Kitaoka, Winter

I thought I’d never get used to the cold but you get used to it.

We stayed [at the house] only about two, three weeks and then [my husband] found an apartment in town. We left the Yamadas there in that house. I don’t know what happened to them after that because I lost track of them.

[My husband] used to come home every night. Privileged character, I guess. (Laughs)

[I would] do just household chores, go shopping and things like that. One thing I discovered there I thought was new was trying to do my laundry. The natural thing is to hang it out. So you hang it out and find that it’s ice. The whole sheet is ice. I never experienced that. (Chuckles) You don’t hang laundry out. You hang it in the house.

Only two of us [wives], at that time. I was the only one after I left the house. So it was a pretty lonely time [when Takashi] had left. I think the troop reassigned from Camp McCoy to Hattiesburg in January.

I never had any trouble [in Sparta]. I had no bad contacts, like some of the boys did, the 100th boys. Somehow, I got along. I guess I minded my own business, I got no reaction from — no bad behavior of anybody else to me. Everybody was very nice and I can’t remember anything in that period that I got scared or anything. I just lived from day to day. And at that time, waiting for him to call me back down to Mississippi, not knowing what Mississippi was like.

[Soldier’s pay was] twenty-one dollars. I don’t know how I survived. He’d send me some money, “I made some money in poker last night so here is the result” kind of thing. Once in a while I get more money from him, but I don’t know how I survived.

Chicago, Illinois

I stayed in Chicago for a month almost [while Takashi transferred to Camp Shelby, Mississippi] before I got called to say that he found a place for me in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

I remember staying in the hotel room, that’s all. Waiting for him to tell me to come down.

Yuki Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi and Yuki Kitaoka.

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