1399th Engineer Construction Battalion
Military Service: Distrust of AJAs
Disarmed, Toshiyuki and other AJAs in the battalion at Schofield Barracks are relegated to do cleaning and other types of labor in the area.
When sirens blare, they go into trenches. Machine guns are pointed at them.
In October 1942, he and others become part of the 1st Battalion of the 370th Engineer (Special Services) Regiment.
Later, the men are allowed to bear weapons during rifle practice or marches.
Guns Taken Away
[Basic training,] like anything else, I guess we went to the firing range and I forgot — that was [with] the old rifle, Springfield rifle. Later on, the M1 came in. But anyway, we went through all of that. And our cadre was all Mainland haole GIs and they were very strict in a lot of ways.
But as I said, after basic training, [during the early part of our time at Schofield] they took away our weapons, and they all disappeared, whenever we had a siren, they would put us all in the trenches, and the cadre, they had machine guns pointed at us. I don’t know what for, but they had the machine guns pointed at us.
Then after that, they changed our name to 370th Engineers [in October 1942], and then [in 1944] we became 1399th Engineers [Construction Battalion] attached to the 34th [Combat] Engineers right there in Schofield.
I felt bad [when our guns were taken away] but I figured well, I guess they still had the notion that we weren’t fully trusted, and so we just accepted that. Of course, it was kind of tough to have them take away your weapons but that’s how it was. And when all of the Mainland cadres left, then I guess you just forget about all those other actions, discriminatory actions, because you only stay with your group already. Although the captain of our company was a Mainlander I think he accepted us. In fact I have a nice letter written by my captain when we were about ready to be discharged.
[When our weapons were taken away], we would do all kinds of labor work that needed to be done to clean up the area. And I know we dug all the trenches all over the place.
In the Trenches
[While at Schofield, alarms went off and we had to go into the trenches.]
The siren went on and the siren was I guess — maybe they thought that maybe Japan would continue bombing here and there. So they would put us all in a trench to be sure that we weren’t going around any place. And maybe signaling to the airplanes or whatever — I don’t know what it was, but anyway we all went into the trenches and they had a machine gun that was pointed at us.
I don’t think that happened that much after a few months. But I know that happened after all of the other guys disappeared [i.e., left Schofield for overseas assignments] and our weapons were taken. After that, I don’t know, maybe about five or six times, but other than that I don’t remember how long.
[Just AJAs went into the trenches] because the others were gone already. All the [other] local [non-Japanese] guys were gone already.
Only where the [370th] Engineers were, only us. C Company, B Company, A Company, they all would go into the trenches.
The [Mainland] cadre [manned the machine gun], the regular cadre at that time. I don’t know how long afterwards. Then all the local guys took over. The company command, yeah.
We got our weapons back. I don’t recall when but we got our weapons back. I guess by then they trusted us in whatever we were doing and no suspicious effort to become a spy or something like that. So we got our weapons back, I think after two or three years.
I think we had our weapons back by [the time the 370th became part of the 1399th in 1944]. But, I don’t recall exactly when it was taken and I don’t recall when it was given back to us.
The only time we carried our weapons was when we went to the rifle range to practice and whenever we had to go do marching or whatever. But other than that, no. I think the rifle range was up in Wahiawa, 13th Replacement Depot where the current golf course is out in that area.
I think that [site] used to be a replacement depot or something. People used to come and be transported out and new troops come in and so forth.
Toshiyuki Nakasone's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Toshiyuki Nakasone.