Takashi Kitaoka
100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)

Military Training

Nisei pulled from the 298th and 299th Infantry Regiments are shipped out to the Mainland in June 1942.

Designated the 100th Infantry Battalion, Separate, they travel to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin for training. Takashi, promoted to staff sergeant in Baker Company, takes charge of a squad.

On weekends the men visit La Crosse, Madison, and other cities, where they go to movies and drink beer.

In 1943, the 100th departs for Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

100th Infantry Battalion, Separate

[In late May, the nisei of the 298th and 299th Infantry Regiments were segregated from non-Japanese and placed in a provisional infantry battalion.]

Suddenly, we get a notice to go to the Mainland. I think it was in June [5] of 1942 that we left Hawaii to go to the Mainland. As to where we were going, we didn’t know. Nobody knew. Maybe the higher-ups knew but they certainly didn’t tell us.

We weren’t supposed to have anybody meet us at the dock. It was a secret voyage from here to Oakland, California. [In Oakland, the Hawaiian Provisional Infantry Battalion was designated the 100th Infantry Battalion, Separate.] We happened to disembark there, but we didn’t know we were going to Oakland or San Francisco or New York or what.

Camp McCoy, Wisconsin

[After we disembarked,] we got on the train and were blacked out, the windows were covered, we didn’t know where we were going.

Takashi Kitaoka and fellow soldiers, Camp McCoy.
Takashi Kitaoka and fellow soldiers, Camp McCoy.

After a few days, we stopped at a place and it happens to be Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. The very place that we went to was a place that they kept some of the detainees, the Japanese. [Prior to the June 1942 arrival of the 100th Infantry Battalion for basic training, Camp McCoy was the site of internment of Japanese aliens, some of whom were from Hawaii, and European aliens.]

Can you imagine going to a destination that you didn’t know where you were going? What was ahead of us? What was our future? Where were we going? What were we going to do? Of course, we had a vague idea that we were going to be trained again.

That’s exactly what happened at Camp McCoy.

Conditions

Summer was very hot.

And that particular winter, we went to training in the forests of Wisconsin, the temperature was twenty-five below. Can you imagine Hawaii boys being trained under those conditions? It was terrible.

Takashi Kitaoka, Camp McCoy.
Takashi Kitaoka, Camp McCoy.

[We had] the usual GI clothing but that wasn’t enough. It was night training up in the forest and all that kind of stuff. That didn’t last all the time but weekends we would go to training.

We went through the entire basic training that we had at Schofield and a little more because we were being trained to go to the battlefield.

Staff Sergeant, B Company

I was in B Company, Baker Company. I was just another soldier. You gradually, as you experience the daily life of a soldier, the company commander sizes you up and then makes the promotions as we go along. I was [promoted to] a staff sergeant.

Takashi Kitaoka, Camp McCoy.
Takashi Kitaoka, Camp McCoy.

[I was pretty highly educated] but then that wasn’t the main ingredient for a rifleman. There were people with much less education who were stronger than I was, who could use the rifle better than I could. In many ways, education didn’t have very much to do with a soldier in a rifle company. Although it helped, it helped.

Duties

[Staff sergeant is] in charge of a squad of, I think it was between nine or eleven men. The setup of the army is you have about three squads in a platoon and the staff sergeant was responsible for one squad.

[Squad] duties are always specific. There was what was known as a scout, who was supposed to be the guy that goes ahead of the group. They do reconnaissance. The squad is usually composed of a rifleman and I think maybe, I’m not too sure, their machine gun.

You see, the army had three [rifle] platoons in a company. They used to have rifle companies. The fourth platoon was the heavy weapons. That’s the way it worked. They had their mortars and they had the heavy weapons to back up the squad.

[The squad was all Hawaii guys, no mainland guys.] You see, we were a special group of Japanese Americans.

[My relationship with the men in my squad was excellent.] We worked together. It’s a question of give-and-take. We had an objective that we had to perform, to meet, and this is what we did. The squad works with the platoon, the platoon works with the company, the company works with the battalion, the battalion works with the regiment, and so on up the line.

I think we did very well. We knew our mission. We knew what we were supposed to do. As far as our discipline and obedience, I think we were A1.

Officers

There were several [above me]. The officers, they changed from time to time. You don’t have the same ones. But most of the time, they stayed with you.

For example, the company commander who was the head of the whole company was Clarence [R.] Johnson and he was a haole. Most of our leaders were haole, except the few who were officers by virtue of the fact that they had ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] training at the university and advanced training. When they finished the training they would get the commission as second lieutenants.

I was one of those who didn’t take the advanced course so that we didn’t have any commission. But a good number of our leaders in the battalion were one of us. By that I mean, people from Hawaii, AJAs [Americans of Japanese Ancestry], who had taken the advanced course at the University of Hawaii.

There was [Richard] “Dick” Mizuta, he was one of the lieutenants. You see, usually, the company commander is a captain. Below him they had a lieutenant, the first and second lieutenants. The lieutenants are in charge of the platoons, so that you would have four, at least four, lieutenants in each rifle company.

[Sakae Takahashi] was with F Company at that time. He wasn’t with B Company. He joined B Company later, after we got to Italy. I don’t know if Clarence Johnson went overseas with us. I don’t think so. So that when we left, our company commander was Taro Suzuki. He was a product of the ROTC program at the university.

Activities

We had a lot of contact with civilians. We would go to different places. For example, La Crosse was a city near Sparta. Sparta is where Camp McCoy is. We would go there [La Crosse] almost every weekend. We would go to Madison, that’s the capital of Wisconsin. We’d go all over the state.

We would do what soldiers would ordinarily do, have a good time.

You have movies and all of the different things that an ordinary soldier would do. I can’t mention all of the details of what the soldiers did. But ordinarily, a soldier is on leave, we would go to the bars, those who drank. We enjoyed that. They had good beer.

We used to drink so much beer that I remember the battalion commander, [Farrant] Turner, at one time he told us not to try to drink Wisconsin dry because we couldn’t do it.

Takashi Kitaoka and fellow soldiers, Camp McCoy.
Takashi Kitaoka, James Tani, Mike Miyake and Furushima on furlough in Chicago.

[We had very little money to spend.] Very little, very little. I don’t know how much. A private would get maybe twenty-one or twenty-seven dollars a month or something like that. So we didn’t have very much.

But money was no object. You can have fun without money. You got to have a certain amount of money but there are other things that are more enjoyable.

Camp Shelby, Mississippi

We stayed [at Camp McCoy], perhaps, about close to a year — oh, maybe not because [later] we went down South to Mississippi. [The 100th Battalion was at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin from June 1942 to February 1943, then departed for Camp Shelby, Mississippi.]

I would say [Camp Shelby] was not up to the standard of McCoy. The facilities, for example. The climate, you know how it was in the South, very, very hot, uncomfortable. Although the people treated us pretty well there.

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

All rights to the reproduction or use of content in the Hawaii Nisei web site are retained by the individual holding institutions or individuals.

Please view the Hawaii Nisei Rights Management page for more information.