Military Intelligence Service
To do his share in the war, Dick — with the blessings of his mother — volunteers for the 442nd RCT. He is inducted in March 1943.
He is confident that his ROTC training will sustain him. Little thought is given to the risks of combat.
Gathered at Iolani Palace, the men of the 442nd are admonished to do their best and to not bring shame to Hawaii.
Throngs of people — friends, family, and strangers — line the streets to bid the men farewell as the unit ships out.
Being there were quite a few volunteers joining the 442nd, I felt that I must do my share, fight the enemy, and this is why I volunteered. [My ROTC training] gave me the confidence that I know I could sustain myself to this military life.
[My mother] didn’t quite like the idea, but with the situation as such, being that the Japanese pulled a sneak attack and I was willing to volunteer and fight for my country, she said, “I’ll give you my blessings. Go ahead and do it, do what you have to do.” She said it was okay, so I was glad and I volunteered.
Not too many [of the nisei workers at Tripler volunteered] because a lot of the workers there were married and had children. They had other responsibilities. I was single so I volunteered and I had no restraints tied to my volunteering.
When you’re young, you don’t think about such consequences [like dying or getting injured]. You just do it. And I did it and I have no regrets. As a matter of fact I think I did my share to help in the war. We have to do something to cleanse that bad record of being a J-A-P and I’m glad everything worked out okay for me.
I was inducted [in March of 1943] and we got sent to Schofield Barracks. Wahiawa, the Schofield area, is very cold at night. All we had was two blankets, and sleeping on a cot was very uncomfortable. We had our overcoat, sweaters inside, and two blankets and we [were] still cold. We froze our butt, so to speak.
Gathering at Iolani Palace
You know when we had a gathering at [Iolani Palace] and all the niseis, the 442nd members, were all lined up? There were many pictures of it. It was a few days before we left and all the [big] wheels gave speeches and asking us to do your best and not bring shame to Hawaii. When they gave us a lei it was one of those crepe [paper] type leis with a little tab that says, “Aloha from Hawaii,” and I still have that little tab. It’s a memento that I will treasure.
But other than that, the only thing is, my mother gave me some money for spending. But with the military you get fed, you get room, so you don’t need that money.
[We were at Schofield] about a month. Then we were shipped out to Camp Shelby, and I still remember lugging two duffel bags loaded with clothes, blankets and whatnot. It was heavy. We went to Iwilei, that’s where the [Oahu Railway & Land Company] train stopped. From there we had to walk all along the waterfront to Pier 11, and I believe it was the Lurline that was [docked] there.
We had to carry the two bags and many of the smaller-stature nisei were dragging their bags on the ground. The sidewalks were just loaded with people standing by and waving and so when they saw this situation where a soldier was struggling, they would come over and help carry one bag at least. Then they can just struggle with just one instead of two. It was good to see that they would help one who was in trouble. I struggled — I say I sweat my butt off — but I was able to carry my own bags to the ship. I am very thankful, physically, I was able to sustain myself.
There were many people along the streets waving. [The people] were out there to see the soldiers leaving. I felt like a celebrity. (Laughs) I was really happy to see people waving and seeing us off. I guess, well, I didn’t see anybody that I knew, but yet they were waving, it was a group thing. And what we were doing as a group, the 442nd, that they had acknowledged and accepted us and in praise waving us goodbye.
They were saying, “Eh, good for you. Go out and don’t shame Hawaii.” In other words, you have to do your best and make them proud of us. That type of wording really helped, you know, really nice to hear. Of course, at that time we were excited, but it was a wonderful feeling because I know they appreciate what we were doing, not knowing what the future will bring. And some of ’em will never return and never did return.
Enroute to Camp Shelby
[We got on the Lurline and traveled] somewhere close to San Francisco and from there we caught the train and went to [Camp] Shelby, [Mississippi].
You know, one thing that really impressed me was the colored workers that fix the bedding and took care of us. Well, at night they would convert the seats to beds, and when morning came, while we were up, they’d collapse everything and fold up everything and make it into another seat.
I notice there was a colored porter there [who] was so impressed with the conduct of our nisei and he praised the niseis. They were not rowdy. And it’s a good feeling to hear people praise us away from home, that we were good kids.
Dick Hamada's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Dick Hamada.