Military Intelligence Service
Military Training: OSS
At Camp Savage, Minnesota, Dick studies the language and geography of Japan ten hours a day.
At the end of five months’ training, a group member asks to be released from duty.
The OSS group (ten enlisted men and four officers) is sent to Newport Beach, California where their mettle is put to the test. They are then assigned to Catalina Island for survival training.
Later, the group travels to New Delhi, India.
Dick is assigned to Detachment 101, Burma.
Camp Savage, Minnesota
After the removal of the eight members we left and headed for the MIS [language school] in Camp Savage, [Minnesota]. From April 6, we went to Camp Savage and trained in the Japanese language and there was a heavy concentration in learning the geography of Japan, all the different islands. And we attended ten hours of training every day. It was quite trying, being cooped up for ten hours in a room. It was very tiring, very strenuous. But it was exciting, let’s put it that way.
[It was helpful to review Japanese.] But you know, the Japanese language, it’s a very difficult language to learn and if you don’t use it, you lose it. And the evidence is there. But we did practice a lot of interrogating, reading, and we never had such a thing as shiken, or test. But it was just learn as you go. I remember Fumio Kido one day was sleeping in class and when attention was made for him to answer the teacher, he got up and he was shocked and he said, “Hai, nete imashita.” “I was asleep.” At least he told the truth. (Laughs)
On our own we had a radio that can receive coded messages. We used to spend our time listening and copying what the guy sends and that gave us an extra training. But this was not a mandatory thing. It’s if you like, you go ahead and listen and that’s what we did. And several of us sat down and copied coded messages.
Our group was more an individual group and we were kept away from the majority of the [other students]. So even in class we had just a few foreigners going through our class with us. Basically our group was just the OSS people. And it didn’t bother me, but I used to wonder why, but I guess then again just the main idea was the secrecy, keep away from others.
Basically, [socializing] was only [with members of] our group because we didn’t know anybody else and when you’re segregated, the idea of trying to meet with other people is kind of taboo.
[Camp Savage] had real barracks and the rooms were all heated up. It was really nice. Each of us had a bunk and it was a three-story wooden building. But the structure was so made that it would retain the heat, so it was very comfortable and very enjoyable, through the winter months, especially.
I remember at the end of the day when we went to take a shower, the shower was about a hundred feet away from our barracks. So we would run over there, take a shower, and when we finish, run back in the snow. It was fun.
But during the summer, which is the latter part [of the training period], we used to go to the lakes. There’s Lake Calhoun, we used to go out there swimming. It was fun. Most of the Hawaii boys like to swim, so we’d go out there and enjoy and we’d stay there for hours.
The people were nice. The people that we ran into in any business establishment or in town, they were very receptive to us. We were really treated nicely, more so than Camp Shelby. We were [at Camp Savage] from April 6 to August, about five months’ training.
Newport Beach, California
When Camp Savage was finished we left there in August 27,  and we were given four days to get to Newport Beach. What we did was, I visited some friends in Michigan and then two of us headed for the California coast, Newport Beach.
When school was over in Camp Savage, one of the members in our group of enlisted, decided that he wanted out. He didn’t tell us why, but he was released and I don’t know whatever happened to him after that.
So we ended up with our final group of ten enlisted and four officers. So when we got to Newport Beach we were put under a test, you might say. We were questioned by an intelligence group to try and — see, the situation was they put you in a certain position and they tell you why would you do that. So the mind, thinking mind, would try to get you out of the jam. And we did that for a few days. The group that questioned us, which was like spies (chuckles) you would say, they were sharp. They knew the answer before you could even speak it. But it was something to boost our own thinking mind, so how to speak in a certain situation. It was helpful.
[From Newport Beach we were assigned to Catalina Island.] Early in the morning, we got loaded onto our PT boat. It just took us about an hour to get there [in] a high-speed boat. When we got there we were met by a Rocky Teller, he was one of the trainers. [Catalina Island] used to be a Boy Scout camp at one time. Then the military took over. So when we landed he met us at the dock and he said, “Okay, let’s all take your belongings and put it in the barracks and lock it up. Then we are going to go.”
He said, “We’re going to go hiking.” And he took us up the mountain. I know two of our members, the older members in our group, was not physically capable of climbing the mountain so they were sent back to camp, but we went along.
On the way [Teller] shot, with his telescopic rifle, two goats. That’s a long distance, but he got it. When we got there, he skinned the back from the hind legs. He hung it over the tree. He cut a branch and hung it on the tree, and the other one on another tree, and he said, “This is the way you have to prepare your meal.” So he start skinning the animal and everybody took turn. When it came time to clean the guts out, you’d stick your hand in there in the warm belly, pull the guts out. Now when everybody did that, when it was done, we didn’t have any water to wash our hands. That was kind of nauseating. It was an experience that I don’t enjoy doing, gutting out an animal. But when we skinned the two animals, everybody participating got an idea of how we are going to skin an animal if we prepare a meal.
After that was finished he said, “Let’s go,” and we went further hiking. We missed our lunch, our breakfast, and we missed our dinner. When we get home it was a dark and the cafeteria was closed, so we didn’t have three meals that day. And that was our initial training in survival.
During our training we had hand-to-hand combat. We fired every known weapon that military uses, except a cannon. We played with all kinds of explosives. I noticed during the military combat in Burma a lot of bridges were destroyed and you have to know your explosives before you can blow a bridge, and we did that. And we also used C-2 compound [explosive] mines and exploded those.
Nisei attached to OSS go through Special Guerilla, Ranger, and Survival Training on Catalina Island, California. 1st row, l-r: Calvin Tottori, Shoichi Kurahashi, Fumio Kido, Wilbert Kishinami, Tad Nagaki, Takao Tanabe, Dick Hamada and Tom Baba. 2nd row, l-r: Susumu Kazahaya, Lt. Ralph Yempuku, Lt. Richard Betsu, Maj. Crowe, Lt. Junichi Buto, Lt. Chiyoki Ikeda, George Kobayashi.
At night in the pitch darkness, we were awakened, grab our rifles, go to the waterfront, get on the boat and it take us out. As we approach the beach area where sentries were walking, we had to jump off the boat and swim ashore and infiltrate the beach, which was well guarded by military, and hit a certain building designated as a target. Now, the idea was not to get caught. It’s amazing, as I’m in the water I’m looking up on the dock where the military soldiers were walking back and forth. I can see him, but he can’t see me. We’d infiltrate the beach and pass the military guards and go to the point. Once you get to the point you know you’ve succeeded, because once you get there there’s an explosion, but we’re not going to destroy a building just for the heck of exploding it. But we did that. And that survival [training] we used to search for our own food. You drop a hand grenade in the ocean and you’d see all kinds of fish. We got crab, abalone. The abalone was readily available on the beach. We had to do many things in the dark, is what was very impressive.
[There was another teacher named Leonard Mason.] I never did get to meet him personally. But I was told that he was involved in telling us about the customs of the Japanese, the enemy, so that we could be familiarized. It seemed at that time, we were going to be shipped out to Japan. He was involved in teaching us, but, I guess, with the excitement, I say it was very difficult to for us to consume whatever he was trying to teach us. Sad to say. But, nevertheless, he was present there. Involvement was a lot of psychological things: what to expect and how we should cope with it, that sort of thing.
[We left Catalina Island for] Miami Beach.
When we approached Jacksonville we were told to hang on because they couldn’t advance and go to Miami because a hurricane was about to hit Miami. The very next day, early in the morning, we headed for Miami Beach.
It was very surprising to see the streets just loaded with grapefruits. Wherever you look, you can see there are grapefruits on the street. I don’t mean just a dozen; there were hundreds of ’em all over the street. We’d never seen this kind of situation where the houses were overturned, trees were uprooted, I mean big trees. The houses were damaged and communication lines were all down. It was something to see. I’ve never experienced such a situation here in Hawaii and it was very surprising. We were just awed to see such a situation.
[We arrived in Miami in November of 1944.] We were there at least one or two weeks. No, less than a week because on November 11, 1944, we caught a plane heading for New Delhi, India.
New Delhi, India
Our route took us to quite a few different places that we’ve never been to, like Bermuda, Azores, even today’s Iran. We landed in Iran. Our transportation was a hush-hush situation where we were not welcomed because of that situation. Even on train movement, our windows, shades, had to be closed. I guess they didn’t want it to be known that we were traveling.
After we landed in New Delhi we were divided into three groups. Lieutenant [Richard] Betsui and Wilbert Kishinami were assigned Detachment 101, India. Lieutenant [Chiyoki] Ikeda, [Takao] Tanabe, [Susumu] Kazahaya, and [George] Kobayashi, [and Ted Nagaki] were sent to Detachment 202, which was China.
I was sent with a group to Detachment 101, Burma. That was Calvin Tottori, Tom Baba, Fumio Kido, Shoichi Kurahashi, myself, Lieutenant Ralph Yempuku, and Lieutenant Jun[ichi] Buto were sent to Burma.
The majority of the group was in Burma because the action was there in Burma.
Dick Hamada's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Dick Hamada.