Dick Hamada
Military Intelligence Service

Life After the War

Discharged in 1946, Dick does a short stint as a bus driver.

He works in instrument repair at Hickam Field.

Under the GI Bill, he goes to watchmaking school in Missouri. When he returns, he works for a jeweler in Honolulu.

In 1948, he is an instrument mechanic at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. He retires in 1978 as supervisor in the planner and estimator division.

Married since 1950, Dick and Irene Hamada have two children and four grandchildren.

Going Home

We were shipped to India in Calcutta. We boarded the USS Greeley. We left there November 8, 1945. It took us till December 5, 1945 to arrive New York, almost a month. I guess the ships carrying troops were evasive in a sense that there may be some enemy submarines that might take a pot shot at us. So, it was an evasive type of movement and it took us almost a month to get home. But, arriving in New York, seeing the Statue of Liberty, was the greatest sight. You know you’re safe, you’re home. Although you’re still far away from home, Hawaii. Being in the harbor in New York you can see the Statue of Liberty, that was something. Very thankful.

[Fumio] Kido and I were on the ship and we were awarded the Soldier’s Medal at the OSS headquarters in Washington, D.C. [on January 3, 1946]. There were a lot of picture taking but the award was not presented in public. It was just in an enclosed headquarters, but we were thankful that we were recognized anyway.

Dick Hamada. Awarding of medal at Washington DC, OSS Headquarters.
Dick Hamada. Awarding of medal at Washington DC, OSS Headquarters.

[In January of 1946] I returned home to Fort Kam[ehameha] and I was discharged. The funny part about getting discharged there was, when we got there soldiers who had been discharged prior to my being discharged told me, “Hang on to your blanket.” So, I did that. Today, over fifty years, I’m still using the same two army blankets that I confiscated. Yeah, it has worn out a little bit, but the fact that I’m still able to use it after all these years, I’m thankful.

Sgt. Fumio Kido and S/Sgt. Dick Hamada are awarded the Soldier’s Medal in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1946 by General MacGruder. l-r: Captain Koger, S/Sgt. Dick Hamada, Sgt. Fumio Kido, Blankenship, Morde and Peters.
Sgt. Fumio Kido and S/Sgt. Dick Hamada are awarded the Soldier’s Medal in Washington, D.C. on January 3, 1946 by General MacGruder. l-r: Captain Koger, S/Sgt. Dick Hamada, Sgt. Fumio Kido, Blankenship, Morde and Peters.

Driving a Bus

After being discharged I tried driving a bus, just curiosity. I went to [what] used to be called the HRT [Honolulu Rapid Transit] then. Beginners don’t get assigned good routes. What I had to do was get up early in the morning, pick up the bus drivers from all over the area, take them to the bus station where they get their own assignment and they go out on their route. I would not be sent home and come back in the evening to get them.

I was assigned little routes like taking kids to school and back. Then there’s a pause where I wasn’t assigned anything, so instead of going home to rest, I would sleep in the bus because the time element was involved. So, after a short rest then I’d go out on route, pick the kids from school, take them home.

Then late at night I would take the bus drivers, after the bus service was over, I’d take them to their own home. Then I’d go home and rest a few hours and then start the day over again. I said, “This is not a job that I would really enjoy. You know, you’re all split hours. No time to rest, no time to sleep.”

Repairing Watches

So, I left the HRT [after about five months] and went to Hickam Air Force Base [at that time called Hickam Field] and repaired instruments.

The thing that I learned at Hickam was something of interest, repairing watches, and I liked that. A friend of mine working there decided, “Eh, we should go to school in the Mainland.” So he and I decided we’d go and made arrangements with the school. I went to Kansas City School of Watchmaking [under] the GI Bill.

After completing that I returned home and I worked for Egholm [Jewelry]. That was located near Bishop Street on King Street. It’s a jewelry store. But then, that was strictly commission. So, if you didn’t repair any watch, you’d starve.

Working at Pearl Harbor Shipyard

I decided I’d better work for the government. So, my ultimate assignment was in Pearl Harbor [Naval Shipyard in 1948]. I worked [as an instrument mechanic] with aircraft instruments like altimeters. Then later, chronographic equipment, watches, and got involved with what I had learned in the military, radio operating and repairing radios. I really enjoyed that.

So, I took the ham operating license, amateur radio. I was an amateur for thirty-eight years. I contacted many foreign countries far and near. And I really enjoyed that. The navy, or the federal government, that I worked for at Pearl Harbor was the best. The retirement was good, my hours were good. I used to do a lot of overtime on ships that were leaving, needed repair right away. The pay wasn’t that bad either.

During my employment at Pearl Harbor I was promoted to planner and estimator. The planner and estimator’s duty is to inspect, analyze, order the materials needed, and write a job order and that job order instructs the particular shops involved. That is what a planner and estimator’s job is. I did that for several years.

Then, I was even sent to Japan with a crew of planners and estimators and engineers. Being that I was able to speak Nihongo, Japanese, that really was a perk as far as I was concerned. I was able to explain, ask and talk to the Japanese at the same time. I remember, my friend, he was a hakujin [Caucasian], local, working at Pearl Harbor. He was going to a certain area all by himself on a tour. He had this instruction in Japanese, where to go, when to go, when his train leaves, and all that with the scheduling. I had to interpret that and give it to him. I returned from Japan after the inspection of a ship. It was a DGG-20. It’s a newly built vessel, {and I] went on cruise to find out what problems they had.

We were there to inspect the ship with all the complaints and write job orders, order the materials for it and return home. Well, that fellow that I interpreted all the things for and then translated, he said it worked out to the tee.

[I worked for Pearl Harbor from 1948 to] February of 1978. When I retired I was in charge of the planner and estimator division in the ad[ministration] building. You see, we have the ad[ministration] building, P and E, that would write job orders for the respective shops. Shop people analyze our job orders. I became the supervisor in the planning division in the ad[ministration] building.

When I retired in 1978 I had, with military service, thirty-five years. I’m really grateful that everything worked out okay. Like I said, the retirement pay wasn’t that bad either. It was interesting and very productive work, very satisfying. When the ship leaves Pearl Harbor and everything works, they send a message to the planning department. The job was well done. When you get a comment like that, it’s very satisfying because you know your job with the follow-through had gone perfectly.

You know, we’ve had situations where when the gunner turns his gun, the sight to the right, the gun goes the opposite way. There’s some malfunctioning. That’s a minor thing, but it’s the satisfaction you get knowing that everything worked out okay. That’s a great feeling. Whenever a job is done well, the navy gives you a superior accomplishment award, which includes a certificate plus a few bucks that go with it. I’ve got many of those and that really make the wife happy. Because you get extra pay, not the certificate itself, but the money itself is a great thing to have (laughs).

Marriage

I was married July 29, 1950. I’ve been married now for 56 years. [My wife’s name is] Irene Umeyo [Hamada]. My wife and I have been married now fifty-six years. She’s been a wonderful woman, a great caregiver and a wonderful, loving, caring person. I am really happy.

We went to school together in Honokaa. You remember the incident when the bus got caught in the [flood]? She was on the bus also, she and her sister. I knew her then.

When she came to the University [of Hawaii] I used to live just about three houses away from where she lived. I used to see her every morning going to school and we’d say hi. We never did date seriously, we just say hi. But, I guess, that initial contact, so to speak, was enough to create an interest even after I went to war. I used to correspond with her a lot. After I came home I started dating her and it worked out okay. She’s been a wonderful wife and a good caregiver. She helps me a lot, so I’m very grateful.

Irene and Dick Hamada. U.S.S. Missouri. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Irene and Dick Hamada. U.S.S. Missouri. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Family

I have two [children]. A daughter [Peggy] is the oldest. She has two kids [Melissa and Kelsey]. My son [Luke] also has two kids [Landon and Larissa].

One of my grandkids, Melissa, she just joined the JET [Japan Exchange and Teaching] program. She’s teaching in Japan at Ehime-ken [prefecture]. She did take Japanese while going to college. But its nothing like getting exposed, mingling with the people, the students, to learn Japanese. Because their requirement is that you don’t have to be able to speak Japanese, but if you do it’s a big help. And she’s really enjoying because her activities is with a lot of kids. They go on tours, they do projects together. She emails me and my wife that she’s really enjoying it. She’s already inquired if she could stay another year. Imagine, she’ll probably serve three years of it. I hope so. Maybe she can really learn the language before she comes home.

My [grand]son [Kelsey] is now attending Carnegie-Mellon [University]. This is his second year. I get to talk to him either by telephone or AIM [America Online Instant Messenger] or through email. We contact each other at least once a week. We really enjoy. I’m proud he’s doing good, real good.

My son’s children attend local schools here. The sister is now nine years old. She’s still in elementary. They’re doing great too. I feel very proud for my kids for accomplishing what they’re doing and what they have done. They’re doing great.

Dick Hamada's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Dick Hamada.

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