Military Intelligence Service
Norman is assigned to the 511th Regiment, a combat outfit. After landing on Mindoro Island, he parachutes into Tagaytay Ridge on Luzon in February 1945.
He lands in a tree but breaks free. Making his way through thick woods, he meets up with American troops.
Because he can be mistaken for the enemy, Norman is concerned not only with the enemy but also Filipino and American friendly fire. Unlike some nisei linguists, he is not given a bodyguard.
From then on I was assigned to the 511th Regiment . . .[a combat outfit]. We were armed.
I’m still in Leyte but we’re ready to depart. So on February 3rd we landed by LST [Landing Ship Transport] on Mindoro Island, which is just south of the main island of Luzon. We camped there one night and the next day we boarded planes to airdrop on Luzon, on what we call Tagaytay Ridge.
[This was in February] of ’45.
We landed by air or by parachute. I had a bad experience then because [my plane's] pilot probably was not experienced or was not familiar with the ground landing area and he probably ordered us to jump earlier than we should have. So I landed in a grove of trees and I thought I’d be strung up in the tree hanging and dangling down.
Fortunately when I came down [and hit the trees] I guess my weight broke a big tree trunk about that big. Twelve inches diameter or more. Otherwise I’d be strung up in the tree. But I broke that tree limb and I landed on the ground.
So that is how I ended up with nine parachute jumps altogether, five qualifying, three at Camp Mackall and this ninth one in the Philippines.
When you’re in thick woods and you can’t see fifty feet ahead of you, I thought gee, I’ve had it because I was always afraid of the Filipinos [who could mistake me for a Japanese army soldier]. I look Japanese, right, although I’m in American uniform.
We hardly talked about that danger. Of course we jokingly said, “We niseis had three enemies: the Japanese, the Filipinos, and [American] friendly fire. The haoles, wouldn’t be able to distinguish us from the enemy. Because it’s easy enough for a Japanese soldier to pick up an American uniform and try to pass for an American.
But anyway I headed towards the light where the woods ended. Then I found myself in a cornfield that was recently plowed and that probably was our landing target, but we were jumped early so I landed in the forest. Tagaytay Ridge is an old volcano so the sides were steep and we had to walk up about two miles.
At that time, I was the only nisei.
Ted Tsukiyama wrote in one of his historical [notes], that because the nisei could be mistaken for the enemy, we were provided with bodyguards. Well, [that is not true.] We were never provided that security. We were on our own.
We walked to the top of Mount Tagaytay and there you had the rather “luxurious” Manila Hotel Annex. Of course there’s no furniture, no nothing, but we used that building for several nights.
Norman Kikuta's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Norman Kikuta.