Military Intelligence Service
With Kazuo Yoshida, Norman is attached to S-2 military intelligence. Enemy shells kill several men in their building in Paranaque, on the outskirts of Manila.
Norman’s shirt catches fire when a field stove explodes. He is unhurt.
Approaching Fort McKinley, he has another near miss when shrapnel ricochets, pierces a water bucket, and stings him on the back.
In south Manila, Filipino guerillas confront Norman and a friend, Tetsuo Koga, but they escape.
After all the troops gathered together, we proceeded on [foot]towards the city of Manila, which was probably about twenty-five miles up north. We had to walk about five miles before trucks from the rear echelons came by and picked us up. [We] proceeded by truck until we hit Paranaque, which is right on the outskirts of Manila town.
By that time the Japanese had information that our troops had landed and we were attacking Manila from the south. They were using naval guns targeting the Paranaque area. Our regimental commander and his staff occupied a two-story building, the Paranaque municipal building.
The S-2, to which I was assigned or attached, occupied one of the two rooms upstairs. My partner, Kazuo Yoshida, who was my linguist partner, told me it was getting dangerous because the shells were landing pretty close and he said, “Let’s get down to the protected area on the lee side of the building.” About an hour or so later a shell did land on the corner of the building and there were two officers in the other room assigned to the headquarters commander and liaison, and both of them were disemboweled.
Shortly thereafter, there was a tree burst affecting those of us who were on the lee side. A shrapnel hit the haole guy sitting next to me, right above this area here, about the heart area, and he started bleeding. But he told the medics, “Oh, just patch me up with a compress or something and leave me alone. ’Cause it wasn’t really that deep." But no, the medic insisted — took him across the road to an old Catholic church that had been used as a field hospital. You know, a shell hit the old church building and the poor guy died, got killed. Had he remained where we were, he would’ve been safe. But he was killed.
The next day — you wouldn’t believe what happens in the front, but being among the regimental headquarters group I was close to the regimental commander and his flunky. The flunky was heating up a field stove [to heat the Colonel's lunch.] When he lit it the field stove exploded. I was sitting next to him, but fortunately my back was turned. My back caught fire. I rolled on the ground and I was able to extinguish it, but then the side of the building — in that area the buildings were made of nipa (coconut fronds) caught fire and they used the half blanket that I had carried with me to extinguish the flames. My blanket got burned. [I did not get burned,] just the back of my shirt, just charred.
Then about a week later, the regiment was approaching Fort McKinley and the enemy was shooting twenty-millimeter cannons or whatever down the road because we were approaching [the fort]. They were up there and were shooting down [the road] at what they called the American Polo Clubhouse. We’re sitting down to eat our lunch, K-rations, and I had a water bucket right alongside me. It was made of old canvas material, filled with water. I actually said to my companion, “I wish they’d quiet down so that we can eat our lunch in peace.” A shell came down, hit the side of the building, ricocheted and one piece of shrapnel went right through the water bucket. You know, a big hole like that and I felt a sting on my back here, but it wasn’t painful. I put my hand back [in my shirt but saw] no blood, so I couldn’t claim combat injury or Purple Heart (laughs).
You would have to prove that you’re an American [if you encountered Filipino guerillas].
In fact, upon entering south Manila, I guess after the taking of Fort McKinley [we] were sort of adventurous. And we’re familiar with Filipinos back home on the plantation. So this friend of mine, Tetsuo Koga, and I went to Pasay where we had befriended a Okinawan man [Mr. Naka] and his Filipino wife. They both worked as [domestic] servants at Cavite, which is a U.S. naval station. So we dropped in to see them and upon leaving we were confronted by a band of Filipino guerillas. I guess they thought that we were spies befriending a Japanese alien. We got into some heated words but we escaped. We had our [scary] moments.
Norman Kikuta's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Norman Kikuta.