522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT
Corporal Katsuaki Miho visits his father who is incarcerated in Camp Livingston, Louisiana. After his brother’s visit, Katsugo, travels to the camp and spends two hours with their father.
In September 1943, Katsuaki dies in an automobile accident in Dolton, Alabama. Katsugo, accompanied by brother, Paul, take their brother’s urn to a Department of Justice camp in Montana. There, behind barbed wires, Katsuichi holds a funeral service for his son.
My father was interned December 7, and early in our training, the first two months, my brother, Katsuaki, who was in the medics, came by my hut and said, “Hey, I just came back from a weekend visit with dad.”
I said, “What are you talking about?”
He said, “Yeah, I just visited Dad.”
He told me that, somehow, he and a group of friends found out there was a group of Hawaii internees in Camp Livingston, Louisiana. He and his friends made arrangements to go all the way to Alexandria, Louisiana by bus. It required all of three days to go and come back. He told me how to do it. So a couple of weekends thereafter, I took the same route. When I got to the bus station at Hattiesburg, I found out that there were three or four other 442nd boys sitting in the bus.
I said, “Where you guys going?”
They said, “Oh, we’re going to go to Louisiana.”
“Oh, what for?”
“Oh, our fathers are there.”
They were in the same boat as I was. So we all got together, we got on the same bus. It was a long bus ride to Alexandria. When we got to Alexandria, it was about one or two o’clock in the morning. So we had to call in to Camp Livingston, call for the officer of the day, that we have a group of soldiers, GIs, who want to visit their fathers in camp. The officer there was astounded, “What do you mean? You’re American GIs?”
So, from Alexandria to Camp Livingston, we had to go by taxi. There was no transportation, two, three o’clock in the morning. So we made arrangement for a taxi and the officer of the day in charge got our parents, got them up early, informing them that they’re going to have visitors. And so from Alexandria to Livingston, we got there about five o’clock or five-thirty in the morning.
We were escorted into this Quonset hut, which turned out to be the visiting quarters. The Quonset hut was divided up for visitors and inmates. But when the officer of the day came up, we introduced ourselves to him and he looked at us, and he called the parents in. There were two guards assigned to the visiting quarters. He told the two guards, “You can leave now and leave these boys alone.” So we had the freedom of visiting with our parents for about two hours because we had to catch the bus to come back to Hattiesburg again. The captain gave us the complete freedom during those two hours because all the signs in the buildings said, “Speak English only.” Evidently, there were German and Italian inmates also because this was a prisoner-of-war camp.
One day when I was out in bivouac — bivouac, is when you go out into the fields, doing field maneuvers — I got word to report back to camp. Reported back to camp and thought, funny, the chaplain was there. He wanted to see me.
I said, “What’s up?”
A real Southern gentleman, Chaplain [Thomas Eugene] West, “Well, son, I got some bad news to tell you.”
“Why? What happened?”
He says, “We just got word that your brother [Corporal Katsuaki Miho] got killed in an automobile accident in Dolton, Alabama.”
My brother told me that his application for ASTP [Army Specialized Training Program] program was approved and that he would be going to Tulane [University] shortly to register for medical school.
At the same time, the 442nd, a couple of companies, were assigned to guard Afrika Korps German prisoners who were helping the farmers in Dolton, Alabama harvest peanuts. The 442nd were sent out there to guard these German Afrika Korps prisoners while harvesting peanuts. They were just shipped out there and this was the first or second weekend after they got to Alabama.
My brother was [temporarily] assigned to E Company and the captain had told him, “Go there and spend a couple of weeks with E Company as a medic.” Because from there to Tulane is just a upstate jump. So he was to spend two weeks at Dolton and then before the end of September — September 16 the accident happened — one week later, he was supposed to go to Tulane to attend school.
So I was given emergency leave to go to Alabama to make arrangements for the funeral. This was September 16, 1943, when basic training was over and everybody was receiving their furloughs. But in my case, I was given emergency furlough so that I could arrange for the funeral. My brother Paul was at Yale, he came down to attend the funeral.
Both of us then took the urn of my brother Katsuaki with us and we went all the way to Fort Missoula in Montana, where my dad had been transferred from Louisiana.
We turned over the urn to my father, who then had private funeral services behind barbed wires.
I couldn’t attend it because I wasn’t allowed to go inside the enclosure where my dad and his internees were located. They had their own private funeral.
The following day, my brother Paul who was with me, got the urn, and then we came back to Chicago. He had already graduated from Yale, and he was doing some YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association] work in Chicago.
I asked for additional time so that I could get some furlough. They gave me five extra days from my original fifteen days. So in the five days, I spent three days in New York and ended up back in Mississippi.
Later on, I asked for regular furlough and that got turned down. They said, “You already had your furlough.” But that was my experience with my major, who was the executive officer of the field artillery. I thought, it wasn’t proper not to give me — what could I say. That was a very bad experience.
Recently, I have discovered my old diary that I kept for a little while. Because after basic training, in preparation for going overseas, word came down that we were not allowed or supposed to keep diaries. Although you know that a lot of boys continued to keep diaries. But I didn’t. I discovered that the death of my brother was very traumatic, reading through the short notes.
Since after my brother’s death, it seems as if I became very hardened. The trauma lingered on.
I never really got along with my sergeant because my first sergeant, [James] Mizuno, was given a field commission in Italy. When we went to France, the other staff sergeant, Toru Hirano, who was very likable, became a first sergeant. When he was given a field commission in France, the man next in line was my sergeant. So when he became first sergeant, I was a gunner corporal. Supposedly, I would have been in line to become a buck sergeant. But what I did was that, when my sergeant became first sergeant, I went up to the battery executive officer who was a good friend, was a nice, likable lieutenant, [Daniel G.] Brew.
I went to him, “Lieutenant, you know, I’m going to turn in my corporal stripes.”
“No, no, Sam’s going to be the first sergeant and I don’t want to be in a position where he’s going to give me orders.”
So I turned in my corporal stripes and I became a buck private again. Of course, automatically, buck privates get to become PFCs after so many months so I did upgrade myself to private first class after maybe about six months thereafter. But I continued to [serve as] gunner corporal. It was just I didn’t have the ranking. Unfortunately, I had a sad experience in the army in that respect.
I became hard-nosed, you know. I couldn’t stand a lackadaisical attitude and non-caring kind of an attitude. Many of our boys were happy-go-lucky. I felt that our duties were such that we could not relax or be inattentive at any given time.
I did not fault the government. I did not fault anybody, now that I think about it. Even at that time, I don’t remember faulting anybody. If anything, it made me more hard-nosed to individually serve better. This is my recollection of my experience in the army. And to an extent when I became buck private, there was a tremendous load off my shoulders. I didn’t feel the responsibility of having men taking my orders. So in that respect, it was a relief. But from my personal point of view, I was more hard-nosed in trying to be in line, so to speak.
[My mother] had sold the hotel within a year after I left and moved in with my brother Katsuro [in Honolulu]. So there was very little worry back home, as far as that was concerned.
[My family was scattered during wartime. Katsuro and Mother in Honolulu, Paul in Chicago, and] Fumiye and Tsukie in Japan. We were scattered all over the place.
You could get as much information on the internees, about what kind of hearings that they had, how many hearings they had. I never really looked up my dad’s case, although I do know that one bit of document I saw, that even after Katsuaki had died, in 43, my dad was given another hearing on the question of whether he would be released to Jerome or Rohwer where many of the internees had been released. That I just saw the excerpt that he was turned down. So he did have a hearing after Katsuaki had died. Yet, in spite of that, he was denied release. I don’t have any further details as to what was discussed at the hearing or not.
Katsugo Miho's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Katsugo Miho.