522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT
End of War
The war in Europe ends on May 8, 1945. There is no joyous celebration. With the prospect of going home, caution replaces recklessness and carefree attitudes.
The 522nd occupies a town in Germany; they guard a bridge and control traffic.
In November, Katsugo and others are homeward bound. The men spend Christmas and New Year’s in Los Angeles. Aboard the USS New Mexico, Katsugo sees the city lights of Honolulu and experiences a heartwarming return.
For us up there, it was just another day. There was no joyous celebration. But the only thing is that, before the end of the war when we riding the trucks, the driver just drove the way he wants, reckless or whatever. But as soon as the war was over, everything was caution. “Ey, take it easy,” you know, “drive slowly, don’t drive too fast. We want to go home.” (Laughs)
That’s the kind of reaction we had. Everything was caution now. Before, we devil-may-care. We were carefree and happy-go-lucky. But a great many of us took extra precaution in whatever we did.
There was no joyous celebration or anything like that, it was very subdued. Subdued to the effect, “Oh well, it’s finally over and we get a chance to go home.”
Thoughts on Not Returning Home
I don’t think we gave much thought about [dying]. When we left Hawaii, it was a total unknown. We didn’t know where we were going to go, we didn’t know what we were going to do, whether we’re going to be really in the army, or what. So it was accepting things as it happened day by day. You lived day by day. You didn’t think of the future. You had a learning experience every day and you live for the moment.
Remember, in my case like before we joined the army, before 1941, our experience basically was with Japan. We were very close to our family in Japan. I had family still in Hiroshima. I was still going to Japanese[-language] school.
In Japanese[-language] school, we would sing Japanese war songs and we would hear stories of Japanese heroes. One outstanding story that I remember is an incident in Manchuria, Bakudan Sanyushi [Three Heroic Human Bombs], they used to call it. To break through the barbed-wire encroachment, these three Japanese soldiers had to sneak up to the obstacle with their bandoliers, and then I think they lost their lives putting the bandoliers through this barbed-wire object, and then blew it up. This was one of the favorite stories in Japan, of heroism of the Japanese soldiers.
The Japanese stories, the guy off to war and he doesn’t expect to come back. So there was a certain amount of that mentality when we volunteered. As an Oriental background, our mentality was that we are going out, don’t expect to come back. I think 99 percent of the boys that left Hawaii, left with the idea that, worst comes to worst, we’re not coming back. We didn’t burn our bridges, but still yet, the unknown factor was the greatest thing. As I said, I think all of us lived for the moment, and day by day, accepting what new experience was coming, and being something that there’s very little we could do about it, and we do the best we can under the circumstances.
After the war we were occupational forces. We occupied this little town, we were in the vicinity of Donauworth. Because Donauworth had a bridge crossing the Danube River, going from south to north, especially from Munich, Augsburg, up the road to Nuremberg, this was the main highway. The bridge crossing the Danube, at that point, was damaged and destroyed during the war. So there was a temporary bridge for throughway from Augsburg to Nuremberg, which the German civilians had to utilize going from north to south, south to north.
Our primary job was to guard this bridge and control traffic.
Within the first month of our occupation there, after the American forces came in, an art dealer or something who was released, the people in charge of the camp wanted to have him come back again for further investigation. There was a bulletin out to look out for this particular individual. And one of our boys who was on duty looked over the wanted individual list. It described the character. Sure enough, that same day, they looked — “Wait, wait, this is probably the guy.” So they stopped him and then turned out he was the individual they were — the army unit now, really was looking for.
The rest of the story is that the 44th [AAA, or Anti-Aircraft Artillery] Brigade was in charge of some prison camp in the vicinity of Munich. The 44th [AAA] Brigade, previously, in southern France, when we were in France, was attached to the 522nd. The [AAA] Brigade was attached to each battery of the 522nd, and their anti-aircraft guns, they gave us protection from possible enemy aircraft attack. Throughout our four-month stay in southern France, we had these [AAA] Brigade boys attached to each battery.
The commanding officer of the 44th Brigade, when he looked at the report that the wanted individual was caught by the 522nd, suddenly recognized the 522nd, he said, “Hey, wait awhile, that’s the outfit that our boys were attached to.” At that point, the 44th [AAA] Brigade was in charge of the rest-and-recuperation camp down south which was called Koenigssee. And Koenigssee before the war for the Germans was a very high-class resort area in the mountains of Bavaria.
The general said, “By the way, got in touch with Colonel Harrison, and I’m in charge of this R-and-R camp, and you boys will be more than welcome to spend three-day furloughs over here.” So this was very early of our seven-month occupation that we were privileged to [visit Koenigssee]. We had the three-day passes thereafter. I think I went to two different, two three-day passes to Koenigssee. It was a beautiful resort area. The lake that’s up there, Koenigssee, is supposed to be the deepest inland lake up in the Alps near Berchtesgaden. But the A Battery boys who captured the wanted individual were given a lot of praise by the rest of the battery because we ended up with three-day passes.
Every once in a while, we went to one of the hamlets. Household of maybe ten or fifteen, tilling the land right around them. We went looking for I don’t know what. But for all of the years in the war, the Germans were prohibited from hunting. It was farmlands where they had wooded areas that preserved a lot of reindeers. When we found out that there were deers all around the place, that’s when we started to have our beer bust once a week. We would go out, hunting for reindeer and have beer bust. Our beer ration came once a week, so a lot of us put on a lot of weight in the seven months we were there.
The little town that we occupied, we occupied the brewery house, which was a hotel as well as brewery.
During occupation, even though hostilities all ended, we were still attached to the 3rd Army. One of the requirements was that you had very rigid, once-a-week inspection. For inspection, we had to put on a fully starched khaki uniform, spic and span, polished the boots and buckle and everything else. It was a requirement by 3rd Army, Patton’s.
We couldn’t go to the quartermaster because they were far away, so we had to either do it our own selves, or, as we all did, we adopted a German family to do our laundry. Because once a week we had to have this stiff [uniform]. All of us had a German family who would do our laundry and we paid them by cigarettes. So I adopted a [“laundry family”].
Waiting to Return Home
[Between May and November, we were with] rural occupation.
We took it day by day. We would read the Stars and Stripes and they would give out the points of people who were eligible to return. It was based on points, number of months you served, whatever decorations you had, and it came out to so-many points. The higher-points ones were to go back. We all knew we had between ninety-five to a hundred, the average. There were some who were higher than that because they had Purple Heart and things like that. Besides that, there were some volunteers who were asked if they wanted to volunteer and get a thirty-day furlough back home and then be shipped out to the South Pacific. The war in Japan wasn’t over yet, okay. So there was this group of volunteers who volunteered and were supposed to go back.
But then the numbers came up and then by publication, we were supposed to be going back already. But we didn’t know what to do, we were just grumbling among ourselves, “Hey, by the way, these guys who were eighty-five and eighty are going back home.” We were ninety, ninety-five [points]. So our, my captain, at that point, Captain Brew, took it upon himself to go to Augsburg, see the inspector general’s office and tell the inspector general, “How come the 522nd members are not being shipped back home?”
Well, you see, we were a bastard outfit. We were all by ourselves, we were not attached to anything and probably headquarters, or wherever, had completely forgotten us. Usually you go by division in the army but no battalion of Buddhaheads is going to be noticed by anybody. So when Captain Brew went to see the inspector general. Inspector general came specifically to our camp and within two weeks, we got orders to be shipped out. That’s how we came home.
Thoughts of Family in Japan
I didn’t know anything about where my sisters were. All I knew was that my sisters were in Tokyo, although I had distant relatives in Hiroshima. My eldest sister had not come back from Manchuria, yet. You see, my eldest sister and her family had been missing in action, so to speak, in Manchuria. It was the last ship that came back from Manchuria that my sister and her four daughters were on and they were lucky enough to come back. The whole family in Hiroshima had lost contact with them. So it was after the war when my sister, my eldest sister, and her children came back to Hiroshima.
So my two sisters, Tsukie and Fumiye, were supposed to be in Tokyo, as far as I was concerned. Only years later did I find out that Fumiye and Tsukie were both in Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped. But during the war, my sister Tsukie tried to contact me. I have the Red Cross letter that she wrote to the Red Cross inquiring about “my two brothers.” She had heard that we were in the army. I don’t know how she heard, but she had heard that we were in the army. She wanted to locate and get in touch with us.
[I had enough points to come home.] We came back on a Swedish liner [MS Ericsson]. We were probably about six thousand troops on that ship. It was a pleasant trip back from Marseilles. We got onboard ship on Marseilles, and uneventful, and then reached Camp Kilmer, New York. One of the first persons we see in Camp Kilmer is Ted Tsukiyama. Ted had left us in the middle of basic training to go to MIS [Military Intelligence Service]. We never heard about him, except that he went off to some part in Minnesota, intelligence school. Then we get to Camp Kilmer and there’s this whole bunch of military intelligence boys, basically these were from China-India-Burma [theater] area. So, we had a very unexpected reunion with Ted in Camp Kilmer.
We flew over from Camp Kilmer to California by air. It was kind of scary because before our return, the infantry boys had been ahead of us, couple of months ahead of us, they had come in. We had heard that one of the planes that the boys were in crashed. We were in these DC-3s, the common transport planes for the army. But we had heard about this plane accident. And so, we, “Ey, we rather go by train even though it take four, five days.” Yeah. But we had no choice. Fortunately there were no accidents.
We landed, must have been Fairfield in California because Camp Beale was up north. When we got there, we got to meet a whole bunch of new recruits, Hawaiian boys, mixture of niseis, who were stationed in Camp Beale. These were the regular Hawaiian boys who were having a bad time by these Caucasian soldiers in Camp Beale. We had heard that when the 442nd boys came in and heard about this, there were some fights again in Camp Beale.
After a couple of days that we were in Camp Beale, we were shipped back to down south to Camp Haan [in Riverside], which was [near] Los Angeles. Camp Haan is where we were for quite some time.
The excuse given was that there were no ships going to Hawaii. So we spent Christmas and New Year’s in Los Angeles. But remember, this Christmas and New Year’s was the first Christmas and New Year’s after the war. So we happened to be on the streets. The New Year’s revelry in the streets of Los Angeles was when the war ended. Everybody was celebrating in the streets and we were part of the celebration. It’d be something that if we didn’t have it back in May of 45, we experienced in New Year’s and Christmas.
When we were in Camp Haan, there was a notice that anyone who wanted to go to see a television show can sign up. We didn’t know what it was, we didn’t know what was television but we had nothing to do, so about a hundred of us volunteered. When the night came, we get onto these two buses or three buses. We had no idea where we’re going to go. A few minutes and we got into this big parking lot. We parked there and then the outside wasn’t that well lit. But they say, “Okay, all of you, stand in line and stay close to the person in front of you, and follow the one ahead of you.” We realized that we were entering a building. The building was dimly lit. We got in and before we knew it, we were marching into this theater. Then, the lights went on. We found out that we were in this CBS studio.
Then a familiar voice comes out over the loudspeaker. Here comes Frank Sinatra. Frank Sinatra announces that tonight his special guests were members of the 442nd and he performed and we got recognized by the audience. But you know, these stars, they all have somebody else perform before they come out. So there was this, at that time a totally unknown female singer, Peggy Lee.
The only paper that I had was this ration ticket to go to the PX and buy things. So to this day, I have the signature of Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee right below it. I think that’s quite a souvenir because Peggy Lee became one of the more popular singers after that.
Honolulu City Lights
Then we got on board this ship [USS] New Mexico and it took us how many days from Los Angeles to [Hawaii]. The normal trip was five days, but it took us double, [ten] days. But rather uneventful, except when we got off Diamond Head. It was three o’ clock in the morning and nobody slept. Everybody was up. We were all on the railing, out there, until we saw the skyline of Honolulu. But that was a very, very heartwarming return.
[It was] pure joy coming around. We had to wait out on the outside of Honolulu Harbor until daylight. But it was, it was heartwarming to see the lights. I think it was better than daytime, to see the lights of Honolulu at two, three o’clock in the morning.
Basically, it was the 522nd. But as I said, there was this group of [military] intelligence service people who were coming and joined us from Camp Kilmer.
I think we got off at Pier 40. That’s where the military ships landed. I know it wasn’t Aloha Tower. It was in that, what is now foreign trade zone, in that area.
My mother was there and my nephew, Jon [Miho], was also there. He was three or four years old at that point. My dad and I guess my brothers. But the reunion with the parents was the highlight of the homecoming. My dad had just come home shortly before that from the internment camp.
My mother had relocated from Maui already. At that point, both my parents were doing work up in Tantalus. Up in Tantalus, there’s a macadamia nut farm [that was operated by the Hawaiian Nut Co., Ltd.]. They were working as pickers of macadamia nuts. Macadamia nuts have to be picked by hand. She had nothing else to do at that point. And they [were] provided housing up there so they were living up in Tantalus.
Katsugo Miho's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Katsugo Miho.