522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT
Three days after his return to the islands, Katsugo begins classes at the University of Hawaii. Not yet re-accustomed to the student ritual of reading, he barely survives the semester.
He participates in student government, manages the Veterans Dormitory, and works in the bookstore. To help with expenses, he joins the advanced ROTC.
With GI Bill benefits, Katsugo graduates from George Washington University Law School.
He passes the bar in Hawaii.
University of Hawaii
I can’t recall why [I went back to UH three days after I came back]. That period of one year is vague, cloudy. Don’t have distinct [memories], other than moving into Veterans Dorm.
Farrington Hall was being used during the war years as a home port for Maurice Evans, who was a famous Shakespearean actor, stage man. And he had USO [United Service Organizations] performing group. I don’t know what the arrangements were, but there were cottages in the back of Farrington Hall, portable cottages. Enough for his troupe of performers. When the war ended, they had vacated that premises and we had turned that into what was then called the Veterans Dormitory.
I got appointed to be the Vets Dorm manager. And so, I had to represent the boys in veterans affairs, mostly complaints. The Vets Dormitory was there for not too long.
I was there for about one, two years. Then I ended up in Atherton House. But, it was a fun place with all our veterans and so there was a game room that we had for the boys to play cards in. A lot of card games going on in that facility.
I flunked the first report card. In the first semester, I must have flunked three of the four or five courses that I had. I really don’t know how I survived the first semester. But somehow, I think we were all in the same boots, all of the veterans.
I had Sociology 100, basic sociology course. I remember distinctly when I was taking the first examination, there were several questions in the exam which completely astounded me. The reason why is that, the book that we’re supposed to study, I never opened it before the exam. There were terminologies on the exam which I had no idea what it was referring to. But that was my recollection of the first exam taken after, couple of months after I got in. But even at that point, I had difficulty trying to study, to buckle down and read was a difficult, most difficult thing to do.
After the first semester, I buckled down. And just survived the first semester, barely survived. I believe it was a matter of getting back into the routine of studying. Until then, this business of reading the books and whatnot was a ritual that we were not accustomed to, that we had already forgotten all about.
Prior to our coming back December of 45, 90 percent of the student body were girls. The second semester in 1946, I think there were about 350 of us veterans registering right away.
I really don’t know why I registered so fast because I was living with my other brother in Kapahulu the first month or so, until Vets Dorm was opened. But I’m sorry I cannot recall why — maybe it was for the reason of nothing better else besides going to school.
[After the war] everything is all a little letdown. And we’re back to where we started, day one, back in 1941. Remember I started one year later, instead of right after high school. I left one year. Probably, I felt that there was a gap that I couldn’t make up. So, probably that motivated me to get in three days after I got discharged. Already I felt I was behind one year, more than the others.
Remember Miss [Stella] Jones, my high school [teacher]? She had always told the students that as a student, you can limit yourself only to the academic studies, or you can get involved in playing baseball for the high school, or get involved with stage plays, or get involved with some other [activity]. There was a lot of clubs at high school level.
She always told us that you cannot limit yourself only to academics when you go into school because there are other factors besides pure academics. Like in life, she says, when you get out of school where you study and learn and go into the world working, besides your work that you make a living with, there are other activities of life that involves you and your family. You’ve got to expose yourself and get involved with community activities. This was her teaching from the time I was in high school.
So, very early when we came back, one of the first things we did was to get involved. Each class had a board of governors or whatever, representing the class. From the very beginning I was involved with these board activities. I ended up being the president of the senior class at that time.
The veterans were very much involved with the activities. We had a big carnival, first or second year, the university carnival. The first carnival about the only one that I remember the university putting on. But we had a very big carnival which Wadsworth Yee was the general chairman of. This was strictly an outside affair, extracurricular activities of the student body.
I had two choices. We had the GI Bill of Rights, which paid sixty-five dollars a month, if you took that benefit of the GI Bill. And I had the option of taking advanced ROTC [Reserved Officers’ Training Corps].
As a veteran, you automatically could get into advanced ROTC. Now advanced ROTC, you got seventy-five dollars stipend a month. So I figured I would take advanced ROTC and save my GI Bill for whatever I would do after University of Hawaii. Fortunately I did that. I took my two years of advanced ROTC and then when I went to law school, I started to utilize my GI Bill.
At the university, I worked in the bookstore. I put in a lot of hours at the bookstore.
George Washington Law School
The first reason why I went to George Washington was because my older brother Katsuro attended George Washington University Law School. Besides that, Harvard and Yale were almost literally impossible to get in and the expenses were far greater than George Washington. So I went to George Washington, and, to my surprise, found that there were a great many others who were also at the George Washington or Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. There were a lot of Hawaii students, and a lot of my veteran friends were [there]. We were surprised to see each other.
My George Washington classmate — not classmate — they were at least a year before me, was Shigeto Kanemoto, John Desha, Sam Nakashima, and George Holt. Winona [Ellis] Rubin’s older brother, was also there, but he was attending Georgetown. When I was there, we had about twenty to twenty-five of us in law school.
But the year after I got there, John Ushijima and Dan Inouye also. I spent two years with them. In fact, John and I roomed for close to two years. You know, just the other day, [Margaret] “Maggie” [Inouye] passed away, and the fondest memory I have of the two years that we spent together: John and I were rooming together, and Maggie and Dan would join us for supper at least once a week. Depending on whose week it was for cooking, Maggie had to taste the cooking of either myself or John. We alternated weekly, and we used to go over to Dan’s home once a week, and so we always ate [together] intermittently once — twice a week. And Maggie used to experiment on us, on different types of cooking. The one incident that we laugh about a lot is, she tried to make manapua [Chinese pork cake] at one time. The recipe called for the manapua to be — I don’t know for how many people, but she went according to the recipe, and so Dan had to eat some leftover manapua for two, three days.
But she tried out all kinds of cooking and John and I tried all kinds of cooking. And the two years — John and Dan went on an accelerated program. At that time, at the law schools, you could complete the law school curriculum in two years if you went throughout the year without taking summer vacation, now. So they went on that accelerated program and got out in two years. They came in one year later than I did, but they got out one year ahead of me.
I lost one year because as soon as I got to Washington, D.C., then the following year  we had the Korean [War]. Being in the reserves, especially on the artillery, I was subject to call, like my good friend [Robert] “Bob” Katayama. He was also in my ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] class, but he got called even though he had already entered into Yale. But in my case, I had transferred my reserve records to Washington, D.C. in 1949. So I was not in the University of Hawaii class that was called up as soon as the Korean [War] was started.
However, while I was there in 1950, the field artillery, the artillery group of the army, as the Korean War started, found out that they had very limited, trained motor maintenance officers. In fact, a battalion of artillery, two-and-a-half ton trucks were ruined the first winter in Korea because the motor maintenance officer forgot to put in anti-freeze. So there was a kind of an emergency in the army as to the artillery. And they reopened the motor maintenance school in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. They asked for reserve officers to volunteer to go there.
I was advised by one of my Washington, D.C. reserve officers that it would be best if I volunteered for my motor maintenance school, at which point I would not be recalled immediately. So I dropped out of school after having registered in September 1950. Dropped out and from November to March of the following year, I attended the motor maintenance school in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. As a result, I lost one year of law school.
By the time I got through with the motor maintenance school, the artillery did not need any more lieutenants for Korea, and so I was not recalled for duty to serve in Korea and I was able to finish law school as a result.
After I got through with my tour [November 1950 to March 1951] in Fort Sill, I went back to Washington, D.C., found out that I couldn’t reenter at that point. It was the middle of the semester. And so, having been in the reserve, I could fly on a space-available basis with MATS [Military Air Transport Service]. So, I was able to fly East Coast to West Coast on MATS for seventy cents. That was my lunch, which I had to pay for. But that was on a standby basis. Unfortunately, this was in the midst of the Korean War, so that flying between Hawaii and California was full at all times. I couldn’t fly space-available from California to Hawaii. So I had to fly back commercial. But then I got all the way back again, to Washington, D.C., for the summer session, or September session, anyway, on the MATS airlines again.
I was able to come back in the middle of my term. But most of us, we never could afford to fly back. Whatever time we had, we did some part-time work.
Financing Law School
I started to use my GI Bill when I started to go to law school, which paid for tuition, and books, and gave us the subsidy of sixty-five dollars a month. The number of months that you were entitled to depended on the number of months that you served in the army. So my entitlement was some thirty months because I served thirty months, which was just one semester shy of getting through school. But fortunately, my elder brother took care of my expenses the last semester that I was in law school.
But in going to George Washington, a whole bunch of us, Donald Ching, Alvin Shim, Shigeto Kanemoto, all of us did part-time work during the holidays, Christmas season, as well as whatever breaks that we had during the school year, working for the treasury department or the post office during the two-weeks Christmas vacation. We all worked at the post office. The others worked at the treasury department, part-timing, typing out mostly checks.
I didn’t do that because I had a part-time job with the bookstore at the university, George Washington. Almost like a full-time employee there. Whatever hours that I had open, I would work at the bookstore. That’s how most of us at Washington, D.C. were able to go through our law school. All of us were involved in some type of part-time employment.
There were twenty, twenty-five of us, and we would always get together. There was a Peter Coleman, later on became the governor of [American] Samoa. He was attending Georgetown. He and his sisters were over there, too, so the Hawaii group would get together and the sisters were good dancers and musicians. So the three years that I was in Washington, D.C. going to George Washington, we had occasion to enjoy ourselves. It was at a time when the Hawaii club was developed throughout the Mainland. Graduates from Hawaii, or students from Hawaii who went to the eastern [colleges], especially in the East Coast, had Hawaii clubs. I remember at one year, we had a very big aloha pageant at the Sheraton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Oh, we had a king and a queen, and we had all kinds of delegates from all over the eastern coast, from Chicago, from Massachusetts. Hawaii kids coming over. The pageant was a pretty big thing at the Sheraton, Washington, D.C. So it was not all study and work.
I think all of my contemporaries were veterans.
I was having problems with my eyes. When I left for law school in 1949, I had just gotten my pterygium eye operation at Tripler Army Hospital. When I got to Washington, D.C., the VA [Veterans Administration] had prescribed beta-ray treatments for me every other week. Instead of operating on the pterygium, what they did was to burn the grain in the eye through a beta-ray treatment.
But what happened was that when I would go Friday for the treatment, I would be basically blind. I couldn’t use my eyes for three, four days thereafter, until the inflammation subsided.
So I was flunking out of school, the first semester at law school. It got to a point that I had a call from the dean asking me to come in to see him. He told me, “You’re flunking out of school, what’s going on?” I explained to him that my problem was with the treatment that I was receiving for my eyes. “Well,” he said, “you got to choose between school or treatment for your eyes.”
At that point, I decided I’ll take a chance and stop my treatment for my eyes. Fortunately, it was the right decision because my pterygium didn’t get any worse, so I was able to survive. But it was a struggle because my grade point average was so low at the end of the first semester that I was always fighting an uphill battle to stay in school the rest of the two years. But somehow, struggling, I got through.
Trying to survive, I took the courses which I thought would be easiest for me to get out of law school, basically. There were known classes, which were really hard courses to take. I avoided the hard courses.
Thoughts of the Future
I don’t remember serious conversation [about politics and the future of Hawaii]. It was a matter of getting out of school. I do recall, however, Alvin Shim, number one, he was very much involved. In fact, he continued his interest in labor — and he concentrated on labor law because of Dr. Harold Roberts’s influence, who started the labor division [Industrial Relations Center], at the University of Hawaii back in 1948. I remember that Dan [Inouye], every once in a while, would become unavailable, and it coincided with Jack Burns’s trip to Washington, D.C. So even back in 1950, Burns would come to D.C. and Dan was always meeting with him. And, of course, John [Ushijima] and I, we felt kind of left out because we weren’t invited to join. But Dan was involved in politics from that time. You know, but we didn’t discuss what our plans were, or what our futures were, or anything like that. I guess individually, we all had concerns, but it was not an open discussion matter among ourselves, or with others.
Our problem was, number one, to pass the bar. At that time when we got out, 1953, it was at the point when the bar examination passing was at the lowest. For a few years, at that time, only one-third of the applicants passed the bar in Hawaii. The Bar Association, later on, reviewed the system of grading, and I think they revised it to accommodate.
In fact, I passed the bar on the third time that I took it. After my bar examination, there was an appeal by the applicants that not enough applicants passed. So the Supreme Court of Hawaii reexamined and had a hearing upon which more applicants would pass. They changed the system of exam. I think up to my time, there were ten examiners. Each [of the] ten examiners gave ten points, something like that. And so, as it was found out, where one examiner was very strict on his grading, it affected the whole list of applicants. As a result of that one examiner’s very low grade, it affected the total number of those who would pass. So it was at that point that they changed the system of examination.
[Ethnicity] wasn’t a factor anymore. When my brother [Katsuro] took the exam, that was when they had district court practitioners in existence yet. Steere Noda was a district court practitioner all his life. You didn’t have to go to law school, you could practice law under a lawyer for so, x number of years, and you take the bar exam and if you pass it, you qualify to become a lawyer. So they had that system. But later on, they changed it so you must have a law degree before you could apply for that.
I think when [Katsuro] passed the bar, he was the fifth AJA [Americans of Japanese Ancestry] lawyer in Hawaii at that point. Of course, the number of lawyers was very few at that time, 1940, 1939.
[Being AJA,] we did not feel that it was any [factor] . . . Although, if I remember correctly, when one-third could pass, during that time, there was some mentioning of the fact that one particular examiner — you see, all of these examiners were practicing attorneys — and this one particular examiner who was supposed to be the one who was giving out these extra low grades, there was some quiet talk that was one of the reasons why his passing grades were so low.
Although it was not brought out in the open, it was talked of quietly. But that was only one out of ten examiners, now.
Katsugo Miho's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Katsugo Miho.