522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT
Reflections and Observations
“When I joined up and volunteered for the 442nd, I was rather a very happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care youngest boy in the family, pampered by his brothers and sisters. Not a care in the world.
The one thing that affected me is the death of my brother. . .My thoughts were, how come him?. . .His chance of going medical school was kind of lost forever. All of this weighed on me. . .I became a little bit more hard-nosed, more purposeful, more determined as a GI.”
My reflection was that when I joined up and volunteered for the 442nd, I was rather a very happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care youngest boy in the family, pampered by his brothers and sisters. Not a care in the world. Being the youngest, you were kind of spoon-fed with everything. Besides that, we’re a big family, not just one or two. I was always taken care of by my brothers and sisters.
The one thing that affected me is the death of my brother. [It] affected me very drastically at that point of time in training. I became hard-nosed. My thoughts were, how come him? He could have gone to medical school right after he graduated, but he wanted to earn some money and not depend on the family. So he started to work as a paramedic with the city and county ambulance corps. Then before he left, the war broke out. So his chance of going medical school was kind of lost forever.
All of this weighed on me, when I remembered — especially just when he died — and I was alone with him. It all came up, the first few days until my brother Paul came from Yale to join me right before the funeral. It was a moment of change taking place in me. Because I became a little bit more hard-nosed, more purposeful, more determined as a GI, in my capacity at that time as a corporal.
One of my impressions, which I continue to learn throughout my journey, is that when I went to Mississippi and got exposed to Southern culture, I found that people were people. Although they look different, [and] they spoke differently.
Then we went to overseas, the few civilians we met in Italy, and the few French people that we met in France, and before the war ended, there in Germany, there are all these various people that I met.
The values of life were all the same. What was important to them, basically, was important to every Italian person, to a French person, or to a German person. Primarily, there seem to be rules on how you live, how you got along with your neighbors.
I remember getting into a conversation with some German people: “How come Germany and Americans are fighting when we were friends from before?” And, “Why are you allowing the Russians to move in so far west into Germany, when, you know, you Americans are going to fight the Russians eventually. You’re not friends with the Russians.” And this is the Germans telling me before the end of the war.
Then when the war ended and we started to know them personally, and basically the family life, what was important to them was what would be important to me and my family. I saw very little difference in humanity; French, Italian, German were human beings, first of all. This is my strongest impression.
Many times, I remember telling, “It’s not the people who want the war” — no German, no Italian wanted war, it’s only the upper ruling people that want, for one reason or another, get engaged in war. And this conversation, I recall, having had this type of conversation with Italians, French, and German people.
I think I would want [my children and grandchildren] to remember that, like my high school teacher has impressed upon me, that you should not devote yourself only to one aspect of your life. Say, earning a living.
Beyond that, you should become an active member of your community and be involved with community activities of your choice. You should not be restricted to only one aspect of your life, but you should get involved with the general activities of your community.
Unfortunately, from my upbringing in the island of Maui, where we did have a sort of community, today’s modern life is a different aspect. All the more, I think it requires one to get involved. You don’t have a small community. You have a place like Manoa. But the Manoa Valley is just a place where you live, unless you participate in other matters beyond Manoa, and Honolulu as a whole.
So you have a broader view of community today than when I was brought up in the small little town of Kahului, Maui, where most of the activities involved the Japanese community per se. When you talk about community now, the community is the entire island of Oahu. It’s a big city and you’re not limited to a small settlement. You have Kakaako, you have McCully, you have Waikiki. All these different satellites. But you shouldn’t limit yourself only to Manoa because it is no longer the type of community that I grew up in.
There is some adjustment that needs to be done, but hopefully, my kids would learn that it is not very restricted, or limit themselves to only making a living and raising a family. I hope that they would realize that besides making a living and raising a family, there’s a lot more involved as a community of Honolulu or of Hawaii.
Katsugo Miho's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Katsugo Miho.