Keiji Taki

Gender Male
Birth date 1924-1-26
Place of birth Soldier Summitt UT, U.S.A.
Inducted 1943-5-5, Ft. Douglas UT
Enlistment type Volunteer
Service branch Army
Service type War
Unit type Combat
Units served 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Company H
Military specialty Machine gun squad member
Stationed Inducted, Ft. Douglas, UT
Basic Training, Camp Shelby, MS
Escorted German POW's to Alabama
Left Newport News, VA, May 1, 1944
Field Hospital in Oran, North Africa (June-July)
Rejoined unit south of the Arno River, Italy
Southern France to Bruyeres
French Alps.
Separated Ft. Douglas UT
Unit responsibility The machine gun squad gave support to rifle companies. It seemed to me that because of the deadly firepower of the machine gun, whether it be the enemy's or ours, it was always the primary target for destruction.
Personal responsibility Assist in protecting our own small unit.
Major battles (if served in a war zone) Rome-Arno; Southern France; French Alps.
Awards, medals, citations (individual or unit) Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster
Distinguished Unit Badge
Combat Infantry Badge
Croix de Guerre with Palm and Fouragere (French)
Recommendation for the Silver Star. It has been 55 years since that time. I needed to refresh my memory from my Army Discharge Records. To give an accurate account of events, dates, and places would be impossible. My only true recollection of combat was an incident during the battle near Bruyeres, France on October 20, 1944, for which I received the Silver Star recommendation.
Living conditions At Camp Shelby, we lived in the usual Army barracks, cold in the winter, hot and humid in the summer. Learned to do our own laundry, sweep and scrub floors. Lots of KP (kitchen work). Special barracks for showers and toilets. The whole company, including the officers had their meals in the dining hall.

The food was nothing spectacular but sufficient. On holidays, we had either ham or turkey with all the trimmings. I recall the day after one holiday, many of us came down with an illness and spent many hours with our heads in the toilet bowl.

ENTERTAINMENT? In camp, there were some athletics, movies, a trip to Hattiesburg or New Orleans. On one occasion in the middle of winter, we boarded a bus and went to a dance party at Jerome, Arkansas. Got my first and only experience in a Relocation Camp. A family invited me into their living quarters. The building was similar to our Army barracks. I believe three families occupied this building, with only white sheets separating each group. This 30-minute visit and observance of such an undignified existence left me very depressed.

I'm sure it would take a novel to describe living conditions in a war zone. My description will be brief: The summer in Italy was hot and humid. We lived in the forests, the vineyards, in vacant farm houses, but mostly slit trenches and fox holes. When I was about 12-years old and living on a farm in Idaho, we trapped gophers and sold them to the water company for 15-cents a head. The gophers dug holes on the banks of canals, causing great damage to farmers. In the Infantry, I was a gopher. During Basic training, Sgt. Willie Kiyota always emphasized the importance of a shovel. It seemed as though we were digging holes whenever we stopped for a break...Dig, Dig, Dig! However, when we came under enemy fire, with artillery shells exploding through rain and snow, we were grateful for the protection of a hole in the ground, often half-filled with mud. Occasionally we might find a recently vacated barn and have fresh eggs with fried chicken to supplement K- Rations. During our service in the French Alps of southeastern France, we had accommodations in a concrete pillbox. All our supplies was transported by burros along narrow, rocky, and winding trails. I'm not certain of the elevation of the alps, but the weather was frigid. Inside the concrete pillbox was as cold as being outside.

Our squad consisted of James Karatsu, S. Kaneshiro, Mits Kojimoto, GI Yamaji, Kozo Yamane and others. Aside from sleeping, eating, playing cards, and writing letters, we all looked forward to a pass into Nice and the Riviera. On New Year's Eve 1945, I was lucky enough to get a pass and spent the night celebrating with my good friend, Irish Ishihara. As the result of our behavior that night, the MP's rounded-up about a dozen of us. Our CO (Captain Keegan) came to our rescue New Years's morning. >p>This was a sad day as we learned of the death of Karatsu and Kaneshiro, true friends, who lived together and died together that day. Whenever we were relieved on the front line, a rest area was set up a short distance to the rear. A pup-tent for a room, leaves and shrubs for a mattress, and a forest thick with trees.

TAKING A BATH? Place a helmet filled with water over a Coleman stove and heat. With a little practice, one can wash and rinse enough to feel somewhat decent. If we were lucky enough to be near a stream, no problem!

In the rest area, we often had a field kitchen set up, or the cooks would arrange some way to get us hot meals. They were a great bunch.

Not much entertainment here, but plenty of activities to fill in time. Cleaning weapons, washing clothes, digging latrines, guard-duty, writing letters, playing poker, shooting craps.

Most vivid memory of military experience The three most significant events during my military career.

1). Feb. 10, 1944, received my furlough. Took a train to Charlton depot, Massachusetts. Met Ruby Kuroiwa. We were married Feb. 14, 1944 in New York City.

2). Approximately May 28, 1944 was carried off the troop ship on a litter and ended up in a field hospital, Oran, North Africa. Three days prior to landing, my stomach ache had been diagnosed as indigestion. Actually I had a ruptured appendix and a case of acute peritonitis. It was almost three months later before I left the hospital. Penicillin had saved my life.

3). The Battle of Bruyeres, France. The most miserable and traumatic experience of my life. The combination of constant enemy attack, the artillery barrage, icy-cold wet weather, along with mud-filled foxholes, made sleeping impossible. It seemed as though the replacements came and left so fast, I never got to know them.
On the morning of Oct. 20, with a sudden premonition of dying, I looked in the next foxhole to see a body sitting upright. A rifle lay across his lap and a bullet through the middle of his forhead. His name I never knew.
The action which took place subsequently was described by Lt. Joe Ryan in his recommendation that I be awarded a Silver Star.

Missed most whilst in the military Most of the first 18 years of my life was spent in a small farming community of Idaho Falls, Idaho. My mother subscribed to the Rafu Shimpo, a Japanese-American newspaper from Los Angeles. Sometime in 1941, there was an article with a photo of a Nisei girl elected Girls League President at Montebello High School. Her name was Ruby Kuroiwa. Our correspondence lasted three years. As I described previously, at the train station on my furlough, I had the choice of going back to Idaho--or to Massachusetts where Ruby was living with family members. The trip North resulted in our marriage three days later. The following month Ruby came down to Hattiesburg and we had two memorable months together before our regiment shipped out. Thanks to passes granted by Captain Keegan, I was able to have weekend visits in town. Occasionaly, Ruby came and joined us for dinner in the mess hall, or whenever there was a party. She is the most wonderful person I ever met..and it must be a good relationship because we are still together.
Most important thing, personally, to come from military experience? It was many years after my military experience before I realized how those few years had affected the rest of my life.
The Military taught me self-discipline, respect for authority, how to survive in combat, and the meaning of loyalty. Loyalty not only to my country, but being faithful to friends.

In H company we were fortunate to have had very exceptional officers and noncoms. Our company commander, Captain Christopher Keegan, was a true leader. The manner in which he presented himself...he was a great role model. The Captain demanded discipline and strenuous training. He was emphatic in his relationship with officers and enlisted men...never demanded more from his men than he, himself could put forth.

Officers and noncoms I recall were Lts. Peterson, Farnum, and Joe Ryan. Sergeants Saraye, Willie Kiyota, Smokey Nakamura, Richard Hanaumi and Mike Tsuji. I wasn't around when my buddy Mits Kojimoto got his stripes. He was a great dedicated soldier and an outstanding athlete.

In my opinion, its not too difficult to understand the philosophy of an infantryman during wartime. They are wounded, either physically or emotionally, killed in action, or just plain lucky.

It never occurred to me that a bond had developed among our unit. After my hospitalization in North Africa, they wanted to send me back home. Upon rejoining the company in mid-August, it was no suprise to learn that many others had gone AWOL (absent with out leave) from hospitals to assist our company.

It has been over a half century and many comrades are gone. But, because of their accomplishments, and what they taught me, they will always be a part of my life.

Additional information Three months after Pearl Harbor most of my high school friends had volunteered and were training. My application to the three branches of services was rejected...until May of 1943.

Our family, being from Idaho, was not interned. However, they suffered from racial prejudice, just like those on the Pacific Coast. My father lost his restaurant during the time I was in the military. They never told me this till after the war.

The $20,000 redress awarded to internees, was, in my opinion, ridiculous. A more realistic figure would have given landowners $100,000 and children $50,000. For any citizen, living in a democratic country such as ours, to be victimized and subjected to the kind of undignified treatment in the camps, and losing all their lifelong amount of money would heal the emotional wounds.

It's my belief that half of the redress should have been paid by the Japanese Government. I always felt that the reputation of the Japanese American Combat Regiment had much to do with developing positive opinions for Japanese business entering U.S. markets after the war.

One last comment. During a short period of my military life, I had the honor of working for Mike Masaoka in his public relations unit. We had different views regarding the problems confronting the Japanese Americans. Mike was probably the most knowledgeable individual I had ever met. For his dedication and timeless effort to assist future generations of Japanese Americans, he should be recognized as the foremost pioneer in the history of Niseis.

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