Before the War

Internment of Japanese Americans

Basic Training

Overseas Deployment

Joining the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

The Gothic Line

Fighting Through Northern Italy

Occupation Duty

Postwar Life

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Tokuji Yoshihashi was born in January 1923 in Pasadena, California. He was one of five children. Times were tough for him and his family during the years of the Great Depression. To support the family his mother ran a laundry service. Yoshihashi's mother would send him to the store to pick up stewed vegetables and a bone and would make a stew. She knew how to stretch food out so she could feed the whole family. Things got a little better later. On Sundays they got a small piece of steak. Yoshihashi was able to wear tennis shoes when he was a child but never had any leather top shoes because they were too expensive. In the last year before the war Yoshihashi worked at a fruit and vegetable stand. Jobs were hard to come by and young people often worked at fruit and vegetable stands. Yoshihashi worked at the stand after school and on the weekends. He was working there on Sunday, 7 December [Annotators Note: 7 December 1941]. People came to the stand talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor and Yoshihashi was concerned because he looked like the enemy. Later in the day on 7 December a convoy of army trucks drove past the stand heading for the coast.

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In January or February 1942 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which allowed for the internment of Japanese Americans like Tokuji Yoshihashi who lived in the Western Defense Command area which were the states of Oregon, California, and Washington. Japanese Americans were also given the opportunity to move east away from the coast on their own. Even though they looked like the enemy, Yoshihashi does not recall any instances of racism at the time. Following the signing of the executive order they were informed that they had to report to the Pasadena train station. They could only take what they could carry with them. They were taken to an assembly center while they waited for the internment camps to be built. Yoshihashi's family was sent to an assembly center in a town called Tulare, California. They stayed there for about three months then they were moved to the Gila River Internment Camp in Arizona. They went by train to Casa Grande, Arizona then went by bus to the camp. In the camp they were assigned to barracks. The barracks were similar to army barracks. There was a separate latrine and mess hall. When Yoshihashi first arrived at the camp the first thing he noticed was an armed guard who watched them enter the camp. Yoshihashi's father had brothers in Japan who were officers in the Japanese army. Yoshihashi also had two cousins who were officer in the Japanese army. All four of them attained the rank of general. Having relatives in the Japanese army was the reason Yoshihashi did not want to go to the Pacific. Unfortunately, the only thing they could volunteer for was the infantry because the Army Air Forces, Marine Corps, and Navy would not take them. There were jobs available for the internees in the camps. Yoshihashi worked as a dishwasher at the assembly center. In the internment camp he worked on a road crew until he was drafted. He had signed up as an equipment operator and worked on a road grader. Yoshihashi was in the internment camp from 1942 until April 1944 when he was drafted.

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Tokuji Yoshihashi was drafted and went to Camp Blanding, Florida for 17 weeks of basic training. He was trained on every infantry weapon in use at the time. Some of the men in the internment camp Yoshihashi and his family were in volunteered for service and were all assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 100th Infantry Battalion was already a military unit when the war started. Later it was attached to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team as the 1st Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. After Yoshihashi was drafted in 1944 two of his sisters who were in the camp went to Columbus, Ohio to work. They later called Yoshihashi's mother out to live there. Yoshihashi's father died while they were in the camp. He never knew that Yoshihashi served in the American Army. Before the war Yoshihashi had taken a two year auto mechanic course. His brother later used the G.I. Bill and got a degree from Ohio State. Basic training was quite an experience. They always wore their helmet liner, cartridge belt, and rain coat. They did a lot of marching and trained with their bayonets and rifles. One time during training Yoshihashi dropped his rifle. After that he had to carry his rifle everywhere he went for a week. The whole point was to teach them to take and follow orders.

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After completing 17 weeks of infantry basic training Tokuji Yoshihashi was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. After two days at Camp Shelby, during which they were given medical exams, Yoshihashi and the other soldiers were given a ten day furlough. Yoshihashi used his furlough to visit his mother in the camp [Annotators Note: see segment titled Internment of Japanese Americans]. After returning to Camp Shelby they were sent to Fort Meade, Maryland then on to Camp Shanks, New York for overseas deployment. Yoshihashi went overseas on the Queen Mary. The ship was very fast and the trip only took five days. They went over without an escort. During the trip overseas Yoshihashi was put on a staircase detail. They had a boat drill every morning around ten. During the boat drill, Yoshihashi swept and mopped the staircases on the ship. The staterooms on the ship were set up with bunks. There was no room to move around in the staterooms so they stayed up on deck most of the time. Yoshihashi went into the mess hall and saw what was being served and decided that he did not want to eat it. Instead, he lived on Hershey Bars which he bought every day from the commissary. They docked in Glasgow, Scotland then went ashore in smaller boats. From there they went by train down to Southampton where they boarded small boats which took them across the English Channel to Le Havre, France. Yoshihashi was with a group of about 450 replacements for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. From Le Havre they went into a replacement camp for a short time then were trucked to another replacement camp in Epinal, France.

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Tokuji Yoshihashi and his fellow replacements arrived there shortly after the 442nd Regimental Combat Team suffered terrific casualties rescuing members of the Texas Lost battalion [Annotators Note: the Lost Battalion refers to members of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division]. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team suffered over 800 casualties in the effort to rescue about 200 men. Yoshihashi was assigned to Company A, 100th Battalion [Annotators Note: 100th Infantry Battalion]. After being assigned to the unit they went to Southern France. They went to Menton, France near the French and Italian border. The 100th Battalion was guarding a mountainous area to defend against enemy infiltrators. They were shelled periodically but were not close enough for hand to hand combat. It was a scary situation. They sometimes went out on patrols. The Germans also sent out patrols. Yoshihashi never ran into any Germans on the patrols he went on. They also got passes to go into Menton and would occasionally sneak down to Nice. Menton was right on the coast and up in the mountains. During the winter it snowed up there and it was cold. Yoshihashi was treated well when he joined the outfit. In the beginning the Hawaiian boys and the mainlanders did not get along. There was a difference in their language. Some of the Hawaiians were eventually sent to an internment camp to see what was happening to the mainlanders. After that things started to smooth out.

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They [Annotators Note: Tokuji Yoshihashi and the rest of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team] were in the area of Menton from October [Annotators Note: October 1944] through early March [Annotators Note: March 1945]. Then they were sent back to Italy to help break the German Gothic Line. They went back to Italy on LSTs [Annotators Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. When they got there they were issued all new equipment. They had left all of their equipment back in Southern France because the movement was a secret. When they got to Italy they were attached to the 92nd Infantry Division, a segregated all black division. The army was segregated at that time. Two regiments were attached to the 92nd Infantry Division for the assault on the Gothic Line, the 442nd and the 443rd. The 443rd Regiment was an all white unit of antiaircraft gunners that had been converted to infantry. On 5 April they jumped off and broke through the Gothic Line. During the push, Yoshihashi’s platoon was in reserve. His platoon had gotten a new platoon leader just the day before. During the assault one of their guys, Sadeo Munemori, known as Spud as a result of his love of potatoes, threw himself on a hand grenade to save two or three of his friends. He was the first in their unit to receive the Medal of Honor. They were shelled regularly. Digging in was difficult because of the rocky terrain. One of Yoshihashi's friends was wounded by shrapnel not far from him. He was patched up and evacuated. They lost a lot of guys because of the difficulties in evacuating the wounded. On the first night their platoon sergeant stepped on a Schu mine. This happened right in front of Yoshihashi. The wound was ghastly. The man lived but he lost his leg. The Los Angeles Chapter of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team Association has a website on which there are over 1000 interviews with veterans. Yoshihashi is on that website. The fighting on the Gothic Line was tough. The most beautiful sight Yoshihashi ever saw was four P-47s [Annotators Note: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft]] attacking German positions directly in front of them. Yoshihashi's company went into reserve after the first day. The companies leapfrogged all the way up the coast. A month later the war ended.

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Four or five days after 5 April [Annotators Note: 5 April 1945] Tokuji Yoshihashi’s company [Annotators Note: Company A, 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team] came across a fort with solid rock walls. The Germans had an 88 millimeter self propelled gun nearby that shelled Yoshihashi's unit. A patrol was sent out that night to find the enemy gun but Yoshihashi does not know if they found it. The next day they continued their advance. One day they came to a mountain village and Yoshihashi got a shave from the son of the village barber. They continued on and encountered the Carrara Marble quarry. It was an interesting sight. They continued west to the town where they were met by cheering locals who gave them bottles of wine. All of the towns were zeroed in [Annotators Note: German artillery was in position to fire into the towns] so they did not like being in the towns. While resting near a railroad tunnel Yoshihashi had the first hot chow he had eaten in two weeks. They had been eating C and K rations. They did not have mess kits so they used their helmets as bowls. When they entered towns they tried to barter for rice and eggs. If they got eggs they would mix it with Lipton noodle soup. About four or five days after 5 April they were in their foxholes on a ridgeline and came under fire by German troops. They could not see where the Germans were firing from. About a half an hour later the firing stopped. They were in the town of Alessandria northwest of Milan on 8 May when the war ended.

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They [Annotators Note: Tokuji Yoshihashi and the rest of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team] were in the town of Alessandria northwest of Milan on 8 May when the war ended. On that day American bombers flew over dropping Stars and Stripes papers which told the men on the ground that the war in Europe was over. It was a happy day. As a result of the point system the older guys started going home. After the war ended the whole regiment was assigned to an airfield. The German troops in the area were searched there then put into POW cages. Yoshihashi was able to get a one day pass to go to Milan. There, he saw Mussolini and his girlfriend hanging. The locals did not like Mussolini because he was a fascist. By the end of the war some of the original members of the 100th Battalion had so many points that they were flown home. The others had to go by boat. Yoshihashi and the others who were drafted out of the internment camps did not have enough points. He only had 56 points. They all had to stay in Italy for almost a year after the war guarding prisoners. The prisoners were well behaved. Yoshihashi ended up in Leghorn guarding the prisoners who worked at the quartermaster depot there. They also stood guard duty at the POW camp itself. It was boring duty.  

Annotation

Tokuji Yoshihashi returned home in June 1946. The colors for the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team returned to the United States at the same time. He was with about 500 men who marched down Constitution Avenue and were presented with the Presidential Unit Citation by President Truman. Yoshihashi and his brother were both discharged at the same time at Fort Meade, Maryland. His brother did not have a trade so he used his G.I. Bill and attended Ohio State. Yoshihashi got a job at a local Napa warehouse working in the machine shop. That was what he did all of his life. When he moved to L.A. [Annotators Note: Los Angeles, California] he got a job with the city rebuilding engines. It was tiring work but it was interesting. Although he was not a diesel mechanic he rebuilt a V12 engine that had been intentionally damaged. Yoshihashi is glad that the war came along in a way. He was able to see the country and meet new people. He encourages young people to go to school. America lost a lot of people during the war. Yoshihashi visited the National WWII Memorial in Washington DC when it opened. Yoshihashi is glad that he did not go to the Pacific. His father's family was all military men [Annotators Note: in the Japanese military]. One of Yoshihashi's uncles and two of his cousins became generals in the Japanese Army during World War 2. Yoshihashi never met them but his brother went to Japan a few times after the war to see them. When Yoshihashi's family was put in the internment camp the landlord who owned the house they had rented stored all of their belongings in a room for them until they were able to retrieve them. Yoshihashi is glad to be at The National WWII Museum. The last time he was in New Orleans was in 1944.

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