On January 20, 1942, 44 days after Pearl Harbor, I was drafted into the Army. I reported to the Reception Center at Ft. McArthur, And Pedro, CA and was shipped east to Camp Grant, Illinois, an MRTC (Medical replacement Training Center) for basic training.
Shortly after the beginning of my basic training, the draft was closed off to further induction of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Then I was informed that my family had been evicted from their homes as a result of EO 9066, signed by President Roosevelt, which authorized the mass eviction, evacuation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans into 10 Relocation camps, behind barbed wire. [Most of my family was] shipped to the Poston camp in Arizona.
In November, 1943, I requested transfer to the newly formed 442nd Regimental Combat Team (composed largely of Americans of Japanese ancestry, volunteers from Hawaii and the mainland).
My transfer request was granted but I was demoted to Private. I repeated basic training and was then transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion. I found myself constantly coping with being an “odd man out” in units which had been training together for over 10 months. April, 1944 – the entire Combat Team, with the exception of the original 1st Battalion which had been depleted to a few hundred men due to being sent out as replacements to the 100th Infantry Battalion in Italy, shipped out from Newport News, Virginia.
On July 17, I was wounded by enemy gun-fire just below the ridge-line, east of Pisa. Both legs were shattered by the enemy bullets, resulting in compound comminuted fractures of the left femur and right lower leg. I was rescued from the forward slope of the hill by our medic, Kelly Kuwayama, and another volunteer from my company, as mortar rounds began to explode around me.
After having been classified as PLA – permanent limited assignment, I was assigned to the 15th Medical General Laboratory [for several months]. After a 20-day furlough, we reported to Camp Ritchie, Maryland. We were confronted with an outlandish request to wear captured Japanese uniforms, demonstrate Japanese enemy infantry tactics to troops training at infantry replacement training centers, for the on-going war against Japan. Shocked and dismayed at this request, we refused. Shortly after, [the atomic bombs were dropped and] we were no longer needed! I was discharged from the Army on October 28, 1945. I had served 3 years and 9 months of wartime duty.
We honor you, Norman Ikari.