Takanori Mizuta

'We were taught growing up ... that you be loyal to your country'


When the draft board came for Takanori Mizuta in late 1944, they found him with his family in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans.

Japanese immigrants and their families were herded into camps seven months after Pearl Harbor. The Mizutas, in America for 35 years, had been sent from their farm on the West Coast. Takanori was among those who picked crops by day on nearby farms.

"There was a tremendous shortage of farm laborers, and a lot of crops were rotting because they couldn't be harvested, so they wanted the people from the camps to go out and work on these farms," said Mizuta, 86, of Homewood.

He was sent to Florida for basic training with all of the Japanese draftees who were kept in the same unit - the ones who opted out of Japanese language intelligence work.

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were already 3,000 Japanese-Americans in the Army, including one of Mizuta's brothers. After the attacks, the Army stopped training Japanese soldiers, and took away their weapons, except for what they'd need on KP: kitchen patrol.

Finally, the Army reopened the draft to the Japanese and formed the special 42nd regimental combat unit.

An injury kept Mizuta in training for six months, so he finished basic training just as Germany surrendered. He entered Germany in 1945 as part of the Army's occupation there.

"It was right after the war ended, so people were starving. Very little food. And I was on KP duty once. And we had a whole truckload of garbage from the mess hall that we had to dump in the nearby village dump there, and when we backed the truck up, all these civilians came swarming all over the dump to get coffee grounds and leftover bread and everything they could."

It took years for Mizuta's anger to catch up with him, and only when a movement started in the 1980s to seek redress.

But he never was angry about getting drafted.

"We were taught growing up as part of our culture that you be loyal to your country."