HILO — Ronald Takahata was 20 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1945.
Now almost 95, Big Island-born Takahata currently resides at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo. He spoke recently about his time in the military.
After completing his basic training at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Little Rock, Ark., Takahata was sent to Tokyo and placed in an intelligence unit as an interpreter because he could speak Japanese and could communicate with Japanese military officers..
He was also stationed in Baguio City, Philippines.
“We were in the northern part of the Philippines,” he said, and his group stayed on the outskirts of the airbase there.
Baguio had a busy airport then, Takahata said, one that served the South Pacific area.
Takahata said interpreters were supposed to work with prisoners of war, “and find out their stories, how they survived, because this was right as the war ended.”
“We spoke their language, and we (were) supposed to understand the customs,” he said. “That’s one of the main reasons they chose us as a 10-man team to go down. But most of the prisoners we talked to were college grads in Japanese. … Sometimes they had a hard time understanding us.”
While stationed overseas, Takahata said they had a chance to visit “some of the countries we never been to, like India, China, (places) close by. … It was more like a vacation to us.”
Takahata served in the Army for four years. After he was discharged, he returned to Hilo and worked at his father’s auto parts store.
When discussing his military career, Takahata said, “I didn’t think about money or position. … I just thought about (the world) being a safe place for the kids to bring them up, and that they can learn that peace is better than war any time.”
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