My father served in the US Army during WW II. He did not fight. He was a Japanese interpreter, having learned the language at UC Berkeley where he went to school. I’d guess his intention was to be useful, serve his country and not go to the front to fight. I don’t believe he was afraid or was trying to get out of anything, he just wasn’t the fighting type. Or maybe he had no intention at all, he just loved learning languages.

Growing up, he said very little to us about the war, even though we’d ask whenever there was opportunity to do so. If he said anything at all it was of his buddies in Company A, who he spoke of fondly. I’m sure men thrown together at a time like that become family, and he kept in touch with many of them for as long as I can remember.

As he aged, after my mother was gone, my father began to talk a little more about his experiences during the war, perhaps realizing his time to share was limited. My favorite story was about him meeting a famous Japanese poet and his wife. He and a few of his pals used to sneak out of the barracks to visit them at their home, usually around dinnertime. They’d bring cigarettes and booze in exchange for a home cooked meal and an evening of poetry. His face lit up when he told me this story, clearly a memory he held where the good war stories are kept.

I don’t remember my father as being a particularly patriotic man, although he did love his country. War was looked upon very differently then. What I love most about this story is that it is so representative of my father. He loved language and poetry till the day he died.


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