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"He figured that my platoon was probably the closest to the Chinese entry into the war and was probably the first American unit hit." (Video Interview, 50:10)

   Gene J. Takahashi
Image of Gene J. Takahashi
Gene J. Takahashi upon completion of Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia [10/31/1946]
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army; Army
Unit: 63rd Regiment, Company D; 2nd Division, 4th Regiment
Service Location: Chonju, Pusan, Yalu River, Seoul, and Wonju, Korea
Rank: First Lieutenant
POW: Yes
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Gene Takahashi’s experiences in Korea began shortly after the end of the Second World War. He had enlisted in the Army late in that war, after spending most of it with his family in an Arizona internment camp for Japanese Americans. After the Japanese surrendered, Takahashi was sent to Korea for occupation duty for 18 months. Called up from the reserves to serve in Korea, Takahashi found that his language skills with both Japanese and Korean were highly prized. He was named platoon leader of an all-black unit, and he was captured by the Chinese in November 1950 when they entered the war. He escaped, made it back to Seoul, and rejoined the fighting. Wounded by enemy machine-gun fire in March 1951, Takahashi saw his wartime service come to an end while recuperating.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
»Complete Interview   (83 min.)
  Photos
»Photo Album (4 photos)
 Personal Correspondence
»View List (3 items)
 Other Materials
»View List (2 items)
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»Korean War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
Aftermath of Pearl Harbor attack was chaos for his family; had only a week to dispose of their material possessions, including stock of their grocery store; boarded a train whose windows were covered; wound up in Poston, Arizona, internment camp; their room was about 20 by 25 with a solitary light bulb, primitive furniture; weather was hot, no water in their room. (04:40) After he graduated from high school, enlisted in the Army immediately; wanted to prove that he was a proud and loyal American. (00:58) V-J Day thwarted his ambition to serve in World War II; went to OCS at Ft. Benning; sent to Korea for occupation duty as a platoon leader in a remote location; his colonel gave him heavy list of duties; learned to prioritize tasks; discharged from Army, signed up for inactive reserves. (02:46)
Met his future wife, got engaged; received orders to report for service; got an extension so he could finish college education; did not realize that his knowledge of Korea and fluency in Japanese made him "hot stuff;" joined his company in Korea just as they were breaking out of the Pusan perimeter; discovered he was with an all-black platoon in Love Company; surprised to see this in light of Truman's order to desegregate the military; advancing all the way to the Yalu River; Thanksgiving 1950 dinner in the mountains. (04:33) Reaching final objective in Korea, hill overlooking the Chongchon; morale was buoyed by MacArthur predicting troops would be home by Christmas; saw foxholes not dug out by their people; crossing river in waist-high water, leaving supplies behind, assuming trucks would bring them along; Korean soldier showed up claiming Chinese troops were approaching; Takahashi heard troop movements but assumed they would not attack; they soon did; tried to rally troops, realizing he was the only officer left; overrun; captured by Chinese; they thought Japan had entered the war; he and another man escaped, never saw the other soldier again; made his way to his unit and joined retreat back to Seoul. (13:05) At Seoul, picked up replacements, trained there for a month; shows a couple of books written about the events he has described, including David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter, for which he was interviewed; Halberstam thought Love Company was the first unit encountered by the Chinese entry into the war. (02:32)
Wounded in his right femur on March 1; strapped belt around his leg to stop bleeding; strapped on back of a tank; opened a bottle of Scotch he had been saving and shared it with his men; flown to Tokyo for treatment; asked a Nisei soldier to buy him a watch--which he is still wearing 52 years later. (02:50) Going to reunions wearing his cap which features the Combat Infantry Badge, the award he prizes most; it symbolizes his main motivation for joining the military. (00:57) Happy to have served in the military; children and grandchildren ask him about the internment camp and his experiences in war; grateful for their interest. (01:54)
How he worked with black troops; getting used to each other; his experience in WWII and his background in studying psychology helped. (01:54)  
  
 Personal Correspondence (3 items)
Letter from Ruth S. Klingler [December 1, 1952] Letter from Catp. W. J. Games [April 24, 1951] Letter from Joseph R. Sahid to Richard M. Bennett [September 17, 1981]
  
 Other Materials (2 items)
Newsclipping: "Nisei back home with Korea scar" [June 11, 1951] Java Oral History Interview Guide 
  
 
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  October 26, 2011
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