THE PURPLE HEART
" ATTENTION TO ORDERS: SPECIAL ORDERS!
On June 5, 1945, near the town of Harashima, Okinawa, Diane Nakamura, a civilian translator for the 305th Infantry Regiment, was on the front line, attempting to talk civilians and Japanese soldiers into surrendering and leaving a cave they occupied. During this time, she was shot by an enemy sniper concealed nearby. She was severely wounded and evacuated to a Field Hospital for emergency surgery. As a result of being wounded due to enemy action, Diane Nakamura is hereby awarded the Purple Heart.
Major General David Bruce, XV Corps, Commanding"
The day of June 5, 1945 began with the Regimental Headquarters of the 305th Infantry Regiment being located at the village of Harashima in northern Okinawa. Although the major fighting was over, remnants of resisting Japanese soldiers were still prevalent in the area.
Diane Nakamura was in the G-2's office, helping to translate captured Japanese documents, plans, maps and even soldiers' diaries. At this time, she was the most competent translator on Okinawa, if not in the entire Pacific theater. She had grown up speaking both Japanese and English. Her undesired residency on Okinawa of more than three years had helped her to master the Japanese language and even the local dialect. She had been the G-2's most important tool in the campaign since soldiers of the 305th Infantry Regiment had liberated her in May. They had treated her in their aid station, at which time they found out she was an American. Later, Major General David Bruce had asked her to work with the Regiment as a translator.
By this time, Diane was totally accepted by the HQ staff and most of the men in the Regiment. No one doubted either her courage or her adaptability to warfare and the life of a soldier. Although a civilian, she was "attached" to the 305th and lived with them as a fellow soldier. This girl from San Antonio had come a long way to a different world. Sometimes, she even helped the Nisei translators if they were having difficulty with a word or phrase. She had even gone to the front lines to interview prisoners whenever there wasn't any other translator available. Diane went where she saw a need.
About 10:00, Sergeant Hamm came into Building 126, seeking an interpreter. He said to Captain Lowes, "We have some Okinawan civilians in a cave, and we think there's some Jap soldiers in there with them. We need someone to talk them out, and get them to surrender."
Captain Lowes replied : "We don't have anyone available right now. You'll either have to wait or go to Checkpoint Toto and 'borrow' the interpreter who's working that site."
Without hesitation, Diane spoke up: "I'll go."
"No, Diane; it's too dangerous."
"Dangerous ? I've been shot at before, and I've been in risky situations, too."
"Look, Diane, you're a civilian; if you get hurt, or even worse: get killed, there'll be hell to pay. I don't think Colonel Billingsley would approve."
"There's no one else but me. Besides, there'll be plenty of our guys around. I'm not scared. With all our troops armed and ready, there's no safer place to be."
"This is not a good idea, Diane" said Captain Lowes.
"Oh, Captain; I'll only be there for a short time. I'll be back in time for lunch, I'm sure" Diane replied as she gathered her cap and wet weather gear.
Captain Lowes had a worried look on his face as Diane jumped into the Jeep and she and Sergeant Hamm drove off.
Sergeant Hamm and Diane drove to Company A's area, and they dismounted. Troops turned to stare, at first thinking Sgt Hamm had brought a prisoner to them.
Diane and Sergeant Hamm walked into Captain Drye's tent. All the officers and men sat upright and stared at her. They were not used to seeing a Japanese female up close and wearing army-like fatigues.
Diane looked at Captain Drye and spoke first: "Well, Captain, how can I help? You have some civilians to be talked out of a cave?"
"A girl?" He said; "What...what are you doing here?"
Apparently, some of the 305th Infantry Regiment had not yet met Diane. Although she was at Regimental Headquarters, that was a recent move; she had spent most of her time with the 2nd Battalion.
"I'm here to translate. Point the way and I'll get started."
"I hope you're an American?"
"Yes, I'm an American." She answered, a bit irritated.
"Oh!" spoke another officer: "You're Nisei?"
Diane explained: "I don't recognize that word. I'm an American, plain and simple."
The officers and sergeants looked at one another. Finally, the Captain spoke, "Alright, Sergeant Hamm; take her up to Company B. There's some people in a cave there. We can hear the chatter."
Diane and Sergeant Hamm drove a short distance in the Jeep, then walked to the forward point where soldiers had their rifles at the ready. All were behind cover.
As Diane walked up, one soldier said "Be careful; we don't know who's in the cave. Don't stand up; don't get seen."
Diane spent half an hour trying to coax civilians out of the cave. Neither she nor any of the American soldiers knew how many were in there, not how many of them were armed and meant to resist surrendering.
Taking a break, she was standing by a Jeep with 3 soldiers, discussing lunch, when, suddenly: BAM!, a shot split the air and Diane yelped, grabbed at her chest and fell to a sitting position. She let out a gasp of pain, looked at the soldiers, then fell on her back, still clutching at her chest, where a red stain was spreading!
"SNIPER!" the men yelled, and returned fire from the general direction of the first shot.
"Diane's been hit! MEDIC!"
Diane was conscious but bleeding from a chest wound. The men thought she had been shot in the chest, although she was able to speak. "Dammit" she gasped. "Damn, damn, dammit."
The medic ran up to her, and opened her shirt. He then pulled up her undershirt which was now covered in blood. He saw blood oozing from a gash, approximately 3 inches long, directly over her sternum. He applied a battle dressing, but as he applied pressure, she yelled out "AHHH, STOP, STOP! THAT HURTS". He then tied the dressing off, with little pressure on the wound.
The troops loaded her into a Jeep and, with the medic over her, they drove rapidly to the 305th's aid station.
The medic at the Battalion Aid Station checked Diane's wound, which actually looked much worse than it was. He told the soldiers to drive her to the Field Hospital, as she needed surgery.
When they arrived, they were yelling "gunshot wound!". The medical personnel offloaded her, and put her on an examining stretcher. "Where's she shot?" asked a medic. Diane was fully conscious and said "Right here" touching her bloody shirt right over the sternum; "Damn Jap shot me."
The medics looked puzzled but took her quickly inside to the trauma section.
There was an urgent knock at Colonel Billingsley's door: "Yes, come in."
Captain Lowes entered and said "Sir, sorry to interrupt, but…Diane's been shot!"
Colonel Billingsley jumped out of his chair : "WHAT?"
"Yes, sir, a Jap sniper shot her."
"Oh, god; I was afraid of this. I told you that it was risky." The Colonel shook his head in frustration.
"I don't think she's too bad off, Sir; she came in to the Field Hospital and was conscious and cussing, I hear. I went over there and she's in surgery now. The doctors said it's a laceration, not a penetrating wound."
"Well, that's not a gunshot wound, is it, Captain?"
"Her driver, Sergeant Hamm, said he thinks the bullet glanced off the windshield frame on his Jeep and struck Diane at an angle."
"Well, check that out, and let me know when she comes out of surgery. This is not good, to have my top translator out of action. I was afraid something like this was going to happen, sooner or later."
About 2:30 the next morning, Diane awoke, as the anesthesia had worn off. She was in a Quonset hut which was Ward 2B of the Field Hospital. The Staff was entirely medics, with a physician on call. 2B was the Intensive Care Unit. The medics on duty only knew that a Japanese woman had been admitted for a gunshot wound to the chest.
Diane awoke, confused and in pain. She dared not say anything, in any language, until she knew where she was. Was she back in Japanese hands? Why was she in a building? She went in and out of being oriented to place and time, and did not yet comprehend that she was in a hospital bed. She finally went back to sleep, as her grogginess was not entirely worn off.
Shortly after sunup, Diane awoke again, and lay very quietly, on her back, looking slowly around. Although she heard English being spoken, she was not assured of being in safe surroundings. Until she knew exactly where she was, she thought it a good idea to not say anything to anyone.
She lay on her bed, looking cautiously up and down the ward. She was in bed number two, on the right. Bed one was a soldier with malaria. Beds three, four, and five were empty. On the other side of the aisle: bed one was a man with a swollen foot. Bed two was a man with his left leg in a cast. Bed three was occupied by Private Desmond Doss of the 307th; a medic, he had been wounded by enemy fire and grenades while rescuing his wounded comrades. Bed four contained a man who was semi-conscious; his illness she did not know. Bed five was a soldier with a broken right arm.
Diane noticed an intravenous tube inserted into her right forearm. The bottle was a clear liquid. She had a mild urgency to urinate, but did not want to call out. The only medic on the ward was facing away from her, attending to a patient. She could hear voices in another room. "Surely, there is a bathroom somewhere" she thought. Very quietly, she got out of bed, took the IV bottle with her and she walked slowly towards the Nurse's station. The bathroom was the next door on her left.
In a short minute, she came out of the bathroom and began walking slowly back to her bed, intending not to be noticed. Some pain in her chest and shoulders restricted her movements. Standing halfway down the aisle, facing her was the medic Private Howard. His eyes were big and he had a look of alarm on his face.
"HEY!HEY!" he yelled at her.
The medics at morning report heard the yells and came pouring out of the room, surrounding Diane.
"WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?" barked Platoon Sergeant Joe Will, Senior Medic on duty.
"She was out of her bed, I didn't know where she was, until she came out of the bathroom" replied Private Howard.
"My god, man! You can't let her walk around. She could've gotten her hands on a knife and stabbed someone, even you, Howard. You don't know what she's up to!"
This was the stupidest remark anyone had made to or about her since her liberation, so she ascertained this was not the time to speak English or bring up the fact that she was an American, and had merely gone to the toilet. She just walked slowly back to her bed while Sergeant Will continued to berate Private Howard.
Sergeant Will took a breath in, and looked at Diane, "Why do we have her here anyway? If she can walk, she can go back to the Holding Camp. I'm gonna ask Dr Lebo to discharge her. We'll get rid of her."
Private Rodriguez chimed in: "She's not fit to share space with some of America's fighting men" as he raised his nose at her.
Diane glared at him but said nothing. Sometimes, she knew, it's better to say nothing and let the other person turn into a fool.
In a few minutes, breakfast arrived. The trays were passed out by local Okinawans, pressed into service. A tray of oatmeal, orange juice and milk was placed on Diane's bedside stand. The Okinawans looked curiously at her, but they didn't exchange words.
Private Rodriguez said to Howard: "This is gonna be funny: her trying to eat oatmeal without chopsticks." He grinned maliciously at her.
Diane ate her breakfast with a spoon, like any American would. She then got up and walked to Sergeant Wayne, the patient with the broken arm. She began helping him with his breakfast, cutting the sausage into manageable bits, and buttering his toast.
Private Howard saw this and moved swiftly towards her. "Don't let her have your knife, Sergeant."
Sergeant Wayne answered back, "If she was gonna stab me, she would have, already. She's just helping me."
Private Howard stood watching for a moment, then broke off and returned to the Nurses' station.
At one point, Diane spoke sharply to one of the Okinawans to bring more milk. He bowed and reached into the tray carrier and brought a small carton of milk to them.
Private Rodriguez watched this and said to Howard, "Look at how she orders them gooks around. I bet she's some sort of Jap royalty."
When Sergeant Wayne was fed, Diane told one of the helpers to take his tray. She then returned to her bunk, and sat in her chair, looking around to see if she might somehow be of help to someone else. Private Doss, across the aisle, looked at her curiously, as did most of the others.
The Okinawans clearly showed deference to her, bowing whenever they passed in front of her chair. Sergeant Will noted this and resolved to inform Civil Affairs, so they would, at the very least, come get her out of ICU.
Shortly after breakfast, the duty physician, Dr. Lebonowitz, came through, to examine each patient and determine further treatment.
Sergeant Will told him about the morning's events, and that, in his opinion, the Jap girl was ready to be discharged. Dr. Lebonowitz looked at Sergeant Will, didn't reply, then moved along to each patient on the left side of the ward.
The Dr. finished with Sergeant Wayne then began examining the patients on the other side. When he came to Diane, he looked at her, and exhaled: "Hmmm, gunshot wound? " He addressed Sergeant Will, "When was she admitted?"
"Last night, Sir."
"Well, for a gunshot wound to the chest, her recovery is quite remarkable." He reached for Diane's top while he addressed Sergeant Will, "I'll have a look at her and see what I can tell."
Diane slapped his hands away in a hostile manner. She then pointed at the small room behind the Nurses' station.
"I'll examine her in the conference room, Sergeant" a surprised and taken aback Dr Lebonowitz said. He then led her to the room, where she was examined privately.
Diane returned to her bed, and sat down, staring at the medics with the face of someone ready spring at them.
The Dr. told Sergeant Will, "That's not a gunshot wound. It's a severe laceration. Is this the right girl?"
"Yes, Sir; only jap admitted since we opened."
"Well, she's not even supposed to be here, post-op or not. Don't we have a place for civilians?"
"I dunno, Sir. We don't usually have japs in the hospital; they're either treated and sent to the detention area or the hospital ships offshore."
"Yeah, she needs to be sent to one of them detention camps" said Private Rodriguez.
Dr. Lebonowitz wrote his orders: "I'm going to move her to Ward 2A, General; she doesn't need to be here if she can get herself up and walk around." He signed off on the order and gave it to Sergeant Will.
When Diane had been in surgery the previous day, Sergeant Hamm had been given her clothing and all personal items. He had taken them to her bunk in Building 109. So, when Diane was moved to Ward 2A, she merely walked out one door, and walked to the next building in her patient's pajamas.
Ward 2A was identical to ICU: when you first entered, the meeting room was on your left and the bathroom was on your right. Then, when you came to the Nurses' station on your left, you had walked onto the ward: 5 beds on each side. Things were simple; anything complicated was sent to one of the hospital ships.
Private Howard went with her and gave the paperwork to Sergeant Short, the Ward Master. He also told Sergeant Short that they suspected she was Japanese royalty, had acted suspicious, and had slapped the Dr.
Sergeant Short pointed to a bunk where Diane was assigned. He considered calling for an armed guard for her. He relayed his concerns to the ward medics: "…and if she even acts like she's going to move towards someone, tackle her or punch her out. I don't like the idea of having to watch a damn Jap for 8 hours, on my shift."
For the next hour, Diane sat in her chair, looking around. Some of the men looked back, but she wasn't looking at them. She finally picked up a magazine and began reading it, wondering how to contact Colonel Billingsley, and how to get out of there and back to work. Although she was in some pain, it wasn't anything to impede her from translating captured enemy documents.
She found a comb in her bedside stand and began combing her hair. It was black, below her shoulders, and shiny. Remember, she had not cut her hair in 4 years. Often she wore it in a pony tail or a braid tail.
There was a mirror on the wall outside the bathroom. Diane was standing there, combing her hair. Private Harmon was watching her, when Corporal Milton said "You got a Jap girlfriend, now, Harmon?"
"Hey, she ain't bad looking."
"She's a JAP. I don't care if she's female or not; she's the enemy. Can't you wait until you get back stateside?"
Diane, of course, heard all of this and shot a glance of displelasure at the two medics.
Harmon was looking at her again, and they made eye contact in the mirror. She turned and began walking back towards her bed. As she passed the Nurses' station, she simulated tapping Harmon on the head with the comb as she made a clicking sound.
Harmon smiled a bit before Milton ruined it: "Well, you've got'cha a lil Jap girlfriend now, Harmon. Ya gonna marry her and have her pop out some half breeds?"
Harmon ignored him and shyly glanced at Diane one more time before she sat down. She turned and looked at him with a pleasant, half curious visage.
In about half an hour, the duty Chaplain arrived to visit the men. He came in, and greeted the duty medics, "Hello, boys; how are we today? I trust everyone has been on God's good side?"
The medics and a couple of patients snickered agreeably. Chaplain Hill was, for some of them, the most knowledgeable bible expert they had ever met. You could give him a verse and he could tell you where it was in the King James Version, and what it meant.
Chaplain Hill started his visitation on the left, to the end bed, then turned and came back towards the ward entrance, visiting a short time with each man.
Diane was sitting in her chair, watching him, as he visited the men. She was planning to ask him if he was a catholic priest, as she had not received the Sacraments in 4 years.
When Chaplain Hill came to her, he looked over her and passed on, chatting with the next man, "Hello, my son, I hope that you have put your trust in the Lord this day?"
This was the last patient, and Chaplain Hill said "Believe in the Lord" to the medics at the Nurses' station as he made his way to the door.
"HEY": Diane raised her voice, "you the chaplain?"
Chaplain Hill whipped around and faced her. He was taken a bit by surprise, but recovered," The proper way to address me is: 'Excuse me, Sir, are you a chaplain?' "
Diane asked him "Why don't you visit with me?"
"I only visit with American fighting men," he replied, then turned again towards the door and walked outside.
Diane muttered under her breath while the men all stared at her. "Ohhh, so, you speak English after all?" ventured Milton.
"Of course I do."
Private Harmon said, "Why didn't you tell us that?"
"Not one of you ever spoke to me in English; you all assumed that I'm Japanese" Diane explained.
"Well, aren't you?" from Milton.
She answered shortly and abruptly:" No!.. Now, would you mind calling 9601 and asking for Captain Lowes, then tell him I'm here, and that I'd like for someone to bring me some of my clothing?"
Still, the men all stared at her.
Private Harmon finally broke the silence, "Who are you? What does a Captain Lowes have to do with you?"
"I'm a translator for the 305th Infantry Regiment, and I'm quite tired of you people, so, I'm going to go back to work as soon as I get some clothes."
"You can't leave without a doctor discharging you, Miss" said Sergeant Short.
Diane gave him an exasperated look, and then moved towards the phone. "Mind if I call, then?"
In a few minutes, Captain Lowes and an enlisted man came into the ward, with some of her clothing, including her Identification Badge: "Department of the Army, Civilian, Nakamura, Diane J" with her photo.
Dr Lebonowitz appeared and signed her out, to return to duty.
On her way out the door, she turned to Private Harmon and said "I work in Building 126; come visit me sometime."
Diane and Captain Lowes walked to her billet in Building 109, where she sat on her bunk. The building was a storage room for tables and chairs, but she had made herself a bunk in one corner. The building allowed her privacy, although the shower was on the outside.
"How do you feel, Diane? You can rest for a day or two if you want."
She was evaluating the past two days, and decided that, despite some pain in her arms on lifting, she was more than ready to return to work. "Nahh, I'm not gonna sit around here, nothing to do. I'll rest a bit, then be over to the office in a few minutes."
"There's some changes you should know about."
"Changes? Like, what?"
"Well, there's new translators arriving. I think you are going to be assigned to "finish" them, to see what level of translations they can do. I'm not on it, but looks like you will be getting teams ready for the Invasion."
"Hmmm, okay; I don't mind. There hasn't been a plethora of translation work lately."
"By the way, General Eichelberger is counting on you going to Japan when they surrender. We'll really need your services then."
Diane sat quietly. Then, she replied "Yes, I suppose I'll go. If I'm not busy, I'll start thinking how homesick I am."
"Well; see you back at the office" Captain Lowes spoke as he got up to go.
"I'll be over in a few minutes," she answered.
Diane reflected on her forwardness with Private Harmon, supposing nothing bad would come of it. "Oh, well, we'll see" she told herself as she went outside.
As she entered her work area, the others welcomed her back. "Hey, girl, good to see you back." "Diane, been taking it easy staying at the hospital?" "Well, Diane, we saved your seat."
She smiled contentedly, knowing she was among friends, who prized her abilities to help them do their jobs.
Two days later, Private Harmon came into the office. He approached Diane's desk. "Hi, remember me?"
"Of course. How've you been?"
"Fine. Just a few minor care cases, what with the fighting almost over, the Navy has taken over the serious cases."
They chatted for a few minutes, when Harmon looked around and saw that no one was paying him any mind. He looked at Diane with a more serious demeanor:" Would you like to have dinner tonight?"
Diane grinned slightly, "Do you know of a nice restaurant nearby?"
"Well, uhh, how about our dining facility?"
"Sure, why not? "
"Can I come for you at, say, 5 P.M.?"
"Tell you what, Roger, why not just meet me here at 5, and we'll walk over there?"
"Sure, yeah, sure , I will, yeah."
At 4:50 P.M., Private Roger Harmon showed up in clean fatigues, outside Building 126, fumbling in his pockets. It had been quite a long time since he'd had a date back in the States.
Diane saw him and quickly finished her work. She then went outside. "Hi, what's for dinner?"
"Oh, uh, hi. Uh, well, I dunno. Let's go see."
They walked over to the Hospital Company's mess, which was entirely indoors.
When they entered the dining facility, the room suddenly grew totally silent. Everyone was staring at the couple. A few whispers broke out here and there.
Diane picked up her tray and proceeded through the chow line. Harmon told the cooks: "She's with me." The couple found some empty places to sit. Most of the others had ceased staring, and continued on their meal. A few of the men knew or knew of Diane, and paid her little attention.
One of the KP's walked to Captain Holland's table. "Sir, you better come see this."
Captain Holland looked up at him, irritatedly, and replied, "What is it?"
"Sir, there's a Jap woman eating in our mess hall."
"You better come see, sir."
Captain Holland got up from his meal, and walked into the main dining area. Diane was pointed out to him and he walked over to her table.
She was chatting with several men, talking about movies and movie stars, when Captain Holland peered around her right side as he looked curiously at her. The men sat at attention as he addressed her: "Do you mind telling me who you are and why you're eating in my dining facility?"
Diane looked him up and down and replied:" Not at all. Do you mind telling me who you are and why you're asking?"
Private Harmon said "She's my dinner date, Sir."
"Harmon, we don't feed Japanese in this dining fac—"
"I'm not Japanese, Captain. I'm a translator for the 305th, and, I'm American."
Captain Holland was very surprised, not only by her abruptness, but by the fact that he was looking at the only American woman on the island. He blinked, then said "Oh. Oh, well, that's okay." He then turned and went back to his meal, addressing the KP soldier "Don't bother me with stuff like that anymore." He was more embarrassed than anything else. The very last thing he wanted was to look like a fool in front of the men.
When Roger and Diane finished their meal, they sat, chatting with the others sitting near to them. Topics ranged from hit music and the price of clothing, to when they would be going home. At the mention of "home", Diane felt a twang of emotion, but concealed her feelings quite well.
She turned to Roger and said "Let's go take a walk and help digest our meal?"
Roger and Diane got up to take their trays to the dirty tray station. He glanced back at his buddies and shot them a wink, as if to say "Eat your hearts out."
They left the mess hall and walked towards the 305th's area. "Where are we going?" asked Roger.
"I thought we might walk down to the beach."
"Then why are we walking this way? The beach is that way" said Roger, pointing west.
"I have to go to Supply first" explained Diane.
The couple went to A Company's Arms room and Diane drew a Thompson submachine gun and two full magazines. She then walked back outside.
Roger said "What's that for?"
"If we're leaving the cantonement area, it's not safe to be walking around unarmed."
"Diane, there aren't any Japanese left. They've all been killed off we were told", Roger explained.
"Hah! Don't bet on it. Who do you think shot me the other day? There's a few stragglers and die hards, well hidden, and they sometimes come into our area at night, foraging for food. But – don't worry; we're not staying out past dusk."
"Hey, I was told it's perfectly safe around here. We often have volleyball games in the evening, or we play poker after it gets dark."
"Roger, look: the remnants don't want to mess with us; they want to get something to eat, when they come HERE. But, now, we're going outside HERE and into an unsecured zone. THAT'S why I'm armed."
Roger had an uneasy look on his face as they walked towards the perimeter guard post.
"Ho, Diane, where you going?" challenged Private Rollins, one of the perimeter guards at the checkpoint.
"Hey, Rollie, we're gonna walk to the beach" she answered.
"For a second there, I thought you were Machine Gun McGurn", teased Rollins.
"Who?" she queried.
"Machine Gun Jack McGurn, Al Capone's top trigger man; he always carried a Tommie gun."
"Ah, well, I hope I don't have to use it" offered Diane to the guards, "and if it's dark and we're not back yet, come look for us."
The guards nodded agreement, but Roger was increasingly nervous, "Hey, we don't HAVE to go to the beach; we could just walk around here."
"Nonsense:" she said, "We're not looking for trouble; we just don't want to be easy pickings. …Oh, hey, look, it's safe. If there was any reasonable threat, I'd take the whole company with us. Really. Relax."
That's one thing Roger couldn't do now: relax. Not only was he worried about encountering enemy soldiers, he somehow didn't feel any romantic intentions anymore, towards Diane, while she was carrying a weapon. Now, this walk in the sun had become a chore and not a pleasure.
The couple came to the beach area called Zone 16, which was about a half mile from the nearest guardpost. Roger was nervous, but Diane seemed to have thrown caution to the wind. They climbed among the rocks, and finally sat on one, gazing out to the
waters of the East China Sea breaking on the rocks.
For now, Roger had given up any hope of exchanging affections with Diane. As for her, her thoughts were thousands of miles away.
"What are you thinking about?" he finally broke the silence with.
"Home. At dinner tonight, several of you guys were talking about home."
"San Antonio, Texas."
"Yeah, I am. I haven't seen home in years, 4 years."
"Where have you been?"
"Here, on this island."
"I thought you said you weren't Japanese?"
"I'm not. I was in Nagoya, Japan, when the war broke out. I fled here, to avoid internment. I was able to mix with the locals; they thought I was Japanese and the Japanese military thought I was a local."
"Wow, 4 years. No wonder." Roger hesitated before continuing: "Why don't you go home now? All you have to do is ask the regimental commander and they'll put you on the next available ship for home."
"I've thought about that, a lot. But,.." and Diane turned and looked at Roger:" I have a job to do, to finish. I want to stay on until Japan surrenders. I'm going to tough it out until the war is over. Then, I'll go home. As long as I'm needed here, I'll stay."
They sat quietly for a few minutes, watching the clouds over the Sea. Roger was trying to comprehend how this girl by his side could've spent the years on Okinawa, pretending to be Japanese when she wasn't at all. He still didn't fully comprehend that she was an American, and not a bit Japanese, her language abilities notwithstanding.
Diane broke the silence with, "Besides, what is home now?"
Roger was puzzled. "You mean you don't know if you have a home anymore?"
"I mean that the world I knew is gone, doesn't exist anymore. Not just the music and the clothing styles, but the whole way of thinking, of our culture. I grew up during the Depression, the post-Flapper era. Those days are gone forever, whether they were good or bad. I don't know what the States are like now, but I'm sure, even though the same buildings stand, and the same neighbors live next door, the way of life is somehow different. You haven't noticed, but, think about going to see someone you haven't seen in 4 years: the change will be noticeable; both will have changed. You can go back to old places but not old times."
They chatted about what they wanted out of life, what they wanted to do for a career, and how they would resume their lives when they got home.
"Roger, the sun's on the horizon; we better go."
Roger was thinking this might be the time to make a move on Diane, or, it might not be. He finally decided to keep his hands to himself. Maybe another time…
They climbed off the rocks and were walking back towards the cantonement area. Diane noticed several armed American soldiers sitting and standing by the trail, looking in their direction. As the couple got closer, Diane recognized friends from the 305th Infantry Regiment.
"Hey, guys, what's going on? What are you doing here?" she asked them.
Sergeant Lee responded, "Well, Diane, we just wanted to be sure you had a nice safe walk. Several of us decided to be your security element."
Diane laughed, "Ha, guys. Don't you trust this medic?" pointing at Roger.
"No, no; not him. We're here just in case any Japs were around. We thought 6 guns were better than one."
Roger visibly exhaled, relieved that he had not tried to put his arms around Diane, and be subject to the gaze of 5 armed friends of hers. This was the most unusual date he ever had in his life.
The group walked back to their perimeter just as it was getting dark. Sergeant Lee and his men went on.
Here, Roger broke off with "Well, shall I see you again?"
Diane cocked her head sideways, and said, "You know where I work. Come by if you want."
"Okay, well, I'm glad to make friends with you. For whatever time we're here, let's not sit around bored," he offered. He thought about kissing her, but the sentries were watching, and other soldiers were nearby. Besides, he wasn't sure if she would let him.
Diane went back to Building 109, where she billeted. Several men were sitting outside, talking and smoking. They saw her, and greeted her, "Nice date, Diane?" "No problems?" "Did he behave?"
"Hey guys, yes, we had a nice time. We walked to the beach and sat around talking."
"Well, Diane, Sergeant Lee took some guys along, to make sure you had a nice time," grinned Corporal Lewellyn.
"Yeah, I noticed," and Diane grinned back.
Often, in the evenings, men would gather here, and they and Diane would sit around, talking about the War, or the future, or the news. Most of them just wanted the company of each other. They were a long way from home, all of them.
The Purple Heart, along with a Bronze Star, was presented to Diane Nakamura in a ceremony at Atsugi Air Base, on September 3, 1945 by Major General David Bruce, Corps Commander.