Diary of Hawaii Soldier on display at Army museum

| September 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Staff Sgt. James S. Nishi (center) poses for the camera with his fellow soldiers. (USAMH 10763, U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii)

U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii
News Release

FORT DERUSSY — The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii recently accepted a donation associated with Staff Sgt. James S. Nishi, a Soldier from Hawaii who served during the Korean War.
Of particular interest is the diary he kept while deployed to Korea.

The entries span over a year of service from Sept. 10, 1950 – just days before Gen. Douglas MacArthur led the landing at Inchon – through Nov. 15, 1951, the Soldier’s “long awaited day of rotation” out of Korea.

Nishi, an engineer supply specialist, was assigned to the Engineer Section of the X Corps Headquarters. He became the noncommissioned officer in charge of the S-1 section and was eventually tasked with establishing several engineer supply dumps.

This photo of 22-year old James Nishi, awaiting his ship for R&R in Japan, bears the same date as the adjacent diary entry, Aug. 18, 1951. (USAMH 10762, U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii)

Although brief, Nishi highlighted important events of the “forgotten war.”

One entry is dated Sept. 15, 1950, the beginning of Operation Chromite. With the intent of capturing Inchon and liberating Seoul, the newly formed X Corps, which was activated a few short weeks before the planned landing, comprised a severely understrength 7th U.S. Infantry Division and a newly assembled 1st U.S. Marine Division force, together numbering nearly 70,000 men.

The entry reads, “Reached Korea – start of history making invasion of Korea – night in bay outside Inchon.”

Nishi clearly understood the importance of this “magnificent gamble” of an operation; yet, he did choose not to elaborate on what that might mean for him as a deployed Soldier.

Nishi also experienced one of the greatest sea evacuations in history. By December, the X Corps found itself in the bitter cold northeastern mountains, resisting the advancing Communist forces.

Sometimes compared to the World War II evacuation of allied troops at Dunkirk, the evacuation at Hungnam required the repositioning of troops under the threat of overwhelming enemy forces. In addition to the relocation of 105,000 troops and 91,000 Korean refugees, the seaborne evacuation called for the removal of all equipment and supplies.

Nishi, not too sad to be leaving Hungnam, focused much of his attention on that elusive luxury that every Soldier yearns for – a good night’s sleep.

Plunging winter temperatures are a common theme in the diary. A November 1950 entry states, “Our room is like a refrigerator. Think I’ll have to sleep with an ice pick tonight so that I can pick my way out from my sleeping bag. … The North Pole must be around here somewhere.”

This photo of 22-year old James Nishi, awaiting his ship for R&R in Japan, bears the same date as the adjacent diary entry, Aug. 18, 1951. (USAMH 10762, U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii)

By Jan. 21, the temperatures had not improved.

“This is supposed to be the coldest day in Korea – in my opinion it is. … The wind is icy and goes right to your bones,” Nishi said, and then by March he wrote, “I practically froze during the night.”

Nishi’s thoughts also turned to his home in Hawaii. On July 22, 1951, he wrote, “Home ought to look mighty nice after all this,” and on Nov. 11, 1951, “… We checked our so-called ‘locator card.’ It’s nothing but your name, rank, serial number, and that if you are eligible to be rotated to the states. Naturally, everybody said, ‘yes,’ except me. I want to go back to Hawaii.”

The last full diary entry, dated Nov. 15, 1951, provides a satisfying conclusion. Referring to his time at the 532 Replacement Company, he took stock of his surroundings, fully appreciating the finer things in life.

“We have regular GI bunks with mattress, pillow and three blankets. The chow is excellent.”

More Online
The museum is located at 2131 Kalia Road, Fort DeRussy, in Waikiki.

It’s free and open to the public, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays; it’s closed Sundays and Mondays.

Call (808) 438-2821 or visit https://www.garrison.hawaii.army.mil/armymuseum/visit.htm.

James Nishi’s Korean-era deployment diary. (U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, EP 2092)

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