The Battle of the Mess Hall

Posted on 27 August 2009

Mess Hall Japan

By the winter of 1946, the Japanese people had come out of hiding.  They no longer feared the American forces occupying their country, including the 24th Signal Company, to which I was attached.   For a price, the natives were attempting to unload their old underwear on the U.S. military.   Because of linguistic differences, communication with the Japanese people was difficult.  It was a combination of “Charades” and “Show and Tell,” with the results often hilarious.  General Sherman said “War is hell,” but maintaining the peace was something else.   Winter’s thaw ushered in a welcome spring, as well as our orders to make our final move to the island of Kyushu.   


After landing at the port of Moji, we then traveled to Kitagawa Racetrack, near the town of Kikura.  Here, we set up our compound, using the existing buildings for the different groups within the 24th Signal Company, which provided communications for the 24th Infantry Division of the Army.  Our stay at the racetrack developed into another story that history books have yet to reveal.


One muggy summer night, I was sleeping with the mess section in what was once the vault building of the racetrack, adjacent to the mess hall.  The guard on duty noticed a few Japanese people trying to break into the Mess Hall to confiscate some victuals.  He ordered them to halt but they fled, so he took aim and misfired.  His gun had malfunctioned.  With that, he ran to the orderly room and chose another weapon.  Continuing on with his patrol, he returned to the mess hall, only to find that the same intruders had taken advantage of his absence by attempting a second break in.  The entire scene was played out again as before, with the guard shouting, “Halt” and his weapon misfiring as the would-be thieves ran off.


Frustrated, the soldier returned to the orderly room to draw and check his original weapon, which now appeared to be in good working order.  For the third time that night, the escapade was repeated but with different consequences.  One of the unfortunate bandits took a bullet and was sent to the hospital for treatment.   The guard must have been right under my window when he fired the first shot.  What I’d thought was distant thunder roused me from out of a deep sleep.  The next two shots made me jump out of bed; they sounded as if they had gone off right next to my ear. By that time, the whole company was awake and running to the mess hall area, ready to defend us all against a few natives who had tried to steal some food.  Under other circumstances in which defense of the camp would have been critical, this incident might have been disastrous.   When our story was escalated to the proper parties, our company received peace of mind in the form of new automatic carbines.

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5 Responses to “The Battle of the Mess Hall”

  1. Billy Bob says:

    Do you know if the Japanese were really hungry, or did you guys cook up something delicious in the mess hall that they just could not resist? Whatever it was, I’m glad that the skirmish did not escalate. I’ve never been in a war but I totally believe General Sherman’s assessment of war as hell.

  2. Joan R. says:

    That was funny about the underwear peddling. 🙂

  3. Susan says:

    For a long time now, American GI’s have been the best fed miltary on earth. Go into any American military chow hall (excuse me, “dining facility”) & you will find an astounding amount & variety of food. I know it wasn’t quite this way in post-war Japan but, in comparison to their own situation, the Japanese probably thought so.

  4. Lyn says:

    Excellent site

  5. Santa says:

    I always learn something new

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