TK: “When the war started, I was about 14 years old. We were sent to relocation camps in 1942.”

What is your birth year?

1927.

How old does that make you today?

[92.]

What branch of the United States Armed Forces did you serve in?

[Army.]

What countries did you serve in?

[Japan.]

Where were you born?

Watsonville, California. 

Tell me about your childhood.

I was born into a rural family who was doing farming. When the war started, I was about 14 years old. We were sent to relocation camps in 1942. The war started in ’41 December. We were in camp just about until the war ended, August ’45.  

What was life in the camps like?

They didn’t have barbed wire around the camps. We went to school there- there were volunteer teachers that came in. I was there for about three years, I guess. It was only afterwards that they- Reagan wrote a letter of apology for the camps. Each of us got $20,000, which is not too much, but it’s something. 

Do you remember your family’s reaction to hearing about Pearl Harbor?

Well, it wasn’t good. There is a history of discrimination against Asians, and so the relocation camps weren’t that much of a surprise. Not much you could do. 

On his education and draft:

You could go east, but you couldn’t go west. I was at the University of Illinois, and I was a freshman; they drafted me out of University in 1946. I was trained for about six or eight months, and they shipped me to Japan. That’s where the occupation forces were. I was there for about eight months, then they shipped me back to California where I was discharged at the end of ’46. 

How old were you when you were drafted?

Oh, I was 19. 

How did you feel about being drafted?

Not much you could do. 

What was your family’s reaction? Were they worried for you?

No, I don’t think so. {Laughs} 

Where in occupied Japan were you?

I was in Kobe; the main island is Honshu, and on the mideast corner of Honshu is Tokyo. Kobe is about 500 miles south. There was a Quartermaster Corps that was headquartered in Kobe, so that’s where I was.  

What was your job or assignment?

I was a typist, so office work. Did you enjoy the work you were doing? It was okay. 

You must’ve had a very interesting experience, being in a recently occupied country. Did you ever interact with the Japanese citizens?

A little bit, but not too much. They worked at some of the military facilities; there would be Japanese citizens working, doing certain types of labor. 

Tell me about any specific memories or experiences that stand out. 

I visited my grandmother. {Laughs} That was an experience, I guess, because they were having trouble with food. I think that it was a relief for them that the war had ended. I think that was true in Germany, too.

I met a few German POWs; they were working in the Army. They were working in the mess hall. 

Did you ever meet anyone who had been in the Japanese Army?

No. I don’t know where they were- I’m sure there were prisoners, but I never saw any. 

Did people react to you strongly, as an American?

No, no. That population is a little different. When the US Army occupation came in, they didn’t have any problems, which is something different. 

What were the most trying and difficult moments of service?

Not really. I got chased by the MPs once. {Laughs} Why did that happen? Because I was in a Japanese home, and you’re not supposed to be doing that.

What were the best memories of service?

It was interesting. The country is so different.

Did you notice any changes in the tone of the country regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

I didn’t see anything, or hear of anything, where I was stationed. That was several hundred miles away from Hiroshima. I don’t know how they felt. 

Are there any people you met that you specifically remember? Did you keep in touch with any of these people? 

A couple of them. 

Why, or when, did your service end?

My term was up. I think you were supposed to spend two years in the armed forces, when you are drafted, but actually it was shorter than that, because I had leave. A vacation or whatever. I was drafted in ’46 January, and I was discharged in ’47, in the fall. 

Did you have a family after the war? How did the war affect this?

I had my parents, and my sisters. They were still dislocated a little bit. 

What was your job or career after the war?

I went to University of California, at Berkeley. The Army paid for that.

Do you think the world has any misinterpretations about WWII?

You know, there was a history of anti-Asian policies in the West, and I don’t know if this had anything to do with it, but Japan was trying to do what Europe had been doing- colonize. I don’t know, I think it was a good experience for them, as a nation, even though they lost the war. 

Before, during, and after the war, did you feel that you were discriminated against as a Japanese-American?

I’m sure there was discrimination- we were put into camps. But, not really. When I went to the University of Illinois, they didn’t even know about the camps. It wasn’t publicized. Do you feel that the camps should’ve been publicized? I’m not sure. You didn’t hear about it in high school. They don’t talk too much about it. When I went to Illinois, they didn’t know about them. Were people surprised to hear of them? Some of them were. 

Did you learn anything abroad that impacted your life strongly?

I don’t know about strongly. I interacted with the people quite a lot, and found them the same. 

How did your service affect your life?

Broadened it. I think it was a good experience. 

Author’s Note: TK was not able to provide any personal photographs from his service in the Army. The photos below are provided for the reader’s reference, but do not describe TK’s exact experience or his surroundings. The images are cited to their respective owners. 

ddr-densho-93-13-mezzanine-50c20d8d8f-a_1cb928350b18b9879b778b667373ee66
Adams, Ansel. Entrance to Manzanar at the Manzanar Relocation Center in California. NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/trump-supporter-cites-internment-precedent-muslim-registry-n685131. Accessed 18 Jan. 2019.
occupation-japan
Signing of the Japanese Surrender, circa 1945. Retrieved from http://crisissome.blogspot.com/2016/04/us-occupation-of-japan.html

Author’s Note: This project was recently featured in Portland’s Street Roots Newspaper. Read the article here: http://news.streetroots.org/2017/11/10/these-veterans-have-lived-something-extraordinary-portland-student-listens-shares

This interview has been lightly edited for readability. However, to maintain integrity, and to respect the stories of the veteran, content has not been altered from the original transcription. This interview was originally recorded and later transcribed. Questions partially retrieved from:

“Guidelines.” Veterans History Project. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 23 June 2017. <www.loc.gov/vets/guidelines.html>.

 

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