<Begin Segment 1>
TI: I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. The videographer is Matt Emery and helping Matt is Kymmy Hafey. And the date is -- look at my watch -- it's June 19, 1998, and we are at Mas Watanabe's house. And I guess the first question, just to get things going, is, can you tell me when and where you were born?
MW: It's, I was born in Seattle. You want the address?
TI: No, not the address, just...
MW: Eighth and Spruce, a little family home.
TI: And do you remember what year you were born?
TI: [Laughs] We do this so we can always know how old our narrators are. [Laughs]
MW: Yeah, 'cause with all this hospital stuff the last couple of weeks, I had to go over my Social Security Number -- [laughs] -- age, and when... when are we going to start?
TI: We're rolling now, but...
MW: Oh -- [laughs] -- you are?
TI: And actually, before, something else we always do is, sometimes we have a notes field, and it probably would be interesting for you to tell us a little bit about the illness that you just recently have been going through, so that people understand sort of your state of mind.
MW: Well, I understand that I had a touch of cancer, which I didn't know, and I've gone through a series of chemo treatments and radiation. I had two surgeries. Hopefully, I think, I'm going to be all right. At least I have a reprieve for six months or something. That's the reason I'm going to Hawaii. [Laughs]
TI: And you sort of gave us a scare last week. We were actually scheduled to do this interview last week, and you weren't feeling well.
MW: I was feeling pretty bad. And then Dr. Kiyonaga, he prescribed some blood for me, which I got three units. [Sneezes] Pardon me. That's when I got rejuvenated and I gave your -- well, your dad told me you had an extra day so I told him, "Hey, maybe we can get this over with."
TI: Right. So, I think it's going to all work out.
MW: Yeah, okay.
<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 2>
TI: Let's talk first about your parents and why don't you tell me where your parents came from in Japan.
MW: Okay. I'll start with my dad, 'cause Japan is such a male-oriented country. He was -- his parents were landowners in a little, little village called Nanbu, N-A-N-B-U. It's up in the hills south of Kofu, which is a fairly big city. And they were gentleman farmers. They used to lease land to people, and I was never too sure how much property they had, but I do know that the visit we made, people used to bring stuff. I don't know how the lease arrangements were.
TI: Explain that again. You said when you visit --
TI: We were just talking about your father and his family and they were in Japan and they were near, I guess, south of Kofu. One question just about your dad -- and we talked about this a little bit earlier -- was that you mentioned how he was the first-born son of a family. And I guess a follow-up question I wanted to do right before the break was, you had a sense of how much land that your dad's family had and it was quite a bit. And I guess the question I had was it seems a little bit unusual for a first-born son to -- especially from a family with land holdings like that -- to leave. And so I'm wondering if you had any insights into that.
MW: I had a lot of insights into it. It's, it's, you know, when you start talking about Japanese families, the eldest son is always the favorite. And he had several younger brothers, and I've always wondered why he came to the U.S. And he was always a little reluctant to tell me. But I do know they sent him to Tokyo to go to school. And somehow -- this is my own conclusion -- I think he didn't do too well in school. And you know how the Japanese, the structure of the family goes, if you bring shame to the family or something. I think it was something like that, but he was very coy about responding. So I'm, I can't say I'm sure, but that was always my suspicion, that he didn't want to shame the family (...).
TI: And when you went back to Japan later in life, were you ever able to get more information about your father?
MW: No, I wasn't, 'cause the one who took over this land was my dad's youngest brother, and the gal he married was not from the old hierarchy, so, and they had no kids. So there was a little controversy when he died, and the land was turned over to the wife's family. And my dad's side was very unhappy about that. And then my mother was from a merchant's family in Kofu, which is a fairly large city. It's kind of in the northeast side of the Alps. Pretty, very pretty country. It's famous for grapes and vineyards and things like this, and they were merchants, her dad. They used to handle jewelry, and I know just until recently they still had the same thing. They partly manufactured necklaces and things like this, but they had a lot of jewelry.
TI: Well, they were both from the same area. How did the two of them meet?
MW: That's a good question. I guess the families, but I would be guessing. I'm not sure.
TI: Now, did they meet -- do you know if they met before they came to the United States, or was your dad here first and they went back and married?
MW: Well, my dad was here first, but I'm sure the families knew each other.
MW: I had... I kind of enjoyed our visit to Kofu. It was very interesting.
<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 3>
TI: Okay. Let's jump to the United States, and your mom and dad were here. How many children did they have? In other words, how many brothers and sisters did you have?
MW: Okay. I'll start with the family first. There's five of us. I'm right in the middle. I have a older brother. I had a older brother, older sister, younger sister, and a younger brother. And when they first came over, he had a little greenhouse out by Greenwood. It's very commercial now, but at that time it was, say, country.
TI: So this is your father, had a greenhouse in Greenwood. Okay.
MW: And then from there they eventually got into the public market scene, where they started to, more or less, sell goods that they grew.
TI: Do you know how your father decided to get into the public market? Was that something that other Japanese did or what was his thinking about going from a greenhouse to the public market?
MW: That's a good question, because he was not a farmer. He wasn't from a farming family, but I do know he started in the market with a partner, and I think the partner had something to do with the growing of vegetables and the selling of fruits and vegetables at the market. I think his background was not that of a seller of goods, but he got into it, and he was at that for a long, long time.
<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 4>
TI: So he was at the Seattle -- I guess at that point they called it the Farmer's Market -- and he was a seller of produce. Where did he get his produce to sell? I mean, was there a distributor or did he go directly to the farmers? How did that work?
MW: There were quite a few wholesalers in Western Avenue at that time. My dad's sources were a combination of the wholesalers, and then in the right seasons -- I can't believe it now, but there was a lot of little truck farms out by Green Lake and the valley. I'm talking about small farms. And they used to, in season, they used to get produce, fruits and vegetables locally. Or if the season was off, they'd go down to the Western Avenue markets. And all the big wholesalers down on Western Avenue... gosh, I think without exception -- because of the large number of Issei resellers, they all had a salesman, Niseis or younger Isseis. So the sources weren't that difficult. It was quite an interesting deal, from the wholesalers, the growers, wholesalers, and the market.
TI: And describe for me how the Japanese, sort of, retailers, how they were configured. I know there were a combination of permanent stalls and temporary stalls. Can you sort of describe how the Japanese were selling down at the market?
MW: I guess... my guess is that there were about eleven or twelve permanent stalls, and I think the Isseis operated about seven. And the others were actual farmers, or sons of farmers, or Italians in South Park, Green Lake, and the valley. The Desmones, who started the market -- all big families, and each brother had a few acres. So it was a conglomeration of actual farmers.
TI: And your father's, so he had a permanent stall. Was his pretty similar to the other Japanese stalls, and was his sort of background similar to the other Japanese who were selling?
MW: I suspect it was, but I can't say for sure, 'cause the ones I knew came from different parts of Japan. And I think their similarities, if any, just came from where they were from, from Japan, and the stalls were about the same, you know, with, in footage and the displays and then what they were selling.
TI: Can you talk a little bit more about -- you said the farmers, or the, I'm sorry, the stalls were actually oftentimes from different parts of Japan. So I guess from different kens?
MW: Yeah. I'm not too sure where they were all from, but...
TI: But just the idea -- I mean, did where you came from in Japan, did that have a part in playing in terms of the farmers that you worked with or the people you worked with? Was there anything like that involved that you recall?
MW: Not that I'm aware of, 'cause I think they were all from various parts.
TI: So it sounds like, for the permanent stalls, it was pretty much a combination of Issei and Italians.
TI: And were the Italians, were they sort of first-generation, also, Italians?
MW: First or second. They were all from these big, big families. Like if you go down to the Pike Place Market now, you'll find Joe Desmone Bridge or Desmone's, I don't know how many brothers he had, but quite a few had stalls, and they all went on to different businesses associated with production or growing of fruits and vegetables.
<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 5>
TI: Now, having a father running a business of this type, how were the kids involved, and your mother? How were they involved in the business?
MW: How were the who? Kids?
TI: Yeah, the kids like you and your brothers and sisters.
MW: Well, they had to have laborers. [Laughs] We just worked, and when we were older, as our -- well, a lot depended on age. And I think most of us worked behind the counters since we were very small or very young, and especially on weekends when it was so busy. My sister worked a little, my brother worked, and I worked, and even my mother with five kids had to work on weekends at times. So it was... I don't know. It was kind of a hassle, I think, for the family.
TI: What were your memories? I'm trying to imagine. You know, to this day I still go down to the Pike Place Market. It's one of my favorite places. But can you sort of describe how it was for you, especially as a boy growing up, what the market was like?
MW: Okay, it was a unique society because of the stands and the actual farmers in Green Lake and the valley that used to come in. So the Isseis started a little community for themselves. They had restaurants, cafes, and what we call meshiyas now. And, gee, lunchtime was a special time for all the workers. They used to have these eateries with big pots of rice and whatever was the special of the day. And it was a very informal place where you can, guys like you could have eaten five bowls of rice, and it was very interesting. It was a community within itself. And there were a number of little restaurants or cafes that were hamburger joints, or just regular cafes, besides the meshiyas.
TI: Okay. So the meshiyas, was that organized by the, essentially the workers, or was somebody just set that up and then they charged the workers for lunch? How did that work?
MW: Well, I think it's just like down in Japantown or something. If somebody saw a chance for business or something, they just went in. 'Cause they had to be fed. It was interesting. It was a unique society in itself, I think.
TI: And the other small, like, hamburger places, were those also run by Japanese?
MW: Well, there were a few fairly small cafes where they had a few specials every day, that you could always get a sandwich or cup of coffee. Like -- a lot of those were just for breaks during the day.
<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 6>
TI: And in general, did the workers in the Japanese stalls pretty much frequent or go to the Japanese restaurants and places?
MW: I think as a rule I would say yes. But there were a lot of these chain types of restaurants like Manning's, and I don't see any of those restaurants around anymore. They were a little more than McDonald's or Burger King or something, but they used to have some pretty good restaurants that had very reasonable breakfasts and lunches. And we had Greek restaurants and Italian restaurants. It was a unique society, I think.
TI: When the Japanese pretty much stayed, or frequent in general, the Japanese places, was it because it was a sort of a comfort thing that they felt like they should or they wanted to support Japanese? Or was there a sense that they weren't wanted in other, these other stores as much, or other restaurants as much?
MW: I don't think -- well, my recollection is that the society, the market society itself, was very liberal. I mean, there was no animosities between the Italians or the Japanese or anything like that, so I think it was just their being used to certain types of food, and it was very interesting.
TI: Can you describe some examples of the Japanese sort of mingling with either the Italians or the Greeks or other people and how that, how that worked?
MW: Yeah. It's hard to kind of guess, but, gee, most of Greeks and Italians were... gee, I hate to use the word "similar," but they were probably from farming communities in Italy or something, so that their backgrounds were relatively the same. And I think it was easy for Isseis per se with the Italians or Greeks to communicate with each other even if they weren't too proficient in each other's language. It was a unique society, is all I can say.
TI: And as you were growing up and you needed to go get food someplace, as a boy working in the market, were you paid by your father and then with this money you would go and buy hamburger or something, or how did that work?
MW: Yeah, well, we had very sophisticated cash registers: little cigar boxes and things like that. So depending on where we went for lunch, we just grabbed a few, few dollars and went. But so much of the market, I think, that was a very unique part was the bartering system, where we'd go to Manning's Cafe, which was a real big chain, or some meat market and just grab some things, and they would come back and get fruits and vegetables. So it was kind of an exchange. But my recollection is we didn't bother to find out, well, you took two dollar's worth of that or a dollar's worth of that, or... it was a very informal thing.
TI: That sounds interesting. So that informally, if you needed something at a meat market, they knew who you were.
MW: Oh yeah.
TI: And so when you took something or used something, conversely they could come to your dad's place and get produce.
MW: Yeah. They could come to my dad's place and get something of equal value. [Laughs] It was very interesting.
TI: Was there ever a sense that there were some people who took advantage of that system and people quit bartering with them? Can you recall anything like that?
MW: That's hard to say, because I'm only aware of what I did or my brother did or my father did. And I just, I think I would say that everybody knew each other and there was no advantage in trying to take advantage of people.
TI: Was that a little unique? You grew up in the Japanese community, but it seems like the market was a place where there was a lot of mixing with other ethnic groups.
TI: Which, back before the war, wasn't done that much by people who lived within the Japanese community. Do you think that gave you a different perspective about Italians and Greeks that perhaps your friends who grew up in the Japanese community didn't have?
MW: Probably. I think we were in general a little more liberal, and gee, we got along pretty good, but I think it was a similarity of backgrounds that created this similarity. Even today, if I go down Rainier Avenue, there is a Desmone's who has a little fruit and vegetable stand down here, and he's the son of one of the sons who was close to my age. So you find them around still, and they look the same and act the same. [Laughs]
TI: That's good.
MW: So it's interesting.
<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 7>
TI: When you weren't working at the market, let's talk about that a little bit. Like for school, elementary school, where did you go?
MW: Elementary school I went to Central School. It was quite famous because it was probably one of the... I think it was the oldest grammar school in Seattle. Used to be a high school at one time, but it's right over the intersection, the freeway -- [laughs] -- on Seventh and Madison.
TI: So when the freeway went in they tore down the school?
MW: Oh, yes. [Laughs] Yeah, and that's where I went to grammar school, and high school I went to Broadway.
TI: Describe your classmates. What kind of -- I guess one question is, racially, what was the makeup of your class?
MW: Percentage-wise I would say about seventy-five percent were haoles. I think they were businessmen or apartment dwellers right in that area and about twenty-five percent were Japanese. They had hotels and dry cleaners and these little stores.
TI: One question I wanted to ask is, when you first started school -- or, I guess, before school, did your parents speak English to you or Japanese?
MW: I would say seventy-five, eighty percent of the time it was Japanese.
TI: And so when you went to school, was that a, did you have difficulties with language?
MW: No, because I think as we grew up, all we spoke was English. So, in a way, it was so natural, and my parents were very limited in their English. We were limited in Japanese, but communication's a funny thing. [Laughs] You can say a lot without saying something. [Laughs]
<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 8>
TI: Going back to school, what kind of student were you? How would you describe yourself as a student going through elementary school?
MW: Well, without sounding egotistical, I thought I was a pretty good student. My grades were always pretty good and I had no problems understanding what was going on. But I think minorities in those days... I don't know if it's the right thing to say, but I think you're aware of a lot more things, the differences, and you pay attention to differences which normally you might not.
TI: What would be some examples of that, where you say minorities pay attention to more things or more sensitive to certain things?
MW: I think they're more aware of these things. I think the clash of cultures you wonder, "Gee, why do they do things that way and we do it this way?" It's the awareness of the differences in how you can meld 'em.
TI: That's interesting.
MW: So it's... like fights at school and stuff like this. It was interesting to see who supported who. [Laughs]
TI: And these are things you felt that others, minorities in particular, were very conscious of, of how things like this worked.
MW: I think we were much more conscious than the Caucasians were. We didn't have blacks in the school, but I don't know the percentages of Orientals and whites, but we got along pretty good, actually.
TI: Well, when you weren't working at the market or going to school, what were you doing?
MW: We just didn't have a hell of a lot of time. [Laughs] We went from the grammar school... do you know where the Japanese school is now, the building? Central school, we used to walk all the way to the Japanese school.
TI: So the Japanese Language School is on Fourteenth and Weller.
MW: Yeah, and our grammar school was on Seventh and Madison. So it's a good walk. You didn't have time to play around. You had to go from one to the other and it started, whoever the smart guy that started these things, you just had time to get there.
TI: So after school...
MW: So we didn't have much time for play.
TI: Right. How about things like sports? Were you able to do much in sports while growing up?
MW: By growing up, I'm not too sure what age group you were thinking of.
TI: Well, maybe the question I should ask is, when did you start getting involved in sports? Because I know you eventually did.
MW: Well, I guess grammar school they had these soccer teams and little softball teams, and I don't know. At, when you're growing up, size is not that crucial, as when you become six-footers or something. So we were pretty good in soccer, softball, where our sizes were about the same, and I think most of us played for school teams. And we used to have our own little league amongst the grammar schools around the Central area. I forgot how, just how the leagues were set up, but our sports activities were pretty well limited to school sports. And then some of us used to go to Collins Field House, as we grew older.
<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 9>
TI: Well, after Central, what school did you go to?
TI: And how was it going from Central to Broadway? Were there any major differences?
MW: I don't think so, because... I think the percentages of Orientals and Caucasians were (about the same). Maybe there were a few more Caucasians, but all the grammar schools that fit into Broadway High School all had some minority groups. So I know Broadway, we had a lot of Orientals, not too many blacks. (...) The percentages didn't vary that much.
TI: While you were growing up, growing up being through elementary school or Central and then Broadway, can you remember your parents and some of the values that they stressed to you while growing up?
MW: Yeah, well, I think the standard principles that they used to teach us was the old standbys like be honest and study hard. And I'm careful about the language I use, but, you know, it was pretty standard, I think. It was very Japanesey.
TI: What does that mean when you say pretty "Japanesey"?
MW: Study hard, be honest, this type of thing.
<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 10>
TI: How about the role of church as you were growing up. Were you members of a particular church?
MW: Yeah. (We were members of) the Japanese Baptist Church that was on Spruce and Broadway (...). But I thought we were very fortunate because we had some very dedicated Christians who were the Sunday school teachers and (an outstanding) scout master who organized the (youth) activities. (...) A great number of us Niseis (...) went through Sunday School and Boy Scouts. I think we were very lucky to have the leaders that we had.
TI: And can you recall any of the leaders or who headed the church while you were going?
MW: I think the most prominent one, I think Emery Andrews. He was the reverend, but he was also the scoutmaster. In fact, I think they have a couple of scholarships (...) named after him, but there were (also several outstanding) ladies. They had a fujin home, F-U-J-I-N, just a few blocks from church where some (needy) Japanese were housed. (...) And I feel that those that went to Baptist were very fortunate because of the (quality) of these people. But I think every church will tell you the same thing, 'cause it took special people to do what they did.
<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 11>
TI: Now I'm going to jump to, sort of the end of high school. You graduated, I believe in 1941? So June of 1941. At this point, what were your plans? What were you thinking in terms of what you would do with career, work?
MW: Well, at that time I think my only major goal was to go to the U. My older brother was attending and I was hoping somehow that my dad could afford to send me. And I think we all went through the applications and things like this and '41 is a bad year. That's when things like the bombs started coming so it kind of kiboshed the whole idea.
TI: Right. So at the point when you graduated, you were hoping to go to the university. Were you hoping to go in September, in the fall?
TI: To start? And so did you start the university in the fall?
MW: No. I never got to that point, but I had taken exams. And I guess that was through high school, but I was preparing to go.
TI: And so because you didn't start school in September, what were you doing after you graduated from high school?
MW: I went back to the darn market. [Laughs] I worked, I worked at the market, and played hard.
TI: So you were like full-time worker, full-time player.
MW: Yeah. Gee, you know, my memory is kind of dim as to the full-time bit, but I know our activities were usually sports.
TI: Now, you mentioned that your older brother was going to the U at this time. Was there, how did you feel that he was able to go to the university?
MW: And I wasn't?
TI: And you weren't. And it was probably because it was resource-based, that they couldn't send both of you at the same time?
MW: You're pretty young, huh? [Laughs] There is this, there is this Japanese custom of what they call chonan, the eldest son, and they got everything. [Laughs] And I think that was just the way it was. So I don't think there was much, there was, there was no guessing as to who gets what, you know. And he went right to school, whereas the second son -- excuse the term -- takes the crap.
TI: So this was, so it was not unexpected by you that over time that you understand that your older brother would get certain advantages that you wouldn't get?
MW: There was no doubt in my mind. [Laughs]
TI: And so things like even working at the market, he would, he would go to school, and you would have to, more, work at the market?
MW: Yeah. In fact, the weekends were very busy at the market, so that market kind of interrupted my sports activities, 'cause we used to have to work, go to the market after school to get ready for the weekend. Whereas my brother did not. [Laughs] There was...
TI: Do you think it was even more so because your father was a first-born son or the eldest son that he, he followed this rule even more so?
MW: I don't think it was more so. It was just the way it was with the Japanese society.
TI: That's interesting.
MW: I see you're smiling. [Laughs]
TI: I'm the third son. [Laughs]
MW: I know. [Laughs]
<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 12>
TI: Well, while you were working at the market in December of that year, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. What was your reaction when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
MW: You know, that's very interesting, 'cause you know where I was? I had taken up skiing and we had -- gee, we had some... the Japanese community was pretty close. And while most of us, at that age we didn't have cars or anything, we used to go down to the Japantown or Nihonmachi, and there was always a couple of restaurants where guys used to gather, to get the ones who were going up to the hills. And there was a bunch of us that were still students, very young, and we had the nerve to take our skis, go down there, and bum a ride. I shouldn't say "bum," it sounds bad. But we knew the guys who skied and it was a certain amount of camaraderie.
TI: So this was a group of Japanese Americans that would get together?
MW: That skied.
TI: Where would you go? When you say the "hills," up to a place like Snoqualmie?
MW: Well, we went to Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie, but on December 7th we were up at Mt. Rainier, and we got the news while we were skiing down the hill. [Laughs] And, boy, it was a lot of sad faces, you know, wondering what the heck is going to happen. But, here we cut our ski day short.
TI: And how did you hear while you were skiing down the hill?
MW: I think it was a ranger that came up. And after a certain amount of time, you know, you get to know the people, and they told us that, "Hey, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." And, gee, we just... well, it was sad news for us.
TI: What was the reaction of the people --
MW: All over?
TI: -- yeah, around you when you first heard?
MW: It might not have been as severe as it was to us, but, boy, we hadn't thought much of it, so... I know it hit me hard. I was wondering, "What's going to happen now?" But we came right off the hill, got ready to go home. And, gee, in those days when you pay for a day's pass, it was unheard of to cut your ski short. [Laughs] You know, it was, it was hard, but we sure did.
TI: But when you got back to Seattle, what did you go do?
MW: Well, we were just wondered what's everybody going to do?
TI: So what did you find when you came back to Seattle? Were people talking about it...
MW: Nervous, yeah...
TI: ...or were they all at home, or what was going on?
MW: I'm having a hard time trying remember the details, but I know most of the people went home and just worried about it, I think.
<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 13>
TI: How about your family? When you went to your house, your parents, what was their reaction?
MW: It's hard to recall at this time. I just, I knew how we felt and I don't know. It's hard for me to recall my parents' reaction.
TI: Well, how were you feeling, because fairly shortly after the bombing, the FBI came through and started picking up some of the, primarily Isseis. What was going through your mind as this was happening? And was your father also picked up, I believe?
MW: Yes, he was. [Laughs] And I had a hard time with that.
TI: So was your father picked up immediately? Right after the, that Sunday?
MW: (...) The Public Market, the Japanese group (...) were big enough where they were considered a part of the community family, so that the Pike Place Market elders were always a part of the community, the Chamber of Commerce, and the school board. They always had representatives and my dad was one of those.
TI: So this is within the Japanese community that you had the Japanese Language School, the various associations.
MW: The merchants had representatives, the market -- Pike Place Market -- had representatives, etcetera, and my dad happened to represent the market.
MW: So he was deeply involved in the chamber and school board and things like that. So he was... I wasn't surprised he was picked up right away.
TI: And how did you feel about that, when your father was picked up?
MW: I was very unhappy about it and I don't want to say I scuffled with the FBI, but we had words. We were wondering why he was picked up.
TI: So you challenged, you were challenging the FBI?
MW: I don't want to say "challenge" that means more than...
TI: But you questioned the FBI?
MW: I questioned it. That's a much better way of putting it.
TI: And what was the reaction of the FBI having this eighteen-year-old boy question what they were doing?
MW: They didn't... [laughs]. I don't recall. And I don't think he shoved me around or anything, but he had his job and they were very good at it -- [laughs] -- very experienced. But it was a traumatic moment. And my mother wasn't all that well, so I think that kind of compounded my concern.
TI: And was your older brother also there when...?
MW: He wasn't there when the FBI came. It was... I don't know. It was a very traumatic thing.
TI: And did you know where they were taking your father at that point?
MW: No, I did not. All I knew was they were picking up a lot of people. I found out later. You know, you call around. It was an odd, odd period of my life.
<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 14>
TI: Was it really -- I imagine it was very difficult for your mother and your other brothers and sisters who were there when this happened.
MW: Yeah. My older sister and younger sister were there and I know my mother was -- well, it was... well, she was kind of sickly at that time, so I don't know if it hit her as bad, or worse, than us.
TI: Well, with your father being taken away from the FBI, what happened to the business?
MW: Well, we -- it was, I guess you would call it distress sales or anything, but something like that. We had to sell the few things that we had, like the trucks and equipment. Initially, I don't know how much time we had, but I do know we were selling our cars.
TI: And you say "we." I mean, who had to take that responsibility of selling?
MW: Well, I like to think my older brother. [Laughs]
TI: And he did or you'd like to just think? [Laughs]
MW: [Laughs] He did.
MW: But I think I probably told him to get off his behind a couple of times.
<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 15>
TI: But let's jump now to the Puyallup Assembly Center, or what people have named "Camp Harmony."
MW: That was a hell of a good name.
TI: Do you remember going to Puyallup and what it was like?
MW: Hey, I was a high school graduate. I sure remember.
TI: And what was it like?
MW: Are we on camera?
TI: Yes, we're on camera.
MW: Oh, my God. [Laughs]
TI: [Laughs] That's okay. So what was sort of your impressions of Puyallup when you got there?
MW: I had been to Puyallup a few times when it was the fairgrounds of Western Washington. Little did I know that I would replace the pigs and the cows and that type of stuff, you know, 'cause they, they restructured the fairgrounds and the parking lots into these temporary hovels. And they had a hell of a lot of nerve calling it "Camp Harmony." But, anyway, it was... boy, it was a real traumatic type of living, where you're in the former stalls where the pigs and the cows and everything else were. Temporary shacks, just the walls were so many feet off the ground, and families of six and seven were crowded into one little spot. I think intentionally, I forgot a lot of "Camp Harmony." I hate to use the word "harmony," but it was just not a very good experience.
TI: How were you, what were you thinking? I mean, you were a high school graduate and so you had learned a lot in your civics courses and history courses about the United States Constitution and all those things. What was going through your mind as this was happening to you, a United States citizen?
MW: Well, in retrospect I can say a lot about that, but I just... I just felt that all this liberty and crap was all crap. You know, it just, you read so much about democracy and all this and it was a real eye-opener to see what could happen to citizens and what does citizenship mean. 'Cause it just bothered the heck out of me to think that I tried to be a good citizen and, man, they are tossing me into joints like this. I didn't like it. I can't imagine anybody liking it or having positive images of being locked up.
<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 16>
TI: And your family had another hardship. You mentioned earlier your mother was ill, and I believe earlier you mentioned that I think she had a stroke? Is that...?
TI: And so how was the medical care for her at Puyallup?
MW: I don't know if there was any care for her. I think the family pretty well took care of... well, she was an invalid in some ways, and luckily, for me, I had a older sister that took care of her. But it's hard to try to imagine how hard it was for my mother. And it's... I recall she had a rough time, but I think she was sick enough where she wasn't that sure of where she was or... it was a very rough time.
TI: And we haven't talked much about your younger brother and sister. How, what were their reactions?
MW: Well, I guess my first response would be they were young enough not to feel as sensitive as we did, and... I don't know. It's hard to interpret what they might have been thinking, 'cause they were just staying with the family and that was it.
<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 17>
TI: And while you were at Puyallup, I mean, then they decided to send people to Minidoka. What was your reaction about going to another place, in Idaho?
MW: Well, you don't know what's going to happen or where you're going to go. What the hell was Minidoka, Idaho to me? And I just... my older brother volunteered to be one of the lead groups that went to Minidoka first, to prepare the area for our coming. So I don't know. I just didn't have much thought after that. I just figured, boy, they were treating us like dogs and we just have to live with it.
TI: And what was your reaction when you first got to Minidoka? What was it like?
MW: Well, I don't know how I should answer it, because it wasn't very nice. You know, it's wide open and fences and barbed wires. And quite frankly, I just thought, "What the hell is this?" Just... I know it irked me tremendously. I don't like guard towers or gates. It just... how would you feel?
TI: I'm sure it was very difficult.
MW: Very same. [Laughs] It was very difficult and some of the areas had two rows of barbed wire, and I thought, "Jesus, enough is enough."
TI: And how about your friends, the ones that you went to high school with? What were their reactions?
MW: I can't help but feel they all felt the same way I did, 'cause I don't think I was any different from the other guys. I don't know. I just... thorough disgust. I just didn't like it, but there was nothing we could do. Ask me something else. It's a hell of a subject. [Laughs]
TI: No, I know.
<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 18>
TI: We're at Minidoka. And, through Puyallup and parts of Minidoka, there was a period of time where the military did not want Japanese Americans to fight. And I wanted to get your thoughts about that, because here you were, you were sort of old enough to serve in the military and yet the military didn't want you. What were your, your thoughts during this period about fighting?
MW: Boy, that's a loaded question. It's very difficult to answer, because you grow up thinking you're a citizen, and you want to be a part of this society you're in, and then the, let's say the weight of the rejection, is something that was pretty unexpected. But when reality sets in, like the "Camp Harmony" and these little shacks in Minidoka, then real negative things start coming to your head, you know. "What the hell is this?" And it, I think it bothered a lot of us tremendously. You try to be a good citizen, you try to do what you're supposed to be doing, and the rejection is very hard, difficult.
TI: Well, eventually the government decided to allow Niseis to volunteer for service. What was your reaction when that happened?
MW: Well, initially, I was wondering, "What the hell is this?" I think those of us who did react to it positively, I think we did the right thing. And to this day -- well, regardless of what people think -- I think we did the right thing in volunteering after being kicked in the butt.
TI: Why do you think so? What makes you think that that was the right thing to do?
MW: Because, gee, if you're going to live here, you've got to be a part of society. You've got to do what is expected of you. And I had no problem volunteering. I don't know which was worse: being locked up in camp or going off to war. In my mind, barbed wires aren't very, very inviting, being penned up where you're just -- I guess we were too independent. I just didn't like being cooped up and looking at barbed wires and guard towers. That just wasn't for me.
TI: What was the reaction of your parents when you decided to volunteer?
MW: Quite frankly, see, my dad was already gone and my mother was an invalid, so...
TI: And when you say your father was gone, he was still -- he had not been reunited with the family yet?
MW: No, not yet. He was down in New Mexico, Santa Fe or something. So there was no "reaction" in the family.
<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 19>
TI: How about your older brother and older sister? What did they, what did they think?
MW: Nobody gave me any criticism or anything, 'cause there was a bunch of us that used to play ball together and stuff, and we kind of talked it over and quite of few of us volunteered. I don't know if you're -- well, from your interviews you are kind of familiar with the parts of Minidoka, Block 17 and Block 19 and stuff. I was in Block 17, so there were quite a few of us from Block 17 that used to play ball together. And, gee, I would say without exception just about all of us volunteered. Not because we were sheep, but we just talked it over and thought, "Gee, why not?"
TI: Was that kind of the case where certain groups volunteered and certain groups didn't volunteer?
MW: I would say that's correct, in a way, but it's kind of difficult to say because we had the so-called "no-no" boys, but they weren't in my block, and they were congregated down in the lower side. And, well, you know like Bako and John Kawaguchi and Augie Aratani and there was a bunch of us that played ball together. And without exception, we all volunteered. So I don't think I was any different than anybody else. Or the ones that I played with.
TI: Did the decision to volunteer change the sort of the relationships that you had with people who didn't volunteer? Was there a, sort of a...?
MW: No, because at that time I don't recall where we were brought together as groups. I mean, there were a few of the -- gee, I hate to use the word "no-nos" -- but the ones who didn't volunteer. I guess there were a few in some of the leagues or the teams that we played with or against. So by and large, most of the fellows that I played with, gee, I guess the vast majority volunteered who were of age.
<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 20>
TI: Well, after you volunteered, what happened next? I mean, what, what...
MW: Well, we took that joyful ride to Camp Shelby, where we were inducted in Fort Douglas.
TI: But you, you were inducted in various groups, and I believe you were in a later group...
TI: ...that went there. So there was some period of waiting between the point you volunteered and that you were inducted.
MW: Right. We all volunteered at the same time, but they separated us into different groups, and I think the first ones went in the summer, and the later groups went in the fall.
TI: And what were you doing in that period in the summer...
TI: ...while you were waiting?
MW: [Laughs] Couple of us in the later, in the later groups, we got out of camp and went to a wheat farm, to wait for being, for gettin' called. That's when I went with Shiro Kashino.
TI: And so the two of you were, had volunteered, you were out of Minidoka. And while you were waiting for induction you were working up at wheat farms --
TI: -- together.
<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 21>
TI: What was that like? What was Shiro like?
MW: Well, he's an entirely different story. I'm sure you got a lot of viewpoints of him. And he was a little older than I, so when we were in Seattle, we knew each other, but not as well as we did when we got into the army. He was an individual. Quite a character, tough. And we had a good time.
TI: There was one story you told me and I'm not sure exactly if it was at the point you volunteered or the point where you were inducted at Douglas, was he had to take an eye exam.
MW: Oh, God, that was when we went to Fort Douglas. I forgot how many were in our group, but we had a couple of guys that were, I would say, legally blind. And there was one test that you have to take 'cause you're -- optometry or eye, eyesight. We had two guys waiting in line to take the test, and if you can imagine, they both faced the wrong wall. I mean, it was ridiculous. But I was behind Shiro. I knew he had a rough time, so I kind of steered him right, and I think the examiners knew what was going on.
TI: So when you say you "steered him right," how did you exactly do this? What did you do?
MW: Well, I made sure I was behind him, and I would whisper to him, "E, F," -- [laughs] -- "G, H," and, you know.
TI: Because there was no way that Shiro could pass an eye exam.
MW: Aw, hell. He could hardly see the wall.
TI: But you thought the eye examiner knew this, that this was going on?
MW: I can't help but think they knew something, 'cause... or I thought my voice was low enough, but I'm sure they knew.
TI: And this was something because Shiro wanted to be, to volunteer.
MW: Oh, yeah. He convinced me he wanted to go down. An interesting side light is, I think there was -- I forgot just where the Marines were or the Special Services. We were at Fort Douglas and there was a special call for volunteers to go into the Marine Corps, and -- [laughs] -- Shiro and I were thinking, we thought, "Well, why not? You get more money." [Laughs] They rejected us, but we did try to get in.
TI: I didn't realize they were, they were -- so they were recruiting Japanese Americans for the Marines?
MW: No, not Japanese Americans.
TI: But anyone out of Fort Douglas?
MW: Yeah. At Fort Douglas they were recruiting, we had heard.
TI: And were you rejected because you were Japanese Americans?
MW: Well, I can't think of another good reason.
TI: That's interesting.
MW: It was just a plausible reason. Just made a lot of sense to me.
TI: But then during that period before Fort Douglas, you and Shiro, by working, I guess, with the wheat farms and things like that, became pretty close?
MW: Yeah. Unfortunately, we had to sleep together for a period. [Laughs]. But yeah, we worked together, ate together. We spent time together.
TI: I realize this is a little bit of a tangent talking about Shiro, but a lot has been said and written about him and a lot has been written about him as a soldier. And what I'm curious about is, sort of, him as a person and some of his characteristics. How would you sort of describe Shiro and the type of person he was?
MW: I thought he was very special, and it's not because of his wartime experiences. To use a lousy term, he was "straight arrow." He was very true to his word. You could trust him. He was tough. Unfortunately, he didn't back down from anything, but that was his nature. He was that way. He was a true blue... he was a good friend, very trustworthy.
TI: When you say he wouldn't back down, can you think of any examples, not necessarily in the military, but examples where he wouldn't back down?
MW: Oh, yeah. I could think of several instances where he was ready to go to combat or fight or anything if he thought he was right. He was true blue, I think. You know, for the lack of a better word, I think he was just a damn good citizen.
<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 22>
TI: Now, after Fort Douglas you went to Camp Shelby. What was Camp Shelby like?
MW: Before Camp Shelby, you know, because we came from camp, they gave us a little pass. Very generous -- [laughs] -- but Shiro and I took a little trip to Chicago and New York. And it took a lot of guts. We just had a few dollars and, boy, we sure made it stretch. But there were a lot of USOs, and I don't know, I got sick of donuts and coffee and all this, but there were always a few people from camp who relocated in Chicago and New York and D.C., so we had places to stay. We had a good little trip.
TI: Any outstanding memory during that little trip?
MW: Little leave? No, I had no outstanding memories other than we sure stretched a few dollars. We had a good time.
TI: Okay, so going to Camp Shelby... I mean, in particular I guess what I'm interested in is a lot has been written about the tensions between the Hawaiians, the Japanese Americans from Hawaii, and the Japanese Americans from the mainland, and that there was even some talk at one point of disbanding the 442 because of all the infighting. You came in a little bit later to Fort Shelby -- or Camp Shelby. What did you see happening at Camp Shelby when you and Shiro got there?
MW: Well, mine is just one opinion, okay, but I think being in one of the last groups, a lot of the friction had already gone on for several months. And I heard stories and, you know, wondering what went on. But I was assigned to Company L and I thought -- it didn't take me long to figure out why the feelings were such. And I never discussed it with too many people, but the more I think about it, I think my observations were really good, or solid. And this was because I think I was in a platoon where a couple of the cadre were sleeping by me and, I guess there were three mainland guys in our hut, out of the many others. And I got to know my buddies quite well, and we discussed this, and we, nobody in our platoon, or our, the mainlanders in our hut were involved in any fights or anything like this. But it was very clear to me after a very short time why this happened. At the time the war came on, there were a lot of these older Niseis that were already drafted, and they had been sent from camp to camp -- this is long before 442 was formed -- and they had gone through several recruit schools and training, and they had to do the same thing with each transfer. And when the 442 was formed, who formed the cadre? It's these guys who have already been through all this crap time and time again, so...
TI: And for my benefit, the cadre is sort of like the sergeants, or the...?
MW: Yeah, the ones that run the recruit schools and train the recruits. And they had gone through all these chicken -- I'll watch my language, but the real funny ways of installing discipline and making people, gigging them for different things. So that these recruiting sergeants that we got, the older Niseis, they trained -- they were in the training bracket. They trained the Hawaiians and the mainlanders the same way they were trained, so they had to institute the same sorts of chicken things. And I could see where the Hawaiians and the Niseis got very, very tired of this. How could he be such a manini, you know, and treat us the same way? And the Hawaiians thought they were being picked on, but this was the way these Niseis were trained. They were just installing what, what they knew about training and training recruits, that they wanted to pass on to us.
TI: So a lot of the tension that, that you saw wasn't necessarily a mainland/Hawaii thing...
TI: ...it was more the Hawaiians reacting primarily to...
TI: ...these older Niseis who were in the military longer.
TI: Who were sort of training in a way that the Hawaiians didn't appreciate.
MW: Well, that -- they were training them in the same way they were trained.
MW: So it was nothing different. It's just that I don't think the awareness was there that this was the old army way. You know, deprive people of passes or make them go and wash dishes if you screwed up a little. And, gee, it was so obvious to me, as a latecomer.
<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 23>
TI: Then how did, how did it change? Because eventually the group did become more cohesive.
MW: Oh, yes.
TI: So what changed to make it different?
MW: I don't think there was that big a change as the understanding of what went on and how the older recruit sergeants treated the mainlanders the same way that some of the Hawaiians were treated. Like, I would get gigged for two days or something, and I wasn't a Hawaiian. I mean, you know, I was a good soldier. I never got gigged. [Laughs] But it was, I think the longer it went on, it was obvious to them that the recruit sergeants weren't picking on just one group.
TI: And for you, who, you weren't a cadre, you were just another soldier...
MW: I was a low, low, recruit, yeah.
TI: So, so you got along really well with the Hawaiians.
MW: Oh, yeah, right from the beginning. In fact, there were only three mainlanders in our whole hut, and I can't recall real, any harsh words or people challenging anybody. We worked well as an unit.
TI: Because a lot has been said about culturally there was a large difference between the mainlanders and Hawaiians, and what I'm hearing from you is that perhaps there wasn't that much difference.
MW: I don't think so. And to me the obvious thing is, like those Isseis or the first-generations, those Japanese that migrated to the U.S. or Hawaii were all from the same areas in Japan, plus Okinawa. But they had the same upbringing regardless of where they were from so that they were taught the same way as Niseis here or Niseis in Hawaii. So there were a lot more similarities than differences, and I think it really showed after. That we got along so well so quickly, because we were from the same, what? Ilk?
TI: And how long were you at Camp Shelby?
MW: Eight months, something like that. I'm not too sure of when we first -- it was a little more than that.
TI: And so during this period you were, you got closer and closer with...
MW: Oh, yeah. Training and eating and sleeping together, you can't help but get close. I think it would take very different individuals not to get along.
TI: And in your area, the majority of the men were from Hawaii?
MW: Oh, yeah.
TI: Was that pretty much true for all the...
MW: Oh, yeah.
TI: ...various platoons? That they were mostly Hawaiian, and then there was mainlanders sort of sprinkled in the mix.
MW: Yeah. I think in most cases. See, they were the... well, we were the last ones to come in, so they were just filling in. So I think most of the companies were the same way.
<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 24>
TI: Quite a few people from Seattle and Minidoka volunteered, and they were sort of scattered all around. Were there instances or times when you tried to get together, the Seattle people?
MW: Not so much during recruit school or our training, because we were so busy, on bivouacs and, gee, these training deals, maneuvers. So we never had occasion to get together. But whenever we could, we sure got together. I think from the old days, we... there was a certain amount of togetherness of those of us from Minidoka or Seattle and the valley.
TI: How about just like games, sporting events like football or basketball, because I know there was quite a few good athletes from Seattle who went into the 442. Was there occasions when they would get together and play against like the California team or a Hawaiian team?
MW: Yeah, we... okay. The free time was very limited in camp. We were so busy getting the basic training and maneuvers. But a good example is when we first got to Italy. We had more free time. And whenever possible, the Seattle guys -- we knew who was in which company, we'd get together. And we had our own baseball teams and football teams, and we had a bunch of pretty good athletes. Most of 'em were high school lettermen and quite a few good athletes. And we had pretty good games with the Hawaiians or Californians or something like this.
TI: And was it pretty common when you were forming these teams in Italy that, like a city like Seattle would have a team, and there'd be a, possibly a Portland team or a San Francisco team, L.A. team?
MW: No. It was not common, if that was the word you used.
MW: Whenever possible we used to let some of the Portland guys play with us -- [laughs] -- and it was more mainland versus Hawaii if -- we didn't have too many chances overseas.
TI: But it sounds like the Seattle group was particularly close in things like this.
MW: Whenever we got together, or whenever we had breaks. I don't know. There was a special way we knew where A Company was or B Company was or L or K. We used to get together, go to town together. There was a camaraderie of sorts because of our upbringing.
<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 25>
TI: Okay, I'm going to back up just a little bit. Going from Camp Shelby and then going to Europe, you took some ship transport across the Atlantic. And as you were getting close to, to docking in Europe, what kinds of things were going through your mind as you were getting closer and closer to Europe?
MW: Well, from my viewpoint, I guess the experience with the 100th Battalion pretty well spelled out where we were going and when. So nothing caught me off guard, or caught us off guard.
TI: Because you had the experiences of the 100th, to sort of give you sort of, advance thinking.
MW: A preview of where they were going to use us and how.
TI: And how did you keep track of what the 100th was doing?
MW: Because there were so many relatives between the 100th and the 442, and the 100th took a severe beating the first couple of months in Italy. And they broke up -- to the point where they broke up a part of 442 to replace those that were in the 100th. That's where your uncle and some of the Seattle boys preceded the rest of us. They were replacing those that the 100th lost.
TI: And when you landed in Europe, what was the scene? I mean, was it -- what was going on when you guys first landed in Europe and you first set foot in Europe? What was that like?
MW: Well, it was, I would say, quite a baptism. We didn't have much free time. We landed in Naples and we took subchasers up to Uverta Anzio, right before Anzio, and we set foot right on the upper reaches of Anzio. And before we knew it, we had planes swooping down on us. It was quite a dramatic introduction to war. It was rough.
TI: So right away you started fighting? Was that...
MW: No, it was more air. So there wasn't like ground-to-ground fighting. But we knew there was some bad guys up there trying to shoot at us. It was pretty depressing.
TI: I imagine frightening, also.
MW: Oh, yeah.
TI: This was not training anymore, this was the real thing.
MW: We got a quick introduction as to what war is about.
<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 26>
TI: And that's the thing, as we talk about this, think about the viewers of the tape and me, and that we really don't have much or any experience with weapons, or guns, or the types of things that you went through. And so when I ask you these questions, there might be times when I may ask for a little more detail, because this is something that's very, very hard for me to even imagine, some of the things that you went through. But now as we go forward, why don't you sort of talk a little bit about your first, I guess, taste of fighting and what that was like.
MW: Well, our initiation and our battle plans and structure of the platoons and the squads were pretty well like our training. We were good soldiers. But as we progressed, it changed to a point where... a good example would be what we called the German burp gun. It was a lot faster, and a lot easier, lighter. It was a lot better suited for close infighting, whereas some of the American weapons were more for longer distances. And they had more poop, but in close fighting, you didn't need all that velocity. So I think a lot of it was experience as we went along for what, what was required for that battle that we were going into. There was a time when we started carrying machine pistols, which were German, lighter machine guns, or whatever. So I think we were pretty, not creative, but just a lot of common sense as to what we needed for this battle or that battle.
<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 27>
TI: And what was the impact when, when people that you knew or grew up with were killed in action? An example, we talked a little bit about Bako Kinoshita and John Kawaguchi, who actually went to the 100th. But then they were, early on, killed in action. What impact did that have on you and the other Seattle boys who were there?
MW: Well, it, when... well, see John was killed with the 442. Bako was killed with the 100th. But I think it really... well, reality set in on, you know, when somebody you knew quite well all your life, you start losing them. And things get a lot more serious and grimmer on that type of realization. 'Cause, gee, they were real good friends. You played ball with them. You go to school with them. I think it was very difficult. I don't know. I think, like a odd way to say it is, we were more determined to get together in between battles.
TI: When you say "get together," the Seattle...?
MW: Yeah, the Seattle group or the Northwest group. We went to extra pains to get together.
TI: And I want to try to understand why you felt an extra special reason to get together. Was that to support each other?
MW: I think so. I think it was support, and, I don't know. It's more reminiscent of family and things when you do get together with friends who know your brothers or sisters or something. And the few letters that we got, we would exchange what happened to who. I think that's kind of a closeness that's very hard to describe intelligently.
TI: When you did get together after, say one of the Seattle boys were killed, generally what -- did you guys talk about that or how did you deal with that?
MW: I don't think we spent too much time talking about it or worrying about it. We just instinctively knew that, hey, life is pretty -- pretty screwed up. If you get it, you get it. But then from my perspective, it was just a matter of making the best use of the time that you did have together.
<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 28>
TI: There is one incident that we talked about earlier, when, I believe it was after Kawaguchi and Kinoshita were killed, that when the Seattle group was together, one of you had a copy of the Minidoka Irrigator that talked about some of the things that were going on in camp. And in particular it talked a little bit about the men back in camp who decided not to go into the military. Can you talk a little bit about that?
MW: I was afraid you'd bring that up. I think what made it rough for us was... we called 'em the "no-no" boys, but we knew most of them quite well, and they were friends. And the timing, I guess more than anything else, was here we're losin' -- it was not just Bako and John, but there was (Isao Okazaki, Bill Nakamura, Sat Kanzaki,) Matt Tanaka, and a lot of real good friends that we lost. Here the Minidoka is listing those who went to camp prison or something. It was tough from one extreme to the other, and how do you weigh something like that, two entirely opposite philosophies. And I'm sure they thought they were doing what they thought was right, and we sure thought what we were doing was right. So it's just two opposite philosophies that were not melding together. So it's hard to say. I knew at the time we were (...) (very bitter, and mad).
TI: I can understand.
MW: It's just a matter of, "Gee, what these guys did was so much." And then it's negated by a few guys, "no-nos" or something. It was just too much.
TI: Was that pretty much the sentiment of the whole group?
MW: Yes, I think if you judged from what everybody was saying, it was pretty common what we were thinking. It was tough.
<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 29>
TI: Sort of switching gears here a little bit.
MW: Be careful. Geez. [Laughs]
TI: [Laughs] I know. We'll switch gears here. We, you've been talking about the closeness of Seattle boys. And in a similar way, I want you to talk a little bit about the closeness of just the 442. Because, as we talked about earlier, it came across that the 442 was a very special unit. And what I'm trying to do is get a sense of what made it special. And so I want to get some of your thoughts about what made the 442, and primarily the men who served in the 442, a special group.
MW: You ask very easy questions. This is pretty deep, because, I think I mentioned before, that my conclusion or my review of what went on and the relationships goes right back to the Isseis and where they were from, and what they were teaching their kids regardless of whether they were in Seattle or Hawaii or whatever. And I think the growing up from the same mold made it so much easier for us to get together so much faster. There was nothing mysterious about some of the philosophies or, you know, "Oh, God, that's what my dad used to tell me," or something. It was very, very easy in my way of thinking for us to get together.
TI: And so this commonness, how did that sort of manifest, or show itself on the battlefield? I mean, what were some sort of things that would happen that, because of that closeness that might have been different than other units?
MW: To show it? [Laughs] I think I guess the best way I can explain it for myself is, you've heard of these scary patrols and things. You know, combat, recon patrols. And I can't ever recall going on one where I didn't have faith in the Hawaiian or mainlander in front of me or in back of me, if something happened to me, that they would somehow get me back or do everything they can do to help. Regardless of where they were from. And I think that's the kind of trust that you, that's very hard to explain.
TI: And you felt the same way, that if one of your buddies went down...
MW: Or Hawaiian, yeah.
TI: ...you would do everything to help.
MW: It didn't matter to me, Buddhahead or not. In fact, I had the experience of being between two guys -- we had volunteered to go get some ammo and food -- and one was a Hawaiian and one was a mainlander. And I was in the middle. They both got hit so it was my (decision as to who I take first. We were still quite a ways from the aid station) and the only thought that came in my mind at that time was not Hawaiian or mainlander, but who was hit the worse. And I like to think that that's just the way the rest of the guys felt. You know, who needed the help initially. I think this closeness came real fast.
TI: Because it is extraordinary. The 442 is the most highly decorated unit for the period of time, for that short a of period of time. And so I'm just trying -- because as I read and hear more about it, it sort of falls along with what you were saying. Because oftentimes, men would put their lives at risk to really help others, or because their unit was threatened, they would do things to take it out of action and so...
MW: What's your question? As to...
MW: How come they did this?
TI: Yeah, there wasn't a question there. I guess, that was just an observation in my...
MW: I'm going to respond with an observation. Okay. There were quite a few times when we were on patrols, and it used to shock me that we would see a Caucasian soldier here or we would pick up a black soldier here. And the impression that I had was they just took off. You never heard about that about the Buddhaheads. We went in together or we came out together. I mean, we didn't -- gee, like in the Vosges Mountains or something. Boy, we picked up a lot of these stragglers, and I can't recall when we picked up a 442 guy or a 100th guy. Something about us that we went in together or came out together. We didn't just leave guys flat. I think, at least that's an indication or if that tells you something. It sure tells me something.
TI: No, I...
MW: There is a lot of trust. And, well, I think you depend on each other, but you can depend on 'em.
TI: That's good.
MW: I hope that's an answer.
TI: No, that is. That's very good.
<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 30>
TI: Just some background information. In your platoon, what was your role? What role did you play in the platoon?
MW: Well, I transferred from one platoon to another, and I started off as an ammo carrier for motor squad, and then I transferred to a rifle squad as a BAR man. And I think after the first several months, we weren't as closely defined as this first scout or BAR or whatever, we... like up in the Vosges, we did a lot to pick up machine pistols or something, and our little squad might have three machine pistols and one BAR. I had a BAR, but as powerful as they were, oh, just a little dirt or water, they would jam up. I mean, they were too heavy and cumbersome, whereas the machine pistols were very light.
TI: And these were the German machine pistols that you would pick up?
MW: That we picked up. And we had our submachine guns, you know, our .45s, and I don't know. We became ordinance men. [Laughs] We would pick up things and if it suited us, we'd use 'em.
TI: So pretty soon in the course of the war, you would have...
MW: Different weapons.
TI: ...a lot more fire power and different weapons than you were first issued when you first got there.
MW: Like I remember we'd leave things with the headquarters, which was back with jeeps and everything, and go pick 'em up if we needed 'em. So it was kind of a flexible thing. It wasn't cut and dried, like training. Like in Italy, when we first started, I guess this is a good explanation. The fighting was from hill to hill, and in the Vosges it was from tree to tree. You know, it's a world of difference, the type of fighting. And so you can't use the training from one to suit the other. So I think we were observant enough to do what had to be done or the best way of doing it. Does that explain it?
TI: Yeah, it does.
<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 31>
TI: When you think of both Italy and France, was there a particular battle or mission that you participated in that sort of sticks out in your memory as being memorable, anything about either...?
MW: Gee, there was quite a few. But like when you say memorable, you mean the most effect that it might have had?
TI: Well, let's start with you personally. I mean, that affected you most personally. And then we can talk about some of the other battles that were perhaps strategic in the sense of history.
MW: Okay. I'll give you a little example of both. Up in the Vosges, here we were armed with these little sub-machine guns and machine pistols. And, oh, first you have to understand there is different types of patrols -- combat patrols, recon patrols -- and we were on a reconnaissance patrol. But our squad was down to like seven or eight. And I think we had an idea of where the Germans were. So we kind of circled it and we were trying to find out where, which way to go. And lo and behold we came on a company, a whole company, of German soldiers eating lunch, of all things.
TI: And how large would a company be approximately?
MW: Well, like our company was roughly 200 soldiers. I think they were down to about 150 or 140, something like that. But I think both Germans and Americans were down quite a bit in the Vosges. We were down to maybe six or seven to a squad. But we saw them and they were talking and having lunch, and we got our positions just in case something happened. But in that particular case, I know our lieutenant, or the squad leader, felt, "Gee, we can't be attacking them." They had so many more. But we had taken the positions.
TI: Well, I was just doing the rough math. I mean, about 140 of them and about seven or eight of you, it's about a twenty-to-one difference.
MW: Gee, you're pretty sharp. [Laughs]
TI: And so...
MW: Yeah. We thought, gee, the odds weren't too good. Even if they were sitting on their helmets eating lunch. You can only do so much. We were on a recon patrol, reconnaissance patrol, not a combat patrol, so the function of the patrol itself precluded us really from attack.
<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 32>
TI: Now, on a recon patrol like that, were you stocked with pretty much the heavy fire power that you talked about earlier?
MW: Well, we had about the same. The squad size was about the same, but our fire power was dependent on the terrain of what we took. We were pretty sharp soldiers -- [laughs] -- and I think you can say we were geared for where we were going more than the standard so many riflemen, so many BARs. Much more flexible in those days.
TI: And when you were taking your position and you were there waiting, what was going through your mind? Did you think that you were going to fire upon the German company, or what were you thinking?
MW: Well, personally I think I always felt, if we go in, where would I want to be? Or what would I want to have, as far as protection, or escape routes, or whatever. You start thinking pretty fast in those situations. So I had taken a position where I thought I would have the best chance, if we had to do something. Does that answer your question?
TI: Yeah. Well, in your mind -- I'm thinking you're outnumbered twenty-to-one, even though you have a better position, whether... I was just trying to understand. What goes through somebody's mind? Is it fear? Is it an adrenaline rush? Is it...? What, what feelings or what thoughts are going through your mind at this point?
MW: Gee, that's hard to answer, 'cause at that point in time, I think we were pretty well-trained to do what we were told. I hate to think we were rabbits or something, but all I know is if they thought we should go fire, I'd want to do this or be here. So that I think I was prepared for what was asked of us.
TI: Well, and when you got your order to pull back, can you recall what your feeling was there? Was it one of relief or disappointment, or... what were you thinking at that point?
MW: You ask pretty good questions, you know, trying to... well, I think first of all you look out for yourself, and if it's to, just to retreat or get out of there, all you're really concerned with is your position in the squad. I'll go after him and I'll protect him until he leaves and I can leave. So I guess that's a dumb way of puttin' it, but you get kind of mechanical.
TI: Right. So it's almost like you don't even have time or space to think about yourself. You're thinking about what needs to happen.
MW: Well it's the squad, and I think that's what made us so good. You didn't think only of yourself, but where is my position here? What do I do if this happens? I think we had, as a group, a pretty sharp bunch of guys; and I didn't have to worry too much about the guy in front of me or behind me. I just had faith.
TI: That's a good story. Other battles?
MW: What were you mumbling?
TI: [Laughs] No. I was just thinking about other battles.
<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 33>
TI: We have, you know, the 442 is well-known for the "Lost Battalion" as well as the Gothic Line. In your -- do you have any observations or thoughts about those battles?
MW: Okay. From a very selfish viewpoint, to me we got a lot of honors for going after the Lost Battalion. That was just a matter of mathematics. So many guys went to rescue so many people. Whereas in my mind, that had... that didn't compare at all to what we did on the Gothic Line.
TI: Before we get to the Gothic Line, when you say it was a matter of mathematics at the Lost, battle of the Lost Battalion, what do you mean by that? That you, you just had to have enough people willing to go in there?
MW: Or we had to, say, put so many people at risk to rescue so many.
TI: Because what I should probably just mention to give some background is the casualties the 442 were...
MW: Or the (possible) casualties.
TI: Right, were like four times the number...
MW: Yeah, was it worth it, or...
TI: ...of people that were actually saved in the Lost Battalion.
MW: Then it becomes a, that becomes a mathematical problem. How many guys go in to save so many and how many could be at risk? You know, it's just a matter of numbers.
TI: Well, from your perspective now looking back, when you think of the casualties that were suffered by the 442...
MW: Incurred, yeah.
TI: What are your thoughts about the numbers that, that...
MW: I wish you wouldn't have asked.
TI: ...and the lives really, more than...
MW: That's a tough question to answer. 'Cause I know what I would like to say, but I would hate to say it in front of a camera. Does that give you an answer?
TI: Yeah, that's fine.
MW: I mean, numbers just don't -- they don't match up.
MW: Just wasn't worth it.
<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 34>
TI: Okay. Let's talk about the Gothic Line then. I interrupted you when you were just going to talk about the Gothic Line.
MW: One of the last real combat experiences that I had (was our successful assault on the main fortress of the famous Gothic Line). (A Sansei reporter from) San Francisco and her father returned to the Gothic Line to video -- it was Honor Bound -- (...) where we were. So that would have been the best illustration of where we were. But from my perspective, that was one of the most crucial battles that we had, and the most successful. We breached what was an impregnable defense line in a matter of hours by the way that we climbed up this horrible mountain, and when we reached the top, all the emplacements -- I'm talking about concrete emplacements -- anyway, we were behind 'em. So it was the first time in a long time that we ever attacked downhill. But that was a main fortress of the Gothic Line, Mt. Folgorita and we had breached it to a point where we took the place in a matter of... well, I was going to say minutes, but hours. We broke the line, that part of it, that segment, but that being the heart of the line. It really did a lot of damage to the Germans.
TI: Well, so the Germans were totally unprepared for an attack...
MW: These little Japs coming up from the back.
TI: ...from the back side.
TI: So all their guns were pointed the other direction. Which, yeah, I guess, I'm trying to imagine for them to be so unprepared for the 442 to essentially scale that mountain must have been totally unheard of or unthought of by the Germans.
MW: That's right.
TI: What was it like climbing that mountain?
TI: With approximately how many people? You had three battalions.
MW: Yeah, but then each battalion, the whole battalion isn't fighting at the same time. So you have one company in reserve and then like us, we were one of the lead companies. But even within the company, we had two platoons forward and one platoon back so the organization of a battle was by triangles. And at this point because I kind of pinpointed it as a crucial battle, I'd like to give credit to the Italian partisans. Without them we couldn't have gotten where we did. And they housed us the night before we left, and each squad, practically, had a partisan to lead them up the hill. I mean, they knew the hill back-, I don't think we could have done it without them. They knew the trails and how to get up there and best way and where the Germans were. So with due credit, we did what they had hoped we would do. And that in turn became what I considered the most crucial battle that we had.
<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 35>
TI: Now, going back -- I guess the, so the Italian partisans, helped guide you up the hills. I wanna know, roughly how many soldiers scaled that mountain?
MW: Well, we were one of the lead companies. There were two companies that went up, and each company there's two platoons that lead, and one platoon behind. But, because of the treacherous trails and things, we went up in a single line at times, or two lines at the most. So we didn't go in a battle formation, per se. So it was one squad at a time. It was a real rough climb.
TI: And so a squad is about ten or...?
MW: No, twelve, roughly. Yeah.
TI: Twelve. And roughly how many squads do you think went up in total? I mean, a platoon has what, how many squads?
TI: Three squads.
MW: But then, the trails were so narrow, one squad went up at a time.
MW: I mean, it wasn't like a battlefield, where you can space out people. If you had a small trail, you go one at a time.
TI: Right, right. Were there any, I guess, accidents, going up the hill?
MW: Yeah, I heard of several. And, I say, "I heard of," because I didn't hear them falling down. But there's been several stories of guys who slipped and fell, and I didn't hear 'em. But the medics were talking about, "Gee, this squad, we lost one guy, but we didn't -- nobody heard 'em."
TI: So, literally, they were climbing the mountain...
MW: Oh, yeah.
TI: ...and then they would slip and fall.
TI: To their death? Or injury?
MW: Well, in one case, a guy fell to his death, and then another, he broke a few bones. But we didn't hear a thing. So they were pretty well glamorized, because they were so silent.
TI: As they fell.
MW: I would have probably screamed like hell.
TI: And then when you got to the top, what... I would imagine you would wait for everyone to reach the top.
MW: Yeah, once our squad was intact, got up to the top... I'm gonna, it's a crummy term to use in a war, but, boy, it's the first time we were up above the Germans. And all the gun emplacements were aimed south. We were above 'em, and we attacked 'em when the guns were facing the other way. So we took a couple of emplacements just like that.
TI: 'Cause I imagine the Germans up there had not...
MW: They had no idea we were.
TI: Had no idea. And in some ways, they probably were sitting up there for a long time, just waiting, they weren't really...
MW: Yeah, they were just having a good old time.
TI: ...and so they weren't really, probably, as battle-tested...
MW: They weren't ready, that's right.
TI: ...as you were.
MW: Well, they were veteran troops, but, gee, who would've thought that there'd be a squad coming from the north, you know?
MW: Fantastic, huh?
TI: Yeah, that's amazing. Because that did, that broke the line that, you're right, that had been there for a long time and no one had been able...
MW: That was the bulwark of what they called the Siegfried -- Gothic Line. Which stretched, I don't know how many miles, across Italy, east to west. And Folgorita was probably the highest peak of the row of mountains that constituted the Gothic Line. And once we got past that, you could see the whole Po Valley, and you could even see parts of the Alps, I believe it was. So it was smooth sailing once we got past that. That's why I think it was such a crucial battle.
<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 36>
TI: Earlier you gave credit to the Italian partisans. And I guess what I'm trying to understand is, during the war, Italy was actually aligned with Germany. And yet you had Italians helping the American soldiers. Why was this? What was, why were the Italians helping the American soldiers?
MW: I think they got pretty disenchanted with Mussolini. 'Cause, even after the war, they made a public spectacle out of the places where Mussolini and his mistress were hung, and, you know, things like that. But after the Arno River, I think they were pretty disenchanted with Germany and Italy, the combo. And even within the Italian army, there were divisions on the Fascists and the partisans. Well, basically philosophy. And we were fortunate to -- well, the partisans sought us out. [Laughs]
TI: Well, another question, I was just thinking about your Seattle experience working the market. You worked with Italians.
MW: With Italians? [Laughs]
TI: With Italians around. And then you're in Italy, and whether or not there were any, you know, sort of, thoughts that went through your mind as you thought about that.
MW: Not really. They were two different types of Italians. [Laughs] But I think, I think the association with the Italians here, or anywhere, made you not as foreign. You know, I felt a lot more comfortable, even if I saw 'em and they didn't speak like the Italian friends I had here. But I could cuss with the best of 'em, and you know, I just... I didn't have any problems. But, the thing is, they went so far as to house us in their houses before we went up. You know, they hid us. So, you know, there was a lot -- I don't think we could have done what we did without their help. Is that a good way of putting it?
TI: Yeah, that's good.
<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 37>
TI: Well, the Gothic Line was one of the last battles before the war ended. When the war did end, what were your thoughts when you found out that the war was over? And that you had survived?
MW: Well, finally, that I had survived, but I had a bad leg, after the climb. So that I didn't, I didn't participate in the going up through the Po Valley in trucks. I missed that. [Laughs] I was in the hospital, but my thoughts when I knew that they had gone across Po Valley was, I guess relief. I mean, you know, "it's about time" kind of a thing. That was a very happy day in my life.
TI: And this next question might seem a strange one, but -- because you're in a war -- but, I'm wondering if you had, when you think back to that period in Europe -- were there any fond memories that you can remember? When you think back to the war, whether it's a special moment with your buddies or whatever, but can you think of a...?
MW: Well, I think we who grew up in sports and camaraderie and stuff, maybe we're a little more sensitive on buddies and teams, and things like that. But I think, well, I have fond memories of what I saw in Europe, Italy, whether it was Italy or France. I think it was based on our reputation as a unit that enabled us to become the first to go on some of these tours in Switzerland and... a lot of places opened up to us very quickly, because of our reputation, I think. And gee, we got special passes to France and Switzerland and northern Italy. So I have very fond memories. In fact, I think that's the reason that I ski. I still -- you know, not the last year, but I've gone back to France and Switzerland and Italy, I mean, Austria, quite a few times. And I think it's based on my enjoyment of the physical beauty and the scenery of the Alps. So I've got very, very fond memories.
<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 38>
TI: Right before the break, Mas, we finished up the war. Now we're gonna talk about going to the States. So right now, we're coming back from a break for lunch, and now we're going to continue talking about your life after the war.
TI: So, why don't you talk a little bit, after the war -- when you came back to the States, how did you meet back up with your family?
MW: Am I on camera? [Laughs] We got discharged in Chicago. A bunch of us used one fellow's address. We got discharged in Camp Grant. We thought we'd take advantage of the rail fares. And from Chicago we -- like my family was relocated to Sydney, Nebraska. They were -- ironically, they were sent from Minidoka to an ordinance depot, if you can imagine. There was a little community of people from Minidoka, and prior to my actual discharge, I had written to several schools. 'Cause I though, my only thought was to get back to school. And I found out the folks were living in Nebraska, so I made an application to the University of Nebraska, and also to the UW. But I had taken exams at the UW, and they told me I could come back any time. And I'm gonna give you an interesting incident to me. Right after the war ended, they opened a former Mussolini's training camp, and established a army university. And a lot of us took a little exam, and I went down to this army university, and of all things, there's a famous economics book written by a professor from the University of Pennsylvania. And I signed up -- I was thinking of business, and I signed up for econ., and business law, and accounting. And lo and behold, my teacher in economics was the writer of the books. And I got to know him.
TI: And where was this school? You said this was a military...
MW: This was in Florence.
TI: Florence, Italy?
MW: Italy, uh-huh.
TI: This was after the war?
MW: It was after, right after the war.
TI: Why did the military do this? I'm trying to understand why.
MW: That's a good question. I can't answer that. They... it wasn't a university that was running for a while. And as to the time that they opened it, I don't know. But there were a couple of us from Seattle. We qualified and went there, to Florence. That was a very interesting part of my overseas... it was only for a couple of months, but I enjoyed it, because of the quality of the professors and in fact, I think I got maybe twenty credit hours for it.
TI: And what were the range of courses they had? Economics and business?
MW: Well, I took, like I said, econ., business law and accounting, I think it was.
TI: And these were, like top notch professors from universities?
MW: Well, they're, write out a book. [Laughs]
TI: And you were doing this in Florence, Italy?
MW: In Florence, Italy.
TI: That's interesting.
MW: And that's a nice city. We were there earlier, when we were by the Arno River. And I thought it was a nice, artsy city.
TI: And this was, you were still in the military, so you had not...
MW: We were still in the military, the war had ended.
TI: Okay. This is interesting. Was it an issue of it was hard to get everybody back to the States at one time, so they, the ones who were still...
MW: I think they were still working out the mechanics and the qualifications as to who goes back first. And then I... well, a couple of us made applications and took exams. Fortunately, I was one of the couple taken from our company. And I spent a couple of months there.
TI: What was the reaction, or was there a reaction, when you went to this military school? Were people surprised, or were people pretty much aware of Japanese Americans fighting in Europe? Or were some people surprised when they saw you at this school?
MW: No, I don't think they were, because 442 had a lot of publicity. So I think if you were in the army, or if you were English-reading public, I think you would have been aware of our presence in Italy and France. So I don't think anybody was surprised.
<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 39>
TI: How about the other side? Because you were from the 442, were people more interested in you because of the publicity the 442 received?
MW: I don't know if they were more interested, but right when the war ended, we ended up with, oh, a multitude of prisoners. And they set up a prison camp at a airfield up north, right near the border, in this Po Valley plains. It was a Ghedi, G-H-E-D-I, Ghedi Airport. It's close to the border of Switzerland. We, they established prison camps at Ghedi, and then Via Reggio, which is a pretty well-known resort area. And just like camps in Minidoka, they set up these wire fences and guard towers. And what do you know? We were the guards. [Laughs]
TI: And it looked just like, almost just like Minidoka, the way it was structured?
MW: Yes, a miniature Minidoka.
TI: And did you find that ironic? Did you...
MW: Oh, God, I couldn't stop laughing. I thought, "What the heck is this? What a change." And another funny part of it is that those enterprising soldiers like me, we had the German soldiers, prisoners, come up to watch guard. And they would just warn us if the officers are coming. [Laughs]
TI: So you would have the prisoners watch for you?
MW: Yeah, they were in the towers with us.
TI: Okay. And then, when an officer would come by, they would...
MW: They would get the hell out and just tell us, "Hey, they're coming."
TI: So things were pretty relaxed at that time.
MW: Oh, it was awfully relaxed. But by the same token, I learned German, and we traded magazines. It was educational.
TI: Did you, so did you have any, can you recall any interesting conversations, with, say a German soldier?
MW: No, not really. The one that I used to relieve me was an older, I think he was from Hamburg. But, I don't know, I'd have a hard time picturing him as a soldier. Real mild-mannered guy, like me. He was a very nice gentleman. And we used to trade photos and books and... well, we weren't prison guards very long. Very short time. And then I went to the army school.
<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 40>
TI: Okay. And then you were there for a couple months. And then, and then what happened?
MW: Yeah, a couple months and came back to the company, and then waited for a ship to come home. 'Cause most of us had enough points. So the last several months in Italy was fun. I mean, I enjoyed it.
TI: When your company went back on a ship, what was the mood of the company?
MW: You mean back on the ship coming home?
MW: We all didn't come back together like we went over.
TI: Oh, you didn't. I thought you would go back as, sort of, L Company.
MW: No. But it went, we went back according to points and location. In fact, I came back on a small Liberty Ship. And our quarters, unlike the five-layer beds, we stayed in the quarters where the gunners for the Liberty Ships were. So there were just a few bunks in a room. And we were mid-ship. And it would have been nice, much nicer, but we got home in November. So it was rough seas and little Liberty Ships, you know? You're rockin' all over the place. In fact, it took us an extra long time to get home. We got blown off course several times. It was... very interesting.
TI: Other than a rough ship ride, what was the mood coming back? Were you guys pretty, all pretty excited to come back to the States?
MW: Well, we were gettin' very impatient, because it was taking us so long. And these small ships didn't have the power to go through the... like most of the fellows came home in big transports, that didn't, weren't affected too much by the weather. But I happened to catch a Liberty Ship, and you know how small they were. Took us a long time. In fact, they told us we'd, they thought we, they might have to go to South America to avoid a storm. That's the only time I said, "Oh boy." [Laughs] But it didn't happen. Took us a long time to come home.
<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 41>
TI: Okay. Well, let's go back now, I guess, to Nebraska, and you're gonna meet with your family. And how was it seeing your family, after all these years?
MW: Well, they were in these workers' -- it was an ordinance depot. So they apparently had these -- well, they weren't too different from the bunks and stuff in the camps. But they were better quality. I was... well, by that time I was pretty well-adjusted to the camp types of homes and the overseas and tents and things, so nothing bothered me.
TI: So how was it, what was the reaction of your family when you saw them?
MW: Well, you're home. [Laughs] I mean it was... there were a few people from camp, Seattle, at the ordinance depot. I don't think there was anything special about it. We didn't have any big homecoming or nothing like that.
TI: How about you? How did you feel? Was your father there?
MW: Yeah, my father was there.
TI: 'Cause you hadn't seen him for...
MW: I hadn't seen him for several years.
TI: Several years. So how were you feeling when you saw your father?
MW: Well, I think I was typical Nisei, Issei greeting. "Hi, Dad." [Laughs] I mean, you know. I enjoyed it, but I don't think that the generation that I grew up in was that emotional or that -- showed emotion that much. I was happy to seem him, of course.
TI: Can you recall anything that he said to you or asked you during that first meeting?
MW: No. I think, I think by and large, Japanese and Isseis are pretty stoic, you know. They don't show their emotions that much. But I was, it was obviously a happy occasion, but it wasn't a over-gushy type.
<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 42>
TI: So from Nebraska, what happened? 'Cause somehow you went back to Seattle. How did that happen?
MW: Well, as I mentioned before, I made applications to both UW and Nebraska. And I was accepted by both. And my first choice was the UW, so I went back to UW. I think I went, I started the Winter Quarter, started in January.
TI: Now, before we even get there, I guess one question is, did you have any reaction from others when you're going from like Chicago to Nebraska and traveling? I imagine you're probably traveling in uniform.
TI: Were there any incidents that...
MW: Outstanding, or something I remember?
TI: Yeah. Or people curious about who you were?
MW: No. I was back in the flow of the mainstream. And it wasn't that long a period. But I had my uniform on. Nobody bothered me. By that time, I had a pretty thick skin anyway. And I went directly from Chicago to Nebraska. But we had one good time in Chicago.
TI: The whole group of you?
MW: Yeah, we all used one address to get discharged. And there was an army hospital in Chicago, so, here again, I don't know how many there were, we had about eight or nine from Seattle. And we got together, went out together. We had a good reunion. It was interesting. And then we went our own ways, to our own families.
TI: And then pretty much saw everybody again, eventually in Seattle?
MW: Yeah, eventually. And not all of us returned to school right away. But there were several of us who came back to Seattle together. Started in at school, going up to the U.
<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 43>
TI: Coming back to Seattle, I mean, did you have any, can you recall any feelings when you came back to Seattle after a long period of time, and what you were thinking? Or how had Seattle changed when you came back?
MW: I don't recall any special feelings or anything. I felt comfortable. I felt comfortable going back to school. And our funds were limited to army discharge and things like that, and so we didn't do anything special. But there were some Seattle boys, or veterans, back already. So I felt at home. We came back to Jackson Street and fooled around.
TI: How about you? How did, do you feel like you had changed, from the last time you were in Seattle? You had gone to Puyallup, to Minidoka, you had served in the military, and now you're coming back, so you went through a lot of different experiences. How do you think that changed you?
MW: I can't rightfully say it really changed me. You know, you're coming back to a place you grew up in, and some of your friends were around, so... I don't know, there's a certain comfort zone. So I went directly to school, so I didn't feel anything really different.
TI: What was the University of Washington like when you returned? Were there a lot of returning vets also at school?
MW: There were quite a few returning vets, and I think there was a lot more maturity on campus. I think the average student was older, and more settled, and more anxious to get back to school. So, if anything, I think there was maturity.
TI: How about places like the Market? Did you go back there after the war?
MW: No, I didn't. I don't recall much... I don't recall going back there much. And I did go back and see a few guys that I knew, but it was an afterthought rather than going to look for them.
<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 44>
TI: After the war, was there an attempt to get together with other vets, after the war? To socialize or to do things together?
MW: Yes, we did go out, you know, we had events. But we formed the Nisei Veterans. We felt a strong need for some sort of group. At that time, I don't know if I'm jumping at things, but quite a few of the cities, or the local Nisei veterans were joining VFW, I mean, the standard groups. And we had quite a few meetings, in Seattle, of the Veterans, and deciding what we're gonna do. And there were enough of us that, for the lack of a better term, just, we didn't want to be a group of something else. So we formed the Nisei Veterans, where we weren't obligated to the VFW or American Legion. We felt very strongly that we had our own problems, unique. In other words, we were different from the others. And the only way we could be heard was band together. That we did.
TI: This is interesting to me, because in Seattle, the Nisei Veterans Committee was formed, which was a vet organization not aligned with the, as you mentioned, the VFW or American Legion. But, at least in my research, what I've looked at, is every other community, they formed chapters of these other organizations. And so I'm wondering, why didn't other communities feel the same way as Seattle? Or what made Seattle different?
MW: I don't know. I really, I really don't know. But I think we had a few leaders that were more mature than us, smarter than us, and we followed their lead. But, I know for myself, I was one of the younger ones, I felt very strongly that our problems were different and unique. And that, like gettin' back on campus, or regaining the Japanese Students' Club. You know, most groups were not involved in such things. And I thought that, by banding together as a group, we could do much more. And, well, I for one, feel that we accomplished what we set out to do. We got our house right back, but we didn't call it the Japanese Students Club. We called it SYNKOA. And, I don't know, some... it was made up of the last initials of those that died, you know, from the war. And, well, like your uncles, Kawaguchi, "K," you know, and we just picked out of those names.
TI: So, let, I want to make sure I understand. So when the vets decided to form a group, the NVC, one of the purposes were to, sort of, as a group, band together so that they could be more powerful in terms of things like re-establishing the Japanese, what was it, the University Club or Students Club, as well as the SYNKOA house, to get that back.
MW: But it wasn't geared (...) strictly towards (housing, but to reestablish ourselves in all campus activities).
TI: Yeah, so I guess that was the question I was going to ask, was when the vets banded together to form the Nisei Veterans Committee, what were the goals, or what were they trying to accomplish?
MW: I think recognition as a veterans' group, a special veterans' group. 'Cause I know we talk about Shiro Kashino, and we had some real good leaders. And, gee, they made appearances at places like Liberty Theater -- just to let 'em know we're back. And that had nothing to do with the UW, or anything like that. It's just to let them know that, "Hey, we're part of the community." Made public appearances. We had some very good, strong individuals. And there was a good feeling of, because of 442 and things, that I don't think the guys were bashful, or they weren't reluctant to do things. In fact, I think most of us were kind of forceful. "Hey, man, we're back."
TI: And so did you see a lot of the vets, returning vets, taking leadership roles within the community? In different organizations?
MW: Well, I thought so. But there's lots of different organizations, so it's hard to say definitely. But I do know that the community groups, I think it was to their advantage and our advantage that we were not hesitant to use our veterans', let's say, reputation.
TI: Uh-huh. Okay.
MW: But I think it helped.
<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 45>
TI: Okay. Let's jump ahead to when you were graduating from University of Washington. What, at that point, what did you want to do for a career? What thoughts did you have about a career?
MW: You know, a guy that age, I don't know how you figure, "I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that." But in my own particular case, I started takin' a lot of these government exams. 'Cause business was not all that fully reestablished in Seattle. And I thought, in my own personal view, I thought my best bet was to get into government service some way. 'Cause I know that we had a strong feeling, "They're not gonna kick us around." So I started takin' civil service exams. And I happened to take those exams -- I guess they called it Junior Professional Assistant, or something like that. It's a very general term to fit a lot of different agencies. And I kind of geared myself towards Customs for International Trade, and immigration, civil service, that kind of thing. And I know the examination I took qualified you for all of these, all of the above. And the first, one of the first calls I got was from customs service. And I'm not too sure what kinda grade I had, but I must have done pretty well. And I just grabbed the first thing I got.
TI: And these areas, like customs, were there very many Japanese Americans in these areas, or immigration, when you first started?
MW: How come you asked me that? Because... [laughs] one of the things we isolated were those agencies that were, that had locked doors to Orientals. And customs was at the top of the list. And it was not for spite or anything, but I applied -- or we, a bunch of us -- applied for some of these agencies that never had Orientals before.
TI: So did you think of yourself as sort of a trailblazer? Going into these places where they sort of had a...
MW: I guess you could call it that. But I was determined to break down doors.
TI: And do you think you were like that before the war, too? Or do you think that the war experience...
MW: No, I was a nice, mild boy. [Laughs]
TI: No, do you think the war experience helped you, though...
MW: I think so.
TI: ...in gaining the confidence to...
MW: I think the confidence and the aggressiveness, I earned through the army. I just found out it just doesn't pay to be in the back seat and watch the world go by. The hell with it.
<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 46>
TI: Well, in talking to you earlier, you did, obviously, very well in the area of customs. You progressed through Tacoma, and then later on became the director of the Blaine customs. And I guess one question is, when you arrived in Blaine, were there any practices that were in place that seemed sort of unfair, or that you wanted to change when you got there?
MW: Did we talk about this before? [Laughs]
TI: We talked a little about this, and so, I'm sort of, maybe I'm leading you on, but there were...
MW: Well, I, I tell you, the first thing that bothered me, was that I watched the inspectors give the Orientals a bad time as they came back from Canada. And instead of jumping right into it, I looked into why is this? I don't wanna make a long story out of it, but there was a time when, because Chinese were Communists, we had banned goods from Communist countries. And I think it kinda got the initial impetus from that. So that anything Oriental, they just stopped, right away. And it had gotten so bad, that the Orientals and Chinese from San Francisco were goin' up to Vancouver to get the supplies for their restaurants and their stores and things like that. And every time an inspector opened up the trunk of a Chinese or Oriental, sure enough, all kinds of undeclared goods. And that's how the, that practice got started, because of Communist China. And I thought, "Well, we've had enough of that." So I started some classes and told them the background of some of this stuff. And it improved tremendously. But they had a reason for doing what they did. I don't agree with some of the reasons, but it was understandable.
TI: So what kind of changes were made to try to make it more fair? Or...
MW: I put out a little booklet. And then my poor wife and I, we made a video of an Oriental that can hardly speak English coming through a line. And it was real corny, I think the point got across. And they showed it to some of the border ports.
TI: So you were just trying to make people more sensitive to what they were doing.
TI: And how they were doing it.
MW: And why they were doing it. And it, I think it helped. But I would never show that video. It wasn't anything to be proud of. But I didn't like the one-sidedness of it.
<End Segment 46> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 47>
TI: Now, how often did you get back to Seattle? When, I know you were up in Blaine and then Tacoma. Did you still think of Seattle as kind of your home?
MW: Oh yeah.
TI: Or did you think Blaine was more, or I think Ferndale, or...
MW: Yeah, well I lived in Ferndale and I worked in Blaine. But, during all this time... how much time do you have? [Laughs]
TI: No, keep going.
MW: There was this strong feeling of mine, because -- like, even in Seattle, I guess the enclosed, isolated society, per se, like the Orientals, or International District, Nihonmachi, a lot of people took it from a negative standpoint. Which, in a lot of ways, it was that way. But when you leave the city, there was something so warm and enjoyable about knowing people from churches and the communities and the athletic leagues. There's a closeness that comes with it. You know, like redress, and relocation, and all that is very negative. But, all I'm saying I guess is there's something positive to some of this stuff. And one of these is the friendships that are formed and the closeness. And together back to where we started from, every time one of our friends, their kids got married or... you know, even if I was in Blaine, I saw these guys all the time, because they'd come up to Ferndale or Blaine for golf or something, or picnics, and I'd do the same every time something was going on in Seattle. It was this closeness that you don't find too often that I really enjoy.
TI: And so, and just to sort of paraphrase, so this sort of small community in Seattle that some may have seen as a negative, there were positive things also from your perspective.
TI: In terms of this closeness that exists even to this day.
MW: That's right.
TI: Earlier you were mentioning fifty-year anniversaries, and going there, and feeling a special closeness with the people there.
MW: And there's something very warm and comfortable. Or if you want to call it a comfort zone, or... and we've stuck together for seventy-something years. [Laughs] You know, that's a long, long time.
<End Segment 47> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 48>
TI: While we're talking about, sort of this closeness, I wanted to ask some questions just about your family and to sort of end with information. And I guess the first one is your wife, Hisa. When did you meet Hisa?
MW: Well, she only lived, maybe three or four blocks from me. And I would like to say she came after me. [Laughs] No. No, but really... she went to Pacific School. The boundary between Central School and Pacific School was just about between our homes. But she actually lived only about two blocks from me. And I really didn't notice her much or anything, but... I guess the proximity or -- I think there was something about the racial differences and being a minority, where people became more enclosed physically in certain areas. So all the Seattle people, it wasn't that big or widespread. There was this sameness of Nihonmachi and churches and all the athletic things.
TI: Right. And going back to Hisa, so when did the two of you start dating?
MW: Gee, that's a good question. I know I took her out while we were still in high school. But, gee, I wasn't that one-womanish at that time.
MW: I think it was right around junior, senior year. And we had quite a long walk to Broadway High School. And you can't help meeting, seeing the same people all the time, so... it was sometime during that period, I guess.
TI: Well, how about during the war? Was she your girlfriend during the war?
MW: Yeah, we used to correspond. And, well, we did actually go out in high school a couple of times. In camp, we used to go to dances. And I used to write to her while I was in the army.
TI: And then, when you came back, when did you get married?
MW: Gee, what year was that? She went back to school about the same time I did. And transportation was very limited in those days. Gee, I guess I had a car at that time. I used to pick up so many people to go to school, and we'd all have a meeting place to come home. So I guess we really started to go around in the latter years of college.
TI: Okay. And then... okay.
MW: Then we got married. Gee, I think we were married before I graduated. So it would it have been '40, yeah, late '40s.
TI: And how many children did you have?
MW: I had four.
TI: And why don't you run down...
MW: We had four.
TI: Yeah, why don't you run down the list of your children?
MW: Well, the oldest was... three oldest were sons, John, James and Gordon. And then Lisa is my only daughter. And she's the youngest and I forgot how old she is.
TI: And how about grandchildren right now? We'll test your memory. [Laughs]
MW: Let's see. I got, one, two, three, four, five grandkids.
TI: When you think of your grandchildren, and think, maybe thirty, forty years in the future, are there any things or any messages that you'd want to say to them at this point? Because this tape will be around for a long time.
MW: [Laughs] Oh, gosh.
TI: Yeah, I thought they might not be interested right now in what you have to say, but in thirty or forty years, they might. And if there's anything that, when you reflect upon your life, or anything that...
MW: Real wise words of wisdom?
TI: Yeah, words of wisdom, or anything that you would like to tell them?
MW: Boy, thanks for givin' me all this time to think about it. [Laughs] But, live your life to the fullest, you know, harmlessly and the best way you can. Follow your desires. It's... life, life's gonna be good. So enjoy it. I guess that's about all I, all the words of wisdom I have.
<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 49>
TI: I'm going to ask you a couple of other questions, and I'm doing this at the end on purpose, in case you want to edit this out. But...
MW: You mean all of this was not on purpose? [Laughs]
TI: No, that's all good, but I want to sort of come to a conclusion. But then I did want to ask you about your opinions of redress, and I wanted to do it at the end, so in case you didn't want this to be included, it'll be easily taken out.
MW: No, I got no problem with redress. It's a pretty wide question, and...
TI: Yeah, let me break it down. I guess the first question would be, when redress was first starting, it actually originated a lot in Seattle, so there's probably more discussions in Seattle than other places. And wanted to know, initially, when you first heard of redress, what you thought of the concept?
MW: Well, in a way, I was very strongly for it, because what the government did was wrong. So if that should answer your first, the first part of your question. Some of this puttin' dollar figures onto something as significant socially, I don't know how you would do it. What kind of a formula do you use? You know, is it worth five cents, or $10,000, or $20,000, or whatever? That part was a mystery to me, just the... whether it was right or wrong, that's pretty clear. I'll just hope that the succeeding generations, regardless of the racial backgrounds, will never have to go through something like this, would be my wish. But I think the government itself learned a hell of a lot. Yeah, I would be disappointed if they didn't.
<End Segment 49> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 50>
TI: And one other difficult question. And, going back to "no-no" boys -- and again I'm doing this at the end, so that if you don't want this part of this, we can take it out easily. You talked about your feelings, especially those intense feelings during the war, when you read that Irrigator issue. When you came back to the States, how would you describe your relationships with "no-no" boys? Or what, how did you feel about "no-no" boys when you got back to Seattle?
MW: Well I... I had certain feelings, which were maybe on the stronger side. Because of the loss of close friends and things, and my anger at the time I read, read about this. And I've tried very hard to understand the reason that these guys used to become "no-nos" And the one thing I knew was that a few of my close neighbors, their parents were very, very strong pro-Japanese. And I know why. They were veterans of the Russo War, and their homes were plastered with these Japanese war ships and Togo Taisho and Nogi Taisho and all this, and I could see where they're from. You know, they're very strong in kendo and stuff like that. And I could appreciate some of the way they felt. But to throw that all away when you're living in U.S. or something, was a little strange to me. You know, it's the same neighborhood of these guys that I'm talking about, that were "no-nos," right before we were evacuated, when the choice was made to go back to Japan, the same group went back. Now, whether they were all from the same society or not, I don't know. I don't want to pretend to know. But I thought there was somethin' wrong about trying to take it both ways. You know, hey, make up your mind, go that way or go this way. If you're gonna go this way, do it this way.
TI: This happened fifty-five years ago, and back then those feelings were really intense.
TI: How would you say those feelings, how do you feel today, when you think about those same men?
MW: Yeah, I...
TI: If you saw them on the street right now, I mean, what would it be like?
MW: I think, basically, the same reasons are still persistent. I mean I... at some point in time, I think you, or you or I as an individual, we see these things that our parents feel, or our country's doin'. And somewhere along the line, I'd like to think we're mature enough to make our own decisions, whether you go this way or that way. And a lot of it might depend a lot on what, how old you are. But I still think it's a pretty individual thing, you know. And I just, like -- gettin' back to the "no-no" boys, I think there's a time when you, they should have talked up, to their parents. "Okay, you're right, I'm wrong," or, "You're right, I'm gonna go with you." Then go with 'em. But don't play both sides of the street.
TI: And when you say "play both sides of the street," I trying to make sure I understand this, that... maybe you should explain, when you say "play both sides of the street," what does that mean?
MW: Well, to take, well, say, be so strongly pro-Japan and anti-U.S., then go back to Japan. I mean, don't stay here and don't do what the Americans are doin'.
MW: I don't know if that's a proper answer. Think it over, or take it off the tape. [Laughs]
TI: No, I think what you're saying is that these men had to make a choice of either, if they were gonna be supportive of Japan, then go to Japan. But if they were gonna be, to stay in the United States, then they should support or...
MW: Or be Americans.
TI: Be Americans, and do it that way, and not try to...
MW: Don't sit on the fence and take the best of both worlds, or something.
TI: Right. Okay.
MW: Does that, is that clear?
TI: No, I understand.
MW: You understand? 'Cause I didn't, individually, wanna damn these guys, but I thought they were old enough to use their own minds, that's all. Or is that clear?
TI: Yeah, that is. Okay. That's, that's good.
<End Segment 50> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.