<Begin Segment 1>
TI: Let's start at the, at sort of the beginning. Why don't you tell us when you were born and where you were born. And we'll go from there, and we'll just start telling the story from the beginning.
RT: Well, I was born on July 7, 1925.
TI: Oh, your birthday's coming up pretty soon. [Laughs]
RT: Yeah. And it was in Coyote, California, just south of San Jose. Well, I guess they always used to tell me I was a real lucky person, because in them days, if you was born too early, you don't live. I happened to be one that lived. And so even my mom used to tell me that I was gonna be a very lucky person, because I was able to pull through it when everybody said, "No, he's not gonna make it. He was born too, too early."
TI: Oh, because you were premature?
RT: Yeah, I was premature, see. So... and see, because of this, one thing is, I've never spoke, we've never spoke of this before, because my dad wasn't one that wanted this story to get out too much. See, he was a World War I vet. And his reason for coming to the United States was he didn't like the way the government was doing things in Japan, when they had all these separate warlords and fightin' each other and everything. And so this was the reason why he came to America, thinking that he could start a new life. And he told me about working in homes as a houseboy and everything like this, and studying on the side and everything. But, so when World War I came about, he happened to be one of 'em, of the thousand or so that volunteered.
TI: A thousand or so Japanese?
TI: Okay. So he had Issei who...?
RT: Isseis who actually volunteered, see.
RT: And he had, he told me stories about well, "Being that you're Japanese and you're an American, you gotta be proud of your generation. You gotta be proud of who you represent."
TI: Now I'm really, I'm sorry to say, ignorant of the first world war and the Isseis' participation. Did they serve in the a segregated unit?
RT: Oh, no, no, no. They were pushed into regular infantry units. And like he says, well, he talked to us about how when the whistle blew, you got outta the trench and you charged. And when they knocked you down, you came back, and what was left waited for another day. And I was, and this was one of the reason why where, I think, well, the Japanese people call it a Yamato damashi. You know what that is?
RT: That's being loyal to your country. And like he was saying, now, "Actually, you are Japanese." And the reason why you would say you are Japanese was, if you was Japanese, you was not allowed to go out and buy land. You couldn't, you couldn't farm anyplace for years after years, and none of this had happened. They were always segregated. So he always used to tell us, "You have to be proud of being a Japanese, and you gotta be able to fight that." So like in, when I was growing up, I used to always get in fights, because anybody call me a "Jap," he was lookin' at me for, to get in a fight. Because I was Japanese and I was proud of it. But I was a Japanese American as far as we were concerned, all the time.
TI: Describe the, kind of the neighborhood that you grew up in. Were there other Japanese, or was it mixed, or what was it like?
RT: Yeah we, there was, in our area, while we were kids, there was only two Japanese families in our area. And both families were farmers. And they, everybody was doing fairly well. We couldn't make big money, because of the fact you don't own the land, and you always sharecroppin' and everything. And so Dad always used to say, "You watch what you're doing and look at what you're doing. And in your future, that will build you up. Because you're proving to yourself what you can actually do." See, that was the way he looked at his life. And I've always felt real bad for him, because naturally, he volunteered thinkin' that eventually he'll be an American. And he never was. And when they actually offered him, see, 'cause they volunteered to become an American citizen. And about 50 percent of them got an American citizen. And he used to always tell us, "Well, they go down the list like that, and they see these odd names. And they find out, oh, these guys are Japs, skip it." And so he says, "I happen to be one of 'em that got skipped."
TI: Even though he was a World War I vet?
TI: That didn't come into play. That didn't help.
RT: That had no help at all, see. But see now the sorriest part for him was, he couldn't go back to Japan under his own name, because he fought in the American army. And Japan naturally took his citizenship away.
TI: So he was a man, literally, without a country?
RT: Yeah. He was a man without a country.
<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 2>
RT: And as I grew up, and he, his thoughts came out to be, "Well, there's gonna be a day when your mother and I aren't going to be around, and somebody in this family has got to be able to read and write Japanese, otherwise you won't keep in contact with all your relatives." And that's where the fact came out that I was headed to Japan.
TI: Okay, because you had, your family was quite large. You had quite a few brothers and sisters...
RT: Yeah, I got...
TI: And you were the youngest.
RT: And I was the youngest.
TI: But he sort of saw you as the one to sort of study Japanese and learn all this.
TI: Now why was it the youngest and not the oldest?
RT: Well, you see, because the oldest had to stay back and help on the farm. He's the one that has to do all the contacts and stuff like that, because he speaks good English. My dad spoke pretty good English, but it was still a little broken English sometime. So it was, just came out to be, well, "You're the one that's gonna go." And see, I went, when I went to Japan, I went, just when I got into, as a freshman in high school, instead of going to high school here, I went to Japan.
TI: Okay. So you were about, probably about thirteen years old or so?
RT: Yeah. I think I was about thirteen or fourteen, someplace around there.
TI: Thirteen. So you were sort of being raised as sort of a, in some ways, a typical American, but learning Japanese. And then about thirteen, you went to Japan...
TI: To study Japanese.
RT: Yeah, 'cause my dad always, I think because of the way the Japanese that were here were being treated, one of the things he talked very strongly about was being Yamato damashi. "Now that doesn't mean you have to be true to Japan," the way he used to explain it to us. But he says, "To be Yamato damashi, you have to be true to your feelings (for your homeland)." And otherwise, I don't think I woulda wanted to go to Japan. But when he talked to me about being Yamato damashi and everything, I said, "Well, yeah, somebody in this family's got to continue this with relatives in Japan."
<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 3>
TI: I'm curious to see what you're thinking. You mentioned earlier how you would sometimes get into fights, because people would call you Jap, and now you were going to Japan. Did you think that you would be better accepted in Japan?
RT: Oh, yes. When I was, when I finally made up my mind and my dad and I got together, we talked about it. The things that were going through my mind, was, "Look how great it's gonna be, I look like everybody else. When I get there, there's nobody there that's gonna say, 'You look different, you got slant eyes, you got this.'" And so I went with great hopes. And the first place I went to, after we landed in Japan -- see, I had a sister there, born and raised in Japan. And because she was born and raised in Japan, they could never bring her to the United States.
TI: Why was that? Why, because she didn't want to go to the United States?
RT: No, no. Because she was Japanese citizen.
RT: 'Cause they had her, well, when (my father) went back (to Japan) and he got married. (Then he went to the U.S.) and came back again (to Japan). Mother (gave birth to oldest sister Sachi then) came over (to the U.S. leaving Sachi in Japan).
JN: (His mother) came (before) the anti-immigration act (1915)...
JN: 1924 ended Immigration.
TI: I see. Okay.
RT: Yeah. So you see, it was a funny situation, because I remember my mom and dad used to talk, sometimes for hours, trying to figure a way of getting (our sister) over here. And one thing was, my mother was a little bit scared, because of the fact, you know, people do funny things. When she was gettin' ready to come over here, she still had about a six to eight months' wait, in order for her turn to come to the United States, as far as the, total of the, how many Japanese could come to the United States. And so she was sort of discouraged, because she couldn't get over here. Then there was this lady that was a friend of hers. She was on the list to go immediately, and that lady got sick. So they just changed passports. So she came over here under that name. And she always said that it bothered her afterwards, because she was always afraid she was liable to be caught. And so they talked about bringin' my oldest sister over through Mexico and all this, and gettin' her smuggled in. She was the one that really was against it, because she said, "That's no way of living, where you're always afraid all the time that you might get caught."
RT: See, so they were put in a real hard situation. And so my sister married in Japan, and her and her husband went to Manchuria, because he worked for the Japanese rail lines. So when I went to, was sent to Japan they talked it over, and my sister wanted me to live with them in Manchuria. So actually, that's where I first started to go to school. But then, it was a hard...
<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 4>
TI: Before you go on, there's one thing I just, occurred to me. Oftentimes, some of the people I've interviewed, they were sent to Japan, because sometimes the parents felt that they couldn't control their child. That either he sometimes got into too many fights or he was undisciplined. And so they'd always say, "Well, we're gonna send you to Japan, because in Japan, they're much more disciplined." Was that also kind of the case for you, too?
RT: Well, I used to get in a lotta fights and everything. [Laughs] No, actually, I think it was partly that, because I was hard to control. Because I was one of those kinda kids, "You call me a Jap, well, you're lookin' for a fight. You're lookin' for a fight? Well, I'll give you one." That was my way of thinkin' all the time. So it was partially that, but it was like they said, "Now, you don't need to go over there to get a real education. We just want you to learn how to read and write the language."
JN: I think his family, they were intending to take all of the kids, 'cause they wanted them to be cultivated. And everybody refused to go, except Rudy went because he was the youngest. So they were really into getting the education, the Japanese education.
RT: Yeah. 'Cause like my dad used to say, "You are Nihonjin. You're Japanese, so you have to act like a Japanese." In other words, stay out of trouble. Don't do things that you shouldn't do, and you should be able to communicate with your relatives. You know, Japanese used to, everybody used to stick real close, because they weren't people that can go out and say, "Oh, I've got an American friend over there. He'll do anything for me." They weren't in that position. And I know like in my days, I remember very well when I was growing up, the Japanese people were very proud, because they never got in big troubles. And one of the things even 'til today I always think about it is, like on New Year's, in them days, celebration was for a week. And all the old men and everybody'd go out and get drunk. They go to each other's home and drink and drink, and go to the next guy's and drink and drink. But even at that, when somebody would get in trouble because he was driving while he was drunk, the first thing they would do is call a (Buddhist minister). And the (minister) would get ahold, like, we were Kagoshimans. The (minister) would get ahold of whoever the head man of the Kagoshima clan in that town is, and then he'd call the association, the Kagoshima Kenjinkai, which was the association. And they would go down and talk to the police department, and get him released. And they would take charge of him.
TI: And this was, I'm sorry, in the United States or Japan?
RT: No, here in United States, (in Salinas).
TI: In the United States. So the Kagoshima Kenjinkai...
RT: Yeah. They...
RT: They all used to stick together. And these were the things, I think a lotta times -- I think what my dad was looking at was, he would like to see somebody in the family become like that.
TI: Okay. So when you say "to be Japanese," he wanted you to embody more of the Japanese characteristics. Although, when he said in terms of your country, your country was the United States.
TI: But he wanted the (characteristics)...
TI: The Japanese (characteristics) to really -- his children to have that.
JN: This, I think, is where it comes from. There was a sense of community. See, that's a lot of what gets lost with new generations.
JN: A sense of responsibility to your fellow...
RT: And this was something, like my dad always used to tell us, "You are Japanese American. You gotta stick together, help each other." And so I've always, I've always put my dad on a real high pedestal, because he wasn't the person that would say, "He's no good. Don't bother, don't even bother. His thoughts was, if he's no good, let's help him, and maybe he will become good."
JN: The other thing is, even when I was being raised, it was, "You're Japanese American or you're Japanese, and people are going to watch what you're doing. And what you do reflects on family, on the community." And see, it was kind of a (double-edged sword).
RT: Yeah, I think the, the way we were raised was very good. It's not like today, where, well, okay, you holler at your parents and then you go out and do what you wanna do. In them days, it wasn't just to your parents that you felt responsible, you was responsible to your people, all the Japanese in the community. And this really held a group together. And this was what, the reason why, you ask me that questions, there used to be a lot of 'em sent to Japan, because they get in trouble and stuff. That's where it would come from. If they couldn't control them, and if they weren't the type that gonna work with everybody, why they'd send 'em to Japan to reeducate 'em, because that was the way in Japan that you were raised. And I think, even today, if we can practice that here, I think we'd be way ahead of ourselves.
TI: Do you think most of the Niseis that grew up pretty much had that same feeling? That same sort of character?
RT: Yeah. I think all the guys my age and little older than I am and stuff, I think they all grew up with that in thought.
JN: Even younger.
JN: Very self-conscious. Very (self-restraining).
RT: I've always looked at, well, I always looked at the Japanese citizens of this country as the people who've got to shine. In other words, they got to show how you have to be. But then, one of the biggest problem we had was because of our government. You just couldn't do it. Now see, the real good example of this was when they formed the 442nd. Here in Hawaii, the Japanese were a little bit helter-skelter here, because everybody worked on pineapple plantations and things, and it got a little bit rough over here. And they were more individualists of, "I don't like your looks, so I'm gonna do somethin' about it." And this really, well, the people in Hawaii don't like it when I say this, but this really brought out their type of character. There was a lotta good guys, but there was some of 'em in there that were bullies. And like I never, I don't forget the day when I reported into Camp Shelby.
<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 5>
TI: Okay. Before we go there, let's go back and, to Japan.
RT: Oh, yeah.
TI: Because we got to the right point, where you went to Japan. You were sort of expecting it to be pretty good, at this point.
TI: Explain how it was in Japan for a boy of thirteen.
RT: Well, before we go into Japan, then, I'm going to go back to, instead of me going to school in Japan, I went to Manchuria.
TI: To Manchuria, that's right.
RT: To Manchuria.
RT: And I went to school in Manchuria for a year. And it was a little bit rough, because, see, like in Manchuria, it wasn't just a bunch of people having kids and stuff and goin' to school. Everything was regulated by the Japanese government. So when I was going to school in Manchuria, there was no such thing as me sittin' with a class. And there was no such thing as the teacher saying, "All right, these are the things I want you to do, and I'll help you do this." It was just straight, "These words mean this, this, this. Learn how to write 'em." And this was one of the reasons, like my sister thought, "Gee, if he can get tutored a little bit from some place on the side, he'll learn a lot faster." But because it was Manchuria, see, you don't get that, because every Japanese that was there, were under a Japanese contract. So this was the reason why I was sent to Japan. But now the people in, Japanese in Manchuria, now they were very good, to me. The kids and everybody were real good. I got along real well with them, because they were kids in a foreign country. And I was a foreigner from a foreign country. And so, gee, I had no problems over there.
TI: Did you mingle with the locals, the Chinese?
RT: No, no, no. It was, this was something that was surprising to me was, there's a lotta racism over there, and even class. Now, I was surprised, because over there, even in the trains, it's first-, second-, third-class. And one of the things was, if you was a Japanese national, you never went below second-class. And if he was anybody over there, you was always first-class. And I used to feel sorry for the Manchurians a lotta times, because over there, there was no, there wasn't too many cars and stuff. Taxis were horse-and-buggy. And the reason for it, they've always said, was wintertime, you can't use cars over there, because everything is solid ice. So therefore, because I was a Japanese American, the kids really took into me. And, see, in Japan, it was, as far as the Japanese government went, it was very important that everybody spoke Japanese, and the Japanese stuck together. And I could see why; it was because if you didn't stick together, then the, well, since Manchuria was a conquered country, the people would try to fight you. Which you couldn't blame them. After all, the Manchurians, this was their country. You very seldom, as students, went anyplace by yourselves.
And I felt very fortunate, because I was older than the kids that I was in class with, because I'm trying to learn the ABCs, like if it was over here, it's the ABCs. But I'm, I should be past that age. So what they did was, they put me up another couple grades, but I was learning the ABCs. So I very felt honored that, when summertime came and the school, the seventh and eighth graders in the school, went on a tour of, well, they called it Chosen, which was Korea. And I was asked to go with them. And this is when I learned a lot about humans. And I learned a lot about what a human being feels. Because I am, I was a person that was discriminated against. And while I was in Manchuria, the Japanese were discriminating against the Manchurians.
TI: So describe, so when you, so Manchuria, things went well, but when you went to Korea, you were discriminated against?
RT: No, no, no.
RT: See, now, all the Japanese in Manchuria would discriminate against...
TI: Against the Manchurians.
RT: Manchurians and the Koreans. And I felt real bad about that. And I used to talk about it, even over there. And I used to say, "In America, this is what happens to the Japanese."
JN: What did they do to show discriminatory kinds of things?
RT: To the Manchurians?
RT: All right, here's a good example. Like I say, a taxi over there was a horse-drawn buggy. And they would catch a taxi and go someplace, and the Manchurian would say, so much, and they'd give 'em whatever they please. And when the guy would squawk, they'd say, "All right, if you don't like it, let's go to the police department." And the reason why they can say that, the head of the police department's gonna be Japanese. And this hit me real hard there, because I could see what was going on in the United States. It's the same thing.
<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 6>
RT: But it's like I've always said -- now, while I went to Korea on that visit with the older group, then I learned a lotta my Japanese. Because now, we're walkin' around, they're talkin' about this and they're talkin' about that, and what I don't understand, I would ask them to explain it to me. And because I spoke good English, there was a trade-off. They taught me Japanese, and I taught them the English. This is, I think a lotta this was what actually formed my way of thinking, of seeing all this in all these different countries.
And now, so finally, it came to the point where my sister was saying, "Well, you don't, you can't get advanced fast enough, because there's actually nobody teaching you. What they're doin' is, they're givin' you a whole mess of words and tellin' you, 'Learn how to write these words.'" And there was no such thing as putting 'em into phrases and talkin' about it. Which I could, I understood then, too. And she said, "Well, I would like for you to stay with us. After all, you're the only brother I've ever seen. But, I think we better send you back to Japan. And if you go back to Japan, it's gonna be a different situation, because then we can get special tutors for you."
TI: And how did you feel about that? Did that seem to be okay, or...?
RT: Well, I didn't like it, but what else you gonna say? She was my older sister, and I'm living there. I gotta do according their bidings, see. So when I got back to Japan now, I was, they really drummed it into my mind that in Japan, you don't do as you please. You do as the upper people tell you to do. And it's amazing, because now, when I got back to Japan, there was another family there that was, all the brothers and sisters were from the United States. And they were back there, too, learnin' the language and everything. And I was quite surprised, because I haven't even started school over there, and one of the brothers from this family and I, we went out to go swimming. And we were comin' back, and then the uppergradesmen come by. And he didn't say anything. So they stopped him, and they start slappin' the hell outta him. So I, like a damn fool, I stepped in and I got slapped the hell out of, too. Then afterwards, it was explained to me. "They're your upperclassmen."
TI: So they have the right to slap you around?
RT: Yeah. "They, you do as they say. And if they tell you to do something wrong, then you come to us. But if it's strictly about how you handle yourself and everything, you listen to them." You have to have this Yamato damashi. And so like in Japan, I didn't cater to that. I don't understand anybody, because he's a uppergradesman, can tell me, "Shine my shoe," and if you say no, he can kick the hell outta ya. I don't believe in that. But I did go under that, I knuckled under.
<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 7>
RT: And see, now this is before, here in the United States, they're even thinkin' about war, but in Japan, they're already talkin' about war with the United States. Even I was, as young as I was -- and see, like in Japan, a lotta people used to think, you know they conquered Manchuria, they've fought China, and they've pushed 'em out, pushed 'em back from population, and pushed 'em out to where there's nothin', and that they're a very powerful country. And I could see why they were a powerful country as far as discipline goes, because they had it. But you see, you can't turn around and push another country around and be able to get by with it, unless it's a small country. Now China was too big. And I used to listen to my brother-in-law over there -- he was married to my oldest sister -- about when they first started to attack China, how the Russians were tryin' to push Japan outta there. This, they talked about discipline. The reason why they couldn't push Japan outta there was discipline amongst the people, the Japanese soldiers. And I could see this. But to me, that's no way of living. So then all of a sudden one day, I, well, I used to sit and read, I used to listen to everybody talkin' about what's happening between the United States and Japan. And their way of thinkin' was, "Well, the United States, the British, were afraid of Japan, because they were getting to be military very strong."
TI: This was the Japanese viewpoint, or this is was what you observed?
RT: This is what we observed of the Japanese people, of the way they were thinkin'. And so they were talkin' about, well, now this was before I even came back to the States. They were already talkin' about their submarines going into Pearl Harbor. And reports were being made on the radio...
RT: What battleships were anchored where, and what type of destroyers they got, everything.
TI: This brings up lots of questions when I'm thinking. One is when they started talking about going to war with the United States, you knew how large the United States was and how far it was and how much larger it was than Japan. What were you thinking when you heard the Japanese say, "Oh, we, we're going to, we've conquered here, there, and then now we're going to go to war with the United States." They were probably thinking that they would also beat the United States, also. What were you thinking when you heard this?
RT: No. I'll tell you, they never believed, wholeheartedly, that they could beat the United States. But you see, I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. Japan is not a country that can live on its own, because it's got no natural resources. Well, the United States, Roosevelt was the one that pulled the blockade against Japan. All the buses, all the taxis, all the trucks, ran on coal. And the reason why they ran on coal was when they conquered Manchuria, and northern Manchuria was one of the world's largest coal mines. I went up to see it. When you stood on top of the mine and you looked down the bottom they were, they're workin', the big trucks and things looked like little toys. Even the train down there looked like little toys, it was so deep. But they were, this is what they were using for the transportation.
Naturally, I was still an American, when you come down to it. And so I used to talk to 'em. I said, "But you know how many, how big America is?" -- 'cause they don't say United States. And they said, "Oh, yes." Even then, they, some of 'em used to say, "Well, the only way we can find out is to fight each other. But we don't think we have that much of a chance. But we can't live this way, either." They said, "Right now, we, we're already takin' up some of the railroad tracks so we can use that metal for something else. And the United States is the one that is blocking us."
TI: Well, this brings up the other question. Given that it was so well-known, or discussed, that there was going be a war against the United States, it's hard for me to imagine that the United States was really caught by surprise by an attack by Japan. I mean, what do you think about that?
RT: Well, you know, the United States was, well, maybe I shouldn't talk about it, but it's my thoughts anyway. But you see, the United States never was caught flat-footed, like they say.
<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 8>
RT: Now, I was one of them jokers. I went to Washington, D.C. I went through all the libraries and everything. Now to show you the thoughts of the people in the United States, we went back there after the war was over, World War II was over and everything, to see what we could find in the museums back there...
RT: About the Japanese Americans. And do you know we looked five days in all the different libraries and everything, and we could not find one thing about the 442nd. And we were all discouraged and, gee, we're, after five days we're saying, "Well, the hell, we ain't got nothin' here. What are we gonna do? We can't just write things down if you can't find it." So after five days, we were gonna come home. And we're gettin' ready to leave, and this one guy says, "Well, as long as I'm here, I may as well learn a little bit about what happened to Japan. Let me look at the prisoners of war situation." And so we started to go through the files, and here's the 442nd.
TI: So it was listed under prisoners of war?
RT: Prisoners of war.
JN: The camps.
RT: So, immediately after that, we started lookin' farther and who's doing what on this situation. And so we were very fortunate. We happened to get some of the people that knew about the 442nd. And so they were the ones, they were guys in the archives. And at that time, they didn't even want to have their names mentioned. But they were the ones that actually told us where we could probably find something. And now to show you how much the United States government was tryin' to hide things, one janitor came to me, and he said, "Sir, I hear that you're lookin' for some 442 materials." I says, "Yeah, we've been here five days, and we couldn't find a damn thing." So, I never forget, he said, "Why don't you catch a cab and go out to warehouse number 16?" I says, "What's out in warehouse number 16?" He says, "There's nothin' there. That's all stuff that's gonna be thrown away." But he says, "Why don't you just hop a cab, get there as soon as you can?" And we got out there, and the morning reports, well, the one that stuck in my mind was because I was Company K. But the morning reports of Company K were gonna be thrown away.
TI: So these were military records...
TI: That they were going to, that came from the National Archives? Is that where they were? And they were scheduled...?
RT: Actually, I think where they came from was probably the army archives.
TI: The army archives.
RT: They were gonna be thrown away. We started talking amongst each other, and I said, "Well, hell I don't know, I may end up in jail, but Company K's morning reports, I'm gonna send 'em back to San Francisco." So we threw it in the back of the car, and I shipped it back to San Francisco.
TI: And where are these reports now?
RT: I don't know if they still got 'em, but when I left -- what's that San Francisco organization?
JN: It was called Go for Broke at the time.
TI: So it's now the National Japanese American Historical Society, NJAHS?
RT: Yeah, NJAHS. We used to be Go for Broke when we were in it. And that's where it was. So I don't know what has happened to 'em. Nobody will say a word about it. I think what they're afraid of is, if the United States government finds out that somebody snatched 'em, why...
JN: Or a curator could've walked off with 'em.
RT: Yeah, or some curator coulda walked off with 'em. And I think it could have happened that way. Because there's one guy that has always told me, "When you guys are all dead, I'm going to become a rich man." And so I look at all this stuff that's been going on in this country. And when I look back at what I saw happening in Japan -- and you see, you'll never find this in the archives no more, but we're going through the navy archives, and there was one captain of a destroyer from Guam. Now his battleship had just gone under... what's the word? Well, they reoverhauled everything on it. And so he took it out on a test. And he reported back to Guam, saying, "There's a hell of a big mass of Japanese battleships and aircraft carriers moving out here." And his report, on the end of it, was, "They told me to haul my ass outta there, and don't speak a word."
TI: They, meaning his commander or whomever?
RT: Yeah. Well, the way he felt was, it probably immediately went back to Washington, D.C.. And Washington, D.C. probably shut it all up. And so this is the reason we got no proof of it no more. Because we went back again to try to find ways that we can take that out. In fact, I used to laugh, I says -- well, in Japanese, if you're a robber, you're a dorobo. "I think I'll turn to be a dorobo and hide 'em and I'll be able to walk out with 'em." I was, "Nah, you get in big trouble." He says, "You'll get the organization in trouble." But you see --
TI: But this was a document that you saw in the navy archives?
TI: But then if you go back today...
RT: Today you'll never see it.
TI: You'll never see that.
RT: These are the things that, that's been stuck in here in my mind. And this was the reason why I look back, and I say, well, the whole mess of us guys, we volunteered. And Japan was blamed for Pearl Harbor starting the attack and everything, but I don't believe it is, see. And I think if it was back in Roosevelt's days, if I ever talked like this, they'd probably lock me up and throw the key away. Because what I've seen, it's like, hey, what's, what did this country, they were forcing Japan to make a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It was all propaganda. And so this has always stuck in my mind real deep.
<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 9>
RT: Because I always think now, "Why were all the Japanese, even the Japanese Americans, put into concentration camps?" During the time that they're puttin' all the Japanese into concentration camps, they already had Niseis as interpreters in the army.
TI: This was the precursor to the MIS at the Presidio?
RT: Yeah, yeah. I had a cousin that was educated in Japan, but he was an American citizen. He came back over here, and he immediately was drafted. And he spent time on the Aleutian Islands. Now you stop and you think about all this stuff. And he used to laugh, because he says, "I was in the group there, I was the only Japanese there. And I had a bodyguard with me at all times." He says, "I never was," he says, "I gotta go to the can, I couldn't go to the can myself. I had to have somebody with me, a bodyguard." And he says, "It used to be funny, because up there in Alaska, it stays dark for days, sometimes." And he says, "The kitchen would say, 'How many of you guys came through for seconds?' And everybody says, all the guys would laugh, 'Who in the hell wants to eat seconds that you guys cooked?'" But they'd have, he says, sometimes as many as thirty, forty extra people coming through. And so I asked my cousin, I says, "Well, what do you think it was?" He said, "I think it was the Japanese soldiers comin' through, because it's dark. It's pitch black. If they happen to have one of our coats on or somethin', we'd never know the difference."
TI: Let me make sure I understand. So in the Aleutians, they had an outpost, but the Japanese soldiers were nearby?
TI: And so they would sort of sneak in to eat the food. Because, even though the Americans didn't like the food, the Japanese liked it?
RT: Yeah. They liked it, see. And they would laugh. He says, "You know what would happen, Rudy, in the middle of the night, or say early in the morning when you're on guard duty or somethin'. And you're just sittin' in the damn foxhole." He says "Some guy'll come and tap you on the helmet, and, 'Hey, Joe you got a cigarette?'" And he says, "I could understand it was Japanese." But he says, "The Caucasians would never." Because, he says, "You live amongst Niseis and things, you can tell the accents." But he says, "These guys weren't American soldiers. They were Japanese. They'd tap your helmet sometime for five minutes, try to make you break." He says, "It's amazing what things..." And here, they're gonna throw all the Japanese into concentration camps without even a hearing. And they got the guys in the army doin' the work already. I look at, maybe, because I did go through a lot of hardship and everything, and like in Manchuria and stuff like that. Maybe that's the reason why I, it stuck in my mind a little bit deeper. And I used to wonder, "Now, what is the United States trying to do by putting us all into concentration camps?"
<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 10>
TI: Before we get to that, let's go back, when you're in Japan now, and you heard that the war was going to happen, at least from the Japanese side, how did you feel? Did you feel like coming back to the United States, or did you want to stay in Japan or... what were you thinking, when people were saying, "We're gonna fight the United States?"
RT: Well, I felt that my place was back in the United States. Why, and the reason why I felt that I should be in the United States, was that's where my family was. In my way of thinkin', my family ties are the most important thing there is. It doesn't make no difference if my neighbor and his neighbor and everybody is gonna come fight my family. I would stick with my family. And because of that, like my uncle, when he came to talk to me, and he was honest about it. He says, "You're listening to the radio and everything. You're seeing that we do talk about the America, fighting against America. And the reason why we think we have to fight the Americans is because eventually, they're gonna squeeze us out. Because we can't survive. So if they throw up a blockade like that, there's nothing we can do." And I could see that if they'd of let a blockade like that go on for years and years, why they'd just be squeezed right out.
Now you see, you never, look in the history books, and you don't read about those blockades. And so at one point one time, I talked with some people, and we, I talked about this. And I said, "When a country puts a blockade on another country, what is it?" They said, "Well, that country declaring war." So in my book, actually, the United States is the one that declared war against Japan, 'cause all Japan was tryin' to do was break the blockade. And see, as far as Japan and China's war went on, Japan did not intend to take any more of China. They felt that they had everything on the coast, so China has got to work with them. Or same thing that's happening to them would happen to China, 'cause Japan would be a, put the blockade against them.
And so you know, when I was sat, when I was back there, and I used to think about this even when I was back there, about what's gonna happen. Well, to me, the handwriting was on the wall. And I think Hitler finally just made that history come true. And a lotta times, when I'm mad at the country or something like that, why I think about it, and I say, "Well, Hitler was really wrong, but United States was pushing in the same direction." I don't know how the FBI and everybody would look at me, but I can't help it. That's the way my, I've always felt the feeling that went on inside. I know like, I was pretty strong into community things. So I was, I was pretty high up in the Boy Scout program.
TI: This was after the war?
RT: Yeah, after the war. And I used to talk to some of them guys. Naturally, they didn't know what it was all about, the war. So they would ask me, "Hey, Rudy, you're Japanese. What was this war about?" Because as far as they were concerned, Japan, they had to do something to Japan, in order for Japan to attack Pearl Harbor. And I says, "Yeah. They had a boycott against Japan. They're gonna, Japan woulda been squeezed right out." I says, "You know, if that boycott went on long enough, any country coulda just walked in there and taken it over." And so a lot of 'em would say, "Well, oh, that's because you're Japanese." Now you see in this country, they still believe that if you're Japanese, you're not an American. Hell, this -- and so, a lot of times, I'd, did use to get in a little argument with these guys. I'd tell 'em, "Well, if I was Japanese, why in the hell would I volunteer to fight for the United States?" And, you know the -- it's, it's a funny situation, because when you look in the history books, well, you never see anything about -- well, I can't say 'you never' anymore, because it does come out in a little bit of, one paragraph or something like that -- about what the United States did to the Japanese Americans. The propaganda in this country, they talk about Germany and its propaganda, and Japan and its propaganda, but the propaganda in this country was, I think, one of the strongest propaganda that ever went on. Because you talk to anybody, and you talk about Pearl Harbor, "Aw, them dirty Japs." But in my book, they were forced into it.
JN: Was that that, sort of, sho ga nai situation?
JN: That sho ga nai.
RT: Well, in Japan see, well, even after the war was over and everything, and I talked to my sister, because she was, she went through all of it in Japan, see. And so, one time I sort of asked her, I says, "What, how come?" In Japan, they felt, well, sho ga nai -- it couldn't be helped. We're being squeezed into a corner. And it's like they say, even a mice'll fight back against a cat, if you squeeze him into a corner.
TI: That's interesting.
RT: Yeah. And they say, well, this is what was happening.
JN: Still do something in response.
<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 11>
TI: Okay. So let's go back to the conversation with your uncle.
RT: Well, my uncle's thoughts were, "Well," he says, "You know, your family is in America. If we do happen to go to war, I think it's bad if you're caught over here and your family's caught in the United States." And he thought it was better for me to go, come back to the United States, but he said, "Now, it's up to you." And I'll be honest with you, at that time, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, until he gave me some days to think about it. And so, I finally felt that, "Well, I don't have to worry about going in the army and stuff, because I'm too young anyway."
TI: Go into which army, the...
RT: The United States Army. Because, see, I was not dual citizen, so the Japanese government would not have drafted me.
TI: Well, when you go back and say you weren't sure what you wanted to do, what were the factors? What were you thinking?
RT: Well, you...
TI: Why would you want to stay in Japan, versus --
RT: Well, the reason why, part of why I wanted to stay in Japan was because of my sister. She's caught there all by herself, her husband, the family. Sure, the husband and the family, they don't know nothin' about us in the United States, except my oldest nephew, so what would their situation be? And so finally, well, so I talked this all over with my uncle. And he said, "No, what you have to do is think about yourself. 'Cause," he says, "now, your sister's life is already set. Because she has been here, she's Japanese, she does, she can't come to America." And he says, "Now, if we go to war, your family, their life is gonna be set. Because whatever happened, it's gonna be, it's gonna happen to the family." So the more I thought of it, the more I thought to myself, "Well, yeah, that's true. My family's in America. That's where I should be. If anything goes bad, anything's gonna happen to the family, I think I should be there with the family." And this was the reason why I said, "Okay. I think I should go back to America." And my uncle was very pleased. He says, "Yeah, I think" -- well, the way he put it was, "I think that's being Yamato damashi." In other words, family's got to stay together.
TI: Your uncle was pleased that you decided to go back to Japan, or back to the United States. But before we go back to the United States, something that I just realized was that, during your schooling in Japan, you were of the age where you would have received Japanese military training. Why don't you just explain a little bit about that?
RT: Okay, now, in Japan, when you become, when you get up into the, what they call the sixth grade, you start your military training. And so, it goes twenty-four hours a day. Say if, at two o'clock in the morning, you hear the bugle blow, you are to get up, get dressed, and be at a certain spot within so many minutes. And that was because there was an attack being held. And then we, we even went out on maneuvers. And in them days, why, you had to be Yamato damashi, and you went short on food and everything, and you went out, and this was your training, to be able to handle all this. To be able to go out there and go for a day or two days and don't eat. And they call that Yamato damashi. And I, now I hate to say it, but I thought that was good training. It made a man outta you. And so, I've always felt that, I think the, that's the reason why the Japanese soldiers were so good.
TI: Well, how did this training compare to your basic training at a place like Camp Shelby, later on?
RT: Well, you see, it was a little bit easier on us, because we were still young kids. But to have a bugle blow at two o'clock in the morning, and you got ten minutes to get dressed and get out there, and your, and line up with your squad. That was, that was impressive. Maybe that's the wrong word, but to me, it was impressive. I saw this happening, and I thought, "Wow, no wonder they're good soldiers."
Because they don't wait 'til you're twenty, twenty-one years old. When you're still a little kid, right at that time when it's really impressive to you, that's when they're teaching you this stuff. And what was amazing is, we'd go out and we'd have maneuvers for maybe the next four hours. And we don't, they, the kids don't go home from there. They go to school. And I've looked at that, and I've said, I've always felt that, gee, that's the reason why they're such good soldiers. Because from the time they're small, they were taught these things.
JN: What do you mean, they were good soldiers? What's a good soldier?
RT: Well, a good soldier's a man that's gotta be able to say, "I got this much food, it's gonna last me for so many hours. And this is what the orders are to me. I've got to carry 'em out." And I think here in this country, a guy could be twenty-one years old, and if he doesn't like the orders to go by himself and go out there and get shot, you think the guy would do it? No, he wouldn't do it, unless he was somebody that was a nut like me. [Laughs] But it's, I used to be amazed. They, when I trained, when I first went to Camp Shelby and we went through our first basic training, and I used to think to myself, "I went through this when I was very young." And I think the basic training that they gave in Japan was much (...) rougher than here.
TI: That's interesting. So the training they gave to the school boys was...
TI: More disciplined, or harder, than the training that they gave the military, the U.S. Army?
RT: The military and the U.S. Army. A good example: here, you're already twenty years old, twenty-one years old, and they tell you, "All right, we're gonna make you double-time for 5 miles." And you'll find in a company there might be twenty guys would fall out. But you never saw that in Japan. In Japan, these young kids, they'd go, and if they'd start wobbling a little bit, why, the instructor would come over and say, "Straighten it up. I know you're tired. I know you're hungry. But get that last bite in your guts, and let's get it out there." They made good soldiers. And I (couldn't) compare the training we went through here and the training I had in Japan. It was completely different.
TI: That's interesting.
<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 12>
TI: Let's now go back to your uncle, who was pleased that you're going back to the U.S.. So I imagine you took a ship back to Japan.
RT: Yeah, well, that was...
TI: Or the United States, I'm sorry.
RT: ...that was the thing that amazed me. When I said, "Yes, I wanna go back." He says, "All right, we're gonna leave for Yokohama tomorrow morning." Now I'm talkin' about goin' back, must have been about eight, nine o'clock at night, and he's already saying, "All right, we're catchin' the train to Yokohama tomorrow morning." And I never knew, or I never realized, that things were so far gone. Because when I went, when we went to Yokohama, I couldn't get passage. And he went through the whole rigmarole tryin' to get me passage. And he couldn't get passage. And then he finally came out and he said, "Well, I shouldn't do this, but I have a relative. He's a captain on the Tatsuta Maru. Let me go talk to him." So he went to talk to this captain on the Tatsuta Maru, and that's the one I came back with. And to my dismay, we landed here in Hawaii and everything was fine. Only thing, we couldn't get off the boat. And we get to the Golden Gate...
TI: Now why couldn't you get off the boat in Hawaii, when you...?
RT: Because that was part of the United States, and they didn't want us walkin' around Honolulu.
RT: And so, they never trusted any of us. So we get to San Francisco, and we anchor outside the Golden Gate. And we were anchored out there for four days. Now, can you imagine? I would say, oh, 80 percent of the guys on that boat coming back as passengers, were American citizens; but we were all Japanese. And we sat out there for four days, not knowing whether we can dock or not. And the third day that we were out there, there was another boat, the Kamakura came up behind us, and they anchored out there. And when, the following morning, the Tatsuta Maru was allowed to dock in San Francisco.
TI: And roughly what period -- because this is before Pearl Harbor. So this was how much earlier before?
RT: Oh, I would say this was six months before Pearl -- no, maybe more.
JN: No, it was about 1939.
JN: This is where I'm telling you it gets rough.
TI: Okay, so it's a couple years before, still.
RT: Yeah, it was real early, before Pearl Harbor.
JN: It was about (October 1939).
TI: But this just is....
JN: How old were you?
RT: Well, I think I was either....
JN: About fourteen.
RT: Yeah, fourteen.
JN: Fourteen going on fifteen.
TI: So this just gives you an indication of the sort of strained relationships between the United States and Japan.
JN: Oh, yeah.
TI: And here was a ship from Japan, and they were giving it a hard time.
RT: Yeah, they were giving it a hard time. I could see the difference that they said, "The only ones we're gonna allow to get off is gonna be the Americans." But it wasn't that. They made us sit there out for four days, and finally, they said, "All right, all the Americans can get off. But you will come off empty-handed." As if to say, "you got some contraband or somethin'," you know. And that's, and so, when we were allowed to come in, the Kamakura Maru turned around and had to go back.
TI: With their Americans on there?
RT: Yeah, yeah.
JN: He was the last ship.
RT: We were the last ship.
TI: The last ship that was accepted from Japan?
JN: Through Golden Gate, San Francisco Bay.
RT: Yeah, and we all walked off empty-handed. We couldn't take anything off.
RT: Now you see something like that, and you wonder who started the war? Because when I left Japan, they weren't talkin' about war. They said, "Well, it looks like we might have to go to war with America, but sho ga nai. Because if we let things keep going like the way the United States is pressing us, we're not gonna be a country. Anybody can walk in and take us over."
TI: That's interesting.
<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 13>
TI: Well, when you landed finally, what was the reaction of your family, returning back from Japan?
RT: Well, yeah, my dad and everybody was happy. They said, "Yeah, we're glad that you came back." Because in Japan, they felt that it was gonna really get rough. Because, can you imagine? At that time already, in Japan, there was no such thing as a taxicab running on gas. The buses weren't running on diesel oil. Everything was on coal, steam engines. And to show you how bad that is, the bus would have to go up a hill or something, and if it was too many guys on there, why, he'd stop and he'd say, "All right, everybody get out and push, 'cause we're not gonna go over the hill otherwise."
TI: So even two years before the war started, you could really see the...
RT: Yeah. The handwriting was on the wall already, yeah.
TI: The hardships the Japanese were having because of the blockade?
RT: Yeah. So I look at all this, and they tell me how Japan started the war and everything. I don't see it that way, see. But, still, if they told me I had to go fight against Japan, I would not have liked it, but I'd have went.
JN: So where did you go after you got off the ship?
RT: Well, after I got off the ship, then I went back to Salinas. To me, I think about a lotta stuff that happened, and how it happened, and what the push was. And even like in Japan, they were saying already to themselves, we're not a country that can keep alive without help from the outside, because we have no natural resources. And so, they could see the handwriting on the wall. So I keep, I look at this and I say now, you read in all the history books and everything how Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, but who was the one that attacked Japan first?
TI: That's good. Now when you returned to Salinas, and you sort of had this sense that in Japan, people knew that war was inevitable in some ways. The handwriting was on the wall. What did others say when you told them about this?
RT: Well, over here everybody said, "Nah, no way. Little country like that, we'll squash 'em." I think the reason why they had such a rough time with Japan was because of the way they grew up over there. It's not like, mom and dad says, "No, you can't go." "I'm goin' anyway. I'm gonna go to a movie tonight. Try and stop me." The attitudes weren't like that over there. 'Cause like, well, to show you how strict, even when I was in Manchuria, the ruling goes with students going to school. You go to school, you take your bento. And every day, they tell you what you will put in your bento.
TI: The school will tell you what to bring to lunch?
RT: Yes. They will tell you what you will bring to lunch. And see now, discipline. This is what we talk about, discipline. So comes lunchtime, you don't just say, "Well, it's twelve o'clock. I'm gonna eat." You open your bento and you put it on top of your desk. And the teacher will come through to make sure that you followed the menu. And there was no such thing as, sometime it was just a, umeboshi and rice. But you never complained about it, because if you complain about it, and you gonna really catch hell for it.
TI: And you also knew that that's what everyone else was eating?
RT: Yeah. And everybody else was eating it, see. This, you gotta have, I think if you did that in this country today, the school'd close up. But because of all this, I felt that, gee -- I'll be honest with you. I felt when the war with Pearl Harbor started, I used to tell myself, "The United States, the Americans over here, think they're gonna just squash 'em, but they're gonna have one hell of a time." And I think it took them a hell of a lot longer than what they figured it would take. And see now, like I've said, one thing that, it always stuck in my mind, and I guess I'll take it to my grave, is the fact when that captain went out, and he said there's a big armada of Japanese battleships and aircraft carriers and things, looks like they're headed for Hawaii. And they just told him to get his butt outta there. Now, can you call that a surprise attack? I think, I think Roosevelt was just leading this country into it.
<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 14>
TI: Let's move to December 7, 1941, and tell me that it probably wasn't a total surprise to you that they attacked Hawaii, given all the events, or -- explain to me to what happened to you on that day.
RT: On December 7th, we were out in the field, workin'. And my sister come out, and she said, "They said Japan attacked Pearl Harbor." And so in my mind, I immediately thought, "Well, it had to happen. There was no way it could be any other way." And the reason why I felt that way was, like I said before, if a cat chases a rat into a corner and the rat is gonna be squashed, he's gonna fight, fight like hell to save himself. And I think because of the discipline of the country in Japan, the people, I think that's the reason why it took the United States so damn long to conquer them. You know, it's, as far as I was concerned, if they told me that I would have to fight against Japan, I would have probably went, but my heart wouldn't be in it.
TI: Well, at the point where Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and then realized the United States was going to go to war, at that point, did you think that you would go into the military?
RT: No, I didn't even think about it, because I was still a young kid in high school. And I never even thought I'd get involved in this war, except for what we had to do at home, and...
JN: Tell what you guys, physically, had to do.
RT: Well, you take like with us now, the first orders that came out was, we were not to be more than 14 miles away from your home.
TI: This was immediately after Pearl Harbor?
RT: Immediately after Pearl Harbor. And that was not just Japanese citizens, it was all Japanese. And it was, you figure from where my dad farmed to Salinas was 15 miles. So they were saying, well, we couldn't go into Salinas, but we went anyhow. And you look at things that happened then, I think the handwriting was on the wall. I think the United States government knew what they were going to do with the Japanese already.
TI: In fact, what happened in many communities was that right after Pearl Harbor, the FBI reacted immediately.
RT: Oh, yes.
TI: They picked up people quite rapidly. What was it like in your area?
RT: Well, in our area, too, within Pearl Harbor the following day, they came and they went through the house complete. And one of the things, I was very aggravated, and I told the FBI where you can go, was, we figured that somethin' like this was going to happen. And we had already taken -- we had, naturally, we had, my father had Tenno-heika's picture up on the wall and all this. So all that was thrown away. We came home from the fields, and immediately, we started cleaning house. And because I had come back and I had binoculars and stuff like that made in Japan, we threw all that away.
And so the following day, the FBI come over and knocked on the door. And they just opened the door, knocked on it, opened the door and came in. Said, "We are from the FBI and we're gonna go through your house for contrabands." So they were going through everything. And you know, in them days, the Japanese all used to have this steamer trunk, and that's where they kept all their valuables. So right after Pearl Harbor, what we did was, we took my dad's uniform, and we put it right on top of the steam, in the top of the steamer trunk there. The FBI came in, made my dad open the steamer trunk, and they said, "What the hell's this?" Pulled out the uniform. And I was standin' right there. It aggravated the hell outta me. And so my dad said, "Oh, that's my uniform." They said, "This is an American uniform." So my dad said, "Well, I was in the American army. I went to France." "Oh, the American army never took Japs." And they threw the damn uniform on the floor, stepped all over it, walked through it and everything.
I saw that, and I thought to myself, "You know, these, this country, does not like Japanese. Does not like Orientals. Gotta be white." So I was very perturbed. In fact, there was times when -- well, see after this all happened, was within, I would say within two weeks that we got orders that we were to be put into assembly centers in Salinas Rodeo Grounds. Well, at that time, it used to go through my mind sometimes, when I was in the Salinas Rodeo Grounds, I used to think, "Goddamn, I wish Japan gets lucky and hits this country. I think I'd help 'em."
<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 15>
TI: What was it like at school? 'Cause after Pearl Harbor, you went back to school.
RT: Well, yeah.
TI: What was it like there?
RT: Well, day after Pearl Harbor, we went back to school. And my dad said, "Why don't you take the car, 'cause we don't know what's gonna happen." So we took the car. We went into Salinas High School. Got off the car, and there was, well, I shouldn't call 'em, I'll say, there were some of the Oklahomans that came from Oklahoma during that hard times they were having. And there was a whole mess of 'em settled in, right outside of Salinas and Alisal. So they were all coming to Salinas High School. So my brother and I, we got outta the car, and we started walkin' towards the school. And these Oklahomans started, they said, "Aw them dirty Japs, let's beat the shit out of 'em." Excuse my French, but it's English. And so I looked at my brother, and he looks at me, and he says, "Aw, just a bunch of Okies. We can handle 'em." Then it was funny, because all of a sudden from in back of us, we heard some guys saying, "All right, you Tokiwa brothers, step aside. This is our fight. We'll handle it." And it was the football team, 'cause we both played football.
TI: That's interesting.
RT: Yeah. They, so they said, "We'll handle it." And they really knocked the hell outta these guys. So my brother and I got called into the principal's office, and we were the troublemakers.
TI: Although you didn't participate in the fight.
TI: The football team protected you.
RT: Yeah. And we were (called) the troublemakers, and (the principal) sent us home. So at that time, what really went through my mind real strong was the fact that this country was really racist.
TI: And yet, though, the football team, I imagine the players, your teammates, were Caucasian or white and...
RT: Yeah, they were all Caucasians. But we were buddies, see. Well, these Oklahomans, we didn't know them, but these guys were buddies. In fact, twelve of 'em, I went through grammar school with 'em. And so, but it really aggravated me when the principal branded us as troublemakers. And I'm glad today, because that principal, (my American older sister told me), he had to go to jail for embezzlement.
But, so after that, then we, all this ruling came out that you can't travel more than 14 miles from your house and all that, but we did go to Sacramento during that time. [Laughs] And it was, to me, at the start, I felt that the handwriting was on the wall, and I was pretty discouraged in this country. And so then when the orders came out that we were to be evacuated, and we were supposed to report to the armory, and we were to take only what we can carry. Well, we were pretty fortunate, because in the area where we lived was mostly Swiss-Italians. And so they were real good. And my dad and mom are real nice people to these people. In fact, the Puzzi brothers, when their mom and dad died, they were gonna lose -- they had a dairy there. And they were gonna lose the dairy. So my mom and dad went to talk to them and told 'em, "You can't make enough money in the dairy to keep payments on this place. Turn it into a farm." So the two brothers said, "We don't know nothing about farming." So my dad said, "We teach you how to farm." So he, they turned it, immediately turned it into a farm. And so these two brothers were real thankful. And they turned around, when we had to evacuate, they said, "You store everything in our place." And so my oldest brother said to them, "Are you sure you wanna do that? You may get in trouble." And they said, "No, no. You people are like family to us. You store your car and everything here. We will jack it up so the tires don't rot, and we'll come in and start it every so often." So they took care of us real good. And in fact, when we were in the Salinas Assembly Center, they used to come and see us.
And I was, I was real, I felt real good, because this kid, I grew up with him. And we were in the same grade and everything, and some grammar school we went through together and everything. And one day, after we're in Salinas Assembly Center, I was standin' out there by Highway 101, and he was on the bus going to the high school. And when he saw me standing, waved and everything. And it didn't matter to him that I was in, that we were Japs. So the following, that following weekend, he came to see if he can come in to see us. Well, he couldn't come into the camp, but then we were able to go into one of the barracks. And we talked with him and everything. And he started saying, "Well, I'm gonna tell the football team that I came to see you guys." And after that, we had, the football people would come out to see us. I felt real good about it.
TI: What kind of things would they say? I mean, because here, these were boys that you grew up with...
RT: Yeah, well...
TI: And there was...?
RT: Their thoughts were, too, like this Billy says to us, he says to me, "How come they're putting you in a concentration camp, while, and they're gonna lock all you guys up someplace, when I'm a Swiss-Italian, and the Italians are fightin', fightin' the, in Europe against everybody else with Germany? How come we don't get locked up, and you guys are locked up?"
<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 16>
RT: Well, you know we actually, that age, you're not thinkin' that, too much, too strong, about discrimination. So, I just turned around, why, I'm one, I don't like to be one of those guys that just hang around doin' nothin'. So I went to work in camp. Now we never got paid.
TI: Now this was still at the assembly center?
RT: Yeah, still at the assembly center. I didn't know what to do, so I went to the kitchen. And I'll never forget this, Mr. Abe used to be a cook in Southern Pacific Rail Line. And he was the chief cook. So I went to him, and I said, "Gee, I don't like just standing around doing nothing. I like to do something, and help you." "Oh, yeah, yeah." He says, "You come cook. You come cook. I teach you how to cook." So he taught me how to cook and everything. He taught me how to cook big pots of rice and everything, and how much water you gotta put in it, and why you gotta do it this way. And he was real good. And all the time we were in Salinas Assembly Center, maybe, three-and-a-half, four months, and we never got meat. And we just thought, well, it was the government. United States wasn't giving the Japs any meat. They were giving it to the army and stuff. But later, later on, we found out that the guy that was in charge of the camp there was selling the meat over again. [Laughs]
TI: So he was diverting the...
RT: Yeah, he was sort of diverting it.
TI: ...supplies to the black market or something.
RT: Yeah. But this Mr. Abe, he taught me real well. And he was amazed that somebody so young -- I used to get up four o'clock in the morning, every morning. There was no such days as days off, see. And I used to get up every morning, four o'clock, and go in there and make hot water for coffee and everything. And we worked from four o'clock to about eight o'clock at night.
TI: Was he sort of like a father figure? Because I think I read someplace where your father was picked up by the FBI.
TI: And so he was -- was he picked up by the FBI?
TI: Oh, your father was there.
RT: No. They never could pick him up as, the FBIs couldn't pick him up, because they had no charges. And not only that, he was in the American army.
RT: So gee, we got, when we got shipped to Arizona, I didn't have time to really settle down too much and think about what was going to happen and how bad these things were and thing, because Mr. Abe kept me busy all the time. And he always used to say, "If you have free time, your mind wanders and you get in trouble. So always keep your mind busy." And mind you, now, we used to push through over a thousand people through our kitchen. And so he was, and I was actually amazed how the Nisei younger people were able to keep themselves busy by coming in, working as waitresses, as servers, and stuff like this. And none of us ever got paid.
<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 17>
RT: And then all of a sudden, nothing had ever been said. It's just they came to us and told us, "B Company's gonna be the last kitchen to close." So we're lookin', "What do you mean last?" "Well, we're gonna close this camp down." So all the other kitchens closed, and we were the only kitchen. And as they started shipping the guys out, and...
TI: And they were going from the Salinas Assembly Center to...
RT: To unknown.
TI: Oh, okay.
RT: See everybody's gotta be shipped out. They shipped 'em out four days straight. And everybody's being shipped to unknown places.
JN: They were building the camps in the meantime. They never were a threat. But they didn't have any place to put them.
RT: So, and once we got on the train, pulled all the shades down. We weren't allowed to open the shades. And later on, we found out that none of the trains went to Poston, Arizona, the same route. Everybody went with a different route. Now can you imagine? Some of the guys were going up to Heart Mountain. They went down to El Centro first, and then they shot up towards Heart Mountain. Some of 'em went through Oregon, and then they went to Heart Mountain.
TI: Now what were they concerned about? Why did they change the different ways? I mean, who were they afraid, or what were they afraid of, of what was gonna happen?
RT: Well, I think what they were afraid of was that, if everybody went on the same route, then there would be some hell raised and some of us would get away. And the reason why they wouldn't let us put up the shades, were the fact that if they put up the shades, they see that we're all Japanese. And they didn't know what the people would do.
JN: I think that they were trying to treat you like prisoners.
RT: Well, actually, we were prisoners, not treating us like...
RT: And now, the funniest part was, see now like I went to Poston, Arizona. And you know, Salinas is a cool place. When the weather hit 80 degrees, we were burning up already. And the day we got to Parker, Arizona, 114 degrees. And later on, as I thought about all this that happened the day we got there, people were fainting like flies, because none of us prepared for any of this. And you'd think they'd come out and give us salt pills? We weren't even talked to about using salt. And if it wasn't for the fact that some of the people that got there earlier than us found out that you gotta take a lotta salt, because you sweat like hell. And there's, all you got is a barrack, and it's hot as hell in the barracks. So we were very fortunate, because of the fact our train was the last one to leave Salinas. Well, by the time we got to Poston, every, a lotta, half of the people already settled in. So they come out to meet us when we got there on the bus. And they were the ones that gave us salt pills, and told us, "You gotta take a lotta salt," because we don't know nothin' about those things. They say, "Yeah, we found out, you gotta take a lotta salt, because when you sweat so much, you gotta have salt."
And so, and I'll never forget, because we got over there and we were dropped off. And then they took us to our barracks. And the first thing they said when they dropped us off at the barracks, "There's the baled hay, there's a mattress cover in the barracks for each one of the beds. Fill it up with hay. That's your mattress." Well, hell, you never used a mattress. It was too damn hot. We used to sleep outside. And we're dumb, see, because we don't know nothin' about scorpions and stuff like that. And finally, one guy hollers, "Hey, look at all this damn thing crawlin' around under our beds." And they were scorpions, see, because the body heat. And the scorpion liked heat. So we found out they were scorpions, and you liable to die if they sting you. [Laughs]
<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 18>
RT: And to show you see how things go now, we get to Poston, there's nobody in there's gonna cook for you. And so immediately, the young guys got together, and they knew I was cookin' in Salinas Assembly Center. So they got together and they came to me. And they said, "Rudy, you was cooking in Salinas Assembly Center. How about cookin' here? We gotta have somebody to cook the meals." "Nah, hell, I ain't gonna cook in this heat. No way." I says, "Any of you guys wanna get stuck in there? It's not like you got gas-burnin' stoves or somethin' like that. You're cookin' in coal." And so I said, "No, no. No way." But I guess they, I was, I thought about it later. And I thought to myself, "How come I wasn't angry that they, or surprised that they quietly walked away?" I said, "All right, you won't cook, I guess we'll have to do somethin'." So about an hour later, here comes all the old people. And they said to me, and they started talkin' to me in Japanese. And they said, "Please. We have to have somebody cooking. And you know us old men, we're already in, real old, and we can't take this. It's gonna have to be you young guys. So please, will you take the kitchen over?" And I'm only -- what the heck was I? Fourteen or somethin' like that?
JN: (Sixteen), I think.
RT: And they're tellin' me I gotta take the kitchen over. I says, "Man, I don't even know how to do it." But the old-timers always said, "Onegaishimasu yo." So, "Oh, well. Guess I gotta go." [Laughs] And I tell you, went to the kitchen, and there must have been two inches of sand in there. So I was surprised what, later on, I found out when all the young guys realized that I was more Japanese. And they figured, well, those of us born in this country, somebody tell you, old man come and tell you, "You go do it." You tell him, "Why don't you go do it yourself?" But since it's Rudy, why he has that Japanese stuff pushed into him, so he'll probably say, "Okay." So as soon as they came, why, I put a young crew together, and we went, cleaned out the kitchen and everything. And we got there. We didn't eat, the first night, we didn't eat 'til, I think it was after midnight. We had to wash the kitchens down. And they had all the stuff that was in the refrigerator was just thrown in there, and I had to sort it all out. So I've always laughed about it, because it was, the people come in to eat, and I figured man, I'm gonna get all kind of complaints. Because, you know, I just slapped something together. But instead of anybody squawkin', as they were being served, they said, "Thank you, Rudy." They all realized what it was all about.
So I cooked in there for about four months. All right straight through, all the heat and everything. Finally, they pooled all our money together, the residents in the block, and they bought water coolers for the kitchen. Always standing in front of a coal-burning stove, and the damn temperature outside is 112, 114 degrees. That gets hard to take. So they bought us three water coolers to put in the kitchen. And we had water hose hooked up to it across the floor and everything. And it was going good for a while.
TI: And how did the water coolers work? It wasn't to drink, it was to just try and cool the room off?
RT: Yeah, what you do is...
RT: There's a fan on the inside, and what do you call? Excelsior? The wood (shavings) all on the outside, see, and the water drips through these things, and the dampness comes through, see.
TI: Oh, I see.
RT: And that cools it off a little bit. It doesn't get real cool, but...
JN: The evaporation cools the air.
RT: But it's a hell of a lot better than it was. So...
TI: And they did this because they knew how hard...
TI: It was for you to work in there, so appreciative?
RT: They were appreciative. Yeah, they used to come through. And a lotta times, we'd say "Well, geez, what are we gonna do with the food today?" And I'd think, "Oh, well, we'll give 'em Spam today." And then I'd think, "Well, they'll probably come through, and everybody's gonna say, 'What the hell kinda cookin' is this? You just fry the damn thing.'" But they'd come through, and "Domo arigato ne. Sumanai ne." I look back at them days, and I've always said, the Japanese people, even here in the United States, you don't find people like this. You look at the lousy food they were being fed, and instead of complaining to you, they thank you for even doing it. I was, I was quite surprised. They even built a big swimming pool. And they built a canal from the Colorado River into Camp Two, so that it'll feed that swimming pool. The old-timers were really somethin', you know?
<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 19>
JN: Was that hose the thing that you had an accident with?
RT: Yeah. And what I used to do -- and after they built the swimming pool, I used to go down there three o'clock in the morning, because it's hot all the time, see, in the summer. I used to go down there three o'clock in the morning, and I'd swim for a while for my exercise and stuff. And then I'd come back and we'd start cookin'. Well, so one day, I guess my eyes weren't open enough. And I came back and -- see, you make coffee hobo-style, a big pot of water and you put the coffee in the sack, and you put it in there and shake it up and down. Yeah, the color's right, okay. [Laughs] So I'd just got through makin' the coffee. And see, they're 30-gallon pots that we're makin' this stuff in, in boiling hot water. I and another guy was taking it to the counter, and I slipped on the water hose, and I ended up in the hospital.
So after that, I was, I stayed in the hospital for almost a month. And it's amazing. I got one little scar right there, and my arm and everything. The doctor that was there says, "You watch this." Get, took a tweezer, skinned me alive. And he says, "Watch it real good, you'll it get, it turns shiny." He says, "You can't just pull it down. You gotta go slow." He says, "You might wonder why I don't do it quick. I gotta go slow." He says, "You watch, it gets shiny as it, as I pull it down." And that's what happened. The skin is forming that fast.
TI: You mean he took a scalpel or...?
JN: He was all burned, you see...
TI: Oh, you were burned?
RT: I was burned complete, see.
JN: By that boiling water he spilled.
RT: Gee, I was surprised. I said, "Gee, what's that shiny stuff?" "That's new skin coming on," he says. "This way here, you won't get, you won't get blood poisoning or anything."
JN: I think he's an exceptionally powerful healer, because he's gone through many physical things that he's survived. He heals...
RT: So after that, when I came back, why, after they let me out of the hospital, then I stayed, I had to stay in the barrack for about a week.
<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 20>
TI: Well, the other thing that I'm trying, I'm wondering about is, you were young enough that you were probably supposed to go to school, and yet you...
RT: There was no school yet.
JN: Before they set it up.
RT: See there was no school or anything yet. So when I got out of the hospital, and when I came back to the barracks, the doctor had told me, he says, "Now don't go to work. I think you should just sit around for a while." I sat around for a week, and it almost drive me nuts. And they were, so they were already talkin' to me, "Why don't you come back in the kitchen?" I said, "No. I think you guys are goin' good. You guys learned enough to how to cook, and you're doin' all right, so please excuse me." So then we went, I went to work in Parker, Arizona. That's where all the, that was the railhead for all our supplies for the camps would come into. So I worked out there for about a month. And oh, when you're in the railcars and stuff, it was fine, but otherwise it was hell. So I had to go in and see the doctor every so often, and he was telling me, he says, "Well, why don't you get a different job? Try to stay out of the sun yet for a while. Let yourself heal better."
So then I worked as a warehouse foreman. At nights, trucks would come in, and we'd unload the trucks and everything. And they made me foreman, so I wouldn't have to touch anything. And everything was goin' good for a while, until all of a sudden the FBIs come out, and they put the cuffs on me, took me down to the jail. And the chief of police was a friend of mine, Madokoro. So the FBI says, "We want him locked up." And he says, "What for?" "For stealing food." So finally, Madokoro said, "Stealing food? What's he gonna do with it?" And they say, "Well, there's such thing as black marketing and stuff." And I said, "No. Now what the hell's the whole situation?" Well, what they're really after was, there was a whole truckload of cigarettes missing. And we didn't even handle the damn thing. But they were gonna lock me up for a whole truckload of cigarettes missing. And then Madokoro was the one that said, "All right. I'll let you guys take him. Show me where the cigarettes are at. Show me how he got it outta camp." And they say, "Well, he probably sold it in camp." "All right, get me somebody that bought something from him." So they got no evidence.
TI: Now who was this person that was questioning the FBI again? That was...?
TI: And who was this person?
RT: He was the chief of police of Camp Two.
RT: And so they couldn't do anything to me, so they let me go.
<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 21>
RT: See, then about that time, then school started in there, in camp. So I says, "Okay, you gotta go to school, gotta get an education." So when I was going to high school in there, I was, I took up Ag, agriculture, because I looked out, I says, "Gee, as Japanese, what kinda break we gonna have anywhere?" So I figured, well, I'll be, I'll take agriculture, because then you've gotta chance of getting a job or something. And so I was, we took Ag. And then this, Minoru Sakaguchi was an agriculturalist. He was our instructor. In there, you didn't need a college degree to teach. All he did was, he went through high school. And so he taught us for about four months.
And then all of a sudden, he says, "I got a job outside. I'm gonna go to it." We're talking, "Well, who's gonna teach us?" So finally, I and another guy, we went to the principal. And we asked him, "What's gonna happen to us?" So he says, "Well, I hear that you two are pretty good in that class. You know quite a bit about agriculture." So we told him, "We should be, been working the damn thing all our life, almost." So they said, "Well, why can't you guys teach it?" So we were the Ag teachers. And the way we'd do it is, he'd teach one day and I'd teach the next day. Because we gotta read all, you can't be in front of the guys and tryin' to tell 'em somethin', and the guy asks you a question, and you can't stand there and say, "I don't know." [Laughs] So whatever the subject was, one day I'd read the book on it, and then the next day I'd teach that. And that day when I'm teaching, he'd be readin' the books. [Laughs] And we did get along. We did pretty good.
<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 22>
RT: And so then the volunteering came out. We never talked to our parents or anything like that. But the group got together. All of us young guys, we got together and went out, down in the mesquites. In Arizona, you gotta lot of mesquite trees. Evening time, we went down there to talk about, what should we do? Either way you look at it, just seems a little foolish. Here you're in the damn concentration camp, and you're gonna go volunteer to fight for that country? So there was, there was quite a few of us. There must have been about forty of us that were down in there, just to talk this over. And see actually, I had no worries about it, because they couldn't draft me yet. But they said everybody sixteen years old and over are invited to come to this session that we're gonna have to see what we should do.
TI: Now do you remember who called that together? Was it someone that, just an older boy who wanted to get everybody together to talk about it?
RT: Yeah. It was just one of the older guys that, in fact, his name was Lloyd Onoye. He was the one. He got us all together. In fact, when I was going, when I was workin' at the railhead, I got to know one of the hakujin truck drivers pretty well. So before we were gonna have that meeting, I talked to the guy, and I says, "Think you can get us about five or six bottles?" He says, "Well, it cost you." I says, "That's all right." He says, "Yeah, okay." And see, the reason why I knew how to get him to get it was, when I was workin' in the railhead, the old men, they love to drink. And they never had nothin' to drink. So what I used to do is, I used to, I became buddies with one of the liquor store guys, but I couldn't go into the store. So he would come out to see me. And I'd say, "Hey, how 'bout a couple of cases of beer?" And I'd collect money from the people in camp. And this guy here, his job was to wet the road down, so the dust don't fly. So he had a big water truck, and he'd go from Poston, Arizona, to the town of Parker. So he'd take the truck, and he'd drive it out towards camp about quittin' time. And then we'd pull up alongside of him. And I'd hop over, and we'd pass the cases of beer, and drop 'em into the water truck, the back. This way nobody inspects it. That's how we used to get it through the gates. [Laughs] And I tell you, the old men, they really used to appreciate that. They say, "Aw, tastes so good, beer once in a while." So I says, well, I told Lloyd, I says, "Well, I'm too young to drink." But he says, "Yeah. You think you can get a hold of some hard liquor or somethin' for us?" I says, "Oh, yeah, I can do that." So I talked to the guy. He says, "Oh, yeah. I'll get it for you." I think it was six bottles or somethin' like that of VO. I had it brought in.
JN: That's how you became a battalion runner. The same stuff (communicating).
RT: And so I had all this stuff brought in. Then we had the meeting. For a while, in fact, for quite a while in the meeting, everybody was saying, "Aw, the hell. Why in the hell should we go out, fight for a damn country that locks us up?" And so there was some of us like, the more I thought of it, the more I kept feeling, you know, we're not gonna go to Japan. And if none of us volunteers, that's gonna give Roosevelt all the ammunition he needs. See, in them days, I didn't know who was in back of puttin' this 442nd together. So that was one of the things I brought up. And I said, "All right, say nobody volunteers out of any of the camps. I says, "What can Roosevelt say?" Everybody says, "Well, he can say that we're more loyal to Japan than the United States." So I say, "Well, do you guys plan to live here all the time? Do you plan to go back to Japan after this is over?" Some of 'em were saying, "Nah, I couldn't, I wouldn't be able to make it in Japan. I can't hardly speak Japanese." And all this came up. Finally, everybody started saying, "Well, if we plan to settle in this country, we better be able to prove ourselves." And that's when it came out to be that we would all volunteer.
TI: So the whole group ended up volunteering?
RT: Yeah, damn near the whole group. And so I didn't know what I was gonna do. And anyway, see, I wasn't in the age to volunteer. So when the day came, it was in the June that we all had to go sign up, and what we wanted to do. It was either a "yes-yes" man, that meant you're gonna volunteer. And you can be a man that was, "No, I wasn't gonna volunteer, but I'm loyal to the country." And then there was the ones that said, "No-no, I was not going to." And so we had, we all had to go down and sign up. And the guy looked at me, and he says, "Well, what are you gonna do?" I said, "I'm not old enough yet." I'm pretty sure I was sixteen then.
JN: Yeah, that makes sense. June of '42, you were sixteen. You turned seventeen in July. So that's where that comes from...
JN: You volunteered when you were sixteen (answered on the questionnaire).
TI: This is actually was the, what we called the registration...
TI: The "yes-yes," "no-no."
RT: Yeah, yeah.
JN: Right. The military.
TI: And then later on, and maybe I'll, I'm gonna ask our cameraperson, Larry. And later on, they did the actual volunteering?
RT: And so what we did was...
JN: It was a matter of saying you'd be willing to (on the questionnaire).
RT: Yeah, right. You'd be willing to, see. So when I went down to sign up, and this guy says, "Well, what are you gonna do?" And I says, "Well, I'm willing, but I'm not old enough." So you never believe draft people. So he says, "You don't have to worry, because we can't take you 'til you're eighteen. So you volunteer now, and then we'll draft you when you're eighteen." Well, I got (inducted) when I (turned) seventeen.
TI: So that was, was that kind of a bureaucratic mix-up? When you turned seventeen, they thought you were eighteen?
RT: No, no. I think the reason why, I think the reason why they actually took me early was because, I think they expected more people to volunteer. So when they took me, too, they was scraping the barrel. Because this fella, Lloyd Onoye, who was the original man that started the meeting, he reported in on the first...
TI: Okay. But let's pick it back up. We are, oh, this is to the point where you're volunteering. You're seventeen. You're saying they're scraping the bottom of the barrel.
TI: Need more people...
RT: Are you ready?
LH: Yes, I am.
RT: Yeah, see, 'cause I figured they must have been scraping the bottom of the barrel, because, now Lloyd was one of the first to be called. And he came back 4-F.
TI: Explain what 4-F means.
RT: Unfit for duty.
TI: Because of...
RT: Because of health reasons. So he was very disappointed. And he came back. He had a (heart murmur). They said, "Definitely, you cannot be taken, because with a (heart murmur), you're on the front lines, you're gonna die of a heart attack." And so they sent him home. We, him and I, we used to talk quite a bit, well, we were pretty good friends. He was much older than I was, but we used to talk quite a bit about what happened and everything. And he says, "You know, that's funny. I played football and everything, and never worried about a (heart murmur), but they refused me in the draft, so I guess I don't go."
<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 23>
RT: So then, like I say, I volunteered. And when I got home, my father didn't say anything, first. But my mother immediately asked me, "What did you..." Well, let me go back to where my brother and I, we were walking back, see. And I asked my brother, "Duke," I says, "What'd you do?" He says, "Well, after the meeting and everything, I think the only thing, the right thing to do, is for us to volunteer. What'd you do?" And I looked at him. He says, "Well, you're too young anyway." So I says, "Well, I volunteered. They're gonna take me when I'm eighteen. He says, "Well, that's possible. "But," he says, "I don't know how Mom and Pop are gonna take two of us volunteering like that."
So we got home and naturally, we were asked immediately what we did. And Duke says, "Oh, I volunteered." So my dad said, "Well, you have to do what you think you should do. You can't let other people tell you what to do." And he says, "Well, you're within the age, so fine." So he asked me what I did. So I says, "I volunteered, too." Then my mother immediately said, "How can they let you volunteer? I know you did adult work and everything, but you're still a child." I said, "Well, they told me I won't have to go 'til I'm eighteen." "Well, even at that, they shouldn't make you volunteer. Maybe you'll change your mind in between." I said, "Well, it's too late now." But I, like I told her, I says, "I think it's the right thing to do. Because if you plan to live here, we can't give Roosevelt or any of them guys any reason to be able to come out and say 'a Jap is a Jap.' When he asked me what I was gonna do, I said, 'Well, if that's the case, you won't take me 'til I'm eighteen, I'll volunteer.'"
TI: I wanted to ask you a question. It seemed like you and your brother were anticipating your parents to be sort of against your volunteering. Now I was curious more about your father, who volunteered for the first World War I.
RT: Well, you see, my father never has really said, "No, you shouldn't have." One of the things he had said was, "Well, if you believe that that's what you should do, then you should. I'm not happy about it."
TI: Why don't you think he was happy? Because, again, he volunteered when he had his opportunity.
RT: Well, you see, yeah. We, it came up about that. And he said, "Well, I hope you guys aren't disappointed at the end, because you know what happened to me. I volunteered, and I never became a citizen." So we said, "Well, we're citizens already." And he said, "But can you believe this government? You may be citizens now, but three months from now, you may be something else." But he did say, "Well, you have to do what you believe in." So with him, it went over pretty good.
But when it came to me, why, my mother started to cry, and said, "Oh, he's nothin' but a little kid yet. How can they take him," and everything. So I told her, I says, "Well, I don't have to go until I'm eighteen. So let's not worry about it until then." I says, "I believe that if I'm going to live here in this country, I've got to have something to back myself up with. And this is something I believe I can use to back myself up with." After that, it was just, well, sho ga nai, you know.
<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 24>
RT: And so, but I was amazed, because all of a sudden Lloyd Inouye come to me, and he says, "You get your papers?" I said, "What papers?" He says, "Well, the man came and delivered my papers, and your name's on there, too." I said, "What do you mean, 'My name's on there, too?'" He says, "You're being drafted." I says, "Aw, no, they can't draft me yet. The guy told me I won't be taken 'til I'm eighteen." He says, "Well, your name's on there."
TI: Do you really mean drafted, or do you mean, 'cause you volunteered.
TI: So you were being sort of called up for...
RT: Yeah. I'm called up, see.
RT: And I said, "Well, Lloyd, I don't know what to say on that." And he says, "Well, I don't know if there's any way you can get it changed. You know, we don't have a draft board here." I says, "Yeah, I know." And he says, "You know what we're being drafted as? We're being drafted as Salinas, California." And he says, "You know, the Salinas people hated the Japs." Because see the Salinas -- what did they used to call 'em?
JN: National Guards.
RT: National Guards. They were in the Philippines. Now you see, they didn't expect Pearl Harbor to happen. But they've already sent the National Guards to the Philippines. And so well, we says, "Well, we'll just have to bide our time and look. See what's gonna happen."
TI: Now Lloyd was in, when he took his physical, failed the first time?
RT: Yeah, he was 4-F. He came back as 4-F.
TI: But now they wanted him.
RT: Now they wanted him, see.
TI: And how was he, how did he feel about this?
RT: Well, he wasn't gonna complain, because he felt very disappointed that he didn't make it after he was so, spoke so strongly for it. And you see, Lloyd and I were so close. And he was such a powerful man. Can you imagine a guy just grabbing you on the chest like this, and giving you one squeeze and you're out? That's how powerful he was. We used to, there was two of us guys. This guy, Tabata, and I, we, two of us would try to whip his butt. And we could never do it.
TI: So it was two against one, and --
RT: Yeah. Two against...
TI: -- and he would still beat you.
RT: You know, we're not kids anymore. And he'd rip us, as if we're nothin'. And he was so good-hearted, that, we were horsin' around, wrestling. And he'd grab us around the chest and he'd go like that, and we'd pass out. And then he's all worried. [Laughs] Sometimes, we used to laugh at him, because, "You nut, you squeeze us and make us pass out, and then you say, 'Hey, hey, don't do that. Don't do that.'" [Laughs] But he was so good-natured.
And in all the time I knew him in camp and everything, I never saw him lose his temper except once. And this was in the basketball game that we were having in camp. The referees in those days were whoever you can pick. Well, this block that we were playin' against, they picked a guy outta that block to be one of the referees. [Laughs] And I never seen a man get so angry, that when this guy kept calling some of the fouls, he got so angry, he was gonna go whip his butt. You know, when a man's angry, you gotta watch him. And especially as strong as he is. So six of us guys are tryin' to hold him back, and he's draggin' us all over the court. And finally, one of the guys hollered at that referee, "If you wanna live, Mac, you just better get the hell outta here." [Laughs] And that's how strong he was. But so good-natured.
TI: So you and Lloyd were inducted a little bit later, because...
TI: The earlier groups had already left?
RT: Yeah. They'd already left, and Camp Shelby was already going strong. In fact, we were the last recruits to go through school there in Camp Shelby.
<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 25>
TI: Well, what was Camp Shelby like by the time you got there? So it was up and running, things were moving pretty well at that point.
RT: Yeah, yeah. There was, but even right at the start, see, the problem we were having between the mainland guys and the Hawaii guys, was, you know, the Hawaiians spoke pidgin English, and the guys from the stateside, we all spoke regular English. And we, half the time, nobody recognized what they were saying. And it was hard. Well, it's like I say, I have, I was, when I went to Japan and I got off the boat in Hawaii, they spoke pidgin English. And I listened to it and listened to it. And I finally got the little hang of what pidgin English was all about. So then when we were coming back and we stopped, docked in Hawaii, I really listened to 'em, 'cause that's educational. And so I really listened to 'em good. And I sort of started to break down the way pidgin English went. Then we had to get on the boat and we came back, see.
And I knew that some of the guys in Hawaii were arrogant. When you come back from Japan, you got, you don't wear clothes like we wear now. When you come from Japan, you got the uniform on, the school clothes, 'cause that's all you buy. And when I was in Honolulu, and I was walkin' down the street, and these Hawaiians are havin' a ball, "Here comes a general. Watch that general. Hey, you better say banzai to the general." [Laughs] And all this went on. And so I knew, I understood that they were a little on the arrogant side. I've, all I know is, when one of 'em had said, "Look, there's that -- " I don't mind them saying, "There comes a general." [Laughs] But when he said, "There's that Jap general." Well, that sort of peeved me. And I turned around, and I said, "Any time you wanna go at it, Mac, let's go." And he turns around, and he tells all his buddies, "Hey, you see da bugga. He like beat us up." Then I knew that it wasn't gonna be just me against them. I figured well, I better get the hell outta here before they throw me in jail. So I sort of had the Hawaiians figured out. They don't mean anything by it, but they are a little bit that way.
TI: So how was it when you went to Camp Shelby and you met them? How, how did they treat you?
RT: Well, so when I went to Camp Shelby, and this corporal took me and he says, "That's your bunk bed there." And, "Oh sure, that's fine, but gee, I got four footlockers on there." So I asked, first I asked this corporal, "What about these boxes sittin' on my -- " I didn't know what were footlockers yet. And I said, "What about these boxes sittin' here?" "Oh, it must be somebody's footlocker in here." He says, "Have 'em move it." So I turned around, I said, there was some guys on the end over there. I went in on a Sunday, so they were in the barracks, nobody doin' anything. They were playing cards. And I said, "Do these boxes belong to anybody?" And then it came out, "Hey, hear da kine bugga, yeah? He try and make us haul da boxes kine, yeah?" And so I said, "Well, this is my bunk, and I gotta make my bed. If nobody wants to move the boxes, I guess I'll have to move 'em for you." And then, "Da kine tough bugga, yeah?" So when he said that, I got peeved. And I picked one of 'em up, and I threw (the locker) out the door. And so they looked at me. And I said, "Look, you wanna have it out? One of you each at a time. I don't give a damn. I think I can whip your butts. I whip Americans, 'cause I don't like to be pushed." So finally, one of 'em says, "Hey, the bugga right there, yeah?" So they came and moved all the boxes. [Laughs] So actually, I got along good with the Hawaiians.
TI: Because after this incident...
TI: They sort of respected you?
RT: Yeah. They respected me, and I respected them. We became good friends.
<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 26>
RT: And then I was, one of them kinda nutheads, that I couldn't eat sashimi. But then I find out the Hawaiians love sashimi. And -- close your ears. I was one of them guys that, anything I can take advantage of, I'm gonna do it. There was this Captain Applecrit in the 442nd, got appendicitis and he went to the hospital. I start to chuckle every time I think of this. The first sergeant of the company, I got to know him pretty good, see. So then, on the passes that they give out for weekends and stuff, they don't sign every one, they just stamp it. What they generally do is, they'll stamp a whole book or a couple of books. So I told the first sergeant, I says, "Hey, dat kine Captain Applecrit had dat kine passes stamped already?" "Yeah, I think so." I says, "Well, why you no give me da kine pass." "Nah, nah," he says, "We'll get in trouble." "Get in trouble? Nobody gonna say..." I come up here by myself. I stole it myself, see. (To use) by myself. So that's how come I used to be able to go to New Orleans. And I'd come back with tuna for sashimi. All the Hawaiians that time, the company, I was, they were real happy. And so the funny part of all this was, I used to go down just about every other week to New Orleans. It used to cost me over five hundred bucks to go to New Orleans from Camp Shelby, and come back with the fish.
TI: You mean each time you went down there...
TI: To go there and buy the fish, and then come back?
RT: Yeah, because, see, gas was on rationing. But all the guys would chip in. And nobody knew how I was gettin' the pass to go down or anything. Because ("nevah-min'"), they used to say, "Hey, how come you get da kine pass all the time?" "Never mind, never mind. You get what you want, yeah? Never mind. I no like getting anybody else in trouble." So then they knew I was pullin' somethin' wrong. So they never asked me.
And so one night I was goin' to go into Hattiesburg, (Mississippi). I never knew who this Captain Applecrit was. So I was hitchhikin', and this car stops, and I hop in. We get to the gate, and this guy says, "You got a pass?" I says, "Yes, sir," and I hand him my pass. He looks at it, and he shows it to the guard out there, and he gives it back to me and we take off. And pretty soon he says, "How'd you get that pass?" "Oh." I says, "Dat kine Captain Applecrit give 'em for me to go tonight." "Oh, he did, huh?" I says, "Oh, yeah. Oh, he good captain, you know." And pretty soon he says, "Well, I'm glad you said that I'm a good captain." I looked at him. I says, "Are you Captain Applecrit?" He says, "Yeah, that's me, all right. That's me all right." [Laughs] And I thought he'd get mad and turn me in or something. He just said, "Now, just don't hand 'em out too freely, because you get, you hand 'em out too freely, then it gets me in trouble." [Laughs] And he let me keep 'em, see.
TI: That's a good story.
RT: Yeah. So I got along, I used to get along pretty good with the Hawaiians.
<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 27>
RT: And then when we went over-, gonna go overseas, they kept, I was in 1st Battalion. I won't tell you what the company is, so they won't know who I'm talkin' about, but I was in 1st Battalion. And 1st Battalion was being kept back as cadre. They were ones that formed the 171st. My brother was in, in the, he was in Able (A) Company. And so since he was in Able Company, he was in 1st Battalion, too. So all of us, I wasn't gonna go and he wasn't gonna go, because I had just made buck sergeant. But I was a little bit, I guess disturbed. I don't know what, how you'd say it. So I popped up, and I said, "What do I have to do to be sent overseas?" And I won't use the word that they said, but they said, "Just become a screw-up, and you'll be sent overseas immediately." So I says, "Okay." So that night, I went into Hattiesburg and picked a big fight, and I come back with MP escorts. [Laughs] A week later, I was in Company K. So that's how I become, I got to go overseas.
TI: So you wanted to go overseas bad enough that you went over there and picked a fight just to...
RT: Well, I figured I'm in the army, I may as well do what I feel I should be doing.
TI: Because otherwise, you would've been left back to help train the incoming replacements?
RT: Yeah. I'd be left back.
JN: His brother did.
RT: So I went overseas. And the best part of it all was, (Harry) Madokoro was one of the guys that was in Company K, who was the chief of police that kept me from goin' to jail. So naturally, my mother talked to Madokoro, told him, "Please take care of him. He's our youngest son," you know and everything. So Madokoro, I'd go out and I'd get drunk and come back with a headache and everything. And he'd put a cold pack on my forehead. And I tell him, "You don't have to do that." I said, "Bakatare enough to go out and get drunk and get headache, that's my problems." "No, no, no," he says. "Your mother told me to treat you like my son, take care of you. I gotta take care of you. I told her I would." See, I was a troublemaker, too.
JN: Yeah, he was quite a bit older, wasn't he?
RT: Oh, yeah. He was about twenty years older than I was, see. So that's how come I became a Company K member. And then, so I thought I'd be, I was assigned to 4th Platoon.
<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 28>
TI: Before going to Europe, during training in the States, what was it like when you came across Caucasian soldiers? I mean, were there instances when, when the 442 guys would come across Caucasian soldiers, and there would be fights or things like that?
RT: Oh, yeah. Well, the funniest one that ever happened was, we spent the night in the stockade, because we went into Hattiesburg to drink some beer. And there was a colored guy sittin' over all by himself. So I hate to see a guy have to drink by himself, so I went over, and I said, "Hey, Mac, how about comin' and join us?" "Oh, no, no," he says. "You don't want no trouble." I says, "Well, you come over and join us, just don't give us any trouble." And I grabbed him and I pulled him over. And he enjoyed drinkin' with us and everything. Because now the funniest part was, when we, when they formed the 442nd in Camp Shelby, they didn't know which restrooms and stuff we were going to use, whether we were to go in the black one or whether we were going into the white one. Well, we automatically started to use the white ones. And then it finally came out, the orders were that we would use the white ones.
And so we got, you drink like that, you get feeling pretty good. Got time we had to report back, so we went down to catch the bus. And so this colored fella started to go towards the back door. I said, "Hey, Mac, where you goin'?" He says, "Well, the blacks all get in from the back." I said, "What the hell uniform you wearing?" Why, I says, "If we can walk to the front, you sure as hell could walk to the front door." So he said, "No, no," he says, "I don't wanna 'cause no trouble." So I grabbed him and I pulled him, and the other guys that were there drinkin', yeah, they felt as good as I was. So we started pushing him through the front door. So the bus driver says, "The black man either goes through the back door for the blacks, or this bus does not move." Oh, we solved that problem real good. We picked the bus driver, we threw him out, and we took the bus back to camp. I'll admit, when we got to the main gate, oh, all kinds of red lights flashing and everything. And they put us in the stockade overnight, but no report. So we were pretty lucky. Otherwise, I think things would've been pretty bad for us. But the MPs never really reported us anything, 'cause the bus, nothing happened to the bus. [Laughs] It's, this...
<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 29>
JN: The USO. You could ask about the USO.
TI: Okay. Judy asked, told me to ask about the USO.
JN: The socials.
RT: Well, the Caucasians gals, the white gals, used to give us, come to Camp Shelby. And we had our own USO building -- and what was Mary's last name?
RT: Yeah, Mary Nakahara. She used to be the one that used to run it.
JN: She's Mary Kochiyama. (Meant to say, Yuri Kochiyama, widow of Bill Kochiyama, K. Co. scout.)
RT: So she used to run it. And she used to get gals come in from Jackson, Mississippi, and Hattiesburg and stuff, and have a dance. So one night, I guess, we think that the whites had already talked it over. And so they came down and they politely asked us, "Hey, can a few of us come in and join you guys?" and this and that. "Oh, yeah, why not?" Hell, we were all in the same boat. Before we knew it, there was a whole mess of 'em in there, and they were gonna kick the hell out of us. But, see, one thing they never knew is, when you pick on one 442 guys, within fifteen, twenty minutes, there's gonna be forty, fifty, a hundred of us there.
TI: Why did they, you said they talked it over and they came in. Was it because, well, explain, why were they there to...
RT: Well, they wanted to dance with, come to the dance. But, see, it was actually our dance, because we were inviting these girls into our USO, because we had our own USO. See, we didn't...
JN: It was segregated.
RT: It was segregated. We weren't allowed to go into the other USO buildings. But we went into our own, which was the 442 USO building.
TI: Okay. So you invited them into yours...
TI: But they came to actually pick a fight with you?
RT: Well, we don't...
JN: No, they invited the women, 'cause...
RT: No, no. Wait, see, 'cause, the women would come in, and they would dance with us. They knew they were coming to dance with us. And they, in fact, the women around, they got to know the 442 pretty good, and they appreciated us. Because like a lotta them used to tell us, "The whites, they start dancing with you, and they start feeling good, and they get a little nasty and whatnot. But you Japanese Americans are very good gentlemens." But a few haoles wanna come in and dance, fine.
But before we knew it, we weren't dancing no more. The haoles were doing all the dancing. So it came out to be, well, we had one big fight. And I felt that, in the end, I sort of felt sorry for the whites. Because you see, when it came to the 442nd, one 442nd man is in a fight, and if there's more guys on the other side, you better watch out, because there's gonna be couple a hundred 442nd guys there right away. Because didn't, we never used to worry about who you were. If you had the 442nd patch, you was one of us. And even in Hattiesburg, somebody get in a fight, you see 442nd patches all running to one place. That one big fight came up. In fact, quite a few hakujins ended up in the hospital. And I did feel pretty bad, because they tried to run outta there, and the guys would beat 'em up outside, and pick 'em up and throw 'em back inside. But even today, there's no record of it. There's no record of it. And so we, we got along pretty good afterwards with even the hakujin soldiers. They realized that them guys all stick together. And they're not like the hakujins. When the hakujins get in a fight, four, five of them get in a fight, and that's it. But with us, you fight the 442nd, you gonna fight the whole damn unit. And so we got along, we started gettin' along pretty good in camp there.
JN: The colonel knew about that, right?
<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 30>
RT: Well, you see, one of the things, a lotta the, even a lotta the other guys never knew it, but being that I was a runner in the 442nd, I was 3rd Battalion runner. But you get in quite a few of the conversation of what our full colonel, the boss of us all, saying. You hear a lotta this. And so one day, I happened to be talkin' to a colonel, and I said, "Gee, some of these officers, I don't think much of 'em." You know me, I just say what I think. I'm not, I don't hold anything back. And he was the one that sat me down, and he told me, he says, "You may not think much of 'em, but you know these officers that are in the 442nd, they're not just being shipped here. They go through a real rigid examination before they can come here, what their thoughts are and everything." And he says, "They don't just get picked by me. They got picked by a board. And they're the people that believe in you guys." After, when he told me this, then I really started to respect 'em all. Because to come into an outfit that's all Japanese Americans, you don't know nothin' about these guys, but you're willing to come in there and defend their rights and everything. You gotta give 'em credit.
<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 31>
RT: And so when we got to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia -- well, I'll just, I'll just give you a little blurb on something else, was -- after I reported into Camp Shelby, fourteen of us all of a sudden disappeared from Camp Shelby. And nobody knew where we went. We were quietly told that we were on orders to move out. And we got on the truck, and usually they leave the back gate open and everything. Everything was closed up. Gee, we're lookin' at each other, "Wonder what the hell's goin' on here? Fourteen, what the hell we do wrong?" And they put us on the train, pulled the shades down, and they said, "You are not to associate with anybody except your group." And even 'til today, we do not know where we went to, 'cause when we got to our destination, we didn't get to see nothing. They put us on the truck, closed it all up so that we can't see out, and they took us out to some camp. And it was just a nice little spot out there.
RT: And we found out finally, at the end, that we were picked to be dropped in Japan. And the reason for us being picked to be dropped in Japan was we were each from a different area. See now, like I come from Kagoshima. If I started to talk real Kagoshima-go to even born and raised Japanese, they wouldn't understand what I'm saying. So they picked guys like me, and they were gonna drop us in Japan.
TI: So they pulled you out, and it was going to be sort of like a secret mission?
TI: But you were still in the States, they, when they were doing this?
TI: Okay. Keep going.
RT: So, well, we were, we stayed there for two weeks. And then they told us to pack up. And we left the place, just like we came in. We didn't get to see what anything of the camp looked like. All the time that we were there, we were confined to that little area. And then when we left the place, they threw us in the trucks, and the all the flaps were down. And got on the train, pulled the shades. And when we got to camp, back to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, then they let us know we were in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
TI: And during those two weeks, what kind of activities, I mean, did they train you or...?
RT: No, they weren't training us because most of us had Japanese army training. And not only that, we found out that they were picking us because of, we each were from a different prefecture. And they were gonna drop us there, so that we can be the spies for the United States. And so we don't know what made them change their mind or anything. We just, they just packed us back up and we came back. So like I say, the United States pulled a lotta shenanigans against us. But you can't blame the generals or anything like that, because they're doin' the best they can.
<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 32>
RT: And like I say, when the 100th ran over, they landed in Africa. And in Africa, Eisenhower was the boss man. Hence, the reason why I've never had respect for Eisenhower. He would not send them to the front lines. They worked as a work battalion.
JN: This is the group from Hawaii.
RT: Yeah. This is the group...
TI: The 100th Battalion, right? Correct.
RT: Yeah, 100th Battalion. They went over and they worked as a work battalion. So finally, when they cleaned up Africa, then the colonel of the 100th was really perturbed. And he says, "My boys are really angry, because they're being held back as a work battalion. They want to go and show you what they can do." See, this is the reason why I respected Mark Clark, General Mark Clark, so much. Because now he was the only general in the United States army that would accept us as fighting men. Even Douglas MacArthur did not want us as fighting men. Here he had all the MISers, and he had nerve enough at the end to say, "The MISers shortened the war by two years."
In the military, you train for eight months, and then you're sent overseas. We trained for twelve months. At the end, we were wondering what was going on. That's what it was all about. They had no place to send us. And finally, when General Mark Clark took over Eisenhower's job, and Eisenhower got booted up, that's when the colonel of the 100th went to the general, and said, "My men want to get into the battle. They don't feel that they should be left out as a work battalion." And General Mark Clark said, "Yeah, I read a lot about these people. Show me how good they are." And that's when they went into action in Salerno. They made the landing in Salerno. And they did one hell of a job, all the way into Anzio.
<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 33>
RT: You know, there's a fella that lives on the opposite side of the street, what is that? Three doors down? Three doors down from us. And I could never understand for the longest time. The guy across the street from me, he says, "Yeah, I hear you're one of the 'Little Iron Men.'" You had to be in Europe in order to know that phrase, because the Germans were the one that used to call us Little Iron Men. And so when this guy says, "Rudy, I heard you was one of the Little Iron Men," I said, "Where in the hell'd you learn that phrase?" So he told me, he says, "Oh, you know that German fella who lives down the street?" "Yeah." "He fought against you guys." I said, "He did?" He says, "Oh, yeah. He says you guys were one of the best fighters around. And he says the German soldiers all used to call, call the, call you guys the Little Iron Men, because you were such good fighters." So you see, the more I look at all this stuff that happened to us, and if the United States government would do something for us and say something, I think the recognition would be much higher.
TI: Well eventually, you're, the 442, met up with the 100th...
TI: ...in Italy. Tell me about that, how it went when you met up with them, and...
RT: Well, the one thing good about the 100th was -- well, a lotta the 442 guys went in as replacements to the 100th. And we joined them right after Rome. We were in Anzio when they jumped off to go into Rome. And we find out that this order came from above Mark Clark's position, so it had to be either Eisenhower or somebody in Washington, D.C. The 100th was ready to walk into Rome. They were the first to reach Rome. And then as soon as Rome was considered an open city, the 100th got pulled back and the Caucasians went in as conquering heroes. Then right after Rome, then we met with the 100th in this area they call the Civitavecchia. And that's when the 100th became our first battalion.
TI: How did the 442 guys view the 100th? Because they'd been there, they'd gone through a lot of battles.
RT: Oh, yeah. They were, we felt that they were our bigger brothers. We would listen to anything they say, because they had experience now. And you don't think about these things when you're just training and you're goin' over. It's like they would say to us, "You're walking down the road. You see a place that has one tree growing. Don't go by that tree." See? You were wondering why? It's zeroed in. It's just like they say, "Now, you're walkin' down the road, you see a bend in the road. Get off the road and go around it, because that bend is gonna be zeroed in."
TI: Zeroed in by their artillery?
RT: Artillery, yeah.
JN: Or a sniper.
RT: And like, there's a bridge, they say, "Never cross over the bridge. Go underneath." And we found out that that's the way you stay alive. So they were our big brothers. They took a pounding and they learned it all, too, that way, by takin' a pounding. And to show you how good the 100th was -- now this guy here, this German that lives down the street from us, he was at, at the Monte Cassino in the German army. And he said, he told me, he says, 'cause I was curious, and I went to talk to him. "Oh, yeah," he says, "now I know, we saw four days, you Little Iron Men come to about 150, 100 feet from the top." He says, "If the rest of the outfits woulda come even near there, you guys coulda came over the top. But you can't go over the top when everybody that's on top's just lookin' at you." He says, "Yeah, we saw this."
TI: So, let me understand. So, so all the units, the 100th was the closest, but the other units couldn't go as close?
RT: Yeah. They wouldn't go up as close, see.
TI: Right. So the Germans could focus on the 100th.
RT: Yeah, the 100th. So they'd all have to pull back. And like he said, that it was their group that started calling the Japanese Americans the Little Iron Men, because he said, "Oh, then after that, when the 442nd came in, then we saw how you guys just pushed through everything. When other outfits get stuck, put the 442 in. You guys go through." And so he says, "We kept that going as Little Iron Men." Berlin (Axis) Sally, when she used to talk, talk over the radio, every once in a while, she would bring up, "You Little Iron Men, you came over in boats and stuff, and here your government has your family and all your girlfriends and everything in the camp. What the hell are you guys giving your life up for?"
TI: So this was the radio announcer, I think it was Axis Sally...
JN: Axis Sally.
TI: Axis Sally, who would bring this up.
JN: All the propaganda.
RT: Yeah. And she used to come over the radio, and she played pretty good music. We used to like the music -- [laughs] -- 'cause it didn't bother us.
<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 34>
RT: But when I sit and I think back to it, I think that more people should have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, if we were so good. But you see, we only got one Congressional Medal of Honor, and that was after President Roosevelt died. See, a Congressional Medal of Honor can't be given until the president signs.
TI: And you're thinking there was, the 442 was perhaps the most highly decorated unit in terms of their citations and other medals, but when it came to the highest one...
TI: The Congressional Medal of Honor, they didn't get, they only got that one?
RT: Yeah, see now, because, and I've always said, I've always said, I think probably reason why that -- I better not -- that Roosevelt would not sign it, is because he's got to present it. See, when you get the Congressional Medal of Honor, the president presents it to you. How can he present the Congressional Medal of Honor to a guy that he threw into a concentration camp?
TI: That's interesting.
RT: This is my (thinking).
RT: Because now we have fifty-seven (...) Distinguished Service Crosses. And there's no other regiment that has that many. And I was, Lieutenant (Richard) Hayashi... well, let me put it this way -- Lieutenant Hayashi was actually, besides the chaplain and stuff like that, he was the first Nisei officer that came to the 442nd.
JN: K company.
RT: Well, at that time, he was just assigned to the 442nd. 'Cause he, as soon as he came in -- I was on guard duty, and he was the CO on the guard duty. And I was, everybody was amazed. We said, "Hey, how come there's a Buddhahead officer over there?" That's because we never had any before. And I find out that he knew, yes, he was the first one to go through OCS. And he says, oh, while he was going through OCS, he says it was rough, because, they didn't wanna give him anything. But he, and he became one of the fellas who wrote the citations. And he told me afterwards, he says, "You know, Rudy, almost every damn one of them went in as Congressional Medal of Honor, and they were knocked down to a DSC."
TI: How does that make you feel? I mean, you fought with these men that, and many of them died. They were put up for the Congressional Medal of Honor, and they weren't given that. How do you feel about it today?
RT: Well, I think it's terrible. Even today, I talk about, we gotta do somethin' about it. You see, because these guys gave their life to protect us.
TI: Explain that, when you say they gave their lives to protect us.
RT: Well, because if the 442nd would have failed, I don't know what, what the people in this country would say about us.
TI: Okay. So when you say protect us, it was all the Japanese Americans?
RT: Yeah. All the Japanese Americans.
TI: But in addition, a lotta times when they, they did their heroic actions, it was to protect their fellow soldiers, also?
RT: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it was. But actually, it was to protect us, because -- I've always said, "Yeah, how come we never got any?" 'Cause the Congressional Medal of Honor that was given, was given to the guy after Roosevelt died. It was that, Truman was the one that signed it.
<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 35>
RT: And (Sadao) Munemori and I went through recruit school together. In fact, I slept in the bed this way, and he slept in the first bed this way. And him and I were the ones, we've always, we always used to laugh at each other because he was one that was sent to Camp Savage. Because he was another one that went to Japan to study. And I was sent to Camp Savage. And, gee, when I got off the train, I couldn't understand it, I wasn't going to go to the 442nd. And then it dawned on me, "Hey, maybe the reason why I'm not going to the 442, Savage is a military intelligence." And I didn't want no part of that.
So then Munemori, then Munemori has said like, see, his sister and his brother-in-law went to Japan just before Pearl Harbor, because his mother got real sick in Japan. And his sister's husband was a doctor. So he volunteered to the family to go back and help her. And then he got caught over there. And like he told me, he says, "You know, I could never be there, thinking I may be shooting my own brother-in-law. I don't wanna go." But it took them a little longer to send him down to Shelby than it did me, because, as soon as I got off the train, this guy that came to pick me up, started talking Nihongo to me. And right away, I figured out somethin's wrong. I says, "What'd you say?" He'd say something else. "Speak English, damn it. Aren't you in the American army? What'd you say?" And he finally pushed me into the jeep. And pretty soon, here comes a guy walkin' from the other way. He's comin' this way, too. And it was Munemori. So they started talkin' Nihongo to him, and he says, "I will not become an MISer." He says, "I refuse." So we became the coal tenders. You know in the army they have these pot-belly stoves, so at night you can keep, everybody can sleep comfortably? Well, the two of us, we had the job of keepin' those pot-belly stoves goin'. [Laughs]
TI: Well, in your case, I'm curious, because you would have been very valuable with MIS, because not only of your Japanese language skills, but also some of the training, the Japanese military training and so you had that knowledge. And so how did you decide you wanted to be with the 442, rather than the MIS?
RT: Well, the way I looked at it was, I knew a lotta guys in Japan. And I did not want to have to shoot one of them. If I don't know the man, it wouldn't have bothered me.
TI: And yet, you didn't know, the 442 could've been a fighting unit in the Pacific.
RT: Yeah, yeah.
TI: So possibly, you would have been in the infantry or a rifle...
RT: Well, no, but we, we had thoughts. See, the way it looked was, we would not go to the Pacific. Because I don't think Roosevelt woulda trusted us over there, the way his mind went. So otherwise, they would have had to make sure that those of us in the 442 understand a little Japanese. And you can't have officers that don't understand Japanese then. So we figured that we were European-bound. It took Munemori a little while longer to get out of, of Savage. But because, now I just was not going to do what they tell me to do. I figure, the hell with 'em. You guys wanna throw me in the stockade? Go ahead. I don't give a damn. So then they shipped me down to Shelby. And then after I got shipped to Shelby, I think it was about four days later, Munemori came there. That's the reason why we went through the same recruit school. So they had class, so and so, A-B-C, and so forth. We were the last recruits to go through recruit school. After that, we were ready to go overseas. And see, usually, any unit trains in the United States for eight months, and they're sent overseas. We trained for twelve months.
RT: And after all this was over and everything, going into Washington, D.C., going through archives and all this, we found out the reason why we weren't shipped overseas immediately. 'cause they had nobody that would accept us.
<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 36>
TI: Let's go to your role as a messenger, as a runner. And at times you were privy to, probably, what the officers were saying, because you would be a runner going from headquarters out to the various companies to give them messages?
RT: Yeah. When it was a secret message, that was our job.
TI: And can you recall any instances where it gave you some insights as to how they used the 442 in combat?
RT: Well, the thing was, like when Colonel Pence was our boss, when he was top dog there, he was a real nice man. I used to talk to him and stuff like that. He wasn't one of these high and mighty, "I'm a full Colonel and you're just a private. What're you doin' talkin' to me?" But he was the one, he always said, "Well, you guys are gonna have it pretty rough." And he was the one that really opened my eyes to the fact that, usually, you only train eight months, and you guys were here four months. That's four months longer than anybody else. And he used to tell me now, how the officers were picked and everything. And his, his thoughts were always, "We have a general that likes you. So if we can prove ourselves, we have it made." as far as Pence was concerned, he would never waiver from us. He believed in us a hundred percent. And so when it came time on the front lines, we used to go in places where other units wouldn't go. But it was always Pence's orders. We were pretty proud, too, because when General Mark Clark, he used to come out and do a lotta presenting of the medals to our outfits, where he wouldn't go to the Caucasian outfits. And he always used to say how great we were.
<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 37>
RT: And so you know, I always laugh, because we had people in our unit that were brains. Now can you imagine? There was a fella in the 522, in the artillery. And he graduated from University of California. He was about the first Japanese I knew that graduated out of a big college. When he graduated out of the University of California, he used to be out there cleaning lettuce and sugar beets and stuff like that with us. I used to talk to him, "What are you doin' out here? Here you go to big university and everything, and come out as top dog." And he says, "Oh, it's hard to believe. If you're Oriental, you don't get those jobs."
Since he was a mathematician, anybody that's sharp in math, they go to the artillery. And so he was sent to the artillery. And he spent time in the stockade. Now can you imagine how hard-headed these guys are? They taught him how to give firing orders. You gotta figure it all on paper. So he's sittin' there, and they give him the coordinate. And he'd figure it out. And his gun was always the first one to fire. So they'd say, somethin' fishy's here. Somethin's wrong. So they went to check it out, and he wasn't doing it the way the United States Army teaches it. So they told him, "We teach you how to get your firing order. Do it our way." And he said, "Hell, you guys take a whole page? I take half a page. You guys take a whole minute? I can do it in thirty seconds. So why should I change?" He spent time in the stockade because of that.
TI: Although he came up with a better method...
TI: Than the U.S. Army way.
RT: Yeah. And they, and today even, they still use his system.
TI: [Laughs] That's a good story.
<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 38>
TI: Let's now return, let's sort of get going and return back to the interview. Where we left it yesterday was, we were in Europe. And we just sort of got into your role. You were a messenger, a runner, for the company. And in that role, you had a lot of access to officers and some of the battle orders that were more confidential. So that if there were sort of secret orders, rather than going across radio communication, they would use a runner. And I guess my first question is, just what's an example of the type of orders that you would carry to a company?
RT: Okay. Here's a real good example. In Italy, we had Hill D that we were supposed to take. Well, Hill D, we were supposed to take the following morning. Somewhere or another on the line on the radio, everything got a little fouled up. And so we -- K Company attacked Hill 140, which was actually Hill D. Well, there was another hill in back of it that was a little higher, so K Company thought that must be Hill D. So here we are on Hill 140, and that's Hill D back there. All right, we're supposed to take it tomorrow morning. So they fought like the devil, and they took the forward ridge. And then nobody could understand what was going on, because they pushed the Germans off of it, and the Germans counterattacked and pushed real hard to push the 442nd.
And so about that time, everybody's wondering, now what in the hell's going on out here? And they couldn't put it over the radios. You couldn't say, "Hey, what the hell's goin' on out there with you guys? How come you're at so-and-so place when you shoulda been here?" So then the orders came. I was told, "Now here's what the picture is. Here's what's happening up there. Now we want you to go to Company K and talk to the captain, and ask him, 'Why are you people up here?' And if he is, they are up here, then you must pull back, because we have to take that tomorrow morning, to coordinate with the rest of the units." And you can't put things like that on the radio, see. And you don't, things like that, I'm under strict orders that I am not even supposed to tell any of the other soldiers. Because if you're a Company K guy, and you find out what the heck, we fought like hell for nothin', the guys lose a little face, a little hope.
TI: Now, in general, these orders, were they written out for you, or did you have to memorize these?
RT: Oh, no, no. They would have it all written out for me. And they'll hand me the paper, and they tell you, "All right, memorize it." And then they'll talk about a whole mess of things otherwise. And all of a sudden, they'll say, "What was the orders?" And then I would have to be able, not just the way I thought up here. But it had to be repeated word-by-word again. And then that is what I would take to the companies.
TI: So that would give you a pretty good perspective of what was going on, on a large scale?
RT: Oh, yes.
TI: Most of the men I've talked with, they can talk about what happened in their squad and what was going on.
TI: But you had a pretty good overall perspective.
RT: I knew what was happening within the companies and the battalion itself. Because I knew who was in reserve, who was on the right, who was on the left, and what these ones on the right and the left, who had to do what. Because my orders are this, "You are supposed to relay this to your captain."
TI: Well, from your perspective, how good were the officers back at headquarters, understanding what was really going on out there and giving the right orders for people and what to do?
RT: Well, you see, they were real sharp. Because a lot of what would come back to them would be comin' back from us. We're told, I would be told, "All right, K Company runner, go up there and find out what's goin' on." And they don't want that put over the radio, 'cause then you're tellin' the Germans, "Hey, we don't know what's going on. Now's the time for you guys to counterattack." So I'd go up there, and I'd ask the captain, "What is K Company up against? What are we up against out there? Can you explain it to me, so I can give it back to the colonel?" And they'd explain what they're up against, and I'd go back and tell the colonel. So a lot, it's like Pursall used to always tell us, "A lot depends on what you guys say. It's not what they do, it's what you guys say."
TI: So the people, the officers back at headquarters, were pretty good at listening...
RT: Oh, yes.
TI: And understanding what was going on, and then adjusting as necessary?
RT: They'll adjust to, according to what, a lotta times, they would, they even used to ask us, "Well, what do you think we should do? You was up there." In other words, you're listening to what the soldiers are saying. What do you think we, they wanna do?
<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 39>
TI: Was that pretty common with most of the officers, to really respect and understand what you thought? Or were some of them more like, well, this is what we need to do, and not really listen to what you had to say?
RT: No. Because they knew that whatever orders I'm bringin' up to them or I'm telling them, is not my orders. It's actually comin' from headquarters. And usually it's from the battalion headquarters. So I am the one that has been there, and I've seen what they're up against. And you talk to the captain of a company, and, "Well, what's goin' on here? What happened? Where's 1st Battalion? What are they doin'?" And you don't let him know that you're tryin' to dig into what he's doin'. You just try to let him know that, "Hey, I'm curious. What's goin' on?" And like they know themselves, that anything we hear, we're gonna take it back. That's what our job is.
TI: So why did you have to be sort of, pretend that you were curious? Why didn't they just, they knew that it was important this information would go back.
RT: Well, you see, they don't want it to be that battalion is saying, "Go up and find out what the hell they're screwing up at." So we're just curious. "What's goin' on? What are you guys doin'?" And this way here, it comes out to be, it's not battalion that's askin' this. These guys, he's just askin', because he's got to know which way's the easiest way to get back to battalion and stuff like that. And so like a lot of times, I used to say, "Well, in about a half hour, where are you guys gonna be pushing?" And so they say, "Well, 1st Platoon, 2nd Platoon's gonna be pushing like this. And 3rd Platoon's gonna be in reserve." And they'll show me how they're goin' up the map. And then I'd say, "Okay, now. Now I know how to go back."
'Cause everything you do, actually, we're always on our own. That's the reason why nobody wanted this job. 'cause when you go out, it's real nice when you got four or five guys, you can say, "Hey, what the hell shall we do?" But with ours, like when they tell me, "Rudy, message. Take it to Company K." And if I say, "Where's Company K at?" And whole map covering the area is only about that wide. And the messenger, he just takes his pen and says, "They're in here," somethin' like that. There's a big circle there, it might cover ten miles. So it's up to us to realize what the terrain is like and everything, so most likely, this is where they would be.
TI: When there was heavy fighting, sometimes officers would be killed, and especially when there's heavy fighting. Were there times when you would go up to the front to find out what was going on, and find that it'd be pretty chaotic, because officers were dead, and there was really no one to talk with?
RT: Well, no. We never come to that, because in the 442nd, it was real good. The 442 guys, like K Company guys, they knew when an officer went down, who they wanted to have it taken over by. And K Company headquarters will never say, "No, we won't let you guys use him." Because you have to let the guys, well, you gotta let a guy that can run that platoon, with the platoon guys' respect. So I never seen, never got into a position, except there was a few times when this guy, (Major Connor) was in K Company. He was a screw-up anyway. But there was a few times with him, why, one time when I asked him, "What the hell's goin' on?" And he says, "You tell me." And when you get an answer like that from an officer, you know he doesn't know what's going on. He's not, he's not gonna go out there in front to see what's going on. See, that's what, how good an outfit is, is when everybody that's in that platoon is synchronized and knows what's going on, so they know, in case our sergeant gets it, so-and-so, he's gonna take it over. He's the man we want. And it's surprising, where the soldiers themselves, I don't think that even now, a lot of 'em never realized why there was an officers changes made. We knew why it was there.
TI: "We" meaning the messengers, or the...
RT: Yeah. Because, see a lot had to do with, like I'd go up to, say I go to K Company. I'd talk to the commander, and then I'll say, "Oh, I wanna go see so-and-so in 1st Platoon." So I go over to the 1st Platoon, and I'm talkin' to 'em, "Hey, what's going on?" And you get, you'll, as a runner, everybody respects you, because they all feel that when you get back to headquarters, you're the one that's gonna be telling the colonel what's goin' on up there. And so it was an interesting job, but a thankless job.
<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 40>
TI: Talk about some of the, were there some dangerous moments? You said that you were on your own. Sometimes you had to find K Company. And you might be a ten-mile sort of area to look for them. Were there times when you would sort of not find them, and instead find the Germans?
RT: Oh, yes. There was many times when, you see, a lot of times, what you do is you listen for such things as people's voices. Or what you like to hear is movements. And so, you say, "Oh, K Company's supposed to be in this area," and then in the area you hear the movement. "Oh, that must be them over there." But see you never walk into a place, because there've been many times when I'd get up there, and I'd still be a little ways. And you stop and you listen. "And what the hell? They speakin' German." And you get on your belly and you look around real close. "Oh, man, I'm in the wrong place." [Laughs] But it does happen.
And so it's a -- everybody used to think when we first started out that we had a real easy job. All we'd do is, we'd stay back in battalion. And battalion, generally, is out of the rifle range and stuff like that. So you stay back in battalion, and once in a while you bring some messages up and you go back. And I've had, when I got wounded, where they had to change the messenger twice. Because the guys refused. They don't want to no more. And I've had them tell me, "You could keep your damn job. I don't want that kinda job." Because, see, you're on your own. There's nobody that you can talk to, to say, "Hey, what shall we do?" You're on your own. You gotta make your own damn decision. You make your own wrong decision, you gotta figure, well, "Gee, I made a wrong decision, I'm goin'." It's, well, like we used to always say, a runner was a man that everybody liked to talk to, because then from him they could find out what's going on, but nobody wanted to be your friend.
TI: Why not the friend part?
RT: Well, they don't wanna be your friend, because they don't wanna have to be the next guy that's gonna be picked to take your place.
TI: Oh, so if they got too close to you...
TI: ...nd if anything happened to you, they'd say, "Well, you knew what Rudy did, so you're the runner."
RT: "You go in," see. And I've had, one fella that was in Los Angeles, right after, it was right after we went back to, from France to Italy, and I ended up in the hospital. And he got the job that I had. And he says, "Hell," when I finally met him afterwards, he says, "Hell, they gave me the job. Two hours later, I told 'em the hell with it. I'm goin' back to Company K. Get somebody else. I don't want that job. How in the hell? You must be crazy to have that job."
<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 41>
TI: One of the things that you were able to do was, you would go back to battalion. And you would get to know the officers. Tell me a little bit about the officers, and especially the people that you respected, and tell me why.
RT: Well, like I've said before, we used to have a major that was head of 3rd Battalion. And him and I got off on the wrong foot. And when we got into a bind, why he put some shots at me and whatnot, and I never trusted the man.
TI: Why don't you tell me that story from the very beginning?
RT: Well, we, we were just going into combat. And 3rd Battalion was pushing up through the center, and the 100th was supposed to come up and around the top. And 2nd Battalion was going up our left. Well, some way or another, a German company got in between the 100th and 3rd Battalion. And instead of the 100th pushing in front of us, it was the German company that was pushing in front of us. And they were gonna cut us off. And I went to the company, and I got, I saw what was happening right away. They saw what, they knew what was happening, too. So immediately, the captain says, "Rudy, you better go back to battalion and get us some help." So I headed back for 3rd Battalion.
And like I say, we more or less had an understanding. Sure, the United States Army puts out passwords. Every day and night you got this words for passwords. But we don't remember 'em. Your mind is too damn busy. You're scared you're gonna get shot anyway. So it's hard to remember those things. So we had an understanding that within us, it was within our unit, we used the word "yon yon ni." In Japanese, that's 442. And it was understood with all the haole officers and everybody, anybody that says, "yon yon ni," well, he's part of the 442. So here I am, I'm goin' back, tryin' to get back to battalion headquarters, to let 'em know what's happening. And this major starts hollering something about something or other. And I says, "That must be the password or somethin'." I don't know what the hell the answer is. So I hollered out, "yon yon ni." And I raised my head a little bit, and he (shot) at me. And so I start hollering at him. And I said, "I'm yon yon ni," and he put some more shots at me, so I put a shot over his head. Finally, I just say, "You know, the next one could be right through you." And then he realized that I was on his side.
So then I went in, and I told him what was happening. And he couldn't understand. He says, "Well, you go back and you tell K Company captain he's gotta get out of it himself." Well, that's, that's not an answer to me. So I had asked another officer in the 3rd Battalion, I says, "Who's on the right of us?" And he says, "Isn't it the 100th?" I says, "Yeah, that's what I thought. It's the 100th on the right of us, but in between the 100th and K Company, there's a German company in there." "Oh," he says, "Well, let's get a guy up to the 100th, and let him know what's goin' on and they can drop down." So they sent a messenger to the 100th, and they dropped down. And we were just fortunate that nothing bad happened.
And you see this was the reason why, maybe I'm wrong to say that that man was no good, but if you're a major already, you gotta be able to think anything that's happening. You could have a bullet comin' at you, and you gotta be able to think, "Well, what are we gonna do?" And be able to think about how he's gonna get the guys out of it. But he wasn't that kind of a man. He didn't have that. And I think regimental headquarters, after that push and everything, they realized, too, that he was not the man for the job.
TI: So what do they do with officers who have a hard time in battle conditions like that? Where do they go?
RT: Well, he was, this guy was a major, so they left him there so he doesn't lose face. They left him there, but they brought in a colonel, a lieutenant colonel, which is one grade higher than him. And he would be the man that has all, full control over the battalion.
<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 42>
RT: And there's a good story I like to talk about with this colonel that came in, Colonel Pursall. Because I got word that a new colonel wants to go up to the front line, see what the hell's goin' on up there. And K Company was one of the companies, I think we were on the right and they were on the front. So he asked me to take him up to K Company. He wanted to see how the war's goin' on up there. I looked at him, and I thought to myself, "What the hell kinda replacement we got? The guy's all gray-haired already. Man, how in the hell's he gonna take it?"
So here we're walkin' up, and all of a sudden we're caught an air burst, and they're the ones that about 50 feet above your head. The shell explodes, and all the shrapnel's come [demonstrates noise] right down at you. It exploded. And I went, I'm supposed to be the experienced man up there, now. So I took off for a hole and I jumped into the hole. And I come down on top of the colonel. And instead of gettin' mad at me, he started chuckling. And he says, "Yeah. See, soldier? You thought I was all gray-haired. But you get me scared, and I'll move faster than you any time." [Laughs] That was when I thought to myself, "I like this guy. I think he's gonna do us good." And because of what happened at that moment, (Lt.) Colonel Pursall really got to the point where he liked me, too. And he took me under his wing.
And he was the one, and I always liked him, because of the fact, I used to hate him when he used to do it, but he used to do this all the time on me. He'd come by and he'd say -- see I was -- I gotta good nickname. They used to call me Punch Drunk. So he'd come by and he'd say, "All right, Punch Drunk, let's go." And see, colonels don't do this. They don't go out on patrol with just another guy. But he'd come by and say, "All right, Punch Drunk, let's go." Say, "Where we going, sir?" "Let's go see what's happening." So the two of us would go out on patrol. And he was much more seasoned than I was and everything. I learned a lot from him, because one time, we were walkin' along and saw a pile of, excuse the French, but, a pile of shit out there on the ground. And he said, "All right, Punch Drunk, what's this mean?" And it didn't, boom, hit me in the head. But as soon as he saw it, right away he knew what it was. And I says, "Well, sir, somebody was here before us." "That's right," he says, "the Germans are here somewhere. So you and I gotta be careful now." And when he started talkin' like that, I thought to myself, "Hey, this guy's on the ball. He knows what it's all about."
And actually, it's runners like us that make these people great to the companies. Because like when I went into Company K after that and they said, "Hey, how's the new colonel?" I said, "Oh, he's great. He's gonna be real good. I like him." And you see, you gotta, your whole unit that you command has got to have full trust in you. Because of what was happening, gee, everybody thought (Lt. Col.) Pursall was a great man. And he was great. And this is the reason why I've always liked him. And I've always, that's always been up here, and I chuckle to myself any time I think about it. Because I used to think, "Goddamn, that guy was all gray, and he looked like an old man. And here I'm just a young, eighteen-year-old kid. And that son-of-a-gun beat me into that hole." [Laughs] I said, "Now when I came down on top of him, he coulda been mad at me. But no, instead of that, he just chuckled and made a big joke out of it." So I got, I says, "That's the kinda man I would like to always fight under."
TI: That's a good story. How about some of the other officers? Can you remember, recall, some of the other officers?
RT: Well, we've had, oh, there was some lieutenants, and they're in charge of the platoons. And I've come across quite a few lieutenants that weren't so good. And usually, these lieutenants that don't do well in the front, like I say, when I go say like it was 1st Platoon and Lieutenant Gay happens to be the guy that's in charge of that platoon. And I'm over there, and I'm talking to go the battalion, I mean, the platoon runner and stuff, say, "Hey, how's the officer?" And he might say, "Aw, he's a chicken-shit." And you're curious, because now this is your company. And you say, "Well, what's wrong with him?" And they'll tell you what they think is wrong, because they're talkin' to another soldier. And naturally, when I go back and the colonel says, "Well, how's things goin' up there? What do they think? They satisfied?" And then I would say, "Well, you better talk to this Lieutenant Gay. It's like this between him and his men." Eventually, why, like Gay got transferred. So see, people don't realize it, but that little joker that's a battalion runner that's supposed to be the guy that memorizes them things and takes 'em up and comes back, he had a very strong part in what the army was like. And see, when Connor was in there, it was never like that for us. But as soon as we had Pursall, Pursall was real good.
<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 43>
TI: Now, you mentioned Pursall, you also earlier mentioned a Colonel Pence and what was Colonel Pence like?
RT: Colonel Pence, now he was our big boss. He was the man that was in charge. In fact, he was the man that was with us right from the start in Camp Shelby. And very few people even today realizes this, the 442nd damn near got disbanded, because the mainland Japanese Americans and the Hawaiian Japanese Americans were fighting each other all the time. Like a lotta the Hawaii guys couldn't understand the mainland guys, because of the, "Hey, you mainland guys, something wrong your pupuli heads?" And they tell, "What's wrong with it?" "Aw, you buggas, you sit quiet, never do anything wrong. Don't go out and get polluted and stuff like that." So Colonel Pence sat, and he was tryin' to figure how can he cure all this. Because now he's already gettin' word they may disband the 442nd. They can't work together, they can't have an outfit like that.
So he got this idea, because the Hawaii guys could not understand why the mainland guys don't go out and raise hell and get drunk and spend money and stuff. And where they go out, they get drunk and spend money, and when they need more money, they can write home. And the family sends 'em, well, we used to always say, "the little blue slip" comes in the mail to 'em, and they pull it out, and they go cash it. Where the mainland guys, their parents are all in concentration camps. The parents didn't have big money that they can throw around and give to their kids. And he realized this. So he turned around, and he sent three big busloads of strictly Hawaiians, and Senator Inouye was one of the troublemakers, and he was one of 'em that was in that group. And he sent them out to Jerome. And when they got to Jerome, like some of 'em were tellin' me, came and they would talk to me, because, I got along, like I say, pretty good with the Hawaiians. Because I knew the pidgin English. I picked it up real fast. And I can act like they do, I talked like they did and everything.
And so when they came back, they started askin' me, "Hey, Rudy, all you mainland guys, your families in places like that?" I says, "Well, majority of 'em, yes. I would say about 80 percent of the guys, all the parents are in concentration camps." "Hey," they says, "we get to (see) da kine in Jerome, yeah. The bus pull up and stopped in front of a gate. And they frisk us. They went through everything." So I says, "Well, it's a concentration camp. They can't have you bringing in things to them, to the people there and everything." And then they start saying, "Well, how much money these guys gettin' paid to be in there?" So I said, "Well, they don't get paid." I says, "They got their meals and stuff, but even the meals and stuff, it's not good stuff, and sometime it's a little bit short. But what are you gonna do?" And this is the way they realize why the mainland guys never used to write home and get more money like they did, so they can go to New York and raise hell and stuff like that. Because the mainland guys, their parents were in the concentration camp. They started to realize this. And like (Dan) Inouye (who was one of the Hawaiians) told me (later), "I was real surprised that they checked us out before they even let us in the first gate." I said, "Well, you may have been carrying a contraband inside." He says, "But what can the guys do inside? They got soldiers on the outside watching 'em." I says, "Well, if you get couple things smuggled in and somebody's liable to get shot or somethin' like that. It gets dangerous." I says, "You don't go in and out until you're completely searched and checked."
TI: How did that make you feel, now that the Hawaiians better understood what you and the other mainland guys went through?
RT: Well, I felt real good, because I felt that we were gonna gel now. And I felt that, gee, now they're understanding. And they were saying, "Hey Brah, we go down to the dat kine PX and drink some beer, yeah?" And they would say, "Aw, nah, nah, nah." "I asked you to come down. I buy." They didn't want us, make us feel bad because we didn't have the money and things. So this is the way they got by with it. And deep down inside, I felt, "Hey, we're gonna gel. It's gonna be a good outfit." And one of the things that was real good for us, we always called the 100th the "Big Brothers." Now, the 100th went over ahead of us. And I don't know if I told you this before, but they went over as a fighting unit, but they became a work battalion when they went to Africa.
TI: Right, yeah. Yesterday you talked about that.
RT: And see now when all this came up, and the 100th people were gettin' wounded, gettin' killed, the replacements were coming from the 442. So a lot of mainlanders were being sent as replacements. You see now, this is the difference between older people and the younger people. Now the 100th were older people. So they never gave the mainland guys any trouble. They understood what the situation was before they were even sent over there. See, so this was the difference between, like we said, they were our bigger brothers, and we were the young brothers.
TI: Going back to Colonel Pence, so Colonel Pence had the, it was his idea to try to have the Hawaiians go to an internment camp, a concentration camp, see what was happening, hoping that, after they did that, the unit would gel and things would work out. And apparently, it worked really well.
RT: Yeah, well, the thing is, another thing that really surprised the people from Hawaii, was they went inside the camp, there was a dance put on for 'em, and they had dinner in there. And they said, "Oh, that gotso they put out." You know what that means? That means they went all out, they had a big party, a real good party with a lotta food. And so they had asked, they started asking the mainland guys, "How can they put all that food up?" So the mainland guys, they're saying, "Well, when the report came that you guys were gonna come to camp, they cut down on their food so they can entertain you people and give you a party." And I had some of 'em say, "Hey, you katonk buggas, good up in the head, yeah? You like be buddies with everybody." That meant, we appreciated what they did for us. Like they said, "Whoo, the first time in a long time, yeah, we be able to hold da kine Buddhahead wahine in our arms and dance, yeah?" And they says, "We had good time." And they said, "Gee, now, but you guys volunteered outta places like that." So then it came up why we volunteered. So they realized that, hey, these guys, we volunteered because Japan bombed our home island. And these guys went through hell, and they're still volunteering to prove themselves. Like I say, I always take my hat off to the Hawaii people, because they coulda said, "Aw, to hell with 'em. We don't wanna associate with the mainland guys." But no, they realized what was going on, and they wanted to help us.
TI: That's good.
<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 44>
TI: Let's go back to Europe. And a question I wanted to ask you is, there's a photo in the National Archives that shows you walking with a line of German POWs. It looks like it's in the countryside, and you're sorta in front with a rifle. Tell me what were you doing in this picture, and tell me a little bit more about how this picture was taken?
RT: Well, like I say, if you're a runner, you do all kinds of crazy things. But I was asked if I would go out and get some prisoners. And I used to, every once on a while, they'd say, "Can you go out and get prisoners?" "Yeah, okay." And you'd take off to go get prisoners. But this was more in the latter part of the war already and everything. So they says, "Hey, we gotta have some prisoners. Will you go out and get 'em for us?" I says, "Yeah, okay." And they said, "Well, bring some officers this time." I says, "Oh, it like a bugga to get officers." They said, "Well, it'd sure help us if you can get us some officers." "Yeah, okay." So I took off, and they said, "How long it gonna take ya?" I said, "At least give me five days." 'Cause see, when you go after prisoners like that, you just don't walk in there and say, "You, you, you. You're my prisoner. Let's go."
So you gotta go up there, and you park yourself in the grass or behind bushes and stuff. And you gotta study people that's out there. And human beings are the funniest thing. Every human being will pass a certain spot two times, maybe even three times, a day. And so you watch for people like this. And it just happened to be on that one, I was watching these officers. And all of a sudden, these officers were takin' a squad of 'em out for training. So that was perfect for me. So on the fourth day, when they went out for training, I went over there, and I, you gotta be a little dirty SOB. Because if you try to handle the people gently, they don't think that you're dangerous. So I went out there and the first thing I did was I took my Tommy gun, and I whacked one of 'em across the head. And they all looked, and I went like that, [Puts finger up to mouth] so they never said a word. And I said, "Rouse, rouse." And I pointed for them, which way I wanted 'em to march.
\And so that picture, they had (of) me earlier -- this is the reason why Lieutenant (Richard) Hayashi knew that that was me in the picture. Because he saw me comin' back through the lines with these guys. And they were the ones that reported back to battalion that I was comin' through with prisoners. So regiment turned around and called the signal corps to have cameras there. And that's how come those pictures were taken. I was bringin' the prisoners from the German side, the Germans from their side, over to our side to be interrogated.
TI: Go back to how you captured them. Were you alone, or were you in a small squad to capture them?
RT: No, no. You, when you go after prisoners like that, you're always alone. Because you're in German territory now. The more people you got, the easier it is for them to spot you.
TI: Here you went, you captured a group of them.
TI: How is it that one man captured a group of German...?
RT: Well, that's the reason why, like I said, when I first walked up to them, and I said "rouse," start movin', and I whacked one with my Tommy gun. And I'm telling, when I did that, I'm telling these guys, one damn false move, you're all dead. And nobody, when you're actually captured, nobody wants to die. They'd much rather take their chance on living through it in a camp or stockade or something like that. And they'll follow your orders. Probably, if there was more Germans somewhere near, somebody might have hollered. But I don't think they realized that there was anybody near. So none of 'em ever hollered.
TI: So you got this group away from all the other Germans, you surprised them.
TI: And you went in there, and was sort of rough, and then you captured them?
RT: I captured them. I brought 'em back.
TI: In that group there were some officers?
RT: Yeah, there was four officers in that group. And, gee, they learned a lot from these guys. So it's, that's the reason like I say, a runner is a real lonesome job. You're always workin' alone. You, it's not, I like it when I'm in a squad and gee, we gonna go do something, and you got twelve guys there with you that you can depend upon. But a runner, you're always by yourself. I don't care whether you're taking just a measly old message to your company. You're doin' it by yourself. There's nobody there to say, "Hey, maybe we should go out this way. What do you think?" It's always you're walkin' and you're thinkin' to yourself, gee, I wonder what'll happen if I went that way. Should I go this way? And you gotta make your decisions. And they're not somethin' that you're gonna sit there and think about. Your decisions are like that. [Snaps] You gotta make 'em fast.
TI: That's a great story.
<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 45>
TI: Let me ask, there was an important battle that the 442 fought, the battle of the "Lost Battalion." I want to ask you about that battle and what you can remember about it.
RT: Well, when the battle of the "Lost Battalion," the first thing I remembered was the 36th Division. Now you gotta understand, in a division, there's three regiments. And we were only a regiment. Now they came in and replaced us. Three regiments, division comes in to replace a regiment. And we had been, we had been taking quite a whipping, because we're going in, trying to go in to take this town of Bruyeres. And the reason why town of Bruyeres was so important was, right in back of town of Bruyeres was what we called Hill D. And it just shot right up out of the ground. And it must have been up there, oh, I'd say, close to a 150, 175 feet high. And the Germans were using that as a command post. And so it became our job to take that Hill D. And so we turned around, where the other outfits that were trying to get into Bruyeres were there over four months already, and they never went into Bruyeres. And the 100th/442, within seven hours, we walked into Bruyeres. And you see, this is the reason why the people of Bruyeres respected us so much, was they knew that here these other guys had three times the amount of men we had, and couldn't come in and relieve their town, but we come in there and boom. We relieve them.
And it was amazing, because when the 442nd came walkin' through, they looked at us and they said that we were Chinese, Chinez. And then the 442 guys, they're saying, "No Japonese." And they're sayin', "No, no, no, no. See we're Japonese, Japonese." So then they were wondering, "Hey, is it just a Japanese army coming in and relieving them?" But they look, and we got American uniforms on. So this was when they finally realized, "Hey, these guys may be Japanese, but they're Japanese Americans fighting for the United States." And after that, they all came pouring out and hugged everybody and everything.
And this is the reason why I think the town of Bruyeres, even today, respect the Japanese so much. Where else can you go in Europe today where every five years, the town wants to put on a big get-together for you? And where else can you find, on the main drag, if you was to walk down the sidewalk, every 50 feet, you see the 442nd emblem put into the sidewalk. Big square of it like that. You look at this, and they have a big sign that says Rue de 442. They named the street after 442nd and everything.
TI: They're so appreciative, because, were the Germans really harsh in their treatment of the French?
RT: Oh, yes. They were very harsh in their treatment. And they, like they said, actually, they were under siege for over seven years. Because Strasbourg is the next big town. And Strasbourg was one of those places that changed to the French and went back to the Germans, and it went back to somebody else. And then the French took it over again. And it never was a town that was, you can say it was, whether it was German or French. And so that was the reason why Bruyeres was actually the first town that was all French people. And so they really appreciated us coming in there.
TI: I've heard accounts that after the 442 liberated Bruyeres, the townspeople were pretty upset at, I guess, collaborators within that town who worked with the Germans. Do you recall any of that?
RT: Well, no, there wasn't exactly any, well, there wasn't, we never really saw them do anything much to the men, because most of the men were, fought in the free French. But they did bring out some women. I don't care what town you go into, where there's a lot of soldiers, there's always women that's gonna do some kind of a business. And so they brought all these women out. And we were there, we watched it all go on. They brought them out and shaved their heads for 'em, and stripped 'em naked and marched 'em down the street. They were the ones that were the German collaborators.
TI: And what were you thinking when you saw this? Did you know what was going on, or what was...?
RT: Yeah, well, they explained to us what it was all about. But to us, we felt that it's being a little harsh. Sure, they had no reason to be there, but they were there. What are you gonna do? Sure, they coulda locked 'em up in jail or somethin' like that, but they didn't do that. This was one of the things that went on all over France. Any time any of the women was a German collaborator, why, they took 'em to the town square and shaved all their hair off their head, and stripped 'em naked and walked 'em down the street. But like I say, the people in Bruyeres were real appreciative of us.
<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 46>
RT: And so after we pushed past that Bruyeres, I'll never forget there was one spot there, there was a railroad trestle went down through like a valley. And we were on one side of this railroad trestle, because they had the thing built up like that, and the tracks were in the middle of it. And the Germans were on this side, we were on this side and throwin' hand grenades at each other. I'm very fortunate I didn't have to go through that, because I'm with battalion. K Company went into a farmhouse. And they, that was their headquarters. And I was very fortunate. I went to take a report to K Company, and then there was this one medic -- now to show you how good-hearted the medics are and everything, he said to me, he says, "Hey, Punch Drunk, when you came through, you see da kine, dead Germans out there?" I says, "Yeah." "You see any of 'em alive?" I says, "I don't know. I never look." "Aw," he says, "you know I cannot carry a rifle. Will you go with me?" And I always carry a Thompson. I said, "Yeah. I'll go with you." So we went out there. And he went through to make sure that they were all dead, and found one of 'em that was still alive, and he patched him up and stuff.
TI: So this was a German soldier that he risked his life to go out there...
TI: ...just to see if anyone was still alive?
RT: Just to see if anyone was out there alive. And we, he found one of 'em alive. So he patched him up and everything and brought him back. You see, a war is a funny thing. Here most of the guys are mad at each other and they're ready to kill each other. But then you got the medic who says, "Well, my job is to save lives." And to him, it didn't make no difference whether it was a German soldier or American soldier. That was a life he saved. Which is great. I think, this is the reason why I've always said, when you stop, even today, and you think about especially the 442, because of the fact we weren't accepted as full Americans until later on and everything like this, but we still were willing to work together. And when we get into combat, well, sometimes you're mad enough to kill a wounded man, but most of the time, you're not. And it's amazing, what a human life is like. Like I've always said, "There's sometimes when I used to think the guy must be nuts, because of what he's done. But other times now, when you think about it, I guess he did the right thing."
You know the taking of another human being's life is a complete new feeling. It's not the feeling that you get when, I look at you, and say, "I'm gonna bust you up, you bugga." It's not that feeling. It's more to it. And even like when we were going to, through Italy, I'll never forget, we were -- you know, you never fight a battle much down in the valleys, especially when you're an outfit like the 442. You're a small outfit, easy to put up in the hills. So we used to fight all our battles up in the hills. And a lotta times, you take like me, as a runner, I make a lotta moves. I do a lotta traveling in those hills. And once in a while, you come across some family living in a cave. And you know they don't wanna build a fire outside, because then the flames could be seen, so they build a fire inside the cave, and all that smoke and everything, and everybody's all black. And there used to be times I'd be walking through, and I'd see a family in a cave like that. And I'd see the daughters and the mother and everybody, their face all black. And I used to feel sorry for 'em, and I'd give 'em my K rations. And you're actually, you come to think of it, they were our enemies, because it was with Germany. But you don't, there's certain times when you see somebody, you get that, you get that feeling, this is another human being.
TI: And then when you see death, though, when you need to kill, or you see someone being killed, what does that do to you?
RT: Well, when you see death from a distance, then you sort of feel sick that it has happened. But when you're right in it, the only thing that's in here is, "I gotta get them before they get me." So your feeling's not there. You're not a human being. I've always, I've always used to think about this sometimes. I think to myself, "I wonder when I get out of this, if I do, whether I'll be a human being?" Because you know they say, "You go out and shoot enough people, it's like steppin' on an ant." But it's not that way. There's certain times when you see certain people in the situation they're in, especially like when you see kids that are so small, they're hungry, they're cryin', and they're lookin' at you as if to say, "Gee, do you have something for me?" You can't be mad at 'em. And you're, you give 'em, you shouldn't be giving them your rations, but you give 'em the rations and stuff like that. You wonder, gee, sometime I used to think to myself, "Now why in the hell'd I do that?" But I think it's, we do it because we're human beings. It's the life of a soldier on the front lines. When the time is there, when you must kill to save your life, the most important thing to you is your life. So if you have to kill to save your life, you're gonna do it without even thinkin'.
TI: So when you saw the medic --
TI: -- help a German soldier, he was helping another human being.
RT: Yeah. Yeah, he was helping another human being. And the guy says, this guy's, was, Okubo, Medic Okubo. He was one, and he says, "I hope you don't get mad at me now." "No, no." I said, "I'm glad." I says, "That poor guy's hurtin'. Help him." When I'm saying somethin' like that, I'm thinkin' to myself, hey, if I was shot out there, and there was a German there that can help me, and if he help me, I'd be so grateful to him.
<End Segment 46> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 47>
[Ed. Note: After this Densho interview was conducted, Mr. Tokiwa provided a written addendum to this section of the interview, describing his encounter with Brazilian soldiers and officers.]
(There was a regiment of Brazilians who were expected to relieve us by the Arno River in Italy (before we left for France). The Germans used to send small patrols across the Arno River to harass us. K. Co. was picked to find these patrols that were coming over to harass us. They found one of the patrols and there was a firefight between K Co. patrol and the German patrol. The Germans finally pulled back and they left some of our guys wounded and some of their guys woulnded. Chaplain Yamada heard that some of our boys were wounded real bad and our first aid group was sent in to help the wounded and bring out the one fatality. Chaplain Yamada heard about this and was going to help them because he had a jeep. But his jeep hit a land mine and his driver got killed and the Chaplain was wounded mildly.
Even though he was wounded, he went looking and found an Italian home where he begged to borrow their bicycle. And even though he was wounded himself, he rode back to K. Co. to get help for his driver and the other wounded soldiers. Chaplain Yamada went back with the squad of six to eight men to show them where the wounded were. I went back for the ride to see if I could help.
When the medics got there they could see the wounded soldiers - our guys and the Germans, and there were fresh German troops that had arrived by the time they had gotten back.
The medic started to work on the German who was wounded, and a German soldier hollered and said that the medic was trying to kill him when he was supposed to help.
The medic replied, "I don't care if he is German, American, Japanese; I'm going to help him."
The Germans were going to take the wounded back and they also took the medic as a POW. He protested by hollering, "You can't take me. I'm a medic. That is why I wear this cross." But they took him. When the wounded were picked up, they might have figured they wanted to keep him alive because he helped them. They didn't take any of the American wounded because the Germans knew help was coming and they weren't prepared to go into a gun battle. I never heard about the medic again.
After that K. Co. crossed the Arno River (near Romagno) where they were holding grounds. I was told to go pick up a group of Brazilians who were going to relieve us.
So, I went back. They were bivouvaced around three miles away and I went by foot for about an hour and a half. When I got there the officers were going to come to see where 3rd Battalion headquarters were. From there, they wanted to go to the frontlines to see how we were deployed.
Before I had gotten there, I kept wondering to myself how I was going to speak to them. Would I use Spanish? I didn't know what their language would be.
So when I got there a sentry said something to me, and I answered, "Four-four-two." And he realized I was from the 442nd so then afterwards we tried to speak, but not very well and we were trying to understand each other. Since I was going to take them back to headquarters, I signaled to them to follow. We had to walk, otherwise we would have been shot at. While I was walking I was trying to figure out how I would communicate. What language was I to use? I tried my broken Spanish I learned as a kid. Finally, one of the officers asked me if I was Chinese. "Chino? Chino?" I said, "No. Japonese."
Then in Japanese he asked, "Nihongo o wakarimasu ka?" (Do you understand Japanese?)
I answered, "Hai. Wakarimasu yo." (Yes, I do understand.)
I expected to meet Brazilians, not Japanese Brazilians.
They wanted to know why an American spoke Japanese fluently. So I told them I was in Japan for school and had learned to read and write Japanese.
I asked why they spoke Japanese. I was told that most of the unit was Japanese and all of the officers in the unit were Japanese.
They said, "Yokatta. Yokatta. Nihongo o hashashite, wakari yoni narimasthita." (How fortunate. How good. We spoke Japanese and it was understood.)
While we were just shooting the breeze, one of the officers asked me, he had heard all the Japanese were rounded up in the United States.
I told them, that it was just those from the West Coast - California, Oregon, and Washington.
He said the U.S. government tried to round up all Japanese in Brazil and put them in concentration camps in the U.S.)
RT: And so naturally he wanted to know if I knew any Japanese words, as far as army was concerned. And I said, "Yes," I says, "I went through Japanese military training." And so they were real happy after that. And they, 'cause they'd come in to relieve us.
TI: Was it a segregated unit, a Japanese unit?
RT: Yeah. Well, no. It wasn't, see...
JN: Officer in the Japanese...
RT: We never knew, we never knew that, what kind of an outfit it was. We just thought it was a Brazilian outfit so I figured they would be Brazilian officers. But no, all the officers were Japanese.
TI: And the soldiers were Brazilian?
RT: A few were Brazilians, but even a lotta the soldiers were Japanese. So naturally, I was curious. So I asked 'em how come so many Japanese in this outfit. "Oh," he says, "no, we're Brazilians." But I says, "You speak Japanese and everything, so you must be Nihonjin." And they said, "Well, we're Nihonjins that live in Brazil, and we are Brazilians now."
TI: And conversely, was he surprised to find Americans, Japanese? Was he surprised when he talked to you?
RT: Well, they were told, they were told that there was American Japanese, American soldiers there. And they felt that we wouldn't be speaking Japanese, that we would speak American, English.
JN: Was there some reputation building by then about the 442?
JN: They would have known about you.
RT: Yeah. It was amazing. I, every time I think about that, I sorta chuckle. Because here we were, trying to figure out how, they were worried about, they said, they couldn't understand how they were going to communicate with me. And I'm thinkin' to myself, "How in the hell am I gonna communicate with these guys?" And then we find out we got a common language of Japanese. [Laughs]
TI: That's pretty funny.
RT: Yeah. Can you imagine that? A common, our common language is Japanese.
JN: Yeah, even today, the South Americans do maintain the Japanese (language and culture much) more than we do. It's like a third language, a fourth language.
RT: And see now, they were the ones that told me that the United States had ordered Brazil to round up all the Japanese and send 'em up to the United States for exchange later on, for the American soldiers that are captured in South Pacific.
TI: So were the Brazilians pretty angry about this?
RT: Oh, yes.
TI: These were family members that were sometimes taken and sent to...
RT: Yeah. Oh, yes. They were, well, the Brazilian government itself said, "No. We are not gonna round 'em up. They are our people." So the United States said, "All right, if you won't round 'em up, we're gonna come down and pick 'em up." And this guy was a full colonel in the Brazilian army. He's the one that's telling me this. And he says, "You know what our government told your government?" I says, "What'd they say?" "You try to come in and pick up these Japanese Brazilians who are Brazilians, you are declaring war on us. We will fight you." Can you imagine that? Now, you see, this country's never brought those things out in the open. But if you sit, you know everything about the history down there. You sit and you think about it. You never hear this country saying anything bad about Brazil, because they couldn't afford to have that come out in the open. It's something that is all wrong, what they were doing.
JN: Peru is the only one that complied, right?
RT: Well, no. Peru didn't exactly comply, either. As far as Peru went, (the U.S. military) had ordered the Peruvian government to round up all the Japanese in Peru. And the Peruvian government said, "If you want 'em, you gotta come down and get 'em yourself. We are not going to round them up for you." So the United States had to send its own planes into Peru, with its own soldiers, and round up the Japanese. So it wasn't the Peruvian government that was rounding up the Japanese, it was the United States.
TI: But the Peruvian government allowed this, whereas the Brazilian government said, "No."
RT: Yeah. The Brazilian government said, "No."
TI: And part of it is, you're thinking is that the, because in Brazil, the Japanese held high ranks in the military, and probably other government positions?
RT: Well, and not only that, see, in Brazil, the big-money people were the Japanese Brazilians who were in the farming. They went into Brazil and they didn't farm 50, 60 acres. They farmed hundreds of acres. I was invited down there to see them. And they took me out to a chicken farm. And can you imagine a chicken farm covering a hundred acres?
TI: I can imagine the smell. [Laughs]
RT: Yeah. Well, I couldn't even picture this. A hundred acres of chickens. And another thing was this guy that had invited me down there, when I went to his place and everything and we were talkin', then he says, "Would you like to see my farm?" I'm sayin', "Oh, yeah, that'd be great." So I see some pick-ups over there. So I figure, "Oh, he's gonna take me out in the pick-up." And we're goin', start walkin' towards the pick-up. And he said, "No, no, no." I said, "Aw, we should go in the pick-up. We don't wanna go in the car. Get your car all dirty." "Oh, no. We can't go in the pick-up." I said, "Why?" "Well, no, we gotta take a helicopter." And I looked at him, and I said, "Take a helicopter?" "Oh," he says, "You go by pick-up, we're not gonna be back for three, four days." Can you imagine? Over 5,000 acres.
JN: See today, Brazil has more of a population than all of us. It's in, a million.
TI: Yeah. No, I'm...
RT: But can you imagine? Here they are. In order to see his farm, I gotta go up in a helicopter so I can see it from the sky. Otherwise, I won't see it all in one day.
TI: That's a great, a great story about the Brazilians.
<End Segment 47> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 48>
TI: Let's go back and now, go to the battle of the "Lost Battalion." And tell me about that.
RT: (In) the battle of the "Lost Battalion," as far as the 442nd went, I think (we did a job nobody else could do. But we lost a lot of men). We never realized it until the whole thing was over. But the thing that bothered me the most was, we were just a regimental combat team. Sure, we got our own artillery and all these engineers and stuff. But a division has three times the amount of men we have. And we're the ones that are gonna go and try to rescue this lost battalion. And finally, well, some of the (442) guys were walkin' up to the front lines. These (Texas) 36th Division guys are saying, "You guys are nuts, if you think you're gonna go and rescue them." Because to make a rescue like that, it is suicide. (You have to be covered on all sides.) You don't say, all right, some of you guys fight down the draw here and some of you fight down the draw there, and have some of you on top of that hill over there (because a draw is a canyon below the ridge). (Most of all the heavy fighting has to be) right on top of the hill. Because that's where the Germans are all (waiting for us.) They're lookin', they're putting all their people right on top of the hill, so they can shoot down at you (if you're in the draw). So you gotta fight them from on top, too.
And so actually, that's the reason why we took such a beating. It's like, this is the reason why I remember Colonel Pursall so well, was, we were takin' a hell of a beatin' up there. And Pursall knew we were takin' a hell of a beating. And we were gettin' pretty close. And General Dahlquist, who was the big boss of the 36th Division, (who) let (his men get surrounded). He let this one outfit get so far out, they got surrounded. In my book, if we never made the rescue, we think it would have been his neck, too. And the place where I respected Colonel Pursall so much was, we were takin' a hell of a beatin'. Casualties were all over the place. And usually, our officers, like captains and things, since they're surrounded by a lotta men, they didn't get killed too often. But on this push, officers and everybody, everybody was gettin' killed. And that still comes from the fact we're fightin' just in that little space of about a hundred foot across, and we're tryin' to push. And the German knows you gotta come through this, so they're settin' up all kinds of defense.
So here we are. We've already taken a hell of a beatin'. And General Dahlquist, who was in charge of the 36th Division, we got stalled, so he was comin' up there to find out what the hell we're stalled about. And so he comes up. Regiment sends him up to 3rd Battalion, because 3rd Battalion, at that time, was on top of the ridge, and (K. Co.) were the forward unit. So they, he comes up to 3rd Battalion, and he wants to know what the hell's holding us up. "I want you guys to charge, charge, charge." That's all he's saying, "I want you to charge." So Pursall makes up his mind he's gonna show him what's holding us up. And like I've always said, "Don't be good friend, too good friend of these guys. Otherwise, you get in a lotta trouble."
So what's he do? Pursall gets me and he says, "Okay, Punch Drunk, let's go." I said, "Where're we going, sir?" He says, "We gotta take the general up, to show him what we're up against." So as we start walkin' out -- maybe I shouldn't say this. That's all right. When we start walkin' out, he whispers to me, and he says, "Whatever happens, I don't want you to hit the ground." And I looked at him and he looks at the general. So then I knew exactly what he was thinkin' already. He wanted the general to be in full view of the Germans, too. So here we go walkin' up there, and get right to the front line. And at that time, Company K was a front line. They were it. So he whispers over to me, and he says, "Okay, Punch Drunk. I don't want you to ever hit the ground." And I'm lookin' at him. Bullets are flyin' through the trees. And I was thinkin' to myself, "Gee, well, if he says I don't hit the ground, I guess I don't hit the ground." So he's standin' up there, and, you know, he's six-foot. And he told me, "I'm six-foot." And he says, "You won't see me hit the ground either."
And he's standing up there, and he's tellin' this general, "You see what's up there? Now there's a machine gun nest right there. They got it pointed at us. Now you see up here, there's a whole rifle squad up there. They're ready to mow us down." And he showed him everything that is up there. And there's four of us standing, and I'm lookin' down the side like this. And here's all the 442nd, K Company guys, they're on their bellies, because you can get shot. So Pursall goes over and he kicks one of the lieutenant, on the bottom of his foot, and he says, "What's the matter, lieutenant? Think you might get shot?" Naturally, the guy says, "Hell, they're right there. They can shoot you any time." That was when -- what was that lady's name?
JN: Oh, Sinclair Lewis' son. (Mother was also an author).
RT: Yeah. Sinclair Lewis' son, who was the aide to General Dahlquist. So now he's the aide to General Dahlquist, and I'm the aid to our colonel. That's when the aide got shot. Got him right smack on the head. Now if we'd have been laying on the ground or somethin' like that, I don't think that woulda happened. But he was mad enough to wanna show him exactly what would, could happen. Well, when the general's aide got shot, the general took down off the hill. And we went down runnin' after him. We finally caught him, and he was goin' in a rampage. "I'm ordering you, you will attack. I want you to fix bayonet and attack. That's an order."
So then our Colonel Pursall, picks up this general. He coulda been court-martialed, 'cause he picks up the general and just shakes him like he was a rag doll. And he's saying, "These are my boys you're trying to kill. And nobody kills my boys like that. Nobody orders them to go up there and get killed. I'm the only one that can do it." Well, about that time, why, the general, he's all shook up already, so, and he's practically outta his mind. So the medics came and got him and took him down. So he goes, we go back up there again. And he whispers to me, he says, "You think we gotta fix bayonet and charge?" I said, "Well, I don't know, sir. I don't wanna say nothin' about that. I don't wanna be, said that, 'Oh, he was one of 'em that said yeah, let's get them guys runnin' up the hill with fixed bayonet.'" And the next thing, I turn around, I see this six-foot colonel runnin' up the hill. And he's got two pistols in his hands (shooting), pow, pow, pow, pow. And he's shootin' as he's runnin' up the hill. I look down, and here's K Company rushin' up the hill. They're all following him. And that's how we broke the line. Can you imagine what, gee, we get up top there, and after it was all over and I looked at the colonel, I says, "Hey, Colonel, you know you coulda got shot runnin' up here like that." He says, "Well, I'm still kickin'. I'm all right. You all right?" I says, "Yeah, I'm fine." "Okay, we're happy," he says. But can you imagine that he was so perturbed at the fact that the General Dahlquist had no feeling for us. All he can think about was sending us in the line, and he didn't give a damn if we all got shot.
TI: Yeah, I've read some place, too, that he was so upset after this incident, that he ordered the 522, the artillery unit, to fire a barrage, and actually the coordinates were that he gave them, or told them, were actually the location...
RT: Yeah, were right on top of us.
TI: Well, the "Lost Battalion." And that the 522 didn't obey, because they knew that that was where they were.
RT: It's, I look at, I look at things that happened at that time, and I've always said, "It actually, you're not fighting a war, because you don't fight wars like that, not anymore. But that was the only way we can get in there, because of the trees and everything. You had to fight it like that." And I've always given Pursall a lotta credit. Because I don't think you'd have found another colonel that woulda (gone) to the front line, and standing up, six-foot tall, and our rifle people are (lying) on the belly right down the road there, where I can see 'em. And he's showing the general what we're up against. That was just like saying, all right, so I get shot doin' this, I get shot doin' it. I give the man a lotta credit. He wanted the general to know that what he was trying to order, was tryin' to get his boys killed. And he was not about to do it. And it's like I say, when he picked him up, you know, he was six-foot tall, big, strong man. So he just picked him up and just shook him like that. Hollerin' at him, "Those are my boys you're tryin' to kill."
TI: That's an incredible story.
RT: Yeah. And then, then he gets up there, and he asks me, he says, "Do you think we really have to fix bayonet and charge?" And I says, "I don't know, sir. That's not my job to say anything." And I look like that, and here he's runnin' up the hill, and he's got two pistols and (shooting) pow, pow, pow. And then I look down the line to see where K Company was, and they saw him goin' up, so everybody's movin'.
JN: But they didn't use bayonets?
RT: No, we didn't use bayonet. We used rifles. But that's the way, that's the way the back of the Germans were finally broken on that push.
TI: That's a good story.
<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 49>
TI: About this time, I think, weren't you injured? Weren't you wounded around, about this time?
RT: Yeah. It was right after that when I got wounded. Well, we didn't have enough guys anymore, to where we can be free to send people into the back, to go to the hospital. So my injuries weren't that bad, so I went back down to battalion aid. And they said, "Okay, we'll patch you up, but we gotta, we're gonna have to send you back." I says, "Oh, that's fine. Just stop the bleeding. I'll be fine." And see, now like I say, I had an assistant at all time. Well, when I'm not there, my assistant has to take over. So during the time I left there to go down to the battalion aid station to get patched up and get back, a message had to be taken to K Company. So I got back up there. And I'm, here I don't even really know what the guy's name was or anything. I haven't hardly talked to him. So I'm tryin' to find out where he's at. So I find out that he took a message to Company K. That worries me, because when you haven't got that experience like I had, you don't know what to look for. So I immediately went to Company K to see what happened, because he never reported back. When I got to K Company, I asked the one sergeant, I says, "Hey, my runner came up. You know where he's at?" "Oh, yeah. Look in the foxhole over there." And he was dead. That fast. He just come up and just had the bad luck to happen to go in at the wrong time, and he was dead.
TI: Was it bad luck, wrong time, or just inexperience? I mean, if it were you...
RT: Well, yeah. It's all of that, see. But it's more bad luck, because he didn't get the chance to get that experience that I have. If it was me, I'da been doin' it a lot different. I know that tree bursts can knock the hell outta you and everything. So instead of just diving into a foxhole, I'da went into a foxhole that had a cover over it. Even if there's somebody in there, I'd go on in with 'em. But being he was green, why, he dove for the foxhole, and he caught all kinda shrapnels, and then he died instantly.
And gee, I've always felt bad about this. Because, now this fella, when you're on the front lines, you don't have time to ask him, "Where you from? How old are you? What's your family like?" The only thing I knew was he was born in Japan, and he was in Idaho going to school, and the war broke out. And he told me that the family that he was living with said, "Oh, don't worry about it. You here stay with us until the war ends. When the war ends, then you can go back to Japan." But you know how Americans are. Immediately, this family was black-balled. They were "Jap lovers" and everything. And they start writin' in red paint, "Jap lovers," and stuff on the home. So this poor guy, he didn't know what to do, and he had to do something to make the family there look good. So he volunteered to the 442nd.
And I got that far. And I didn't, I knew what his name was and everything. But I didn't know exactly where he was from Japan. And I knew that he was from Idaho Falls, but I didn't know exactly who the family was or anything like that. So the guy gets buried as a man without any relatives. And so I always felt bad about it. And I always used to think, "Well, I would like to find his family in Japan." But we have yet to find 'em.
And now I've come to the point where, Masayo Duus, who is a author, she used to write for big magazines and stuff in Japan. She, I talked to her about it, and she said, "Oh, we're, my, the magazine I write for is one of the largest in Japan. It goes all over Japan. I'm gonna write this story up and put it in the magazine." And see, we have never gotten an answer. 'Cause we got his name and everything in there. So if there was somebody within that family alive, I would think that some way they'da read that. So I finally, this was what she was talkin' about that -- when I met her, why, I was on my way on another business, and that was, I was going back to France to bring back his body to be buried in Washington, D.C.
TI: The same boy that was your assistant?
RT: See, actually...
JN: This was forty (two) years later, (in 1986).
RT: This is forty (two) years later. See actually...
TI: You felt because he didn't have a family, you wanted to...
RT: Well, to me, it's, when you're a soldier like that and you get killed, and there's nobody to take care of it, it's a very lonesome life after that. I don't know whether I believe there's life hereafter or what it is. But to me, deep inside, I feel that's a very lonesome life. So I wanted to bring him back to someplace where there's a whole mess of soldiers. And there, nobody's gonna ask him, "Are you an American?" or anything. As far as everybody's concerned, there, they're all American soldiers buried there.
TI: So forty years later, you went back to France...
TI: and you got his body, brought it back, and have him interred into, interred in Arlington...
RT: Arlington, yeah.
TI: Cemetery, in Washington, D.C.
RT: In Washington, D.C. I still think about it and everything. And I talked to Masayo Duus not long ago. And her answer was, she said, "You know, his parents, his family could be one of 'em that was where the atomic bomb was bombed, was dropped. And the whole family got wiped out." Because she says, "The second time I went back, I not only had it in the magazines that I write for but for all the magazines that will accept it." And she says, "I even put it in all the Japanese newspapers. I've never had contact." So she (thinks), "The only thing I could think was the family was either in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and the whole family got wiped out.
TI: What a story.
<End Segment 49> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 50>
TI: Now, going back, right after the battle of the "Lost Battalion," General Dahlquist, who we talked about earlier, wanted to address the troops right after the battle. And I believe it's called a retreat parade, where he, he asked the colonel to assemble the troops so he could address them?
TI: Were you there when that happened?
RT: No. When that happened, I wasn't there. But the way I caught the drift of everything was, he turned around -- now this was told to me by the colonel...
TI: Which colonel, Colonel Pursall?
RT: Yep. And the chaplain also, Chaplain Yamada, was there, and also he verified all this, was that the 36th Division commander wanted the 442nd to pass in review. And so, and he said, "All personnel of the 442nd will pass in review." So the 442nd passes in review. And like I say, you got three battalions plus headquarters, and they don't even have a battalion out there, passing in review. So General Dahlquist turned around, and he said to the colonel, "When I order everyone to pass in review, I mean the cooks and everybody will pass in review." And Chaplain Yamada said, "This is the first time I saw the colonel cry." And he said, "This is all I have left." [Cries] Can you imagine the feeling he musta had to think that he had to order people to go out and get killed, when it was these people that put the families into concentration camp, and they're still there? You know, I felt that, and I've always felt bad that he had to explain to the general why they're not there.
And so I have never had any respect for the general of the 36th Division. Because you're the one, he's the one that's ordering our colonel to do all this, and to think that our colonel wasn't gonna get everybody to participate. And to think that more of our people were still alive, and he couldn't stop to figure that, "These guys, they gave a hundred and fifty percent so they can rescue my boys." So I have never, I have never, even today, I will never feel that I would like to give Dahlquist any kind of a hurrah. Because I don't believe in him. I can't. To be in an outfit where we start, start going in to fight this war, and we got damn near 300 guys going in. And like I said, when I went back to get patched up, I just got patched up, and I had to go back to the front lines because we didn't have any guys. And to think that these guys, after all they had given, this general felt that they should be giving a little more respect to him. You can't. I have no respect for a man, because it was his screw-up that caused all of it. And I've never for, it took me for the longest to get to even think about, "Well, what the hell was this damn deal, where he has three times the amount of men that we have. Why didn't they go in and make the risk? It was their own people. Why us? Was it because we were Japanese?"
<End Segment 50> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 51>
TI: In fact, later on, you said -- this was after the war -- you had a conversation with General Clark.
TI: And did he talk a little bit about this with you? About the 442 and how they were used?
RT: Yeah, well, General Mark Clark was, he was a hundred percent. In fact, he always said, "I'm a hundred and fifty percent (for) 'Go for Broke.'" And like he said, he says, "There were many times, they, I got orders to do certain things." And he said, "It used to aggravate me." And I said, "What do you mean, aggravate you, sir?" He says, "Why couldn't (they've) used somebody else? Why always the 442nd and the 100th?" And he said, "It takes all kinds of people to win a war. But you don't try to make one group of people do all the fighting for you." And he was, that's the reason why I like the General Mark Clark. The last time I was able to talk to him like that, and he cried all the way through (the interview). And he said to me, he says, "You know, Rudy I'm sorry that I had to be the bastard to send you guys in like that." And it takes a damn good man to be able to come out and apologize like that. After all, he was a general in the United States Army. He's the top man.
So I, I always sit back and I think about all this that happened and everything, and I think well, I know a lotta the younger generation, they feel that I'm a guy that rah-rahs too much for the 100th/442nd. But I've always said, I don't think they realize what the 100th/442nd has done for them. Because before, even though we were soldiers and everything, people used to shun us quite a bit. But after we came back, nobody shunned us. I'm amazed. I go to the high schools. I don't get too much of this from the colleges and universities. But I go to the schools to talk about the concentration camps, and the forming of the 442nd and what the 442nd has done. And it's, a lotta times, I won't even say nothing about our motto being "Go for Broke." And some guy would holler out, "That's right, 442nd, 'Go for Broke,' the best." That makes you feel good. When, hearing my, a Caucasian out there, he's thinkin' about us. And like I'll go to these, speak at colleges and universities and stuff. And I've spoken to a lotta Japanese organizations. But you don't hear them saying, "Yeah, what you guys did was great. You did it all for us." And my feeling is, all them guys that never came home, and weren't able to walk up their front step and say, "I'm home, Mom." They're the guys that made it so good for all the Japanese afterwards.
<End Segment 51> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 52>
TI: In fact, someone I wanted to talk about, you talked about earlier, he was a friend of yours at Poston, Lloyd Onoye.
RT: Oh, yes.
TI: And we want to go back, and talking a little bit, because he was this strong man, a good friend of yours that served also in the 442.
RT: Yeah. See now, Lloyd Onoye, he was a big, husky guy. To show you how strong he was, when we were in those concentration camps, we used to play basketball, block against blocks. And there was one game we went down to, and, well, they never should have had the referee from that block.
TI: Right. You told me the story yesterday...
RT: Yeah. Oh.
TI: About you had to hold him down with six guys.
RT: So you can understand how strong he is. Well, I probably told you this, too. That he was one of the first to go in for induction, and he had a murmuring heart, so they 4-F'd him and sent him back. So when he was back, why, we used to wrestle and stuff like that. And we, I never used to wrestle him by myself. There'd be three, four of us. But we could never take him down. And he was so good-natured all the time, that when he went to the 442nd, I was quite surprised. Because he wasn't one of them kinda guys that would get in the fight all the time or anything. But it didn't take long for a lotta the Hawaiian people to realize, "Hey, this is no man you can fuss with." 'Cause him and I were down one day, went to the PX to drink beer. And this little Hawaiian guy was, guy thought he was something that was big. And he gave Lloyd a little hard time. And he figured, I guess if he got in a fight with Lloyd, that everybody, all the other Hawaiians would back him up. But when he started to fight with Lloyd, and Lloyd just picked him up and threw him against the wall with one hand, everybody looked at it. And they said, they figured, we ain't goin' in and get in that fight.
But you see, now here was a guy was a real good soldier. He went all the way through the war almost. And the last push we're making, I wasn't there no more. But in the last push that we were making, he became acting first sergeant. And so he got, he got the headquarters of his company, I Company, took a direct hit on the headquarters and it wiped everybody out. And then I heard that they were in a tunnel. And so you know me, sometime I say things when I shouldn't. So then when I, when they talked about how the tunnel was, the hole of the tunnel wasn't facing the German side, it was facing American side. All right, if you're gonna shoot an artillery shell and it goes down the tunnel, and it gets the guys maybe 50 feet down inside there, it's got to come from the back side, our side. And now, with this outfit that was back there, even today, they claim no, it wasn't one of theirs. But it had to be a short round. And the I Company CP got wiped out. It was only, they only had about another, I think, about three weeks or so, and the war ended. Here was the guys, so good-natured and everything, and so good. And he was one of the main guys that spoke about why we should volunteer for the good of the Japanese Americans and everything. And then he becomes one of them that don't return.
And so maybe I'm a nut, because I go to Washington, D.C. And I always got to go to the Arlington Cemetery to pay my respect. And I could never find Lloyd's grave. And I knew that the family had him buried in Arlington. So finally, we spent something like, oh, it must have been five, six hours we went walkin' around lookin'. And we finally found his cross. But deep inside -- I was glad we found his cross -- but deep inside, I felt a little bit bad, because like when I go, I got my buddies, (John) Nakamura and them guys, they're all buried. And they're almost all buried in one little spot there. But here he is, way out amongst all the hakujins, all by himself. And so what I had said when I went to pay my respect, I says, "I'm sorry, Lloyd, that you couldn't be with the rest of the guys. But you're still amongst our people. So I want you to be able to rest in peace." Because it's, it's that feeling you have inside. You want him to be with the rest of the guys.
So I've been, I've always looked at this and I've always said, "Well, one of the things that I would like to do, even today yet, is I would like to be able to, some way or another, get to the younger generation, and get them to understand what these guys went through and what their thoughts were." Because I heard, I've heard things from Japanese families, "Aw, them guys volunteered because they wanted to get out of camp. Well, if they wanted to get out of camp, all they had to do was sign up for any kind of work job outside, and they'd go out of camp for six, seven months, and then shipped back again. And I hear things like that, and it aggravates me. Because here it is, I know why the volunteering was done. And to think that these guys can't understand this. And I've always said that I think there's gonna be a day when the 442nd is not gonna exist. And this was the reason why now I'm talking amongst the younger people. I want them to form this "Sons and Daughters."
And it's like I said, in France, the people in Bruyeres would like us to form a "Sons and Daughters." And they'll even treat the "Sons and Daughters" better than they treated us. When we went there, we all went to hotel and stayed. But they said, "If the 'Sons and Daughters' will come over, and you let us know how old they are, we'll try to put them in homes of couples about their age." That's how much they want to keep this thing going, how much they respect what the 100th/442nd did for them.
TI: That's tremendous. Now I want to go back, and they, sort of the short round, sort of the friendly fire that killed Lloyd. At that point, I believe that wouldn't have been a 522 artillery?
RT: No, no, no. It wouldn't have been a 522.
TI: Because by then they had split off, hadn't they?
RT: Yeah. See the 522 was in Germany.
TI: Right. And I want to ask you about that. But just, so, what unit would have fired?
RT: So it had to have been the 92nd. And they insist no, they didn't have a short round.
<End Segment 52> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 53>
TI: But as I mentioned earlier, yeah. But the 522 had split off. And they were requested by another unit to help them. So they were in Germany. And one of the things that happened was that they were able to liberate some of the satellite Dachau camps.
TI: And I've been reading a book, it's called, Light One Candle by Solly Ganor. And he was in Dachau. And he recalls having a Japanese American soldier, someone from the 522, essentially liberate him, lift him up out of a snow bank.
TI: So he remembered that. And then years later, I believe it was in the '80s, there was a group of 522 veterans who went to Israel. They were being honored by the Knesset.
RT: Yeah. (April 1992)
TI: And you were with that group. And Solly, in his book, talks about going to this meeting, and meeting the men, or the man, who actually lifted him out of the snow bank. And you were there. Can you tell me what that was like?
RT: Well, you see we, well, Judy and I were the ones that led that group over there. And they wanted, the 522 guys wanted to go and meet with some of the people that they helped, which was something that I felt should be done, too. And so we had written quite a few letters over there and whatnot. And we got it to the point where they would like to have us come over. And at the, and that they would allow us to sit in on a meeting of the Knesset, which was their (parliament). And not only that, they had a big ceremony of -- what was it they had? Seven camps, huh? The Jewish...
JN: Oh, in the Yad Vashem. Yom Hoshoah is the holiday.
RT: Yeah. So they, what they would do is every year at a certain date, they have a candlelight ceremony for all these different camps. And so we were invited as guests to go see his tomb. And they also have (a memorial) called Ammunition Hill. Now this, very few people know this story. Ammunition Hill is the story about the Jewish people who were in Africa. And they got caught in Africa. And so the English was havin' a hell of a time fightin' the war in Africa, and they needed everybody they can get to fight the war. So they asked the Jewish people if they would join the English army. And they joined the English army and fought in Africa. And this is the reason why the Ammunition Hill is now a monument (for) them. And one of the things that I've always been surprised at is, back there, this story isn't something that is just told to a small group. It's told to everybody.
And I was very fortunate that I had met a Japanese (professor at Hebrew University). And can you imagine? He spoke the same languages as they do and everything (Hebrew, Japanese, and English). And he spoke English to me. So we talked quite a bit. And he said one thing that he was amazed at was, he says, "They found out that I was Japanese, and that I was going to school in Israel. But they treated me like I was royalty because of what you 442nd, 522 boys did." And so I said, "Well, that's great. But now what do you think about what has happened now?" And he says, well, as far as he's concerned, "the Israeli government is a hundred percent in back of the Japanese American soldiers." That's a hell of a lot better there than we can say about (the U.S.) government here.
<End Segment 53> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 54>
JN: Did you want him to talk more about the meeting?
JN: And Solly Ganor?
TI: I think he's getting there.
RT: Yeah. So then we start talking about how we're gonna have a, it was not exactly a meeting, we were gonna have a session. So this was where we got the fella that helped him out and Solly Ganor on the same program. And they talked about, this guy talked about how he saw somebody that was laying in the snow move, and he thought, "Hey, maybe the guy's alive yet." And Solly Ganor's talkin' about he feels himself being picked up. And he says, "I couldn't see who was picking me up." But he says, "Well, to put it in English, what went through my mind was, 'God is receiving me.'" And...
TI: Because Solly was just so close to death.
RT: Yeah. He was...
TI: He had been in these camps for a long period of time.
RT: Long period of time.
TI: And he was near starvation.
RT: Yeah. He was just, he had had it already. Like he said to me, he says, "You know Rudy, you come that close to death, and to find out who the guy was that saved your life, I would never forget the man. I would do anything I can, anything he wants."
JN: The person, it wasn't definitely the person there. This was a 522 person that, not necessarily this...
RT: Yeah. We won't say, we don't put it that way, because...
TI: Well, in his book he identifies Clarence?
RT: Yeah, well. This is...
TI: As the individual.
JN: Clarence was the one that was in the meeting.
RT: This is the reason why I felt it was better, you had to have a name. And he doesn't know who the person really was. So we said, "Well, let's pick a man."
JN: The (first) meeting at the hotel was between Solly and Clarence, (with us).
RT: So it's been, to me, I think what these Japanese Americans have done, not because I was part of it, but because of what all these guys have done. I don't think there could be another nationality that you can say, "Yeah, they were great."
JN: You could tell him about what Speaker Sol Shilansky said to you, too. The speaker of the Knesset. Remember that? The speaker of the Knesset.
RT: Yeah. Well, it wasn't the 442 that was there. So somebody was, sorta I think, well, he was being pushed by somebody else. He was tryin' to prove that, "I'm 442nd, so I had nothin' to do with it." But then Sol Shilansky, who was -- what'd they call him?
JN: The speaker.
RT: Yeah. The speaker of the house.
JN: Of the Knesset.
RT: He was the one that was handling the program that day. And he turned around and he said, "Well, but here is a man that risked his life for the same freedom we were fighting for. And he has gone through as much hell as we have. So I would like to personally pin this pin on his collar." And he pinned my pin on the collar of my jacket.
JN: And he had also been in Dachau. And he was telling you his story about remembering a patch. Remember?
RT: Yeah, yeah. 'Cause he was the one, he told me in the early part, that when I said, "Do you know for sure who it was?" And he said, "Well, when I was picked up, I could see the patch. Now I know who belonged to these patches, who the guys were." And to him, it was like God sent. And he says at one time, when we were just shootin' the breeze, he says, "You know something, Rudy? If it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't be here. Not that, not that you were the one that picked me up or anything. But because of your group of people and what they were fighting for. Because of that, I'm here today." And he says, "I respect you people and I bow my head to you." And it was just like when we went to Ammunition Hill. This is where these Jewish people have their monument. And somebody come up and started pushing me to the side, and said, "These aren't the guys did this and that and this." And so the people at the Ammunition Hill just stopped him right now. And they said, "He represents these people. So as far as we are concerned, he is the man. It made me feel good, too, because these people are recognizing what the Japanese Americans have done.
<End Segment 54> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 55>
TI: Okay, we're almost at the end of this tape. So I just wanted to finish up. Anything else about the war in Europe? Any other story or memory that you want to talk about?
JN: He wanted to refer back to his dad. (...)
TI: Okay. We can talk about your father. Talk about your father.
RT: I've always, I've always felt real proud of my dad. Because I think it takes a pretty God dang good man to be able to let his sons go and volunteer and fight for a country that he went to fight for, and never received his citizenship. I think if it was me, I'da probably told my son, "You're crazy. You're not gonna get anywhere." And I'd probably be hollering at him. But do you know my dad never raised his voice once. And what he had said to me was, "Well, if this is what you believe you should do, you should do it. Otherwise, for the rest of your life, you're gonna start wondering, did I do right or did I do wrong?" So he says, "I know I was in a bad situation with 'em and everything, but I wish you luck." And the Japanese, the Issei, they never hug and, or anything like that. But he did grab my hand, and said, "I want to wish you lots of luck, and please come home." So it takes a certain different man to be able to do what he has done, after what he went through. I think any of us woulda said, "Well, it happened like this, like this, and it isn't gonna change." But with him, he had faith enough that, sooner or later, it's gonna be right. And so I've always said, when you can't have a father that believed in his sons and believed that things can be turned around by what the sons do, and still say, "I bless you for it."
And I've always, and that one thing that I've always remembered was, well, naturally, in his days, they fought the war differently. And when I left, one of the things he had said was, "Always remember, don't lead with your heart." In other words, don't put your shoulders so your heart is first. And he says, "Because when you get shot in your heart, you don't make it. But if you get shot in the lung, you have a chance." That stayed in my mind all the way through the war, what he had said there. I thought, "Gee, that, when you really come down to think about it, that is somethin' to think about."
JN: Can you show that position? Show the position. How would you lead?
RT: Well, 'cause, see what side's my heart on? It's on this side. So yeah, you lead this way. So this way, if you get shot, you gonna get shot through here. So he was thinkin'. He says, "Yeah, they don't teach you these things. But these are the things you learn." Because in their days, they fought the war differently. The whistle blew, you went outta your trench, you charged.
TI: Were there any things that you kept that reminded you of your father or mother while you were fighting?
RT: Well, my mother had sent me a little bag with the rice, with the kernels on it. And she had taken that out, she found this out, found it in a hundred-pound bag of rice. And she sent, she always said, "This rice kernel was real lucky. With all the thousands and thousands of rice that's in this sack, it's the only one that lived through it and was able to keep this husk on. So I'm sending this, you this, so that you'll come home to us."
TI: Because in a similar way, the people, all the people who would get hurt or killed, that she was hoping that you would symbolize the one that came back.
RT: That came back from that, yeah. That I'd be the one just like this little rice out of that hundred-pound sack.
JN: He still has it.
RT: I've always, I guess I'll keep that until the day I die. And I'd like it to be buried with me. Because when you go through life and death every day like that, you hang onto every little thread you have. I don't care who he is. A lotta guys say, "Aw, I didn't worry about gettin' killed." But even while you're saying that, you're still hopin', "I hope I don't." And I've always, I've always admitted it. I've always said, "Yeah, I wore this around my neck from the day I got it, to all the way home." And I go in the hospital, I made sure that nobody took it off my neck. That's where it stayed. It might be a crazy superstition, but I loved it.
<End Segment 55> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 56>
TI: So as the war ended, and you were going to go back to home, the United States, in your mind, where was home gonna be for you?
RT: Well, see now that's the part that, it's been, it sorta aggravates me to think that, here you fought through a whole damn war for the country, but your parents are still in this concentration camp. It's a concentration camp that you volunteered out of, and you volunteered out of there to try to change it. And so people like this friend of mine that I met up in Salt Lake City now, when I finally got here to the States and I got sent up to Fort Douglas, I was just very fortunate that the commandant of the Fort Douglas was, his son and I were good friends. So immediately, he called me down to headquarters. And he said, "You remember me?" Then he mentioned to me his name and everything. I says, "Yes, sir. How's your son doing?" And he says, "He never made it." And I apologized for it and everything. And he says, "Well, you're my son coming home. I want you to have dinner at our house, and I want you to sleep in our house tonight." So that's what I did.
So while this was all goin' on, then he says, "Where's your parents?" I says, "Oh, they're in Poston, Arizona." "Oh," he says, "what they doin' in Poston?" I says, "Well, that's the concentration camp that we were put in." To him, he thought it was terrible that I have to go back to see my parents, after all we went through, in the concentration camp. And he knew that my dad was a World War I vet. And he says, "And your dad was a World War I vet. What the hell's goin' on?" I says, "Well I don't know. When I get back to home, which I will call Poston, Arizona, my home for the time being, then we'll figure what we're gonna do." Well, in the meantime, they closed up Poston, Arizona, the concentration camp. So I'm callin' all over, tryin' to find out where my folks went. And the only answer I got, well, everybody had orders to pack up and move out, so they all moved out. So I said, "Well, don't you guys know where they went to?" "No, we don't know where they went to."
And it was real fortunate that I was at Fort Douglas and I got somebody there that could do me a lotta help. So we start talkin' about this, and he says, "Well, what are you gonna do?" I said, "Well, I have to go look for 'em, 'cause I don't know where they would go to." So he was real good about it. He says, "Well, we'll tell you -- " he started callin' me son -- he said, "Well, son, I'll tell you what we're gonna do. We're gonna give you a ninety-day delay en route." Ninety-day delay en route, as far as army words are, you're on orders for ninety days, but you go wherever you want, you do whatever you want. You eat all your meals under the army. So I said, "Oh, that'll be great. Give me time to find my mom and dad, find out where they moved to."
So my father, one of the places he liked the most was San Jose. So I kept thinkin' about, "Gee, now where would they go? Where would they go?" I says, "I'll go to San Jose and see." So I hopped a bus and I hopped a train. And then I got to -- I didn't have brains enough to get off in Oakland and catch a bus to go down to San Jose. I took the ferry over to San Francisco. Then I had to go to the Greyhound Bus Depot. And I caught a Greyhound Bus Depot and went down to San Jose. And I'll never forget this, because I got off the bus, and so there was this Red Cross stand. So I walked up there, and I don't even know where to start lookin'. So I walked up to this lady behind the Red Cross place, and I said, "Ma'am, I'd like some help." She says, "What can I do for you?" I says, "Well, I just come back from overseas duty, and my parents were in one of those concentration camps. And the concentration camps are closed. So I'm tryin' to find them. My dad, at one time, lived in San Jose. So I'm just wondering, is there any way, place, or a way I can find, ask questions about it?" And I got real, well, I was aggravated. But the sailor was aggravated even more, because she turned around, and she says, "Oh, there's a place on Fifth Street, a bunch of Japs are livin' there." Oh, this sailor blew his top. He told this gal, "Are you calling this man a Jap? He's an American soldier. Do you see his ribbons and stuff? He fought overseas. You see those stripes goin' up his shoulders? That says how long he was overseas. Who in the hell do you think you are?" And he slapped her across the face. And so I stopped him. And I says, "Oh, no. We don't wanna cause trouble. All I'm doing, I wanna find where my parents are."
So I went outside with him, and he explained to a cabbie. "Oh," he says, "Yeah, I know where this place is. I'll take you there, son." So he took me to the Buddhist church. And oh, to be lucky as could be, the cab pulled up in front of the Buddhist church, and a fella that I knew comes walkin' down the street. So it was Star Fukuda. So I say, "Hey, Star, what are you doin?" And he looks, looks like that, and he says, "Oh, Rudy, what the hell are you doin' here?" I says, "Well I just got back from overseas." "You see your parents yet?" I says, "No." "Oh, they livin' upstairs." So I just happened to be very lucky that I was able to find my parents at this (Buddhist) hostel. And when I went up, I was very fortunate also, because all the Japanese, only thing they had was blankets goin' across the gym, and that was the walls. So whoever slept here, and it might be a man sleepin' over here, only thing that separated them was this blanket. But my mom and dad and my oldest brother, they were very fortunate enough that they had a room upstairs. They all slept in one room, but at least it was better than a whole mess of other people.
<End Segment 56> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 57>
RT: And so I felt so good, because usually my mother cries very easily. But she hung on for quite a while. And she finally said, "You know, I think kamisama has awarded me this, for what I have done." And somebody had written a letter to me overseas. And this gal had written in the letter, "I feel sorry for your mother. You know what she does every day, five o'clock in the morning? She goes to the shower room and gets a bucket of cold water and says a prayer, and she pours that cold water over herself." And that was so that the god would punish her, and save me and bring me home. And when I got that letter, it sorta hits you a little bit. So I told Mother, I said, "Gee, I read in the letter from one of the girls in Block 213, and they, they really felt obligated to you because of what you was doing." So she says, "Well, if you're mother of a soldier, you do everything you can. Whether it looks foolish or looks like a bakatare doing it, you do it to try to bring him home." You know, what more can you ask for from parents? They weren't the ones that forced us over there. But for them to do that for you, I've always respected. So I've always thought, "Well, I'm going to take a run down to Salinas."
TI: Before you do that, what did your father say?
RT: Oh, my dad, he sat there and he just said, "I'm very glad to see you home. Are any of your wounds bad?" And I said, "No, I'm fine." I says, "I'm okay." So all he wanted to know was what my future was gonna be like. Was I gonna get out of the army yet? So I didn't know actually what I was going to do, because, well, I told you guys, I had a sister that was in Japan. And one of the things I thought about was, I thought maybe instead of gettin' a discharge out of the army, I would sign up to go to Japan. And this way, while I'm in Japan on duty, I can go look, see what happened to my sister. And I told my dad all that. And he says, "That would be so much help to us." But then when I went to get my discharge, get my discharge and I tried to re-up again for another three years, they told me, "No, your wounds won't allow us to (enlist) you again." So I had to come home. But eventually we did bring my sister and her family over here. So it was, you look at things, if you look at things bad all the time, I think you don't get a happy moment. But you gotta look at things that turn good for you, and you gotta believe in that. Then I think things are happy for you.
<End Segment 57> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 58>
TI: I was thinking your father and mother, and how hard it must have been that their oldest daughter was in Japan, they didn't know what happened. You were in Europe, fighting. They didn't know what was happening to you. And trying to bring it all together. That was, must have been a very, very hard time.
RT: Oh, yeah. You take like, you see now, what I'm doing here is, I'm defending the dropping of the atomic bomb. And I know a lot of people say, "Oh, that was a dirty thing for the United States to do, drop a bomb on Japan, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and all this." But you see, my army training tells me somethin' differently. And my studying of Russia tells me somethin' differently. And you see, I think what the United States was doing was they were trying to end the war before Russia could come in and take Manchuria and Korea back. Because I think if Russia would have taken over Manchuria and Korea, Japan woulda been gone. And I think the whole idea of, to keep that from happening, was to drop the atomic bomb and stopping the war right there. And I know it may sound like it's very cruel, because there was so many people that got killed. But sometimes you gotta think and say, "Well, they were the losing end." They were very fortunate that they weren't like the Jewish people who got put in the gas chamber and killed for nothin'. And actually, they were the enemy and because of this atomic bomb being dropped where they were, I think it ended the war earlier.
TI: But, okay. After you met your parents at the Buddhist temple, and you then tried to re-up, but that didn't happen. So what did you do next?
RT: Well, we what we did next was, I came back to San Jose. And my brother was a foreman for the D'Arrigo Ranch, so I worked as a farmhand for a long time. And then I thought, "Well, I can't very well be just a farmhand all my life," so I went to Hempfield Diesel Engineering School. And I said, "Well, I gotta learn a trade. At least that way there, I pick up a good job." Well, I went to the Hempfield Diesel Engineering School and graduated from it and everything. I made one trip to South America on a banana boat as the head engineer of the boat. And it was one of those small, little boats. And I don't know if you know anything about engines, but they have these big engines, what they used to call air-starting engines. It's all, you set the piston, and then you throw an air pressure valve. And that make the piston go down. That says whether it's gonna go that way or whether it's gonna go that way. Well, we went through South America and it worked real good. And when we came back, I got all excited, and I, instead of it's stopping the boat, it put the boat into the dock. But they didn't fire me. They said, "Well, it's the first time you really went on a trip. So we're not perturbed about it." But then I said, "Aw, I better quit." I feel foolish in what I did. So I quit.
And so then I came back and I thought, "Well, I'm gonna go work as a tractor repairman." So there was a Caterpillar Company in San Jose. So I went down to see them about gettin' a job workin' for them. And they wanted to know what my training was and everything. And I'd tell 'em. And, "Oh, you went under the GI Bill of Rights. You was in the army." "Oh, yeah." "Oh, okay. You got a job. Just go down and join the union. As soon as you join the union, you got the job." So I go down to union. And the union says, "Well, yeah. You can have the job. As soon as you get the job, then we'll let you join the union." So one guy's saying, "Well, you gotta have, join the union before you can get the job." And the other guy's saying, "Well, you gotta get the job before you can join the union." And so I could see the handwriting on the wall. I was still a "Jap." And after that, I, I wasn't so good.
<End Segment 58> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 59>
RT: But then after I got married, I started to think more about all this training and all this stuff that I had gone through. And I thought "Now, with the knowledge that I have about all this racist stuff and whatnot, I think I can be help to all these kids." So my son, my oldest son, was going to school. And I used to go to all the PTA meetings and stuff. There wasn't much going on, as far as what I felt should be. And I felt that they should be talkin' more about educating the kids than what kind of party they're gonna have. And I thought that parents should be forced to come to these meetings. After all, it's their kids. And so for some reason, I actually got, I was president of the PTA. In fact, I was the first man in the area ever to become a president of the PTA. It was always women.
And so when I became president of the PTA, I says, "All right, from now on, every family will send a representative to the PTA meeting. And if you don't send a representative, we will come to your family to find out why." And so then I said, "Now, everything is black and white. There's no such thing as this parent's coming in and makin' an excuse. It's either black or it's white." And I said, "I think that's the way the schools and stuff should be run." You don't look at 'em and say, "Well he's a Mexican, or he's Oriental." As far as I'm concerned, they're all Americans. And they're to be treated equally. And so I went over pretty big as a, because we had Chicanos and everything in the area, and I went over pretty big as a PTA president.
TI: Were you able to get everybody to attend the PTA meetings?
RT: Oh, yes. They, we had one of the best PTAs in the valley. So then they come out to me, people wanted me to start Boy Scouts. They said, "Gee, the way you handled that PTA, you'd make a good scoutmaster." I said, "Oh, I don't know about that." So I finally, okayed. And gee we had one of the top Boy Scouts of America troop, and our cub scouts were one of the tops. But it was the same thing there. Too many people were tryin' to teach these kids military stuff. Kids shouldn't be taught military stuff, because you don't want them growing up to think war. So I taught other stuff about what kinda games to play, and what kinda future you need for your life, and what you are going to be up against, and why you have to learn how to tie knots, and how you gotta do this. (There) were (...) explanations. And (...) I also brought in the fact that you don't just send your kids to the scout programs so you can go see a movie or somethin'. Your son comes to a scout program, the mother or father will be there with them. Now if you can't, you have to report to me and I will give you the answer, whether he's gonna be marked as absent or present. Oh, then this boy scouting really good. Everybody started to appreciate it and the kids enjoyed it.
TI: That's interesting, how you really wanted to get the parents' participation.
RT: Yeah. You have to get, see I felt that, gee, even like in the army, it's no good for just the little soldiers down in the bottom to do things. You gotta get that colonel and captain and everything to go into the front lines where you're at, so they can see what's goin' on. That's what you gotta, that's what's gotta be seen, is what's going on.
TI: How about values? I mean, when you think of the scouts and PTA, or when you think of children, what values did you want to sort of impart upon the children?
RT: Well, I've always said, I've always felt that you've got to teach a child that whatever is hard to get is usually something that's good for you. You don't turn around and ask your parents for every little thing you want, because then, that is what we call being spoiled. So when I had, like in the scouting program and the PTA and stuff, when I used to have a parents and child meeting, these were the things I would talk about. This is the reason why people realize the fact that, hey, as far as he's concerned, it's not just the parents, it's the kid that's gotta learn along with 'em. They both gotta learn together.
<End Segment 59> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 60>
JN: You did the drug program, too.
RT: Yeah. And I used to do drug programs. But like I say, it still goes to show that I was, I was (one of the six) Western Hemisphere (directors) of the Boy Scouts (of America). And I had good backing all the time. But then the Caucasians that were up on top, they didn't like the idea of an (Asian American) comin' up the ladder like that. So they were the ones that started to give me a hard time. We had a meeting, we were having a Boy Scouts of America Western Divisional Meeting in Salt Lake City. And at that time, I had forgotten to do something. So the tops of the Boy Scouts of the Western Hemisphere were gonna boot me out. And there was all kinds of arguments for me. All the other guys, "No, this guy, he's showing what the program should be like. Not just the big wheels up on top get all the glory and everything. He's makin' it so everybody gets the glory, and the kids take the advantage of it." And so finally, while it's not very democratic, they booted me out. So I said, "Okay, fine, I'm ready to leave." So I folded everything up, and I left. And three-fourth of the people there walked out, too.
TI: What year was this? When did this happen?
RT: Well, Butch had to be about twelve, thirteen.
JN: So this was about thirty years back. Would have been (around 1964 - 1965).
TI: So the '60s, late '60s.
RT: Yeah. So I was real surprised, because I thought I'd be the only guy walkin' out. Oh, I start walkin' out, and I hear all kinds of noise behind me, and I turned around, and everybody's gettin' up and they're walkin' out. We get out in front, and one guy takes, gets up there, and he says, "Wait a minute. I wanna talk. Mr. Tokiwa, I want you up here besides me." He says, "I know all them guys sittin' in there all big shots. And they think they can push us around. But we're the little guys that has to do all the work. And we don't intend to let them push us around. So Mr. Tokiwa, will you continue?" So I came back with, "Well, I will continue, but I didn't wanna be so high up." Because now when you get up into that position, you're working with people that, they don't even know what a Japanese looks like. And they think that everybody that, up there has gotta have a lotta money, you can buy whatever you want, do whatever you want. And I wasn't in that class. So I came back down, and I became a scoutmaster and everything.
And it was funny, because, you see, one thing I think where all the kids really came to the point where they respected me was, in the scouting program they have such a thing as a swimming program. And when you have the swimming program, you have the Swimaree, in other words, a big outing. Well, we never had those. And the reason why we never had 'em was because the regional scout headquarters wouldn't let you, allow it. Because they say, "Well, it's too much chance of some kid going out there and gettin' drowned." So I thought about it, and I says, "Well, I still wanna put a Swimaree on." They said, "Nope. That's out." So I says, "Okay, fine." And I started thinkin' about it. Like I say, I, when my mind gets goin', sometimes I go overboard. I says, "Well, hell, in the scouting program, any scout troop could always put any kinda program they want on and invite anybody they want to it." So I went and talked to some of the scoutmasters, and I said, "Why (don't) you, 211, you put the Swimaree on? And you invite all the other scout troops to join you as your guest." "Oh," then everybody, "oh, that's great." Because like I always said, told them, "I don't understand is, they make us teach you guys about safety around water, but they don't let you put it in practice." So I made up my mind, "Well, we're gonna have this Swimaree then."
So we, 211 put it on and invited all the other troops, and we had over 2,000 kids out there. Well, then it came out the scout headquarters, "Hey, we got this guy nailed." And they came out and they said, "Insurance. You don't have insurance on this program, because scout headquarters will not insure it." So I looked at 'em, and I said, "What do you mean, they're not covered?" They said, "No, you're not covered, because we haven't insured you." I said, "Hell, you guys ain't the only ones that can have, go get insurance. I cover every boy that's in this Scoutaree (area event), Swimaree. They're all insured." And I says, "I trust 'em, because I know these scouts are gonna practice what we preach as a protection. So I don't have to worry about it." And you know, we put that thing on for somethin' like six years. And we put it on the same way.
JN: Isn't it at San Luis Dam?
RT: Yeah. You know where San Luis Dam is?
JN: San Luis.
RT: It's a big, huge dam.
TI: That's a good story. Yeah.
RT: Yeah. We put it on for the longest time. Never had no problems.
<End Segment 60> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 61>
TI: The last thing I want to sort of finish up with, because we're running out of time is, you've been working on a project, and it's a project to bring a national monument to Washington, D.C. And you started at the very beginning, when people were talking about this. Can you talk about that project a little bit and where it's at?
RT: Well, yes. Mike Masaoka, who was (the national) JACL (Washington D.C., representative for years), all this... [Interruption] Well, I happened to be in Washington, D.C. one time, and (Mike and I) were just shootin' the breeze. He says, "Well, Rudy, we gotta do something about redress and all this stuff that went against us." So I says, "Yeah, I agree with you. That's the reason why we volunteered." And so actually, we started the "Go for Broke" organization to put up a big exhibit. And we were going good. But the thing was, we had to have (land) someplace to put up this monument. And we had, the price and everything was all figured out. I think it was going to cost us a little over four million dollars and whatnot. But it came out to be that we couldn't put it up. Because according to some federal law or somethin' like that.
JN: The Parks (and monuments)...
RT: We couldn't put it up.
TI: So this was, you found sort of land in Washington, D.C., or wanted it to put it in Washington, D.C., but the Parks Department...
TI: The U.S. Parks...
RT: Wouldn't give us the land.
TI: Wouldn't give you land for, because it was specifically for a war, or...?
RT: No. Because it was specifically for a Japanese American...
RT: Regiment. And the way they came back to us, they said, "Now, if we let you guys put it on, that means every regiment in the United States Army, if they wanna put one up, we have to allow them to have a piece of land." So we said, "Well, can't let that happen." So then we said, "Well, let's form another organization." What did we call it?
JN: The Japanese American Memorial Foundation.
RT: Yeah. We, that was what we started, we said, "Let's form this, and they would be in charge of it. And this way, it's not a regiment that's gonna put it on no more."
TI: Okay. So the Japanese American Memorial Foundation was founded to put up this monument...
TI: But still, it would be sort of directed by the "Go for Broke" guys?
RT: Yeah. And when we...
JN: That's what it was...
RT: So we picked a whole mess of guys to run this thing and put it together and everything. And one of the things that we had put into the bylaws was that they must report to us, I think it was every three months. And give us a report of exactly what they're doing, and we had to okay it.
TI: And the reason, and some of the reasons are that you wanted to do this was not only to keep control, but you were also lining up a lot of the funds, or the donors, for the monument?
RT: Yeah. We had, well, it's like with me, I had gone out, and I had a group of guys that already told me, "Oh, yeah, we'll back you up with a million dollars." And so this was fine, gee. And finally, all of a sudden we find out that, in fact, the meeting was held here in Hawaii.
JN: The first Foundation meeting.
RT: Yeah. It was the first Foundation (JAMF) meeting, and it was held at the Pagoda (Hotel). So we went up to the meeting. And there's a rope strung across the room. And we said, "What's this rope for?" "Oh, that's for you guys who are non-board people. You just have to sit on that side of the rope, and the board will sit on this side of the rope." So half the time, we didn't even know what they were talkin' about no more.
JN: Couldn't hear 'em.
RT: And you would think that, you take like this guy, Chester Tanaka (who was living in Hawaii), he was one of the (original) big pushers (for a memorial). And they didn't even introduce him. It came out to be that those of us that were actually ones that were started, started all this, we were nothin'. They were just pushin' us right out the door.
TI: And were they taking the plans in a different direction than you wanted, also?
RT: Yes. They, they wanted more, instead of army and whatnot, they wanted it to be more about what they have done. Well, what they (received) had to come from someplace. And they were receiving that because of the 442. And so they should be talkin' about, "Well, we work together, let's get this whole thing put together." And at one time, they brought their price all the way up to sixteen million dollars. And like I say, we'd go to the meetings and we weren't allowed to talk.
<End Segment 61> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 62>
TI: Okay. So the scope of the project looks like it became more expensive...
TI: And the direction changed. And yet to this day, you're still involved. You're still helping out with this project?
RT: Well, they're hoping I will.
TI: [Laughs]. Okay.
RT: Because the way I look at it, it's not that I want the glory in it. I don't care about glory in this. But I think people like Chester Tanaka, Tom (Kawaguchi) (both started in Go For Broke, Inc. which became the National Japanese American Historical Society).
JN: Mike Masaoka.
RT: Mike Masaoka. All these guys, they're the guys that put it together. Sure we were there, too, with 'em. But these are the guys that aren't here no more. Let's show a little respect to them. And I don't care. If they wanna put a naked lady in the middle of it, that's their privilege. But let's show a little respect to these guys. But it's not there. And now, it's not, it's not a 442nd monument no more. What'd they call it? But it's about other things now, about the Sanseis and whatnot. So I talked to one of the guys that was gonna be one of my big donors. And he looked at me and he smiled and he said, "Rudy, you remember what I said?" I says, "Yeah, you said that you would do anything for the 442 people, because those are the guys who put us back in as Americans." And now these guys, they had talked me into coming in and joining back into the whole thing. But like I told them, "No, I can't come back in and do it, because am I gonna go tell this guy, well, it's not for Go for Broke or nothing, it's for other things? These guys are gonna tell me, 'Forget it.'"
JN: The parallel here is that we're doing redress. We got stalled. And we had to bring in the veterans, finally. And that put us over the hump. They took over the foundation. They thought they were gonna raise all this money on their own. They're stalled. They're trying to bring back the vets. That's really what the scenario is.
TI: So that's kind of the current situation right now? So they're sort of hurting.
JN: They can't raise the money, because they have no basis for raising the money without the vets.
RT: See, they thought the way they can raise the money is, they're gonna name all these guys that got a lotta money. You got to, donate this, this, this...
JN: That's the strategy.
RT: But it don't work that way.
JN: We sat in those meetings (and listened to this strategy).
<End Segment 62> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 63>
TI: When you say they, those guys, they, are we talking about more like Sanseis?
TI: The third generation?
TI: So was this almost a Nisei-Sansei sort of difference in how things are done?
RT: I wouldn't say it's a difference of Nisei-Sanseis, but it's a difference between where you got people who are in the upper class who have made a little bit of money. And the way I look at it is they want the glory of it.
RT: Well, until even lately, though, I've always thought, "Well, I'm not gonna go out and get that big money no more. But I will go out and get them some money."
JN: Oh, I think you're gonna have to do more than that.
RT: But then the last time I sat in the meeting, and when they, practically told me, "We don't even want you around." Why... this is a program that we're trying to tell the story about what happened during World War II and the tale, and how the Japanese Americans came back up like this. But to them now, this is a story about how great they are.
JN: Well, it...
TI: When you say how great, it means the story... I mean, I imagine they still wanna incorporate the veterans' story. Are they just trying to incorporate a broader perspective? When you say "their story," I'm not quite sure...
RT: Yeah, well, it's more about what they have done than what the vets have done.
JN: See, the original (concept) was the idea of talking about the three generations, of how there was an immigration, and what the Nisei went through, and then what progress was made. But now, they've almost completely the removed World War II experience. The Sansei don't even want the barbed wire, I mean, they don't wanna have that in there. They're ashamed of it, really. They're ashamed of this legacy. And so the focus, and we're talking about sixty-five-year-olds, they're Sanseis, they wanna look at, I'm at this level, and I'm a multi-millionaire. They want that sort of thing. They wanna see that kind of element (dominate the project).
<End Segment 63> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 64>
TI: So, Rudy, what do you think's gonna happen? What's gonna happen to this whole project?
RT: Well, if they don't get all the money put together by 19...
JN: October of '99.
RT: October of '99, it's down the drain.
JN: The land is.
RT: The land is.
TI: And how close are they? You said sixteen million dollars. How close are they?
RT: Well, no. They finally changed it again, and now they've brought it down to about -- what is it? Eight million now?
JN: Saying eight million now.
RT: Yeah, about eight million dollars now.
JN: They have nothing.
RT: But they don't, you see, the way they were gonna raise the money was, okay, I know this guy, you know this guy, this guy, this guy, he should be good for $5,000. He should be good for $10,000. You can't make money that way.
JN: They were using a closed-loop system.
RT: You got, you've got to (include) the people, you've got to (include) the people. They're the ones. They've got to be proud of puttin' this thing (up). And so you got to do something that's gonna make them proud. And it's gone. It's not there, see.
<End Segment 64> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 65>
RT: And, well, it's like I said, they had me almost talked back into joining it. But then, it's like I said, well, I shouldn't say this, maybe Los Angeles people gonna get mad at me.
JN: This won't necessarily be on the tape. Gonna be edited.
RT: Because they turn around, and they are going to give the museum in Los Angeles a million dollars from this fund. Now why should this fund be used for a museum? Well, then so the Los Angeles museum says, well, we're gonna be the ones that are gonna educate the people.
TI: Now let me make sure I understand. This is part of still the monument in Washington, D.C...
TI: Not the monument next to them? There's another...
RT: No, no, no. This is the one in Washington, D.C.
TI: That a million dollars from that effort would be...
RT: Donated to the museum.
TI: Donated to the museum for educational purposes?
RT: Yeah. Now, so it's like one guy brought up in the meeting, he says, "All right, now the guy goes down, and the monument's all put up and everything, and they're walkin' around and there's a little deal there, a pamphlet saying, 'You read me, and I'll tell you, all you have to do is call the Los Angeles Museum if you wanna find something out,'" this and that. And this guy says, "You mean the guy's gonna spend ten, fifteen dollars just to try to get that information, when we already have an exhibit right in Washington, D.C.?"
TI: In the Smithsonian Museum.
RT: In the Smithsonian Museum. Why can't we use them? Well, there was no answer on it. They're still gonna do it the way they feel.
RT: So the way I look at, all we wanted was something out there to show that this is what the Japanese Americans have done to become Americans.
JN: It's called the (monument to) patriotism, right?
JN: The Memorial to the Patriotism of Japanese Americans.
RT: So I don't know. In fact, just not long ago I got a phone call, and they're saying, "Well, why don't you at least come down to the meeting, and let's talk it over." But I have no feeling for it. I can't...
JN: Well, we went.
RT: No, but that was after. This is after that already. The one we went to, they knew I was real peeved. It's like one of the guys was talking to me, and he says, "Well, Rudy, I heard people talkin' about you could raise two million dollars." I says, "I could." And he says, "How can you raise two million dollars? You haven't got that kinda money." He said, "It takes money to raise money." I say, "No. But I have friends. I have friends that appreciated what we did. I've had friends that tell me, 'Rudy, any time you guys need money to put that monument up, we're ready to bring it out.'" In fact, I had one guy that said, "Rudy, when you guys are ready to work for the money, you call me. I'll help you. I can guarantee you I can get you a million dollars." But see...
TI: But you're only willing to do that for the right, right...
RT: Yeah, it's gotta be the right program. I can't, because it's just like if I was to go get this money from these guys, I'm lyin' to 'em. Because it's not the program that we have.
JN: Especially when we found out about the million dollars, too.
RT: One of the guys that talked to me and said he could raise a million dollars, he is one of the big wheels in the San Francisco (Historic Society), Japanese (American) Museum. You know what he's gonna say. "Why should I donate so damn much money for the Los Angeles Museum, when I got my own up here?"
RT: Yeah. It's a shame. But I hope someday that something can be straightened out, because something has got to be done. But the way it's going now, I think it's gonna have to be, the people in that organization are gonna have to raise that money by themselves.
JN: No, it won't happen that way.
RT: And I don't see it. I know now they're talkin' about bringin' the cost down again.
TI: Yeah. At this point, I think I'm gonna end the interview. We're at the end of this tape. But thanks again, so much. This was a, we did about six hours in Hawaii here.
<End Segment 65> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.