Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Harvey Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Harvey Watanabe
Interviewer: Stacy Sakamoto
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 4, 1996
Densho ID: denshovh-wharvey-01

<Begin Segment 1>

SS: Harvey, tell me a little bit about your early family life and where you were born.

HW: Well, I was born in California -- Exeter. And when I was about four and a half years old, myself and my sister and a newborn baby brother, we moved to Visalia where my father was operating a farm, sharecropping with the owner of the farm. And I guess one thing I remember is, soon after we got there, a neighbor boy came along and started talking to me, and I turned to my father and I says, "I don't know what he's sayin'. Doesn't he know how to talk?" You know, because he was speaking in Italian-English and I barely knew any English at all, so...

SS: You still spoke Japanese at home.

HW: Oh yes, uh-huh, still spoke Japanese at home, and I really got into learning English when I went to school, first grade, and my sister went into kindergarten.

SS: What was it like growing up in a farming community like that? It must have been hard work.

HW: Well, it was interesting. When we were small, we noticed, the first thing we noticed was that after the harvest was over, like the peaches, the mothers and families from town would come in, and everybody would go out and glean peaches. Then the mothers would all get together. They had the kerosene stoves out there, and they would can the peaches. It was all free, you know, they would just come down and have fun canning peaches, things like that. And having horses around, and little chores like feeding the horses, things like that. Pumping, priming the pump so they can irrigate. Those were little chores that we did. And, oh, all kinds of little minor things that we could do, because Mother and Father were busy working if they weren't around the house.

SS: Was your family a lot like Edith's? Were they poor at that time?

HW: Well, they were not hurting for anything. But they were wishing they could make more money. 'Cause I remember when I was about seven or eight years old, I was standing in the barn with my father and the raisin crop. Raisins had just been dried and brought in, put in what they called sweat boxes and stacked in the barn. And my dad was fingering the raisins in there and he says, casually saying, "Well, if I can get 2 cents a pound for the raisins instead of the 1 cent I'm gonna get, we'd be rich." [Laughs]

But yeah, it was neat to be on a farm, be around a farm horse like Teddy, that I loved dearly. Who I poked a hole in his nose because I let him in the barn before I pitched hay into his, where he's gonna eat it. And he stuck his nose in there and I stuck the pitchfork full of hay in there, and at the same time poked a hole in his nose. And I didn't know it. Until next day Dad says, "How come Teddy has a hole in his nose?" [Laughs]

SS: Did Teddy forgive you for that?

HW: Oh yeah, Teddy's a nice horse.

SS: What was it like growing up the oldest son? There's a lot of responsibility that goes along with that, wasn't there?

HW: Well, I guess we didn't perceive, I didn't perceive it as responsibility so much, other than that I was the older so I could do more things. Yeah, that's about the size of it.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

SS: What were your parents like? Were they Issei?

HW: Well, my father was the fifth, fifth son in his family. And as such he was given, when he was a very tender age, approaching teenage, he was given to his uncle, who was childless, as a yoshi, you know. And that's where he learned how to, he was home taught by his uncle and aunt to read and write Japanese. And then by mutual agreement they decided they would part again and he wouldn't be a yoshi. But then he served in the Japanese army and fought in the Japanese-Russo, Russian war, was machine-gunned. And then after, soon after the war ended, as quickly as he could, he came to America because his oldest brother was already here. But I think that he did a circuitous thing, he came to Vancouver, British Columbia, worked in the timber industry there and then gravitated over to Blaine and on to the U.S. side -- [laughs] -- and worked in timber. And then, he met a Reverend Murphy who was there as a missionary amongst the Japanese timber workers there, and so he struck a deal with him that Reverend Murphy would teach him a little bit of English, and my father had a hobby of taking pictures, so he took pictures for Reverend Murphy. And my father learned English from him and a year later when he knew enough English to get around, why he, came to California where his brother already was. That was back in 1908.

SS: What about your mother?

HW: My mother is a "picture bride." They were married by exchange of pictures and she arrived in California in 1915.

SS: She must have been a very beautiful woman.

HW: Oh, yeah, like all mothers are, you know. And I was born in 1919.

SS: What do you remember of your parents then? They must have been very hard-working.

HW: Yes, yes, they were. Hard-working, and until we moved to the farm, my father did a lot of work supplying labor to farms. There were these itinerant Issei fellows that were here. And they would come, and pay room and board and then be taken out to work, you know. And, then he farmed on his own for a while. But the thing that I remember about him most is that he always despised anybody that looked down on anybody. You know, in Japan, they had the lower-caste (etas) and what they call burakumin and so forth, and he would always, he said, "They always accuse me of associating, being too friendly with them." But he didn't like it that people hated them, you know. It wasn't right. So, that was really brought to my attention by my father at a very tender age.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

SS: Did you work as a young boy? Did you help out?

HW: Well, yes, typically. I think it was true with most all families, Japanese families, that there was only one kitty in the house, one pot. Money went into one bank account. That's the way it was. And we never asked for any money unless we really needed it for something which Father or Mother didn't foresee, you know. But that's the way it was. That's the way it was until I was drafted into the army. I never had an account of my own.

SS: What about school, what was school like? You said that you didn't really start learning English until first grade. What was that like? Was it a large school?

HW: Well, it was a, you know, a typical size city elementary school. One of the things that I remember is that I had to go to the bathroom the first day. And I went in there and all the girls ran out. [Laughs] Of course, we had, you know, a two-holer at home in the outhouse.

SS: Do you have fond memories of those years?

HW: Oh yeah, I think so. I think I got real excited when I began to master the alphabet and the pronunciation of letters and words. And the teacher was getting into more complex words, and she wrote a word up on the blackboard, and I raised my hand up real quick, so she called on me and I said, "An-sweared." The word was "answered." [Laughs] Course, I had been hearing about the swearing and things like that as a kid, you know, on a farm. So I thought I had it right, but man, I never forgot that one.

SS: Did you like school?

HW: Well, yeah, school was easy for me.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

SS: Were there lots of other Japanese American kids in class?

HW: Not many. No, we were the, my sister and myself were the only, only two in that school at that time, yeah.

SS: What was that like?

HW: Just more kids, get to know more kids, yeah. Some city kids and some... of course, the city of Visalia that we were in at that time, had two elementary schools, you know. So the Japanese kids that lived in the city were closer to another school, so they were going there. So, we were in the suburbs, and there weren't any other Japanese around at the time.

SS: At this time, you know, before the war, how accepting was the community of Asian Americans?

HW: Well, I didn't have any problems, we didn't. Probably because, partly because our neighbors were immigrant Italian families, having vineyards. So, I think that they felt like they had just come into the country and so they weren't about to... I know that the immigrant family next door, Mrs. Mangini used to have me stop by and have dinner with them. And one day I asked her about what this was, and she said it was spaghetti, and, "Don't you have it at home?" And I said no, and she says, "Well, you listen to me and you tell your mother how to make the spaghetti." And that's how my mother started making spaghetti at home.

SS: Just like in the old country in Italy.

HW: Yeah, yeah.

SS: So she made authentic spaghetti then.

HW: Yeah, well it was a, well, you see, when you, when things are hard to get, you make do. If you don't have hamburger, why, you just mince up some bacon. Things like that, you know. But she gave us, gave me dried tomatoes to take home, cook with and other things. The other Italian neighbor asked me to stay one day, and I couldn't tell my Mom I wasn't gonna come home, so I stayed anyway. But I sat down at the dinner table with them and there were glasses at all our places and the father comes in and he pours everybody a glass of wine, you know, all little kids -- elementary kids. Not strong wine, but I had my first glass -- well, it was a half a glass -- of wine when I was a little kid. Italian red wine. That's the way it was.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

SS: What did you do for fun?

HW: Oh, swimming in the irrigation ditch and play games, you know, play ball, whatever. And then we had a big pasture nearby, go out there and play ball or run around. And the pasture was right next to the city limits, so I remember barnstorming airplanes coming in there, landing in the pasture. And then puttin' up the sign -- $5 for a ride, anybody wants to fly.

SS: Were you active in any sports?

HW: Oh, a little bit. When you work, you can't, it's hard to do after-school activities, you know. I did play a little football. I played a lot of basketball and so forth with community organizations. But not all the time, like the kids are able to do now. Because you had chores to do. You had work to do. Yup.

SS: Now, you obviously had a horse. Did the family have a car in those days?

HW: Oh yeah. Yeah, we had a car. Ever since I can remember.

SS: Back in those days, when did a young man learn how to drive?

HW: When he was old enough to get behind the wheel and shift the gears. I'll tell you when I started driving, seriously, down the highway, was when I was eleven years old. Because we were going to Japanese school and it was in town. And the school ran seven days a week. The city kids went during the weekdays after school, and those of us who lived in the country, we went Saturday and Sunday all day. And Father, it was too much of a chore for Father to drive us into town and pick us up. So he got together with our neighbor, and there were two boys there, school age, and three of us, myself, my sister and my brother. So, they, both fathers agreed that I could drive the car into town to school. So I did that.

SS: Were you just tall enough to peek over the steering wheel at that point?

HW: Oh, eleven. I was considered a fairly big kid at the time, but they both agreed that I could drive so I started driving on weekends. And go shopping for Mom, you know, and things like that.

SS: When you look back on it now, with the benefit of wisdom and maturity, do you think, "Oh my goodness, I was eleven. I was driving a car."

HW: Well, it wasn't the age, it's whether you can or can't do, I think. Now the law says you have to be this age.

SS: Did you ever get into mischief as a kid?

HW: Well yeah, I think we turned over an outhouse at Halloween once, you know, things like that.

SS: What was that like, did you get into trouble?

HW: Well, you run like everything so you don't get into trouble.

SS: How did that happen? Was it your idea?

HW: Well, when you're a bunch of kids, you know, you don't know really who started it. Or how the conversation gets to that, but it happens.

SS: Can you remember back then what some of your... what some of your favorite possessions might have been?

HW: Well, yeah, as a little kid I liked the little racecars, you know. You push 'em around, build little mud tracks for 'em and things like that. I think I probably liked more than anything else -- airplanes. Airplanes, World War I stuff, you know, that's what it was, yes.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

SS: Were you always interested, then, in planes?

HW: In planes? Well, as a young man I knew that I could never get a job in the airplane industry, that I could never get a job in the oil industry. Those were off-limits, you know. And you couldn't get a job in teamster work because you couldn't join the teamster union. So, there were areas that you worked around. But after the war, I had a chance to try to go to work for Boeing, which I did, yeah.

SS: What was it like, though, when you were a youngster thinking that these areas, these fields, were off-limits? Was that, did that make you sad?

HW: Well, it's like teamsters, you know. If you didn't, if you weren't hired help then you could drive a truck. But if you were hired by somebody and it's covered by the union, why, then if you couldn't join the union then they couldn't keep you, you know, so they wouldn't hire you.

SS: But how about like aeronautics, which you'd been interested in, but you sort of assumed because you were Japanese American, that you wouldn't be hired.

HW: No, it wasn't an assumption, that was a fact. That was a fact. The only way you can get into aeronautics is to go to Japan or somethin' like that.

SS: Was that easy to swallow?

HW: Well, I think we were probably, it was, you might say, it was subdued. Not really swallowed, but subdued. Thinking there would be a better time ahead. Be patient and things will happen.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

SS: What were your parents like as people?

HW: Well, my father never liked to put down anybody. He always taught that the father of education in Japan, the guy's name was, last name was Hoshi, first name was Toru, and he says, "Mr. Hoshi always said that when you are communicating with anybody, talking with anybody, say the positive, never use the negative." And that's something that my father really made sure I understood. Which is as simple and as good as advice that I think I can get from anywhere, anytime.

SS: What did you learn from your mother? She must have been a very courageous woman to leave Japan and come to marry a stranger that she didn't know.

HW: Well, she married him as a picture bride see, then, she came over to join him, yes. I understand it's... she was a lady of very little formal education and, but she was very careful about how she did things. What I mean is that when you as a lady of the house, and the father is involved with providing labor, and therefore, you have a place to board people and feed them. She gets up at 4:30 in the morning and makes breakfast for the workers. And not only make breakfast, but make the makings for lunch so that they can pack their own lunch before they go to work. Then have dinner ready when they come back from work. So our job as kids were to come back from school and get the furo, the bathtub, ready. Clean it, fill it up with water and build a fire under it, so it'll be good and hot by the time they finish their dinner, so they can, so everybody can take baths, you know, among other things. And then the kitchen help, so forth. Of course, no washing machines. You scrub clothes, hang 'em up, 'cause Mom can't do it all.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

SS: What did you do after you finished, finished school? You were drafted, I guess.

HW: I was drafted in, actually, I was drafted in 1940, November 1940, but I didn't have to report 'til February '41.

SS: What did you think when you got that notice?

HW: Well, I was listening to the radio and I knew that they had, I had a draft number of 15. And I was listening to the radio when they were pulling the numbers out of the fishbowl in, at Washington, D.C., at the White House. And my number fifteen was the seventh number to be pulled out of the fish bowl. So I knew I was gonna be gone, you know. So the Japanese community had a big dinner for me, being the first draftee. [Laughs]

SS: What was it like for your parents?

HW: Well, it was not traumatic to my father and mother because soon as I was in high school age, Father notified me that, "You are a dual citizen. You have citizenship in Japan. The reason why you have citizenship in Japan is because I reported you to the Japanese consul." And the reason why I did, he did that, was because he had some property in Japan and needed to identify who's going to take the property in case he dies. And so I told him, well, I didn't know that, but then I had no interest in property in Japan. Then he says, "Well, you think about it for a while." And then we discussed it again, and I said, "I don't want the property in Japan." So he says, "Who shall we name it for?" And I says, "Well, name it to my cousin there, that I had met. I had been in Japan for a few months when I was nine years old. And so that's what was decided. So we went to the consul's office and renounced my citizenship, and changed the beneficiary over to my cousin.

SS: What, at that point, were you dreaming of? You know, what did you want to do with your life?

HW: Well, my dream was to get into aeronautics. But I was busily getting involved with farming. Because, by the time I was a sophomore, I was already helping my father on a time-available basis. Supervising crews on the field and, I'd been keeping books for him ever since I was about fourteen years old -- the family books and the payroll books for the people that are working -- so that kept me pretty busy, and going to school. And so other than just having the desire to be in airplanes, that was about it. And then I was offered the chance to go to aeronautical school, and Dad says, "Well, we'll send you to aeronautical school." And he was serious about it. And I says, "Well, no, I don't want to go because what's the use of spending money on that when I can't get a job when I get out of school, because they won't hire me anyway. They don't hire anybody of Japanese ancestry." So that's the way it was until, and then along the way, my father always said that, "I live in America with you kids, Mama and I, and America is our home. You are citizens of America, and we want you to remember that Japan is not my home anymore." Well, the reason why he said that is because, that's the way he felt. And Japan had been at war with China for several years already. But he didn't have any allegiance. Even after I was in the army and I visited home in July of 1941, he made a very specific mention of that. He said, "I want you not to forget what we decided, that America is our home. So don't you worry about me, because I don't wanna go back to Japan, even if there is a war." So it was clear-cut.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

SS: Harvey, when did you find out that war had broken out, that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor?

HW: Well, it's kind of an interesting story. I took a weekend off from Fort Lewis, where I was in training, and came to Seattle. Because when I had visited home in, earlier in the summer, somebody wanted me to get the message over to somebody that lives in Seattle here, and worked at a certain, Paramount Restaurant, so I remember. So I came to Seattle on Friday, December the 5th, and went to the Paramount Restaurant, delivered the letter. And on the way back I made the mistake of figuring that Seventh Avenue would take me back to Jackson Street, and it didn't. I took me right back up to the top of the hill, which is now Yesler Terrace. And I couldn't get off of that, so I had to back around and walk around to get down to Jackson Street. And I was looking around, and a couple of ladies came walking along, young ladies, and they said -- they looked at me and saw that I was a GI and said, "Do you wanna go to a social we're having?" And they grabbed me by the arm and took me to the church, where they were having a church social. And I had a nice time. I went back to the hotel that I had a room in, and stayed overnight. And I visited around, looked around Seattle, Saturday. And Seattle's a nice quiet town. If you can believe how quiet it could be, especially on weekends and, so I decided instead of staying 'til Sunday, I would just go home. Saturday night, I decided to hop a bus and go back. So I got back into camp and into my bunkbed about twelve o'clock at night, Saturday night. And I was having a nice sleep, sleeping through, and somebody was shaking me in the morning. And I looked over at my buddy in the next bunk and he says, "Harvey, get up. Get up." I said, "What for?" And he says, "Listen to the radio." And I listened to the radio and it says, "Pearl Harbor is being bombed." That was Sunday morning. I was sleeping in real late that morning, and I think it was ten o'clock. And then, of course, soon after that we got the word to get ready to go. You know, mobilize.

SS: What were you thinking at that point, when you heard that it was indeed Japan?

HW: It was, yeah. That it was, it was a real war. That's the only way I can figure it.

SS: Were you at that point thinking, "What'll happen to me? I'm Japanese American"?

HW: Well, no. I wasn't thinking about that particularly. I was thinking that this was such an unfortunate thing to happen, that there had to be a war between two countries, especially war with a country that my parents came from. Although they had already told me over and over again that their home is here in America.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

HW: And anyway, we got together best we could because a lot of the guys were -- weekend pass -- were still not back, and we got ourselves ready and in the afternoon, oh about, I would say about three or four o'clock in the afternoon, we were all set to go. And we drove from Fort Lewis through Puyallup, and up through the valley. I think we stayed off Highway 99. And then we came into Seattle. And I remember going by Boeing Plant 2 and it was all camouflaged. Driving up the waterfront, and then we cut over, and funny incident happened right there. 'Cause I was driving my truck with a gun on it -- I was a truck driver and prime mover -- and a, a civilian car got in front of me. And when the light turned red it stopped and the convoy kept going. So, I just saw a service station next to me, so I just drove my truck and gunned right through the service station and about fifty other trucks followed me right through the service station. So people, attendant, in the service station lookin' at me with eyes wide open, what's going on? Anyway, we got to, that evening we got to Burlington, Washington. And we were told, "Here is the fire hall, and this is where you leave your stuff, this is where you gonna sleep." We dumped our bedding off and our personal belongings. Left it there, and then we continued on to Deception Pass Bridge -- connects to the mainland to Whidbey Island.

SS: What was your unit supposed to be doing out there?

HW: Well, we went there to set up our guns on the bridge. The bridge goes, has an island in the middle, and we set our guns on the island because from the island we could see the Strait of the, Juan de Fuca. And we set up our guns there and then we took turns attending to the gun the next several weeks.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

SS: At what point did you meet Edith?

HW: Well, about two days afterwards when I was off duty, I thought, "Well, I'll just go walk through Burlington to see what this town is like." And I was walkin' down the street there late afternoon and I ran across a Japanese lady, and she noticed me, and she talked to me, and then asked me if I understood Japanese and I said, "Yeah." And she says, "Well, come on over, have some dinner with us." So, I didn't waste any time. I found out where she lived and I went right over there. That's when I met Edith, two days after Pearl Harbor.

SS: So Edith was that woman in town that you met?

HW: No, her mother.

SS: That was her mother?

HW: Yeah.

SS: Was it love at first sight? When you saw Edith?

HW: Well, there were two of them, she and her sister. I didn't want to play any favorites at the beginning. But it didn't take long. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

SS: Did you ever worry about your family in California after the war broke out, what would happen to them?

HW: Yes, yes. Because there was talk about having to get out of, off the coast, and I was the oldest and my brother was not of legal age yet. And the thought was that if they moved to a place and bought a farm, then they could stay there, you know, and it would be on the other side of the line, line of demarcation, as they call it. Which they did, but I wasn't home so my brother-in-law's brother, who was of age, said, "I will sign." He was a citizen and of course born here, and he was legal age, so he signed for the farm. So then the family moved there, which was fine, but then not long after they moved there, it was discovered they were gonna change the line of demarcation. Which they did, so then they had to be evacuated, yes. And meanwhile, I had been, all of us that were in the Pacific Northwest in the military units were all gathered up in Fort Lewis. And there were probably 350 of us there, gathered up there wondering what's gonna happen to us. And then they evacuated us out of Fort Lewis in March in 1942.

SS: What were you thinking about that kind of treatment?

HW: Well, it was kind of a weird treatment in a sense, because when they said, "Pack up your stuff. You're gonna go." And we got on the trucks and we didn't know how far we were gonna be on the truck, we only went about a mile or two to the (train) siding at Dupont, which is at Fort Lewis. And there was a troop train there, and the truck pulled off Highway 99 on the shoulder, and we got out of the trucks and then we got on the troop train. But we got on the troop train alphabetically. The Andos and so forth in the first car, and all the Watanabes, Yaguras, Yamaguchis, and so forth in the last car. And, still, I didn't see anybody around. That was kind of a mystery to me because a chaplain came to see us off, but there was nobody, no other officers on board the train with us, only the train crew and us. That was a real weird situation. Of course, then we were all advised that if we pulled into a station, every station we pulled into, you gotta pull the blinds so they can't see who we are, who's in the car, in the trains.

But a funny incident happened before we took off. We were all loaded up and the train started pulling out. And I was in the last car lookin' out the window, sitting next to the conductor, and a car driving down Highway 99. I look in there and Bill Nuno is in the car lookin' at the train, you know. And I told the conductor, "Hey, he's supposed to be on the train here. He's gotta be on the train." So the conductor pulled on the emergency cord and stopped the train. It had only gone a couple of hundred yards, you know. And the train stops and Bill gets out of the car, and we jump out of the train, and Bill says, "What am I gonna do with my car?" Brand new car, '41 Ford, a sedan. So, the chaplain comes rushing up the railroad tracks wondering, "What's going on, what happened, what happened? Why'd the train stop and why's Bill out there?" So I told chaplain, I says, "He's supposed to be on the train, but he doesn't know what to do with his car." And the chaplain says, "Bill, do you know where they're sending you?" And he says, "Well, I'm supposed to go to Leavenworth, Fort Leavenworth in Kansas." And chaplain said, "If you trust me, give me your keys, because I've just been transferred to Leavenworth, and my wife is, and I are gonna drive to Leavenworth. But she can drive my car and I will drive your car, and when I get to Leavenworth, I'll look you up." That's how that happened there. Then we went east. We went through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming. They dropped off a carload here, and a carload there. And we were in the last car and we were dropped off in Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio. And then after that, the evacuation started at Bainbridge and all other parts.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

SS: What happened to your family?

HW: My family was evacuated to Poston, Arizona. And Edith's family was evacuated to...

SS: Tule Lake.

HW: Tule Lake, yeah. By the way of Fresno, California, Pinedale.

SS: What was it like for your family? Could they tell you where they were going?

HW: Well, very poor communication in those days, you know. I didn't know where they were until after they were there, in Poston.

SS: Was that hard for you? Did you worry that something terrible could happen?

HW: Well, I didn't worry about something terrible happening. I think my worries were greater that something terrible would happen to them from people in the community if they were remained there, at home. I think that was a bigger worry, but on the other hand, losing everything you got and to be put in, and being located into a separate area is one thing, but the separate area had barbed wire around it, and guard towers, and machine guns on the guard towers, you know. That was another worry. It's more of a worry than the worry of somebody comin' over and bombin' or firebombing or shooting or otherwise hurting or maiming because there were Japanese in the community. I think it was the worse worry, yeah.

SS: Were they feeling some discrimination by this point, from neighbors?

HW: Well, they, well, very little. Depends on the community. Some communities, if you're in a very rural community you didn't feel so much of it because population was sparse and mostly neighborhood people you knew a long time. But if you were living in a more concentrated area, I think, where the higher population and so forth, then it becomes a problem. You don't know who's gonna firebomb you or whatever, or shoot you, or run you down with a car, whatever.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

SS: What happened to your family's home when they were evacuated?

HW: It was leased. The farm was leased. But the lessee just stole everything. Didn't continue to farm and then left the house vacant so then the vandals got in and got rid, vandalized all of our personal property that was stored in the attic of the house. All the photographs and everything were all... gone. The lessee had stripped it of all the appliances and everything. Plumbing and appliances were stripped out of the house. The horses were sold. The farm implements were sold.

SS: That must have been very hard for your parents to hear.

HW: Well, under the circumstances, yeah, very hard. But they didn't know about it for the longest time. They didn't know about it 'til they got back. And I know they didn't know about it when we visited, because when I finished my schooling for Military Intelligence Service, Edith and I got on the train and we visited Poston. And I was in uniform, and we were escorted in by another GI that had a gun and was in the same, same uniform as I had, with a gun, to see my family.

Then another weird thing happened after that, that we weren't supposed to be on the West Coast. But when I bought the train ticket in a hurry in Minneapolis, they routed us through Las Vegas, and so we can go to Poston, Arizona, and then to Los Angeles, to San Francisco, to Portland, and then back to Boise, so we can see her folks. 'Cause by then they were out of camp but working at a hospital doing the hospital laundry.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

SS: These, you know, early, early war years, what was the hardest part, do you think, for you personally?

HW: Well, hardest part was feeling helpless. I'm in uniform. If I just walk away from camp, I'm AWOL, because the war is on. And I would be helpless anyway, you know. There weren't enough of us. If there were say, five million or ten million people of Japanese ancestry in the United States, maybe we would have had enough political clout to get something accomplished. But there weren't enough. And it wasn't a civil matter. It was military matter more than a civil matter. That was the sad thing about it, yes.

SS: And you were part of the military.

HW: Yeah, and so what do you do? So you, only other recourse you have is to take the long-range, long-term hope, rather than the short-term fix. That's about all you could do.

SS: What did you learn about yourself during this time?

HW: Oh, I think probably, if anything, I learned to submerge the wanting to get even, or wanting to correct this thing and just doin' the job. I think that was the, the hardest thing was to just forget it. There are other more important things, and if we do it right then maybe they'll look on us more favorably and things will change. And if you go in there and stir up other people, then you can get a, as a few occasions happened, there were riot conditions in these camps, and if you flare up a big enough riot condition in the camp, maybe they'll machine gun everybody, you know. I mean, it's a no-win situation at that time. So the only way to get by that is to let time pass as quietly as possible, 'til the political situation improves.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

SS: Somewhere along the way, you and Edith got married.

HW: Yes, I was at Fort Lew-, I mean, Fort Hayes, and she was in Tule Lake and then we got a, we had communications. Incidentally, I asked my family to send me some money so I could get her out of Tule Lake. Sent the money to her, and then she got out of Tule Lake. She was the second person to be allowed to leave Tule Lake, the other was married to a friend of mine who was in the army already. And she came by bus, I think by bus, to Ogden. Then by train to Columbus, Ohio.

SS: That must have been the bright spot in all these years.

HW: It was what you call an almost impossible thing to happen, yes. But the Colonel Young at Fort Hayes, who was the Commandant there -- a quartermaster depot -- and he was very good. He agreed to help, and he and other staff officers and some of their hakujin friends wrote letters to the WRA asking for the release of Edith. And that's how that came about. 'Cause they wound up being military sponsors of her release, in a sense.

SS: That must have been hard hearing from her what the conditions were like, and hearing how sick she was.

HW: Yeah, she wasn't well. Well, she was kinda mixed up. I don't blame her.

SS: What got you through all of this?

HW: Just attending to daily details. Submersing the other thoughts. That it'd be for the best to keep it under control.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

SS: Do you ever have any regrets about those years, about what the war interrupted?

HW: What the war interrupted? Oh, I don't know, it's... I think, in a sense, the war probably, maybe interrupted -- tragic interruption. But the acceleration of being accepted, I think, started to improve. As an example, in 1948 when we first moved to Seattle from Minneapolis, we had our daughter with us, she was, and she was only two and a half years old, somethin' like that. And we tried to buy a house in Seattle. All five real estate offices we went into, they just walked into the back room and locked the doors and left us standing out in the office, in the outer office. Except the fifth one, somebody we didn't see up front came out and says, "I'm not like the rest of 'em. Get in my car and let's go out and look at some houses." It was right out here in the Rainier Beach area. But it was that way, yet, you know, in '48. And in some places worse that that. But things, since then things have changed.

SS: Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like had you not, had World War II not have happened?

HW: Yeah, I've thought about it a little bit. I probably would have never worked for Boeings. Yeah, I probably would have lived the life out on either workin' on a farm or on a farm of my own. Some of those guys got rich on the farm of their own, that stayed home. [Laughs]

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

SS: Harvey, how did you spend the war? Where were you, where were you stationed?

HW: After graduating from MIS school in Savage, Minnesota, then I was shipped to General MacArthur's headquarters in Brisbane, Australia, along with thirty-nine others. It was called the Allied Translator and Interpreter (Section), and it was a (section) that was working for -- I should say, we had, we had Chinese. We had Australians, New Zealanders, Greeks -- it was a conglomerate group there at MacArthur's headquarters, which was designated Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA).

SS: What would your assignment be?

HW: Well, my assignment started out there. When I first got there I went into general translation, and then pretty soon they grabbed me and because I had gotten a hold of some technical documents, and -- by mistake -- and they found out that I could do the technical work. So they put me into a Technical and Tactical Air Translation Team, which was being headed by George Goda at the time. And then, soon after that they kicked him upstairs so then they made me the captain of the Technical and Tactical Air Translation Team. And we also took care of not only air matters, but the things having to do with tanks and other mechanical devices that the Japanese army was using.

SS: How did you feel about the work you were doing?

HW: Well, it was very interesting because it was getting close to what I liked -- air. And besides that, I had a small team of people and, we took care of those documents.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

HW: I had another assignment which was to screen all documents that were shipped to MacArthur's headquarters, Japanese documents. My job was to open up the crates and screen them, and decide which ones to translate totally, which ones partially, which ones, maybe not urgent, but of near, of practical value for the... for Hawaii, which covered the Pacific Ocean area. And then there were some documents that are for very long-range strategic value that we sent to, sent to Maryland. And there was also lots of it that I burned, in an incinerator there, and the interesting thing is by then, we weren't being tailed around by CIC operatives so much. If we left camp, there was always somebody watching us.


HW: Yeah, but by then, I could destroy anything I wanted to, without anybody lookin' to see what I was destroying -- [laughs] -- burning in the incinerator.

SS: So you mean at some point, you were still perceived as being not trustworthy.

HW: Well, yeah, we'd been on furlough and they would be following us around. We'd be walking down the street and we'd say, "Hey, somebody's tailing us," in one instance in Sydney, Australia. So the three of us, I said, "Well, let's duck into the next restaurant." So we did. We went inside the door, and just around the corner and waited, and sure enough, this guy shows up. So, we said, "Boo." [Laughs] He disappeared.

SS: How did you feel about that? Did you ever feel that your government had betrayed you or that the military --

HW: No, no. Because if I were the government I would do the same thing to anybody that I had in my employ, in my jurisdiction, that was doin' the same thing we were doing. Wanna make sure we're not talking to the wrong people. You hear about it in the paper all the time, people who work for foreign office or somethin' like that, spilling information for money to other... it happens today.

SS: The task that you were doing; you were handling really top secret things.

HW: Yes.

SS: Tell me a little bit about what that was like.

HW: Huh?

SS: Tell me a little bit about what that was like, you know, the kinds of things that would come across your desk.

HW: Well, one particular document we spent almost a week translating, and we did it very carefully because it was a report from a Japanese fighter pilot about what the B-29 airplane did, bomber did, when it tried to attack the bomber. And the significant thing is that the, is that the... to the fighter pilot, was that the bomber did a stupid thing, but when he went to attack the bomber, instead of the bomber trying to evade the fighter pilot -- it turned broadside to it, and turned all its guns onto the fighter plane. The fighter pilot was lucky he didn't get shot down. He didn't go after the bomber anymore. He went back and reported what he had come across. What the Japanese did not know is that in the B-29s we had managed to synchronize all the guns through one gunner. Any gunner could operate all the guns in the airplane. So one gunner could fire on one airplane with all the guns on the airplane, and they didn't know that. But that was one that we really worked hard to get it out.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

SS: What were you feeling towards Japan and Japanese forces at that point?

HW: Well, my feelings were that I hoped that none of my relatives that I knew slightly would be involved and that the military, to my notion already was a culprit in what it was doing -- some of the things it was doin' in China anyway. 'Cause the military had taken over the control of Japan. Made it easy for my father to say, "Hey, I don't want to go back." So in that respect, I didn't have, I had a bad feeling for anybody gettin' killed, whether it was on our side or their side, you know. And we had heard about the way they mistreated the Korean troops and things like that. And we didn't know about the Korean ladies.

SS: Were you ever in any danger during the war?

HW: No, because I was at MacArthur's headquarters all the time during World War II. Later on in Korea I was in the front lines, but I was a little bit miffed because they wouldn't let me get a chance to go into the front lines. I really was. I was demanding why they were not sending me up in rotation, you know.

SS: Now, you spent the war, though, in more places than just Australia. Tell me a little bit about that.

HW: Well, as the Japanese military started to crumble down, then MacArthur, you know, when he left the Philippines he said, "I shall, I will, I shall return." Well, when he got ready to return, of course, we went with him. And so we helped transport all of our equipment over to the ships and the stevedores put it aboard the ship. And then when we got to Manila, why, we helped to haul it into camp. So, in Brisbane I drove a forklift, handled cargo. And by the time we got to Manila I said, "Hey, I want something a little bit nicer." So I asked for and got a staff car. I was driving a staff car, while we were moving. I'll never forget, I had dropped off an officer at headquarters there, got in my car, staff car, to drive back and a guy jumps on the running board, looked at him -- great big Filipino guy, he's got a bolo knife in his one hand, and he grabs the steering wheel with the other hand, and I looked at him, and I said, "Oh boy, he's figured that he'd caught an escaping Japanese soldier." And I thought, "He'd better understand English." And I started talkin' to him in English and he understood it. [Laughs] So after about five minutes he let me go. [Laughs] Those are the unexpected things that happened. You know, you think everything is fine.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

HW: But anyway, as the war really ground down, and the atom bombs were dropped, and Japan was, said, "Cease fire." Then they sent fourteen, general and staff, with his total staff of fourteen to Manila to coordinate the occupation of Japan. And so they came and asked me to take care of the quartering of these folks.

SS: So you went to Japan?

HW: So I... in Manila. So they had a place to stay. So, we went to the Rosario Apartments, which was on the waterfront, and got it set up. And then when they flew in to Clark Field, just outside of Manila, then our staff cars picked them up and brought 'em out from the airplane and brought 'em to the Rosario Apartments. That was kind of interesting because all the military men came in with their sidearms and their swords and General Mashbir and I were watching, he on one side, I on the other, we're lookin' at each other sayin', "What's the matter with these guys? They're armed to the teeth. The war's over and they're gonna coordinate the occupation of Japan." So anyway, I said, "Well, Colonel, let me get 'em situated first." And we, my guys got 'em all situated. The general got the top room, and so forth. Then we had a little conference and Colonel Mashbir said, "What'll we do?" And I said, "Well, let's go up and talk to the guy." So we went up and talked to the general, General Kawabe. And we knocked on the door, went in, and I said, "We have something distressing that we want to talk about." And the general says, "What is it?" And I says, "Well, you're coming here, the war is over. You're surrendering, and you come with guns and swords, and that's offensive." And the general says, "Oh. Well, I'll have all my men turn their guns over to your custody right now." And that was arranged, and I said, "Well, what about the sword?" And he says, "Well, that's uniform. That's part of the uniform." And I just stared at him and for a long time, we just kinda, he was thinking and I was staring, and then he said, "What if, would you be kind enough to let us wear our swords to the conference room, and then we'll leave the swords outside of the conference room so that we'll be in uniform, excepting inside the conference room." So Colonel Mashbir and I, we kinda nodded at each other, and said that was okay. And then it was agreeable to everybody and -- but that was a kind of an experience that... it'll stick with me a long time.

SS: How do you think those Japanese officers looked at you?

HW: I don't know. At that time I didn't know. But now, there's a little sequel to what I just said. When they were, went off to their first conference, I went over to, they called me over to headquarters, so I went to headquarters, and they said, "Well, we're gonna commission you." Because I was still the sergeant. And so the medical officer came over and was taking my blood pressure, and my blood pressure's way up. So I had to lay on that bunk there for over an hour before my blood pressure would drop down enough so they could write on it that blood pressure is okay to give him a commission. So then I got my bars and I went back and soon after that they're coming back from their first conference. And the general's aide, who didn't look really Japanese-Japanese, we got together. He noticed that I now was having bars, and he was a captain in the Japanese army. So, we got to talkin', and I thought to myself, "Well, this guy understands English too well." Well, he's a Nisei that was in Japan going to school and he was drafted. But he had never been in active duty, he's always been in administrative type of duty. And so we had a long talk, about an hour talk, sittin', talkin'. And he was the general's aide that came over. And then when I was in Tokyo I ran into him. We sat and talked on the street corner for a long time, couple hours.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

SS: All this time, while you were overseas, and you and Edith were already married at this point. Were you able to communicate with her, to tell her...?

HW: I did a poor job of it. But whenever I did, the censors would get a hold of it. We couldn't even say there were a tree or a river near our camp. They'd cut it all out.

SS: What do you think your letters looked like by the time she --

HW: I don't know. I never saw the letters after the censors got a hold of 'em. Crazy. But it was a demanding job, though. I mean, it was go, go, go, go most of the time.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

SS: Did you ever feel that you had to work twice as hard to prove yourself as a non-Japanese American would?

HW: No. I think, sometimes, dependin' on the person, I felt that I could do just as much in half the time. But, there again, the assignment has something to do with that, you know.

SS: But you didn't feel like you had to prove yourself to them, then.

HW: No, no. No, actually, I had a kinda embarrassing situation when I was at, in Australia was that they had assigned an officer to my unit, to my team. And I says, "Well, good, he can be the captain of the team and I'll" -- I was the sergeant, tech sergeant -- "and I could work for him." And they said, "No, no, no, he's gonna work for you." It was embarrassing to have an officer working for an enlisted man. But then I went to Korea and I found that that was true. Because we had, in our regiment that we were attached to for rations and quartering, there were two companies that had first lieutenants, World War II veterans, as company commanders, with two majors, their subordinates. They're subordinates to the first lieutenant -- two ranks down. And the intelligence unit in the regiment, they had a first lieutenant, World War II veteran, recalled, with two majors workin' for him in regimental intelligence. And the colonel of the regiment says, "I put -- not rank in position, but I put the most, the proper person into the position. We are at war. We don't put rank in position. I don't put rank in the position. I put the person that can cut the mustard into the position, regardless of rank." And that was, lot of talk about that at the time.

SS: Were you ever stationed in Japan during the war? Or soon after the war?

HW: Yes. After, soon as the groundwork was laid for the occupation in Japan, then I was assigned to the headquarters commandant of MacArthur's headquarters, and to be, work with him. I presume to be interpreting in Japan. And, on board the ship going to Japan, why, first day out he asked me to his stateroom, and I went there, and he asked me -- he told me that, "I'm gonna assign, figure, two soldiers to assign to you for bodyguards." And I says, "Well, Colonel, I don't need bodyguards." He says, "Well, this is our first day at sea, so why don't you think about it and we'll talk about it some more tomorrow." And I said, "Okay." Went back, and tomorrow he called, next day he calls up again and says, "Watanabe, you think about it? Bodyguards for you?" And I says, "Well, I don't need bodyguards." And he says, "Why?" And I says, "Because the war is over, Colonel, and they are people like you and me. Why should I have a bodyguard? People are people." He thought about that for a while and he says, "Okay." But he says, "Will you do something for me?" he says, "I know you were assigned to me to be an interpreter and so forth, but I'm short of officers. Will you do other work besides?" And I says, "Sure, anything you want me to do, I'll be happy to do."

So when we get to Yokohama and get on a troop convoy and go in, we drive along, we're in Tokyo, and the convoy stops about midnight, somebody's beatin' on the side of the truck calling out my name. So I poked my head out and I said, "Here I am." And they said, "Well, grab your bags. This is where you get off." I grabbed my bag, jumped off, and convoy takes off. Left me standing there on the street. And I looked up and it said Daiichi Hotel. And I said, "Well, if they're gonna leave me here, I might as well go inside and find a quiet place to sleep." And I went in there, in the lobby and lobby and everything was all full of baggage. The Japanese were moving out, see. And so next morning, I woke up rubbin' my eyes, and this signal corps sending in, putting in telephone lines. So I went to the sergeant and I says, "How long is it going to take you to get the telephone lines in?" "Oh," he says, "about another hour." And I said, "Will I be able to call the headquarters commandant?" "Oh yeah, you should be able to." So I waited around and I called him up and he answers the phone and, "Where are you?" And I says, "Well I looked at the building outside and it says Daiichi Hotel." And he says, "Well, you're gonna run that hotel." [Laughs] 735-room hotel. It was in a mess. Four years of no attention. I find out later that the air system, air conditioning didn't work. The hot water system hadn't been used for four years. Nothing been maintained for four years. I went down to the kitchen. There was nothing in the kitchen. All the metal had been taken out. All the elevator cars, except one, was removed. So people assigned to the seventh floor room have to walk up and down those stairs.

I had a, the busiest four months of my life in Tokyo. Gettin' that hotel in shape so, gettin' the elevator cars in, and gettin' it redone. Turned the hot water on -- four hundred leaks, you know. Air, air conditioning system didn't work, got that straightened out. Heating system wouldn't work. Got that straightened out. Had to get tailoring service for the occupants, for the colonels, colonels and admirals -- not, colonels and majors that stayed there, and lieutenant colonels and two generals that didn't want to go to the Imperial Hotel. I had a delegation of fourteen from Russia, Russian Embassy. They couldn't get into their embassy because it was the old hierarchy that was still there. They had locked everything and wouldn't let them in. So they stayed at the hotel. They were troublemakers, the Russians. They would drink vodka and come home and tear up everything. Finally got 'em kicked out. I had to write a two pages, single-spaced misdemeanor list that they were causing, and sent it to General Willoughby and he used that to kick them out of the hotel. Tell 'em to go find your own stuff in Tokyo.

SS: You were in contact with so many high-ranking officers. Including, probably, MacArthur himself?

HW: Never saw MacArthur. I saw his wife in Tokyo a lot of times, but never saw him.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

SS: Did you ever have any heroes?

HW: Oh, I don't know.

SS: Were there ever any of them that you admired at this point?

HW: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, a lot of 'em, really. Lot of 'em. Also, at the hotel, I had 250 war correspondents and the rest were colonels, and lieutenant colonels, and majors, and the two generals that didn't wanna go. And I had 50 WAC officers, 'cause they were accorded better lodgings than the equivalent rank men were.

SS: Do you have good memories of these years? Seems as if you speak of them fondly.

HW: Well, yeah, I do. Because not only interesting, but it was a memory that really fits in with wanting to understand other people's, other groups', way of life. And I should understand the way of life of the Japanese more than the others that went with me, but still, there was a lot to be learned. Interesting things, like, as an example, in the restroom we had a nice middle-aged lady attendant in the restroom, and the guys didn't like it. She wasn't bothersome, she did a nice job, kept the place clean. She'd been doing it all her life practically. And finally had to force her out because the colonels were after me to get rid of her. And well, the Japanese kind of understood that. But it took us a month to find a man, a Japanese man that would come in and do that job.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

SS: Harvey, when did you eventually come home to Edith?

HW: Oh, okay. That was after four months in Japan, and finally, the point system got down to a point where I can leave.

SS: Tell me about that point system.

HW: Well, the point system was set up so that the people with the most service could leave the earliest, depending on how much they're needed also. And I left Tokyo Bay, New Year's Eve, I mean, Christmas Eve, 1945. And I had the, what I had done was, I wanted to see my relatives that I knew once more, so I missed two boats. So when I showed up again, they said, "You missed two boats, you're gonna go on a third boat, but you're gonna have a job." And I said, "What's the job?" They said, "You're gonna be the mess hall server aboard that ship." [Laughs] So I was.

SS: What was it like seeing those relatives? Because you had just fought in a war against their country.

HW: Yes.

SS: But you were blood relatives.

HW: Yes.

SS: What was it like seeing each other?

HW: Well, my uncle in Japan was an artist, very famous artist in Japan. And he was not, he was artistic temperament and didn't like wars. And his three sons, one of them the same age as myself, and one older, and one younger, were, they were in school. They got certain amount of benefit from being in school. Two of 'em, I think, served -- no, one served in the army but, but didn't get out of the country. They were all glad to see me, and as a matter of fact, my uncle brought out a fifth of Black Label whiskey that he had hoarded all through the war.

SS: No grudges, no bad feelings?

HW: No, no. And he had, his home was burned out in the firebombing. But he had made seventy trips by streetcar up to his summer home in Hakone, and had moved as much stuff as he can get there. So he didn't lose everything.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

SS: When did you eventually get home to Edith? Now, you're the mess officer on this third boat.

HW: Yeah, we sailed out of Tokyo Bay, and the two ships that I missed, took the northern route, close to Aleutians, and our captain decided to go south, because it was wintertime. The weather wasn't good. So we pulled into Tacoma ahead of the other two ships. The other two ships lost some lives aboard the ship, because of the severe storm and some of the returning GIs got killed aboard that ship. Yeah, I was fortunate.

SS: What was it like? The ship pulls in. Was she there dockside?

HW: No, no, no. No, we came into Tacoma and from there we were put on trains and I had asked to be released not from where I, back to where I was put into the army, but back to where I wanna go now. So they sent me to Wisconsin. I was released there and then put on a bus and went to Minneapolis, where she was.

SS: Can you remember seeing her there?

HW: Minneapolis? Oh yeah, she came to meet the, she came to meet the train. Middle of winter, and she had her fur coat on. This is the fur coat that I bought. [Laughs] I don't think she has it any more, but yeah, yeah.

SS: What did you two do then? You... had you intended on settling in the Midwest there?

HW: Well, we were going to stay there, because she and her sister were living together in an apartment and so then, they and us, we got together and bought a house in Minneapolis.

SS: Sounds like you intended on putting roots down there.

HW: Well, at the time, we couldn't find a better place, because I didn't like the weather, but I couldn't find a better place. Because there was no roots. Our families weren't settled anywhere, you know. So that's what we did. But then a house is a house. And it's an investment if you do it right. So we came out all right. But we moved out first, and then, then her sister and her husband moved out. Actually sold the house and moved out later.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

SS: What brought you back to the West Coast?

HW: Wanted to be back away from the weather, to more familiar grounds. She did not want to live in California, and I know now why. I mean, I've known it for a long time, because she can't stand the weather. And I wanted to get into the Boeing, if I could.

SS: Tell me a little bit about that. What you eventually did for Boeing.

HW: What I eventually did at Boeing?

SS: Well, you started out, you worked on a number of aircraft.

HW: Yes, I hired in as a mechanic's helper. That's absolutely bottom rank. I mean, there's nothing lower than a mechanic's helper, other than maybe, maybe somebody that sweeps the floor. And, worked on the B-50 problems a little bit, you know, small problems or new items to go in, and so forth, as a development job. And then developing things, make sure that it works before they put it in the airplane. Which was a factory job rather than an engineering job. And then engineering would send us information. And then from that, monkeyed around a little bit with the stratocruisers at the time, but that was the beginning of the big commercial airplanes, prop job. And then went into the bidding, Boeing went into the bidding for the big bomber, the B-52. So we went into a B-52 mock-up, and in the process, the need of a full-scale mock-up was, became very, very much more evident. And so we had a full-scale fuselage and half a wing of the B-52, and I kind of broke, cut my teeth on that. By the time I started in '48 -- late fall of '48 -- and by the time of 1950, December, we were really deeply into the B-52 mock-up, and then I got the notice. I was the lead man by then, and then got the notice to report for duty to Korea. And since we had two children, it wasn't enough. It said if you had three you don't have to go, but with two you gotta go. But, I did get a ninety-day deferment, and about the time of Easter of '51, I left home, and reported to Camp Stillman, California.

SS: Eventually, you said, you were on the front lines.

HW: And then, well, went to Camp Stillman, California, and then from there went to Japan. And there was assigned to First Cavalry Division in Korea. Went there in, reported there in March. Well, let's see, March, April, 1st of April. And served in the First Cavalry G-2 section, with the Intelligence section. Interrogating prisoners, and so forth.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

SS: Looking back on all your experiences, having been all around the world and seeing so many different things, is it important to you that your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren understand what you went through?

HW: I think it's important. But also important to understand what Grandma went through, too, in the meantime, you know. And I think they do. I know that our grandkids have, as they reach high school, somehow or other they make a report on what happened during the time of the segre-, the evacuation and so forth. And all have gotten good grades since high school on those particular programs that they're in.

SS: So you've been the subject of many term papers, then.

HW: I think so, yeah.

SS: Do you ever miss those days of growing up on a quiet, peaceful farm?

HW: Well, the way I miss it is this: I'll put it in a nutshell. I was talkin' with several others of my friends here lately, and that is, if we have a 1930s Depression again, there would be very few people that could survive. Whereas, those of those days could survive. Because they knew how to live off the land. People now, of a younger age, would not know how to manage that. It's a real fear in my heart. That if the day comes, we're gonna have a big catastrophe because of it. We had a catastrophe in the '30s, but people knew how to survive, somehow.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

SS: Do you ever think about what life might be like had you not taken this path, had you just been a farmer, taken over the family farm?

HW: Well, I'll tell ya, the family farm was stoop-labor farm. The way my back feels now, it would have felt like this twenty-five years ago if I'd stayed on that farm. [Laughs] But you see other people who are recently arriving to this gorgeous United States, doing those kinds of things now that our parents used to do when they came over. Because they're Southeast Asians that are doin' a lot of that stoop-labor farming now in the United States. And the Mexicans.

SS: How did you feel when the government issued an apology and the checks, the reparations checks?

HW: The checks were a token. We expected that it'll be token. The apology was probably, I felt it was a little bit wanting in an apology. But it's an apology that I cannot, personally, I cannot recall anybody else getting or accepting on an individual basis, not on a, you might say, a ethnic-group-wide basis, like we got. Which is by itself something. There is no way, the way things are goin', that the government could have given us complete restitution, which would have amounted to probably a hundred billion dollars or more.

SS: Do you harbor any bitterness or ill feelings?

HW: No, no. For the simple reason that society is like this all the time. We have to be aware. We have to be more knowledgeable to not let society degenerate to that point again. I think that we put in our inputs when people started, politicians started the hubbub about the Iranians, Iranians that live in the United States, as an example. We didn't want to see that happen again. It would be the same sort of thing. They're not here because they hate us, they're here because they like our country.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

SS: What kept you going through this difficult time?

HW: I think the thing, the one single thing, was of course, she was home. The other thing is I just kept in front of me what I had to do. Subdued best I can the personal feelings I had for what happened. Had to, because if you let those feelings overcome, then you won't do what you want to do or should do as well as you could, and then you would drive yourself crazy on top of that. Which is not a happy thought.

SS: What did the war do to your parents? Coming home and finding the farm in ruins.

HW: Devastating. But, I think they had the feeling they had nothing when they came here, so they'll start over again. They did have land left. Which was something that was not possible for them to buy when they were here in the first place.

SS: Were they able to start over?

HW: Started over, enough. And then they sold the farm and moved into retirement.

SS: Did they ever feel betrayed by their new country, their new home?

HW: Well, knowing my father and mother, I don't feel that they were, they felt that they were betrayed by their country, I think they were betrayed by some of the bigots that were in control in the wrong place. I think that's the way they felt, yeah.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

SS: What messages or lessons would you like to pass on to your grandchildren, or your great-grandchildren?

HW: Well, very simple thing. That people are people. They differ according to the economic situation they're in, but they're still people. I think that we are probably suffering from too much good economy, which is on the verge of coming to an end one of these days if we don't watch it.

SS: Do you think your experience, both in your childhood growing up, working very hard and working very hard during the war -- do you think that experience has made you a stronger person or a better person?

HW: Well, probably. I don't think a person innately becomes better. Probably becomes better by paying more attention to different, to more different things. But I think striving helps. But I think it's hard on the health, too. The human body can, the human mind can only take so much stress. Starts affecting the body. I know because I left Boeing when I was, walked out when I was fifty-two years old, too young to retire, so they wrote a letter and told me to report back when I was fifty-five and they would give me a small pension. Which I did. Got a real tiny pension from Boeing. But I had been away from Boeing since, pension-wise, since (age) 55 (...) and physically I've been away since '70, '71.

SS: Do you have any regrets about your, about the path that your life took? You did fulfill that dream of working with airplanes.

HW: Yes, and I see the airplane of, my last one that I worked on, the (747). I had a lot of things that I liked, that I asked for and got in that airplane.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

SS: Any regrets about your life?

HW: No, no, no. The only thing is, I hid from my wife and my family that when I left Boeing I figured I'd only live for two more years. I'd better stay home and get well. My blood pressure was 240 over 140, and I couldn't get it down and I was struggling.

SS: But it sounds like you not only found good health, but you found real joy. I mean, what's been the real joy in your life since retiring?

HW: Oh, I think family, of course. Family, and then the kids, and the grandkids, and the great-grandkids. But I think the other thing is being able to, try to express to others the importance of a certain way of thinking. I know, it's interesting that high schools are looking more and more to hear from the likes of us. I do get to different groups, including high school groups, couple times a year. I've got one scheduled for February of next year, to talk to Enumclaw High School kids about the kind of experiences that we've had. They want to know, evidently, and others will come along. I'm on the list of speakers for the MIS and will get an occasional call from them. I like to do that, not because I enjoy it, but I think, I think it helps to fill a missing area in some of the young people's lives that they -- not that they didn't miss it, but they never got exposed to it, so they don't know and they're curious. I like to help them, yeah.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

SS: I know for a lot of people who have gone through very difficult experiences, sometimes talking about it helps them sort through feelings or go through some sort of healing process. Was it like that for you early on?

HW: Yes, yes. Very true. Because first it was better not to talk about it. We avoided it. When we moved to Seattle, Edith and I decided that we would not move to an area where there are any other Japanese. Because we didn't want to gather up and then be... talked about. We didn't wanna create a community, however small it is. So we moved out to what is called Rainier View now. We didn't know of any other Japanese family out there, excepting -- we didn't even know the Kubota Garden was right there -- but anyway, that was in 1948.

SS: When were you finally able to talk more about it, and sort of come to terms with all of this?

HW: Well, yeah, little by little, you know. I guess it was, must've been around 1975, '76, or '78, somewhere around in there. The guys that I was working with -- I was part owner of a lease company, car lease, and worked for an auto dealer and we had the company in the same place. And one of the salesmen started saying things about, about what happened, and kind of derogatory. I talked to him a little bit, and we were over in a restaurant having hamburgers and he started in again and I blew my cork. The restaurant got quiet while I finished. [Laughs] That kinda broke it loose. From then on I've been much more open. I didn't wanna talk about it, because I figured, well, if you're ignorant you're never gonna get any better. But then, actually, there is no such thing as an ignorant person. It's just a, it's a conception, and if you communicate with them properly, they'll get the message. But if you communicate with anger, they'll never get the message. 'Cause they'll push it aside. So, I keep reminding myself, my father said, "Always talk from the positive side, never use the negative." And if you're angry, you're using the negative side. But bein' human being, I can get into that negative side once in awhile. I try not to. Yup, that's, I wish I had learned to do that better when I was younger.

SS: If there's any good that came of all of that, it sounds like it's the public education. Being able to share your story.

HW: Well, public education, and I would like to see communities with a front yard instead of a backyard. So the people would be right out on the street. If you walk down the street, you'd see everybody on a summer night, bein' in the yard. You see, before the war all the yards were in front of the houses. Since World War II, all the yards are in the back where nobody can see you. Privacy, privacy, privacy. So they lose contact with the neighborhood. The casual contact, people walking by, or driving by. You don't see any bodies in front of the house, only the front of the house. People might be in the house, or might be in the backyard, but you don't see 'em. I think that's one of the sadness, of how the community has changed. Houses used to be in the back of the lot, in front with the yard where the house was where the driveway and the place to sit under a tree or something, or, you know. Swings and so forth are out there, right in plain view. Now they're all in the backyard, and I, I think that's a travesty. Human beings are social things, you know. [Laughs]

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1996 Densho. All Rights Reserved.