Densho Digital Archive
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Title: Masao Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Masao Watanabe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmasao-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: We're at Minidoka. And, through Puyallup and parts of Minidoka, there was a period of time where the military did not want Japanese Americans to fight. And I wanted to get your thoughts about that, because here you were, you were sort of old enough to serve in the military and yet the military didn't want you. What were your, your thoughts during this period about fighting?

MW: Boy, that's a loaded question. It's very difficult to answer, because you grow up thinking you're a citizen, and you want to be a part of this society you're in, and then the, let's say the weight of the rejection, is something that was pretty unexpected. But when reality sets in, like the "Camp Harmony" and these little shacks in Minidoka, then real negative things start coming to your head, you know. "What the hell is this?" And it, I think it bothered a lot of us tremendously. You try to be a good citizen, you try to do what you're supposed to be doing, and the rejection is very hard, difficult.

TI: Well, eventually the government decided to allow Niseis to volunteer for service. What was your reaction when that happened?

MW: Well, initially, I was wondering, "What the hell is this?" I think those of us who did react to it positively, I think we did the right thing. And to this day -- well, regardless of what people think -- I think we did the right thing in volunteering after being kicked in the butt.

TI: Why do you think so? What makes you think that that was the right thing to do?

MW: Because, gee, if you're going to live here, you've got to be a part of society. You've got to do what is expected of you. And I had no problem volunteering. I don't know which was worse: being locked up in camp or going off to war. In my mind, barbed wires aren't very, very inviting, being penned up where you're just -- I guess we were too independent. I just didn't like being cooped up and looking at barbed wires and guard towers. That just wasn't for me.

TI: What was the reaction of your parents when you decided to volunteer?

MW: Quite frankly, see, my dad was already gone and my mother was an invalid, so...

TI: And when you say your father was gone, he was still -- he had not been reunited with the family yet?

MW: No, not yet. He was down in New Mexico, Santa Fe or something. So there was no "reaction" in the family.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.