Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Masao Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Masao Watanabe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmasao-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Now, after Fort Douglas you went to Camp Shelby. What was Camp Shelby like?

MW: Before Camp Shelby, you know, because we came from camp, they gave us a little pass. Very generous -- [laughs] -- but Shiro and I took a little trip to Chicago and New York. And it took a lot of guts. We just had a few dollars and, boy, we sure made it stretch. But there were a lot of USOs, and I don't know, I got sick of donuts and coffee and all this, but there were always a few people from camp who relocated in Chicago and New York and D.C., so we had places to stay. We had a good little trip.

TI: Any outstanding memory during that little trip?

MW: Little leave? No, I had no outstanding memories other than we sure stretched a few dollars. We had a good time.

TI: Okay, so going to Camp Shelby... I mean, in particular I guess what I'm interested in is a lot has been written about the tensions between the Hawaiians, the Japanese Americans from Hawaii, and the Japanese Americans from the mainland, and that there was even some talk at one point of disbanding the 442 because of all the infighting. You came in a little bit later to Fort Shelby -- or Camp Shelby. What did you see happening at Camp Shelby when you and Shiro got there?

MW: Well, mine is just one opinion, okay, but I think being in one of the last groups, a lot of the friction had already gone on for several months. And I heard stories and, you know, wondering what went on. But I was assigned to Company L and I thought -- it didn't take me long to figure out why the feelings were such. And I never discussed it with too many people, but the more I think about it, I think my observations were really good, or solid. And this was because I think I was in a platoon where a couple of the cadre were sleeping by me and, I guess there were three mainland guys in our hut, out of the many others. And I got to know my buddies quite well, and we discussed this, and we, nobody in our platoon, or our, the mainlanders in our hut were involved in any fights or anything like this. But it was very clear to me after a very short time why this happened. At the time the war came on, there were a lot of these older Niseis that were already drafted, and they had been sent from camp to camp -- this is long before 442 was formed -- and they had gone through several recruit schools and training, and they had to do the same thing with each transfer. And when the 442 was formed, who formed the cadre? It's these guys who have already been through all this crap time and time again, so...

TI: And for my benefit, the cadre is sort of like the sergeants, or the...?

MW: Yeah, the ones that run the recruit schools and train the recruits. And they had gone through all these chicken -- I'll watch my language, but the real funny ways of installing discipline and making people, gigging them for different things. So that these recruiting sergeants that we got, the older Niseis, they trained -- they were in the training bracket. They trained the Hawaiians and the mainlanders the same way they were trained, so they had to institute the same sorts of chicken things. And I could see where the Hawaiians and the Niseis got very, very tired of this. How could he be such a manini, you know, and treat us the same way? And the Hawaiians thought they were being picked on, but this was the way these Niseis were trained. They were just installing what, what they knew about training and training recruits, that they wanted to pass on to us.

TI: So a lot of the tension that, that you saw wasn't necessarily a mainland/Hawaii thing...

MW: No.

TI: was more the Hawaiians reacting primarily to...

MW: Negatively.

TI: ...these older Niseis who were in the military longer.

MW: Yeah.

TI: Who were sort of training in a way that the Hawaiians didn't appreciate.

MW: Well, that -- they were training them in the same way they were trained.

TI: Right.

MW: So it was nothing different. It's just that I don't think the awareness was there that this was the old army way. You know, deprive people of passes or make them go and wash dishes if you screwed up a little. And, gee, it was so obvious to me, as a latecomer.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.