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-01-0038

<Begin Segment 38>

TI: Right before the break, Mas, we finished up the war. Now we're gonna talk about going to the States. So right now, we're coming back from a break for lunch, and now we're going to continue talking about your life after the war.

MW: Okay.

TI: So, why don't you talk a little bit, after the war -- when you came back to the States, how did you meet back up with your family?

MW: Am I on camera? [Laughs] We got discharged in Chicago. A bunch of us used one fellow's address. We got discharged in Camp Grant. We thought we'd take advantage of the rail fares. And from Chicago we -- like my family was relocated to Sydney, Nebraska. They were -- ironically, they were sent from Minidoka to an ordinance depot, if you can imagine. There was a little community of people from Minidoka, and prior to my actual discharge, I had written to several schools. 'Cause I though, my only thought was to get back to school. And I found out the folks were living in Nebraska, so I made an application to the University of Nebraska, and also to the UW. But I had taken exams at the UW, and they told me I could come back any time. And I'm gonna give you an interesting incident to me. Right after the war ended, they opened a former Mussolini's training camp, and established a army university. And a lot of us took a little exam, and I went down to this army university, and of all things, there's a famous economics book written by a professor from the University of Pennsylvania. And I signed up -- I was thinking of business, and I signed up for econ., and business law, and accounting. And lo and behold, my teacher in economics was the writer of the books. And I got to know him.

TI: And where was this school? You said this was a military...

MW: This was in Florence.

TI: Florence, Italy?

MW: Italy, uh-huh.

TI: This was after the war?

MW: It was after, right after the war.

TI: Why did the military do this? I'm trying to understand why.

MW: That's a good question. I can't answer that. They... it wasn't a university that was running for a while. And as to the time that they opened it, I don't know. But there were a couple of us from Seattle. We qualified and went there, to Florence. That was a very interesting part of my overseas... it was only for a couple of months, but I enjoyed it, because of the quality of the professors and in fact, I think I got maybe twenty credit hours for it.

TI: And what were the range of courses they had? Economics and business?

MW: Well, I took, like I said, econ., business law and accounting, I think it was.

TI: And these were, like top notch professors from universities?

MW: Well, they're, write out a book. [Laughs]

TI: And you were doing this in Florence, Italy?

MW: In Florence, Italy.

TI: That's interesting.

MW: And that's a nice city. We were there earlier, when we were by the Arno River. And I thought it was a nice, artsy city.

TI: And this was, you were still in the military, so you had not...

MW: We were still in the military, the war had ended.

TI: Okay. This is interesting. Was it an issue of it was hard to get everybody back to the States at one time, so they, the ones who were still...

MW: I think they were still working out the mechanics and the qualifications as to who goes back first. And then I... well, a couple of us made applications and took exams. Fortunately, I was one of the couple taken from our company. And I spent a couple of months there.

TI: What was the reaction, or was there a reaction, when you went to this military school? Were people surprised, or were people pretty much aware of Japanese Americans fighting in Europe? Or were some people surprised when they saw you at this school?

MW: No, I don't think they were, because 442 had a lot of publicity. So I think if you were in the army, or if you were English-reading public, I think you would have been aware of our presence in Italy and France. So I don't think anybody was surprised.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.