Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Joe Yasutake Interview
Narrator: Joe Yasutake
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 9, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-yjoe-01-0012

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AI: So you finished up your college there at University of Illinois...

JY: Uh-huh.

AI: ...your junior and senior year?

JY: Uh-huh, I did. And I had joined the -- something interesting had happened. I think I joined the ROTC at Lawrence in the air force, and I thought, "Well, maybe I'd like to be a pilot," you know, but it turns out that my eyes -- I took the physical -- and I was a little short, too, but they, I think they would have given me a waiver on it, but I found out that my eyes were really bad and they were not correctable. So they said that I couldn't, they couldn't accept me into the pilot program, and thereby they said that I couldn't go on -- at that time they only wanted people who could fly, either navigators or pilots, and since I didn't qualify then they weren't gonna allow me to go into the senior or junior-senior level.

And that's the time I was transferring down to Illinois anyway, so when I got down to Illinois I knew they weren't gonna accept me in the air force. And so I went to the army ROTC and I talked to the colonel there about joining the army ROTC, and he said, "Well, you know, you've missed two years," and all that. And, and in our conversation somehow it came out that my brother was in the 442nd, and by that time -- this was, what, 1952 -- you know, the fame of the 442nd had just gone all over the place. So when he heard that, then he said, "Well," he said, "in that case, if you can be as good as your brother, then we'll take you on," or something like that. So they put me into the -- they got me, that got me into the ROTC. I don't know if -- I'm not sure if I, I would have gotten in without that, that kind of reference, so to speak. So I thought that was -- and I had no idea that they were that well-known at that time.

AI: It was a surprise to you, then.

JY: Yeah, it was. It was.

AI: That, that it had that kind of reaction.

JY: That's right. And, and I hadn't really, you know, I hadn't even thought about it that much, and at that time I didn't know much about it except that my brother was in it and so forth, so yeah, it did surprise me quite a bit.

AI: So Tosh hadn't talked too much about his experiences at that point? That was still --

JY: No, he, he had not.

AI: -- some years out.

JY: Certainly not about the war. And he, when he came back -- you know, he, since he was in the 442nd he had a lot of contact with Hawaiians, he talked pidgin, and when he came back from the army I thought, "What in the heck had happened to this guy?" You know? [Laughs] He talked so strangely that -- and I didn't know what pidgin English was at the time, and, and I thought maybe he'd gettin' hit in the head or something, and had affected his brains or something because, I mean, he really talked with a heavy pidgin kind of a -- and it, I guess it's kind of infectious or something. [Laughs] If you get exposed to it you just automatically start talking that way. I don't know. My, my late wife was, was Hawaiian, but even she didn't talk that way, so... [Laughs] But, but yeah, he...

So I finished up at Illinois and got my commission, and, and, and then it was just a matter of time before I was gonna go in the service. So as I said, I didn't think too much about the future because that was my future right then. That, fortunately the Korean War was just over, the shooting war was over, so I knew that there wasn't any imminent danger. But for a while there I was a little bit con-, you know, when I was still goin' to school it was still goin' on, so I thought, "Well, I guess that's, that's what's gonna happen." But fortunately it was over by the time I got done with school, so...

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.