Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Minoru "Min" Tsubota Interview
Narrator: Minoru "Min" Tsubota
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Tetsuden Kashima (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 18, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-tminoru-01-0031

<Begin Segment 31>

TK: And then meanwhile, you were still corresponding with your fiance by letter. Could you tell us more about that experience as well?

MT: Yeah, I'm very happy to. I came back to Fort Bliss and I corresponded with Cherrie and told her about my life there. We discussed our various life. Incidentally, Cherrie, being from Utah, she would not, she didn't have to go to internment camp at all. And so we had interesting things to talk about where our parents were in the camp. And, but I did propose by letter and telephone to see if she would marry me. And she accepted. And in the meantime, we got a War Department order saying that the War Department had approved formation of a Japanese combat team as of January 31, 1942 and it'd be formed at the Camp Shelby, Mississippi and that I'm directed to, ordered to go there and report to commanding officer of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion. So, in the meantime, I told Cherrie by letter (...) about this transfer and that I probably -- if we were lucky -- that she could either visit Fort Bliss, or if possible, that if we could married that I would like to be married at (Camp Shelby). And so, that's about the time she accepted to, accepted my proposal.

So, so we were shipped to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to form the cadre and (...) get the entire camp ready, our area ready for the volunteers from the internment camp in the States and all the volunteers from Hawaii, the 5,000 volunteers from Hawaii. And so, we went there. I arrived there about the first of February, 1942, and in the meantime we kept corresponding and we made arrangements to meet in Fort Bliss -- I mean, at Camp Shelby, and I think we were one of the first ones to be married, Cherrie was only nineteen years old. But she did accept my proposal and March 31, 1943 she came all the way from Price, Utah on a crowded train, it was just full of GIs. It was wartime, and being Japanese, I give her a lot of credit. And she, at the age of nineteen really had the gumption enough to travel that far from Utah, to all the way to St. Louis and all the way down to Jackson, Mississippi and to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. And...

TK: Here's a picture of you and Mrs. Tsubota. Do you remember where that was taken and what that was like?

MT: [Ed. note: narrator holds up a photograph] Yeah, this was short, we didn't have cameras at that time, so, but this was taken a little later. But, when I got to Fort Bli-, Camp Shelby, there was a position open at the 522 for a warrant officer, junior grade and so when I told Colonel Harrison that I had taken the examination and passed it, and, but I hadn't received the appointment, they checked with the headquarters at Fort Bliss and they confirmed that I was. And so, I got my appointment on August, 1943. And so, although all of our officers for the training of the Japanese American combat team were Caucasian, I got my appointment early enough and became an officer.

TK: Was there any other Japanese American officers in Shelby at that time?

MT: There... not to mention... no, none of us could go to Officer's Candidate School. But the only... the officers that were in the infantry were those that went to ROTC and went though university and became doctors or the engineering or captain, and went also ROTC and engineer and he was a, a few of the officers of the 442nd Combat Team. The rest of 'em were all Caucasians. (...)

TK: So, you were in a very select group. Could you explain that, that photograph?

MT: [Ed. note: narrator holds up a photograph] Yeah, this is, I mentioned that Cherrie arrived before all of the Hawaiian contingent or the stateside contingent came. And she was issued a small little identification to enter the camp. So she came through the camp. And, but, I lost track of the little badge, but I was able, I had this one so I thought it would be so interesting that Cherrie, at nineteen years old came all the way. Because, boy, the "Jap fever" was really bad at that time and as far as civilians were concerned and so, for her to, at that age and... then I mentioned that I met my future mother-in-law there. But I give her lots of credit to let her daughter at age nineteen, and so I give my mother-in-law a lot of credit. And I admire both of 'em very, very much that they, through all that turmoil, we were able to get married. And like you mentioned, this has been sixty years this year, March 31.

TK: And so, Mrs. Tsubota stayed with you in Camp Shelby for a while, or what happened? What was her life like until you went to Europe?

MT: So, but in order to get married, I had to find billeting off-quarters. So I went to different places in Hattiesburg and asked for, if we can rent one room. And there'd be some advertising in the Mississippi News, Hattiesburg paper and so we'd find out. But I was able to find a one-bedroom home in this family called Harrells. And so, when Cherrie came down to Jackson, Mississippi, that day we went to the county courthouse there and we got our marriage license. And then we took the bus from there down to Hattiesburg. And in those days, our chaplains were (...) Christian chaplains and, no Buddhist chaplain, so being Jodo shinshu, I wanted to be married by Buddhist religion, but in order to take care of this we were married at the Harrells' home. We had a home wedding there with George Takayanagi, he was a master sergeant, he was the head of the motor pool, and his wife and Susumu Ito who later became a lieutenant; he was a staff sergeant who came up to field grade after the American soldiers, I mean, officers were either killed or transferred. And so, it was just a small party there and we were married by a Southern Baptist minister. And it was quite interesting that... it was kinda sad because it was wartime. Cherrie never was able to have a full bridal gown and go through her friends and everything like that so... I never discussed it to her, but I often feel how she must've felt at that time we were... of course, we were thrilled at that time to get our marriage license and be married. But since then, like our daughter Charlene, we had a beautiful wedding at the Olympic Hotel (...). But Cherrie was the only one that was not married with a bridal gown.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.