Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Joe Yamakido Interview
Narrator: Joe Yamakido
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 4, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-yjoe_2-01

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Today is July 4, 2004, and we're here at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage in Klamath Falls, Oregon, at the Oregon Institute for Technology. I'm Alice Ito with Densho, on videography is Steve Colgrove, and we're here with Mr. Joe Yamakido. Thanks very much for taking the time.

JY: You're welcome.

AI: And I wanted to start off with just asking you when and where were you born?

JY: I was born in Los Angeles, and my father was a telegram messenger, and my mother was doing domestic. After they saved enough money, they went to farming; they went out (to) the country. They went to Mecca, in the Imperial Valley. I guess they didn't do so good (there), so they (...), moved to Compton. From there they moved to Harbor City, and that's where they stayed until we went, went to camp.

AI: And what name did they give you when you were born?

JY: Well, my name was Atsumi Asa. That's in my birth certificate. My mother wanted to name me Arthur, but Japanese language, there's no "r," so they thought she said "Asa," so instead of "Arthur," it's "A-S-A," my middle name.

AI: And what was your birthdate, the day you were born?

JY: Three-three, '22. And then when I was going to high school, well, we had two horses. One horse named Fred, and one named Joe. And they heard about it, and then when I was going to high school, the people, my students, they don't know how to pronounce "Atsumi," see, so they started calling me, "Hey, Joe," Joe, so I took, I used it and I put it on all my driver license and everything, social security.

AI: So that's how you got to be known as Joe.

JY: Yeah.

AI: Well, tell me about the other kids in your family. Who was the oldest?

JY: My family?

AI: Yes. Your, your oldest brother?

JY: Oh, you mean our family. Yeah, oldest, I'm the second brother. See, the Japanese, their custom is they take care of the oldest son, in case the father has accident or something and die, he could take over his place. So, like, when we go to school, I used to stay home and do all the farming work, help out my dad. So I went to school only ten weeks out of twenty weeks, but I still graduated 'cause I used to go to, I didn't miss Friday because that's when, test day, but I graduated.

AI: So your, what was your older brother's name?

JY: Haruo. But he picked up the name Charlie, I don't know where he picked it up. Everybody called him Charlie.

AI: And, and then you were born in 1922.

JY: Yeah.

AI: And then who came after you?

JY: Johnny. His name is Masaharu. He picked that Johnny name up, too.

AI: And then after Johnny, who came next?

JY: Tad. See, his name is actually Tadao, but they call him Tad for short.

AI: And then after Tad, who came next?

JY: Chidori. She picked the name Jean.

AI: And then after her, who came?

JY: Akiko. And she picked up the name, picked up the name Pat, Patricia.

AI: Okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Well, so you mentioned that you went to high school, and when you were going to high school, what were you hoping to do? Did you hope that you could get some other work or get off the farm? What were you thinking of doing after high school?

JY: Oh, I was going to go into mechanics, because I see all the Japanese, nothing, or hardly anything was open then. Most all the Japanese, they go to college, they come back, they're working in the fruit stand. Seemed like it was no use, or either that, they become a doctor or dentist. All they could do is just work in the Japanese community, Japanese patrons, that's it. It was limited. So I figured, if you're a mechanic, if you're a good mechanic, anybody will come. Don't matter what nationality, they'll come to you. So I was going to Narbonne high school in Lomita, but did not have no class in mechanics, but Torrance had it, so I transferred to Torrance. That's where I graduated.

AI: And what, what year did you graduate high school?

JY: (Summer) 1940. (During the 1940s, they had B12 and A12 so there was a summer graduation and winter graduation.)

AI: So after you graduated, 1940, were you able to get work as a mechanic?

JY: No, I started driving a truck. I started driving a truck, I was making, I don't know, about fifteen bucks (...) a week, and then I went to another trucking company, about eighteen bucks, and I ended up driving a eighteen-wheeler for twenty-five dollars (...) a week. Twenty-five dollars a week, that's good money in those days. And then when the war started, he fired me. My brother (was twenty-one, old enough to buy land). See, my brother is, he's pretty sharp. We were gonna buy land for twenty-five dollars an acre. We was gonna invest in land. (...) We would have been set if the war didn't start.

AI: So...

JY: 'Cause he was working in the fruit stand. He was making eighteen dollars a week, I was making twenty-five dollars a week, and we was gonna pool our money together. 'Cause still, out of my money, my twenty-five dollars a week, I was giving my dad, I forgot, about ten bucks a week or something, because he had two Mexican (man) take my place to work on the farm, and he was paying them only ten cents an hour. That's only forty (bucks a week for forty hours). You could hire two men (for eight bucks), I'd have money left for myself, and you could ask my sister. They were really happy, because with that fifteen dollar, I used to treat her for candy and ice cream all the time. [Laughs]

AI: So that job, driving the eighteen-wheeler, that was a really good job.

JY: Yeah.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Well, so then, you told me, then after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Pearl Harbor was bombed, that December 7, 1941, what do you remember about that day? How did you find out?

JY: Oh, only thing I knew is, see, I'm going, living on the farm, there was no way my boss could send message to me, so he had his friend, (who has) a telephone. The person who got me the job, he came to my house and told me, "The boss said, 'Don't come to work Monday.'" I'm fired. The person (who) came to (tell) me, he's the guy who... what do you call it? He brown-nosed me. See, what happened is when I was about sixteen, I slapped my father. And he's a Japanese, too, and he came to my house and tried to lecture to me. I told him, "Get the hell out of here. This is a family problem." And he respected me for speaking up, young kid, 'cause nobody say that to an elders. So he's the one who found me (the) job, I was driving a semi. He was a Hawaiian (Nisei who) spoke English. The Isseis didn't speak English. (...) He knew (lots of) the Caucasians who had business, and since I spoke up against him, (he brown-nosed me and) got me a job from, from one of his friends. The reason I slapped my father is because, you know how the Japanese are. The men treat the women like dirt. So I got tired of it, so (when) I was old enough, and (when) my father told my mother, "Onna no kuse, damatte iru," you know what that means. To, "Shut up. You're a woman, and you shut up." So that's when I slapped him, you know. I told him, "I've heard enough." I got old enough and big enough to beat him up, so I told him, "I'm gonna beat you up." And he went and told his friend about it. [Laughs] And he came to our house, and I kicked him out.

AI: So then, he's the one who helped get you -- he's the one who helped get you the job.

JY: Yeah.

AI: But then he also got the news and had to tell you that you were fired.

JY: Yeah.

AI: So, so then after that, what, what did you do after you were fired from that job? Were you able to get other work?

JY: No, I looked around, can't get no... only job you could get is working for another Japanese. The Caucasians wouldn't hire you.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Were, after, after Pearl Harbor was bombed, did you get any harassment, or did any, did any people threaten you or call you names?

JY: No. I wasn't scared, 'cause I was born here, so that's the reason I was hitchhiking two o'clock in the morning.

AI: Now, when did that happen? When were you hitchhiking?

JY: December 18th. See, my, my mother's cousin was in Fresno then. And, and her husband was a mechanic, and he had a garage there. Well, he had friends that had orchards, so he could give me a job working in the orchard, pruning grapes, 'cause it was December. So I'll, figure I'll go there, 'cause didn't have enough job in the farm right then, so, but they didn't want me to take the family car, and they want me to stay on the farm, so... I wanted to make my own, I want to help out, so I started hitchhiking. I sneaked out of the house two o'clock in the morning, I was hitchhiking. That's when I got picked up.

AI: What happened when you got picked up?

JY: I was put in jail and (instead of) frisking me, they told me to take all my clothes off, and I was (...) naked and they're laughing. Five big cops, all bigger than me, all around me, and they (said they're going to) beat the shit out of me, and laughing. And chief of police walked in, he stopped it, and he had them bring me into his office and he apologized. And then I was wondering what's going on, and he explained to me, his father went through the same discrimination (in World War I). He said he's a second-generation German. But still, he held me in jail for five days. But I didn't know that. (...) You could hold (...) a person only seventy-two hours. Unless you charge him for something, you can't hold him after seventy-two hours. But after five, five days, they let me go. And I went home, and nothing (I) could do, so I worked on the farm until we got put in camp.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: So what did you do to get ready to, to leave? Did, your family didn't own any property then, did they?

JY: No. We left everything on the farm. See, he was renting the farm, but he didn't, but he owned all the plows and everything, all the furniture, all the equipment. Farm you got to have hammers, saws, and everything. He put it in the, in one of the big rooms we had, put everything in there. And then went to camp, but when we came back, it was all gone. Yeah.

AI: Well, so when, when you actually left, was that about April of 1942?

JY: Yeah.

AI: And so, where did you first go?

JY: Santa Anita.

AI: And what was the condition there? What was your living condition?

JY: Oh, lousy. See, some people had to go into the barns, horse barn, and some people, they made barracks on top of the parking lot. That was okay, but the barn, they just put... what do you call the oil? What do you call that?

AI: Tar?

JY: No, oil. Hard oil. Hardtop or something, they call it, over, over the manure. So the, the whatchamacallit, the bed you, the bed leg would go through, and the manure smell come up. A lot of people got sick.

AI: Was your family all together there?

JY: Yeah. Eight of us in one small, small place. [Laughs] Jesus, I felt sorry for my parents, you know. What the hell? No sex, no privacy. Jesus. My dad was still in his fifties, I think. Yeah.

AI: It sounds terrible.

JY: I know it.

AI: Well, so what did you do while you were there at Santa Anita? Did you have work or...

JY: Oh, yeah. you get all kind of work. I worked as a trashman. See, there's people working in, what do you call it... kitchen, cook, and all that. Trashman, people who cleaned the street, you clean, some people clean, keep the laundry room and toilet clean, and they had people making camouflage nets for the army.

AI: Did you do any of that? The nets?

JY: No, I worked as a trashman. No, because I met some of my L.A. boys, city boys, and they showed me how to do weightlifting. So I got strong enough to carry those big cans to work in the trashcan, dumping. It's a big trashcan. Tin trashcan is heavy.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Well, so tell me what was going through your mind. You were forced out of your place and brought into Santa Anita, what were you thinking about?

JY: Oh, I was bitter, because it's at the, right at that time, my folks was, worked hard all those years, and it was going to be easy for them. Just when it was going to be easy for them, because until then, see, my dad, he couldn't own land, he couldn't rent land. But my brother was gonna be twenty-one, he could own land, buy land, anything. Rent land. It was going to be easy street for them. That was all busted up. See, that, economics was behind puttin' in, puttin' us in camp, too. See, a lot of people don't realize that. Because all over California, the Japanese controlled all the, I think, pretty sure they control most of the farming, the whole vegetable, fruits, wholesale market, and 'Frisco, L.A. And the flower market, the Japanese started the flower market, and all the nurseries. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was behind it, 'cause they broke it up. Only one that survived is the one that was so big, they couldn't, they, they could come back and start over again. Like my folks, they were farming twenty-five acres. They couldn't, they, there was no way they could start back again, because when we came back -- before the war, we used horses. When we came back, it was tractors. One tractor cost $100,000 and the banks won't lend to Japanese. There's no way you could get started. Only the, only the big ones survived.

AI: What about, at the same time, as you were in Santa Anita, you were, you were bitter about the, the loss. What about your feeling as, as being an American? Did you feel like your, like your citizenship was being taken away? Or were you thinking about that at that time?

JY: No. I was thinking about going to work again. That's the reason, after that incident in Hermosa Beach, when I was put in Tule, I mean, Santa Anita, they picked me up for the, they said I started the riot.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Tell me, tell me about the riot. What happened?

JY: I don't know. This Korean guy got beat up. They said he was a stool, he was a stool pigeon, ratting on all the Japanese, what they were doing. And somebody threw a typewriter in his face, and beat him up, and they said I did it. Well, it's like if there's a child molester in the city, and soon as somebody gets molested, they blame it on that guy. So same as with me. Soon as they had a problem, they picked me up.

AI: And what happened, what happened when they picked you up?

JY: Well, they put me in jail for five days. See, underneath the racetrack, underneath the grandstand, one of the toilets, men's toilet, they made into a jail. And I was there five days, and then they transferred me to Arcadia city jail. Then from there they sent me to Santa-, Tule Lake. They split me up, took me away from my, split me from my family.

AI: So what happened to you in Tule Lake? Where did, what block did you end up in?

JY: Pardon?

AI: What block were you in in Tule Lake?

JY: Seventy-five. They were still building it. But I was here about two or three months, 'cause they asked for volunteers for sugar beets, so I went out for sugar beets. I wanted to get out. I don't want to be locked up, so I went sugar beet, and I worked hard, and finished my contract. And wherever there's Japanese from camp helping the sugar beet, to save the sugar crop, they have a WRA representative checking up on their health and everything, and if they get sick, they send 'em back to camp. And when you're over, they give you a travel permit to go back to camp. It just don't make sense, because there was Japanese living in Montana before the war, they didn't have to have a travel permit. Then after sugar beet was over, everybody went back camp except me. I couldn't get a travel permit. He won't give it to me. He said I'm a troublemaker. I told him, "I finished my contract, I didn't give the farm any problems." He said, "You're a troublemaker." Hermosa Beach, Santa Anita, all that records in Montana. So that winter, that wintertime, I had to work in the railroad. I gotta eat. And it's too cold out there, so I think around February, somewhere around, I started hitchhiking to, I got to Salt Lake City, worked a little bit, and I went to Denver. There, both city had Japanese there before the war, so I went to Denver, and then there was a WRA office there. Then he finally gave me a pass to go to Jerome and get a transfer. Because I was supposed to go back to Tule, and my folks were transferred from Santa Anita to Jerome. So I finally got to Jerome.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: About when was that, that you got to Jerome? Was that about the middle of '43?

JY: No, no. It's, it was early February, somewhere around there. Because I went out again.

AI: So you went to Jerome?

JY: No. Yeah, Jerome.

AI: And you saw your family.

JY: Yeah, I saw the family, and then --

AI: They were still all together?

JY: Yeah. And then they asked for volunteers again from Jerome for sugar beet, and then a lot of people wanted me to go with them, because I've been there. My brother went and I went, see. My younger brother, so I went with them to Montana again.

AI: And your older brother stayed with your parents?

JY: Yeah. That was in '43. Yeah, '43, and then when I finished the sugar beet crop at end of September, I mean, September '43, we, well, I think we went back to camp.

AI: You and, you and Tad went back to camp?

JY: No, no. Johnny.

AI: Oh, Johnny. Sorry.

JY: We went back to camp, but when we went back to camp, I think my family was in Tule in, end of '43.

AI: So tell me, why did your family leave Jerome and go to Tule Lake?

JY: Well, my, my dad, he's the oldest son in the family.

AI: In his family.

JY: Yeah. He inherited some land in Japan, in Hiroshima, so he figured he's got nothing here, so he'd go to Japan and farm over there. And my brother, oldest brother, he didn't want to go, but he couldn't talk him into staying. He figured his loyalty stay with his, my parents, somebody gotta look after them, they're getting kind of old, so he went with them. My younger brother and sister, they're underage, so they had to go with them. Then in '43, end of '43 when I went back to Santa Anita --

AI: Or, no, you went --

JY: I mean, Jerome.

AI: Jerome.

JY: This time I went out to, for indefinite leave. And I went to Chicago. And my younger brother, Johnny, he went to Ohio. But my mother sent me a letter, she had my brother send me a letter, oldest brother, that she wanted me to join the family. That's when I had to decide where my loyalty lay. For my mother, or for America. So that's why I told -- you know like the speech I told you? I said, I figure she gave me life, so I owe my life to her. And if United States supposed to give me, if you're born here, it's, it's automatic. You're supposed to get your freedom and liberty and justice, and I'm not getting it. So I figure I'll go with my mother. So I, I came back to Jerome, I signed up for repatriation, and they, they didn't -- they refused it, turned it down, but they said I'm trying to evade the draft. But they was closing Santa -- I mean, Jerome then.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: And was this late 1943, or was this -- no, this would have been --

JY: No, no, this was '44.

AI: 1944.

JY: And I was supposed to go to Gila. But when I was getting on the train, I was saying goodbye to my friends. See, they, they didn't go on one train, one group, they go couple group because too many people. And some of my friends were going early. I went to, on the train, I went to say goodbye. U.S. marshal arrested me while I was at the train. But somebody ratted on me, 'cause U.S. marshal doesn't know who I am or who I look like. And he wouldn't even let me go back to my barracks and get my money or my toothbrush, anything. Picked me up and took me to Little Rock, put me in the city jail. I never, never found my clothes or money. I used to have money inside my clothes inside of a locker. Yeah.

AI: So did he tell you why he was picking you up?

JY: Oh, yeah, for, for not reporting for my physical. I got two physical notice, but I just ignored it. But since I'm locked up, they know where I'm at. I'm not evading the draft. How can I be evading the draft? I'm locked up, and I wrote it down on the number 27: I'm willing to go if they give me same right as Caucasian.

AI: So this was on the questionnaire, on the question 27 and the 28?

JY: That's what I wrote, and then, then when I went to city jail, they, they appointed me a public defender, but he didn't even visit me, not even once. He just showed up in court. I guess he just wanted the money. That's all.

AI: So what happened when you were at court?

JY: Well, I don't know anything about law, my public defender said, "Plead nolo contendere." I didn't know what it means. He told me, said that means, "I don't know if I'm guilty or not guilty." But the judge said, "That means you're (pleading) guilty." So he gave me three years. And then I found out the other people, the Caucasians, they were, the most they ever got is two years, and a lot of 'em got only six months, twelve months, eighteen months, or two years is the highest. And the Jehovah's Witness, they all got five years.

AI: For resisting the draft.

JY: Huh?

AI: That's how much of a sentence they got for resisting the draft, refusing the draft.

JY: Yeah. They was resisting it because they don't believe in killing a fellow human being. I give 'em a lot of credit, 'cause they, going to jail's not easy. You're locked up like an animal. I was there over two years, and three, three convicts went insane. They had to put a straightjacket on 'em, and they took 'em to an insane asylum.

AI: Well, so were you the only one from Jerome --

JY: Yeah.

AI: -- who was sent to court for...

JY: Yeah. I was the only resister. I didn't talk to other people. I figured everybody's got a right to their own opinion. I'm not gonna influence anybody.

AI: And so then, when you were sentenced, where did you, where were you taken for your incarceration?

JY: Well, in Texas, right on the border of Arkansas/Texas, so they call it city of Texarkana. But, see, the thing is... what was it I was gonna say? [Pauses] Yeah, going to jail is not easy. Locked up like animal.

AI: Were there other Japanese Americans at --

JY: Yeah, three from Rohwer.

AI: So there were four of you in this prison at Texarkana.

JY: Yeah, yeah. But they, they were convicted before I was. They were there before I was. But I'm pretty sure -- this is kind of early -- I'm pretty sure they, they want to really convict us, because if they didn't convict us, all the other people in the other camps would refuse to go. I think we were the early ones. I don't know. Because after, after the judge gave me three years, he said, "(Will the) witnesses against Joe Yamakido please stand up?" And three people stood up. I never saw 'em in my life. And he said, "You're excused." I guess they were gonna testify against me on something, I don't know what. They want to make sure I got convicted.

AI: That's strange.

JY: I know it.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: Well, so tell me, then, what happened, what was your experience in the prison when you got there?

JY: Oh, the prison? Well, when you go to prison they check you out. Physically, everything, and mentally. And my IQ was high, so they used me as a secretary in the doctor's office. I had to use a typewriter, all the inmates come in, they check him in, and they gotta write down all their ailments and everything. They had lot of, what do you call it, sexual disease and all that. In those days, claps and everything like that. But after a while it got to me, because I had to help operations, and I can't stand that. Jeez, they cut open the stomach and all, see that blood, and I gotta get that cotton and stop the blood. But I kind of, almost fainted, but the thing is, what got to me is I got everybody's record, and the records says... what do you call that now? Oh, yeah. If a person's gay, they got all the information. Then other convicts, they know I got the information, see, and they used to harass me. They want to know which one is gay, 'cause, we all take a shower together. As long as you didn't get caught, you could get away with it. As long as the guards don't (catch you). But if you get caught, they add three more years in prison for sodomy. But if you don't get caught, it's always going on, and they want me to tell 'em who it is. It got to me, so I told the doctor, "I want to get out of here. I want a transfer."

So I finally got a transfer out of there, and I went to wood shop. But one day, one of the convicts called me a "Jap," and I should know better 'cause I'm a minority in there. (...) I slapped him automatically and he didn't do anything. But the very next day, when all the doors clanged open and we come out, well, we all don't come out at one time. Everybody takes their time, somebody take their time brushing their teeth and all that. But when I went out, they were waiting for me. They had one big guy hit me in my face, but I didn't go down. They thought he could knock me out, but I didn't go down, but in the hallway, I put my back against the wall and I started fighting, 'cause I learned judo and sumo, so I knew how to push him away. And I'm small compared to the Caucasians. Every one of 'em's bigger than I am, but I kept pushing them away and everything else and fighting. They, everybody tried to grab me, get me on the floor and stomp me. And everybody's hollering, "Kill that Jap. Kill the Jap." And the guard didn't stop it, see. He was, he was hollering, too. And then, finally, they got tired and walked away. It's amazing. I knew somebody upstairs was helping me. When you get, when you're jumped on by a gang, you ain't got a chance. When they (stopped), I (only had) my shorts on. My pants was all gone, my shirt was gone, undershirt was gone, yeah. And then the warden put me in the hole for five days. I thought it was all in the movies, but in the hole, all they fed me was three slices of bread a day, one beet. And that's it, in the federal prison. Otherwise they feed you three times a day, they gave you dessert and everything. They watch your health, everything. That's why a lot of people go to prison, to get taken care of. [Laughs]

AI: So after the five days, they let you out?

JY: Yeah.

AI: What happened? Did, did they keep harassing you, or...?

JY: No. The one big guy was a friend before this happened, six-foot-four, he told me if he jumped in and helped me, he said he would have gotten killed. He said, "They were wrong to do that." He apologized that he didn't help me. They left me alone after that 'cause they knew I was a fighter. And, and then the, the ex-Louisiana governor, and his lawyer was in there. I think it's, he was, you know, the governor gets some kind of... what the hell do they call that? They get money from the government for the universities, grant or something. I think he was taking some money off of there. And he got caught, and he was in jail. And then he took a liking to me, 'cause I survived. And he, and he got into my case, and he said, how come I'm in there, and I told him my case. And he says, he recommended me to volunteer and go in the army. 'Cause he says, I didn't know about, you lose your rights, you lose certain rights, even if you finish your sentence, (...) you can't vote, you can't be in the jury, and you can't get a passport. Other things, I don't care about. Main thing is my passport, 'cause my folks were in Japan already. So he fixed it up, wrote to his friend in Washington, D.C., from prison, the official at Texarkana, they took me to Dallas, and I passed my physical and I was in the army. I got out of jail early. I only stayed there two years and two months, I think, that's it. And I got out.

AI: So when, when was it when you got out, then?

JY: '46, I think. See, I went in there '44 and got out '46.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: So you passed your physical, they accepted you...

JY: Yeah. They sent me to Tacoma for my basic training.

AI: And then where did you go after basic?

JY: Oh, they sent me to Presidio San Francisco, because I don't want to kill nobody. So I told 'em I want to be a cook, so they sent me to cooking school. Yeah. Then the war was over, so they started discharging, I got out in 1947. So it was about eight month, I got out in '47. But they told me they want, they wanted Japanese cooks in Japan for the army, but they offered me master sergeant. [Laughs] I didn't want, I didn't want to go. I had enough of that getting up at a certain time, like in jail we had to get up and eat, line up for eat and everything, I was tired of that. So I had to sign up for two years to get that master sergeant, so I said, "No thanks."

AI: Well, the time that you were in the army, what kind of treatment did you get? I mean, this was right after the war. Did, were they negative to you for being Japanese American, or how did they treat you?

JY: Oh, pretty bad, 'cause I was the only one in the outfit Japanese in Washington. I was lined up for chow one day, one big tall guy, over six foot, he figured I'm a "Jap," and he could do whatever he wanted. So he got in front of me in the chow line, so I told him, "Back of the line, buddy." He got pissed off at me. So we started fighting, and I threw him on the floor, got an arm lock on him, I was gonna break it, and everybody else... 'cause he started kinda, he getting, started sobbing, and other guys said, "Let him go, let him go." Says, "He's had enough," and I let him go. After that I had no problem. And our... what the hell you call that? Well, my company, that... what the hell you call that person that runs, the head of the company. He was back from Japan from South, South Pacific, and he fought the Japanese. And he saw that and, and he just, he just respected me, and he didn't do anything. So I never had trouble after that. He backed me up after that.

AI: So, so then after you were discharged -- well, in the meantime, this, while you were in the army, what was happening to your family? They were, were they all back in Japan?

JY: Yeah. Except my younger brother, he was in Ohio.

AI: That was Johnny?

JY: Yeah.

AI: And so was he able to stay in Ohio?

JY: Yeah. He was on indefinite leave. Yeah, and I had enough money saved up during that six, eight months in the army, and I came back L.A., no jobs, so I worked for the Chinese farmer for fifty cents an hour. But I had enough money saved up to sponsor my sister in '47, then in '48 I sponsored my other sister. And they were, started working and saving enough money to sponsor our parents. They came back. And Tad, he stayed, he volunteered for the air force in Japan, he came here, married a Japanese girl and came here. And my older brother, he was successful in business, so he stayed. So everything turned out okay.

AI: So, then did you continue to live in L.A.? Stayed in the L.A. area?

JY: Yeah. I went, I started working in, first I went to San Pedro, I worked in the cannery. It was better pay than working on the farm. And then, and I worked at the Ontras cafeteria. It's a chain, chain restaurant. I worked there for a while, but not enough money unless you're a chef. So I worked for a Catholic school, as a second chef at the school where, what do you call those dormitory? And my sister's coming so I quit and got me apartment up in L.A., started working in the wholesale market. Fruit and produce, (...) wholesale market, that's where I met my wife. I married the boss's daughter.

AI: When were you married?

JY: 1950.

AI: Did you have any kids?

JY: Yeah, I had six kids. Well, she was married before. She had one kid. I adopted him and I had five of my own. I got five kids living right now. One of 'em murdered. So they're, they're all doing okay. They, they say they don't feel no discrimination on their job.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you, why did you come to this Tule Lake Pilgrimage?

JY: Oh, my brother, I just support him. I went to Bismarck to support him, too. See, almost in, almost '88, 1988 or something, I got tired of hearing all the, they're saying, read in the paper that the resisters are chicken and coward for not going. They don't understand that we was fightin' for our rights, too, in a different way. I got tired of hearing that, so I, I spoke up. When I spoke up, then they said I should keep on saying it. So I went to Manzanar, I gave a speech over there in Manzanar of what I went through. Then I started coming to these pilgrimage to keep it open.

AI: Well, if you were going to, if you were going to give some advice to young people today, what kinds of advice would you, would you give them? If they have some hard choices to make?

JY: Well, don't get influenced by anybody else. Just do what you, you think is right, don't do what other people tell you to do. Use your own judgment, don't be scared. Just face it, what's coming to you, that's all. You won't, you won't regret it later.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, I want to ask you one other question about redress. The, the, 'course, the redress commission had hearings, and I was wondering, what was, what did you think about it when the redress movement was going on and the hearings were happening? Did you think that redress had a chance?

JY: No. I didn't, I didn't think it had a chance. But these third-generation Sansei, lot of these got together, they must have had a lot of clout, 'cause they pushed it through.

AI: So when you got your, your letter and a check in the mail, what was your reaction?

JY: Oh, I was happy, but the thing is, it's peanuts compared to what it should have been. It's better than nothin'. [Interruption] We were in there, we were in there three years or four years. I don't know how many years, but I didn't stay that long, 'cause I was always volunteering. But my folks was in all that time, and they didn't get it. And I know why they didn't get it; only survivors could get it. My father was, they both went through it, but they didn't get it. Only survivors, only survivors could get it, and the survivors can't get their parents' money.


AI: Well, I really appreciate your time, and I'm wondering, is there anything else that you wanted to mention, or anything else that you didn't get a chance to say earlier that you wanted to make sure...

JY: No, that's about it. See, to me, at my age, I don't want no more stress. I just want to enjoy life now. [Laughs]

AI: Well, I really appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

JY: You're welcome. I'm happy you gave me a chance to speak up. So I just hope the young generation learns from my experience.

AI: I hope so, too.

JY: And I hope they have enough guts to speak up and face the consequences.

AI: Thank you.

JY: You're welcome.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.