Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James Yamazaki Interview
Narrator: James Yamazaki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Van Nuys, California
Date: February 4, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-yjames-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is February 4, 2005. We're at the home of James and Aki Yamazaki in Van Nuys, California. I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, for the Densho Project, and on camera we have Carl Wakamoto from the Asian Pacific Arts from UCLA. And also in the room we have Aki, who's listening in. And Jim, this is really just a continuation of our conversation from this morning. I've been here for the last day and a half getting to know you, and we're going to interview you for the Densho project. But before we start with your life, I actually wanted to start with your parents. And I wanted to start first with your father. And so can you tell me what his name was and where he was raised?

JY: John Misao Yamazaki, my father's name. He was born in the city of Matsumoto, Japan, in Nagano Prefecture.

TI: And what can you tell me about his family?

JY: My father's father was a samurai who worked in the Matsumoto Castle, which is a well-known castle in Japan. And at the onset of the Meiji era, when the samurai were disbanded, he started a textile business in the city of Matsumoto. And the family was very much involved in this, in the city's activity, and they were a major supporter of a Buddhist temple in the city.

TI: So was the family fairly prominent and wealthy?

JY: That's what I was told. Relatively wealthy because I think they had a two- or three-story home.

TI: And how about land holdings? Do you know...

JY: Pardon me?

TI: Land holdings. Were they land owners?

JY: No, not big land holders. I just heard of the home, and that they had some, the usual Japanese structures where they kept family belongings.

TI: And so what was your father like?

JY: Well, my father was a minister, but at home, he enjoyed very much doing his ministry through fairly novel ways when I think back to it.

TI: So you're talking about him as a youngster?

JY: Yes.

TI: Okay, so what was that?

JY: Well, he was very interested in the young people in the neighborhood. And the activities around the church where he was the pastor was mainly oriented toward the young people. Since being a minister, he would have some bible lessons on Sundays for the kids. But at the end of these lessons, he would always have a movie for the kids.

TI: So this was later on in the United States when he was a minister.

JY: Yes.

TI: But going back to Japan, growing up as a child, as a youngster, as an adolescent, what was he like then? I mean, what kind of things did he, do you think he wanted to go into or do back then?

JY: I really don't have a clear picture. Only with little sporadic comments he might have made about his boyhood, would I get a little picture of what it was like.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So, Jim, again, I'm thinking about your father. And maybe before we even talk more about what he was, perhaps, thinking or wanting to do, did he have any brothers and sisters?

JY: Yes, he had, I think, seven brothers and one sister.

TI: Oh, that's big.

JY: Yes, and he was the youngest.

TI: Oh, interesting.

JY: So that the image we have of this family picture was that the oldest brother, being the Japanese way, would be the heir to the family, and there being so many brothers in the family, many of them, in fact, all of them except my brother went to yoshi.

TI: And what's yoshi?

JY: Yoshi is that, families who have just daughters, and they still want to have their legacy maintained, would ask another family who they thought could well represent their family hopes and aspiration to become the heir for their family.

TI: And so why do you think your father wasn't one of, a yoshi? Because he was...

JY: He was the youngest, and just, I guess, the general thing is if the oldest, anything happened to him, at least there would be one remaining, which actually was, happened eventually.

TI: Now did your grandparents have any expectations for your father in terms of the type of work or where he, what he should do as he got older?

JY: I think my grandfather, that is, my father's father, died early before my father was an adolescent. That's the way it, picture frame I get. And that, so that by the time my father was an adolescent, the family was guided by his uncle. And so the image I have is that of a family patriarch where his uncle was the principal figure in the family.

TI: And I think you mentioned earlier that this is, your father's uncle was a prominent person in the town also, because he was the mayor?

JY: Yes. Well, he was, the image I have of him is that he was quite a scholarly person. And one of the pictures that my father had is of a very sparse room in which he was studying, with a considerable amount of literature on the shelves, and a fairly serious looking demeanor. And he was the one that would call the family together in the event there was any things that they had to make decisions on. So he was a guiding figure in the family.

TI: And so your uncle -- or not your uncle, but your father's uncle -- took over, sort of, the raising of your father.

JY: That's correct, yes.

TI: So did he have expectations of your father?

JY: I'm not sure, but he certainly was, I get the impression that he did have a, quite a person that designed the family pattern. But that didn't prevent my father from enjoying some of the things that young men enjoyed in the city.

TI: What's an example of that?

JY: Well, he knew all the songs that they sang at the geisha house. And most people, when they came to the United States, thought that he was a very serious minister. And one year they had a group of men go to Japan, and my father joined them, and on the way over, they felt, "Gosh, here's a bonsan with us, and all of our fun that we intended to have in Japan is going to have a blanket on it." But when my dad went to Japan, he could join in the songs and all the partying that they had, that they wanted to recreate in returning to Japan. So they were very happy after that, and from that trip, he made many nice friendships.

TI: Oh, so it was interesting. So going back to his childhood, he was very much different than the perception he was in the United States as a minister. So that just gave sort of a picture of what his childhood may have been like in terms of being more boisterous and things like that. But also, birth order, he was the youngest. And in the United States, oftentimes if you're the youngest in a large family, sometimes you get a little spoiled. Was he sort of the spoiled child of the family?

JY: That's the impression we obtained, yes.

TI: Now in terms of schooling, how well did he do in school?

JY: Well, I don't know just what was expected at that period, but when he finished high school, he became a teacher, and was teaching just before he came to the United States. We have some very interesting pictures of his little group of students.

TI: During this period, Japan was, from a military standpoint, very busy fighting, I believe, at that time, the Russo War. For your father, he was probably about draft age about that time. Was he involved in the Japanese military?

JY: Of course, they were very involved, all the young people, because there was prevailing feeling that the Western powers was imposing on Japan, and there was considerable concern in the country about what would happen to the other countries in Asia might happen to Japan. And so the young people, it seemed, there was quite a unified type of feeling that the young people would have to serve in the armed forces to preserve Japan.

TI: And is that how your dad felt about that, too?

JY: I believe so.

TI: And so what was his involvement in terms of the Japanese military?

JY: Well, he applied to the, both to the naval and the army academies, but was rejected because of, he didn't meet the physical requirements.

TI: So his intent was, he was very much proud of being Japanese and wanted to be part of the Japanese military in terms of, in some ways -- apologize for my words -- but sort of kick out the other occupying or imperial forces like the British, people like that, from Asia?

JY: I think that was the impression I obtained, that they didn't want Japan to undergo that type of experience.

TI: So he was rejected by the navy and the army in terms of their training, officer training. So what did he do next?

JY: Well, I think the family counseled with my, his uncle, decided that the next step was to go to the United States and obtain his education there. And since there were physicians in the family, they thought he might do well as a doctor.

TI: And they felt that going to the United States to get a medical training was a good move for your father?

JY: Well, at least to make an attempt.

TI: But during this period also, wasn't there a death in the family?

JY: Yes, that one of his older brothers died, and it was a brother to whom he was very close. He died after a sport accident, and he was quite troubled and vexed about life and its meaning, and he approached the Buddhist priest about it and then found no adequate explanations for what he was seeking. But he obtained this at the, from the ministers at the Anglican church that was established in the community.

TI: So the family was Buddhist, and so initially he went to the Buddhist minister to try to get some understanding of this tragedy, didn't find it, so went to the Anglican.

JY: Yes.

TI: And there you say he got counseling or information to help him heal.

JY: He found an explanation to life that he hadn't obtained from the Buddhist priest.

TI: Do you know what that learning or what that might have been in terms of how to cope with a tragedy like that?

JY: Not exactly. All I know is that eventually, apparently, it led him to the ministry.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Well, we're going to come back to this, because during this period he actually met someone at this missionary, your mother. But then before we go back there, let's go to the point where he decides to go to the United States, and so he immigrates to the, or immigrates to the United States. Where did he land, and about what year was that?

JY: He arrived in San Francisco in 1904, and he was about twenty years old. And we have the immigration records of that event, how much money he head.

TI: So how much money did he have?

JY: He had a considerable amount. The immigration office says he had two thousand dollars. That was a huge amount for a young man.

TI: Yeah, I've interviewed quite a few people, and generally they would come with about twenty dollars, and that was like the minimum, and most of them had about that.

JY: My numbers may be wrong, but as I recollect, it was in the thousands.

TI: Well, it makes a little bit of sense, because most people who came to the United States were coming to be a laborer of some type, to actually make money. It sounded like your father came for possibly different reasons, to actually get an education. So he probably came with more resources to help him get started. So I'm curious, when he got to San Francisco, what did he end up doing?

JY: Well, apparently there were friends that he made quite early, a group of friends with whom he was compatible. And they pooled their resources to get by, to meet their daily needs. So if one individual found work, the person would bring the, whatever money obtained, and they would share and make ends meet that way.

TI: But I don't understand. Your father came and he had two thousand dollars, so he had quite a bit of money. What happened to that money? I mean, it sounds like it disappeared somehow or he used it, because then he had to then work with these other fellows to make ends meet?

JY: Well, looking at some of the pictures, because he's in San Francisco only for a short period, some of the pictures that these young men took look like the others had a little more money than you would expect from immigrants from an impoverished home. They had very well-fitting, stylish suits, they certainly didn't have any appearance of being... well, they appeared quite nice young men.

TI: And what kind of work did he do during this period? He was about twenty in San Francisco.

JY: Well, they had the usual work that the immigrants obtained, working in homes, houseboys, restaurants, hotels, and I think he even went to Salinas to find work at one time.

TI: Okay, so he got there about 1904. 1906, the big San Francisco earthquake. Was your father in San Francisco during that period?

JY: He was in San Francisco.

TI: Do you know what happened either during or after the earthquake?

JY: All I know is that there was, we have a picture of him in the rubble, wearing a straw hat. [Laughs]

TI: And so what happened after that?

JY: Somewhere during that period, the anti-Oriental atmosphere was still quite pervasive. And it seemed that the, one of the avenues that the city fathers had in mind was to have the Asians move out of the cities, since there was limited housing and jobs. And so they were encouraged to go south to Los Angeles, and I recall being told that they were given vouchers to go to Los Angeles. And during that period there was a considerable exodus of Japanese to Southern California.

TI: That's interesting. So this is about 1906, 1907, and so during this period in San Francisco, there were people who wanted the Japanese out, as many as they could, so they actually paid them to go down to Los Angeles. And this was about the same time when I think in San Francisco, the school board started segregating Asians from the general population, and that led to the Gentlemen's Agreement with Japan. So that all makes sense, that they're trying to push. But I'm surprised that people in Southern California, Los Angeles, allowed that to happen. I'm curious, what did he find when he went to L.A.?

JY: Well, he, by then he was quite interested in helping the church in caring for the immigrants from Japan. And so he was connected to a missionary group on Flower Street in Los Angeles, and eventually the diocese of Los Angeles felt that they would like to support him to enter the ministry and obtain some funds for him to go to obtain his college education and then go to the divinity school.

TI: Do you know, when he was making this decision to make the ministry his career, if he was consulting or talked with his uncle back in Japan? Because here they thought he was going to possibly study medicine, and then all of a sudden he's going into the ministry for a Christian church when the family was Buddhist. Was that controversial for the family?

JY: It may have been, but I don't have any record of that.

TI: Okay. So he went to Trinity, then divinity school at Berkeley. About this time, your mother came to the United States.

JY: No, it was much later.

TI: So even after Berkeley?

JY: Oh, yes, about... I think he went to Trinity College around 1900 or so, somewhere thereabouts.

TI: But it must have been, if it was after the San Francisco earthquake.

JY: Oh, yes.

TI: So 1906 was the earthquake, probably more like 1910 or so?

JY: Something like that. I don't have the exact dates. But he had been engaged to my mother, and she came ten years later to United States. And that was around 1913.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's switch gears. Because your mother's background in Japan was very different than your father's.

JY: Yes.

TI: Why don't you talk a little bit about how your mother was raised in Japan.

JY: My mother's family lived in Osaka, and I'm told that they had a thriving business of manufacturing tabis. And the only other relative I know on my mother's side that I met was her brother who came to Los Angeles maybe perhaps when I was four or five years old. And he was, came here trying to start business in the United States, and stayed here for about a year and then decided to return to Japan. That was the only time I saw my mother's brother.

TI: But he came to the United States hoping to start a business with the, sort of, offshoot from the family business.

JY: I don't know just what he had in mind, this is too small to recollect what is, or even wonder what his business aspirations were.

TI: Well, how was your mother raised, though?

JY: Well, my mother, unfortunately, her father died, and as is custom, the father's family wanted to be free of responsibility for her, so she was returned to her home, to the mother's home. And then the mother died, and so she became an orphan. And she had an older sister who was a nurse, and apparently much older than her, but was, principal care was obtained through her sister. And then she was involved in a fire at the nurse, at a hospital, and she died. And apparently at this point, this was a church-connected hospital, and a lady missionary from Canada took responsibility for my mother.

TI: And so this woman, this Canadian woman, raised your mother.

JY: Yes. And my mother would go where this Canadian missionary would go, and she established a fine girl's school in Matsumoto. The school was quite well, nice structures, and curriculum that attracted most of the families, the nicer families that could afford that kind of school in the Matsumoto area.

TI: Tell me a little bit about this woman, it's kind of an extraordinary story, that you have this Canadian, she was Caucasian, who came to Japan as a missionary. But she must have been quite wealthy for her to build these really nice schools.

JY: She was quite wealthy, and she studied in Paris, and for some reason became interested about the mission, church's work in Japan. But not being trained as a religious worker, but still interested in missionary work, she had to go to considerable length to obtain the church's backing for her to go to Japan. But as you might imaging the person of this nature, this strong desire to do this kind of work, she finally did get to Japan. She always remained unmarried, and did considerable nice work in Japan.

TI: And it seems like your mother and she were quite close.

JY: Yes, uh-huh. And we still have pictures, many pictures of the school, the student body, as she grew up in the city.

TI: And what age was your mother when she was being taken care of by this woman?

JY: I would say it was pre-teens when she began. We have some pictures of her.

TI: So that's when it started, and for how long did it last?

JY: Right. So she remained in the city of Matsumoto, and that's where she met my father.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Okay, because now we'll come back to this, because there's that period when your, when your father's brother died, he got some counseling from the Anglican church. Was that associated with the mission? Is that kind of where they met?

JY: Somehow, I just don't know how that period came about. And eventually family did find out of my dad's interest in my mother. Yet here he was a Christian lady, and wasn't really something that was acceptable at that period because not only was it Christian, but it was a Caucasian missionary that was responsible for my mother. That didn't sit too well with the family.

TI: So your father's family wasn't excited about your dad being interested in your mother who was raised by this Caucasian.

JY: Yes.

TI: And because, especially because she was Christian also.

JY: Yes.

TI: So, but yet your father was engaged to your mother?

JY: Well, I think families somewhat understood that there was something cooking, and that the engagement was official, made official before he went to America. But the acceptance by the family came quite gradually. And I'm told that that came about when there was a very severe epidemic of sekiri, it's a dysentery. And the way they controlled, it was so pervasive in town, that they had to isolate the patients by the riverside, away from their domicile. And there were some relatives in the family that were isolated in this fashion, and my mother would go to care for them. And in this manner the family became acquainted with my mother.

TI: Oh, that's a good story. Did your dad or mom ever talk about those early years in Japan and, for instance, what attracted your father to your mother or your mother to your father?

JY: No. [Laughs]

TI: They never talked about those things?

JY: They didn't talk much about those.

TI: I always ask that. I'm always curious, one of these times, someone's going to tell me these things.

JY: I guess it never occurred to me to ask.

TI: Okay. So your mother finally came to the United States.

JY: Miss Patterson again arranged that.

TI: Okay, so Miss Patterson is the missionary woman.

JY: Yes.

TI: So she arranged for your mom to come to the United States to be with your father.

JY: Yes.

TI: And then they got married in Los Angeles?

JY: No, she came to San Francisco. And apparently it was with considerable planning because the marriage took place soon after, at the cathedral in San Francisco on California Street.

TI: Would that be unusual, to be married in a cathedral?

JY: I would assume so, yeah.

TI: So do you think Miss Patterson arranged for all...

JY: I'm sure she had her fingers in that.

TI: Do you have pictures of the wedding?

JY: Yes. We have pictures of the, wedding picture of the bride and groom, yes.

TI: I'm curious, what did they wear?

JY: My dad wore a tux, and she wore a Japanese dress, kimono.

TI: So they got married --

JY: I think we have a picture somewhere.

TI: -- in San Francisco, and then they came down to Los Angeles to live.

JY: Yes, soon after.

TI: And then they started having children at that point. Let's talk a little bit about you and your siblings. What's the order of your siblings?

JY: Yeah, soon after, a year later, my mother gave birth to the first son, John. Then a couple years later I came on the scene, then the third son came about, followed in order.

TI: And his name was?

JY: Peter.

TI: Peter?

JY: Uh-huh. And then my sister came about six or seven years later.

TI: And her name was...

JY: Louise.

TI: So John, Jim, Peter, Louise.

JY: Yeah.

TI: Well, actually John, James, Peter. It sounds very biblical almost, John, James, Peter. I just noticed that, which makes sense. I guess I wanted to get just a sense of growing up in Los Angeles. This would have been, you were born in 1916?

JY: Correct.

TI: So let's go to that. You were born 1916, what was your given name when you were born? What did they name you?

JY: James Nobuo Yamazaki.

TI: And what did people call you in the neighborhood?

JY: James.

TI: They called you James?

JY: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: Now, I've been calling you Jim. Should I be calling you James or Jim?

JY: Most of my friends now call me Jim.

TI: Okay, I hope that's okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So, Jim, when you're kind of like growing up, when you're playing with your friends, what are some memories of the type of things that you would do in Los Angeles?

JY: Well, it was extremely friendly, kind of, of neighborhood. And whether you could go walk into any house, any neighborhood house that were Japanese, and never knocked on a door, you just went in. Always welcome. Most of the homes were very bare, and if we went into the kitchen, it was usually almost like a bench-like seats, and the cover was uniformly, in those days, sort of like now would be plastic with a sort of oilcloth with some colorful patterns on it. So that was, no fancy decorations in the homes that we went, most of the homes we went into.

TI: And when you went to your friends' houses, would you oftentimes eat at different places?

JY: If there was food there, I guess we participated, yes.

TI: And how about your interactions with the parents of your friends? Did they oftentimes talk to you?

JY: Oh, they all knew you, and they would talk, call me by my Japanese name, Nobuo-san. So I recall, that name just came out to me that that's what they called me, the older people called me.

TI: Now, did you have a sense that they were all kind of, you know, I think of Hillary Clinton when she says "it takes a village to raise a child." Did you have a sense that the community was helping to raise you, that they were kind of watching you and taking care of you?

JY: It seemed like one big, nice neighborhood. It's a very warm memories I have of that neighborhood.

TI: Now, was the neighborhood predominately Japanese, or were there other races?

JY: Yes, there were other races. In fact, primarily we got a sense of the diversity of people. Next door was a Negro couple, and across the street was another Negro family. And then across, just directly opposite was a Filipino man that was married to, he was married to a Caucasian. And in those days, we just basically knew that to be married wasn't allowed, a white man and an Asian -- a white woman and an Asian. And so it was unique, but we never gave too much thought to that. And then there was the, next door there was another similar couple, and they sent their children to our, my father's church. And one of the children still come to the same church, so that would be seventy years, eighty years later.

TI: So growing up in a diverse neighborhood like that, were your playmates also diverse, or did you hang out with just the Japanese?

JY: I would say they were mostly Japanese, because this Filipino family, their kids were much younger. And there was one more interesting Filipino group. So there was this mixture on this street of different races, and we knew the situation. So we knew that they couldn't, they didn't have ladies, women to marry to because Japanese were such a closed society. And the two houses further down was a row of flats in which Filipino men lived. But they had a joint undertaking of a livery service, Cadillacs, and they had uniforms, but they also had among them, amongst six of them, two women who were Caucasians. So occasionally we were seeing some little excitement going on in that area. [Laughs] But we just took that in stride as the way the world was.

TI: Well, I'm curious, did the Isseis, how did they view... because you were in such a diverse neighborhood, how did they view the Filipinos or the African Americans? Did they have sort of generalized or stereotypical views of these different groups, and if so, what were they?

JY: There wasn't much talk about that. But from the way they interacted with each other, in spite of the fact that there were these different groups that surrounded us, there was no intermixing of social activities with them, except for the kids. We would go into the Filipino person's home, of course.

TI: That's interesting. I forgot to ask, what neighborhood was this?

JY: This was called Uptown, bounded by the two major streets at that time, was Western to the west, and to the East was Vermont. And the main street that ran through, between these two streets was Tenth Street, which eventually became Olympic Boulevard at the time of the Olympic games in the '30s.

TI: And your father's church was in this area?

JY: Exactly, yes.

TI: What were some of the games or activities you could remember as boys that you would do in this neighborhood? What were some games?

JY: Well, of course, we played on the streets, a little baseball. But the ones I remember best is we looked forward to Christmas and maybe some present. I was focusing on football, and one year somebody got a football, so we played football in the street. The next year somebody got a helmet, one of these felt helmets, there was one felt helmet. So we would exchange these, take turns wearing this helmet. So it was that kind of a thing. And when we played football, kids from little more distant areas would come and play with us. And we'd think up different kind of games that engaged us all.

TI: Well, in a similar way, so you had kids from other neighborhoods coming to yours. Did you explore the other neighborhoods around Uptown?

JY: Not too much, except when we became adolescents, of course, sort of spread out a little more.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: And then let's talk about that. So as an adolescent, and you started, the world started getting bigger, what type of things would happen then?

JY: Well, just before teenagers we were scout age, we'd have interaction with other scout groups. My father had started a Boy Scout troop, so there were about thirty boys in that troop. And all the surrounding neighborhood Boy Scout troops would get together, these were mostly Caucasian troops, and we would interact with them at any competitive gatherings, scout activities.

TI: I'm curious, so you mentioned the scouts, which was started by your father, associated with the church, was there any special pressure on you being the minister's son? I mean, were there, like, more expectations for you to be better or to be smarter or to be more obedient than the other boys because your dad was the minister?

JY: I can't think of his pressuring me. He was pretty much leave you alone except if there was anything that had to be around the church, we were expected to do it the same as the sons of the gardeners who were most of the, good segment of the families, the fathers were gardeners. And he'd always remind us that, hey, they're helping the dad mow the lawns or help the father in gardening, and that the least we could do was whatever he expected to help support his work.

TI: Or how about a situation like this? Maybe not so much your parents, but if you're out in the community, and say you're kind of horsing around with your friends, and then maybe another Issei would say, "Oh, you shouldn't do that, you're Reverend Yamazaki's son."

JY: Well, they were very indirect about those things. They were very friendly, so one of the things that the working people did after a day's hard labor was before going home, they'd go play pool. There was a pool table behind the barber shop that was connected to the barber shop. And we would, of course, wander in and see what they were doing, and there'd be a little competition for a little money.

TI: Gambling and that kind of stuff?

JY: Yeah, a little. And then one of the, I can remember one of the fellows saying to his friends, "Hey, watch your language, the bokushi no ko is there, the preacher's son's here." [Laughs] But they would say it in jest, but at least we would feel singled out when he said that.

TI: How would you feel when you were singled out like that? Was it embarrassing?

JY: Well, a little embarrassed, but not too much more than that. I knew it was a friendly comment, that they weren't angry at us or anything, it was just a passing remark.

TI: That's good. I want to talk more about your dad, but before we do that, when you were a young boy, your grandmother from Japan, she came to live with you.

JY: Yes.

TI: What was that like?

JY: It was quite a remarkable transition because we obtained a, my father was in Japan, and there was a phone call to my mother, and my father wanted me to talk to the, all the children to talk to the grandmother. And my grandmother wanted a direct response from my mother, who she welcomed, and, of course, my mother said yes. So that was sealed, and tremendous excitement that the grandmother was going to come into our lives.

TI: Now, why was she coming from Japan? Was there something that happened in Japan that made it make sense for her to come to the United States?

JY: Yes. By then, my father was the only remaining Yamazaki, and she was getting older, I guess, approaching seventeen. It's certainly in the older age group. And it's felt that she shouldn't be living by herself and that one of the sons should look after her. And she was adamant about not going to a family that didn't have the Yamasaki name, to a yoshi family. And so the only alternative was coming to the United States, and she was asked if she was willing to do that, and she was agreeable to it.

TI: Was that the only alternative? Or I was wondering, as you were talking, I wonder if there was pressure on your father to actually move back to Japan and bring one or two of his sons to keep the Yamazaki name going in Japan.

JY: Oh, we were so young, we couldn't fulfill any of the...

TI: But your father could have moved back to Japan and carried on the name. I mean, I was just wondering if there was any pressure for him to return permanently to Japan at this point.

JY: I don't know if there was or not. He seemed to enjoy his trips to Japan very much.

TI: Now, why would he go to Japan? What was going back and forth to Japan about?

JY: Well, there's no other members of the family here. He had one brother there that still survived, and all of his relatives were there. And so he thoroughly enjoyed his trip to Japan.

TI: And who would pay for those trips?

JY: Somehow he was able to maneuver that. I often wonder myself how he managed that on a minister's salary.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: But I think there was one official reason why he went, and you mentioned earlier, this must have been early 1920s when the United States, the laws targeting Asians were getting worse and worse, and in 1924 there was the Immigration Act of 1924 where they stopped all immigration from Japan to the United States. And during this period there were still lots of bachelors in the United States, Japanese bachelors, and they wanted to get married. So talk about that, because your dad helped some of these bachelors go find wives.

JY: Somehow that story, we were old enough to understand a little bit, marginally at least, what was going on. We knew these young men, they were sort of older brother figures to us. And a lot of activities to get a bride, and these men wanted to go Japan to seek out a bride themselves. But I think there was some government provision that if the person was going to bring the bride to this country, he would have to have some economic wherewithal to bring her here, and that was, in those days, a considerable amount from a workingman's salary. And so the neighborhood, most of the Japanese communities had a self-help loan kind of organization called tanomoshi, and they would, friends would get together and make a bid for a certain sum of money every few months. And so that was a big event where they decided who was going to get the money from the group.

TI: So that they could afford a wife?

JY: Yeah, another thing. But, of course, at this time, it was the wife that was paramount.

TI: Now, was your father involved in this community bank?

JY: Oh, yes. Yes, I think he was all the time.

TI: So it was all the community, so they would all just put like a little bit in this fund every month?

JY: Yes.

TI: And then as a contributor, say, your father, did he ever get anything in return?

JY: Yes. I think because he eventually paid a down payment on a house. I said, gee, minister's salary, and I eventually saw the returns of his income over his entire ministry when I was cleaning up his house one day. And it was fifty dollars. He never got more than fifty dollars. And so I think this tanomoshi was something for these Japanese families to obtain the kind of possessions they wanted, furniture, cars, major appliances. It's amazing.

TI: It is amazing.

JY: Because we would hear some of these reverberations of these tanomoshis even as kids. Because there would be a certain amount of equity that they promised to pay kind of thing, that some people would be more reliable in that extent than maybe, say, if there were ten person there would be a spectrum of reliability. And sometimes the person that's least reliable would get the money. And so they would have to sweat that person's promise to pay over a longer period of time. We knew that existed.

TI: So let me recap this. So here, the community, the ones who could, would contribute, like on a monthly basis, and there would be money. And then people in the community who needed a sum of money to either...

JY: Yes, to this small group of tanomoshi.

TI: Right, to either get a wife or to start a business or to buy a house, would apply. And then, I guess, the group would decide who would get that money?

JY: That's right.

TI: And then after they get the money, eventually they would have to repay it back into the fund, so this would keep growing and people would go back and forth. But some people were less reliable than others in terms of paying them back.

JY: Or circumstances made it impossible for them to pay back the way they intended.

TI: And so I'm curious, in the community, did people kind of know who did not pay back?

JY: I think so. That would come out, of course.

TI: That's interesting. And the reason these things probably existed was the official banks wouldn't lend money to the Japanese individuals to do this.

JY: I know. But I guess this was much more effective way of obtaining the kind of money they wanted, it's on a loan basis. So it was sort of a community support group.

TI: That's good. So you were telling the story, so in the early 1920s, some men, because they needed the resources to get a wife, they would borrow money from the tanomoshi and then they would go to Japan. And so, and your father, you mentioned earlier how he would take a group of men...

JY: Yes. In know, actually recall one group that he took, because they found a wife for this person, and they came to the neighborhood, and it was quite a celebration, I guess, that the people waited for this bride to come, and they were warmly welcomed, and we knew their kids from then on. It was something that just was indelible. Because thereafter there was no more families coming from Japan.

TI: Right, at that point it was stopped.

JY: Yeah. So that was the last family that came to our neighborhood.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Well, so you mentioned in the big celebration, like in a wedding, that's a good segue to your father's church. Because I imagine that was a hub for lots of big events like funerals, weddings, things like that. Can you describe what a wedding was like back in the '20s when you were sort of an adolescent watching all this happen, what was it like?

JY: Well, the most vivid memories we had was there was one village in Japan from the Tottori-ken called Wada-mura. And they were a very energetic group of young men. And since we had no family ourselves here, we were sort of adopted by that group, just as kids, that we could always go into their homes. And their wedding was something that we always remember. And the people from Wada-mura, their friends, would gather for a wedding, and the festivities would, of course, start a day or two or three before. By the wedding day they were really ready for the celebration.

TI: So lots of drinking and singing?

JY: Singing, and of course, I remember of the men that always got beet red in his face, and happy and loud, enjoying themselves. They would come to the little kitchen and start throwing mochi at each other. It was just a real happy time.

TI: Were they members of the church?

JY: No, they weren't members of the church. They sent their kids to the church, but the church was the central, social center for the group, weddings, funerals.

TI: Now, were the Isseis of this group, were they Buddhist?

JY: There was no Buddhist temple in the Uptown area. We called our neighborhood Uptown.

TI: Okay, so really, your dad's church became the hub for the whole Japanese community.

JY: Right, it was the hub for the community.

TI: The Japanese community. Well, as the hub, what other organizations or groups did your dad form for the Japanese community? You mentioned the Boy Scouts.

JY: There was a Japanese school that was started about two blocks away, it was completely separate from the church.

TI: But it was started by your father?

JY: Yeah, my father was one of the organizers, about three teachers. And then eventually there was a difference of opinion, and so my father started a school right in the Japanese language school, in the church itself. So there were two language schools within one block of each other.

TI: Do you know what the disagreement was, why they --

JY: No, I have no idea. But there wasn't a complete rupture of the community over that. There was a lot of intermixture.

TI: So it really sounds like your dad was like one of the key leaders in the community. Not only the church, but he would start the language schools, the Boy Scouts. Tell me a little bit about what he did on a day to day basis. Did people always come to him for advice and things like that?

JY: He was always, seemed to be, if there were, since they couldn't buy, for example, people wanted to buy a house, then my father would be involved in that in that he would try to find Caucasian friends that might sign for them. So even though he wasn't directly involved in the purchase, he would be making arrangements of that sort. They would come over to talk about it.

TI: So as a kid, do you remember lots of people coming to your house?

JY: Yeah, lots of traffic.

TI: What about your mother? What role did she play as a minister's wife? What was she expected to do?

JY: I don't know what was expected, but she'd walk... I remember that she'd often walk and visited the homes herself, made friends with the families.

TI: Now did she help form, like, women's auxiliary type tings?

JY: I don't know if she was involved in the organization of that sort. But I think it was more a person to person basis.

TI: And how large was the congregation?

JY: Gee, all I knew is the church was a little frame house. At the beginning, the family lived there, it was almost like a boarding house, and there's one section for a chapel, and one section for a meeting. So I don't know how much family room there was there, but that's how it started.

TI: But then on Sunday during services, how many people were in the church?

JY: Gee, I can't think of the numbers. There must have been pews, about ten rows of pews maybe.

TI: And about, what, ten across or so?

JY: Something like that.

TI: Maybe like a hundred people?

JY: At most, yeah. I can't think of it overflowing. And my mother was the organist, I remember pedal footing.

TI: And were the services in English or Japanese?

JY: They had both.

TI: So your father would do one service in Japanese and then one later in English?

JY: Yes.

TI: And then how good was your dad's sermons, the ones you went to were probably in English?

JY: Yeah.

TI: How were they?

JY: Well, we would always make comments as we grew older. By the time we were teenagers, my dad would get a barrage of critiques after a Sunday sermon. I look back, I sort of wonder how we could be so merciless in commenting at a preacher making a sermon when we had no rights or background to make comments of that sort.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So, Jim, let's go back and again think about your father and his role in terms of starting these various organizations, and I wanted to go back to the Boy Scouts, because it seems interesting to me that the Nisei would think about starting a Boy Scout troop for Niseis. So tell me a little bit about the troop, how large was it, and who actually ran the troop?

JY: It started with two Issei bankers. My father was able to gain their interest. So being a scoutmaster means setting aside one evening each week regularly, since the meetings were, punctually occurred each Friday evening, so one of them would always be there, one or both. And these were Isseis, Japanese citizens, but they acted as if they were Americans. And I think just as we were entering, they always made certain that we understood what the scout oath meant, where it refers to "God and country." Said, "Do you know what that means?" Twelve years old, looked bewildered, at least I was. I had no idea what loyalty meant to the country, and God was, that was way far off for me. But they would say, "Think about it, it's important. If you don't understand it now, sometime you should." These were the kind of people they were.

TI: So what they were doing, so these were Issei scoutmasters, and they were intentionally trying to get you to think about things like, not only God, but country, and talking about the United States as pledging allegiance to this country, even though this wasn't their country.

JY: That's correct. And they said it with such determination that, gee, maybe we should think about it.

TI: Why do you think they did that? Why were they so, why did they want essentially the next generation to be so focused on this?

JY: Well, I think -- this is conjecture on my part, but knowing my father, he had to first convince these very fine young guys to come to be scoutmaster. That the future of the young Japanese was here, and that to be a part of this country, these were some of the things that might be very important for survival here.

TI: How large was the troop?

JY: I remember it was around thirty, and they had extremely fine parent participation. And the only thing was, when you think back, they were very poor economically. The neighborhood was very poor, but when it came to summertime, the Boy Scouts would organize, they had big camps in the mountains, and they would, the cost for it was, when we look back, was not too expensive, but for us in the neighborhood it was very expensive. So that we would go to the local areas where we could just bring our blankets, cook our food, and that, bring pork and beans and something like that. So that these big camps was, only a very few ever attended.

TI: Was there ever any discussion or controversy from the other parents, what your father and these other scoutmasters were doing in terms of promoting such pro-American values?

JY: Well, those values were only mentioned just when we were inducted into the troop. It didn't arise afterwards. It was a sit down thing where, maybe perhaps half hour, where they would talk with you, and I thought that was very nice, that they would take the time out to talk to us. Especially when I was older. I said, gee, these guys took time out to talk to us young kids pre-teenagers, to talk about these things.

TI: And how serious did this get? When I think about scouts, the top level is the Eagle Scout level, where you go through all the training and you get to the Eagle Scout level. Of a troop of thirty, was it common for there to be Eagle Scouts in the troop?

JY: It wasn't common, but there were several.

TI: And so how many would there be?

JY: Eventually, probably about a dozen.

TI: And were you an Eagle Scout?

JY: Yes.

TI: And so explain, how long did it take you to become an Eagle Scout?

JY: I can't recall. [Laughs]

TI: But your scoutmasters --

JY: But I can say it was during high school.

TI: Yeah. The extraordinary thing to me is to get someone to become an Eagle Scout, as much work as it is for you, it's also the scoutmaster has to know what they're doing to get you to that level. And here you have these scoutmasters who had really never done it before, and they were able to get a dozen Eagle Scouts.

JY: Oh, I think they just started the engine and they just got you moving.

TI: Oh, because you think it was really self-motivated?

JY: Yeah, it was. They got you to be motivated, then after that it was up to us. I don't think they ever hounded us to become advanced through the grades to Eagle Scouts.

TI: Well, so as you got older, in high school, as you were getting closer to Eagle Scout, was it important for you as one of the older ones to help the younger scouts?

JY: Yeah, that was, I think, you felt a responsibility.

TI: So, again, it's like an engine. Here we are, we have this engine. And when you got older, did those concepts of God and country, did those make more sense to you in talking, because then you had to talk to the younger ones.

JY: Well, I would say I wasn't hundred percent convinced, though I followed that precept to a degree.

TI: So at the...

JY: For example, I did join the ROTC in high school, so I guess I was somewhat more motivated that way than some of the other Nisei boys.

TI: So that's interesting. So you joined the ROTC, how many fellow students, was that a common thing to join the ROTC?

JY: Not among the Niseis, no.

TI: How about amongst the Niseis who were scouts?

JY: No. I can't recall anyone else. I think they were more interested in sports.

TI: Were you encouraged by your father to join the ROTC?

JY: No, not at all. No, he never... I can't recall him saying you must do this or that.

TI: Okay, so we're talking about your dad starting the scouts, which is a very pro-American sort of organization, essentially, with young men. And then on the other hand, he started a couple of Japanese schools. And so here is something that promotes the learning of the Japanese language. It almost seems like a contradiction, in that you have one side that's very U.S. sort of centric, or focused, and the other side is Japanese, which was more Japan-focused.

JY: Well, I don't think in terms of a nationalistic thing, but of a cultural thing, that you need to know something Japanese, that you shouldn't deny your Japanese heritage. At least that's the way I looked at it. Because historically, we knew very little about what happened in those important years of the 1800s in Japan, or what preceded that. And then, of course, we're here into the 19th and 20th century, that's our life, especially the 20th century.

TI: So you think your dad was walking this line, kind of this balance where, recognizing that, essentially, we were here to stay, the Japanese were here to stay. And yet there was, from a cultural standpoint, important things about Japan that they still wanted a connection with. So it was trying to be American, but still remember you're Japanese.

JY: Yes. In other words, he was... never denigrated ourselves being Japanese.

TI: Would you go so far to say that he was proud of being Japanese?

JY: I think so. At least he wasn't overbearing in that regard, but at least he wasn't, said anything that was contrary to that.

TI: So I'm curious now, so you're raised to be American, to be proud you're Japanese.

JY: Not proud so much, but just say we're just as human and just as, belong here as anyone else.

TI: Okay, so you belong as anyone else.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: And then 1924, the Immigration Act of 1924 we talked about earlier, where the United States says if you're Japanese, you can't come to the United States. And furthermore, they would go through and try to deport anyone who wasn't here legally. Explain or describe that period.

JY: As we grew older, after '24 as we grew older, I think that was a constant reminder something was, at least in our mind, something wasn't quite right about things going on in the country. And somewhere along the road, we brought up the subject that the country didn't want us. And my dad would remind us, well, even when the immigration law passed, that it was seven to one in Congress. I think it was something like that. He said, "Think about that one that stood up for you. It's always gonna be like that," he said. All during your lifetime, you got five friends, you could count on your hands that's hundred percent loyal and friendly to you, you're a lucky guy if you have five that you could claim that for a lifetime. So he said, "You have a Congress that's seven to one, and all the state legislature, it was never a hundred percent. There was always a group that stood for something else." He said, "You ought to think about, think what those other people would mean to your life."

TI: Wow, so he really was, in my view, a real optimist, that he would, even though it was seven to one, I think most people would look at, wow, the overwhelming majority is against us, and what can we do. He would instead look at that one and see hope that it could be better because you have that one person out of eight who would support the...

JY: Yeah, my concept, my thinking about that was that, well, that seven percent was really wrong. In a democracy, we say the overwhelming people's vote is what the country will go to. On the other hand, if all the seventy percent or eighty percent of the country voted this is the law of the land, their opinion could be completely wrong, and that small percentage could be completely right. So this is the kind of thinking I think he tried to convey to us.

TI: No, that's good. Well, so not only were there laws like the Immigration Act of 1924, but I'm just curious, on a day to day basis, were there incidences or events that reminded you that you were Japanese, Japanese ancestry, and didn't have the full rights like others had? I mean, like, were there cases where you were denied access to places or weren't given jobs? Can you talk about that?

JY: Oh, that was pervasive to the time we graduated college. And graduation day, we didn't attend graduation ceremonies because we needed, saw the need to get a job which we couldn't obtain in town, so we went to the countryside.

TI: So you're saying, so even if you graduated from high school, you knew right away that there were only certain types of jobs that were available to you, most of them were probably in agriculture, farming areas, you would go out there. That it was hard to get jobs in the city?

JY: In the city.

TI: What would be an example of a job that you would want in the city that you couldn't get?

JY: Well, I thought that if I didn't get into medical school, I could still study if I got a job as a mail carrier, and applied for civil service. I never got a reply. I thought, gee, delivering mail, I shouldn't get pooped out doing mail all day, I should have plenty of energy left for study at nighttime, so I thought that would be a way of studying something after college. But I never got the application back.

TI: Now, so you didn't get an application back, but were there ever any other Niseis who became postal carriers?

JY: Not that I know of, no.

TI: How about other examples? Were there other examples of places that you tried to apply to and you were denied?

JY: Well, of course, one was when I was still a young teenager, I went to the Ambassador Hotel, which was the biggest hotel in town, which was walking distance from my home. And I put on a clean shirt and tie and all that, and when I applied -- this was just a job as a porter, or some menial job, I'd do anything just to have a job. I was shown the back door and told just to remove myself from the premises. It was hard for me to forget that.

TI: So what did it feel like when they showed you the back door?

JY: Well, I guess I had some pretty strong feelings. And I think it's at times like that that I would discuss this thing, this Christian country, what's it all about? Really, Christians, I said, "I think the things you talk about in your sermon is fine, and this is supposed to be a Christian country, and this is what they do?" I said I really don't feel that there's some hypocrisy here.

TI: So after these hard times, you'd go to your dad and talk to him.

JY: At times I recall having a few talks about that.

TI: Do you recall how he responded?

JY: Well, these were the things he says, there are a few people who do follow the precepts of the church. And he did have the few friends that he would point out to me. He said, "These are real friends you have."

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So think about the community. So after 1924, no more immigration. And so a lot of the focus, or a lot of what the, how the community changed was here you, in many cases in the last ten years or so, a lot of women came to the United States, and so families started, and you started getting, I won't say a population explosion, but a lot of children were born in the '20s and early '30s.

JY: Well, 1924, just take within the ten year period that families are really growing, and so the church was really overflowing with kids. And so the neighborhood wanted the... but my father was able to explain to the neighborhood we needed better facilities for the kids to carry out the different programs. That was when these Buddhist families pledged one month's salary at the height of the depression to make a new structure in the church.

TI: So these were Buddhist families, were they Buddhist parents, but their children would be Christian, though?

JY: They would come to the church.

TI: But even though they weren't Christian, they realized that, well, they contributed a huge sum for them.

JY: Yeah, for a month's salary. That's unheard of even these days.

TI: So why do you think they did that?

JY: They really wanted... they thought my father was working for their kids. And the interesting thing was the response from the neighborhood, that a lot of Caucasians, and they had one during, when the election came up, one of the candidates pointed to this growing neighborhood church that wanted to build a new building, and they made a big campaign to defeat this new program, and they put posters on the telephone poles.

TI: To try to stop this?

JY: Yeah. And my brother and I often in the early morning hours get on our bikes and we'd take these posters down.

TI: Because your dad told you to do that?

JY: [Laughs] No, this was just on our own, I think. No, my dad never told us to do this or that.

TI: But you thought that was the right thing to do.

JY: Yeah. And one of the interesting things of that was that there were people who, friends who wanted to have the church built, Caucasian friends in the church. And they probably took to court, and the first time I understood that the court has certain powers, that there are some mechanism in society, in our society that could help us. And there was a thing called writ of mandamus where the court is able to direct a group to follow the court's order that they had no rights to prevent the building of the church, and this writ of mandamus was issued by the court. That pleased me a lot and gave me a little light that there was some mechanism that could be utilized on our behalf.

TI: That's good, and I could see your dad looking at you and saying, "See, I told you that there are some good people."

JY: [Laughs] He didn't say that to us, but I guess we knew, at least we were able to read that impact.

TI: So you were probably one of the older Niseis, and you probably saw all these younger Niseis just growing up or emerging.

JY: Oh, I guess we just felt we were part of that.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So I guess what I wanted to get next to is after you graduated from high school, you decided to go to UCLA.

JY: Right.


JY: Well, that's the one place that was available, and twenty-five dollars a semester.

TI: Now was it clear that you wanted to go to college?

JY: Yes. Yeah, I really wanted to go to Berkeley, but there was no way to pay for room and board up there.

TI: And so what was life like at UCLA?

JY: Busy because we had all our studies to take care of. We helped my dad at the church trying to find odd jobs on weekends, mostly with gardeners, working on weekends in the Beverly Hills area.

TI: And so what year did you enter UCLA?

JY: '35.

TI: And 1935, UCLA, how large was the class and about how many Japanese were...

JY: Well, the classes were, depending on the course, of course, just like now, the science courses, of course, were small. The general courses, like in political science or psychology would be a hundred fifty or something, anyhow, huge classes.

TI: And then sprinkled through there would be some Japanese, or how many would do that?

JY: A few, yeah. Just very few in each class.

TI: Okay. In terms of just the whole student population, how large was the enrollment at UCLA?

JY: I believe about seven, eight thousand, and there were a hundred Asians, mostly Japanese.

TI: And I'm curious, of those hundred Asians at UCLA, did you know most of them?

JY: I guess we knew each one, almost.

TI: And so how would you guys get to know each other?

JY: Well, there was a little place where we would eat, have lunch together, in brown bags. Hardly anyone went to the cafeteria. They mostly were brown baggers.

TI: And I'm curious in terms of gender, were they mostly male?

JY: No, there was quite equal spread as I recall. I guess I might have intentionally focused on the girls. [Laughs]

TI: And then what was your field of study as an undergraduate?

JY: I guess biology mostly.

TI: And you chose biology because you wanted to be pre-med?

JY: Pre-med and then we had other side interests if medicine didn't quite fit out. Like in the marine biology or zoology, things of this sort.

TI: So I'm curious, in your choice of studying, you mentioned this earlier, how in high school you realized that only certain jobs were available. When you think about things like marine biology or zoology, were there jobs available for Niseis in those areas?

JY: I don't know.

TI: Or even medicine, where if you became a doctor, would that be a position that you could practice?

JY: We had a family physician who was a Caucasian, was an extremely fine guy. And he was one of the few Caucasian households which we went to. And it was always a nice experience, or when we were sick, he would come over, make housecalls.

TI: But I guess what I'm trying to get at is, was there a case where the Niseis would only go to certain fields because they knew after they graduated they can get a job, or did they just go for what they really wanted to do?

JY: I think what they wanted, yes.

TI: And so what happens when they graduate, say, in engineering and they couldn't get a job?

JY: Well, there's not an engineering school at UCLA at that time, but there was an economics student. And on Saturdays at that time we worked at a fruit stand, and there was a whole bunch of UCLA kids working there, mostly from UCLA. And one Saturday, near graduation time, there was one guy who was an extremely nice fellow and we looked up to him. And I said, gee, he's gonna get his bachelor's degree, we thought highly of the bachelor's degree, and so now he's on his way. Saturday came and here he shows up at the fruit stand. That really hit me, hits me even today.

TI: Because here he is, he's a newly graduated economics major from a major university...

JY: And he's no further ahead than when we were freshmen when we were working in the fruit stand. There was very little advances. That really... said, god, the least I could do is study as high as I could if I wanted to get anywhere, and whatever subject I was taking.

TI: But that made you want to study more?

JY: Yeah, wanted to study more.

TI: But here you had who just studied, graduated --

JY: Yeah, but that, the odds were, it would be a little better if you studied hard, no matter what happened. And he couldn't... he was in economics, couldn't get his CPA, but eventually, when he eventually, postwar, here he's a partner in one of these big accounting firms like...

TI: Arthur Andersen or Deloitte?

JY: Deloitte, yeah, he was partner in Deloitte, and his son is now a partner in Deloitte.

TI: Okay, so I'm curious, what kind of student were you? Were you a good student, good grades?

JY: No, I was glad to, if I got an A I was very, very happy, and felt lucky if I got a B. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So you graduated from UCLA, and then what did you want to do next?

JY: Well, I applied to med school, of course. About then I had, thought my chances were good for... not good, but could put in a try for med school.

TI: Well, so out of a class, what percentile would you say you were? Like top ten percent, top twenty percent?

JY: Gosh, I don't know, but I think you have to be somewhere in ten, fifteen percent to get into mad school.

TI: So you were probably that or better, just thinking about med school, you knew your grades were good enough?

JY: No. I always had self-doubts. [Laughs]

TI: You did this for all your older students.

JY: Yeah, I didn't think I was at the top of the heap.

TI: So how did you choose a med school?

JY: Well, I was working on a course in experimental embryology, a very fine profession. And we had a course where one of these fellow students and I became fairly good friends, and he did some nice studies. And he was Jewish, and he went to a Catholic school in Milwaukee and he wrote me back and he's one year ahead of me. He said, "Jim, you ought to give a try to this school." He knew we were pre-med, so he said, "Why don't you put in an application?

TI: And as a Jew, he said that because he said the school would accept Jews and minorities?

JY: Well, he was accepted, self-fulfilling kind of thing.

TI: And this was Marquette University, so it was a Jesuit school.

JY: Uh-huh.

TI: Oh, interesting. So that's how you chose Marquette.

JY: Yes, they chose me.

TI: Well, how many schools did you apply to?

JY: Several, but we were limited by admission fees, so you were very selective to the schools that you applied to. There were very few schools that had students, because at those days, the catalog had a printout of all the students in the classes. Most schools had about a maximum of around sixty at that time, to a hundred, and the students' name were in the catalog. And if there weren't Asian names on there, we figured there was no point in applying.

TI: So if the school didn't have a history of accepting Japanese or other Asians, you would just stay clear?

JY: Yes. Because even locally, it was known that there was a certain degree of unacceptance of outsiders.

TI: Well, locally, I mean, with USC...

JY: Yeah, SC was the other one.

TI: And they only accepted a few?

JY: Yes. And it seemed like those that did get in went to SC and did well there.

TI: So when you say a few, it was almost like a quota that they would just let maybe a certain...

JY: I don't know if it's because there were so few applying or went into the field, I couldn't say.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So you graduated from UCLA about 1939, and you entered Marquette med school. Around this period you also enlisted or volunteered to join the reserves, is that correct?

JY: Well, the war was going on in Asia, and the local situation of the anti-Japanese feeling was getting stronger. And in '37, Japan was in turmoil, and then they bombed the U.S. naval ship Panay and actually sunk it, I think. And it looked like reason for war then, but it didn't happen. It was getting closer and closer, we felt. And then in '41, in the early summer, there was an embargo first on steel and then on oil, and we thought, gee, there's no, it was certainly going to a war. So right after the embargo when I went back to school in the fall, I responded to the... I filled out an application to the armed forces as a reserve.

TI: And so did they accept you?

JY: Yes, we had to fill out special application, because the question about my dual citizenship. And I guess they made further inquiries.

TI: And when you say dual citizenship, it was common when Niseis were born in the United States, that automatically they would be given, or would also have both U.S., because they were born in the United States, but also Japanese.

JY: Oh, it wasn't automatic. The parent had to go to the Japanese consulate and state that the offspring was born here in the United States, and they requested dual citizenship. I think it was something like that.

TI: Well, I think actually what happened was they were automatically given citizenship. The parents actually had to petition the Japanese consulate to take away the Japanese citizenship so that they would have single citizenship.

JY: Oh, is that what it was?

TI: Because probably in the case for you, the U.S. army would not have accepted you if you had dual citizenship.

JY: But I think the first step is making known to the Japanese government you're born. And then that almost indicated that you would automatically be a citizen.

TI: Yeah, so I'm not an expert, but I know that there was some point that parents -- and this happened during this period you're talking about -- a parent or you would have to petition the Japanese government to be taken off.

JY: Oh, yes, exactly.

TI: And so someone had kind of done that for you.

JY: Yes.

TI: And was that you?

JY: No, my father, of course.

TI: And he did this when... do you remember when he did that?

JY: It was in the '20s, somewhere in the '20s or '30s, maybe in '30s. I have the exact paper, because the government, United States government, wanted to have the document that stated that the citizens, my Japanese citizenship had been withdrawn. So there's a number on their books that I'm no longer a citizen of Japan.

TI: Yeah, I should probably read more about this, but I think, yeah, it's confusing. Because one of the... some people have criticized Japanese Americans because many of the Niseis had dual citizenship, and part of that was it wasn't because they really wanted it, it was like almost automatically done, and they had to then do this bureaucratic step to take away the Japanese citizenship. And so many of them just didn't take those extra steps.

JY: I think that wasn't a single situation between Japan and America, but other countries had... if American parents gave birth to a child in a foreign country, many countries had the law that they would be given, granted citizenship in that country.

TI: Right, okay.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so you were accepted to the reserves, you said, a week before Pearl Harbor.

JY: Yes.

TI: And so do you recall where you were when you heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

JY: Yes, clearly.

TI: So tell us about it.

JY: It was Sunday morning, I was in the boarding house on Sixteenth Avenue, Wisconsin, at Ma Brown's boarding house.

TI: And what was your reaction?

JY: Oh, it was just terrifying, because we knew that nothing was going to be the same anymore, and that marked question of what would be our fate from then on, and what would happened to our families on the West Coast.

TI: In your case, so while you were in Milwaukee or going to places like Chicago or just traveling in the Midwest or East, were there cases of you being, again, discriminated against, or because you were Japanese American, that things were more difficult?

JY: I guess almost just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor was Christmas holidays, and I had arranged to go to New York, and had tickets. But when I went to the Milwaukee Road Station, there agents approached me and asked if I were Japanese, and I was not allowed to leave the town.

TI: Because?

JY: I told her, yes, I'm of Japanese descent, yeah.

TI: And so they were, essentially, limiting people of Japanese ancestry to stay, to not travel.

JY: Uh-huh.

TI: So was that common? So did you know that, or was that the first time you heard about it?

JY: First time I heard about it. But my friend apparently knew about it, he was Chinese. And he had an "I am Chinese" button, and they let him go through.

TI: Was there any military reason for you to not move around? Because I know on the West Coast at that point they had curfews and the same thing, where they couldn't travel from, a certain distance, but that was in a military zone which was on the West Coast. I didn't realize that happened in places like Milwaukee.

JY: Well, the Great Lakes Naval Station was a big induction center, and that was, abutted close to the Milwaukee Road Rails.

TI: Okay, so it might have been a more isolated incident, that they didn't want a Japanese on that train that would go right by, because they might have thought, well, you could be a spy.

JY: Whatever.

TI: Okay, that makes sense.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So you eventually finished your studies at Marquette. Where did you do your internship?

JY: In St. Louis.

TI: And how did you chose St. Louis?

JY: I was denied internships in Milwaukee. All the hospitals I applied to had one reason or another that they didn't want someone of Japanese descent in the, serving as an intern. Patient might refuse treatment or something. So City Hospital in St. Louis is a big municipal hospital, and I guess that type of restriction didn't apply there.

TI: So you're going to go to St. Louis, but you make a little side trip. Because at this point, your family had been removed from the L.A. area and were now being incarcerated at the Jerome, Arkansas, camp. So tell me about that, tell me about your visit.

JY: Well, I knew we had to have permission to go to the camp, and I made the appropriate application and they granted it to me. And the train I got on was informed to stop at an unscheduled stop near Jerome, and I was, there was a army detachment there to take, when I got off the train to take me to the camp, it was in the middle of the night, and this army detachment had jeeps there and a little detachment took me to the camp.

TI: Did that seem a little intimidating? Here it was dark, and you're the only one getting off this train, and you have all these military people to escort you to the camp.

JY: It was a unique experience, I guess. So this is one of those days you remember clearly.

TI: And what did you find when you got to Jerome?

JY: First we traveled through an unlighted, dark area, and then we see the camp lights appear, then we go through the barbed, the entrance gate, and they took me directly to another enclosure within camp that was surrounded by barbed wires. They were informed to take me there. And it happened to be the hospital grounds where my father was hospitalized.

TI: So, okay, so you go through the first set of barbed wires, which is the main camp, and then you go through another set which was now the camp hospital, where your father was hospitalized. Did you know your father was hospitalized?

JY: No, I didn't know that.

TI: So why was he hospitalized?

JY: He was assaulted by somebody, apparently some young Niseis, young men in the camp.

TI: So he was assaulted by young Niseis in camp. Why was he assaulted?

JY: Well, apparently word was out, it was a fairly tumultuous period because the government wanted the statement from each camp inmate about their loyalty to the United States and various other questions, related questions. And they knew my father had always encouraged, not encouraged, but he always had the opinion that going to the armed service would perhaps ensure our stay here after the war was over. And some unknown anonymous person had called me and asked me to tell my father to not be involved in that kind of discussions, otherwise he would be under the ground.

TI: When did you get this call?

JY: A few months earlier.

TI: So this was when you were at Marquette.

JY: Yes, Marquette. The person didn't identify himself.

TI: And what did you do when you got that phone call?

JY: It was far from me to... I would never tell my father what to do. That wasn't in our makeup at all.

TI: Well, especially since you were already enlisted.

JY: Not that, just that he could make his own decision what he wanted to do.

TI: Yeah, I'm curious, in camp, did your father continue being a minister, did he have, like, services?

JY: Yes, oh, yes, of course.

TI: And so during his sermons, did he talk about his decision?

JY: I don't know what he said. I would think it more in discussion if some young men came to him. For example, it's a small neighborhood church, but in the chapel of the church, there's a plaque of about 150 of the members that went to the armed forces. That's from this little church, which meant virtually every kid in the neighborhood signed up for the service.

TI: Well, which, again, kind of makes sense in that from a very early age, your dad promoted programs like the Boy Scouts and really helped the Niseis in particular assimilate into American society, so it would seem to fall along. So let me recap here a little bit. So what we've been talking about is about this time in camps, there was distributed a "loyalty questionnaire." And in particular there were two questions that asked men, in particular, if they were willing to serve in the U.S. Army. And the second question which was controversial was to forswear any allegiance to the emperor of Japan.

JY: At the same time they were, had started this recruiting for a segregated unit.

TI: Right, and that happened, actually, a few months after this. But there was talk about...

JY: Yeah, that was already known that this was coming up.

TI: Right, so that was gonna happen. And so men were confronted with that question, do they answer it "yes-yes," which means that they would serve and that they forswear any allegiance, that their allegiance was with the United States, or do they answer in a different way. And your father was of the opinion that people should answer "yes-yes" because their loyalty should be to the United States. But there were, it sounds like, Nisei men, younger, who disagreed with that, and they were the ones who beat your father up.

JY: Possibly, yeah.

TI: So what was your reaction when you saw your father in a hospital bed?

JY: Well, he immediately told me, "Don't worry, I'm okay." He wiggled his toes no problem.

TI: So wiggled his toes, how badly beaten was he?

JY: Well, he, I think his face was swollen, and he had bruises on his body that incapacitated him.

TI: That must have been a shock to you, to come through and not sure what you're gonna see in this camp, brought to the hospital, and then seeing your father in this condition.

JY: On the other hand, it didn't surprise me that this kind of thing would happen. There must have been tremendous turmoil in the camp, just being in there itself. No, I wasn't really that surprised.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: In camp at the same time, your mother was there, and was your sister and younger brother also in camp at the same time?

JY: No, just my sister. My brother was already in the army.

TI: So when you talked with them about the situation, your mother and sister, what was their reaction about what was happening in camp with your father?

JY: I don't think we had too much discussion about it, just that he was getting better, that he was okay. And there was a lot of neighborhood people that I knew from before there, and they were all very cordial and welcoming me. But at the same time, there was a lot of rumors in the camp about the progress of the war, and one of them I can recall is this very strong rumor that the Japanese navy was approaching Seattle.

TI: So these were rumors by, predominately by pro-Japanese...

JY: Well, I don't know. The rumor was floating around, I didn't inquire as to who was promoting it.

TI: And that essentially Japan was winning the war.

JY: That's right, yes.

TI: And that soon, yeah, they would all be free. So I'm thinking, it still feels almost like this huge elephant in the living room. Your father was just beaten, and I'm curious, did you have any discussions with anyone about this? Did anyone say, "Jim, your dad has to be more quiet," or he has to be more careful, or, "we're behind your dad but we want to protect him." Was there any discussion like this?

JY: No, no one brought that up. Just a neighborhood kid coming back to see his family kind of feeling.

TI: Did any of the Niseis who beat up your dad, or people associated with them, say anything to you?

JY: No one came up to talk to me about it.

TI: So no one came up to and said, "Your dad needs to be quiet or things will get worse"?

JY: No, not once.

TI: How long were you in camp?

JY: About a couple weeks, I think.

TI: Did you feel any sense that you needed to protect your family or your dad while you were in camp?

JY: Well, it seemed like things were... not for my mother and sister, no. I didn't think they were at any risk at all. And I thought probably something, they would make some procedure to protect my dad. Eventually he was removed from the camp.

TI: Besides your father, were there other people who were attacked at Jerome?

JY: Not that I know of.

TI: Yeah, because I haven't heard this before of Jerome. This is a new one for me. So after two weeks you're going to leave to go to St. Louis. Do you recall any conversations with your mother, your father or your sister in terms of advice or thoughts?

JY: No, just a visit. Just a family visit.

TI: How about any friends or anything that you can recall?

JY: Just that the friends were cordial, and just like a neighborhood visit to them. "How are you?"

TI: And how did you feel as you left camp? I mean, here you saw thousands of people, some people from the old neighborhood, behind barbed wires. And as you were leaving, any last thoughts?

JY: Yes, I was still extremely apprehensive that this was still the first phase of the war. What else could they do to us? They asked people behind barbed wires to send their sons into a fighting unit, and yet wouldn't allow their families to come out of camp. I said, what kind of thinking was behind this kind of thing where they ask a family to send their son to die for their country, and yet not give them the basic rights to leave camp? Extremely concerned that wondered, this is the nature of people and countries? I think there was a feeling that just embedded in me that the future didn't look too bright here.

TI: Yeah, it must have been a, sort of, foreboding sort of feeling. So you go to St. Louis and you finish an internship there. Was it at that point that the army wanted you to come in, is that about when they wanted you to come in?

JY: Well, once we were in internship, the war was progressing quite rapidly, and the internship was shortened, and many were getting orders to serve in the army or navy as soon as possible. Some of them went before they finished their short internship.

TI: Because there was just this critical need for medical doctors.

JY: Yeah, it was anticipation of the need.

TI: Now were the other doctors, the other ones, yeah, the doctors that were doing their internships, were they, similar to you, had they enlisted into the reserves? Did they have that kind of training?

JY: I don't know just what their status, how they... I guess I wasn't paying attention to that. All I knew is that everyone was in the draft, and that if they were a young doctor, their service would be needed, just everyone expected that.

TI: Yeah, because under normal circumstances, if you don't take race into consideration, I would think someone with your background and the fact that you had already enlisted in the reserves, that instead of waiting around, you would have been one of the first ones to have been called in. And here you were kind of waiting while you saw the ones around you being drafted and leaving, and that was just why I asked that question.

JY: Yeah. In fact, most of the fellows that were inducted were sent to fight in units, and they were either at the landings in Okinawa or all of those, Iwo Jima, or they were in the combat areas in Europe. We were just the right group to be in the front line, minimum medical training, yet enough to accompany and give aid in the combat area.

TI: Do you have any sense how many of that group, how many of them were killed in action or missing and things like that, or did most of them come back?

JY: Most of them came back, I think.

TI: So do you ever do like a Marquette reunion from your class and just see how many people...

JY: Yeah, we've had reunion at the fiftieth year, we had a fiftieth year reunion, and people would tell us their experience.

TI: That's good. So eventually you joined the army, and you were assigned to the 106th.

JY: Yes.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: And so before we get there, I guess I wanted to take a little bit of a tangent and talk about your courtship of Aki. Because about, we're getting to the point, about the time when you actually married her. But why don't you tell me how you met Aki and how you started dating her.

JY: Well, I knew Aki at UCLA, and my brother would often drop in to see Aki and her sister Terri, they were very attractive young, two sisters. And then as, after Pearl Harbor, she was taken to the Santa Anita Assembly Center where they stayed 'til the end of '42, almost to the end of '42, when the groups were dispersed to various internment camps throughout the country. And she stayed 'til the end to close up the camp, she was the camp dietitian by then. And arrangements were made for her to go to New York because her sister was there, and be responsible for her. And my brother wrote me and told me, "Aki's coming through Chicago." I had nothing to do with it, but she and another friend, my brother, had arranged to meet her in Chicago, and they called me up to see if I would like to meet her also, so I went down. And when I got there, it occurred that the two fellows, they had other engagements that day, and asked me to take care of Aki.

TI: Oh, so was it kind of a set up between the two of you?

JY: [Laughs] I'm not sure exactly. We never talked about the details with my brother. The only reason, I had a very nice afternoon before she took the connecting train to New York, and I guess that's what started it all up.

TI: So at that point, were you thinking that possibly she could be your wife?

JY: No, not at all. Just enough that when I got my army orders to go to Carlisle Barracks, I had to go through New York, at least gave me a little excuse to spend a few days in New York, see the town. By then I had money because I would have money since I was in the army, a certain stipend that I never had before. So I was able to take her out on dates when I got there. She said she would see me.

TI: And at this point were you thinking possibly more, that you were getting to know her a little bit more, and this was something that was getting more serious?

JY: Well, we had a very nice week there. So at the end of that time I thought that she was a nice girl.

TI: And at the end of that week, how did you part? Was there a sense that you would see each other again?

JY: Well, I did propose to her. [Laughs]

TI: Jim, you have to tell me these things. [Laughs] So you're in New York, you've met her in UCLA, you saw her in Chicago, and you spend a few days in New York. At the end of that time in New York, you proposed to her.

JY: Yeah. She did come to a party we had at the house before I went to medical school, and she gave me a box of stationery. And I took good care of that box of stationery, so that's quite a few years, right? [Laughs]

TI: It's probably always interesting to younger generations to see how fast things can happen. So you had all this, how did you propose to her?

JY: I guess we had taken a buggy ride through Central Park.

TI: That's romantic.

JY: Yeah.


TI: -- and we're gonna start this third hour of the tape. And where we left off at the last tape was you had just started your nice story, your nice romantic story. Here you are in Central Park on a buggy, in one of those horse-drawn carriages, and you were gonna tell me how you proposed to Aki. So why don't you pick up the story from there.

JY: That's a difficult story, how did I propose to her? I would say it's a blur.

TI: We have to mention, Aki's in the room, so she's hearing this, too. But, I mean, what were you thinking? Because... is part if it -- I'm trying to imagine -- is part of it because you know you're going to be shipped out soon, and normally --

JY: Well, no, no, I didn't know that.

TI: You didn't know that?

JY: No, no.

TI: But was it, was there an urgency, though, to get married, because of the possibility of being shipped out, or was this the normal pace for you?

JY: No, I couldn't say it was the normal pace. I believe I really -- I don't know if I'm making this up or not -- it's the first time I had money. I knew I could support her with the income I was going to get. And there was no question she was a fine gal.

TI: So what was it? When you say --

JY: So it was a combination of... and I knew I wouldn't be able to get back to New York too often to get involved in this kind of situation, so all those things sort of combined.

TI: But here you were already assigned to the 106th?

JY: No, I was not.

TI: Oh, so you weren't with them yet?

JY: No.

TI: Okay.

JY: I'm just going for my initial induction into the service, introduced to medicine in the army.

TI: Okay. So it's a combination of finally having resources to think that you could actually take care of a family, and then this woman.

JY: Yeah.

TI: And I wanted to ask you, so what was it about Aki, what was special about Aki? Because you met lots of girls.

JY: No, no, I can't say I met a lot of girls.

TI: At UCLA...

JY: Oh, a few.

TI: ...and other places.

JY: But I never had the occasion where I had dates, you see. The closest to dates would be maybe a little dance at the school, maybe a hamburger at one of these drive-ins they used to have. But my pocket was very limited to about one hamburger and a soda, so that doesn't give you too much leeway to be getting very involved.

TI: So in some ways, Aki was really your first love then.

JY: Perhaps. [Laughs]

TI: So, okay, so you proposed to her in this, again, romantic place. I can't, if I thought of a romantic place, Central Park on a carriage ride would be a really romantic place. What did she say?

JY: I guess she told, in some way, she let me know there's no immediate answer.

TI: So she didn't say "yes."

JY: That's right. Sort of conveyed to me, "Not now."

TI: And so how did you feel about that?

JY: Well, I thought she had every rights to that, coming through town, and then an absurd situation and one week of dating, that's not... you didn't have any rights, really, to expect an answer.

TI: And yet, when you left, you must have been disappointed.

JY: Well, somewhat, yeah.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: And so from there, from your... it sounds like this wonderful stay in New York, what was next? Where did you go from there?

JY: To Carlisle Barracks, that was the medical feed service school. And all the young doctors, as they were being inducted in the army went through this basic training to introduce the role of a doctor in the army.

TI: So this is like, was like basic training for doctors to really get them ready for that front line experience.

JY: Exactly.

TI: And so how long was this training?

JY: Month and a half or two, something like that.

TI: And so these were all young doctors who were just finishing up their probably shortened internships.

JY: Not necessarily. There were also older doctors, they at least to me looked very old. There's a doctor forty-two years old, and I just felt so sorry for him. Old doctor like that going into combat, I felt sorry for him.

TI: That's interesting. And during this military, or this training, so you were getting ready for front line experience, but they also put you through some, like, basic training, like how to fire a rifle and things like that?

JY: I'm sure something. I recall firing at targets, but I don't know exactly where. Looking at tanks and how they ran in situations.

TI: So when you finished at Carlisle, then what happened?

JY: We get an order as to where our next duty station would be, and that was to O'Reilly General Hospital in Missouri in the Ozarks.

TI: Okay. And this was, so this was a stateside hospital, and was your thinking then that you might just stay in the States?

JY: We had no idea what our next assignment would be.

TI: So what was your role at O'Reilly? What were you supposed to be doing there?

JY: They called you a ward officer, you're assigned to a ward and you take care of the patients in that ward, and then you may be given other assignments as they were needed.

TI: And at this point, what was your rank?

JY: First lieutenant.

TI: And in a place like, as a ward officer, as a first lieutenant, how many people reported to you? Was it kind of a big deal to be an officer in these hospitals, or were there a lot of other officers that were higher than you?

JY: Oh, there was a lot of other officers that were higher, and just coming into the army, in the army's order of rank, you were at the lowest point. They sort of let you know you were the youngest and the newest, and needed a lot of training of some sort.

TI: Well, I imagine not only the upper officers, but how about things like the experienced nurses? How did they treat sort of the green, sort of, new doctors?

JY: God, I can't recall the nurses for some reason. I guess I was just married, so my attention wasn't at the ward. [Laughs] In fact, I can't recall any nurses when you speak about them.

TI: Because I would think they would be so critical, because here you'd have these patients, and they're the ones really on a, on a daily basis taking care of the patients, aren't they?

JY: Well, we didn't have real acute conditions where we had an emergency surgery or anything like that. Looked like there were a lot of these soldiers that were being rehabilitated from combat wounds, and they had gone through a lot of their initial procedures, surgical procedures. Still it was a large, maybe a couple thousand beds in this hospital.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Okay, so how long were you stationed at O'Reilly?

JY: About a couple months perhaps.

TI: And then what happened? What was the next step?

JY: Then we were assigned to this field duty to an infantry outfit. So now we knew we were on our way.

TI: And so give me a rough, about what month was this?

JY: About June.

TI: June, so June, and this is when you were assigned to the 106th.

JY: Yes.

TI: And where were they stationed?

JY: At Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

TI: Okay, and explain that. So what was your role when you got to the 106th?

JY: We were assigned to be what we'd call a battalion surgeon, which is taking care of the medical needs in combat for five hundred men in the battalion.

TI: So there would be one doctor per battalion?

JY: It's somewhat like that, yeah. But there could... yes, uh-huh, there could be one to two depending on the number of available number of doctors.

TI: But it sounds like such a huge responsibility for so many men to be the doctor for that many.

JY: Well, they apparently they're not considering every outfit is going to have a huge battle experience. I don't know exactly what, but that's the way the division worked. Because there would be support medical units behind if you needed more assistance, for example, ambulances, more surgical need, we were more, when look back to like paramedics. Paramedics take care of the immediate needs of combat.

TI: Okay, so I'm familiar with more like Korea, because they had the MASH units and they had these units. So you were really, your role was to really be more, with the troops on the front line.

JY: With the troops, exactly.

TI: And doing that really, that emergency...

JY: The first stage.

TI: The first stage. And then after that they would then, in theory, be sent to something like a field hospital.

JY: Or even there'd be another secondary unit where an ambulance may come in and help you to transfer it to the next area of treatment.

TI: And so then you were working very closely with the, again, the probably front line medics, too.

JY: Yes, right.

TI: So the 106th -- and before coming down to California, I read a little bit about the 106th and the history. And they were, essentially, you were being trained, as you were being trained, they were to be replacements for troops in Europe. And from what I can read, it seemed like the unit, although they were training, didn't have an extended period to train, that they were a green unit, didn't get full training, but because the need was so great, they were being shipped to Europe to help replace troops that were depleted. Is that a fair statement?

JY: I think the initial 106th did get more regular field training and maneuvers. Then that group was eventually depleted because of the needs for replacing casualties after D-Day. And so the green units that came in didn't have the kind of advanced training for combat that the soldiers that went to replace the units in Europe.

TI: Right. And that was kind of the group that you were with, these were more the replacements.

JY: Uh-huh, right.

TI: So in terms of age and experience and backgrounds, what was the group like?

JY: Well, it was more older officers, colonels and lieutenant colonels. Majors were fellows in their thirties or forties, and some had more army training than others. But the soldiers we were working with were, seemed like they were teenagers, anywhere from seventeen to around twenty-one. I was twenty-eight then and I felt like a fairly old guy compared to them.

TI: And geographically, did they come from a certain area of the country or were they from all over?

JY: It seemed like there weren't too many from the West Coast, they seemed mostly from the East Coast and South.

TI: And in terms of racial makeup, were there other Asians, African Americans, Hispanics?

JY: No, there were no Hispanics as far as I can recall, no blacks, and no Asians that I saw. I later learned there were a few.

TI: So it looked pretty white.

JY: Yes.

TI: And then during this training period, what kind of interaction did you have with the troops? Did you give physicals, did you... or were you just getting ready to train?

JY: No, we went on these forced marches, Indiana's summer's pretty hot. And so we could see how the officers interacted with these young soldiers, and we had to see what kind of conditions they were in before and after the marches or any kind of field duties.

TI: But you as a doctor had to go on these marches, too.

JY: Yes, of course.

TI: It's funny, I always thought doctors would be excused from those.

JY: Yeah, sometimes I just had to be there to see them off and see what conditions they were when they came back. But sometimes we were with them.

TI: So I'm curious, when they came back from these conditions, what were you looking for?

JY: One of the things were conditions of their feet. Of course, they were exhausted, you had to help them that way. But we did have, where we participate together was jumping off of towers into a body of water. And so when we were on the towers, the young kids would say, "Hey, Doc, you show us the way, you're first." So we'd have a full pack, and they'd have the boats, rowboats down below hooked to grab us out of the water. So I was convinced that if I ever had to jump off a boat, I was going to unload all my pack and just jump in without any other thing to encumber me.

TI: But it sounded like you had a pretty good rapport with the troops.

JY: Yeah, they were kidding, "Hey, Doc, you first." [Laughs] So they remembered me, because I met one of the soldiers a year or sometime later, and he said, "Hey, I know you." I said, "I'm sorry, I can't remember you." He said, "Remember that tower?" And I said, "I was there. I'm sorry I can't recall you or your face."

TI: Now, was your heritage ever an issue with anyone in the 106th, the fact that you were Japanese American?

JY: Never.

TI: So it never came up?

JY: Never came up.

TI: So the fact that the United States was fighting Japan, nothing like that happened?

JY: No.

TI: And it never came up, the fact that your family was put into camp?

JY: No, nothing. We didn't discuss any of that.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So going back to the 106th, so eventually they were then shipped to Europe in a convoy. I think they first went to --

JY: No, they didn't have a convoy?

TI: Oh, you went on a single...

JY: Yeah, the boats were very fast boats. I think one of the boats was called the Manhattan, and there was two ships that left. But at that time, a lot of the convoys were being hit by the submarines, so they timed it, and it's delayed until, I guess, they felt the coast was fairly clear. But the ship was considered to be fast enough to evade any submarine attack. We only got a escort when we approached Ireland, then we had an escort to take us into England.

TI: So you got a fast transport across, went to England first, and did some training there? Or how long were you there?

JY: We had to unload and to see that everything was okay before we went to France.

TI: And then eventually went to France, La Havre is where you landed?

JY: Yes.

TI: And then marched, or went up to Saint Vith?

JY: Saint Vith. Except meanwhile I was detoured by a sick solider on another ship that was not with our unit, and so I had to meet this ship at sea, and so I was delayed and had to catch up with our outfit later.

TI: So was this just another American soldier but on a different ship?

JY: No, it was a navy ship that didn't have a doctor, so I had to go see the problem.

TI: Was it U.S. Navy?

JY: Yes.

TI: Okay, so U.S. Navy, they didn't have a doctor, so they call around, find you, so you go over there.

JY: Right, middle of the night. Of course I get the royal welcome. And in fact, they asked me, one of the naval officer asked me if there's anyone I could contact in the United States because he's being shipped home. He'd been at sea for over five years, so he was getting sent home. So I gave him Aki's name, and he contacted her.

TI: Oh, because he just wanted someone to be able to know?

JY: No, he... I was taking care of some of the navy men in his, on the ship, so he just asked me when we were having coffee whether he could do this. Didn't you get a call from that guy? Yeah. Yeah, he was a nice fellow.

TI: Well, that's nice. That was generous of you. You weren't worried about having a sailor who's been at sea for five years to meet your new wife?

JY: [Laughs] He looked fine. I just brought this up because you were wondering whether I had any discrimination in the service, so I just telling you the kind of...

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: And I just realized, I forgot something, because going back to Aki, she didn't give you an answer in New York, but later on, you contacted her again, I think, by phone.

JY: Yes.

TI: Where were you at that point when you talked to her on the phone?

JY: Well, I was just in the barracks and making acquaintances with our barrack mates, and just chewing the fat, lying on the bunk and finding out about each other. So this guy asked me what was my immediate thing I had on my mind, so I told him about Aki. He said, "What the hell are you doing here? Get out of this sack and get to the phone booth."

TI: Was this when you were in Indiana?

JY: No, this was at Camp...

TI: Carlisle?

JY: Carlisle. So I did.

TI: Well, I mean, if this person didn't tell you to do that, would you not have done it?

JY: Yeah, I guess I was just waiting for her to make the move. And he said this wasn't the way to do this thing. [Laughs]

TI: So you got on the phone and you called her.

JY: Yeah.

TI: And she was in New York because she was going to Columbia University?

JY: Yeah, right.

TI: Okay, so you get in touch with her, and so you probably say, well, you probably had time to think about it.

JY: Right.

TI: And what did she say?

JY: She just said, "Hai."

TI: Hai meaning, hai, yes, in Japanese?

JY: Right.

TI: So what was your reaction at that point?

JY: Well, I went back to the barracks and told this guy, and he sort of gave me that look like, you know, got to do these things right. [Laughs] And after we finished our field service school, we were going to a short honeymoon, and he told us to drop by his house in New Jersey. And apparently he was an Italian guy, there was meat ration there, but he said, "Hey, I'm going to get you a nice piece of steak when you come see me," and he sure did.

TI: That's nice. So after she said yes, what did your parents think? I mean, at this point, they were in Chicago, weren't they?

JY: I don't think we were concerned with letting our parents know so much, at least I can't recall.

TI: So you didn't even tell your parents?

JY: Yeah, well, I guess I did. Yeah, we had to, I guess I did tell my dad and mother, and he arranged to, said he would come to New York to marry us.

TI: Oh, that was special. So he was in Chicago, to come all the way to New York to be part of the ceremony.

JY: Yeah.

TI: Did he have contacts in New York, or how did you choose the church in New York to get married?

JY: I guess it was through the other minister that married us, Dr. Whelan.

TI: And how did you get to know Dr. Whelan?

JY: He was with the Episcopal church, and I think my dad had contact with him, with his work for helping the people who were relocated to Chicago.

TI: So at this point, how much time from the point she said hai to the ceremony? How long did it take to actually get married?

JY: About two, three weeks, I guess.

TI: Wow, so that was really fast.

JY: Well, we had to get a license, right? I mean, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had to go to New York, get license and all that, arrange a place to get married.

TI: But just two or three weeks later, and your father comes from Chicago, and you get married in New York City.

JY: right.

TI: And where did you get married?

JY: At the Grace Church, Tenth and Broadway.

TI: And do you recall how many people were in attendance?

JY: A few. None of our personal friends. My father's and Aki's sister's friend and family.

TI: Now, what kind of... I'm just curious, when a fellow soldier gets married like this, what did the other guys do? Did they say anything to you, did they know that you're...

JY: No, they didn't know. But the day I was leaving camp was a Saturday, usually we have a formation before everyone takes leave for weekends, the ones that sell out to take weekends. The whole camp doesn't empty out, I guess there's some sort of selection basis. So the unit gets together before they're discharged for the weekend, and there's certain instructions. And so they say, "Lieutenant Yamazaki, front and forward." And as soon as he gives that order, the band starts striking up the wedding march. [Laughs]

TI: That's nice. So the commanding officer knew that you were going to get married?

JY: Yeah. Then when it ends he says, "Dismissed," to everybody, and everybody takes off for the weekend.

TI: And he knew that you were going to get married?

JY: Yeah, right.

TI: So you go up to New York, get married, do you have time for a honeymoon?

JY: No, we're still at the service school under our training. So we went for our honeymoon after we finished that period. There was a short interval that you get time off after service school before you get to the next station. So we planned a honeymoon during that period.

TI: And then after the honeymoon you had to go back?

JY: And we were headed back for Springfield, Missouri, to O'Reilly General.

TI: Okay. And so at that point, did Aki go with you, or did she go back to New York?

JY: Yes, she pulled out of the school again.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Okay, I just wanted to finish that up, and we'll come back. So let's go back to Europe. Where we left it, you had, the 106th had landed in La Havre, you were helping the navy with their, with a sick seaman, and then eventually you connect back up, you catch back up to the 106th and get ready in the town of Saint Vith. And again, going back to my reading, what I've read is the generals decided to put the 106th there because literally in the last several months, there was hardly any activity along that line, and they realized the 106th was a green unit, and they thought that that would be a good place for them to sort of get acclimated and get some more training and get ready. And so they chose this place for the 106th with that in mind. And so here you are, you get all ready and you get all set up, why don't you talk about how you guys all got set up in this location. What does it take for a new unit to come into a place and what kind of things did you do?

JY: We're an artillery unit, so the important thing is to get these, what they call these .105 shells and with the cannons in place at specific locations, and then there would be the main combat assignment, is to man these weapons. And then we would be the supporting thing for any medical needs. And we were assigned a farmhouse on the ridge where we would just set up our aid station. And then the boys, there was usually, at this stage, everybody's pretty hyped up, and they feel it's nearing Christmas, so they were running all over the place, green troops looking for getting all the goods necessary for a Christmas celebration. Chickens, whatever they get.

TI: So the sense was that they were at war, but it wasn't like this incredible danger or anything like that, it was more like...

JY: There were no signs of anticipating any kind of battle.

TI: So you're there for just a few days, and this is early December, people are thinking about Christmas. But I think it was around December 10th or 15th...

JY: That's right.

TI: What happens is the Germans decide to launch the largest offensive in the war, World War II, commonly called the Battle of the Bulge.

JY: Right.

TI: And where they start the offensive is right where you are located.

JY: So we were the "bulge."

TI: Yeah, so talk about what happened. How did you, when did you realize you were in this incredible fight?

JY: Well, we didn't realize it was an incredible fight, we just accepted this was, we were engaged in war. And not knowing this was a big battle, just something that all combat unit encounter. So for five days, it seemed like we were going from one location to another, and one day after the third or four day, the infantry unit that we were supposed to be following came toward us. So our response was, hey, we thought the enemy was over there. And they said, no, they're over here in back of us. So we started getting an inkling we were being surrounded, encircled. But somehow we were able to maneuver in and out. And I think about the fourth night, we were digging foxholes, and we could hear the German soldiers passing our area and just hoping they wouldn't find us. But during the night, there was just myriads of flares going up, and we realized we were in a valley, because you could tell the different levels at which the flares went off, and it was just an ominous sign that something was going to happen. And sure enough, at break of dawn, first light that came in, the barrage started in and continued relentlessly for the next several hours.

TI: Because at that point you saw flares essentially all around you, you could tell that, essentially, the Germans had the high ground and you were down below, and you were, essentially, sitting ducks.

JY: Yeah, when we looked down into the valley, because we put our aid station on the side of the hill, the trucks were all in tandem. God, it just looked like it's going to be a turkey shoot, because you couldn't miss. And sure enough, that's what was happening.

TI: And roughly how many men were in that valley?

JY: I really can't say, because things were happening all around our regiment, and that we were supporting were in the area also, I think. And so perhaps, at least for us, it must have been a thousand men or so.

TI: In those four days leading up to this, your unit took heavy casualties. You were, again, you mentioned how you thought that was just war, but in actuality, it was one of the bloodiest, hardest battles fought during the whole war. And your unit took just heavy, heavy casualties.

JY: But it was especially on the fifth day that happened, when we were encircled, and they let go on everything.

TI: As the battalion surgeon, you must have seen lots of casualties during that whole period. What was it like during those five days.

JY: It was just relentless. Just a stream of casualties you had to take care of.

TI: What kind of range of trauma did you see?

JY: Well, I don't think I saw the worst, because the ones that looked like they were terminal apparently were just left there. Because the chaplains came, there were two chaplains, one a Catholic, white-haired chaplain, Paul Cavanaugh, and another Protestant minister. And they both came and said, "What are we gonna do, there are so many out there? They need a burial at least." The discussion, I don't know who said what, but there's no time for burials, at least to give them last rites. And the general thing was do whatever they thought was necessary, but there certainly wasn't time for burials.

TI: So the medics out there were doing some triage then. They were deciding who would actually make it...

JY: That's right. They brought back the ones that they felt we could take care of, I think. Because they knew... we had a three-quarter-ton truck, and that's where all our medical supply was. And by the fourth or fifth day, we had very little to work with, hardly any plasma, morphine was probably running out by then. And all we could do was to evacuate the soldier as best we could.

TI: I mean, did it ever seem... and I'm just thinking how... did it seem ever like a contradiction to you? Here you were trained as a doctor to save lives, and yet you're thrust in a situation like this, this battle, this war, where you see such heavy casualties and heavy loss of life. Did it ever just, did you ever think about that?

JY: Oh, yeah. In fact, the whole rest of the experience in war and after the war in Japan, here we're in our training we're monitored to do everything we can to save one life, and that was our responsibility. And if you didn't have that sense of responsibility, one of the professors actually said, "You have no business being here, you might as well get out." I think words of that nature were sometimes said if you don't give all out to learn everything about the disease, the condition of the patient, and attending to the patient. That was the kind of fine doctors we trained under. So to see this kind of situation is incredible that it's against any kind of training we were doing.

TI: Well, the image I have is almost like this bursting dam, and you're like a little finger trying to hold it back, where it's like it's just overwhelming because there's physically only so much one person can do with all this injuries and death around, it must have been very hard.

JY: Yeah.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So going back to the fifth day, so surrounded, the barrage comes in, tell me what that was like.

JY: From what others tell me, it must have been quite an overwhelming kind of experience. Because one of the medics said that, referred to my amputating a limb, and I said I couldn't recall that. He said, "I was right there with you, and you did." And so that some of the experience of those days, I'm sure, is so overwhelming it's just erased from your mind, a lot of the more incredible kind of injury that humans inflict on each other. It seems like such an impersonal kind of thing, especially of any weapon. They have no idea of the impact of any kind of bullet or cannon striking a person, because you're not there to receive that impact. It was true of bombing, and then, of course, we were, our experience in Japan.

TI: So going back, so your unit's in this, essentially, hopeless situation.

JY: Yeah.

TI: And so, and you come under this heavy barrage. What happens next in terms of your commanding officer? What does he decide to do?

JY: Well, not the commanding officer, one of the, what they call executive officer, very fine guy, he came down with some white cloth and said that we were surrendering.

TI: Do you think there was any other option at that point?

JY: No, of course not.

TI: Just to be able to save whatever lives were left.

JY: That's right, just to top the carnage, yeah.

TI: And so as soon as the white flag comes up, as the U.S. soldiers, do they then just put their firearms down, or what happens next?

JY: I can't remember the sequence. It eventually stops, and I'm sure it wasn't instantaneous.

TI: And then the Germans come in, and what was that like for you?

JY: Well, they let us know that we could continue to take care of the wounded. Then after a while, about several hours later, they said that, "You'll have to end the, gathering the wounded," and marched us off.

TI: And so what happened to all the wounded that you...

JY: I have no idea. I've tried many times, tried to find out what happened to them.

TI: What do you suspect? Do you believe that, perhaps, they were left there to die, or do you think some of them...

JY: Oh, of course. Yes, there's no question about that. Because there's myriads of pictures where the German soldiers, after their capture, are carrying the frozen bodies out of the forest.

TI: I'm sorry, the Germans are carrying what frozen bodies?

JY: All the soldiers, both Americans and Germans.

TI: Oh, I see. And so, again, this was a harsh winter, it was cold, and here you had all these wounded soldiers, I think you put them on, in trucks. And you've never found out or heard what happened.

JY: Yeah, just one soldier, we found out years later, at one of our reunions, told us he was evacuated into a hospital where he was treated.

TI: Okay, so some of them survived.

JY: Yes.

TI: Okay, so you do whatever you can, and then you're ordered to march out.

JY: Right.

TI: And why don't you talk about that. So where were you marched?

JY: We were marched eastward, and we eventually after a day or so arrived in a place called, city called Koblenz. And just as we were being evacuated, we came to a crossroad where there were some dismembered bodies in the snow, and they were black soldiers, about a dozen or so, I can't remember too well. And that was a very stark, it was so different from the other combat injuries, this looked like a very well-organized killing. And we had to march on and leave them there.

TI: So you were marching by these bodies, a dozen or so U.S. soldiers, black. And by the way their bodies were there, it looked like it was close range, almost execution-style?

JY: Yes, right.

TI: As you're marching, are there any opportunities to, are people talking, or did you hear any comments when you walked by?

JY: Oh, I didn't hear too many comments, no. We did talk about it.

TI: What were you, I mean, it must be... what were you thinking?

JY: Well, that they were singled out because of their race, is what I was thinking.

TI: Did you see any reaction from the German soldiers who you were guarding. Did they have any reaction when they walked by the bodies? Do you recall anything?

JY: I don't think there was much. We just, their orders was to get us marching, I think.

TI: So you were thinking that because they were black, that they were singled out and essentially executed.

JY: Yeah. But it sort of lingers in your mind for the rest of the war until you get home, what about our families in camp? What could they do to us? If the war in Japan, in the Pacific gets so bad that if the tide went against our country, and with the feelings toward those in the internment can be changed from just enclosure to one of victimizing our families. You thought about that.

TI: Because you just see what war can do.

JY: Yeah, to human beings.

TI: This disregard for human life.

JY: Yeah, until I got home, I wasn't sure.

TI: That must have been hard. So you walked by this, these atrocities, and then where did you go?

JY: At Koblenz, we were put into boxcars.

TI: And before you do it, how long was the column? How many soldiers were captured?

JY: Oh, there's... I guess thousands.

TI: So it was a huge line.

JY: Hundreds and hundreds, at least... it was just endless, anyhow.

TI: So what was the mood? I mean, again, most of them were just there for literally less than two weeks, I mean, it was such a short period. How would you characterize the mood? What were you feeling as this was happening? Were you in fear of your life? What were you thinking?

JY: I guess more of the uncertainty of what was going to happen next. I think that was pervasive for the rest of the war, what was going to happen next.

TI: Now, was there any information, was there any knowledge of what the Germans were doing to Jews?

JY: Not at that time.

TI: So you guys did not understand. Okay, so here you're loaded into boxcars, and I'm guessing that you guys were crowded in there, you must have not had that much room.

JY: Right, uh-huh. There's no toilet facilities, of course.

TI: And they're unheated, I take it?

JY: Of course.

TI: And is there enough room to sit and lie down?

JY: Perhaps. It was pretty crowded. So we would look, when we approached a city, we would try to look for some landmark that might tell us where we were at. And there were very distinct placards near the railroad stations that told you what towns we were going through.

TI: I'm curious, in this situation, was there much semblance of hierarchy left? I mean, I imagine in the boxcars there were officers and there were infantry, was there any sense of the officers trying to organize things in the boxcars?

JY: No, we were just a defeated bunch of soldiers. No, we knew that we were at their mercy, yeah.

TI: Okay, so you're in the boxcars, how long were you in the boxcars?

JY: I can't remember, day or so. The time is sort of hard to remember.

TI: And can you recall any conversation?

JY: Conversations, no, just sort of peering out, wondering where we were at. It's useless to say where we're going.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Okay, so you eventually get to a place, a camp?

JY: No, we were approaching, we knew we were changing direction at one point going east, north to east. And then we could hear planes in the distance, then we came into a fairly large marshalling yard, later we learned it was Hanover. And the sirens already were going off, air raid sirens, so this was our first exposure to air raid sirens.

TI: And how did that feel? Were you afraid that your own U.S. bombers would actually bomb you guys?

JY: Well, it's somewhat expected once the sirens started, because as we came into the marshalling yard, it stopped. It must be where the soldiers, German soldiers got off and locked the cars. Then they ran for the shelter, we could see them running for the shelters. And there's a certain intervals at which the sirens bleat, and it gets shorter and shorter as the planes are approaching. At the same time you could hear the roar of the planes increasing, then you finally start hearing them drop.

TI: And again, was there any conversations or comment as this was going on?

JY: Not too much, everybody's just sort of looking at each other, realizing, hey, this is it.

TI: Is that what you thought at times when this happens?

JY: Yeah, this would be a close one.

TI: But you survived that, and then what happens?

JY: Well, it all clears, and we're still there. For some reason, within a day or two, the train reaches a destination which is our first prisoner of war camp. But I don't see any of the soldiers in my unit at all, none from the 106th.

TI: Now, why is that? Why do you think you were separated from the 106th?

JY: I don't know what happened after the bombing, how they rearranged us. That part is a complete blank.

TI: Now, at the camp, did they distinguish between officers and infantry?

JY: It seemed they did, yeah. Even in this... this was in a, the kind of boundary we're in were fairly small. But as I recall, we were, the German separated us at the very beginning into officers and enlisted men because the compound next to us were Russians, and one unit, they had one or two units. One was for enlisted men and one right next to us was officers, Russian officers.

TI: And in this situation, it's kind of interesting, you're in a very stressful situation. I'm curious, so you had a Russian compound. I'm imagining on your side you had British, French, Americans. In this situation, could you see differences in the various nationalities in terms of how they dealt with the prisoner of war camp? Were there differences that you saw?

JY: Not that I knew. They all seemed, treated equally.

TI: And was this where you would get contact with things like the Red Cross? Because here you're under the Geneva Conventions.

JY: No, we didn't see Red Cross in this camp.

TI: So how long were you here?

JY: About a month, perhaps.

TI: And in terms of...

JY: Maybe a little over a month.

TI: and accommodations, can you describe what, in a typical day, what you would get to eat, and how and what conditions you would sleep in?

JY: They'd give us a handful of small potatoes, some looked pretty aged, and they gave us a little burner, a little tin can, which you could put these potatoes on so we could put some firewood under, and that was our ration.

TI: And that's all you would get all day, just one handful of potatoes per day?

JY: Something like that, yeah. There's no bread there.

TI: And then in terms of sleeping accommodations, what was that like?

JY: Gosh, I really can't recall, but the, most of the camps we were in would be a tier of about, three level tier of cots, and then you would just occupy one.

TI: And when you were in this situation, there was probably still so much uncertainty, but did you feel safe, or what were you thinking and feeling?

JY: Well, we weren't in a combat area. And safe in the regard that a large camp like this would be identified by our air force, so there was no... at least while we were there, there was no strafing of the camp or anything like that.

TI: And so under these less severe conditions, did people start opening up and talking a little bit more? Did you get to know some of the people in camp during this period?

JY: Yeah, we did. Among ourselves, all we talked about was food. No talk about women, just for how we're going to live to the next day on a ration like this. And so hunger was the pervasive thing that developed quite early.

TI: But in... well, I'll ask this at the end. Because I'm going to ask you in terms of when you joined the army, or when you were in Europe, how much did you weigh at that point, and then when you were finally released as a POW...

JY: I can't remember. I can't remember any of the weights. I could remember some of the heavy guys weighing in the hundred eighties coming down to near a hundred. They had really gone...

TI: So it was just near starvation conditions.

JY: Yeah.

TI: So you mentioned you were in a month in this camp, and then you were then moved someplace else?

JY: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Now, why would you move? Why would you move from one camp to another? Why didn't they just keep you in one place?

JY: I don't know. Except that, well, we were on the move. I just don't know why we were selected to get out of that camp.

TI: Okay, so when you say "selected," you mean, so not everyone moved, just certain people?

JY: Yeah, it was quite a clear-cut unit, it was Americans. I can't remember soldiers from other countries with us, it was mostly Americans that were moved out.

TI: So where were you moved?

JY: Well, we went eastward, and the town where we finally stopped, sometime in train and sometime walking, was a town called Magdeburg. And the next large city to the east would be Berlin. Magdeburg was a fairly good-sized city with nice shops, lot of them boarded up after the bombing, there were other shops that you could tell were quite nice at one time. And the city wasn't destroyed even though it was, it looked like it had been bombed.

TI: And so you were able to see the cities, the train went through it?

JY: Yeah, we were on the ground walking through the town.

TI: And then the camp was like on the other side?

JY: No, we didn't go to a camp, we were still on the go.

TI: Oh, okay, just walking through.

JY: Yeah, going eastward. And then from that Magdeburg, we started going back west again.

TI: Mostly marching?

JY: Marching or on trains.

TI: During this period when you were being marched around, were there people who just couldn't go on, people that would fall ill or even possibly die during this period?

JY: I can't recall that. We did go into some stations, whether we were being detrained or something, and we could see civilians being evacuated, in quite an anxious state, just with their little belongings, being, putting into rail cars.

TI: And these were with Germans?

JY: Yes, German civilians being evacuated.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: So eventually where did you end up?

JY: We went all the way back to the front almost, to the main valley, a town called Hammelburg.

TI: And what was this camp like? Was it different?

JY: No, this was a well-established camp, apparently had been there for a long time, with company streets. There were some more recent barracks that were put up, but some of the buildings were there for a long, long time.

TI: And so does that mean the conditions were better or worse than that first camp?

JY: Oh, the first camp was sort of a makeshift camp, but this was well-established barracks from before. They looked like prewar kind of buildings.

TI: So was the food better at this one?

JY: [Laughs] Oh, no, just the buildings were. And had company streets that were paved and well-organized.

TI: And was it then primarily American soldiers there?

JY: No, there was... the one unit that we were, that abutted us was a Serbian unit that had been there for, since the Blitzkrieg started. The Yugoslavs, and they were well-organized, very fine officers. Intelligent, and they didn't look like amateur soldiers like the Americans. They looked like they had been through military training. In the evenings... they would go out to work every day, to do some laboring work on the farms and wherever. And when they came back to camp in the evenings, coming through the forest, they would usually be singing marching songs, Slavic marching songs, extremely, resounds through the forest and with high spirit. So even though they were there a long time, they looked like they were well-disciplined and taking advantage of their misfortunes to the best they could. And they were friendly to us because they would have access to more foods, occasionally they would share that with us.


TI: But you had just talked about the Serbs in the prisoner of war camp, and how disciplined they are. I actually want to back up, too, there was an incident that happened actually in the first camp with the Russians, when I think this possibly might be during the holiday season, but the Americans actually received packages, individual packages from the Red Cross.

JY: The Russians?

TI: No, the Americans.

JY: No, no.

TI: Oh, I thought you guys received rations from...

JY: Oh, you mean in addition to our potatoes?

TI: Yes.

JY: No, this was, the Germans made an announcement that they were going to give us something for the holidays, special holiday rations.

TI: Oh, so the Germans...

JY: This was a German independent holiday greeting, so to speak.

TI: Okay.

JY: So they let us know a few days ahead.

TI: But you mentioned how the camps were segregated. You had the Russian camp and the rest of you.

JY: They were sort of barbed wire enclosures.

TI: But the Germans were only going to give it to one side?

JY: Yeah.

TI: And so the Americans received this, so why don't you explain what happened.

JY: Well, they made a somewhat demonstrative presentation because it was food we had only dreamed of before, being brought to us. I think there was bottles of beverages, too, and they come through our unit. Naturally it's the attraction of the day, everybody's looking from the other compound. And we received these, food from the Germans, somewhat stunned by their generosity or whatever they were, from their gifts. And the first thing was, our concern was, what are we gonna do about the Russians that are, saw this parade coming? And immediately there was a difference of opinion, and finally we said we better put it to a vote of whether we're going to share it with the Germans, with the Russians or not. And the vote was don't share. This might be our last chance to... this might be a survival gesture that might count in the long run, where they take advantage of this, it might be our lives against somebody else's. So the vote was not to share it with the Russians.

TI: And do you remember how close that vote was?

JY: No, I can't remember. And so that was, for me, that was quite a depressing kind of thing. And, of course, the Russians weren't getting it, so they knew what the outcome of our thinking was. And then a few weeks later is the Russian St. Nicholas Day, comparable to our Christmas Day. And everyone is aware that the Germans are going to bring it to the Russians, and we see them receiving the gifts. The very next day, a delegation of the Russian officers approach our compounds, sharing their gift that they obtained with us. And they came really as if they were coming to celebrate something special with us, because they cleaned themselves, their demeanor was, physical features, they had washed up, boots were shined as best they could. And so even though we were stunned, we accepted the gifts, though everyone knew, what reminder it meant of what we had done.

TI: Yeah, so how did you feel about that?

JY: Well, that's the way it was. We couldn't do anything about it.

TI: But was there almost a sense of shame or guilt?

JY: Oh, of course, for some. Others said that that the vote we had expressed what we had to do.

TI: So even under these most trying conditions, you would see these... and from people like, earlier, the Serbs and the Russians, these exact sort of humanity or kindness...

JY: Right, exactly.

TI: the harshest conditions. Yeah, that's interesting.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So going back to Hammelburg, and what I want to talk about was while you were at Hammelburg, there was an actual rescue attempt for the prisoners. I think there were probably around five thousand or so of you at this camp. Can you describe this rescue attempt for us?

JY: One day, the Serbians came back from their march, from their work thing, and they said, "Something's going on out there. We hear gunfire in the distance." And we had heard it, too, something's going on. Everybody was hoping it was the main front who was moving toward us. And then the next morning, there were straggling German soldiers coming around the camp, and it looked like they had been in combat. And then as the day wore on, the gunfire seemed to be approaching, and everyone was getting anxious that something, so we, with the Serbians, we exchanged names and addresses, and wondering how this is all going to come out, like to get, meet each other after the war, stuff like that.

TI: Because you all thought you were going to be free.

JY: We thought something was going to happen, we didn't know what, what the encounter was going to be, we were just hoping for the best for the next thing. And then in the mid-afternoon there was, real battle fire was closer, and the tanks rolled into camp. But there wasn't a complete occupation of the camp, it seemed to retreat, but enough that just the whole camp was in an uproar, the Americans were here.

TI: Because you could actually see the tanks?

JY: Yeah, we saw tanks, and they were drawn, and the camp was being organized to leave our barracks.

TI: And who was doing the organizing?

JY: I guess somehow the word got through. And because there were field grade officers in the camp, apparently they were taking over. And then, for some unknown reason, the American flag was unfurled, and we said, how can that happen? How could they hide an American flag? And this one element was going down the company streets, and apparently the battle wasn't over. Because from the guard towers or somewhere, machine guns opened up and this guy was struck.

TI: So somehow there was an American flag hidden, it was unfurled, and you had a soldier parading that down, and he was shot by, still the Germans still there with machine guns.

JY: Or something, from somewhere he was hit.

TI: And who was this person?

JY: This happened to be Patton's son-in-law.

TI: So this was General Patton's son-in-law, he was a prisoner of war.

JY: And he was captured in Africa.

TI: And he was in this camp?

JY: Yes.

TI: Did General Patton know?

JY: Well, that's the story, we don't know the complete story. But apparently in the group was an officer who was instructed to be sure and look for the general's son-in-law.

TI: And here he was wounded, he was shot by the Germans.

JY: Right.

TI: And I guess to bring the story together, the tanks, did they come from Patton's...

JY: Yes, it's one of Patton's special units, that it's been selected to advance fifty miles from the front.

TI: Which is very unusual, you would never send a...

JY: Oh, no one would ever approve something like that, to risk a small unit right into the enemy's, you know, territory. Nobody could condone anything like that.

TI: But yet the tanks made it all the way.

JY: Yeah, it was a very, apparently it was a well-trained unit that knew how to fight tank warfare, extremely daring commander, young guy, twenty-three years old or something.

TI: So he made it all the way, fifty miles past the front, and in the gates with the tanks. And then what happened then?

JY: Well, then for the next several hours, sort of pandemonium, and we finally got all the prisoners were on a hillside, and the tank commander said, "We thought there was just five hundred men here. There's ten times as many, we could only take a few. So why don't you go back to camp? We can't do anything here. But we'll take a few with us." But they said, "We have to find our gasoline to get back."

TI: So when they could only take back because you weren't going to march out, they were actually going to ride on the tanks back to...

JY: Right, they couldn't only handle a few. But they said, "If you want to take your chance walking back, we have a little food to give you, we'll share it with you. Good luck if you want to do that."

TI: So it was almost this false hope.

JY: Yeah, here we thought we were liberated, and there was...

TI: But it just shows you in some cases the logistics needed to move large numbers of people. You just can't open the gates and send them to find themselves fifty miles away and going through enemy lines.

JY: Right.

TI: So what happened next? So what did you decide to do?

JY: Well, there's a few, it was very person-to-person kind of thing. What you gonna do, you know? And I was with a group that said, hey, let's take our chances. How do you know going back to camp is going to be any better than getting on this tank and see what our luck is going to be? You never know what the next day's going to bring. So it was almost a year before our anniversary, first anniversary, so I thought, hey, I'll take a chance. [Laughs]

TI: So you were just hoping that you could...

JY: Yeah, so I got on a tank. Tanker said to get off because I'm the point.

TI: So explain that. What do you mean? Why would get off the...

JY: The point, in the field training school, we had a column of tanks coming through. And the bullhorn, they said, "Hey, watch this carefully. This tank is the point. The enemy always looks for a point, whether it's any element, whether it's the tanks or a column of soldiers, or any kind of equipment coming through. The point element is the one they're going to hit first, so it would scatter the whole group and try to deflect the initial momentum.

TI: So this soldier was saying get off this tank, because if you're there, "We're the target."

JY: "We're the point," yeah.

TI: "And you'll be killed."

JY: No, he just said, "Get off." And he was a young kid. I was expecting a tough-looking guy, he's a young little, to me, he was a kid, anyhow.

TI: And so you jumped on another tank?

JY: Went to another armored carrier or something in the back, yeah.

TI: And so how many tanks or armored carriers, how many vehicles were part of this group?

JY: Well, when we read about it later, they said it was around 250 total. Two hundred fifty men.

TI: Okay, two hundred fifty men.

JY: And they list the number of tanks and different kind of equipment.

TI: So they, I guess, started returning, they leave?

JY: Well, they go in little... they had about two or three groups, I'm told. I wasn't aware, but I got, the column I was in took off about dawn.

TI: And then what happened?

JY: Well, we were going along and we heard tanks in the distance, and that made us apprehensive. And we saw, over ridge of a mountain, the gun barrels on the ridge, it looked like it was approaching tanks, and the kind of gun barrel wasn't ours. And the Germans had extremely accurate cannon fire, with .88 that they used. And so that really gave us a tipoff something's going to happen. and so as soon as the tanks slowed down, we got off of the carriers we were on, I jumped off into the forest, and a lot of them came with us.

TI: And so the, I guess the original 250 in the task force, they would just keep going, and they would engage in battle?

JY: Right, right, try to fight their way back. But it turned out that adjacent to this prisoner of war camp was a Panzer training unit. So we were right in the devil's lair, so to speak.

TI: So this task force was outnumbered.

JY: Overwhelmed, yeah, within hours.

TI: So they were defeated.

JY: Yeah, they were all destroyed, in fact.

TI: So it really was, I guess, in hindsight, a reckless move by General Patton to send this group there. Because, one, they would go all this way, they weren't prepared to really liberate the soldiers, and then...

JY: No. Well, of course, there was a lot of comments about it.

TI: In a tactical way, it was not a...

JY: Yeah. I think I wrote somewhere I thought it was, we had done our part to ask these young kids to risk their lives, was not, I didn't feel was justified. Even though they were trying to save us.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So this task force was defeated, and then I assume you were rounded up and brought back to camp.

JY: Yeah. Oh, no, they didn't take us back to camp. The camp was empty. Apparently they were afraid there might be some bigger unit coming through, so they emptied the camp, the German camp. So we were told to surrender, and all of the prisoners were put back on the road.

TI: So you were then going to another place.

JY: Yeah, right.

TI: So where'd you go next?

JY: Well, we got flushed out of the forest, so we were recaptured. And then we didn't join the main group that was going, being removed from the camp, because we were delayed by two days. And eventually we got to Nuremberg, went southward.

TI: So this was another large camp.

JY: Yes, it was a large camp, a huge camp.

TI: And so what was this camp like? Kind of the same?

JY: Yeah, except a little more crowded, it was the same general feeling. But then we were only there for a short period, maybe two or three weeks, when we were marched out of there.

TI: And then where did you go?

JY: Well, this was a huge column marching out, and we were at the head of the column early in the morning. And we were just getting out of the city when the bombing raids, huge, huge raid was apparently on the way, just everybody stopped walking because we didn't know what was going to happen. And it lasted from about seven to three o'clock in the mid-afternoon, this raid, solid bombing. So it must have been thousands of planes.

TI: So they would do a bombing raid even though there were U.S. prisoners on the ground?

JY: Well, they couldn't schedule a big raid like that, it had to be planned quite an advance period to organize something like that.

TI: Okay, so you were just marching through when they... so it was just sort of the timing was unfortunate.

JY: So you could see several thousand men marching out of the barrack, straggling pace. Some of them would be far ahead and some would be still leaving camp. And so fortunately I was toward the head of the column, so the one still in, leaving the barracks in Nuremberg got hit.

TI: So you were lucky that you were in the front of the column.

JY: Right, exactly.

TI: Then where did you go?

JY: Well, then what followed after that, there was no more, that was the end of the war as far as battle goes. we were walking through springtime, now it's almost April or somewhere thereabouts. Springtime in Bavaria, going through rolling countryside, green, and as it were, I never touched it. And it's just a matter of just keeping up with the column, and I was assigned to take care of the sick soldiers, so I was going at a more leisurely rate, and guards were assigned to us. And one guard that was assigned to us was very, seemed like someone we fell into good luck, because he was clean-shaven, and he had, over one shoulder, a tommy gun, and on the other it looked like a musical instrument, and no rucksack for his rations. Hey, this guy, we lucked out. He knows how to get along with this situation.

TI: Because he didn't have a rucksack, because he had a musical instrument?

JY: Yeah, the rucksack would be for his... they gave a ration of bread and a chunk of meat to last him for a few days. And he didn't have that, and still he was quite comfortable. He knew how to get by somewhere. So I thought this was the kind of guy I need.

TI: You mean you thought he knew how to get by because he would know how to forage on the way?

JY: Yeah, he knew how to get along with people, make the best of any situation.

TI: I see, okay. And so did he, was he able to do that?

JY: Yeah, so we struck up and made use of my little German, opened up our pocketbook and find out what he did for a living before the war. He's a musician that used to play in Switzerland in a resort during the summertime. So we were in a very compatible kind of situation. And then one day he said, "I got to leave for a few hours. Do you think you can take care of your men?" I said, "No problem. They can't walk anyway, they're sick." He said, "Okay, just wait here and we'll be back." A few hours he comes back, and marches us out toward a real big farm. And the farmer's wife, we put the sick soldiers in the hayloft, the other soldiers are left out in the yard. And for a few days the farmer's wife cooks bread and soup for us. And they're very empathetic because their kids have been taken away to serve in the youth groups, so that was a nice interlude during the war.

TI: And so you really did get lucky with this German soldier who took care of you and could make friends with people.

JY: Yeah, I sort of have a vague image of him yet.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: And so where did you finally end up with your group?

JY: Oh, finally we wound up in this camp in Musberg.

TI: And explain this one. Is this probably even a larger camp?

JY: Oh, it's the largest we've been in, just soldiers from every country, it seemed, they had them from Africa, from India, British, of course, Australians.

TI: So when you say really large, the previous one was about five thousand, this one was about what, how many?

JY: Fifty, seventy.

TI: Wow, so it's like ten times...

JY: It's a city.

TI: And so what was that like? How was it organized? I mean, what kind of things did you do...

JY: [Laughs] You wonder if it's organized at all.

TI: So what did you do on a day-to-day basis?

JY: Well, I was, again, I lucked out, because I was assigned to be the sanitation officer, checking all the latrines. Of course you can imagine, a town that size, with sort of an ad hoc kind of assembly of men. And so I'd write my report every day.

TI: And so what kind of reports would that be?

JY: Just that the latrines were filled to capacity kind of thing. But then at the same time, I'm looking still for my Buddhahead friends, and they gave me leeway to go through the whole camp to look around to see. So I thought that was a break. At least I wasn't confined to one unit.

TI: And so did you find --

JY: Yeah, that's when I found the 442 guys.

TI: And what was that like? They probably looked at you and you... at that point, what garb do you wear? Do you still have the old 106th stuff on?

JY: Yeah, maybe. I can't recall. But by then, our garb was pretty well tattered, underwear is just hanging on to us because we didn't ever get a new supply of underwear.

TI: And so the 442 guys were probably looking at you and probably not understanding who you were or where you came from.

JY: Yeah, well, there's no jubilation or anything, just explain where you're from. And they asked about my food, when did I eat a good, when I ate a meal last and all that. They said they would fix me up a meal. Come back in two or three days and they'll have something ready for me. So they did.

TI: It's so interesting, because before, you didn't know these men.

JY: Oh, absolutely no one.

TI: They were just Japanese American. But here you're in a situation in the most difficult situation, and it's funny, you see another Japanese American, it's like going to another city or something. It's kind of interesting how Japanese Americans would...

JY: Yeah, you felt like you finally bonded again.

TI: When you see that or think about that, are there times that you, perhaps, think what it would be like if you were, sort of, assigned to like the 442 and fought with the Japanese Americans?

JY: Yes.

TI: Have you thought about that versus the 106th in terms of what the experience would...

JY: No, I never thought about that for some reason. But I knew that seeing them, we met somebody that we had shared some common life experiences, and we had some feeling about the war that you can't put into words. And this is the way things turned out for us, I guess the unspoken kind of things that we shared.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: Well, so you're at Musberg, and this is now towards the end of the war. But how long were you there before you were liberated?

JY: Not too long, I don't think.

TI: So can you describe the liberation? What was that like?

JY: Oh, I guess it wasn't a big battle, but there was some fighting around. And then it just, I guess the Germans were already on the run, so when the Americans came, they took off. So here, you imagine the chaos of fifty thousand prisoners being unleashed at one time, nobody tell you where to go or what to do or what to expect. And they said, but somebody left words that, "Don't go too far, you may never get home," because we don't know what the transportation's going to be. So don't wander off.

TI: Were people kind of wandering off to get food and things like that?

JY: Yeah, just freedom, they're free again. They could look around and see what happened. And so they commandeered cars, and god, we really went to distant places like Augsburg and Regensburg, it was quite a few miles.

TI: Now, what did you do?

JY: I joined, I got on with some of the guys. I apparently didn't know 'em at all, just went with 'em. And they would aim for places like supply depots, somehow soldiers have a nose for these things. We went in there and soldiers, American soldiers come with German uniforms, belts and little guns and stuff. I came out with a box of surgical instruments. I think I must have had some German uniform on, too. It was crazy.

TI: And during this period, what was the feeling for you, to be liberated?

JY: Just sort of bizarre of thing. Well, at last that the fighting is ahead, had gone ahead of us. Didn't look like the German was going to put up a fight, at least in our area.

TI: So the mood, like when you were off with these guys going to find supply depots, is there lots of laughter, is there smiles finally, or is it still... what was the feeling?

JY: Not a laughter, it's just abandoned, I would say. Nobody's controlling you, either Americans... nobody, there's no distinguishing mark between the officers and enlisted men. It's common experience.

TI: So you're liberated, so then how do you get back to, I guess...

JY: Eventually we got on a train. And we could almost date it fairly well, because about May 5th, the morning of May 5th, we were, we rolled into a town that later we were told was Reims. Later that day, when we got in, they said this was Reims. And the word got out that the surrender was taking place there. But we didn't stay there but for a few hours. Oh, the lights went on, that was the big thing. The whole square around the station was just brilliant with light. We hadn't seen that all during the war, of course.

TI: And that was because the war was over?

JY: Over, yeah.

TI: And so that must have been a really good feeling.

JY: Yeah, it was all over, and seeing the lights on again.

TI: And so having been a prisoner of war, what happens? Were you then after processing sent back to the States right away?

JY: Yeah, there was a camp called Camp Lucky Strike, a big assembly area where soldiers were processed. Apparently there was some stratifications of the kind of individuals that would get put on the ship first, or some were flown back. And so you're just waiting to see what that classification was. So some would stay in that camp for several weeks. And after a few weeks, then we were assigned to a boat. And then having been a army medic, I was put on a transport ship, which, and I was responsible for the health of the soldiers on this ship. So I had to keep a whole bunch of records, and they said, "You got to sign this before we get home." Of course, we kicked that whole thing off somewhere. [Laughs]

TI: But I'm curious, here these men were in a prisoner of war camp, some longer than others, under near starvation diets. I mean, were there physical ailments or concerns that you had as a medical officer in terms of getting people back to normal?

JY: No, everybody's just getting back into army life. Because from Musberg was certainly nothing organized there. I don't know how we got fed or where we got our food. But this camp was a regular army camp where you got in a chow line at least a mile long or so. Nobody's in a hurry, that's all you got to do is wait to get your tin can filled. I was at the end of a long line, when I went there, they said it's all gone, come back tomorrow. So the next day I... this long line, everybody hooting and hollering, saying, "Get back," and I couldn't hear 'em. I was just gonna get my food. [Laughs] So I went to the head of the line and got my share.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: So eventually the ship gets back to...

JY: We were in a convoy, big convoy goes back.

TI: And back to New York City?

JY: New York City, uh-huh.

TI: And so when you get there, was there anyone waiting for you there?

JY: Well, the Red Cross, a big welcoming committee, of course.

TI: How about personal people?

JY: No, no.

TI: So where's Aki at this point?

JY: Well, the Red Cross has a bank of telephones right at the dock, and you tell them whatever, you're trying to find your family, but they're apparently very efficient, because an hour or two, they said, "We found your wife." And she happened to be in, outside of New York. I got the address and everything. Before we got discharged, we had to see a film, and we were going to this big auditorium, big flash of the Japanese battle, it just keeps flashing over and over. And it says, "Two down, one to go." So that was our welcome home.

TI: So I'm sorry, explain again. Big movie about the Japanese?

JY: No, no, no big, about the Japanese, just a battle ensign. We're in a big auditorium, and we're home, right? So the battle ensign's there, and under there there's a caption: "Two down and one to go."

TI: So I don't get "two down."

JY: Italians and the Germans.

TI: Okay. I was just thinking of the European, but they're both the Germans and the Italians.

JY: Yeah, and now the "Japs," right?

TI: But at that point, you guys didn't care, you were going to be all discharged.

JY: [Laughs] We didn't care. That's right, get us out of this auditorium.

TI: When you say discharged, I mean, discharged from the army?

JY: No, no, discharged to go to your families.

TI: Okay. And in that auditorium, were they all former prisoner of war, or just all people that were just...

JY: Well, I guess it was all prisoners that was in our ship.

TI: And so after the movie, then you see Aki?

JY: Yeah, well, everybody has duffel bags, their loot of war. And we had told the, Germans had told us America has ration problem, they're starving, too. So I had the keys to all the food on the ship, and the thing that disappears first is the alcohol. We had ethyl alcohol for medicinal purpose, and I had the keys. I was the only one that was supposed to have keys. Well, the GIs, they could get around that in nothing flat. So that ethyl alcohol disappears quickly. Now, I got to take something home to the family, right? So I stuffed my duffel bag with canned food, and was barely lugging it off the ship. [Laughs] So when I get to see Aki first, the duffel bag has all these old canned food.

TI: When you saw her, describe it. I mean, what was that like? Because this is, you were gone for about six months?

JY: Something like that, yeah.

TI: And when she got the phone call from the Red Cross... I should back up. When you were captured, all she knew was that you were missing in action.

JY: Right.

TI: But then there was something that was interesting. The Germans did something where they asked the U.S. soldiers to write letters back home, and you wrote a letter to Aki. And it was selected, and it was actually read over a German station, and she heard about that, so she knew that you were alive in a prisoner of war camp.

JY: Right.

TI: But up until then, you had no other contact. This was really the first time you had seen her.

JY: That's right.

TI: So, again, what was it like.

JY: Well, you could imagine. So I guess one of the first questions was you asked about the baby. She told me what happened.

TI: So let me... so before you left for Europe, Aki was pregnant.

JY: Yes.

TI: And at one point did you find out that she was pregnant? Was it before you left?

JY: Oh, yes.

TI: So you knew she was pregnant.

JY: Yeah. In fact, that little girl that's there, it's her granddaughter. And we had become friends with this army, this other army doctor in our outfit, and the two wives got along well. So we kept our friendship up after the war, kept in touch with each other.

TI: And so one of your first questions was, "How was the baby?" Because you were thinking, at that point, she should have been, what, about eight or nine months pregnant?

JY: No, no. You mean when...

TI: When you left... I mean, if you had left the, when you were reunited...

JY: Yes, she was fairly pregnant.

TI: She should have been.

JY: Yeah, both mothers were big. That was in November.

TI: Okay, and so you were thinking that she would have delivered by then. So what happened to the baby?

JY: Well, baby apparently had some malformations of the heart, and while we were at O'Reilly, she did have a febrile illness with a rash, which could be interpreted she had German measles. And German measles early in pregnancy causes structural defect of the heart, brain damage, too.

TI: Okay, so the baby didn't live.

JY: Yeah.

TI: So that must have been hard to hear.

JY: Yeah, that was.

TI: That was kind of bittersweet.

JY: So we felt that she took more than the brunt that I took, is the way I felt. She had no, one trauma after another.

TI: Yeah, it must have been really hard for her to think possibly that she lost her husband, and to lose a child. But yet, I'm sure she was so happy to see you.

JY: Yeah, so mixed emotions there.

TI: So at this point, what do you do to celebrate with your wife coming back from this situation?

JY: Well, the next morning we just went out for a stroll. And I think it's a town near Mamaroneck, and we just went out for a walk. I think there's a street called Boston Post Road, it's a well-traveled road, and we came by a restaurant, it must have been before noon. We just walked in there and got a big shore dinner. I haven't been in a restaurant where they served a shore dinner that well. They had a silver bucket so tall, full of clams or some sort of clam, had lobster, just lived it up for a meal.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: Going through this experience, both of you, how do you think... I'm going to start with you, how do you think you were changed by this whole experience of going into the military, the 106th, the horrific battle, then being a prisoner of war, and then coming back, losing a child. What, how were you changed by all this?

JY: I just felt extremely fortunate at least I got back. And I really thought, I thought about the people in the camps, because on our way to Nuremberg, we passed by, we had to stop at a station, and by then we had heard about the persecution of the Jews, and we didn't know we were near Dachau until later. But at that point, the whole column stopped, and we were told to undress, and we had heard already about what had happened to the Germans in these chambers. And it turned out that we were going to be de-loused. So when the soldiers came out naked, we felt a lot better.

TI: Because you actually thought that you might be --

JY: Oh, we didn't know what was going to happen, yeah. Because the Germans were being pushed quite severely by then. But later we learned we were in the vicinity of Dachau then.

TI: And thinking about what you just went through, what were your thoughts about war, about family?

JY: Well, I think you turn first to family, and family in the large sense, you're thinking about the people in the camps, I identified our in-laws with, that they were out free. And because we got home, we really thought, gee, if the war turned bad against the United States, then the Japanese had an upper hand. But we didn't know what the rest of the population was going to do to the people in the camps. So it was a big relief to see that they were out and that the family was still intact. Beside the personal family being... we thought of that, yeah. Oh, and we thought what could have happened. Still to this day I think what could have happened.

TI: Did you get a chance to see your parents?

JY: Yes, later.

TI: And what was that reunion like?

JY: Oh, that was real nice, too. I can't just... can't see the order of how that happened. Because we had to spend our time in hotels because people wouldn't rent units to us when we responded to want ads or we went to the house. Repeatedly when we got there, they would say, "It's been rented," or, "We don't rent to you."

TI: Even though you were...

JY: In uniform.

TI: You were a soldier.

JY: Oh, no, that made absolutely no difference.

TI: And this was in places like Chicago?

JY: No, this was New York, yeah. So we stayed in hotels and used up all our back pay that way.

TI: In addition to housing things, were there other incidences where people discriminated against you because you were Japanese American?

JY: No, I remember one statement, somebody just on the street came up to us, and Aki was with me, he said, "Why don't you go back where you're from?"

TI: And again, you were in...

JY: In uniform.

TI: ...a U.S. Army uniform.

JY: Yeah, you feel like saying a few words to them, too, you know. But you knew it wouldn't do any good, so you just pass it on.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

TI: So we had a short interruption, and then I was asking about how you got your job with the atomic bomb survivors to go study that. But before we do that, I just wanted to just touch upon, when you were in Philadelphia doing your, it's your internship at that point, residency, okay, residency, because you wanted to get more training in pediatrics.

JY: Oh, no, it just happened I got into pediatrics. Aki wrote a hundred letters, because everybody's coming back from the service and wants some training in medicine after their experience. And most, a lot of the young guys like myself just spent nine months or so in our internship, and there's hardly enough to prepare us for practice.

TI: Oh, so your wife wrote a hundred letters all around the country looking for a place to get more. And so she found it in Philadelphia. And I imagine the hospitals had their pick of whoever.

JY: Absolutely, because they would tend to focus on people that left their institution to go to war. And we were reminded of that repeatedly.

TI: So in terms of supply and demand, they had a huge supply to choose from, so they probably didn't have to pay you very much.

JY: No, that was the usual routine during that period of medical training. Most good hospitals did not pay.

TI: So residents were not paid.

JY: No.

TI: So how did you survive during this period without getting paid?

JY: Aki was working.

TI: So what kind of work did Aki do?

JY: She worked as a secretary to the president of the American Friends Service Committee, who eventually became president of Haverford. Extremely bright guy. But Aki said she never had to correct anything he did. Whereas mine had, requires at least ten times to get a near acceptable letter.

TI: And so you were here for... oh, one or two years?

JY: About, little over a year.

TI: Okay. And so living off of Aki's salary. And also probably it was a great time for the two of you just to get reacquainted, too.

JY: Hardly, because we spent so much time at the hospital.

TI: Oh, so you were so busy, you didn't get a chance...

JY: Yeah, maybe, what is it, one night out of three?

Off camera: Out of forty-eight hours, I saw him eight hours.


TI: Okay, so fifteen months in Philadelphia, you got this additional sort of training. So then what happened next?

JY: There was an opportunity to go to the children's hospital in Philadelphia, which is one of the leading children's hospitals. Not that it was, you could compare the two hospitals, they were both excellent hospitals. And we were able to obtain a residency there, so we transferred to that hospital.

TI: And how long were you there then?

JY: Another two years.

TI: So you were there in Philadelphia for a good period of time, over three years.

JY: No, fifteen months in Philadelphia, then I went to Cincinnati to the children's hospital.

TI: Oh, Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Okay, and so you were there for two years.

JY: Yeah. So there were people like Albert Sabin was there, the person that developed the Sabin vaccine for polio. So it was that caliber of people in research and teaching there.

TI: So what a great opportunity to learn.

JY: It was.

TI: And what an interesting career. Up to this point you had this sort of really hands-on battle experience, and then now you get this...

JY: Extremely... to top off my medical education that way was really, I felt I lucked out.

TI: So after these couple years in Cincinnati, then what happened?

JY: Well, after one year there, the director of that hospital who was really a fine person, and got to know Aki well because of our housing situation, we were still facing that in Cincinnati. And just to the south is, the south of the border is the South. And he got to know us quite well, and he was on, a member of the National Research Council, that's part of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. And he was appraised of the work going on in Japan when they were looking for recruits. And so he came one day and said, "Hey, Jim, got this situation that they're just starting this program in Japan, and we'd like you to think about it." So he explained that he had taught in China, and that being with a different culture and different people gave him a tremendous different perspective of medicine and people. And he thought this experience in Japan might, in a way, be like that, an unheard kind of experience people had never before, and I'd be on the ground floor of atomic medicine. "Why don't you go home and talk it over with Aki?"

TI: And so this was even two, three years after the actual bomb had dropped, but it was to really study, in some cases, the aftereffects of the, primarily the radiation on the human body.

JY: Yes, and especially the children.

TI: Children and genetics and things like that.

JY: Right.

TI: And so you talked it over with Aki, because this would be going... for you, you had never been to Japan.

JY: Never been.

TI: Aki had never been to Japan.

JY: That's right.

TI: And so what did you decide?

JY: Well, those were factors, too. Economically we never thought we'd be able to afford to take a trip to Japan, that never entered our minds. That, and besides, I still was concerned about the war and what it all meant. And then Aki said, gave her okay.

TI: I'm curious, did you ask your parents about this decision?

JY: No.

TI: Even though they were from Japan, you never...

JY: No, we didn't. Of course, we let them know afterwards. But with Aki, she didn't raise any objections.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

TI: Yeah, now that I mentioned your parents, let me think. At this point, while you were in Cincinnati, were they back in Los Angeles?

JY: Yes, they were.

TI: And so what was it like for them back in Los Angeles? What kind of stories or what kind of word did you get about being back in L.A. at this time?

JY: Well, my father, before the, they returned to the Los Angeles area, had come to see what the situation for Japanese might be if they returned. And so he felt that there were enough people that would not prevent them from returning. And there still remained, where were all the people going to live? And so when he returned, the house became a hostel for the evacuees. So for a year or two, the house was filled with people that were looking for places to live in. So we did visit them after we got our one trip, and went by train. And then on our way back, we were constantly harassed by conductors that would wake us up every few hours during the night.

TI: Just to be mean?

JY: Yeah.

TI: Because you were Japanese?

JY: Yeah.

TI: So it still remained.

JY: Oh, it still remained.

TI: This was in, at this point, a couple years after the war.

JY: Yeah, it reinforced my doubts about the feelings toward Japanese in this country or to any race.

TI: Going back to the church, and so your dad was able to reestablish and get things going back with the church. And he was using, when you say the house, was that the same structure that also the church was in, that you shared?

JY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: So it was a fairly large place.

JY: It was the... there was an American Friend, when this church building was going up, that he said he would build a new home for my dad. It was a two-story house, quite well-made, and he was very, the architect was a very well-known architect by the name of Allison who designed several of the important buildings in town including some at UCLA. And he said, told my father, "For your church, I never had a client that came to my office so frequently to comment on my design and building of the church."

TI: Oh, so was your dad like a very, perfectionist or detailed?

JY: Yeah, he was. And wanted to know everything that was going on.

TI: I'm curious, when you saw your dad after these couple years, had the war experience changed here? Was he pretty much the same as he was before the war, or did you notice a change?

JY: I think about same, yes.

TI: And your mother? How about her?

JY: I think so. I don't think she changed too much.

TI: And when you come back and look at the Japanese American community in Los Angeles, how did that change from prewar to postwar?

JY: Gee, that's a hard thing to say. Well, I think especially when the... well, they still continued with all the problems they had before the war about discrimination. And from the doctor's standpoint, of course, we couldn't get staff privileges. So they faced all of these things they experienced before the war.

TI: In terms of like the size of the community, was it about the same prewar, postwar, or did that change.

JY: I wasn't thinking too much about that.

TI: So you didn't really notice the difference?

JY: And I was at UCLA thinking that I must follow my academic career with continuing my interest in Japan. And the doctor, the Nisei doctor says, "You got it all wrong, Jim. You're supposed to take care of all the kids." And I somehow was reinforced in that when one of my pediatrician friends says, "Oh, your Japanese patients are so good." And I said, "How's that?" He said, "They always pay their bill." [Laughs] I sort of cussed under my... if that's what he meant by being good, I thought maybe the Japanese, my friends were right that I should practice and take care of the Japanese. So I retained my connection, what they call clinical staff, where you help out the university but it's on a voluntary basis. But they afforded all the research facilities and help that we asked for, and helped. So that's kind of...

TI: Well, when you came back, did you notice anything different amongst your, maybe, Nisei friends in terms of opportunities? Like in prewar, postwar, you said the medical field is still kind of bad, but I'm just thinking of the postwar boom, and L.A. must have been just thriving. And were Niseis able to get different jobs and different opportunities after the war?

JY: Well, it gradually developed, but not immediately. It was a gradual thing. Maybe it took about a generation, gradually developed. At UCLA it was from the very class they had, in a class of forty, there was two Nisei doctors, two students that were admitted. Yeah, so that was great, I thought.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

TI: But we're in Cincinnati, and you said after about a year, you were made this job offer to study the atomic bomb survivors. And then you and Aki decided, yes, that's something that you would want to do. And so I'm just curious, as you were getting ready to go to Japan, what were some of the things to get ready? I mean, how would you prepare?

JY: Yes, that was the crucial, the main question: what should we study? Because very little is known about the effect on children. They knew it involved the cell structure, so one of the first things was what would it do to the growth and development of a child as a whole? And for that they suggested perhaps go to Harvard to study under a Dr. Stewart, and a doctor, the head of our hospital, Dr. Weeks, who asked me to consider going to Japan, made arrangements for us to go there. And then there was ongoing, as one of the main research objectives at the children's hospital in Cincinnati, was the effect of the environment on fetal development. So this was not just on the child development, but starting from the fetus, so getting at that level. And they had done research in that area with radiation, albeit an initial one, but with striking findings.

TI: So who did that? Cincinnati or Harvard?

JY: In Cincinnati. But I was first, thought maybe we could do a study of development at Harvard, because there's a world-renowned researcher on that area.

TI: So it sounds like you had a year, and you took this year to really, in some ways, find as much information as you could on these topics.

JY: Before going to Japan.

TI: Which was really valuable, because although there wasn't that much, there was, there were some studies.

JY: Yes, at least something to go on, some basis to conduct studies in Japan.

TI: And I imagine, by you just finding everything on this topic and reading it and talking to the people who studied it, you were quickly one of the experts in this area.

JY: Oh no, I wouldn't go that far at all. [Laughs] No, it was just being introduced to that area, just getting a little flavor of what lies ahead.

TI: But there was just so little.

JY: That's right. Well, there was a lot known, but nothing in the concrete way as how it would affect the whole individual, this child or the fetus. And it's crucial in that...

TI: Well, I would think that... so we're late '40s. This must have been really cutting edge stuff, because at that point, the power of, nuclear power and atomic war possibilities was really on everyone's mind in terms of the possibility of that. And so probably this kind of work, there's a lot of interest by not only medical people, but government and military people also?

JY: Well, the interesting thing was they were asking the investigators to think up what to do in Japan. And so not knowing anything about it, we had to probe to see who to contact to see what we might, could be developed in Japan. And then this thing about this interest in Cincinnati by Dr. Joseph Warkeny on the effect of the environment on fetal development was his main field of interest, such as the effect of lack of vitamins, and that initiated a whole area of information that wasn't known before. And he was a very kind and helpful person, and so he laid the groundwork of how to establish a meaningful study. And he had done studies on the effect of radiation on the developing fetus, which was quite striking.

TI: So that's great. So it sounds like you got lots of generous support.

JY: Oh, he was extremely generous. He insisted I... for example, he said, "You've got to get a feel for this." So he asked me to go through all the records at the Cincinnati General Hospital of pregnant women and what was the outcome of their diabetes. And so in between our work as residents, that was the kind of information I was gathering.

TI: But it's great because he recognized the importance of this work.

JY: Oh, yes, absolutely, and that it be done in a very meaningful way.

TI: Well, with his interest, did he ever consider going to Japan and joining you in doing this?

JY: Well, he was the kind of person who would sit down with you and help you translate a German article from five to eight o'clock in the evening. Yeah, just having, let's say, "Please, there's a paragraph here or two that I didn't quite get," and he'd show me. I didn't understand the whole article. During that night's work, he'd spend the time to show me why I didn't understand. He was that kind of a person.

TI: Were there any other doctors or mentors that helped you get ready for Japan in terms of either information or advice?

JY: I think there was this Dr. James Neal at the University of Michigan, had the first Department of Human Genetics in the country. And the National Academy of Sciences asked me to visit him to get some background as to the role of a pediatrician in these genetic studies. And he eventually was the first director of these studies in Japan. And he outlined a study that was commented on by top geneticists in the country, that this was a situation that, biology that had to be investigated, though he felt the possibility of finding some results was unlikely because of the small number of survivors that received a large dose of radiation. But they said that every, studies of radiation effects on every plant and animal. And plants and animals studied revealed an adverse genetic effect. So this was a study that had to be done.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

TI: So let's move on to the trip to Japan. And so why don't you talk about arriving to Japan, and this was your first and Aki's first time to Japan. So describe what that was like.

JY: Well, we were just delighted to be in Japan because it's our first time where, country where our parents came from. I think that was quite a striking experience. But when we arrived in the part at Yokohama, we were surprised to see all our neighborhood kids there. They were in the occupation army.

TI: Oh, so neighborhood kids from Los Angeles...

JY: From St. Mary's.

TI: ...were all there.

JY: At the wharf waiting for us to arrive.

TI: Oh, so they all knew that you were coming and they were waiting for you?

JY: Yeah, my brother was there too, so they were quite a welcoming crowd.

TI: So how large a group was there, would you say?

JY: Oh, about ten, fifteen. Yeah, this was already four years after the war, and still they were in the army.

TI: And like for your brother, who was in the occupation, when was the last time you had seen him?

JY: Gee, quite a few years.

TI: So it was kind of nice to face that reunion.

JY: Yeah.

TI: And so what... can you recall any thoughts or advice the people who had been living in Japan gave to you and Aki in terms of things to think about or do when you were in Japan?

JY: The people in Japan?

TI: Yeah, like your friends, your friends or your brother, can you recall any advice or...

JY: Well, they told me, I told my brother I was coming to Japan, and he told me to get a car. And I told him I didn't have any money, so he loaned me the money to get a car.

TI: So buy a car in the United States and ship it over?

JY: Yes.

TI: So did you do that?

JY: Yes, I did.

TI: What kind of car did you bring?

JY: The cheapest Chevy I could get, but it was pistachio color. [Laughs] First car I owned.

TI: Oh, that's good. So you're in Japan, and where do you go?

JY: Well, as soon as we got off of the ship, a representative of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission came to us and called me aside and says, "You know, Aki and the baby can't come to Hiroshima." And I queried them about the reason, they said, "There's no room for you there." And I knew something was wrong, because we had had all this housing problem in the United States, and I made it clear to the people in Washington before I signed up that there would be housing for my family. They assured me there was, and we obtained special permission from the army to bring a baby into the country, and telling them that I'm a pediatrician so I could take care of the baby and wouldn't encumber any service from the government to take care of the baby. So they said I had to leave Aki and the baby in Tokyo. Fortunately my brother was there, so they stayed there, and I proceeded on to Hiroshima.

TI: Okay, so that was a disappointment. So Aki and your baby, so you had your first son born in Cincinnati?

JY: Yes.

TI: And so you're bringing him, so Aki was a new mother. So that was also hard, too, I suppose, taking the trip all the way across. So you go down to Hiroshima, so what do you find down there?

JY: Well, we found that the, Hiroshima is in the area of Japan called Chuugoku, and that it was administered by the occupation force by the British armed forces, and that they had administrative charges of that area. And that the reason we couldn't go was because they would not provide housing for non-Europeans in their quarters.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. So the British controlled this area. The occupation, though, was headed by MacArthur, but the British kind of controlled this area with their own sort of infrastructure, and they discriminated against non-Europeans.

JY: That's right.

TI: And there was no attempt by the U.S. Army or by the occupation forces under MacArthur to say that wasn't acceptable?

JY: And especially by Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, that assured me of housing. Once I brought this to their attention, they concurred with the British people and made no attempts to alter their policy.

TI: So was that because they didn't want to make waves with the British, or do you think they just...

JY: They complied with the prevailing feeling, my interpretation, they complied easily with the prevailing feeling before the war, the colonial, continuance of the colonial kind of atmosphere that had been going on for several hundred years. That was the way I interpreted it.

TI: So how did that make you feel? I mean, here you are in, in some ways, the country of your ancestors, and you're, you have this, in some ways, this old colonial power, the British there, imposing their rules, discriminating against, in some ways, the people who actually were born there.

JY: Yes.

TI: I mean, how did that make you feel?

JY: Well, I almost started, it might even sound a little severe, but I thought the Americans agreed with that policy. After all, they had the Philippines, and they felt that the war only emphasized that kind of thinking, and that even after assuring me that I'd get housing in Japan, they had no compunction to say they made a mistake or they misrepresented the situation to me. And, of course, I raised objections to the commission, and even the kids couldn't go to school, the Sansei kids. And then they... and their retort was that they didn't know why I would complain about these things when I didn't have kids of school age.

TI: So there's a sense from the British and Americans, in some ways, that they were superior to the, in particular, the Asians?

JY: Yeah, we were being used as, for the benefit of this investigation just because we are of Japanese descent. And I guess they recognized my anger, and they told me I could go home if I didn't like it here.

TI: Who told you could go home?

JY: The head administrator.

TI: Who was British or...

JY: American.


JY: Yes.

TI: And I should mention, the ABCC stands for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission.

JY: Casualty Commission, yeah.

TI: So he said you could go home.

JY: Right.

TI: So were you kind of labeled as a troublemaker, do you think?

JY: Could be. I don't think I was a troublemaker, I was just outlining the facts. I didn't consider myself a troublemaker, I was just bringing these to the attention.

TI: Well, in the occupation, during the occupation, there were quite a few other Niseis as you mentioned earlier, who were in Japan. Was your reaction, would you say, different than what the typical Niseis were doing?

JY: Yes, I think so.

TI: So you were making waves when the other Niseis weren't.

JY: Yes, that's right. I didn't think... I thought it certainly should... in all fairness, they didn't represent the situation in Washington to me.

TI: So they essentially gave you an ultimatum, said, "Jim, if you don't like it, go back to the United States."

JY: Right, right.

TI: So what did you do then?

JY: I said, "That isn't what I came to Japan for."

TI: But then who gave in? So what happened?

JY: The next thing I knew, they told me to pack up and I would be assigned to Nagasaki to start the program there.

TI: And when you went to Nagasaki, Nagasaki was under U.S. control?

JY: Yes.

TI: And so the rules were different there.

JY: Quite a bit different.

TI: This is interesting.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

TI: So let's go to Nagasaki and tell me what you found there.

JY: Well, it was just about New Year's time, so we had to delay our, moving the family 'til after New Year's. And they said they would have housing for us. And unfortunately, there was no American compound for American personnel, so they had to remove some Japanese out of their home and give it to us.

TI: How did that make you feel?

JY: I felt rotten. Here we were complaining about our obtaining housing, then we go to Nagasaki, and this was the only choice I had. And so they obtained a very fine house, belonged to a gold miner. And he was booted out of his house and I was put in there. And I had no choice but to accept that. Here's an American of Japanese descent making my entry into Nagasaki in that fashion. I had to swallow some bitter pills and still live there for the next year and a half or two. I didn't feel good at all.

TI: Did it cause any resentment from the Japanese there that this had happened, or did nothing happen?

JY: Well, I felt that those that wanted to express any kind of feelings toward me, just did not show it. The official, and I think the official face was, "What else are you guys going to do? You guys got to have a place to live." So that the governor of the prefecture who was in charge of the area, he raised no objections, in fact, welcomed us to see, as long as we were there, that they had lost a war kind of attitude, they would do everything to make this study possible.

TI: At this point, so your wife, so you have housing, you get this house. At this point, or at what point did you start meeting relatives, your relatives in Japan? Because you had some relatives from your family.

JY: I can't recall if I was able to see them during my short stay in Tokyo, or I think it was later when I had a little time off to go to Tokyo.

TI: Well, so let's just go to that. So when you finally did, whether it was the first time or second time, when you finally did meet the relatives, who was there and what was that like?

JY: I think the first person I met was my uncle, my father's brother, older brother. He was a surgeon, and his hospital was destroyed by fire. And he greeted us as if he hadn't seen us for a week. And he had the, he was very cordial, he talked just like my brother who he had never seen, same kind of tilting of his hand, his hand structure was the same, and his expression was very much like my brother's.

TI: John?

JY: Yeah. Unfortunately John never met him, he would have been delighted to see this template. [Laughs]

TI: And it's interesting because here you're studying genetics, and here you see such a resemblance.

JY: Right.

TI: And even though they had never met, the similarities were so similar.

JY: And I can't recall when it was I went to see him, and he had already started practice again. And he said, "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, but I had to take care of a patient. And then he said, "Come on in anyhow, I haven't cleaned up yet." And he had a big tray full of bloody instruments that hadn't been cleaned yet. He said, "Oh, god, these modern medicine, can't beat it," he said. "All I do is open up the stomach, take care of it, throw in some sulfa drug, and hey, no problems." He said, "Great things are going on in medicine.

TI: So when you saw that, how would you compare what he knew in terms of medical practice, and here you had just gotten some more advanced training at the most state of the art. And what was the difference in terms of medical training between the Japanese, your uncle, and what you had just received?

JY: Well, apparently he was curing the patients. And I thought they handled it a little different way, and he was just as interested in taking care of the patients as any other doctor that was working. And I thought it was great in a postwar country to be able to continue working as a surgeon.

TI: You mentioned your father's brother, but I recall that your brother had, I mean, your father had quite a few siblings. He originally had, what, seven brothers and one sister.

JY: Yeah.

TI: What about your father's other siblings?

JY: I didn't meet them at all.

TI: Because they...

JY: They were up in Matsumoto, yes.

TI: How about other relatives? Any other relatives did you get a chance to meet?

JY: Other cousins.

TI: What was that like?

JY: Well, two of my brothers, my uncle's son, they were both doctors at Tokyo University. One was more interested in sports medicine, orthopedic surgeon, the other was, eventually was head of the surgical department at Tokyo University.

TI: So I'm curious, so your uncle and his, your cousins, these were doctors. I keep hearing about how impoverished Japan was during this period. How were their families? I mean, did they have enough to eat and enough to buy things? What was their life like in Japan?

JY: We went to our cousin's home, and we just had a short get-together, but it seemed like a comfortable home. Don't you think, Aki?

TI: So you didn't really see any signs in your family of being impoverished or struggling.

JY: No, I didn't see it.

TI: And was it because they had money someplace, or was it because of their jobs that they were able to do this?

Off camera: They were all doctors.

JY: And then my cousin's husband was a banker, and he seemed to be quite well-off. He was modestly well-off economically.

TI: Now there was... earlier I saw that there was one cousin who, although he was in Tokyo, didn't want to meet you?

JY: Yes.

TI: Can you explain that, what happened?

JY: Well, there was a brother that was my uncle's son, that'd be my cousin, and he eventually became head of surgery at Tokyo University. But I think he resented the fact that I was representing the American government in this study.

TI: Now, I didn't ask this, but as representing the American government, were you still in the military?

JY: No, I was discharged.

TI: So you were a civilian employee of the government.

JY: Yes, with this special passport from the State Department to do this kind of work.

TI: Okay. And so you think your cousin resented you coming over...

JY: Well, most people associated me as part of the occupation, since all of our logistic support came from the U.S. Army. For example, every two weeks a train would, special train would come in to Nagasaki Station, all kinds of provisions, food, appliances, and we'd take a half day off to go shopping. That was extremely special privilege that everyone in Nagasaki would notice.

TI: So here you would go to the train and you could buy supplies that no one else could get.

JY: That's right, exactly. Exactly. So in that event, we were eating crow for going to study the victims' tragedy.

TI: I'm sorry, eating crow, you mean the people were eating?

JY: We were... we had to be representative of somebody that was looking after all the tragedy that they experienced, and yet on the other hand, living in the lap of luxury going to these occupation trains.

TI: So here you were in one of the nicer homes in Nagasaki, special privileges in terms of rations and getting this, and then going places where they were impoverished, they were poor.

JY: Right, exactly.

TI: And that made you feel funny.

JY: Oh, yeah, very uncomfortable.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

TI: So let's go to Nagasaki, so the focus of your work. And explain to me what you did in terms of your studies. How did you conduct your studies?

JY: I was given no specific instructions how to proceed, that was in charge of the program, and that I would... I guess they assumed that I would find some way as to how to develop some rapport with the community, both the citizenry and the medical people. So I just followed some of the kind of things perhaps my dad would do. You had to talk to people, sit down, and do... having heard about the kempeis, my first visit was to this chief of police. I tell him, I just assumed he knew all about me when I arrived in my housing situation, so that I just assumed that he knew that, which I was sure he knew. So we told him what our purpose to be in the city was, that I knew nothing about what happened, knew nothing about radiation, and I would ask their help, they acquainted me with this situation.

TI: So let me paraphrase. So the kempei is like a police official?

JY: Secret police. Sort of combination of FBI and the regular police department.

TI: Okay, so here you are, because you were a government official, thinking that because he's in that capacity, would know who you are, because you wanted to let him know what you were doing.

JY: Yes, when I'm in town.

TI: And how you're going to go into these, into the community and get connected. And yet, you admitted that you knew nothing about what really happened and the effects of radiation. So what was his response?

JY: Well, I said I would really like to know, and he said, "I was the air raid official for the city at the time." And he proceeded to tell me his experience of that day, and spent quite a bit of time. And apparently people knew I was going to see him, so then there was a memorandum I found out five years later that I had seen this chief of police and that's when I started my query.

TI: And so he can give you kind of the big overview of what happened.

JY: Yes, he did, and what he observed.

TI: And do you recall anything that he said that was really striking or that you really remember?

JY: Yeah, it was very striking because he said that this explosion occurred, and they thought it was an earthquake or something. And as soon as he was able to send a squad out to find what happened, they said it seemed like it came from Urakami Valley, which is where the bomb fell. So when the unit that he sent out returned about fifteen minutes that there's no way of getting back into the valley, the fire consumed the whole area and you just can't get in. and then about two or three hours after the explosion, people started to filter past his office. That required the people going over the mountain ridge into the next valley and then coming by his office.

TI: So his office was actually not located right in Nagasaki, but it was a little big away from ground zero?

JY: It was in Nagasaki in the main part of the city. There's two valleys, Urakami Valley is the valley industrial section where the big armament factory, torpedo factories was located. And it's about a mile wide, about two miles long, and that's where the bomb dropped.

TI: So he could explain sort of... yeah, he was there the day, so he would see the first people who emerged. And what did he, how did he explain that?

JY: So he told me, and he gave me an overview, a couple hours or so, that, first of all, I felt I better go see this place right away, see what remains. And so I took, the next day I took a trip up to the valley, started getting acquainted with the premises.

TI: So when you go to, you say you went to ground zero?

JY: Yeah.

TI: What was, even though this was, what, three years after, what was there?

JY: Well, I guess I first went up the mountainside where there was a medical school, I guess. They told me where the medical school was, about half a mile from the ground zero. It was still deserted, and all the debris was still there. And from there we went down into the valley where the center, what they called the ground zero hypocenter, just below the, on the ground above which the bomb exploded. And there was a burn there, and there's some data there about the number of people killed, number of homes destroyed, and statistics, and sort of a memorial ground, but they were wooden structures. So it gave the idea of the enormity of the atomic attack. So that's where I started from.

TI: So I'm curious, even though it's three years after, was the area still pretty radioactive?

JY: No, no. One of the main thing about the, of the Manhattan Project that developed the bomb, their assignment was to go to see if the ground was, radioactivity was present to see if it would allow the army forces to come in to Nagasaki. And so that the assignment that the Dr. Stafford Warren had was to make certain that they wouldn't expose the marine brigade that was going to land, that they would not be exposed to radioactivity that would harm then.

TI: Oh, so you had, you knew this then?

JY: No.

TI: Oh, you didn't know this?

JY: I had no idea about it.

TI: Well, so when you when you were training, weren't you a little apprehensive about going to a place that potentially had...

JY: I didn't know anything about radioactivity, so I didn't have those fears at all. Or any ideas of... but the later story was that Dr. Warren did give the army okay to land, marines to land there.

TI: So this is an interesting point. So Dr. Stafford Warren had done these preliminary studies, or studies right after the aftereffect. He had this knowledge, here you come to do additional studies, and you weren't given access to this important data.

JY: Yeah. And he didn't tell me when I met him before I came to Japan.

TI: Because he was one of the people who wanted you to go and do this study.

JY: That's right.

TI: So why...

JY: Well, he was constrained by this policy of secrecy. What was the division of secrecy for civilian purposes for weapons information? There's big discussions of what information should be given out. The Japanese weren't told about that. And so this was pervasive kind of information, it's why the people in the country still don't know what happened too well.

TI: Yeah, just as I hear this, and this was, just occurred to me. So it's almost like when you describe how really you were a young doctor, you went over there, and you weren't given really any plan on how to do this, they say, "Just do it." They had all this important information and data that they didn't share with you. In some ways it almost sounds like they were setting you up to fail, that they were making this really a difficult situation for someone like you to actually succeed and get valuable information to actually make a difference.

JY: When the Japanese doctors, when I met them, eventually we were introduced and we met with them many times under different circumstances. They immediately knew I didn't know a damn thing. And my impression was that they treated me as a doctor that wanted to find out what happened, and that's the way, from what they did after our first visit, that was what they did. And I didn't know about all the secrecy situation that prevented our having the information. So besides, they were the ones that gave the information to the United States, the initial commission that went to investigate. It was their observation of what happened in days and the immediate weeks. Because the first time the, Stafford Warren went to, occupation of Japan started the first of September 1945. The bomb dropped on August 6th, and the commission was actually formed on October 14th or 15th. And so that was just the beginning of the information gathering of the human effects. Stafford Warren went to Nagasaki to determine the effects of the bomb there. Perhaps because the bomb that was dropped in Nagasaki is the one they tested in Los Alamos, it was a plutonium bomb, and of the same type of construction as one that was used in Nagasaki. So there were a lot of data that they had to correlate. Perhaps that was the reason they concentrated on Nagasaki.

TI: Okay. And it sounds like although you didn't get access to the report, you had access to the people that supplied the information. So it just took a little longer.

JY: That's right. And I think I had better information, just as good as, information as the secret report.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

TI: Yeah, I didn't ask this question, but did it help or hinder, in working with the Japanese doctors, that you were of Japanese ancestry, that you were Japanese American? Did that make it easier, do you think, or made it harder? And the second question is, and did you speak in Japanese when you dealt with the Japanese doctors?

JY: I spoke in my broken Japanese because that gave them a feeling of, "This guy really doesn't know too much about things Japanese, especially the bomb." So they were, eventually what they required was that we worked with the young doctors and make every attempt to convey to them the state of the art of medicine in the United States. That used to be part of my job.

TI: And then what about them just working with you? I mean, other than, so you're talking broken Japanese...

JY: Well, there's many ancillary problems that had to be... they would send their best young doctors to us. The caliber of the doctors was extremely fine, especially two or three of them that was first assigned to us. Obviously they were fine doctors. And the question was tenure in the university. You couldn't leave the university and work in another institution or you'd lose your tenure. And being a government, medical school was one of the national hospitals, so they had to follow the Monbusho rulings that if you left the university, you'd lose your tenure. So that had to be worked out. So some arrangements were made so they would be as a advisor or temporary worker, so that they didn't lose their position in the medical school. That's one of the kind of things that worked out.

TI: But you got excellent doctors.

JY: Yes, we did, yeah. One of them came over to the United States and eventually got top residents in New York in Texas, and developed the heart, children's heart program in Japan. That caliber of person.

TI: But I want to go back to this... you said earlier, though, you had access to the same people as the original study people, but you were able, in some ways, you thought, to get as good if not better information. And I was just wondering, in terms of getting information, if it helped because you were Japanese American or if it didn't make a difference.

JY: I don't know. All I could say is that the professors at the university, I'd say, were equivalent to the professors we had in the United States in the way they approached medicine.

TI: Well, in particular, were there any Japanese doctors that you really looked to as able to mentor or help you in the study?

JY: Yes, this was this Dr. Shirabe, extremely fine person and doctor. He just sort of took me under his wing.

TI: Now he was at Nagasaki during the war?

JY: He was there... he was, on that day of the bombing, he was the air raid warden for the hospital, he was on duty that day. And there was a, early in the day, there was a warning that there might be a bombing, and then they got an all clear. And then several hours later the bomb dropped at noon. So he was in his office at the time of the bombing.

TI: Well, and you mentioned in your original description of ground zero, you said the hospital was like a half a mile away from ground zero, which seems to me so close. I mean, how did he survive the blast?

JY: The casualties in the hospital, those that got killed within the hospital was about forty percent. And the reason for that was that the hospital acts like a shield because of the concrete buildings. And those that survived were in the concrete buildings. So that both the blast effect, the first impact is the heat, and then a few seconds later, the blast follows. And with the heat is also the radiation that comes in. So the concrete walls acted as a partial shield. For example, the people outside of the building all were killed. People in wooden buildings of the medical school were all killed. So that they were about as close as you could get to the bomb explosion and still survive. So you couldn't get a more vivid picture, reality of the picture than these doctors. So their expression never was focused on why they dropped the bomb or about the war. The discussion revolved against what did the bomb do to people? And we never discussed anything but that.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

TI: So going back to your study, so you went there and you sort of understood now what happened, you talked to all these doctors, and at some point you decide what the study's going to be our how you're going to...

JY: Well, there was study outlined in Hiroshima, of basic problems, especially genetic problems well outlined. And it was already, initial steps were underway in Nagasaki. And it didn't require a hospital, because the examination of the babies were done in the home. And so the groundwork had already been established in how to conduct that.

TI: And so your job was to visit newborns and actually do examinations?

JY: Yes, we had to get a team to do that. I wasn't involved in actually going to the home. I had to administer, I became an administrator.

TI: So you were just coordinating that, but you would continue to make sure...

JY: Yeah, make the program that Dr. Neill outlined was, had to be followed, and it was an excellent program.

TI: And so how many years did this program go on?

JY: Five years.

TI: And how many examinations?

JY: Seventy thousand.

TI: And what were the findings of the study?

JY: There was no statistical evidence that there was a genetic effect.

TI: Really? I'm shocked.

JY: Well, there were, of course, critiques about the design of the studies, that, first of all, those that received the heaviest radiation got killed. And so those that received the heaviest radiation maybe were infertile. There were questions of that sort.

TI: But when you think about... I would think that how you studied, sort of, the influence on genetics, you would look for mutations in the newborns. And so you're saying that there wasn't a higher level of mutations?

JY: Yes, that's exactly what they were looking for. And at that time, that stage of genetics, what they were looking for is what would happen to the pregnancy, if that'd be more stillbirths, miscarriages, or would the babies die soon afterwards, or would there be malformations. And those were some of the significant criteria that they were looking for.

TI: And you're findings showed that there wasn't a higher incidence of those?

JY: No.

TI: Oh, that surprises me.

JY: No, they weren't surprised. That's what they were... because the number of individuals that received a high radiation dose was not great. And the radiation dose that would kill a person in units would be, say, 416 radiation units called Rad. And the average radiation dose of the survivor was thirty-five. So that's about fifteen-fold greater to kill them. And the laboratory studies were done with much larger doses and in a far greater population, especially in the fruit flies that they studied.

TI: So after the five years, you then returned back to the United States?

JY: I just stayed there two years.

TI: Oh, two years, okay, two years. So I'm curious, in those two years, how did this experience change you? I asked the same question about your wartime experiences. Now you spend two years, you've looked at the devastation of an atomic bomb and lived in Japan for two years, in Nagasaki. How did this change you?

JY: Well, of course, the striking thing that atomic war, just in a flash, ends a battle. And you have this huge population, a city is killed. Hiroshima was 120,000 humans eventually dies in a short time. Nagasaki estimated around 70,000. That alone would be enough to uncork the person who had seen it. And then the other devastation that followed, to the city and to the people.

TI: Yeah, the long-term effects.

JY: That's still unknown, what malignancies, or just the actual thought. Even though the genetic studies that was conceived and undertaken was still undergoing studies now, because now they have all these new modalities to study genetics, DNA techniques. Even that is still in the developing stages. And there are a lot of genetic study that show that certain of the genes are very susceptible to radiation, those studies still could reveal more findings.

TI: The thing the strikes me, just in a period of several years, you were exposed to something like, going back to the 106th, the Battle of the Bulge. When you look at a more macro level, fifty thousand people, fifty thousand soldiers were killed in this in a matter of four weeks. And in some ways, in such horrendous ways. In that case, it's more one death at a time. And then a few years later, you look at something where seventy thousand people were killed in an instant almost, or because of one bomb. You know, there's two instances of horrific...

JY: Well, then we were in Nagasaki when the Korean War broke out, and that lasted for two or three years. And it took all that time to kill fifty thousand Allied soldiers. And the Vietnam War took ten years. And here you do it in a second. And just basic facts would tell you there's something new in warfare that it's changed the whole concept of people's tendency to violence of what could happen in the future.

TI: So what do you want people to take away from this? When you see this, when you witness it and you live with it, and you have to work with it, most of us don't have to, or are never exposed to that, especially people of my generation. What do you tell us?

JY: Well, one of things I... it's a difficult question because that's why I try to say, "What should I tell them?" And I say the human family is basically the same everywhere. There's a feeling of compassion for your children, your family, and the point of things in life is love among two individuals and develop a family. It's common everywhere, and I show that it's, you see it in all the violent structures, not only in war, but in natural disasters like the tsunami. People really do feel for each other. But when it comes to war, they somehow lose control of all that feeling and justify something that violence okays, and that killing is a methodology you can revert to. But now, with the tools of war like the nuclear weapons, it could mean... it's not far from annihilation as we've been told repeatedly by the most concerned citizens of the world.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

TI: So I'm going to switch from that sobering note to... for your work, I'm curious, the Japanese government acknowledged you with the Order of the Sacred Treasure gold rays with the neck ribbon. And how did that feel for you to be acknowledged by the Japanese government for the work that you did?

JY: Well, I felt that usually before the war, I don't think we were really... they had some question about our connection to Japan, and we really didn't have, in our own, we didn't feel much for Japan in that we didn't know their culture, though politically we certainly had feelings. But here, I think we expressed a feeling which I felt was for all people, but they felt that I had a, my studies expressed a feeling for the outcome of the experience, horrible experience of the people in the two cities underwent.

TI: What kind of acknowledgement have you received from, on this side, the U.S. side, for your work?

JY: Oh, from the universities, they acknowledged that for the, I guess that's what it was for, alumni association awards.

TI: So the universities had recognized it. How about the U.S. government? Was there anything from them in terms of acknowledging the work you've done in support area?

JY: No, I don't think so. Oh, there are a lot of other people, too, involved, hundreds. That's not anything I'm looking for or anything. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, I wouldn't hold my breath either. [Laughs] Yeah, we're just rounding up five hours right now, so I just wanted to thank you for spending the day with he. This has been a delightful interview, and the last two days have been wonderful getting to know you and Aki. Thank you so much for opening your house up to us. I wanted to also thank the cameraperson, Carl, who arranged for this wonderful interview, and look forward to working with you more. So thank you.

JY: Thank you.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.