Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Morihiro Interview
Narrator: George Morihiro
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 15 & 16, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_2-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: So today is December 15, 2005. We're here in the Densho office with George Morihiro, I'm Megan Asaka, and Dana Hoshide is the videographer. So, hi, George.

GM: Hi.

MA: Thanks for coming in. So I wanted to start off by talking a little bit about your, your father's story. Where was his family from in Japan?

GM: They were from Hiroshima.

MA: And what did his family do for a living?

GM: Then?

MA: Uh-huh.

GM: I'm not too sure. I think they were poor. [Laughs]

MA: Oh, okay. When did your father immigrate to the U.S.?

GM: He came here in 1898, when he was sixteen years old.

MA: What was the reason for his...

GM: Just about like every other immigrant in those days, they probably, was looking for a better life, and he also didn't want to be taken in the army in Japan, so... since he was sixteen.

MA: So he came over all by himself when he was sixteen?

GM: By himself.

MA: Where did he arrive in the U.S.?

GM: I think he, I believe he arrived in Tacoma.

MA: What were some of the jobs he did when he first came to Tacoma? I mean, being sixteen...

GM: Well, as far as I know, he never worked on a farm, and he was always in a lumber camp or in sawmills. And sometime in downtown Tacoma, but I don't know the dates and things.

MA: Did he ever talk to you about that time and what it was like for him as a teenager being in Tacoma all by himself?

GM: Well, he didn't talk to me too much about it, but he did tell me the story where in the early days, see, used to go to the docks, and he used to pick the men as they came off the ships, and he'd hire 'em. He'd get five dollars a head for each man he picked up.

MA: Were these ships coming from Japan? Were these Japanese people?

GM: Uh-huh. Immigrants coming from Japan. This is in the early years, beginning of 1900. It was kind of a, I guess, a plush job.

MA: Kind of like a go-between with the...

GM: The white employers, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: So, I guess, let's talk a little bit about your mother's story. And where was your mother born?

GM: My mother was born in Hawaii, although her papers will show that she was born in Japan. She was born in Hawaii, and my grandfather took her back to Japan, and I guess that's when he took the papers out on her for the birth and everything. I don't know what the government ruling was on that, but her records show as being born in Japan.

MA: And what was her family doing in Hawaii during that time?

GM: Well, they were laborers in Hawaii. My uncle was a photographer in those days, and I'm talking about days in the very early 19th century. And my grandfather made enough money to go back to Japan, and then he came back to the United States.

MA: So he was only in Hawaii for a short time?

GM: I don't know what a short time is. Enough, enough time to make some money and go back to Japan.

MA: Okay, so your mother was born in Hawaii, then moved to Japan, and then her, but her papers say she was born in Japan, right?

GM: Yeah, uh-huh.

MA: How did your, your mother and father meet?

GM: My, my grandfather was working in the lumber camp with my father. And they, or my grandfather, decided to take him back to Japan to meet his daughter, and later they got married. I don't know the rest of the story, how they got back to United States or what, but she did come here in the early, very early 1900s.

MA: So then your, your maternal grandfather and your father actually knew each other, then, before?

GM: Yeah, uh-huh, in the States. So they went back to Japan together.

MA: And then he --

GM: And just for the idea of seeing my mother, his daughter.

MA: And then do you know what, what year they came back to Japan? Did you remember that?

GM: No, I don't.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: So what year were you born, George?

GM: September 19, 1924.

MA: And where were you born?

GM: I was born in Tacoma, Washington, not in a hospital, I don't think. I'm not so sure. I think I was born in a home by a... what do they call those ladies?

MA: Midwife?

GM: Midwife, yeah. I think, now, I'm not too sure.

MA: What were your parents' occupations when you were born?

GM: My father always was a sawmill worker. He was always in the lumber industry.

MA: And what about your mother?

GM: My mother was a housewife, but she also worked on the neighboring farms, helping them out.

MA: So although you were born in Tacoma, your, you grew up in Fife, right?

GM: Yeah. My childhood days all goes back to Fife. I don't remember anything about being in Tacoma.

MA: When did your family move from Tacoma to Fife?

GM: Well, it must be in the '20s somewhere. I'm not too sure, but between the 1920s, 1930s.

MA: And then why did your parents decide to live in Fife, which was a predominately farming community, right, even though they weren't farmers?

GM: Really I don't know, but, but housing is the thing. You had to find a place to live, and we rented a house in Tacoma, or in Fife at the beginning until about, I think, 1938 or so, we bought a house under my brother's name.

MA: Oh, so your parents bought a house under your brother's name, who was a, a U.S. citizen.

GM: That's right, uh-huh.

MA: I see.

GM: 'Cause he, it was legal for him to buy. Illegal for my mother and father to buy.

MA: Right. Let's talk a little bit about your siblings. Can you name all of your siblings in the order of how they were born?

GM: Well, my oldest sister was, I don't know where she was born, around Tacoma, anyway. Until she was, gosh, I don't know how old, but I must have been around four years, four or five years old when my grandfather took her back to Japan. And then I had a brother, Fred, that graduated out of Fife High School, and he went into the lumber camps also, and then soon after, went in the army, before, about eight months before Pearl Harbor. Then I had two sisters after that, and then myself. And my sisters started out by going to school, and then working into houseworks in Tacoma. And...

MA: What are your sisters' names?

GM: One is Patricia, Yaeko Patricia, and the other one is Reiko Sally.

MA: So you had, your oldest sister actually grew up away from your home, right? You were saying that your grandfather took her to Japan?

GM: Yeah. She, she went back to Japan and stayed in Japan.

MA: Why, why did he decide to take her back with him?

GM: Well, my grandfather thought that we had too many in the family, and our father and mother couldn't support that family, our family, so he took the oldest daughter back with him.

MA: Do you remember the reaction of your, your mother, especially, when that happened?

GM: Well, I guess they didn't mind that part, but then as time went by, my mother longed for her daughter, and because of that, she made a few trips back to Japan to try to bring her back, but she didn't want to come back.

MA: Your sister wanted to stay in Japan?

GM: Uh-huh. She wanted to go to school in Japan, and she stayed in Japan. She tried for academic grades, and she was able to, from her grades, able to go to the best college in Hiroshima, which meant quite a bit to her.

MA: So it sounds like you and your family kept in touch with her even though she lived in, in Japan?

GM: Yeah, my mother and my sister did, uh-huh. 'Cause when my sister Pat graduated out of high school, my mother gave her a present to go to Japan for a visit and come back. And since then, she made a number of visits between them and the next twenty, thirty years, you know.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: So let's talk a little bit about your childhood, I guess, growing up in Fife. What are some of your early childhood memories?

GM: Well, I grew up a pretty good life in Fife, because I was the youngest in the family, and I had more of a free reign of what I can do. And going to school was always a chore for me, like any other kid in school. You know, we didn't like school, and I had to go to Japanese school after school. And being the type of kid I was, I got kicked out in the third grade in Japanese school.

MA: What happened?

GM: Well, a friend of mine told me he would change the clock ahead if I would do it. And so I said, "Okay," and he changed the clock ahead one hour, and then he said, "Okay, it's your turn," and I changed it ahead one hour. And what happened was that the teacher come in and looked at the clock and said, "Who did it?" And as a child, or a young kid, I didn't think anybody squealed, and kids never squealed to teachers who, about who did something. And we all kept quiet until the teacher said, "Well, you don't get to go home tonight unless you tell me who did it." And one of the older kids finally gave up and he said, "George did it," and so they kicked me out of school.

MA: Were your parents angry?

GM: No, they weren't angry. I told, my mother asked me if I did it, and I said, "No," and she said, "Do you want to go back to school?" And I says, "No." And that was it. [Laughs] I never went back to Japanese school after that, and I was kind of happy about it, which left me a lot more time to play.

MA: What were some of the activities you did when you played around?

GM: Well, I loved to fish a lot, and fool around in the country there, but fishing was my, from a very young age. And since I wasn't a farmer's son or living on a farm, I didn't have to do any farm work after school. So there were some things like delivering the newspaper with my neighbor kids all over Fife. And I used to know every family in the whole area from Tacoma to Puyallup, practically, because of the newspaper routes we used to run on. But my childhood was pretty exciting, and by thirteen, I was shooting a shotgun and .22 rifles, and fishing a lot, hiking, camping, and having a, basically, a nice, good, fun, fun time. But that wasn't all by myself, you know, I would do it with my neighbors with kids and stuff like that.

MA: So your group of friends was kind of the neighborhood kids?

GM: Yeah.

MA: What was the, I guess, what was the ethnic makeup of your group of friends?

GM: Okay, I had a Indian family next, next door, and an Eskimo family next door. In Fife, until the war, there was no Chinese or black. There were Indians, a lot of Scandinavians, Swiss, Italians and German families. It was a nice area because we all grew up together from first grade on up. And most of the Japanese kids, until they went to school, talked Japanese because that's all they're accustomed to on the farm. But I was more exposed to the regular people around there, the Eskimos and Indians, we all spoke English. So I knew very little Japanese as far as speaking fluently.

MA: So it sounds like, then, it was a pretty friendly community, even though there are different ethnicities and different people?

GM: Well, Fife was quite an area for Japanese because the, as far as the school was concerned, our percentage of Japanese in the school was thirty percent, and that's a pretty good majority there as far as the type of nationalities were concerned. And the discrimination was not like being in a community of all Japanese or something like that.

MA: What do you mean? How was it different?

GM: Well, we didn't look at ourselves towards being Japanese so much as being away from the... you know what I mean, since we're assimilated already, it was easier to get along.

MA: So you had more, kind of, I guess, exposure to different people?

GM: Yeah, all types, except for the Chinese and blacks, they weren't around, so I, I really didn't know what they were like, because I never had experienced that, since I didn't get out of Fife that often. Like in Seattle, your neighbor could be Chinese or even a few blacks at the time. But there was no discrimination as far as I was concerned.

MA: So it sounds like you had a pretty unique experience.

GM: I think everybody in Fife did, yeah, uh-huh. But the schools treated us nice, and most of the more intelligent kids were up in the upper half. I don't know where I was. [Laughs] I was down there on the, on the line, I think.

MA: So I'm curious about your group of friends. Did you ever go over to your friends' houses and interact with their parents, of, you know, your Indian friends?

GM: Well, yeah, as I grew up, it was nothing to walk into somebody else's house. My neighbor was Indian, we used to go over there and play, although they didn't have kids my age, they were a little older, but they, my other neighbor was Eskimo and Manuel Mello, the boy that was my age, we palled around very much during our younger days. We hunted together and I helped him milk his cow and feed his chicken and go into his house and lay on his bear rug and play around the house, you know. But there was probably... one thing different about us that -- our parents really was pretty strict about how you act as a Japanese. "When you go there, make sure you don't walk in the house with dirty shoes," and stuff like that, and, "don't cuss," and things like that. So other than that, we did, did everything like any other kid.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: Did you feel -- growing up -- did you feel a sense of community among the Japanese Americans in Fife?

GM: Well --

MA: Did you feel you were a part of that?

GM: As far as Japanese community in Fife was, we're very close. Very close. Your closest friends will be Japanese. They're still, you, they can't get away from it. They, you can't join the other side and stay away from your own kind. But we, we all stick together pretty close. But on the other hand, we didn't stay so close that we separated ourselves.

MA: What about your parents? How did they fit in with the Japanese American community?

GM: Well, my mother was not active in any social things. She kept the family together. My father was a pretty heavy drinker, and he had his fun drinking sake, working and drinking sake and partying and things like that. But as far as going to churches and be part of the church, I think that was out of my family. They, they didn't, my father and mother never did really attend the church, although my mother was more religious, my father was like me, to heck with the church.

MA: Do you know why your father felt that way, or why he didn't associate with the church at all?

GM: Well, I think he grew up that way. He was here before the church, I think, and he took care of himself before more people got organized. And church is something that you have to have in the community to keep, keep 'em together. I think my father felt he was okay, I don't know.

MA: And then what about your mother? You said she was more religious than your father. Did she attend church?

GM: Well, my mother thought she was a Buddhist, and then on the other hand, like other hand, she'd believe in anything, but I remember when I grew up, my mother had a picture of Virgin Mary by her bedside, and in front of that she had two Buddhist metal idols. And I remember telling her that, "Mom, according to the Ten Commandments, one of 'em is 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' and you have two of 'em here, two religions." And her answer was very good because it taught me a lot. And she says, "Well, I have these, this Christian religion and the Buddhist religion here on this table because," she says, "there may be a time when one can't help you, but then the other might be able to help you." [Laughs] So she didn't take a chance; two gods are better than one.

MA: And what did you, you said you learned a lot from that. What exactly did you learn?

GM: Well, it, it taught me a lot of things about you don't have to stick with one thing. You know, that you don't have to stick with the Japanese people all the time, because the other people will go and help you, too. And everything in life revolves around, if you have more friends, you're better off than having one friend. And same thing with religion, I myself believe right now that if somebody asked me what religion I am, I would like to tell 'em, "All of 'em," rather than saying I'm a Buddhist or a Christian. I got married in a Buddhist church, so that makes me a part Buddhist. My son, my wife, went to a Methodist church. I belong to the Methodist church, too, but I also take part just as much in any other church, of different faiths, and I look at them as one unit rather than separate churches.

MA: That's interesting. So even though your mother didn't necessarily, you know, go to church every, every week or whatever, she still had her own sense of religion, it seems.

GM: In a sense, yeah. Because one of my sister's a Buddhist today, and one is a Presbyterian or something in Tacoma, and my brother, I think he took up some sort of Protestant religion. And I kind of look at God myself as a supreme being, and there's only one God in this universe. Because if there was two, they'd be fighting each other. And if the two Gods fought each other, our little wars wouldn't mean a thing. [Laughs] They'd be blowing up the earth and all the other planets. But it's kind of far-fetched, but as long as you believe in some sort of religion, this is the main thing, because all religion is basically the same as far as what they teach.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: So going back to your, your parents, it's unique that they didn't really attend church and weren't really involved with church for Issei at that time. How did that kind of affect their relationship with the other Japanese Americans around Fife and that area?

GM: Well, I think in those days, most of the people were Buddhists, and the parents were. And like my sisters, they took up a different Christian religion. And, and the mixture of all these religions with Buddhism helps all the community a lot better than everybody being Buddhist to start with, and Buddhist forever. So as far as religion is concerned, what it did was to help people communicate easier by having their own churches to go to and be part of it. And sometimes -- and when the war started, that kind of hurt a lot of people, because if you had, if you were an officer in a church, you're most likely to be looked up on by the FBI. And since my father wasn't in any church, and they never came to him. But I think my father was just as much Japanese as any other person who went to church.

MA: So even though they didn't necessarily go to church, they still felt that they were part of the community?

GM: Oh yes, they always been part of the community. And my father being... [laughs] I always say he's always been a pretty good drinker, he's always been always in touch with the farmers because they're the ones that made all the sake, and that was a source of sake for him. [Laughs] It's kind of a joke, but I felt that way. And during Christmas time, I remember my dad storing a lot of rice and soy sauce and sugar and stuff in the house. And right before Christmas, my dad and I would go out to these people on these farms and pass out these rice to these people like a gift. I never understood it at first, but my sister told me later on that, you know, it's sort of like a care package that he was giving away to the people in the valley. Because being farmers, they didn't have an income during the winter months, and my father was working in the sawmill, always had an income. And so we'd go out to the farms and every time before Christmas, delivered these goods and drink a little.

MA: And you said you went with him on these...

GM: Did what?

MA: You went with him when you delivered these?

GM: Yes, I did go with him because... well, I guess during my younger days, I used to drive his little tin can Ford, and he'd drink so much sometimes he'd make me drive home.

MA: What was the, how did the farmers receive these packages? Were they happy to be getting them?

GM: Well, it's not so bad because of the fact that, you know, they gave us vegetables and things, and we don't pay for it either, when we go visit them. It's sort of a gift that, repaying them, too. The Fife Japanese were very, very close together. It's, the families were close, and also the kids were very close as we grew up.


MA: So we were just talking about when during Christmas time, your father would go and deliver these packages to the farmers, how you went with them.

GM: That's just one of the things. But I used to go to work with him during the summer months.

MA: At the sawmills?

GM: At the sawmill, uh-huh. And at the sawmill, there used to be a beach right across the street. And it was called the Tokyo Beach in Tacoma, and most of the Japanese kids in Tacoma used to walk down from the city down to the sawmill there, to the beach and play there, and swim and everything. And we used to draw quite a crowd there. And there was only a couple beaches you can go to that was, one was Point Defiance park and the other one was Steilacoom beach. And they were a little bit far for most of the kids down in the lower part of Tacoma, so they used to walk down to the Tokyo Beach. The beach is not there today because they dredged it out and it's all industrial, but it was a nice place. The sawmill is still there.

MA: Was your father... it sounds like he was more involved with the Fife farming community. Did he ever interact a lot with the sawmill, fellow sawmill workers?

GM: Well, really, he didn't interact with the farmers that much. We lived out there, my brother and sisters, we reacted with the kids, but my father was strictly a sawmill worker, and his friends were right at the saw-, living at the sawmill. And, but his home was in Fife.

MA: How far was your home from the sawmill where he worked?

GM: It was three miles, not too far. For the little car he had, it's, like I said, it was a really old Model T Ford, it was pretty far, especially during the strikes.

MA: During the labor strikes?

GM: During the strikes, the sawmill strikes, my father had to work in the sawmill. And the reason was the sawmills had to keep their fire going to, because they didn't want the fire to run out, because that's what controlled the, the steam that run all the motors and everything in the sawmill. And since my father, as a Japanese, was one of the few union men, he also had to go on the strike. And when he's not working in the sawmill during the strike, he's on the picket line in front of it. And the worst part of that was that when he was working in the sawmill, the strikers would put sugar in his gas tank. And, and we'd get about halfway home when the car stops running and we had to clean out the gas line and then get started again and go home.

MA: So your father was, he was a member of a, a union, you said?

GM: Yeah. In those days, there wasn't very many unions that would have Japanese.

MA: Which, do you remember which union it was?

GM: I don't know. AFL or CIO or whatever.

MA: But it was an interracial...

GM: Yeah, it's sawmills union, big union. But there was Japanese in the union. That was about the only place you could join the union. If you didn't join the union, you don't have a job, that's the other thing.

MA: Wow, that's interesting.

GM: I guess in those days, we never thought of it that, that interesting, it's just a matter of you had to have it. And we didn't think about other unions, but the other guys, as they grew up, found out that they couldn't get jobs because of, a good job, because if you weren't in a union, you couldn't get a job like driving trucks and things like that.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: Well, I think that was a problem for a lot of the Japanese Issei especially, is they, some unions wouldn't let them in 'cause they were all white, so they couldn't join the union but they couldn't work either, so it was a tough position.

GM: Yeah, it's... but, of course, after the war is no problem. Just during that period... well, the white was white and Japanese was Japanese. There was no... you knew it and you just took it as it came along. It's hard to explain, but the discrimination was more or less set.

MA: What do you mean by "set"?

GM: They didn't come out and say, "You're a Jap, stay out of here," or something like that, you know. If you're a Japanese, you just didn't go there. It wasn't as bad as the blacks in the South, but it was just sort of an understood thing. You didn't go looking for a job where you knew you can't get one.

MA: So it was understood among all the Japanese Americans where you could go, where you could find a job?

GM: What you could do, yeah. But in those days, the Japanese were all growing up. The older ones before the war were just a little over twenty years old. The Issei parents were there, but the, the Niseis were just still growing up. And one of the things was that I lived, one of my neighbors was the Yamamoto family. And they lived on this farm, and... the McLear farm, and they inherited the farm when Mr. McLear died. A big farm in Wapato and Yakima and Fife. And when they inherited the farm when their older son Ray got to be college-age, they sent him off to Stanford. And the story always goes that Ray was a very smart guy, and he went to Stanford, graduated out of Stanford, but when he got back, he couldn't find a job and he got back on the farm. And they used that sort of like an example. I know when I got out of the army, I told my brother-in-law that I was going to try to get into University of Washington, and he says, "Well, you remember Ray?" He says, "You know, when you get out of college, it's going to still be hard to find a job, and nobody will want you." And that was the way it was. A lot of kids that got out of the army with the help of the GI bill and everything, was able to go to college and get that education. And by that time, lot of firms were ready to hire Japanese, but... reluctantly, but I think it was, a lot of 'em, because of the veterans preference that you got for getting a job, they were able to get in. And when they got in, it was a fast road to, for other people to get a start.

MA: When you were growing up, it was different.

GM: I'm talking about right after the war, between the ages of twenty and thirty. There's a period there where Japanese girls who worked for, as secretaries, had a hard time getting good jobs. And after they got in, after a few years, other firms watched these girls and they, they really started hiring a lot of 'em, Japanese, into the business as bookkeepers and secretaries and things like that. And school secretary was one of the good jobs that's around, and for a while there, practically every school had a Japanese secretary, believe it or not. Probably around 80 percent of schools, the better schools, hired secretaries. And prior to the war, you know, or right after the war started, they fired all, about twenty-two of 'em that were working for the city. And that may be a start of it, too.

MA: Did you go into Tacoma ever?

GM: Oh, yeah. I used to go shopping with my mother from a, when I was really young.

MA: And what was the, I'm curious about the difference between, you know, being in Fife where it was more rural, and then when you would go into Tacoma, just in terms of race relations and how that worked, discrimination.

GM: Well, I think in my younger days, growing up as a little tot, you know, and my, being dragged around by my mother, I got the impression that they liked me a lot, because I was a little mischievous in most cases and they took to me. And as I grew up, it was that way all my life. People liked me, and it was a lot easier for me, because I never felt that people didn't like me. That was the whole, whole thing. You know, if you think that people don't like you, then you kind of shy away from, and you go back into your own shell. But I made more friends than friends made friends with me. But I never looked at discrimination in that sense. That somebody didn't like me, if somebody didn't like me, it's okay. I didn't like everybody, too. I liked friends, but I didn't like all of 'em. Some of 'em are different, and that's the way it was.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: Let's talk a little bit about your trip you took to Japan when you were young.

GM: Well, I went to Japan with my mother, because my mother wanted to bring my daughter -- my sister back to the States. And she failed on that, but while I was in Japan, we went to Hiroshima and we were supposed to be there for six months, and I think we stayed there a little over a month. But the reason was that those Japanese kids fought with me every day. They chased me around and called me names, and...

MA: Why were they fighting with you?

GM: Well, you know, I understood why they didn't like me, because it happened here in the States, and that is when a Japanese kid comes from Japan to this country in those days, all the kids used to make fun of them and fight with him because he was different. Well, when we go there, into a rural neighborhood, you're treated the same way, and all the kids would call me Chosenjin, and the word Chosenjin means Korean. And Japan is very discriminatory, and the Koreans were the top of the list with the Chinese as far as them not liking you. And so they called me Chosenjin and chased me all over the place, and I chased them, and there was always a fight every day. And my mother couldn't stand it, so she decided to come back.

MA: So originally, your mother went to Japan with you to go get your sister, who had been living there for a while.

GM: Yeah. But I learned a lot of other things, too, traveling in Japan at that early age. I went by many schools, and I found out that these kids in school all wore the same clothes, they were very regimented lives. But they all carried a stick and marched up and down the schoolyards like little soldiers. And those were the warriors in Japan in 1934, so I kept thinking about that, because of the fact that in our country, we didn't act like soldiers. We played "cops and robbers," but we didn't act like soldiers and had to get up and go to school and march up and down the streets like soldiers. And being out in the farm country, I guess you might look at it like cows. All the cows get herded out to the field, and they get all herded back into the field as a unit, you know. And you're, you don't have that liberty that we had, that we could do whatever we wanted to do. Where the kids in Japan had to do certain things, and it was not do you want to do it, or not, it was you had to do it. But because of the punishment that I took while I was a kid from those kids, I hated Japan. And when the war broke out, of course, I had, didn't feel sorry for them at all.

MA: So that trip was very influential in your life, it sounds like.

GM: Yeah, I think so, yes, uh-huh. I still remember, even to this day, how it affected me.

MA: You were... so you went over to get your sister, but you actually didn't end up bringing her back with you?

GM: No, uh-huh.

MA: Why is that?

GM: Well, she, my sister was old enough now to know that if she came out at the top of the class, that she could go to the best colleges and be, well, the different type of class they have in Japan, if you went to the best college in Japan, you're in a higher class of people. And I think that's what she was trying to get, and she attained it. So when she got out of the college, I noticed that those friends that were much richer than they were had to look up to her because she came out of a better college.

MA: So education was very important to her.

GM: Very important in Japan and to the person, if you want to get ahead, yeah. You got, the better your education, the better your jobs are. It's not like that in this country, but in those days, it was very important that you get a good education. When you grow up, you had to rely on what you did in your younger days. In this country, we go to school because we have to go to school. We go to college, a lot of 'em go to college because they want to play around, and others study real hard, and they might come out of college with a good degree and everything, but it doesn't guarantee 'em a good job.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: So then your, your own school experience, you said that you didn't like school and that, you know, you never wanted to go.

GM: Well, like any other kid, I had so many activities that was more important than learning. And so certain classes I just couldn't retain it as I studied it, but in math, I was quite good in math. And I was only good in those things that I was interested in. In my physics class, I was pretty good in physics, which is one of the harder classes. But just like when the war started, I went to my principal and asked him if I had enough credits to get out of high school with a diploma and he says, "Yeah, you got two extra credits." So I said, "Well, I'm going to drop out of typing." And I graduated, but I felt that I knew how to type, and there was no use going to typing class and be a better typist when I could use my time on something else. So, you know, it wasn't an important thing with me. With my sisters and brother, it was.

MA: You mean education?

GM: Education was very important to them, yeah. But as far as I was concerned, I lived a life that was a lot easier than them. Well, they had to go to work after, or during the time they went to school. I didn't have to.

MA: Because you were the youngest?

GM: Because I was the youngest, yeah.

MA: Were they ever resentful that you didn't have to work or they, they had to work so much?

GM: No. No, they looked at me as the youngest, and...

MA: As the baby. [Laughs]

GM: And they couldn't make me work. I, in the summertime, I'd go bean picking, peas picking, and all kinds of work that... strawberry picking at somebody's farm, and I'd be gone, the first couple hours I'd be gone with my fishing pole and fishing someplace, and they'd be looking for me. They got to a point where they don't even look for me, they knew that after a couple hours, I'm not going to stick around working on a farm. But that's the way it was. I think... well, I just grew up like a young kid, having fun.

MA: By the time you got --

GM: I don't know if it's good or bad, but that was my life. [Laughs]

MA: By the time you got to high school, what, what types of activities did you get into? I know that you're really interested in photography, and that started for you.

GM: Well, my neighbor, my Eskimo neighbor friend, we used to like to hunt a lot. And a few of the kids always, we always liked to fish a lot. And it took time to go hunting and took time to go fishing, to the lakes and cricks and places, you know. There was a, the whole pile of things that we liked to do, some were good and some were bad.

MA: What were some of the bad things?

GM: Well, we liked to go over there when we got time, there was a big tree that over, hung over the crick over there across the field there, and we made some swings out there that required some pretty heavy ropes. And we used to steal the ropes and stuff to make the swings and stuff, a little clubhouse down there. But those were some of the things, and, well... we didn't do anything really bad, but...

MA: More mischievous than anything.

GM: Yeah. It was a good life.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: So once you got to high school, which high school did you attend?

GM: Fife High School. Fife all the way from first grade through the graduation.

MA: I'm curious about, you know, high school is kind of a change for a lot of, a lot of young people. How did the Nisei students fit in with the rest of the, of the other students?

GM: Well, like I said, Fife High School was thirty percent Japanese. And the Japanese kids were, most of 'em were in the honors classes. They were pretty smart kids. They worked on the farms, they went to Japanese school, worked on the farms morning and night, and studied. And they kept their grades up high. And then they were involved in the sports. Especially in Fife, sports was one of the main things, and on every team, the football, baseball and every sport, they were just about the largest group of any team. And most of the teams might have as many as half, half of 'em Japanese. So those activity, and... and when it came down to who's going to be the valedictorian or something like that, the Japanese would place real high in that area. And then the, going to school with other kids, they're very popular. A lot of 'em were quiet...

MA: The Japanese American students?

GM: Yes, uh-huh. We were very popular with the other students. We didn't hold back like in the city schools, which were larger and all they did was study and go home. But we interacted with the rest of the kids in the school, so it was a different atmosphere.

MA: Yeah, it sounds a lot, you had quite a unique experience from the urban city Japanese American experience.

GM: Yeah, because of the fact that we knew everybody over a big area, and we went to school and grew up together. And that makes a difference. It's ignorance of the white people that didn't know you, was where the problem came. If they knew you, they supported you. So even right up to the last days, they were behind us.

MA: You mean the last days leading up to...

GM: Yeah, last day to go, before going into the camp. Many of 'em, whites, looked at it as something that's got to be done, and there was nothing they could do about it. But as far as trust and things like that, they trusted us because we went to school together for years and years. The discrimination is, it's different in a big city. And I think Fife High School should be proud of the Japanese, which they are. And, because they served our country very well, as far as going into the service and doing things, and a number of Japanese kids that got killed. So a lot of the time, I didn't even know what discrimination was. As a person, as a person, not as a Japanese, people look at you and, and give you an ugly face or something like that. You can't tell if that's discrimination, because they may do that to somebody else that isn't Japanese. If you look at it in that sense, you didn't know if you're being discriminated against or not. It's when they come out verbally, then, then you know.

MA: Well, that's great. That's really interesting. You have a really interesting perspective.

GM: There's other things, too, you know, that, at the time, to me, we lived in a police state, which meant that, in my opinion, that you couldn't say anything, because it wasn't a free country. It was, if you said something, and if somebody didn't like it, they could throw you in jail and you didn't have any recourse as far as going to court or anything like that, because nobody cared. It's not like today, where there's laws to protect you and everything, and if something's wrong you could go to court. But in those days, they'd laugh at you if you made any remarks, especially if you were Japanese. 'Cause people just didn't trust you, and for anything you might say or do, they just throw you in the can and forget about you.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: So, George, we were talking about your high school experience and how the Japanese American students kind of fit in. I wanted to ask you what a typical... what was a typical day like for you, like a weekday, when you were a high school student?

GM: Well, getting off, getting up and going to school and enjoyed it. Not the studies, really.

MA: What did you enjoy?

GM: You had to do what you were assigned to do, certain things that you had to turn in and everything like that, but after school, of course, we had our different sports. And being a small guy, I never participated in the bigger, big man sports. I, I was a varsity wrestler, and the track manager. And it was quite nice, because at the end of the year, as a manager of track, you got a letter with a big "F" on it, and there's one stripe on your school sweater. And if you're on the varsity wrestling team, you also got another stripe. And an "F" with a big "W" at the bottom of it showing you were a wrestler. But kind of proud of that fact, and of course, in my senior class, I was the class treasurer, a lousy one at that.

MA: Why were you a lousy treasurer?

GM: I let some girl take care of it. [Laughs] But sort of a popularity contest, like. And since they didn't have any money in the treasury, it wasn't too important. [Laughs] But I did, one thing about Fife High School, we practically knew every student by the name, and that's the secret to this whole thing, that you didn't associate with everybody, but you knew their name, from the freshmen to the senior class, it was... at least I did. I knew everybody, and I knew where they lived, and I knew who their fathers were, or sisters were. So it was quite a community.

MA: I'm curious a little bit about, you're in high school and people are starting to date and be interested in others, and if there was ever any sort of interracial dating or anything like that.

GM: Yeah, there's, there's interracial, but it was kind of kept at a pretty low key. And by the time I was a senior, there was more than when I was a freshman, more, more, but it was kept at a minimum, not really serious. In other words, not as seriously as getting married. We looked at some guys and said, "Well, I think he might marry her," but they'd end up marrying somebody else. But, so... I guess dating had to do a lot with also cars, who had the cars and things like that. Who drank the most and who smoked a lot, and...

MA: Kind of sounds like today in some ways, still. [Laughs]

GM: Yeah, basically, it was, but in a lower key, you know. It wasn't so bad that you came home really drunk. We drank some, but... everything like that, but, you know, today they go wild because there's more, more things like dopes and stuff like that, that they get involved in. But in those days, we didn't have such thing as drugs and things like that. People'd get drunk, and things like motorcycles in the area. I remember we had eight guys that had motorcycles around Fife, and in the end, I think all eight of 'em got killed... [laughs]. So I have a bad impression of motorcyclists, you know, they either got killed or they got beat up so bad in motorcycle accidents that... in those days it was a little more risque as far as things were concerned. But I, one of my best friends was George Iwakiri, and his father owned an Oakland. And this Oakland was like those big, black gangster cars, twelve cylinders or something like that, and I went on some very, very rough rides with him, where we went over a hill where we flew off the top of the hill for about 15 feet before we hit the road again. And I also remember going down the River Road, which was gravel, on the Fife side. Straight, but gravel, hardtops, and it's on a dike, and we were going 85, 90 miles an hour in that car with him. [Laughs] And he wasn't drunk, either. I mean, he... just wild. I wouldn't even do that today in my brand-new car. But, and I remember also going out nights with him, and some older guy would get the beer for all of us. And although I didn't drink, I smoked, and I did a lot of dumb things. You know, it's dumb today, but in those days, it was kind of, kind of dumb.

MA: What were some of your, I guess, dreams or hopes for the future when you were in high school?

GM: I had no dreams. [Laughs] You mean as far as working and being somebody?

MA: Yeah.

GM: I really... I didn't even live for tomorrow, it's just today was the day, it seemed like. All I thought was I don't want to be a farmer. That was the one thing I didn't want to be.

MA: Why did you feel so strongly about that?

GM: Well, it wasn't my thing to get up early in the morning to feed the chickens and milk the cows, and come home after school and feed the chickens again and milk the cows again and bring in the horses and cattle and then go out and weed the onions and tie the carrots up and wash 'em and everything. And then after you get through with all that, you get into a bath and then study, and... it would just take too much time. It just, to me, now, I wasn't a -- like you say -- I wasn't a farmer's family. There was one other thing, too. My father paid me -- I don't know if he paid me -- he gave me a dollar a week. Well, he didn't give anything else to the other kids. And a dollar a week was like getting maybe, today, twenty or thirty dollars of spending money a day, a week, you know. And he'd give it to me all throughout my high school. And so I was always kind of, not flush, but I had money, and probably that was some of my faults.

MA: So he gave you sort of an allowance.

GM: Yeah, the allowance was just too much, 'cause I'd spend it.

MA: What did you spend your money on?

GM: I don't know, one of 'em was cigarettes, candy. [Laughs] And sports and stuff, there was a lot of activity. But I was luckier in that sense than the rest of the kids. And then, of course, that time I was in the senior year, my brother had to go in the army, so he had the '38 Chevy that I took over. And it added some more to my, what I'd want to do.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: Was your brother drafted?

GM: Yeah, uh-huh. He, he was one of the first ones originally drafted from the draft deal.

MA: Was that 1941 when he was drafted?

GM: I don't know, no, draft time before, I guess. He was 19-, yeah, in '41.

MA: But before Pearl Harbor, right?

GM: About eight months before Pearl Harbor. So he was in the army quite a bit before that. My brother used to write me letters, and every time I read his letters -- and I have some of 'em at home -- they're very much like a lecture.

MA: How so?

GM: Well, in his own way, he used to tell me why you had to do this in order to make, make it good later on, you know, and it's, it was quite a lecture about things. In fact, he, after the war, he talked me into going into the stock market, and he was quite involved in it at the time.

MA: Where was your brother stationed in that period when he was drafted, and right before Pearl Harbor? Was he...

GM: I really don't know, but I think it was somewhere in Arkansas, Fort Riley or someplace. I never had a record of that.

MA: How did your parents feel about your brother being in the military and being drafted?

GM: They were very proud of him. And my father, the whole family was. And when the war started, we were prouder yet, because it gave you some sort of an assurance, assurance that you'd be treated differently from anybody else. We had this, in those days, when you, a son went into the service, they gave you this flag that you displayed in your window. And it was about this big, and had this one star on it, a blue -- if I remember, a red and white type of flag, but it had a blue star in it, right in the middle. And if there was two sons, you got two stars, but, but if he died or got killed in action, I think you got the star. And you displayed it in your house or on the window or something like that. And we're talking about war, you let everybody know you got a brother in the service. My father was very proud of him.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: So when, December 1941, when Pearl Harbor happened, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, what were your memories of that, of that day or when you heard what happened?

GM: Well, I was with my dad at the time, when we heard it. And, of course, my brother was already in the service, and when we were listening to it, my father, oh, he let out so many cuss words that I never heard. [Laughs] But he really got mad, and it was very surprising to me, because I have to look at it, and my way was that since I was an American citizen and very proud of my country, I thought my dad was not an American, citizen of Japan, that he would be proud of Japan. And it surprised me that he was really mad at Japan, like anybody else. And it took me a while there to realize what was happening, because then I realized that, well, his oldest son was in the army, U.S. Army, for eight months then, and he came to this country and was there for forty-three years, and made this country his country. And the whole family was born in this country. Why wouldn't he be more American than anybody else? But at the time, I thought he was more pro-Japan because of the fact that being a citizen of Japan, that he would feel that way. But I was completely wrong. And my life after that was very strange, too, because I had, I was not proud of being Japanese. In fact, I was so mad that I, I wished I, God would made me something else, even a dog or a cat, you know. [Laughs] Because I didn't like this life right at that time as a Japanese, American or otherwise.

MA: What was it that made you feel so, so much like that? Was it because of Pearl Harbor?

GM: Yeah, because of Pearl Harbor and how people treated you. And it was pretty hard. So when you realized it, I guess discrimination was there, that you didn't really realize it. So, because you hated for being Japanese. And I know a lot of people felt that way, too, and there has to be a reason why you felt that way. It wasn't just because we were at war with Japan, it was because how we were being treated. Especially when you get thrown into the camp, and not only thrown into the camp, but there's a period of four or five months there before you get thrown into camp, that all the news is about throwing us into camp.

MA: You mean the time right after Pearl Harbor to when you were removed?

GM: To the time we were in camp, yeah. There's a period where you have to live that life as a Japanese American, and any news that came out was bad. In other words, I could always remember this one article, "How to Distinguish a Japanese from a Chinese." And, and you looked at these pictures, and they depict a Chinese and a Japanese, and said all these things and you had to laugh at the picture, but other people didn't laugh, they believed it. And it was a country that was going, in propaganda, to make you hate Japanese Americans. That was the worst thing.

MA: Did you feel any of this sort of backlash against Japanese Americans in Fife from your community members?

GM: Well, sure, you feel that, because it's there. And even if nobody else said that something's wrong with that article or something or they laugh at it, they're not about to say, "That's wrong." 'Cause if you did, you're on the other side of the fence again with other people. You have to go along with the people, and the people are against you. So, yeah, it isn't that we're thrown into camp and stuff and then went through all this, but, you know, one example is when I was on the front line fighting, I wrote this letter to my sister. I wrote that from the front line. I said, "This, I like this life better. It's a lot better than camp." So how bad was camp? Because I just described it was better, just like on the front line, it was better than, than the life in camp. So even if you said you had fun in camp, it wasn't as fun as being on the front line. [Laughs] These are things that people forget.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: I'm curious about the atmosphere in your own family, in your household at that, during those kind of months when you're saying, right before you were removed from your homes. What was that, what was it like in your family? Were people scared or nervous?

GM: No, the Japanese people didn't get scared, but they were worried. They worried about what they're going to do to us, 'cause they didn't tell us what they were gonna do to us. Where are they going to put us, okay. I know families, my wife's family for one, they went out and bought these great big tents, big tents, and they weighed about fifty to a hundred pounds each, they were heavy canvas tents, way before evacuation. Because, you know, you've got to have a roof over your head, right? And they don't tell you where they're going to put you, and then they went and bought sleeping bags. In the old days, those sleeping bags were like a canvas roll that rolled up big. They bought that and they bought it for each kid. And not only that, they said, "What are you going to eat with?" They had to buy kitchen utensils and stuff. And then what's the weather going to be like, what kind of clothes we're gonna have to bring, what kind of... they didn't tell you that. So when it came down to evacuation time, they told you that, "Okay, you got one week to go in, and you could only carry, bring in what you can carry." That limited you to very little. Pretty hard to put an unknown life into one suitcase, because the necessities comes first. You got to have sheets, blankets, shoes, clothes, cooking stuff if you had to cook, they didn't tell you what you had to do there. Things like that. And you couldn't bring things like hatchets, axes, saws, hammers, all those things are... and there's a lot of things prior to that that you couldn't have in your possession. Knives over three inches long, you couldn't even cut a loaf of bread, and stuff like that.

There were a lot of things there that we don't talk about too much, I guess. I don't know if they, these people you interviewed have ever told about some of those little things. It's really, at that time, sanitary napkins for young ladies and women, to me, I was too young to realize what a problem that was, you know. And you can buy boxes and boxes, you could take it into camp with you, but it wasn't there available in camp, either. And the inconvenience for these people was there, but they never talked about it, as far as I know. And as far as sanitary napkins, Kotex and stuff like that, people talking about, "What do we use? All the toilet paper in the place?" [Laughs] Things like that, you know. Didn't bother me, because I didn't have to worry about that. But when you realize some of those things that the women had to go through, they don't even talk about it today, and I don't even know how they even got by. But this preparation for going into camp was very traumatic for many people. They laugh about it today, but most of 'em don't even talk about it. Fact, as far as my cases goes, I told my sisters, "I don't even know how I left that morning to go into camp to the time I went into camp."

MA: You mean you don't remember that journey?

GM: Not at all. I remember going to the gate.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: I actually wanted to go back a little bit and talk about, so you were a senior in high school at this point, right?

GM: Uh-huh.

MA: When you were in school, did you ever feel uncomfortable or, because of your ethnicity? Or what was the reaction of the other students?

GM: Well, you're always, you're always uncomfortable. Because you couldn't pry from these people how they felt against you. Some came out openly, but you didn't know if they were telling you the truth, or just telling you because they didn't want to make you feel bad. But I think the natural, normal cause was they didn't like you, just because you're Japanese, and that's what hurts. Some of your best friends weren't as friendly as they were before, and you could feel it. And, and you didn't know why they weren't friendly, but they kept it to themselves more or less, I think. You're always on the defensive.

It's like one day I... later on, after the war, I went to a lutefisk dinner with my wife and kid, 'cause we were invited by a good friend of hers. And we went to this lutefisk dinner, and we walked into this Norwegian hall. [Laughs] Everybody looked at us: three Japanese coming walking into a lutefisk dinner. And I click back at that as something right before the war, all the people looked at you, "What the hell are they doing here?" [Laughs] It's just, it wasn't quite as bad, because at that time I was able to face anybody anyway, but, but I know it must have been awful strange for my son to walk in there and have everybody all of a sudden pay their attention to you without saying anything.

MA: Well, it sounds like, you know, just when you were in high school and after, after Pearl Harbor and everything, it must have hurt a lot. These people, Fife being such a small community, close-knit community, and all of a sudden treating you differently. I can't imagine how that must have been. Really tough.

GM: It's hard, I think it's hard to explain, because I think we all forgot that, really. It, I remember the day of the graduation. They gave twenty of us Japanese seniors a special graduation. And during that graduation, towards the end of the ceremony, Yuki Kubo, who was valedictorian, and maybe student body president, I forget. But anyway, she got up and presented the Fife High School with a big American flag by the people who were going away. And before she finished presenting it, she stopped to cry. And I was down on the middle of the gym floor in these nice, soft chairs, and when that happened, the whole school started crying with her, and she had a hard time finishing. But I looked around the all, balcony and the back and everybody was crying, I couldn't believe. And at that time, I got more, a better feeling how the community felt towards us. We were really sad, and on the fiftieth anniversary of class reunion, it was in Puyallup, and I took Yuki Kubo with me -- she was Fudge Shoji's wife now -- I took her with me because Fudge didn't want to go. And at that time, I told her about this incident, and I said, "Do you remember?" And she said, "No, I don't remember a thing about it." She forgot this whole incident, yet when I went to the class reunion, that's all they talked about, the kids. "I remember," they say. It was so touching that... and so some things you can't describe today, but those things did happen.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MA: So they had this special graduation ceremony for the, for the Nisei students that were leaving?

GM: They had another --

MA: And then the next day, what happened?

GM: Well, oh, the, that's right. The next day, we were in camp. That was another thing, you know. We graduated that day, the next day we were behind barbed wire fence, and all the students knew that, too. And then we were in camp, of course, I was in Area B, which you could see through because there was nothing but barbed wires and barracks. We waved to our friends passing by to see us. They'd come by and wave at us, and we'd wave at them. So they still came to see us. In fact, at one point during our stay in Puyallup, two of the girls came and saw Bill Mizukami in Area C, and came over to see me in Area B, and they let them into the camp, in a special room to talk to us, and it was a little different from what we were accustomed to, you know, guns pointing at you and stuff like that. But they did let 'em come into the camp.

MA: So your friends made an effort to stay in touch with you a little bit?

GM: Uh-huh. Well, up to that point. After that, I never heard from them again. But they did come to see us after we went into Puyallup.

MA: How far away was the Puyallup Assembly Center from your home?

GM: Well, it's about, about six miles away from my home and the school. So that was pretty close, so you didn't feel really lost.

MA: What was your reaction when you kind of got to Puyallup and saw the barbed wire, and yet you were still in your own hometown? What was that like?

GM: That's hard to say because we forget a lot of things, but I guess the Japanese have a word for it: gaman, "take it as it comes." But the... but there are some things in your heart that you can't forget, and that is the day you walked through that gate, you know you lost something. Up to that point, it was news or something like that. But when you walk through that gate, you know you lost something. 'Cause, you know, the gate's got guards and barbed-wire fence and everything, and you're walking from a free life into a confined life. And I know one thing, it was hard to explain to somebody what was it like in camp, because we never tell them the truth, what it was like in camp. It was horrible. The idea was horrible. But being Japanese and how we react to those kind of things, because we're trained from our younger childhood days, we took it. It's gaman, we took it as it came, and we didn't fight it. But from there on, you're confined in this little boxy area, you could only walk a hundred yards or so, going the longest distance from one end to the other, and you got, soldiers were on you and guns pointed at you, machine guns above you. And you're not even thinking about escaping or anything, that was out of the question. But you're trying to figure out how to make the best of it.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MA: I wanted to ask you about, earlier you had said that, you know, you had felt, you were patriotic and you loved your country, yet at the same time, you were being put behind barbed wire, without a trial, you have done nothing wrong. How did you kind of deal with those feelings, those two different kind of feelings? On one hand feeling, loving your country and being patriotic, and on the other hand...

GM: Well, you never give up loving your country, 'cause it's your country and you don't have any other choice. That's one of the things. We didn't want any other choice, and the experience to us was new. We've never been through this thing before, and I guess we tried to make the best of it. And I think the thing that hurt us most was that the government, after Pearl Harbor, reclassified us, and they didn't want no part of us in the army or the service. And that hurt the, a lot of young people, because they wanted to go in and be like everybody else. It wasn't so much as fighting for your country, but I think being like some-, everybody else. And being patriotic, it's not something that you want to be patriotic, it's something that's born, embedded into you so that you want to do certain things because that's what you believe in. You've got to remember, we went to school from first grade, and "pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America," every morning, and saluted the flag. And you can't be more loyal to your country after all that, for twelve years of it, practically, and give up on your country just like that. There was no such thing as giving up. You had to say that whatever they're doing is wrong, but we have to right it. Those things, you can't do it by yourself. It takes a lot of work to correct any kind of mistake that this country make. And that's why when the redress comes through, one of the most important things that we appreciated was an apology. And an apology is just a number of words there, that's all, but that was, happened to be the most important thing. It wasn't the money they gave us, because most of us by then didn't need that money. But the apology was a very important thing, we suffered through that.

MA: Did your parents ever talk to you about how they were feeling during that time in Puyallup?

GM: No, except when I told my mother that I wanted to go, I was going to go in the army, I want to volunteer, and her feeling was a more motherly feeling, that she cried all night and said that, "One boy in the family is enough." And it is enough for a mother. My father probably didn't give a damn, that much, I mean, you know. But only thing about my dad was that when I come back, then I knew how much he felt, 'cause we had a real joyous reunion out there in the front yard, hugging and dancing around.

MA: When you came back from the war?

GM: Yeah. So he didn't show it, but he showed it when I come home. Those were some things, well, I guess a normal family it's all the same if your son comes home.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

MA: So in Puyallup, how did you, what was your daily life like? I mean, how did you occupy your time?

GM: [Laughs] First of all, I don't know if people talk about it, but you know, you have to eat. So there's always a battle trying to get your food. Getting in line, and you don't want to be the last one in line because there might not be any food left. That was one, the other was how to occupy your time. People who liked to read, read books and stuff, that's okay, but for me, as a seventeen-year-old kid, I'm anxious for some kind of activity. And it, it was kind of tough trying to figure out what to do. I used to knock out knots out of the buildings just for the fun of it. And you know, those barracks were just, didn't have any tarpaper or anything on it. When the hot summer months came along, all the wood dried up and all the knots got loose and we used to knock 'em out and watch people stuff paper in those holes and peek into people's rooms, because the, the wood would separate and they would caulk it up with newspaper. Although there was enough, there was enough things to do, but the, not being much time for you to do the things you want to do. I used to go back and talk to the soldier guarding the back, back part of the camp.

MA: Oh, really?

GM: And I used to talk to 'em and asked them if they were born in this country, and tell 'em, "Well, that makes you an American citizen." Then you tell 'em, "Well, I was born in this country, too. I'm an American citizen," and put a confusion in their mind, because a lot of these soldiers were regular army, and they didn't have any education at all. A lot of 'em were so dumb, they, it's a wonder they even got in the army. And...

MA: Did they understand what was going on with the...?

GM: A lot of 'em didn't. But after a while, talking to them and everything, they started to understand more. Then the, towards the, after a few months of that, their soldiers were talking about, "Now, you got a brother in the army, and how come you're in the camp here?" and stuff like that. And you explain to 'em easily that, "Well, because I got Japanese blood in me." And it got to a point where they were very sympathetic for, for the cause there, for us as far as being there. So they didn't really treat us bad. There couldn't be too many bad things you could do to treat us bad, although my first week in camp I got beat up.

MA: You got beat up?

GM: Yeah, I got beat up the first, first week in camp by the chief of police. And I didn't do anything wrong; I was sitting close to the fence waving to my friends passing by -- there was about four or five other kids, you know, the end barrack facing the road -- and this guy comes along, somebody that didn't have a badge or anything like that. He comes over and he says, "Hey, you kids," he says, "get the hell out of there." And everybody got up just like somebody taking orders. I just sat there and I looked up at the guy and I says, "Who are you?" And he picked me up and beat the hell out of me. Boy, he, I don't know how many times he hit me, but, but Hippo Sakahara, you know, the Sakahara insurance? He's dead now, but, was from Fife. And he came along and he told the guy, he says, "Put that kid down or I'll kill you." And he dropped me -- [laughs] -- and walked away.

MA: Do you ever know why he picked on you in that way?

GM: Well, I guess I shouldn't have said, "Who are you?" He says, "I'm the chief of police here." And, and the thing that I should have got very bitter about this whole incident, but I didn't at that time, because this guy was a Japanese, too. He was working in the camp as the chief of police. And I was so mad because I was Japanese, he was Japanese, and said, "What are you doing to me?" You know, you're my enemy, in a sense. And since I wasn't doing anything wrong, it was worse.

MA: Did, this is still in Puyallup?

GM: This was still at Puyallup, yeah.

MA: Did you notice any other tension among the, the people in camp?

GM: Not really, although they kept a pretty good life in there where they didn't cause any trouble. I know I did some things wrong in camp that I didn't get caught at. [Laughs] One of 'em was -- I gotta tell you this one -- I got hungry. Two of us got hungry, and we decided to sneak into the mess hall and find something to eat. And we crawled through this hole and got inside, in the mess hall and couldn't find anything to eat, except there was two Coke bottles, two bottles of Coke along the wall. And I said, "Oh boy, that's nice." We took the two Coke bottles, and there was a couple empty ones there, too, so we filled it up with a little shoyu and water and put the cap back on and replaced it with these two bottles of Coke. And so we got out of there with the Coke, and we decided to drink the Coke and took a swig of that and it was awful. And so I said, "Oh, that's bad." He said, "Throw it away." So we threw it away. What it was -- I didn't know what it was until the next day, really. The next day, I saw a real good fight between two of the cooks. And one of the cooks took this other guy and threw him in this children's wading pond, headfirst. And he said, "That's what you get for stealing my wine." [Laughs] And I said, "Oh," I said, "let's get out of here." He, it was wine that we stole, that they were making in the kitchen.

MA: Did they ever figure out it was you?

GM: They never figured that one out, he would have really beat me up. I don't know who the cooks were, but that's the last time I snuck into that place. But I don't know if that's wrong, just sneaking into the kitchen because you wanted something to eat, but part of the fun I had.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

MA: Do you remember the journey you took to Minidoka?

GM: Did I remember what part of...

MA: When you were traveling to Minidoka?

GM: Oh, to Mini-, yeah.

MA: What was that like?

GM: Well, leaving camp was leaving Fife, because it was so close to home, that's one. The other thing was they never told us where we're going. They never told us what they're going to do with us. And I even thought that they'll, maybe they'll take us out in the desert and shoot us, you know. That's kind of feeling I had, but I knew there was an advance bunch of guys that went to Idaho to fix up a place, so the rumors was that we're probably going to one of those camps that they're building. But I still didn't forget about what they might do to us.

MA: Was that a common fear among the people in camp, was that no one knew...

GM: I think so. I think so, because they, they didn't know what's going to happen. They didn't tell us any, anything about what, what we're going to do, where we're going. And then when you got into the train, to make things worse, they told you to pull all the curtains down. Now, what was the reason for not letting the public see you in these trains? Were they trying to hide something that they were going to do? We had to pull our curtains down, and, of course, I knew the train went past Point Defiance Park, or the Narrows up there, and I wanted to see that from a train. And I did take some peeks out of the window, but after you get over the mountain, there's nothing more than deserts, so there's nothing to see out there once you're in the train. Even today, if you go past the mountains, the Cascades, there's really nothing to see between here and Chicago. [Laughs] It's, it's all desert. But we went to Idaho and...

MA: What were your initial impressions when you arrived at Minidoka?

GM: It was at a spur. A spur is sort of a offshoot of a railroad track that goes to one place, it's a dead end. And this spur was probably around a couple miles from the camp. And from there, they bussed you into camp... I don't know I got there, I think it was a bus. And we started our daily life there. Hard to remember what it was like day by day, but once you got into camp and settled down, it's kind of hard to take because it was the elements that you had to worry about. I think it was very hot then, and boy, when you've got hot weather and no place to go and no trees to sit under, or anything like that, it can get pretty hot there. And later on, of course, the winters got so cold you couldn't stand the cold, and if it rained, the rain in the desert there would soak into the ground, but since the camp area been traveled over and over, the ground was broken up into a fine dust. So when it rained, that dust became a quagmire of cocoa-like -- [laughs] -- and you were knee-deep in mud. But not the kind of mud that you see where you step into it and get a pile of dirt, it was so thin that it was, you could walk through it, you don't have to lift your feet up out of the, that mud, and it was miserable, but stayed out of the mud as much as possible.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MA: Did you have a job in camp?

GM: Yeah, I had, I worked as a swamper on a truck, and that got me more involved with the older guys. And that was, I worked on...

MA: You mean the older Nisei, or...

GM: Uh-huh. They were all the truck drivers. Worked on Haribo, Haribo's crew, which is Harry Yanagimachi, big guy, tough guy, no nonsense kind of guy. And I worked with Grant Beppu on his truck most of the time. And most of the jobs were going to work, loading up the truck, taking it to all the mess halls, dumping off their stuff they need and then coming back and unloading it or unloading the train, or sometime going to town, to Twin Falls. And bring home fish, frozen fish or food, and basically, that was the job. But it was one of the better jobs, I'd say.

MA: You mean, one of the better jobs that you could have in camp?

GM: Well, not the best job, but one of the better jobs as far as having fun and everything.

MA: What was the best job that, kind of, people wanted to do?

GM: Well, the best job probably was administration, for women, like, working as a secretary and things like that.

MA: How did people get those jobs, those administration jobs?

GM: Well, like any government job, it was who you know, I think. So before the war, a lot of these guys were well-known in the community, they actually got the best jobs, I think.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

MA: So at this point, how many people are actually living in your, in your barrack with your family? There was you, your parents, what about your siblings?

GM: Yeah, my sister. My oldest sister, she got married in camp. My other sister got married before we went into camp, so...

MA: So she went with her own family, her husband?

GM: Yeah, she had her husband, but they had their own barrack, barrack room. And my sister, the older sister, got married in camp, so that left my dad, my mother and me.

MA: I'm curious about this... so she had her wedding in, in Minidoka?

GM: My sister's wedding? Yeah, my sister had a... well, she got married to a Kihara, and Kiharas owned the, the Main Fish Company here in Seattle. And they were relatively well-to-do, and he worked in the administration building. And when he got married, they had the reception in the mess hall, and he invited a lot of people, the white bosses and everything, lot of those were invited, including the head man. And they came to the reception and wedding, and a strange thing happened. To me, it was very strange because I didn't know what he was doing, but he had a bottle of, at least a bottle of whiskey, a bottle of sake, all the beer you want, had gin, everything, on every table.

MA: How did he get all this alcohol?

GM: [Laughs] Well, with his connection before the war, in Denver, I don't know how he got it in, but he got it in. And it was one big hell of a party. And all these big shots that were there, they kind of turned their heads the other way, they're having a good time, you know. They didn't say, "Where did you get this?" or what, they just... by this time, the camp was pretty well settled, see. And it was a party. I tell you, they had more, I got so drunk. 'Course, that was another story. [Laughs]

MA: So then the, the white, kind of, camp administrators actually showed up to the wedding... is that right?

GM: Yeah, that's, that was the end of it. I mean, they, they didn't say nothing bad about it, they just showed up there and had a good time. It was amazing, everything was done wrong. I mean, you weren't supposed to have any liquor or anything in there. And, of course, being on a truck myself, or going in and out of town, I used to smuggle my whiskey into camp, but that was small compared to what I saw there, because the thing about it was that they had sake from Denver, and you couldn't find that in Twin Falls. And the sake bottles were big, tall bottles compared to other bottles, and how they got 'em into camp is beyond me. Because they shipped it all in there, and it was really something.

MA: I bet that wedding was kind of the talk of the camp. [Laughs]

GM: Oh, I don't know. I guess lot of us was awful surprised. But it was some party.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

MA: So, George, we were talking about your experience in Minidoka, and I wanted to go over a little bit, when the government called for Japanese American volunteers in 1943, and what your reaction was to that.

GM: I thought it was great, because of all the guys I worked with, a good percentage wanted to go in, and when that call came through to go in, a lot of 'em went in. All my friends went in.

MA: Was there ever any discussion about, "Why is the government doing this now after they, you know, kicked us out of the army, but now they want us." Was there any sort of...

GM: No, everybody had his own ideas about that. The chance to go in was greater, and the action that these people took to, to this, will prove that. For instance, you know, you had to take a physical, and you had to pass the physical before you could even go in, okay. And I'm a bystander at this point, because all the older guys were going in, and I wasn't ready to go in with them. It wasn't long after I wanted to go in, but the guys I worked with, everybody wanted to go in. And so they took the physical at the hospital in Minidoka. Like mine, when I went in, I took my physical in Boise, but these guys had to go to the hospital there and take their physicals. And I guess some of the physical was run by some of the doctors in the camp there. [Laughs] Anyway, if you had a flat feet, you would be rejected. If you had bad eyes, you were rejected, and there was a number of things that you get rejected for. And there was this talk about, "How do we beat this thing?" because we didn't have very good eyes; most of the Japanese wore glasses. Well, then some funny stories come out of this, and one of the stories I've heard, this guy gets up and the doctor says, "Okay, read the, the line you could read," and the guy gets up and he reads the whole thing, see. And the doctor would say, "Well, that's pretty good, but you're looking, for a guy that's looking at the wrong, wrong part of the room." He said, "The chart is behind you." [Laughs] That was one of the funniest stories. And then another one, story, was a guy read the chart, and the doctor says, "That's pretty good," he said, "but we changed the chart." [Laughs] He says, "You've got the wrong chart." The other one was, if you didn't want to go in, he says, "You got to get your heart to pump." So if you want, don't want to get in, just drink a lot of shoyu. A cup, a half a cup of shoyu will make your heart pump like mad. [Laughs]

MA: So there were little, like, techniques that people knew how to do to either get in or get out. [Laughs]

GM: How to get in, how to get out. And things like that. But then the worst case was the people who wanted to get in real bad and couldn't get in.

MA: Were there many people that that happened to?

GM: Well, it happened to, in my case, I went to Boise to get a physical, and my, passenger in my seat was Manabu Fujino, I don't know if I should mention name, but he was a great athlete; basketball, baseball, a real athlete. And here I was, a skinny old guy, and we rode side-by-side to Boise, both hoping everything will come out good. And Manabu got rejected, and it was either from his flat feet or by his glasses, two things. And he was sad, and here I passed the test, and I was happy. I was worried, too, because when I was taking the test, they called me to another room and they said report to this room, and told me to take my clothes off and get on the table, something the other people didn't have to do. And I said, "What's this?" This big machine there and this, wires and stuff, and they hooked me up to a bunch of wires, you know, and I says, "What's wrong?" And he says, "Well, we, we can't find any blood in you." [Laughs] And they hooked me up and took the test and they said, "Okay," he said, "I guess you passed." And that's where they get this, if you got any warm blood in you, you could get in. [Laughs] But I was happy, 'cause I really wanted to get in.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

MA: But going back a little bit, I mean, when the government initially called for volunteers, what, what happened to you?

GM: I was, I wasn't just feeling ready to go in with them, because they were all about three or four years older than I was, and I, well, I wanted to go in, but I didn't feel like I should go in with them.

MA: And you were saying earlier, your mother had a particular reaction when you told her you wanted to volunteer.

GM: Yeah, well, see, after they went in and were fighting, then I wanted to get in with them. And I told my mother that I'm going to volunteer to go in. And my mother says, "One in the family is enough," and she cried all night long. And I just couldn't stand her crying all night long, and the next morning, I said, "Oh, I'm not going to go in." But funny thing about it, two months later, I was in.

MA: How, how did that happen? Were you drafted?

GM: Yeah. And it's strange because I could have volunteered there, and then decided not to go in because of my mother, and I was drafted right after that, and I was in two months later. Then the sad part about it was that my mother died two months later after that, when I was at... it was more than two months, I guess, it was when I was at Mississippi.

MA: Camp Shelby? So she passed away in camp?

GM: Yeah.

MA: How did she die?

GM: And I don't know what she died of, some kind of a respiratory disease that she died from, but I never got the story how she died.

MA: Had she been sick at all?

GM: No. When I left her, she was working in the kitchen, and they had to take these physicals to work in the kitchen, you know, and have a clean bill of health, and two months later, she was gone. So I, I never questioned it. I came back for emergency furlough and stuff like that. But... I suppose it was a pretty big blow to my dad.

MA: 'Cause after your mom passed away, then it was just him, right? In your, in your barrack?

GM: Did what?

MA: It was just him, wasn't it?

GM: Oh yeah, you mean at that, at home now, uh-huh.

MA: In Minidoka, yeah.

GM: Yeah, because my other sister was married. Yeah, luckily there was, they were still around, but... my dad, well, he took it pretty well. He was a tough guy.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

MA: So you went to Camp Shelby then. Was that 1944 when you went to basic training?

GM: Yeah, early '44.

MA: How were you feeling when you kind of left camp for basic training in Mississippi?

GM: Oh, I was happy. [Laughs] It was, it was like going on a vacation, yeah. Getting out of one place and going into something new, I was really gung-ho for this. Of course, now, when I got into Shelby, I kind of regretted in time because it wasn't that easy.

MA: Were there already a bunch of Nisei already at Camp Shelby when you arrived?

GM: Oh, yeah. See, the original bunch of 442nd had gone overseas, but they left enough cadres and trainers and everything behind at Camp Shelby to take the new group in.

MA: So you were training to be replacements for the people already in Europe?

GM: Well, we're, they knew where we were going, that's one thing. We're training 442nd, yeah, so these guys were training us for that.

MA: What are your thoughts on -- I mean, you were in Mississippi as a Japanese American. What were your thoughts, I guess, witnessing the kind of, you know, racial dynamics down in the South?

GM: Well, in the camp or outside of camp?

MA: I guess both.

GM: Well, in the camp, there were some pretty bad remarks made at us in camp. And one of 'em was they brought in some soldiers from Attu islands in Alaska, and they bivouacked, or they had the barracks across the street from us. And they didn't know too much about the 442nd or us, and they were taunting us.

MA: Were these, sorry, were these white soldiers?

GM: All white soldiers, yeah. And they were taunting us across the street. This is funny, because we didn't like it. And finally, they decided that... some of the guys decided that we'll get everybody in the last barrack there across the street with their guns and bayonets. And they got into this barrack and they said, "Don't hurt anybody, but we'll make a banzai charge with bayonets at them." And what happened was they yelled like mad and made the charge, "Yaaaaah," you know, like what they call a typical Japanese soldier -- [laughs] -- and chased them out of there, and they took off. And it was only, the only worst part of this whole thing was at the time that it happened, the general of the fort was coming by on his jeep, and ordered, they quarantined both sides. They quarantined us in our barracks for two days, two or three days, and quarantined the other side, and moved them to the other end of the camp and says, and gave 'em orders, "Don't fool around with these guys," of course, they found out by then anyway. But we had a big laugh out of that. But those are the funny things that happened. It's nothing to get mad about, it's just that we used our bluff and see what kind of a brave soldiers they were. And they just took off when they saw everybody coming at them with bayonets. You don't want to see anybody coming at you with a big old bayonet. I sure, I know what I would do, I'd be running. But that was one incident inside camp.

We had our personal fights among ourselves, mostly between the Hawaiians and the mainland people because of the... if I was a Hawaiian talking pidgin, and the guy that you're talking to looks at you as if you don't understand, there'd be a little conflict there, and they think that they're making fun of them. And so there was that conflict, but not too much because they got pretty used to that, and we got used to their speech, and they talked better English later and we talked better pidgin. Usually mostly pidgin. And then when we went out of the camp, this is where we saw, I saw, walking down the streets of Hattiesburg, I was surprised to see a white man could walk down the streets of Hattiesburg, and all the black people move aside for him. Clear case of prejudice, discrimination. Anyway, that was the way of life for them over there. But the strangest part was when we'd walk down the street, the Japanese walked down the street, the blacks moved aside for us, and that was hard to understand. Because here it was, the Japanese soldiers that were being prejudiced against, and here was blacks that were in the same position, and they were moving aside for us, like we were white.

MA: What was your, kind of, reaction when they moved aside? I mean, did you ever kind of talk to them about that?

GM: No. We, in my opinion, we just took it as, "Hey, these guys are moving aside for us, let 'em move aside." Yeah. But you, it wasn't there that I realized the seriousness of that condition, it's something that, thinking about it, that is, that wasn't right.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

MA: How were you treated by the whites in, in Hattiesburg?

GM: Well, in Hattiesburg, we were treated very good. There was very, very little animosity against us. But the governor, of course, when we got, when the original 442nd guys got there, welcomed all the 442nd people and told them that, "You will be treated as white."

MA: Wow.

GM: That's what I think Danny, Senator Inouye was talking about that. He said when you first got there, he said, when they made that speech, he said, "You'll be treated as whites." And by the time we got there, we were treated very good. One of the reason I think is that these Hawaiian kids came to Shelby with lots of money. Lots of, lots of money. And the guys from the camps didn't have any money. But the Hawaiian guys go into these places and was giving everybody big tips, you know, $20, $30, 50 dollar tips. And they were surprised at that kind of a generosity. And I think the word got around that -- from what I heard -- of these, some of these cases, guys used to tell me when I was training, that, "Oh, So-and-so used to go in camp and throw his money around, or go into town and throw money around."

But I think it was, in other parts of the country that I saw, our train was going to camp Shelby, and I forget what town it was, Albuquerque or some town, train stopped at, we stopped the train, and our train was all Japanese. And when the train stopped, they told us to, "You got thirty minutes, but don't leave the station, because we're going to take off in thirty minutes, but you can get off the train." And we got off the train and got on the train platform, and we're going to go into the station, but now we had this problem: two doors, about fifteen feet apart, one says "colored" and the other one said "white." And we looked at these signs before going in, and, "Oh, my God, now what do we do? We're not 'colored,' we're not 'white.'" I kept looking, guys says, "Oh, the hell with it." They just, they all went into both doors. Some went into the "black" door, or the "colored" door at that time, and others went to the "white" door. I went to the white door, because that's the door in front of me. And when I got inside, then the commotion started. The stationmaster was all excited, he came running to the "colored" door, and kept pushing guys out, because said that, "You can't come through here," you know. And there's people behind him pushing to get in. And since these doors were so close apart, I decided, "What's going on?" I went over there, and the, I saw the, what was happening, so I got in front of the stationmaster and got pushed out. And came back to the "white" door, came back in, got in front of this guy, and he pushed me out again. [Laughs] 'Cause there was nothing in the station that was of interest, it was one big room once you got inside. So this stationmaster kept pushing guys out of the "black" door -- the "colored" doors -- and we kept going round and round in circles. Then the thirty minutes was up and he says, "All aboard," and everybody had to jump on the train. And we got into the train laughing like mad because, boy, that was fun. [Laughs] If you're going through the "white" door and coming out of the "black" door, and it was, it was really something. And then at the same time, people coming off the train were trying to get through the door. And here's this guy trying to push everybody out of that door. It was really a funny situation. Then you saw this discrimination in a real form there.

MA: What do you mean, "in its real form"?

GM: Well, you saw a white pushing out people because they're coming through the wrong door and everything, and these doors were for whites only, and colored people only.

MA: Were you surprised that the white people in the south considered the Japanese Americans white? Did that surprise you?

GM: No, that wasn't so surprising, but the surprising fact that I saw, not in person, but when I'm reading about it, was that the Chinese was not considered white; the Japanese were. Now, why would that be? And in South Africa, strictly, Japanese could go into a, a swimming pool, Chinese couldn't. Not with the whites. So, funny, isn't it? It's strange that the whites considered Chinese dirtier than the Japanese, yet you couldn't tell the difference there.

MA: It's surprising, too -- yeah, it's surprising, too, at this time when there's so much, you know, anti-Japanese sentiment on the West Coast and in general, that it would be that way.

GM: Well, there was that type of discrimination, that's really strange that, that you couldn't understand. And there was more respect given to Japanese, even though they were "enemies," sort of, in their eyes, if you compared it to Chinese and Japanese Americans.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

MA: So how long were you at Camp Shelby? You got there, you said, at the beginning of '44?

GM: I don't know. Six, seven months? Seven months?

MA: How well... I guess, how well did your training at Camp Shelby prepare you for the real thing?

GM: Well, it wasn't, what I expected was that they train us to fight the war. But what, what it was was a basic, what we call the basic training. And it was a conditioning of civilian life to army life: hard marches, how to shoot the guns, techniques in bayonet fighting, reading compasses and things like that.

MA: So what exactly were you expecting when you...

GM: Well, I was expecting more of infighting, what you call a little closer type of fighting situations and things like that. And that's, that's why I got in trouble at Camp Shelby. See, I was a private, and towards the end of the basic training, I told the sergeant that lived with us in the same barrack, I says, asked him if he was going to go overseas with us, and he says, "Yeah," and I said, "Well, why don't you teach us something?" You know, it was kind of insult to him, because I didn't realize he was teaching us things that he was supposed to, but not the things that I wanted to learn. I want to learn how to fight, and they were just teaching you the basics, how to march and stuff like that. Well, that didn't go over with the sergeant very good, because two days later, he awarded me the BAR.

MA: What's the BAR?

GM: BAR is this Browning Automatic Rifle. It's a big gun, it's a deadly gun, probably the best gun for the army, and, but it's heavy. It's a twenty-one-pound gun, where the rest of them carried a nine-pound gun, twenty-one-pound gun could be pretty hard on you on a long march.

MA: So no one really wanted to do BAR?

GM: No, no. Besides, in the wartime, if you carried a BAR during the war, on the front line, if a sniper was going to fire at a bunch of you, he'd pick out the BAR man first, so you're the prime target. So that makes it a little bit more exciting. So I'm a BAR man, so there now I learned all about the BAR, how to put it apart, take it apart and put it together, even in total darkness. I could do it blindfolded. You know, it's a complicated gun. And I got the gun and like I say, got me in trouble because on these 25-mile hikes, I got tired first before the rest of the guys got tired, or I got cramp in the leg. And of course, that led me to a whole bunch of other problems, too. I had to pull out of the march because I got cramp in my leg, and first sergeant got mad at me because I was the only one in the outfit that dropped out, and he put me on KP duty.

MA: What's KP duty?

GM: Kitchen Police. Wash all the dishes and all the stoves and everything. I was on this duty for three days while everybody was shooting their guns, and then after, I got a small chance of firing my gun, but not a complete chance, and I missed the target every time, and the guy at the target gave me a bull's-eye every time.

MA: Why did he do that?

GM: I don't know. At the end of the day, he must have been in a hurry to get out of there. But every time I shot, I missed the target because my bullet's hitting the ground in front of the target. In fact, halfway to the target it was hitting the ground. And the guy kept telling me to, "Raise your sights," and I kept raising my sights, but it was raising it in the wrong direction, so the bullet went farther off, and the guy kept giving me a bull's-eye at the target. He probably couldn't find where I hit the bull's-eye, hit the target, so he gave me a bull's-eye. So I got bull's-eye all the way through my target practice, and they made me, gave me a medal, "expert BAR man." Which just now I get this MOS, my specialty is BAR, so when I go overseas, I'm one of the six guys that got picked out from our group and I had to join I Company before the other guys did, and they gave us a automatic rifle, which ended up to be a BAR. [Laughs] So, but I loved the gun so much I enjoyed it. It was a terrific gun. There was some thrill in it, because you know that you're gonna be shot first, before the rest, by a sniper. [Laughs]

MA: So you thought that was an exciting thing? [Laughs]

GM: Yeah, you know, they had to pick me out first. And it was really funny because of the fact that when I first joined the company, two days later, Yahachi Sagami from Fife came to me and greeted me to the 442nd and he says, "What kind of gun did you get?" What company I was in, I said, "I Company," "Yeah, that's a company." He said "What kind of a gun did you get?" And I said, "I got a BAR." And he got excited and he says, "Get rid of it." Because his brother, one week before, seven days before, got a bullet right between his eyes by a sniper, and he said, told me, he said, "Yohei got hit seven days ago by a sniper, because he carried a BAR." He said, "Get rid of the gun if you want to, don't want to get killed."

MA: What did you respond to that?

GM: I didn't, that made him more excited, sort of, like. I didn't care. But then he says, "Who's your platoon sergeant? And I think, "I think it's Kash."

MA: You mean Shiro Kashino?

GM: Yeah, Shiro Kashino. He said, "What?" He said, "Get the hell out of the company. He'd kill you." [Laughs] And that made it more exciting yet. But that, that was a good thing, because Shiro was one of the best men I ever worked for. He was terrific. He gave you so much confidence, I was never scared of the war under him. Him and Lieutenant Kubota, a lieutenant, and Shiro was, I think, two of the finest men in the whole outfit. They cared for their men; both of them cared a lot about the men under him, you know, and that made a lot of difference, because you felt so confident. If they were scared, you'd go scared, too, you know. But they were really good, and Kash was a little bit crazy. He'd, trouble with him was that he, he let himself do some of the dirty work before asking somebody to do, because he figured they might get killed. But he'd do it himself and that's the kind of guy he was.

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

<Begin Segment 27>

MA: So going back a little bit, you were in Camp Shelby for about seven, eight months, then you started your journey to Europe, you're shipping out to Europe. What was your, what was running through your head when you were leaving the U.S. to go overseas and fight in the war?

GM: Excitement.

MA: So you were excited? Was there any sort of fear, or...

GM: No, there was no fear in it. You know, there's more fear than getting on the freeway with your car, you know. Going to war is, really, it's an exciting thing. It's only, that excitement goes away only after you get hit, and you get the real taste of a bullet, then you know that, hey, you can get killed in this war, like when I got hit. When I came back to the line, I was more cautious than I was when I got hit.

MA: But going over there initially, it was kind of a sense of excitement and adventure for you?

GM: Yeah. Otherwise, you couldn't get all these soldiers to go overseas today. They'd be so scared of going over there, that they'd run away before they even got on the boat.

MA: So when you arrived in -- where did you actually land when you got...

GM: Well, we left New York on the Queen Mary, a very fast ship, took only five and a half days to go across, no escorts. Other guys went across in convoys with a whole bunch of other ships, and they had escort, navy escort. But we, Queen Mary was so fast that it went across the ocean by itself, and it zig-zagged every three minutes, and that's what it takes for a torpedo to get sighted on you. So we went across, landed in Glasgow, Scotland, took a train to, through London to Southampton, got off the train at Southampton and got on a landing craft, went across the English Channel without any rest of getting off the train, got on a landing craft, as soon as we got loaded, we went across the channel into Le Havre, France, that's where they had the big landing, invasion --

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

<Begin Segment 28>

MA: I'm curious, as you were traveling through Europe, did you see any of the destruction of the war, that the war had caused?

GM: Yeah, but they just look at it as if it was part of the war. I've seen damaged buildings in England and France, but then the one that surprised me was in Cassino, in Italy, because that was leveled right down to the ground. I mean, there was nothing standing there, just a pile of rubble. And the monastery, which was above there, was a religious shrine, was a convent or whatever, that was bombed out, which we should never have bombed. But the city of Cassino was just totally down to bricks and mortar, bricks and whatever. But you don't see that as something bad or anything. It doesn't make you feel bad about things like that, but I think the thing that makes you bad, feel bad, is the people, when people don't have enough food.

MA: You mean seeing the townspeople?

GM: The people that's living there, and they're begging for food, and you get through with what you're eating and scrape it off your dish and put it in the coffee can that they're carrying, and they're going to take home that coffee can with all kinds of garbage in there and they're going to eat it at home. That's, but then again, you look at it as war, and it didn't bother me too much. I mean, I feel sad, but I wouldn't give 'em my last piece of chocolate bar. I'd give 'em maybe a chocolate bar if I got plenty of it, but you... you know, the emotion is different. You get immune to all this thing, and I guess it's like a doctor seeing a patient die, he's not going to cry over a patient dying, he's going to try his best to fix 'em up, but when you go through the war, I think, very numb, once you get used to it. But the war isn't bad, really it isn't. Fact, it's quite adventuresome. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 29>

MA: So when, where was your final destination? You went all through England and then through France.

GM: France, and then to Paris, and then I met the 442nd as they came off the line after rescuing the "Lost Battalion." Now, here's where I see something different, because when I joined I Company up there, they only had four riflemen left.

MA: How many had they started with?

GM: Oh, about two hundred. And, and you're, six of you -- there was only six of us joined I Company that day, that made ten riflemen in the whole company. There should be two hundred, and you, now you're starting to wonder, you said, "My God, is war, this, going to be like this?" Because if there's, what happened to the rest of the men?

MA: I mean, what was it like seeing them come back from this, you know, harrowing battle?

GM: Well, the ones that was left was just like ordinary guys as far as I'm concerned.

MA: So you didn't notice any shell-shocked or any...

GM: Oh, no, there, they'd be in the hospital by then. But they told me lot of stories from their experiences, which was very interesting for me because I wanted to learn as much as possible. But yeah, that was one of the worst parts, is seeing so few men there. You know, you think you're going to be one of a small crowd of new replacements in a bunch of old war-experienced soldiers, but here there was... and all of 'em were all privates. There was no officers, no non-commissioned officers or anything. So I Company was the company that reached the "Lost Battalion" first, and they were the ones that took the worst beating. But I joined them and went along with this.

MA: How did the sort of, I guess, guys that had been in the war for a while, kind of the old-timers, accept or react to kind of the newcomers coming in? Was there ever any weird tension, or was it just normal?

GM: No, to me it was a normal thing, that we're going in there to help 'em. They're saying that a lot of these guys are, will be coming back from the hospital, and to me, it was a question of hearing these stories of what went on, and they're very, very interesting. They don't talk about it to other people, but among the soldiers, they talk an awful lot about some of the things you go through, and people getting shell-shocked, and talked about getting shot in the butt, and he said, "That's kind of embarrassing because they think you're running away." [Laughs] You don't want to get shot in the butt, stuff like that, you know. And then there's the other, like Kash always said that, "Okay, just remember one thing: we have never retreated." That's one thing he said, he says, "We have never lost a battle." He wanted to make clear that this was the way it's going to be. Says, "We have never left a wounded or dead man behind." He said, "We're going to take care of everybody," which means that if you had to, you risked your life to save somebody.

MA: So Shiro set this precedent at the beginning to you guys that just came in?

GM: Yeah.

MA: He sort of taught you that?

GM: Well, he, he told us after he come back from the hospital, but these are what these men were going, will be telling you. 'Cause that's what they believed in. And we kind of went along, there's nothing you can do about this, because you're there, you can't run away, and you're going to take it the best you can. If you're scared of the war, you better not be there, because you jeopardize everybody else. We don't want anybody that is scared. If you're scared, stay back, don't come up with us. 'Cause you gotta have people that's thinking more or less in the same direction.

MA: When was the first time you, kind of, were shot at or experienced something like that?

GM: To me? I don't know. I guess you might say it's like duck hunting. But...

MA: I mean when you're in the war, or in Europe.

GM: It's, you're not in the war all the time, see. But I guess the first time I really got shot at, it wasn't from a gun so much. We've heard artillery shells going over our heads, but it was up there in the Maritime Alps in the Champagne Campaign, we were up on top of this hill, and one night, Kim Muromoto and I were on a forward guard way up in the front, and it was windy and we couldn't keep our blanket down because it was so windy and it just kind of waved around like a flag. I think the Germans must have seen it, and they shot about fourteen, fifteen mortars, and it landed all around us, close, because we were on top of this little knoll. And in order to hit it, you practically had to have a direct hit. Anyway, it was a scary night, and I remember telling Kim to get close to me, because I might protect him and he might protect me from a shrapnel hitting us. And Kim heard it differently -- we're still arguing about it, he lives in Bellevue -- he said that, "No, George," he says, "what you said was, 'Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year if we don't live that long.'" [Laughs] He, he insists that that's what I said, but I remember what I told him. I don't remember telling him Merry Christmas. But it's funny how people remember certain things. But that was one scary night, because if one of those things would have hit us, it would have been goner for us, because those shells, you can't hear 'em coming, they just fall on you and they explode.

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

<Begin Segment 30>

MA: So you were, at this time, you said, in the Champagne Campaign, which was southern France, right?

GM: Yeah.

MA: Was it something where it was constant shooting between you and the Germans, or was it kind of random and...

GM: War is never like that. War is, is battles when you're fighting, the rest of the time is guarding your line, waiting for orders to advance or things like that. But there's more rest time, I think, than fighting. Because the way I believe is the human body can't stand the constant war. It's so nerve-wracking that you'll have a nervous breakdown, and that's what they call shell-shock, is because the pressure on you. And I think they had quite a number of cases of shell-shock in the outfit during the "Lost Battalion," but then they also had another thing that was worse than the shell-shock, it was trench foot. Being in the rain and your feet are wet for days on, your feet start rotting away. And then it turns into gangrene, and that's worse than some other cases. The shooting is, it's sporadic, it's, if you charge or make an attack, then the shooting starts, but then attacks and barrages don't last long, they just last... in the Champagne Campaign, K Company next to us used to fire the guns every night. And they had a gun that came out of the hill, pops up a shot at the Germans and then it went back down into the hill. It was part of the old Maginot Line. But that wasn't going to hurt anybody. The thing about it was that that gun was five stories high, and we had to go to K Company on a patrol and we had to look at the gun that they had. That was more interesting than the fighting itself. And every night, they had a gunfight around seven o'clock, the Germans will fire their burp gun and the, our men will fire their BAR. And it got to a point where we started betting who gets the last shot, because the German gun will go "blap, blap," and that's as fast as those shots will go off. Where the American BAR go "bo-bo-bo-bo-bo," it was a very slow gun. And it seemed that the BAR won every time. It would get, they would get the last shot off, but I don't think they were hitting anybody.

MA: So during the Champagne Campaign, you were just kind of stationed in one area, right, just kind of defending...

GM: Every hilltop.

MA: The hilltops, right?

GM: Yeah. And it stretched out about twenty miles.

MA: Can you explain a little bit about why they called it the Champagne Campaign?

GM: Well, the Champagne Campaign was, first of all, it was the easiest campaign to fight. It was in the Champagne country, the line was only, probably ten miles, maybe a little bit more, in front of the actual Champagne country, which was Cannes, France, and it's the only place in France that liquor was so free, freely available. In other parts of France, they had to go through a town or something and get it. But here, it was right there along the line. And our line was only less than a mile in front of Monaco.

MA: Did you ever go down into the countryside or down into Montecarlo or anything?

GM: I been on the edge of it when I first got there, but that's about as close as I got. Some of the guys used to take off at night and go down there, and bring back some chips, and that's the only proof that you've been in there, was those little Monaco chips. They looked like Las Vegas chips, but that was off-limits, strictly off-limits.

MA: How long were you in this area, in the Champagne Campaign? How long were you there, how many months?

GM: Let's see. Thanksgiving and Christmas, Thanksgiving to Christmas to March, yeah. But we're not in one spot all the time. We were way up, six thousand feet, and then we were down in a little town, then we were on the coast above Monaco, you know, they'd switch around positions.

MA: I see. So you're constantly moving areas.

GM: Yeah. So, but the guns are going off all the time. But down there by Monaco, it was kind of interesting.

MA: Why, what was interesting?

GM: Well, we used to watch the ships come in every, every day, and they'd, the land jutted out, Cape Martin came out into the Mediterranean Sea a little bit, and these ships will circle around behind it and get out in the water and then they fire at the Germans, and then the Germans will return their fire, and we could see this because we're on top of the hill looking down on it. And they'll fire and we see how they miss, and then the ships will lay down a smokescreen and come back into the bay again, and it was kind of interesting. In fact, one of the companies down there, they captured a German submarine down there that came into shore, you know. But one of my friends got his leg blown off on the beach down there, but, you know, it's, war isn't fighting all the time. For the amount of time they're fighting, it's not that long.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

MA: Were you able to correspond with your family back home?

GM: Uh-huh. Yeah, I, I wrote letters to my sister and she wrote to me.

MA: What types of things did you guys say in your letters? What did you talk about?

GM: Well, all our letters were censored, so you couldn't tell them too much, like you couldn't say where you're at. So to get around it, you tell 'em, "Well, the clouds look real nice down below us," that means you're real high, right? And, "It's very cold," and there might be snow on the ground, you say, "The food is real good, kind of cold, but good." And you might say, "I got to go on a pass," or something like that.

MA: What news did your sister write about camp, I mean, anything?

GM: Not a real lot, says what we're doing there, and, "Take care of yourself," and, "Do you need anything?" and things like that. But the letters were pretty brief.

MA: Where was your brother at this point? 'Cause he was in the army before Pearl Harbor. What happened to him?

GM: Well, he got sick towards the end of the war, and he had kidney problems, rocks in his kidneys or something like that, and the army and during those days didn't know too much about kidney stones, and so they went through -- I forget, he said something like thirty-eight surgeries, a number of 'em. He said, "I was like a guinea pig in the army." And by the time he got out, he had a third of a kidney left.

MA: But he stayed stateside? So he was in the U.S. the whole time?

GM: Uh-huh, he was always in stateside, yeah. And he was... I forget when he was discharged, before I got out or I think he was discharged after I got out. But he got out on a medical... he didn't go overseas.

MA: And then also, I was thinking about if you, did you correspond with your sister, your other sister in Japan? Did your family hear from her at all?

GM: No, we just paid no attention to that at all, basically, until after the war. It seemed like a different type of a war with a sort of lost cause, like. Well, she's over there and we're over here, and we didn't want to write back and forth because of the, Americans think you're always doing something wrong, so we were very careful about that kind of stuff.

MA: So in March, let's see, it's March 1945 that you moved out of the Champagne Campaign, and what happened after that?

GM: Well, we went to Marseilles, and we thought we were going to go home. Some guys said we were going to go to the Pacific, and the rest of 'em says, "No, we did enough, they'll bring us home." And they changed our clothes and everything, and gave us some new equipment, and then we got on the landing ship again, a bigger one. I said, "This thing will never go across the ocean." [Laughs]

MA: That's interesting, though. So you had no idea where you were going to be going?

GM: Well, the regular soldiers didn't know too much at all. And they didn't tell us we were going back to Italy until we got on those ships, and there's no place else to go but to Italy. And so we landed in Italy, and they briefed us not so much of the battle coming up, but briefed us on some more action. And they told us it's a, a secret, everything is in secrecy. They don't want anybody to know we're going back in Italy. And so we couldn't even go on passes, because this whole movement, in order to make it work, it had to be in secrecy. We didn't want the Germans to know we were coming.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

MA: At this point you were preparing for the Gothic Line, right?

GM: Gothic Line, yeah.

MA: So they told you it was secret...

GM: Well, if you know the situation on the terrain, there was no possible way, is my feeling, that we could have gone up that hill and fought anybody. We were fighting ourselves just getting there. So, so the whole plan was a secret operation, secret attacks, everything was planned out perfectly. And that wasn't, that wasn't planned by the army, it was planned by our own unit. Because when our officers went over prior to us going there, they looked over the situation and the army asked them, "Well, do you think you could do this job in three weeks," or three months or something, whatever it was, time, quite a long time. And our officers said, "Just give us twenty-four hours."

MA: So, I guess --

GM: So, they couldn't believe it.

MA: So what, explain a little bit about the Gothic Line, I guess, and how it was set up and how it was so difficult to go...

GM: Well, the Gothic Line was a range of mountains that went from the sea up into the Alps. And it was a number of high peaks, from, about a mile from the sea, all the way up to six thousand feet. And the Germans had their enforcement up there, they had nine months to prepare this line for machine gun emplacements and guns and everything. And three American divisions in the previous nine months failed to break this line. In fact, it had never been conquered in two thousand years, and it was only conquered once by the Roman Empire in 25 Before Christ. So it's a, it's quite a line because the defense itself was the mountain. So if you got over the mountain, you have licked 'em. But the Germans were at the top of the mountain, and they're not going to let you get over the mountain, okay? The mountain had trees today, but it was full of brush. There was no trees, it was a bare mountain. And, and the reason was because this mountain was full, it was marble, it's marble country. So you couldn't even dig a hole into this mountain if you wanted to. You could dig a hole where there was dirt between the rocks, or... anyway -- and it was 60 feet, degree incline, which was very steep. [Coughs] Excuse me. And it was high, and the Germans had every inch of it covered with machine guns. But now, this we didn't know, the soldiers. So the night before we marched -- this is the toughest part of my whole war -- we hiked eight miles so we'd be, our company would be in front of where we were going to go. And we couldn't see where we were going, we're single file, and we had to climb this hill eight miles in. And it was kind of forced march because you couldn't stop hardly, and, and you couldn't see. In fact, an eighth of the tail end got lost, and we pulled into this little town of Azano, I think around twelve-thirty at night. And the guys who got lost didn't come in 'til four-thirty in the morning.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

MA: So we were just starting to talk about the Gothic Line, and can you tell that story again about walking the eight miles?

GM: Okay. That was the day before the attack, just to get into our starting position, to get into position. Then when it, we were told to stay in the houses in this little town, don't show ourselves because the Germans are right above us looking down on us. So everybody stayed inside until the nightfall, and then when it got dark, we started planning to go up this hill. We'd seen this hill, now, during the daylight, and it was a solid, big blank of mountain in front of us, and you're seeing this top up there.

MA: And what were you thinking at that point, I mean, looking up at this mountain there?

GM: Well, the night before was so rough, I said, "I don't know how we're gonna make it up this hill," because it was so rough the night before. But we started out that night, single file, and started going up that hill. Now, which I didn't know, with, L Company was ahead of us, and they went up the hill and then we followed them. And it was so steep you couldn't go right straight up. You had to follow these switchback trails that went from one side to other, and...

MA: How did you know where to go?

GM: Well, there's a trail, and it's pitch black, dark, and we had to go follow the guy in front of you. Dark enough, you know, total darkness is, it's not dark. You could see in the dark. And you followed the person in front of you, and when they, these trails were mined also, so you didn't want to set one of those things off, because then the Germans would hear it. But somebody had put a toilet paper on each one of these mines, so there was a white piece of paper on each mine.

MA: Who, who did that? Was that the first...

GM: [Laughs] I don't know. Somebody up front, or somebody, maybe the Italians did it before that day or something, but there was a white piece of toilet paper on each mine. So we were careful if you don't want... and you want to be careful that you didn't fall off the trail, because now you got maybe twenty, thirty yards of downfall. You'll roll down the hill, so that was another thing. And you didn't hold onto the guy in front of you, but you just, we kept slowly going up the hill. It wasn't very hard because of the fact that the movement was a lot slower than the night before. You know, night before, it was kind of rushed and you were out of wind at times, but this was just constantly going up to the top of the hill until early morning. And it got scary up there at the top, because you looked up and the sky was starting to get light, about three o'clock, and you knew if the Germans were there looking at you, they'll see you. But we somehow managed to get to the top by five o'clock. And the Germans were, we found out, most of them all were sleeping. So the, so instead of hitting them directly in the front, we kind of maneuvered around to the back of them somehow, through a crack, I guess, and they surprised the Germans. That's the way it was with us on our hill.

MA: So that happened within a span of only a day, right?

GM: That morning.

MA: Yeah.

GM: We're going to climb the -- the attack is at five-thirty in the morning.

MA: But you spent all night...

GM: All night...

MA: ...hiking up the mountain.

GM: ...hiking up the mountain without any sleep or rest, just the breaks, you know. But it was probably two of the toughest hikes all of those guys been on.

MA: I'm curious about the role of the Italians, the Italian resistance fighters.

GM: Well, we didn't know they were with us, but I always wondered how we got to the top, 'cause we didn't know the mountain, especially in dark. But there was two, two Italians that was with our company that led the group up. And a lot of the credit goes to them, because otherwise we wouldn't have known how to get there. See, these mountains, they're not livable, and so there'd be nobody up there, there'd be no reason for anybody being up there. And people who live there have hiked up and down those hills a few times and some of those went up there every day because they had to put the reinforcement cements and everything in the foxholes up there for the Germans. They were forced to do that, something like sixteen thousand Italians, and that's why it was so fortified. But you couldn't knock those emplacements out, it was only by surprise that you could beat 'em. There were just too many of 'em. There was something like 2,700 machine gun emplacements in those hills. So we got 'em before they got into 'em, and it's quite a, as far as a military achievement, I think it's one of the greatest in the war. But we made it so easy it never became any big deal. But I, I think it was one of the greatest achievements of the war.

MA: So once you captured back the Gothic Line, what happened after that? Did you just stay up there?

GM: Oh, the war never ends. [Laughs] The Germans go back to another position behind them, not as strong as the Gothic, actual Gothic Line, but they're not running yet. They're, they're retreating a little bit, and you see, war is sort of like real estate. When you get to the top of the mountain, now you got that position, and anybody on that hill got to go down and to a next mountain, and hold the next high spot, see. And it's a matter of getting these high spots and you, you're winning the war. 'Cause it's the high spot that sees everything what's going on and everything, and they, they direct traffic and everything.

MA: I see. So once you got to the top, then they retreated back?

GM: They had to retreat back slowly, or they might counterattack, which they did. If they counterattack, you had to fight 'em off again, and then they'll retreat again.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

MA: Can you talk a little bit about when you got injured?

GM: Well, it was on the fifth day of fighting, October 9th or -- April 9th or 10th, and we were attacking five machine guns that were firing at us. And our platoon was single-file on the forward side of the hill, there was no foxholes or anything, we were just lying down on the side of the hill from getting hit. And there was four machine guns up in the front firing at us, and I looked up from where I was, and I, I was wondering how high those bullets were flying over our heads, and I, I saw these branches being clipped off.

MA: Could you hear stuff, too, like could you hear gunfire?

GM: Oh, yeah. Well, bullets you can, you know what the bullet is like when they're firing at you. If the bullet is being fired, it's a shot. But when it comes awful close to you, you hear a distinct crack, so you know it's getting pretty close. There's a different, it's experience that tells you how close the bullet is. But if it goes right past your head, you know that was close. But then you can hear machine guns firing all over, so you know it's not firing at you. But anyway, these four machine gun bullets are hitting about that high, hitting the branches above me. I didn't think too much about that, because I figured, well, if they're shooting that high, it probably won't get down to where I'm at. But then a little later, this machine gun fired right through us, from the flank. And Kim Muromoto was in front of me, and the bullet hit the dirt right in front of my face and right behind his heel. We were about that far apart, and hit right between us in the dirt. And from there on, I guess you go by instinct. He says, "Uh-oh, he's going to fire again," that's the first thing. If he's going to fire again he's going to hit me, maybe, so I'd better make myself into a small target. What I did was curled up into a little ball and got on this side, put my back towards it, and that's when it went right through my helmet by my ear, because my face was turned away from it. And that bullet sounded like a bomb going off in my ear, because it was right next to my ear. And it flipped me completely around on the ground, and I got hit, and I -- this is a matter of split seconds -- I said, well, I'm still alive, and the only way I could die now is to bleed to death. And so I said, "I better cover up the hole." I put my hand up to my face like this, and I was looking around for the opening in my face because I thought this whole face was blown off. That's what it felt because I can't, I don't have a mirror, so I'm thinking the face must have been blown off. And I went like this and looking for the hole and I couldn't find the hole, and I looked at my hand and, "That's funny," I had a hundred dots, over a hundred red dots on my hand, where I was going like this. [Pantomimes touching face with hands] And what happened was I had twenty-two scratches around my eye and down my cheeks like this, and they were just enough to draw blood. It wasn't bleeding, but just enough to draw some blood. And every time I went like this, I picked up twenty-two red dots. [Laughs]

MA: The bullet must have just grazed your face, then, right?

GM: Yeah, it grazed, didn't hit me at all, it went through my helmet. But the shrapnel is, and everything went around my eye and down the side of the cheek. And I told Kim, I said, "Hey, I'm hit." And he says, "Medics," and I said, "Don't call the medics here, he'll get killed," you know. So I said, "I'll go back to him." Well, I had to take my suspenders and everything off and give my BAR to Kim, 'cause he was my assistant. And took a few minutes to do that, and after I did that, I got up and ran right alongside of everybody back to the medic. And everybody's yelling at me, "George, get down." I forgot the machine gun was still firing. I didn't get hit, but I got to the medic and he put this sulfa drug on my ear and bandaged me up with a big old white bandage that I carried around in my, my kit. And it looked like a big white turban, and he says, "Oh, you're okay," he says, "you could go up there in ten minutes, you can go back up there." And I was thinking about this big white turban on my head, and I said, "What?" And he looked at me again and he says, "George, I think you're in shock." And I said, "What?" and he says, "Well, you better go down to the battalion aid station," but he says, "you better carry a litter down with you." He said, "Wait a while and we'll have a litter case for you to carry down." I waited a little while and nobody got hit after that, so there was no litter case, so he said, "Well, you better go down to the, the battalion aid station by yourself." I didn't know where it's at, he said, "Just follow the trail." So I followed that trail down the hill, got down to the battalion aid station, they told me to take my clothes off, get on the table, they give me a shot in the butt, and then said, "Put your clothes on, get in the ambulance." We got in the ambulance and went again to another tent some miles away, and the guy said, "Roll up your sleeve." And rolled up my sleeve, and they gave me another shot in the arm. I must have been in shock, because I don't know what's going on. Then went to another aid station, and he said, "Roll up your arm," and put the arm up and they gave me another shot. This is my third shot I'm getting, and I ended up in the hospital at one-thirty in the morning, I think. And I got hit sometime in the afternoon, so this is, whole thing takes quite a number of hours.

I got in the hospital and they give me x-ray and took the metal piece out of my ear that was lodged in there, and an officer came in, a doctor, and he says, "Did you eat?" And I says, "No," and he says, "Well, put some medicine on his face and give him a sandwich, and give him a shot." And I said, "Wait a minute," I says, "what the heck are you giving me?" I says, "I got three shots already." And the doctor there, he says, "You got three shots?" I said, "Yeah," he said, "How big are the needles?" I said, "Oh, about that big." [Laughs] It was, to me it was like that. [Indicates length with hands] And he said, "Don't give him any more shots." He didn't tell me that it was tetanus, it was all tetanus shots. Ended up in the hospital, and they had my face painted red from right down the nose, middle of the face, all red on one side. I don't know why they didn't paint the other side, but there was no scratches there. And they put me into bed, I got up in the morning, nurse says, "You can get up and walk around." I put my pants on and here was this big ol' hole in the seat of my pants, it had worn out. And I don't know where or when it got that bad, but I didn't have any pants, so the nurse there said, "I'll see if I can find one." He come back with a great big pants and way too big, and there was no other choice but to take it or stay in bed. So, but nine days later I was back on the line again.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

MA: How did that affect you, I mean, almost dying, getting shot at, and then going back? I mean, you said earlier that you were a little more cautious.

GM: Well, as I remember, the only thing was that when I went back to the line, I was more conscious of getting killed than I was before. I said, "Hey, you can get killed in this business, you can get shot at." But that was quite a bit of experience that, going back to the line was just as dangerous as getting back to the line. And it's a funny thing about soldiers, you're there to fight a war and you know you can get killed. You know that tomorrow, that good friend of yours or another buddy won't be there tomorrow, somebody's going to get hit or get killed or something like that, and you gotta be prepared for it.

MA: How do you prepare yourself for that? I mean, to witness so much death?

GM: Well, it's the experience you have and the stories and training you get. You get prepared for that pretty easily. It'd be traumatic for me to see somebody get hurt today on the street or something, by a car or something, because I'm not used to it. But war, you get used to bullets flying over your head, and you know how close the bullet is by the sound of it, you hear an artillery shell coming, you say, "Oh, that's going to hit over here," things like that. It's an everyday thing after a while. You don't want to be out there too long, because chances are, you're going to get killed. But you want to get home because you know that there's something nice at home. You'd like to get home, but maybe you can't.

MA: What's it like, I mean, I guess, seeing your friends or people you knew, kind of just die or not be there the next day? I mean, how do you...

GM: Well, I had this policy like most of 'em, we didn't want to make too many good friends, we just knew each other. But you don't want to be, only came with my real close friends, the rest of 'em weren't that close. Because when one dies, you're gonna lose your good friend, and you know that he may die and stuff like that. We had one, this guy from Seattle, Ted Watanabe. He came up on the line when I was in the hospital, and before the night was over, he was dead. So, you know, things like that, you can't feel any more sorry about him than the guy that's been fighting all the time and gets killed or stuff like that. It's, it's a war. Today, people are scared. In this war here, two thousand people got killed. We got more than that getting killed on the roads in this country every day, people never think about that. People die from heart attacks or some kind of sickness in this country, they don't care about that. But when you hear about two thousand soldiers dying in two years, a couple years, they're scared of that. You read the newspaper, you read the obituary every day, and at least every week there's two or three Japanese dying. Do you get scared of that? You might be one of 'em, you know. But when you hear of a couple guys getting killed in Iraq or someplace, you think it's a bad thing.

MA: Were you able to stay with some of your friends from Fife, or keep in touch with them? Did they come over to, and fight with the 442nd as well?

GM: Oh, yeah. They were, but when we were in camp, a lot of us made lots of friends in camp. So we kept in touch with people we knew from before, and they might be in another company, and when we ever get a break somewhere, they'd travel over to your company maybe a couple times a week and talk and go back to their company. You know, it's, Bill Yanagimachi would always come to our company because he wanted to see Shiro Kashino and Shig Murao and all the rest of the guys, you know, and then you go back. We kept in touch with each other, and they know when somebody gets killed in another company, "So-and-so got killed," the news travels pretty fast.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

MA: When you were in the hospital, was your family at home notified that you had been injured?

GM: There was only one letter: "Your son has been slightly wounded." That goes to my dad, and that's about it. So he wrote me this letter, and the war was over by the time I think I got the letter.

MA: What did it say in the letter?

GM: Well, my letter was very short from my dad. He says, if I remember, "Dear son, I hear you get slightly wounded. Kill more enemies but keep yourself safe." And "Pat, Ray and Fred are doing fine." He says, "Kill more enemies but keep yourself safe," and that's about it. "Your dad." The letter is real nice because of the fact that he signed his name, he got the date on there, and the address, which is 12-10-C. That, that tells you that he was in Minidoka, the address. And I still have the letter. It's something that, I read it, and I thought, "Gee, my dad's a pretty brave guy." [Laughs] You know, "kill more enemies, keep yourself..." nothing about some of the other things a woman will worry about. He understood. Most Japanese families understood that when their son went off to war, the chance is that he won't come back, but most of them came back. Quite a few didn't, but that's the way they think. I... to me, it was kind of a fun game, but it was not fun when you had to climb these high hill, sleep in the mud, sleep in the rain, and everything.

I got a funny story; there was once, in the rain, I was sleeping in the rain, because I didn't like to sleep in a barn because there's too many lice and stuff in there. I slept outside, and we always carried a raincoat with us. But our raincoats are only, we cut 'em off because they're too long, and we call 'em half of a raincoat, and we make it short. And so I took the raincoat and put my hands in backwards, and put the open side in, behind me. And I had this raincoat on top of me, and I went to sleep in this pouring rain.

MA: Were you in Italy at this point, on the Gothic --

GM: Yeah. I forget where I was, France or Italy. I guess I was in Italy, yeah. And oh, it rained. And... I was on, the way it went was, I wake up and here's this German sitting on my stomach, see. And I'm trying to get up like this and I can't move, and I'm fighting this German with my hand like this, see, and then, you know, it's, it's a dream. I wake up. And what was happening was the German wasn't sitting on top of my stomach, but this raincoat gathered all the water and put it between my legs, like about two bucket of rain water was between my legs, okay? And the sides were tucked in so I couldn't move. [Laughs] That's what made that dream, feel like somebody was sitting on top of me. I didn't tell the guys, and I woke up and there it was, the raincoat was holding me down, see. But this dream was, it was crazy because I dreamt that this soldier was sitting on top of my stomach, and here I was, trying to fight him off.

MA: Did you have any other dreams, I mean, did you dream a lot about warfare and death?

GM: No. No flashbacks or anything. I dream sometimes lately, because I have to talk at some schools and I try and recall what happened and stuff like that.

MA: I mean when you were actually there in Europe.

GM: Uh-uh, no. I, I don't recall if there was any dreams, but nothing of importance. Just one dream, I dreamt about this soldier sitting on my -- that I recall, but the rest of 'em, no. The thing was, I think I was too young to know any better.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

MA: At this point, you were twenty? Twenty-one?

GM: Yeah. Twenty. I got out in... twenty-one, I was twenty, nineteen and twenty, but I was too young to really feel responsibility and dangers and stuff like that. I was, I was one of these guys if they asked me to do something, okay, let's do it, but I wouldn't say, "Hey, I don't want to do it, too dangerous," or anything like that. But lot of the guys, it felt different. Older guys, they...

MA: Oh, what was the difference then between the older guys and the younger guys?

GM: Well, they realized, they had more experience, so they realized it's better to be living than to get shot up and everything. But a lot of 'em were married, too. And a lot of 'em were getting disgusted of the war, going through it more than I did. People with trench foot don't get any help from it and their feet start rotting away. You know, people get shot at and nobody pays any attention to the wounds or something like that. To me, I've also went alongside of Kim all the time, and Kim was a very cautious man, and I think I was a little bit more reckless. Not reckless so much as I didn't value my life as much as he did. There's a difference. When you meet all the people, you can tell who are serious about life and who isn't serious about, everybody's a little different. And I get in positions where I would feel that, gee, I wish I was home, you know, just home, not here. Just home, to get away from some of the stuff you have to go through, because, you know, you're living like an animal. You have no house, you only got what you carry, you got very little food, somebody's trying to hunt you down. [Laughs] And you're trying to hunt them down, see. And you have no hatred, hatred toward the other person, and he don't hate you any more than you hate him, he's another human being. But war is just that way. It's, "Okay, I got a job to do and I'll do it," but I think the whole thing is believing what you're doing, how important it is for, not only for yourself, because you might not enjoy it, but for other people who will be living later on. Like the boys in Iraq today, their life is not that much in danger, but they're fighting for something that people don't know, and that is the life that they're going to get from here to next fifty years. And so when I went to war and come back, I have seen the what you call, the fruits of your labor. I enjoyed it, because this is what everybody got, and that's a very, very good life that we lived in the last fifty, sixty years. And some people don't even appreciate that because they haven't seen the bad side of it. And if you've seen the bad side of life, you really think, "Hey, this life we're living is real nice."

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

MA: And I'm curious, going back to the question I asked earlier, you know, about on one hand, fighting for your country, but on the other hand, having the government lock up your family and people just 'cause they were Japanese. I mean, it seems like such a tough position for you to be in.

GM: It's hard. It's hard, because, because this is your country, and you believe in your country. If I didn't believe in it, I would fight it. But I've always said, after that happened, that this country will never put me in the same position again, because I will fight to my death before they put me behind barbed wires. And I meant that, because I was fighting a war, and it's no different fighting a war than fighting at home if you think it's wrong. And now I believe that they'll never put me behind barbed wire fence the way they did back in 1941 and '42.

MA: Do you think they'd ever do it to another group of people like they did to the Japanese Americans?

GM: I don't think so, because we won't let 'em do it. The Japanese Americans will fight for the rights of those guys, and we're a big force. We're a real strong force because those have known what they did, the United States have learned what they did wrong, and those people will back us up, that they won't do that again. Some other people from different countries might do that, but this country will never do that again, to anybody. Not en masse, you know. They might do it to a person, but not as a group. And I don't think the people who might be put in that position will take it, either, they'll fight. But they might get this idea, but they'll never do it. That's what I'm saying, because they can't. But what they did to us is really, really bad. And people who were so great, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, you got to look at him, too, because he was the one that signed the paper to put us in, and we still say he's a great man, but he isn't great. You know who was great? His wife. His wife was greater than he was. In this country, to apologize to the Japanese, is really something. I never expected that. The money they gave us, so what did we do with it? Somewhere in my, one of my investments, maybe. Maybe I spent it, I don't know.

MA: But to you, the actual formal apology was the most important.

GM: The formal apology was the most important thing. It's like a kid leaving the family, and the family disowned 'em, and he, they take him back. That's what they did to us. They kicked us out and they brought us back in again and apologized, and said it was wrong. But things have changed today, 19-, or 2005, and that was 1941, and we've come a long ways. I think the Japanese should be proud of what they did.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

MA: Today is December 17th and we're in the Densho office again in Seattle, and I'm here with George Morihiro. I'm Megan Asaka and this is Dana Hoshide on videography. So George, we left off talking about the battle of the Gothic Line, and I wanted to ask you a little bit about the end of the war and where you were when you heard about the atomic bomb that had been dropped on Hiroshima.

GM: Okay. At the end of the war, we pulled back from the Gothic Line to Leghorn, and we went to guard a quartermaster corps there, the supplies and things, and quite an easy job, but during this time, I got reported to the office and they told me I can go to school. And they said, "Would you like to go to the radio school?" So I was really happy about that, because that's one of my lines or hobby I wanted to get into, maybe a profession, even, repairing radios. And I took that chance, and they sent me down to Caserta, which was the headquarters for all the news and everything coming into Italy over the wire. And I got there and to my surprise, the school was on Morse code and not radio repairing. [Laughs] And it was a real disappointment for me because of the fact that I had to put on an earphone every day and sit in front of a typewriter and learn how to pick up Morse code. And if you ever listen to Morse code all day, it's torturous because all you hear is, "dit-dit-dot-dot-dot," and you're sitting at the typewriter typing away.

MA: How long did it take you to kind of master Morse code?

GM: Well, the Morse code, you can master it in a month, but to type it while it's coming out, it takes a little bit longer. But by this time, after a couple months, I was able to type eighty words a minute and pick up Morse code pretty good. And I was so mad at having this job, or going to school, 'cause I didn't like it, and it was during this time the war in Japan ended. It was right after they dropped the bomb, and we were the first ones in Italy to get this report from Japan that they surrendered, because we got all the news over the wire right away.

MA: What was your reaction?

GM: My reaction was I pulled the earphones off my head and slammed it on the table, and I said, "That's it." [Laughs] I had enough of it. But right after that, they sent us back to our outfits. There were six of us that went to school from the unit. And I was glad to get out of there. It was such a waste of time, that I didn't get anything out of it. You know, to learn Morse code is, we don't use Morse code in our life and only thing you know about Morse code is SOS.

MA: So when you heard about the bomb, the atomic bomb in Japan, you were relieved in a sense, 'cause you could, that meant the war was over and you could, you could leave.

GM: That's right, uh-huh.

MA: Did you ever think about -- 'cause I know your sister was in, in Hiroshima. Did you ever think about your family in Hiroshima?

GM: Well, not really, because I'm in a war zone and I've been through war, and our only wish while you're there is to go home. During the whole war, you always wish, "Boy, when this thing is over I can go home," hope you get home alive. And when the atomic bomb hit and they surrendered, to me, it was a great moment because it only meant that the war was over and I'll get to go home. So war is war, you know, and it doesn't matter if one person gets killed or thousands get killed. It's just numbers.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

MA: When did you actually go back to the United States?

GM: Well, let's see. Must have been pretty close to, a little less than a year later, I think that's about... there's a lot of, most people didn't go home right after the war. And then there's, then they start sending older guys home, not the older ones, but it was by point system. And I came home in February '46, I guess. The unit came home in June, so I was home already when the 442nd came home.

MA: Why were you able to leave earlier than the other...

GM: Well, the first ones coming home, the first ones were the original bunch of boys, and then the next bunch was after they got to be sent home. This whole system was on a point system, and depending on how long you were in the service and if you got a Purple Heart you got an extra point, five points.

MA: And you had received a Purple Heart, right?

GM: I received a Purple Heart, so I, I qualified by five points, which meant about five months. So I come home, when I should have, if I didn't get the Purple Heart, I would have come home with the unit.

MA: And when you came home in, that was February of 1946, did you go right back to Fife?

GM: Uh-huh, yeah. I went to live with my sister in Fife.

MA: So they were back from Minidoka.

GM: Uh-huh. We had this home in Fife, but then I guess we had to, rented it out and nobody would have been there except my dad. So my dad stayed with my sister, too, and so when I come back to Fife, I stayed with my sister there, not very long.

MA: So your, your family was able to retain their house from before the war?

GM: Uh-huh. We never did go back to the house. I think they finally sold it. But...

MA: What was it like when you, I mean, came back from the war and saw your family again after a number of years?

GM: Like I said, my dad was the first one to see me out in the yard there when I was coming in. And we danced, it was a happy moment. We just danced around the yard there, just holding each other and jumping up and down. It was really a welcome there, that... that father/son relation wasn't really that close in a Japanese family. And I suppose most of 'em come home and shake hands and carry on with other things, but my dad and I kind of overdid it a little bit as far as the greeting was concerned. It was quite joyous.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

MA: I'm curious about what, how Fife had changed during the war years, and when you returned to Fife, what kind of changes did you see in terms of the community?

GM: Well, actually, there were very little changes, as far as Fife is concerned. The, Fife was still a farm area and it hadn't taken any big changes. Out towards the Tacoma area, there were more changes there because of the shipyards and things like that.

MA: What types of things?

GM: Shipyards and lot of commercial buildings going up. Fife goes right out to the tide flats, and then the Seattle limit, and today, you know, it's quite a big area back there. And, of course, more businesses come in since then, but it's only been lately that it's really grown.

MA: But when you returned from, from the war, you saw that most people were able to retain their farms and their homes?

GM: Oh, yeah. Everything looked like it was about the same, but as far as the Japanese was concerned, their problem was getting started again, but the big problem was where do they sell their product. And their product, their vegetable, there was a sort of a clause or agreement in Tacoma among the farmers and everybody in that business of farming and markets and things, and the, the white people in big markets had all agreed that when the Japanese come back, that they will not buy from the Japanese. And so when I worked, I stayed at my brother-in-law's place, and worked for him, he was a produce man. He bought from the farmers, but he had to find somebody to sell it to, also. And that's where the trouble was at the beginning. Now, my brother-in-law, Jimmy Kinoshita, was quite a famous guy around there, around the valley there, well-known and everything. And one of his good friends was a Sumner man called Mr. Orton, and Mr. Orton owned a big daffodil farm in Sumner. And when Jimmy came back to Fife -- he got there before I got back. He went to all the markets, and the markets said that, "Jimmy, sorry, Jimmy, but we agreed that we wouldn't buy from the Japanese."

MA: What did he do?

GM: And so... well, Jimmy went along with it, but he went to Mr. Orton, because Mr. Orton had this big daffodil farm, the biggest in the area. And Orton said, "Jimmy, I'm going to give you the exclusive on all my daffodils." And Jimmy went back to these markets and asked them, "Where are you going to get your daffodils," because he's got the exclusive on Orton's daffodil. And funny thing happened, because all the markets who like Jimmy, said, "Jimmy, that's good enough for me." He says, "I'm going to buy it from you." And one by one he got his markets back in Tacoma, and he also had a run that went around the Olympic Peninsula, and his home itself had a big warehouse for that kind of thing that was there before. So he didn't have to build anything up, but he started out with... when he got these markets, that meant that he could buy from the local farmers.

MA: Did that happen to other Nisei farmers, or people involved in produce? That initially they were barred from selling in the markets, but gradually were they able to, to start over again?

GM: Well, Jimmy started this out in Tacoma, and the, once you break the ice, then, yes, other people could get into the same type of business, but there weren't too many people competing against that. Blackie Fujita and he had his produce business. There was a couple more guys, but most of the farmers did have a place to get rid of their produce. And this was very important in that very beginning. I don't think a lot of people realize that, what Jimmy did for the valley.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

MA: Did you yourself witness or experience any discrimination when you came home from the war?

GM: Well... other than people staring at you or something like that, no, I don't think I experienced discrimination where I could remember something that was bad, but I had to find a job. And before I even got started looking around, a friend of mine, an older fellow that was in my sister's class, Olaf Kvamme, he, I guess he worked in an employment office, and he found me a job at Fort Lewis.

MA: What was your job at Fort Lewis?

GM: I was working in the reception center as a, in the records department. And my job there was making all the forms for all the people that was coming in the army, all the forms so that they could get started in the army. Medical forms and all the insurance forms and everything like that. But that was a very low-paying job, it was civil service, but I think I, I think I made an annual pay of 2,300 dollars, I think it was, was my pay. Which was quite a bit in those days. It was enough to get you by, and I didn't have to stay at my sister's, I had a dormitory in Fort Lewis, sort of a private place that was not with the soldiers, but a private dorm up there.

MA: When you were working at Fort Lewis and doing that, what were your plans for your future or for the next ten years or so?

GM: Well, my future was actually for going to the University of Washington, and that's where the problem comes in. I told my, Jimmy, who I was staying with, that, "I plan on going to UW."

MA: This was your brother-in-law?

GM: Uh-huh. And he, he says, "You know, you gotta remember Ray Yamamoto," and I says, "Yeah." Ray Yamamoto, whose father inherited this big farm and was able to go to Stanford, and he came back and after graduating from Stanford, he couldn't find a job, and he landed back on the farm. And this is what my brother-in-law told me, that, "It could happen to you," because that's what happened to Japanese going to college and graduating in those days.

MA: So was your brother-in-law maybe discouraging you from going to university because of that?

GM: Well, not, not completely. That didn't discourage me, but I went to Fife High School and talked to my principal there, and I asked him to look up my grade and see if I could qualify for University of Washington. And I knew I wasn't the smartest kid in town, or even close to it, but I wanted to know if I was good enough to go to college. And he looked up my grades and he says, "Yeah, George," he says, "you can go to, get into University of Washington, barely." [Laughs] But he said, "This is a very surprising thing, because as I look at your record," he says, "you know, all the Japanese kids were very smart." [Laughs] Meaning I didn't have to... well, that's the kind of guy I was, you know. I wasn't out there to make records in school. But he says, "Your grades are good enough." And that might have discouraged me, but there's also one other thing that, to be an engineer. I was a little bit in a hurry, too. I looked around and decided that maybe I'll take something else. Might have been a mistake in my life.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

MA: At that point you decided not to go and apply at the University of Washington and do something else?

GM: Uh-huh, yeah. And it might have been a mistake, and I've regretted it a little bit, but I chose photography as a profession, okay? So now --

MA: So, can you give a little background on why were you so interested in photography? Had that been a hobby of yours?

GM: Yeah, it's been a hobby, and I've been quite interested in it. At this point, the photography is rather in the beginning of photography. Once you get the basics, you're pretty well advanced, and I decided to go to the best school in the country, which was in New Haven, Connecticut. And it was on the Yale campus, not part of Yale but on the Yale campus, and very expensive. And I used the four years of college eligibility of my GI bill to go to this school for nine months. So I used my GI bill and used four years' eligibility in nine months and graduated out of the photo school.

MA: How did your, your father and your sister feel about you going so far away?

GM: Well, it's nothing new, I've been gone enough times in the army and things like that. So we're all looking for something, it seems like, at that time. So it's really, they didn't care. Because when you're in camp, lot of the kids left camp with twenty-five dollars, and went back to Chicago and New York and Washington, D.C. on that twenty-five dollar and started a new life. And you know, that's kind of ridiculous when you think of it. That's like today you might have five hundred dollars on you and you get on a train and you go back east looking for a job. You don't have enough money to even pay rent. And twenty-five dollars was all they had. So a lot of 'em did it, and those are the stories that are real interesting. Eighteen-, nineteen-, twenty-year-old girls leaving by theirselves to go to do some kind of work somewhere they don't even know nothing about. Yeah.

MA: What were your expectations going over to school? I mean, in terms of living in a completely new place?

GM: Well, the desire to make yourself get a good job, I thought photography was a good opportunity, but really it wasn't. First of all, if you, I went to, after getting out of New Haven, Connecticut, I was in New York City doing camera repair. I had my own business there because my teacher gave me his shop.

MA: Your teacher in photography school?

GM: Uh-huh, gave me his shop to use as a business place. And I watched other students come into New York, and kept close touch with them and it was tough. These kids would go up to, I think it was 570 Lexington, where the, all these big magazines like Vogue and Good Housekeeping, all the design or model type magazines, were all located in this one building in New York, about fifteen stories high. And these kids would get out of school and start at the bottom, bottom floor and go into every advertising firm and ask for a job. And it'd take 'em weeks to go from the first floor up to the fifteenth floor, but they always got this one answer: "do you have any experience?" Because they're willing to hire you, even as a Japanese. "Do you have any experience?" You have to say, "No, I've been to school and I graduated out of school and here's my samples," and stuff, and they said, "Well, when you get some experience, come on back." That was the answer most of 'em got. And they go up the next, all the way up to the fifteenth floor day after day, and tried to get these jobs. Once in a while, somebody would get a job, but they want you to have experience. And if you don't, if you haven't worked before, you don't have any experience.

MA: It seemed like you were lucky, though, because you had your teacher who gave you his, his space.

GM: Well, that's right, because the teacher supplied me a place of business, and he allowed me to use all his equipment and his supplies, and all I'd do is repair, it was a camera repair shop. Repair cameras and deliver 'em.

MA: So in school, did you learn more about camera repair, is that it? Or --

GM: The school?

MA: Yeah, in school, what did you study?

GM: That's, that's one of the courses that I was able to get into. There was four courses: portrait photography, commercial photography, color photography and then camera repair. And in order to get into each course, you had to compete and be in the top so many to get into the next course. And in the camera repair, you had to be the top ten of the whole students to get into camera repair.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 44>

MA: Were there other Japanese Americans in the school, or other Asian Americans?

GM: Yeah, there was about three or four, a couple Chinese kids, or three or four Japanese and a couple Chinese kids. It was kind of interesting because my, my roommate in my dorm where I, where we stayed at -- there was a dorm, but it was, it was a house that we stayed at, belonged to the owner of the Argo cornstarch, and it was quite a building. It was, had, I don't know how many rooms it had in there, but it used to belong to the Argo cornstarch family. And my roommate was -- one of the roommates -- was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. [Laughs] So it was quite interesting, and...

MA: What was the interactions like between you two? I mean, wow. [Laughs]

GM: We were very close. We were very close, and talking about the Ku Klux Klan, the first question I asked was, "Why did you join?" And it made sense to me because he said, "If I didn't join, I would have got beaten up." He said, "The whole family would have got beaten up, see. And it's kind of hard to believe, but I guess in certain parts of the country, everybody belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and if you don't join up, you're gonna get beat up by your own people. So he said to stay on the safer side, you joined up, but you didn't have to believe what they preached. And this is a kid that, telling me a story, he's friendly with me and he's friendly with blacks, and he's telling me, just openly that he belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and he couldn't get out of it.

MA: That's interesting.

GM: Yeah, to me it was really interesting because I just couldn't believe it. But he told me, he says, "Well, we didn't do anything bad or anything, but we belonged to it." And another thing, too, is when you move out of this area, go to places like New York City. New York City is a place of different people, but they're not mixed. The Irish live in one area, the Italians live in another area, the Negroes live in one area.

MA: You mean it's very segregated, the communities?

GM: It is segregated. And the boundary might be just one block, one block will be black and the next block might be Puerto Rican, and they're close together.

MA: How did you fit in, then, as a Japanese American?

GM: Well, I didn't fit in, because where I stayed was a church that was on East Fifty-seventh Street. Now, East Fifty-seventh Street was probably the most exclusive area in New York City, and East Fifty-seventh was lined with penthouses and museums and art galleries and things like that. And the Japanese church there had a six-story building in-between all the other buildings along the street. And I know when I come home from work or going away from my place of residence there, each place, each building will have its own doorman, and coming home from work I would greet each doorman as I walked by him, and then walk into this little church.

MA: Oh, I see. So you, you stayed in the Japanese church?

GM: Yeah, and they gave me a room for ten dollars a month.

MA: What year was this?

GM: That was 1947.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 45>

MA: Okay, so you had moved to Connecticut, gone through school for nine months, and then after it ended --

GM: After that I went to New York City --

MA: -- moved to New York City.

GM: -- for a year, uh-huh. And there, of course, you see discrimination in a true sense.

MA: How so?

GM: Well, in my, in my camera shop, my teacher's friends were all members of the retail union, and they used to hang around the shop, and when I opened it up, they came and this group was definitely against Jews. And very surprisingly, they were against Jews just as much as they were against blacks and everything else. But somehow, they weren't against me. I didn't fit into anything that would make 'em hate me, even though we were at war with Japan before, that didn't matter.

MA: But you saw more of the discrimination towards Jews and blacks?

GM: Yes, between other, whites and blacks and whatever. So the Japanese had their problem in one sense, but not, not when you moved out of their own area. Like you go to New York City, you get lost in the city.

MA: Did the Japanese Americans have a, a community in New York City at that point? I mean, they had a church.

GM: Not that I know of. They did live in certain areas, but not that close. Up around the end of Central Park someplace, around 105th, I think, they had a larger community up there. But it wasn't part of that elite class of whites that lived along Central Park. It was near the Central Park.

MA: Did you get a chance to interact with the, with the Japanese Americans in New York at all in their community?

GM: Yeah, at the church, one of the requirements that if you paid, stayed there was that you had to go to service on Sunday. [Laughs] Not being a religious person, it was nice going to church, because in New York City, it seemed like no man came to church; all women, young women came to church, and we got to know quite a bit of people. Being Sunday, after church we'd pair off and go to the Central Park or go to Coney Island, depending on weather, we'd take off to Times Square or stuff like that.

MA: Now, were these Japanese Americans, were they mostly born on the East Coast, or were they --

GM: Yes, born, yes, uh-huh. The ones that I associated with were born in the New York area.

MA: How were they different from maybe your friends, your Nisei friends back in Seattle?

GM: Well, they're different in the sense that they lived in a different area without the Japanese. And, of course, my friends were a little bit on the more well-to-do side, because one of 'em was, I served time with him in overseas. He was in my platoon, and his father owned a gift shop right in Radio City Music Hall called the Miyako gift shop, or Mikado gift shop, I forget the name. But the other one was Yosh Ito, who lived in Long Island, that his sister owned a lamp and shade company in Times Square. So, but most of 'em were local people that stayed there, that they were no different. Interests was a little bit different, but they're more curious about us than we are about them, I think.

MA: I'm curious if they knew about the camps, you know, and they knew what happened to the West Coast Japanese Americans?

GM: Well, you know, if you don't experience, it's hard to tell somebody what's it's like. If you told somebody you were in the camps, that's about it. But they might ask you how was it, or something like that, but it's pretty hard to explain to somebody what you go through. Some people listen to it and some people pass it off. Even today, if you told somebody you're in camp, well, they're not going to say, "Tell me all about it." But they have their own discrimination that's always there, even today, so they're used to it, too.

MA: What types of things do they go through?

GM: Just the normal, normal things that we experience every day ourselves. I don't know if you are affected by discrimination yourself, you know. Some people are, they're more sensitive to it when they, somebody says something bad and it affects them. It's like saying, some guys say, "Well, I know a lot of Japs around here," okay? And either saying something good or bad, if you know a lot of Japanese, that means he's friendly with them, to be able to know 'em, but he used the word 'Jap' because he used that, that term so many years. Now, I worked at Tall's for twenty years as a salesman, and for twenty years I had the same guys says, "You Japs are really good," and stuff like that, and he doesn't realize what he's saying. And I'm not about to correct him because I don't want to criticize anybody, 'cause I know what he means. You understand what I'm saying? Whereas some persons might get mad right away when he hears that. I might tell a person, "Don't use that word because it's not good for you because somebody might get mad and beat you up." Other than that, as far as I'm concerned, the meaning of it is what concerned me. It's not like when they come in and say, "Well, I won't buy from a Jap."

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 46>

MA: So how long, then, were you living in New York and running that business?

GM: One year. One year, and I had this camera repair business, and I decided to come back.

MA: Come back to Fife?

GM: I came back to Seattle, stayed with my sister in Seattle, now. And I opened up a camera shop, the Nisei Photo Shop, and during this time, I was buying quite a bit of equipment from Tall's Camera. And Mr. Tall approached me and says, "Have you sold before?" and I said, "No." He says, "Would you like to sell?" and I says, "Yeah." And he said, "Well, if I have an opening, I'll hire you." So it took six months before he hired me, and I didn't realize it and I didn't care anyway, but I happened to be the first Japanese that sold in a white business on the front counter. There was Japanese selling, but they're, they belonged to Japanese companies and stuff like that. But I was the only one that was actually talking to people coming right into the door and approaching them and selling to them. And there were others downtown, like Seibo Fujii, he worked for Weisfield, but he worked in the stockroom. And when the Japanese came in and asked for Seibo, they'd call him up from the stockroom. Yeah, I was right on the counter all the time, meeting people as they came in.

MA: What was that experience like, I mean, working in the counter as one of the only Japanese salespeople at the time?

GM: Well, I took it like any other person, and I had encounters with people who came in and said some remark to me, too, but I -- if it was something I didn't like, like if they say, "I won't buy from a Jap, Jap," I'd say, "Well, what did you do during the war?" And that shut 'em off so fast that it was no problem at all. And, of course, there was one time when Leonard Tall, the boss's son was talking to me, and this guy come in and says, "I won't buy from a Jap." And Leonard picked him up and threw him out of the, out in the sidewalk, and he said, "Don't you ever come back into this store again." And I told Leonard, I said, "Don't worry about me. I can take care of my own problem." But that's the kind of person Leonard Tall was in the twenty years I worked for him. He was an old navy man, and we used to talk about the war during work time and stuff like that.

MA: So then this family, the Talls, Tall family was obviously very open-minded.

GM: They were, and after Nobi Kano was going to school, photo school here in Seattle at the time, and I got called into the, for the Korean War. And my assistant, Keith Slotvig, he got called in also, so they had to replace him and Nobi was just coming out of school and they hired Nobi to be a salesman. But he was a salesman for the professional department. And I had part of that job before, too, so he took my job, and...

MA: So what happened when the Korean War started? I mean, to you?

GM: To me? I had, got called back into the war, because I was in the reserves. So when I got called back in, or my number was coming up, they were going to call the reserves, being, working at Tall's I had this good friend, Major (Joseph) Marshall, who was a schoolteacher at Garfield and worked for the Veterans Administration. And very close friend, and I asked him, "What's going to happen?" And he said, "Well, twenty-one days after you get called, you'll be going to Korea." And I said, "Oh, my God," I says, "I'm an infantry soldier and if I get called, I'll be in Korea within a month." I said, "How do I get out of it?" And he said, "Well, I could get you out," he said, "just, you gotta join my outfit." And I said, "What kind of outfit you got?" And he says, "Well, I got a, I have this reception center at Fort Lawton that we're going to go to Fort Lewis." And I said, "Oh, I'm, I worked a year for the reception center in Fort Lewis." So I had the experience in the type of work they wanted, and he said, "Well, how about joining up? There's only one catch to it," he said, "you gotta go in right now. You can't wait a month, because a month from now you'll get called. And so he says, I says, "Gee, one month," and I told Leonard Tall, I says, "You know, Leonard, I think I'm going to get called, so I better take the best way out. I'm going to join up," and told him the story, and he said, "Okay." So I joined...

<End Segment 46> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 47>

MA: So you were able to leave your job and then go work in Fort Lewis?

GM: Uh-huh. And so I went into 6219 Reception Center at Fort Lawton, and right away we went to Fort Lewis. And it was quite a job, because I knew the job...

MA: Were you doing the same job as before?

GM: Exactly the same job, uh-huh, that I did as a civilian. And, and we ended up, right off the bat, sending six hundred men a day to Korea. So they, they came in, they trained for two weeks, well, they came in, took about a week to get 'em processed, then they trained for two weeks and we shipped 'em over to McCord Field, and they flew 'em out, and six hundred men a day.

MA: Did many of the old 442 guys get called back and eventually go over to Korea?

GM: Quite a bit of 'em, yes, there was. And some of 'em didn't come back. My good friend that was in my, my platoon, he went to Korea and he came back, but he got banged up so bad that it was pitiful. But there was a lot of 'em like that, that... and what that was was when you got out of the 442nd or out of the army, they told us that, "Hey, you got some rank here." They says, "We might be going to war with Russia again very soon, so why don't you just go in the reserves and you'll preserve your rank?" And that was it. We got caught in that and we never, they told us that they won't call us unless there's a national emergency, and the army called every reserve up and didn't call a national emergency, they just called you up, and that made the reserves pretty mad. Now, the reserves is if you put in so many time in the army, you automatically go into the reserves; you don't have to enlist in the reserves.

MA: So how long, then, did you stay at Fort Lewis kind of doing this, this work?

GM: How long I was at Fort Lewis?

MA: Duration of the war, yeah.

GM: All throughout the Korean War, which was about two, two and a half years or so, something like that.

MA: And then after, you went back to work at Tall's?

GM: Then I came back to Tall's, yeah.

<End Segment 47> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 48>

MA: I'm curious if there was any discussion among your family or your friends about what happened to the Japanese Americans during the war, things like that? If people talked about it a lot?

GM: Well, not really. The people weren't interested in what we did. We didn't publicize like they do today, and we did talk about it, because we had these reunions and we get together, and we'd talk among ourselves. And that, that was quite interesting, because a lot of stories there that we talked about. And it was sort of like today, the MIS people, they went over there and came back and they couldn't talk about it, and then today they don't talk about it because the interest isn't there as much as the 442nd, which was a lot closer unit as far as camaraderie and everything.

MA: So most of your discussions about the war years were with your 442nd friends?

GM: Yeah, it's stories about what happened and they're talking about So-and-so, he, he went and did something, and the stories there.

MA: What about with your family? Did you ever discuss your time in Puyallup or Minidoka again with your family members?

GM: My son never did like to hear it, first of all. My wife never listened to my war stories, she said, "There he goes again, talking about the war," you know.

MA: What about with, like, your sisters or your, your dad?

GM: No. Nobody was interested in it. And even, even when we went to reunions, my wife never did like to go to reunions because she said, "You know, the wives sit around and while they, all the guys are just talking about the war, and doesn't include the wife." And then we come home after the reunion and say we had a good time, and wife just, "Hell, we sit around and did nothing." That's how dull it could be. So for a long time, it took 'em, they had to get to know the wives, and then they start being more friendly, the wives will talk among themselves, you know.

MA: So it wasn't like an immediate, like, there wasn't a lot of discussion initially about what happened during the war years, but it seems like it went more gradually?

GM: Well, I still talk about the war. There's enough war stories that when you meet somebody at a reunion, and it always reverts, the conversation reverts to, "Oh, yeah, weren't you with So-and-so when he got killed?" or something like that. And then the stories start developing, and we try to connect each other about events. And the more you talk about, then the different stories keep coming up.

MA: Why do you think the 442nd was such a close-knit group?

GM: Well, the reason that you're close-knit is because, first of all, we're all Japanese, and it sort of seemed like, the old term, saying, 'birds of a feather stick together,' well, we kind of protected each other, but there was a, this thing that we never lost the battle, we never retreated, never left a dead man or a wounded man behind. Now, because of this, everybody was helping each other, and they'll risk their life for somebody else. And, and the closeness got so close among ourselves, you know, that it wasn't a case of getting too friendly with somebody, 'cause you didn't want to get too friendly with... I didn't, anyway, with anybody, because if they get killed someday, it'd be too hard on you. Because there's going to be somebody getting killed all the time during that type of fighting. So if somebody gets killed, you got to look at it as if somebody got killed, rather than, "Oh, my best friend got killed," and cry about it for years. But the closeness was... it's hard to explain. It's a camaraderie that, that... it's not the same closeness as having a friend here, today. But because we're all doing the same thing, I think it made it closer.

<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 49>

MA: So you, I know that you have spent a lot of time talking with school groups and with people about your experience. What types of things do you want them to take away from what they hear from you, or learn from what you're saying?

GM: Well, many things about the speeches I make is, one is that I want to get some benefits for our side because I'm there talking to 'em, and I want to teach them something. Both sides going to benefit from what I say, and I like to spread the legacy of the 442nd. And to do this, you have to tell the kids your basic previous life before you went into it, the good life, and then you get thrown into barbed wire concentration camp. And I always use the word "concentration camp" in my talks because they can understand it better than "internment." "Internment" has no meaning to it, where "concentration camp" has some meaning to it. And the, going into the army, and talking about the 442nd, and not about numbers of decorations and things like that, because they know this. We talk about things like the camaraderie and the, you know, the, not leaving any dead or the wounded man behind, and be proud of your records as far as winning all the battles. But then I go into the Gothic Line in the final part of my, my talk, and build up the story there for the conditions and what we got to do and how tough it was and everything. And they're all sitting on the end of their seats listening to you, wanting to know what happened. And you finish it off, because it's easier to finish it off because it only lasted thirty-two minutes after we attacked them. And we won that part of the war, okay. But then I, from there I switch over to why we were so good.

MA: What do you tell them?

GM: And I say it's not because we're Japanese, but because, basically because we're Japanese American. And, and it is that the Japanese Americans in the 442nd had the highest IQ of any organization in the army, okay, that's one. So I'm building this up for the kids, now. And we trained real hard, that's another... and we knew our equipment and everybody knew what they're doing. And then I say, tell 'em that the grades in high school and everything were real good, because we studied real hard and everything. And basically, I bring in this thing, this story about what our parents told us: "If you were born a Japanese in a white man's country, when the day you're born, you got two strikes on you from the very start. So the only thing you can do is to study, study, study and be on par with everybody else." And I tell this to the kids. And so I tell the kids in my own terms, "If you don't study today, you're not going to make it later on. And if you do study today it's going to be a lot easier for you." That's the only way to look at it, because when you get old, there's no time to study and try to correct your mistakes. And this is the thing that is part of our culture, Japanese culture, that our parents told us that, "You have to study." And one of the studies happened to be -- I disagreed with it -- that you have to learn to be able to speak good Japanese, because when you grow up, you may have to do business with only the Japanese. So that Japanese language was... so a lot of kids went to Japanese schools, and of course that helped during the war because they went into military intelligence and helped the war there. But Olaf Kvamme, the person that got me this job at Fort Lewis, when we grew up, he didn't know how to speak Japanese at all, and sometime I wonder how he managed to through MIS and did quite a bit of work for MIS without knowing how to speak Japanese. Evidently, he learned how to speak Japanese in college.

MA: But some of the things that you try to tell the students that you talk to is emphasizing studying and things like that.

GM: That's what I want to emphasize: that if you don't study today, you're not going to make it as well later on.

<End Segment 49> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 50>

MA: George, I wanted to ask you about, so you, you lived in Seattle from, like, 1950s on, right?

GM: Uh-huh.

MA: And do you ever return to Fife?

GM: A few times. I go out and visit my sister maybe once every six months. I like to visit more, but they're still out there.

MA: Do you still keep in touch with some of the friends that you had in high school?

GM: Well, you know, my friends would be well over eighty years old now, and there's times when I've been out there where somebody'll come up to me and says, "Hey, aren't you Morihiro?" and I says, "Yeah," and I wouldn't remember them. But, "I'm So-and-so," he says, "we went to school together," or something like that. But during the reunions, of course, a few years back, I did see a lot of 'em, lot of 'em, but they all remember because my sister still lives in Fife, and it's a close community.

MA: It's still a close-knit community?

GM: Yeah. So they would remember your name and everything. But it's different today.

MA: How, how has it changed?

GM: Well, as far as Fife is concerned, the strip down there going into Tacoma, you know, it's all lined with boats and cars and stuff, and stores and everything. That used to be just a... the left side of the highway used to be a railroad track, the interurban that went to Seattle, and that's all filled in with houses and very few farms out there now. But the farms will be taken over in a few years, too. Where I lived, down the street a little ways, there used to be six, seven houses on my side of the street, and a big pasture across the street and a crick. Well, now, it's all filled up with houses, and the crick becomes a, better land because of the water going through their property and stuff like that. It's sort of like a park back there. But it's changed quite a bit, the population growth is something else.

MA: And you've noticed that the farms have kind of been taken over?

GM: Well, they got smaller and smaller, yeah, uh-huh. Because the people come in and build houses and stuff like that. And it's not practical, a lot of places like Auburn and Puyallup valley, it's not practical to farm, because the tax gets so high, like my brother-in-law's mother's place out in Auburn, they taxed them $450 an acre, because Boeing was all around there, and, and if they planted something, they couldn't get $450 out of it, so it doesn't make sense to be farming and not make a profit on it.

MA: What happened when the Issei farmers, they came back from the war and they, they had their children? Did you notice, kind of, the children wanting to go into the city more and work?

GM: Well, first of all, the farmers, they were pretty old anyway. And when they went into camp, for some of 'em, though they didn't like it, it was like a vacation because they didn't have to worry about going out in the farm the next day and working hard. And in the camp, they got their food anyway, and sort of like a retirement for some of 'em. For the younger ones, they didn't want to go back to the farm, that was the whole thing. Some of the older Niseis went back to the farm because they were operating the farms by then, but the younger Niseis in the twenty to sixteen years old, maybe around there, didn't want to go back to the farm. They lived on a farm, but they had the chance of finding other jobs, and as they grew up, with the help of their Issei parents, some of 'em had a pretty good nest egg, you know, property, they were able to go to college and get a better job. And those GIs that came back, a lot of 'em used the GI bill to go to college, most of 'em did, you know, and went to Boeing, places like that, and they got away from the farm. But this is the way it is; it's, anybody had a farm, you find this during the war, when we went to Idaho and Minidoka, the young kids went to war or went to Seattle area and got a defense job, which left the fathers and mothers running the farm, and they didn't have a labor, they had a labor problem because nobody was there to help 'em harvest the crop. So the Japanese in the camp went and harvested Idaho and Montana's and some of those crops, and they saved them, actually. But it happened here, too. When we come back from all this, we had a chance to improve ourselves and go to school of higher learning and get better jobs. As far as the Japanese were concerned, they had the thing inside of them, their knowledge that they learned in their lower grades and things, you know, and the inspiration to get ahead. And they jumped at it. And so the Nisei families grew up to be quite prosperous.

MA: Do you think a lot of that came from the lessons learned from their parents?

GM: No, I think it's basically times, times where you had a chance to do a lot of this thing and they did most of it on their own. Well, the basic Japanese culture helped them, but I myself, when I went to school, the photography business was a starvation thing for me because I had to work 'til three o'clock in the morning producing prints, then get up early in the morning and go out and shoot pictures and come back and process it, and worked 'til late at night to get it out. At the end of the whole thing, it didn't add up. You weren't making anything for all the work you're doing. It wasn't that profitable. You couldn't hire anybody because if you did, you would go broke. And there was a partner with me that did this for a year after that, and there really wasn't profit. It was fun taking pictures, and we did a lot of pictures, made catalogs and things like that. It wasn't a portrait or something like that that made money, it was the commercial jobs that we did. And whatever money we made, we put it back into equipment and things like that, and it took a long time to get, get a good start. So by the time I went to work for Tall's, it was a good break for me, because when I worked for Tall's, a lot of my friends were now starting with Boeing. My job at Tall's was strictly on commission, and at that time, most of us were making about $6,000 a year. Well, Boeing engineers were making about, top Boeing engineers were making a little over four thousand dollars. And as we, I kept selling, I worked at Tall's for twenty years, as I kept working for Tall's, my wages, which were real high, didn't go up as high as Boeing people, because Boeing wages for engineers kept going up, up, up past us again, after five, six years it passed our wages up, and it kept going. Where working on commission, it was, unless you sold a heck of a lot, it was hard to make more money. And you had to be a good salesman, too, to work at Tall's. It wasn't a matter of just working there, you're competing with the rest of the guys alongside of you, and we're always fighting every day about who's taking who's job, sales and stuff like that. But it was a lot of fun.

<End Segment 50> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 51>

MA: One kind of final question I wanted to ask you is, reflecting back on your life, you've done so much, is there anything else you want people to know about your story? Any final words?

GM: Well, yeah, as far as the Japanese people is concerned, I'm very proud of 'em, very proud of 'em. And as far as their life is concerned, they didn't stay in a place as a group, Japantown or something like that, and they went out and assimilated with the rest of the country. They were accepted, they've come a long ways. And one thing about 'em is that although they went out to different areas, they always been quite prosperous what they're doing. They've always been a pretty good success, and it's good to see that. And I thought in my own self in turn, I quit my, I got out of selling cameras and stuff like that and went into my own business, and made a very good, comfortable living at that.

But I see my son go out and get a good education, and had a rough time going to University of Washington, but, because he fooled around more than I did. Took him a little bit longer to get out of college, but at, when he reached this point where he was making a hundred thousand a year, it blows my mind, because I never seen money like that, you know. And when he lost his job, he had a job for sixty-six thousand or something like that waiting for him, and he wouldn't take it. And again, the kids are shooting for bigger money.

MA: It's great, though, that you're, you're so proud of, of who you are and what you've done and what your family's done.

GM: But he did find one thing, he wouldn't believe what I tell him. When he lost some jobs here, this last job, he was a comptroller for a computer firm. And they decided to go online, and they wanted somebody other than just an accountant, they wanted somebody with CPA and all the title that goes with it, so they fired him. And he looked for a job, there was three jobs that he -- you know, these jobs, big-paying jobs, there's about two hundred, over two hundred people applying for these things. On three jobs he come right up to the final two, they told him, "You're the final two," on this, and he got aced out on it. And I told my son, I says, "You know, that's very easy to understand, because if I was the boss, I'm thinking about the bottom line, the money involved." I said, "You take somebody that's white and somebody that's Japanese or an ethnic, and you are equally qualified, you're equally good, it's hard to decide which is, which one you want, they'll always take the white in most cases. Because the people, the public is not ready for the ethnic group." And he lost out on these three, and finally he, he decided to do his own stuff and his, he's starting a business right now, very good. I looked at the plans and everything, it's very good, very profitable, but right now he's having trouble with the City of Bothell because he wants to tear down a wall in the warehouse, and also open up for business. And the City of Bothell says you can't do it because you have to have an architect drawing, this, that, that, and it's got to be approved by the engineers, electrical, water department, everything, and pass all these tests before we'll let you break down this wall. Yet the owner of the building says you could tear down the wall, but you have to have a permit to build it down, break it down, and now, here's where government come slow like they always are, take their time about it, and hasn't got the okay yet. But then now, just to tear down the wall, he's finding out it's going to cost him ninety-three thousand dollars just to tear down the wall. And I said, "That's not, I don't think that's necessary to tear down the wall," but he wants it, I guess.

MA: It sounds like he's learned some important things from you, I think.

GM: Well, he worked for me for quite some time when he was going to school, and he had his other jobs. Well, he went to college, and very high, has a very good knowledge of computer systems, and his jobs he took with the computer companies were in the financial part. And being a head of that... at one point, he was one of the top three men in the computer company. But the computer companies change their bosses, the boss sells the company and some other boss comes in and wants to do certain things. And, but he got the qualifications, and this is why I'm looking at him, and then I'm at NVC, and I'm talking to these young kids, a little bit older than my son, they're terrific. They're really up in the high end of the scale there as far as certain jobs are concerned, you know. There's people like Cheryl Narasaki, and Warren Higa, and Bob Kiga, and Bryan Takeuchi, they're really, I'm proud of the Japanese kids and what they're doing. When I get to know them -- I don't know everybody because I don't know what they're doing, but it's really something. And in the twenty years I worked for Tall's right downtown, I used to have also people coming into the store and says, "George, could you find me a girl to work as a secretary?" And I said, "You mean a Japanese girl?" Says, "Yeah, a Japanese girl." And so, and even in those days, the demand was great. But then demand for Japanese girls for secretary was great, but the supply was limited. Most all good gals had pretty good secretary jobs and stuff like that. And you can look even at the schools. At one time, there were all Japanese secretaries in all the schools. Not today, but, 'cause they all retired and most of the girls, if they went into the school system, instead of being secretaries, they were teachers.

<End Segment 51> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 52>

MA: So George, what are some of your plans for the future?

GM: My plans? Well, my plans were to have a lot of fun and travel, okay?

MA: Sounds good.

GM: That's sounds good, but it isn't. Because now, you got the money to travel, but you don't have the desire to travel; you're too old. It's not that easy traveling, it's very hard on you.

MA: But you also fit in a lot of education work as well.

GM: Most of it, with the Nisei vets I have a lot of things that I fit into their program, but it got to a point where I couldn't take an assignment to talk, because sometimes they say, "Well, we want you in March," and they want to know right now if you're, you're available in March. Well, I can't make that promise because I don't know where I'm going to be feeling in March. Especially those years when I had this arthritis real bad, and it was hard for me to even get around. Now it's not so bad, I can get around, but really, when you have arthritis, you don't know when it's going to come back. And then there was a case here recently where I, where I had this job to talk at the Rotary here right before your program, on the, I think it was the 9th. And I was supposed to talk at the Rotary, and about a week before this talk, this guy calls me up who was in charge of the Rotary, and he says, "Well, we got it all planned out now and we're gonna give you -- we got another speaker so we're going to divide the talk between you and her, and you're going to get ten to fifteen minutes at the most. I says, "No way are you gonna get me to talk ten or fifteen minutes." I says -- and finally refused him. He says, "You don't want the job?" I said, "No." I says, "I asked for more time before and you didn't give it to me." I said, "It wouldn't do me justice and it wouldn't do you justice to have me talk for ten or fifteen minutes, because I got a good story and I want to get my story across to give you a good story, and I benefit, because I'm doing something for myself, too, or for the legacy. And sometimes it's not good to promise something for ten minutes. But somebody else took my place, and they were happy with what he said, but I know in ten or fifteen minutes, you can't get across to some thick-headed politicians or people that... you know. And I've been to a Rotary where I got a speaker from Nisei Vets to talk, and the guy that asked me, he went like this -- [makes hand gesture] -- and I knew what that meant, to cut it. Because he had a good speech but it was too dull for them, he was coming out with too much statistics. Nobody wanted to hear numbers, they want to hear a joke or they want to hear something funny or something that they could relate to or anything like that. So I can sit here and tell you numbers, you know, 120,000 Japanese got incarcerated and thrown into ten different camps. It gets so dull that they heard the story over and over.

MA: Well, this has been a great, a great story, George. I really enjoyed talking with you.

GM: The thing about it is, you know, if I can make you laugh, that would be the funniest thing. But there's, there's some stories we laugh, because we could talk about it ourselves. You know, like Dan Inouye, he's, he's a good speaker talking to people, but when he's in another room, somebody's house and talking, he's a different person. And you can sit there and listen and laugh and the women will be upstairs while the men will be downstairs and we'd hear stories that, they're really funny, things like that. But talking to these people is not an easy job, especially kids. Because you want to teach the kids something, and to have 'em look forward to something else. That if, you know, you have to work hard and study hard and stuff like that. And you can't tell a kid that outright, because they're not going to listen to you. You tell 'em, "You gotta study," well, they're not gonna study. You got to give 'em a problem and tell 'em why you have to do it. And if they enjoy the problem, to do it.

MA: Well, I think this interview was, will teach a lot of people, and a lot of people will benefit from hearing about your life.

GM: I hope.

MA: [Laughs] So thank you so much for, for talking with me.

GM: I really enjoyed it.

MA: I did, too.

GM: I think I talked too much.

MA: [Laughs] It was great. Thanks, George.

<End Segment 52> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.