Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Fred Shiosaki Interview
Narrator: Fred Shiosaki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: April 26 & 27, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-sfred-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: When you mentioned earlier that your, your Caucasian friends that you grew up with, when they turned eighteen, they all had to be drafted.

FS: They were drafted en masse, yeah.

TI: So what happened when you were eighteen?

FS: Well, so I left, I finished high school, and of course I didn't turn eighteen until the end of the summer. And by way of background, my brother Roy, who is, who is three years older than I am, was running a laundry in Whitefish, Montana. And in January or February of 1942, he was drafted. And I think it was probably before they stopped drafting Japanese, Japanese Americans, but he was drafted. So my expectations was that, hey, there's no reason why I can't be drafted, too. And so I went down in August of, yeah, 1942, and signed up, and of course I turned out to be a 4-C, ineligible to be drafted, "enemy alien," or something of that sort. And that was, that was a bit of a shock. I thought, well, geez, our family must be different, or something.

TI: Oh, so you thought it might be just your family or your, your individual...

FS: Yeah, yeah, we were, we were good guys, or something, you know. No, that, that was not to be.

TI: And so, and so what did you do then when you realized you could not join the, the army?

FS: Well, I couldn't travel, we couldn't travel, so the family council, and my dad said, "Hey, you're going to college, then." That's, that was family council. [Laughs] So Gonzaga was close by, I could ride the bus to, bus to school. And I, I enrolled at Gonzaga in September '42. Gonzaga in those days was an all-male school, it was, the Catholic boys went to one place and the Catholic girls went to Holy Names Academy. But, 'course with the draft and all, Gonzaga just ran out of students, and so they contracted with the navy for a V-12 program, which was to train naval officers. And so the campus was full of young men in uniform going to, going to become naval officers. And so there I was, there were, Bill Nishimura and somebody else, and a couple of guys who were 4-F and one woman, were the only civilians in the whole building, except for the Jesuit priests, of course. [Laughs] It, you talk about being in an untenable position, it was like... it was like in the war, getting cut off from your, from your lines. It just, I've never, I guess I can't recall ever being, feeling so isolated.

TI: Well, were there any incidences where the, the men who were being trained in the V-12 program said anything to you or made you feel that...

FS: No, no, they left, they left the civilians strictly alone. They were all gung-ho young men, and they'd march to class and they wore uniforms and they did calisthenics out in the playfield, but no, they pretty much ignored us.

TI: And I think during this time, the Military Intelligence Service, they were looking for people with Japanese language abilities. And I think they, they probably, the word came out. Now, was that something that you were interested in?

FS: Yeah, I, well, I, Bill Nishimura and I used to pal around together a lot, and so we were visiting his house, they lived in a house over on the north side, and his brother Sab, older brother Sab was saying, "They're looking for guys," and I said, "Hey, well, Sab, write to them and tell 'em I'm interested in that." And of course, he did that for me, of course. [Laughs] It turned out I didn't know enough Japanese to stick in your eye, so it was, I was very summarily rejected for that.

TI: So they, they gave you a test of some type?

FS: Well, no, they, I guess they did a background check, and that was it.

TI: Oh, so they, they never gave you an interview or a test?

FS: No, I was not interviewed or anything, but Sab wrote for me and said, "Here's a young man who's interested." I thought I looked the part, anyway. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, what's interesting, I've interviewed men who were in the MIS, some of them probably had even less Japanese language abilities than you did.

FS: Oh, really?

TI: And were accepted. So just, it was probably pretty much, pretty irregular in terms of...

FS: Well, I think so. They were, they were really frantic in those days. Yeah, and I, it was just something that I thought, "Well, now that, I ought to be able to do that." [Laughs]

TI: Now, during this period, when you were at Gonzaga, do you recall any incidences where, where the Spokane community was not friendly towards Japanese Americans, either to you or you heard rumors or anything like that?

FS: I, as I, I don't recall ever hearing about any kind of overt things that took place. There obviously had to be, but I, I certainly was not made aware of it.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.