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-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So what was it that eventually had you leave Gonzaga? So you were there taking classes, eventually you, you left, so what was it that...

FS: Well, I, first of all, I was really uncomfortable. It was, it was an impossible situation. Here you have all these young men were ready to go off to war, and I didn't hear back from the MIS, of course. In the spring of '43, and... I was not doing well in school, as you might... it was not an excuse, but I was not doing well in school. And so I heard these guys, they meet these Japanese Americans downtown, and they're taking volunteers for a Japanese American unit of some kind, and you didn't have to know Japanese. So I went down to the draft board and I inquired about this, I said, "What is going on?" And she said, "Well, all you have to do is sign up and you, you're in." And I said, "Okay," so without any thought or talking to my parents first, I signed up. That was, it was in, in March or April of 1943.

TI: And when you signed up, what were you thinking? What was the, the draw to, to volunteer at this...

FS: Well, things, things, you know, there's a level of discomfort, isn't there? The war's on, the war in Japan is still, with Japan is not going well, I'm, I'm classified as an "enemy alien," so this is an opportunity. You know, I, people, guys my age now have pretty high-minded responses to that question. But I, I think mine was just that, God, I had to get out, I had to do something. My brother was in the service, and of course, he was mowing lawns back at Fort Riley, Kansas. So, but it just, I think, thinking back, I just felt I had to be involved in it some way. And these other kids I knew, guys were, that I knew, were gonna do the same thing, they were gonna sign, we talked, we had talked about it. And I just, at some point, I just said, "Okay, I'm gonna do this."

TI: Well, you mentioned you went down there, you heard how, what was going on, and you signed up, and you mentioned you didn't talk to your parents. So eventually you would have to go tell your parents.

FS: Yeah, well, I, they, they deferred taking me in until I finished the school year. And so it was not something that I had to do right away, but, and I, I got papers, and of course, the papers... and finally it got to the point where it said I was to report to Fort Douglas, Utah, on such a date, and finally I had to tell my mother and father.

TI: So you, you didn't tell your parents for, for what, weeks?

FS: Oh, a couple of months, anyway. And didn't think much about it at the time, except now is approaching the moment when I'm gonna have to leave. And it was a terrible, terrible scene. You know, when you think about, about the obedient son who is supposed to talk to his parents about, if I would have said to others that my dad, it was pater familias, he was the boss of the whole, whole clan. And his expectations on, he would run my life until I got married, I think. And, and he treated us all like that, I think, he had expectations. But anyway, it finally, it just got closer and closer, I had to go down to Utah, and I told them.

TI: So how did you tell them? Do you remember the, the scene, or...

FS: I just, I just... I know it was in the kitchen, and boy, I can't tell you exactly the language, but I told them that I had signed up to join the army and I've never seen my father so angry. He, with four boys, he could get pretty mad, you know. But, God, he was mad. I thought he was going to hit me.

TI: And what was he mad about? When you say that he was mad, what did he say?

FS: Well, he just, he, as I said, my father ran the family, and he expected to counsel his sons on what they did. And so I had done this thing, I don't know if it was life-changing or anything, but it was, I had done something that was pretty drastic in his eyes. But I was eighteen and I said, "I've got to go to Fort Douglas to join the army." And boy, he was mad. He, he had some really choice Japanese to say. [Laughs] I can still remember this. I don't think you'll understand this, but he said, "Kondo wa donna baka na koto shita." And he says, "This time, what kind of crazy thing did you do?" And it was pretty astonishing, but my mother cried, and that hurt worse than anything.

TI: And why did she cry?

FS: Well, she, my dad was mad, she was upset, obviously, and she cried. That was my mother's answer to all these things. It was, it was, I'm glad none of the other family were present, but it was a real shouting match.

TI: So this, this was probably, it sounds like, the most intense moment you've had with your parents up to this point in your life?

FS: Well, let me see. I had, my brother and, brother Roy and I used to get into trouble a lot. We would fight, fight each other, and we'd get involved in other things. But yeah, I don't recall that my father was, I've ever seen my father so angry.

TI: But at some point they, they both accepted that you were, you were going down to...

FS: Well, it finally, it finally ended up that I was going to go whether, whether they can do anything or not, so yeah, our parting was, was very quiet. My father was never emotional, but as I recall, he shook my hand.

TI: And any words?

FS: No, no, he didn't, didn't say anything.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.