Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Joe Ishikawa Interview
Narrator: Joe Ishikawa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: January 10, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-ijoe-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So let's back up a little bit now. So in the... well, let's talk about December 7, 1941. And where were you, or how did you find out that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor?

JI: I guess we were getting ready to go to church or something, and radio was on. And here came this news, and I thought it was... I didn't believe it at first. But it became obvious it was true, and at that time, we hadn't declared war yet, and I guess during the course of the day, Roosevelt eventually came on and declared war. My brother, when that happened, my brother and I both went to an armory in Exposition Park to try to enlist.

TI: So when was this? How soon after December 7th?

JI: That night.

TI: Oh, on December 7th?

JI: Yeah. And it was dark, and we were approaching the guy, and somebody says, "Halt, who goes there?" And I wasn't gonna say Ishikawa, because I didn't want to get shot at. So I said, "friends," and so the answer would be recognized, friends, so we went up and told him what we wanted to do. And they let us fill out forms, but essentially it was: "Don't call us, we'll call you" type thing. Well...

TI: And which brother, was this John?

JI: John, yeah. And he... see, he had been 4-F because he had varicose veins, and I had student's exemption. But we never were called, obviously, and then I...

TI: But I wanted to go back to your thinking. When you and John decided to do this, how did that come about? Did you guys have, did you guys sit down and talk about it, or what made you decide to go down there to do this?

TI: Well, we thought they're going to need, need an army, and they had the draft. As a matter of fact, several Nisei, the Nisei who had been drafted, were given honorable discharges, you know that.

TI: Right.

JI: And so they couldn't finish up what they had started, so there was no way that they're gonna get volunteers from us, from our group. But I guess... it may have been defensive, too, that we don't want to be identified as the enemy, and so the best way, or one of the ways is to join up, I don't know, or maybe we felt gung ho about going after these people.

TI: What reaction did your father have for you and John to do this?

JI: Oh, I think he supported it. He didn't identify particularly with, with Japan as, as a military power or military. I'm sure he thought that was a stupid thing to have happened, too. But I don't know what... my sister was married to a guy who was born in... Seattle, as a matter of fact, but he was not born in Seattle, he came here when he was one year old, but he was born in Japan. And he felt very fearful that he had been an interior designer and part of his work had shrunk. I'm not sure if it was because of the war, but he was relieved to go to Manzanar, 'cause he thought he'd be protected. But he felt very vulnerable, whereas the rest of us were kind of indignant about being uprooted and all. And partly his work had shrunk, and he had, during the silent movie era, he had done a lot of the subtitles for silent movies and even appeared in a couple of the movies as an Eskimo when the gold rush charge happens, gold rush.

TI: But because he did not have U.S. citizenship, he, even though he lived here essentially his whole life, he felt that something would happen...

JI: But you know, he identified much more as a Japanese.

TI: Oh, even though he came to the United States at one, he still identified more as Japanese?

JI: Yeah.

TI: And he was married to Chiyo?

JI: Yeah, my sister Chiyo.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.