Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Cedrick M. Shimo Interview
Narrator: Cedrick M. Shimo
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Martha Nakagawa (secondary)
Location: Torrance, California
Date: September 22, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-scedrick-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So, Cedrick, we're going to start now. And the way I start this is I kind of describe where we are, and the date. So today is September 22, 2009. We're in Torrance at the Torrance Holiday Inn. And in the room on the camera is Dana Hoshide, and interviewing with me is Martha Nakagawa. I'm Tom Ikeda, and we're here with Cedrick Shimo. So, Cedrick, the first question I have is, can you tell me where and when you were born?

CS: I was born on October 1, 1919, in the Imperial Valley in a town called Heber.

TI: And what was your given name when you were born?

CS: Masaki Shimo.

TI: And so where did "Cedrick" come from?

CS: My mother named me... I don't think it's on my birth certificate. It may be, but I've always been known as Cedrick. She read the book called (Little) Lord Fauntleroy, I think he was one of the lords, a young boy. And she thought he was cute, and she says her son was cute, so she named me after him. I've never forgiven her for that name. [Laughs]

TI: And so the name Cedrick, did you get a lot of teasing from it? Or why do you not forgive her for that?

CS: Well, because it was sissy. I told her, "Why didn't you name me Butch?" [Laughs] I was never... well, 'cause I was with a bunch of friends and they just took it for granted.

TI: Did you ever have a nickname? Did you have a nickname?

CS: Ced.

TI: Ced?

CS: C-E-D. That's what I go by.

TI: So people called you Ced.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Let's first talk about your father. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from?

CS: Tamori Shimo, from Okayama, Japan.

TI: And can you tell me a little bit about your father's family's business? What did they do?

CS: Yes, they had a huge brewery up in the Okayama mountains there. And in the Japanese tradition, the eldest son takes over and my father was around the fifth or sixth son. He had no chance of taking over. In fact, he was the only one of all my relatives, the only one that came to the United States. And first he came early as a schoolboy to go to school. And (when one of) his brother died, he went back to Japan, and he came back here and then he worked in Little Tokyo for a while, and then he opened up a sizeable cotton ranch. Because World War I was just started, and there was a demand for cotton for gunpowder and uniforms.

TI: Okay, so before we go too fast on that, I want to go back to Japan. So your family had this large brewery, so this is like sake brewery?

CS: Yeah.

TI: And when you say "large," how much, did they own the land?

CS: Yeah, they owned the land. In fact, when I visited that place, it was now a huge residential, they showed me a picture in a Japanese magazine that showed it. They had the cemetery right there, and they taught me how to, I didn't know how to do the ceremonies in Japan, to the ancestor. And then my, I guess my uncle or cousin that was there, he had an album of mine. And I went there only because the Honda people, I was traveling with them, and he was so nice. He said, "Well, we're in Okayama, let's visit your home." And then we got on the taxi and the taxi just shut off his meter, 'cause they were going, winding up the mountains. And finally I went to that place. It was a huge, huge brewery.

TI: And that was the first time you had actually seen the land.

CS: Yeah.

TI: And so how did that business work? So they owned the brewery. Now, the rice that would go there, did they also own the lands for the rice, or just farmers?

CS: That I never knew, how it operated.

TI: And after they made the sake, do you know who their main customers were?

CS: No, I don't know anything about that business. I never inquired. [Laughs]

TI: And do you know anything about their reputation or the quality of their sake.

CS: No. It's in my blood, I think. [Laughs]

TI: And at what point did that business -- or is the business still in the family?

CS: Oh, no. In fact, the, one of the sons became the... what's that big investment firm in Japan, financial firm? He was the vice president of that, and he didn't want to take over running the brewery, so it just slowly died down. Nomura Securities.

TI: Okay, Nomura. And so after, so your father was the fifth son, so he came to the United States. And you mentioned around World War I, he started cotton farming in the Imperial Valley?

CS: Yes.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's now talk about your mother. What's your mother's name?

CS: Yoshiko Urakami Shimo.

TI: And where was she from?

CS: Well, she's from Okayama, but actually, her father was from Kagoshima. And did you see the movie The Last Samurai? Well, her father, my grandfather, fought under Saigo Takamori, that was the "last samurai." In the movie, they all got killed, but that wasn't true. [Laughs] Saigo survived, and so did my grandfather. And I was talking to this curator at, in the Imperial Valley, and he really knows his Kagoshima history. And I was telling him, "My grandfather must have been a coward, 'cause he didn't commit seppuku." Because if they lost, they would commit suicide. But he said, "Oh, no. The story is that Saigo Takamori gathered all the young people and said, 'The future of Japan is gonna lie in (you young men). I don't want you to commit suicide.'" So my grandfather as a prisoner was sent to Okayama to a temple. And the oshosan there took a liking to him, so sent him to school in Tokyo, which eventually became Meiji University. And when he came back, he eventually became the, of the penitentiary there, what he called the top man there.

TI: The warden?

CS: Warden, I guess, yeah.

TI: Oh, that's a good story. So on both sides, very colorful, interesting family histories. How did your mother and father meet?

CS: I don't know. I know it wasn't shashin kekkon, because they already had met in Japan, you know.

TI: But your father was in the United States first. Do you know if he came back to Japan?

CS: Yeah, well, he was, in the early 1900s, he was in the United States for, as a schoolboy and studying English. Then he went back to Japan. Then he came back, and I think my mother followed later.

TI: Okay, 'cause you were born, I'm sorry, 1919. And did you have any siblings, any brothers and sisters?

CS: My mother had to have a caesarian operation from me, and I was nine pounds at that time. And because of that, she couldn't carry any more babies. The doctor gave my father a choice. He said either my mother would die or I would die. So he chose my mother (but) we both survived.

TI: Oh. Because giving a c-section back then was very dangerous to the child?

CS: Dangerous, right. Dangerous for either one, so they had to save one. But he managed to save both of us.

TI: Oh, interesting. Because if she went through a natural childbirth, the doctor said she probably would not have survived, and the only way that she could survive would be a c-section.

CS: Caesarian, right.

TI: And then, but then the baby might die.

CS: Right.

TI: Yeah, a nine-pound baby, that was very unusual. Was there, was it a long pregnancy, or you were just a large baby?

CS: I don't know. They thought I was going to be a sumotori, but I turned out to be a squirt. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So you were born in the Imperial Valley, and so let's talk about the Imperial Valley and some of your early childhood memories. What was that like?

CS: Oh, we left when I was one years old.

TI: And where did they move then?

CS: Well, as I say, when the war ended, the price of cotton just collapsed. So my father folded up the business and came to L.A.

TI: Okay, and that's when you went to, didn't you go to Boyle Heights at that time?

CS: No, they lived in (southwest) L.A. at that time. See, he went to work for the Rafu Shimpo. The reason for that is his brother, older brother, married... see, the Rafu Shimpo had two founders: (Mr.) Komai and Mr. Inouye. And the Inouyes didn't have any sons, so my father's brother went as a yoshi to the Inouye family to continue the family (name). So that's why he had the connection at Rafu Shimpo. So my father, when he came back, he went to work for the Rafu Shimpo.

TI: Okay. And he was, as a writer?

CS: No, as a bill collector. So he went all around California, up and down the coast, collecting the subscription fee from the farmers and all that, and got to know all the farmers. So first thing you know, he was selling insurance to them, that's how he became an insurance agent.

TI: Okay, so first collecting bills for the Rafu, then selling insurance.

CS: And then when the Depression came, they couldn't afford insurance, so he sold fertilizer to them. [Laughs] There was a Japanese company making fertilizer.

TI: So he was very entrepreneurial, he did lots of things. And so you were originally in west L.A., and then how long did you live there?

CS: It wasn't... no, no. From there, my mother and I went back to Japan, that's right, when I was about four years old, and came back when I was five. So when I came back, my father had moved to Boyle Heights, so we went there.

TI: Now was there a special reason for your mother and you to go back to Japan?

CS: That I never knew why she went back.

TI: Do you have any memories of Japan?

CS: Oh, yeah. I mean, nothing of importance, just certain things sticks in your mind, you know. Like I remember one time I was in kindergarten, and on the slide there I pushed a kid aside or something. And the principal called my mother, and, "Your American son is too wild," or something. [Laughs] I guess I was a troublemaker there already.

TI: And did you think that you were more aggressive than the Japanese students, or was there a difference from school in Japan?

CS: I know when I went back, I couldn't speak a word of Japanese, and when I came back, I couldn't speak a word of English.

TI: [Laughs] So you returned to the United States, your dad moves to Boyle Heights.

CS: Because that's closer to Rafu Shimpo.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: And so describe growing up in Boyle Heights. What are some memories of Boyle Heights as a kid?

CS: Oh, it's all pleasant memories. At that time, I didn't know it was an unusual neighborhood until the museum put on that Boyle Heights exhibit. Then I thought, my gosh, I lived in an unusual neighborhood. And then, Betsy Kalin is currently making a documentary about Boyle Heights, and she was telling me that Boyle Heights was the most racially diverse community together, except for two smaller ones in California. She said, "New York has a huge minority population, but they lived in their own ghettos." But Boyle Heights was one community, that's why it's so different, she said.

TI: So describe some of that. When you talk about the diversity of the community in Boyle Heights, who were some of your neighbors?

CS: See, to me, it was normal. I thought this was it, 'cause I had the Russian (as a neighbor), used to go to (his) place to eat, had Mexicans, blacks, I think one was Italian, he used to come to my house all the time. So there was a lot of Jews, I know. About half of the population was Jewish at that time. Just thought it was normal.

TI: And in the neighborhood, how many Japanese would you say, how many Japanese families?

CS: Oh, that was a huge... I don't know the count, but I think the Jews were the majority, then came the Japanese, I think. Latinos came later, but there were still a lot of Mexicans there.

TI: It was just a diverse neighborhood. Did the issue of race ever come up?

CS: Oh, to me, no. Until I was on the UCLA fencing team, all white people. And when they found out I came from Boyle Heights, they said, "Gee, aren't you afraid of living in that neighborhood?" I said, "What for?" It had an image that, you know, pachukos and fights and all that. I said, "I'm one of them. In fact, if I have a problem, they'll come to my rescue, so what am I afraid of?" [Laughs] But that's the image we had. They thought I lived in a very dangerous neighborhood.

TI: And you just thought that was normal, these were all your friends, they were all different races.

CS: Yeah, we grew up with them, yeah.

TI: How about class divisions? Were there, like, certain groups that perhaps had more money than others? I mean, how would you characterize that?

CS: I don't know about financially, but you could tell the race by the sports activities. Like in the B football and B basketball, it was all Japanese Americans, practically. A's were blacks, well, let me put it, basketball was the Slavs, you know. Football there were the big Russians and the blacks. Track, Mexicans excelled in distance. You could tell by the sports where they're from. And I said this at an interview for the museum, I said the debating team was all Jews. They were so sharp and just smart. They took that out of there. [Laughs]

TI: But almost by ethnic group, there were certain things that...

CS: They excelled in.

TI: ...they excelled in, or that they were grouped by.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And you said the Japanese were good at basketball and football.

MN: Well, in the B leagues. There were a few in the varsity, too, and the football team, two Niseis on the varsity football team, none on the basketball. And the B football, for instance, that was all Japanese. And they went through the whole season un-scored upon, undefeated, and state champions. [Laughs] Half of 'em were Cougars.

TI: And when you say A versus B, was that just like varsity JV, or was it different weight classes?

CS: The size. They go by... B league, if they were good, they'll play on the varsity. But because of the size, they still could play, but in the lower division.

TI: And how about something like baseball? Was that dominated by a certain group?

CS: Baseball, they only had the varsity, and they had two Nisei on there. And I was too small, so I was the bat boy there.

TI: Okay. How about in terms of after school? What were some of the things that you did, things like Japanese school, did you go to?

CS: Yeah. My mother had a... it goes way back in the 1920s. The Nichiren temple came to Little Tokyo. So I still remember, it must have been in 1924, or '3, I used to go to Sunday school at Nichiren. And the priest there knew my mother, that she was a teacher, she went to teacher's school in Japan. So he asked her to be the Japanese school teacher at his temple. And when the Nichiren moved to Boyle Heights, they had a nice new building then, before it was a home, you know. And then my mother ran the Japanese school, teacher there. So that's where I kept going.

TI: And how was that, to have your mother be the Japanese language teacher?

CS: Well, she had an assistant, Aoyagi Sensei, and he knew that I liked baseball. So every Saturday, he always let me sneak out from the back window, practice with the group, sneak back in, and he never told my mother about that. [Laughs]

TI: And so your mother never knew.

CS: I told her much later, she was shaking her head.

TI: But she probably suspected when you came home with grass stains on your pants or something.

CS: Well, it was baseball. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, that's a good story. But was there added pressure being the son of the language school teacher?

CS: No, because my mother had the school and my father had this kendo dojo. So our house was always filled with kids, and I was a Boy Scout leader. So they'll come, we had a big backyard on the hillside, and they'd come to pass the test, and I'll teach him, I don't know how to cook, but I had to teach them how to cook and all that. So the house was always filled with kids, and I had no problem.

TI: So it almost sounded like a mini community center almost.

CS: Something like that, yeah.

TI: With the Japanese language teacher and the kendo.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Tell me a little bit about your father as a kendo instructor, the school he taught at, what was that like?

CS: Well, it started off a half a block from our house was Evergreen playground, they had a gymnasium there, and he started his school there. And it became a pretty big school, and then when Chuo Gakuen built, they built a big auditorium so we moved over there. And later on, when I advanced in degrees, I was helping him, too, and he also had other assistants helping him teach kendo.

TI: And about how large was the school? How many students were there?

CS: About sixty, I guess. Well, you saw that picture there, that was a special tournament with (a few of) the dojos combined.

TI: And when you think about kendo tournaments, describe that in terms of, you know, like the southern California, did they have large tournaments where...

CS: Oh, they had dojos all over the place. There was a video... ever hear of Torao Mori?

TI: No, I haven't.

CS: See, he was the Miyamoto Musashi of modern Japan, heads above everybody before the war. So the government sent him to the United States to learn western sabre to represent Japan in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics. He was so good when he switched over to western sabre, and the first year he was the California champ. And then could have been the national champ, but I think because of prejudice, they made him second, you know. And then he met a Nisei girl, so they married in Japan. And when they were married, Pearl Harbor came. And then after the war, he came back, and in Japan, kendo was outlawed. So he was famous before the war, but anybody after the war ever heard (about) him. But he came back to the United States and he was so good again, and he became the coach for the U.S. Olympic team.

TI: This is in kendo, or fencing?

CS: No, no, in fencing, western fencing. And if you know kendo, I think you could beat the sabre. 'Cuz myself, I give a kendo demonstration at UCLA, coach (of the UCLA team) said, "Come on down (to the gym)," and then he gave me the white uniform, gave me a sabre and said, "Duel those two guys," and I beat 'em. They were the two, one, two men on the team, so I got on the UCLA fencing team.

TI: I've never heard this before. So the skills in kendo translate well to fencing?

CS: Oh, it was just... we had more moves, and we used two hands, (and also used) one hand -- sabre is one hand. But the principles are the same, but we had more moves than in sabre, so it was very easy. That's why Mori-sensei became so good.

TI: How interesting. And so oftentimes, Japanese who were good at kendo could later on go into fencing maybe in college?

CS: Yeah. 'Cause this other fellow that I gave a demonstration with, he got on the UCLA fencing team, too, because both of us were beating everybody. [Laughs]

TI: So tell me a little bit about the tournaments in Los Angeles.

CS: Kendo?

TI: Yeah, kendo. You have a lot of dojos all around, and how would that be organized?

CS: I don't know. My father was, I don't know if he was a secretary or something of the association, and how they did it, I don't know, but we had tournaments all the time.

TI: Now, when you were being trained, was there any sense of it being like military training when you did kendo?

CS: Oh, no. That was, to me, it was sports, I just loved it. We'd go at it for hours. That's why I think I built my body at that time. Once or twice a week we'd go for two hours straight, just going on this, sweating profusely, you know, and just build up the stamina.

MN: In Japan, I understand kendo is for the upper class, because, well-to-do because you have to buy equipment, expensive equipment. What was it like here? Was it more well-to-do families who were in your kendo classes?

CS: I don't think so, 'cause half of the kendo people were Boy Scouts and Cougars. [Laughs] And they weren't, we weren't all rich. Even we, my father was the teacher, we weren't wealthy. Maybe they sold it at a discount to him, I don't know, but everybody had their dogu.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So it sounds like there was this overlap, too. You mentioned kendo, Boy Scouts, the Cougars. So was there a group that you spent a lot of time with that did similar things?

CS: As I say, Boy Scouts, Cougars, kendo, there was Boy Scouts and kendo, then there was all the same people, almost the same. So it was no problem. Busy in all three things having fun, that's why I hated to study. [Laughs]

TI: So tell me a little bit about Boy Scouts. I mean, I think of... actually, I don't know that much about Boy Scouts other than I always thought there was, associated with God, more Christian. Is that... because you were Buddhist, was there ever an issue being Buddhist in the Boy Scouts?

CS: No, like the Koyasan Boy Scout troop, that was one of the biggest. And ours was just as big, we had a drum and bugle corps. And we didn't get the publicity, but our drum and bugle corps was playing in the coliseum just like the 379 boys. So both 197 and the 379 of Little Tokyo, we were the biggest Boy Scout troops.

TI: Okay, so that was never an issue. Like, did you have very many, like, camping trips, excursions outside?

CS: Oh, yes. We had camporalls, go hiking up in the mountains, it was a good time. Out in the beaches or the mountains, the good old days. [Laughs]

TI: Now, how high up did you go in terms of scouting?

CS: Oh, I said I was a "Life for life." Because to get the merit badge, I had to pass lifesaving, and when I tried to take lifesaving, they had to save me. [Laughs]

TI: So you weren't a swimmer. [Laughs]

CS: No. So, but I still was the assistant scoutmaster. The scoutmaster himself was an older fellow, more or less a figurehead. But the actual running of the troop, I was running the troop for years.

MN: When did you learn how to swim? Because I understand the pools here were segregated.

CS: It was. That's why I guess I couldn't pass the lifesaving, 'cause I never... well, I did go, we'd go swimming and all that, but I'm one of those that I go in the water, I go right back in the shower and warm up, 'cause I wasn't made for the water. [Laughs]

TI: Well, but going back to the segregated pool, so was it harder to actually swim, it just wasn't as common?

CS: It was segregated, but certain days, we could go. So we used to go on those days.

MN: Before they changed the water, right?

CS: I guess that's what it was, probably, yeah. 'Cause we used to go to other indoor pools, too, used to go swimming. So the one in Boyle Heights you're talking about, right? The Evergreen Plunge, yeah. I think that, for a while, but then after that, that segregation was lifted, I think. We used to go there all the time.

TI: So that, going back to your earlier descriptions of Boyle Heights, where it was very diverse, you have all these different races, and yet there were certain, I guess, barriers or restrictions against, I guess, non-whites, the Japanese, and maybe the blacks, from doing certain things. Was that, was that a fair assessment?

CS: Not in my junior high and high school. I don't recall anything like that. We were free to do whatever we want to, and I used to have different friends getting, becoming officers in different clubs. So if there was, I wasn't exposed to it.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So earlier you mentioned the Cougars, so we talked about kendo, the Boy Scouts. Tell me about the Cougars. What were the Cougars? What was that?

CS: Well, it started off with nine of us, started playing sandlot baseball. And then we started to enter tournaments, and then as we grew, all the younger people came, so we eventually had, like, the Cougar Seniors, Cougar Junior, Cougar Babes, so we had about maybe forty or fifty boys in our club of different ages. So I was in the Cougar Seniors, and then the whole club itself was a big club.

TI: And was this all organized by the boys, or did you have adults who...

CS: We had an adult, Kiyomi Takata was our advisor. So as I say, not only baseball, but we played football and basketball.

TI: And I'm curious, in terms of... did you guys wear special clothes or was there like a special shirt or jackets or anything like that?

CS: Yeah, well, baseball, at first it was nothing, but later on we got uniforms and we started playing with a Cougar uniform.

TI: Or how about just like out in the community? Did you have any, like, jackets that you wore?

CS: Yeah, most of the teams had their own uniforms. It looked nice. (Narr. note: No jackets, just baseball uniform.)

TI: And so out in the community, people could tell whether or not you were a Cougar or not by maybe not only sports, but what you wore sometimes?

CS: Yeah, well, ours had the Cougars written right across there (on our baseball uniform). [Laughs]

TI: And was that pretty common? Were there clubs like this in other parts of the...

CS: Oh, yeah. There was Pasadena and Terminal Island, and they all had teams all over.

TI: And you'd play baseball against each other, football and things.

CS: Yeah.

TI: And how well did the Cougars compete against these other teams in general?

CS: Well, like I showed you there, we won the championship once. [Laughs] So we were pretty good that year. We had, like our pitcher, Jack Tagawa was also a pitcher for the Roosevelt High School team, and the Cougars, two or three of 'em were on the varsity of the Roosevelt High team, so we had a good team.

TI: So we talked about the Cougars and the Boy Scouts and the kendo, which were Japanese Americans. Were you involved in any other organizations or activities with non-Japanese Americans?

CS: Yeah. At Roosevelt High, there was what they called a Manager's Club, about sixty members. And they were the ones that kept all the athletic events going like track meets, they'll hold the tape, or all the menial jobs that has to be done to hold the athletic events. Whether indoor or outdoors, I would say sixty members, we were very busy.

TI: So this was a very diverse group.

CS: Oh, yeah. Four or five Japanese Niseis. In fact, (one year) the head of that group, the student head, was a Nisei later, Yutaka Niisato.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: And so what year did you graduate from high school?

CS: '37.

TI: And after you graduated from high school, what did you do?

CS: Went to UCLA.

TI: And was it pretty common for your friends and others to go to college after high school?

CS: I wouldn't say it's common, but many of 'em did. I hated to study. The only reason I went was my mother kept nagging me, "You got to go to college, you got to go to college." [Laughs]

TI: And so why did your mother want you to go to college when, oftentimes, many Niseis would go to college but they would have a hard time getting jobs? I mean, did she talk to you about education?

CS: That's why at UCLA I was the president of the Business Students Club, and we sent out a questionnaire to about seventy-five American firms saying, "Would you hire a qualified Japanese graduate?" And the responses were put in the Rafu Shimpo every week, and I brought a copy here. Bank of America just came out and said, "Except for Little Tokyo, we never have and never will hire a Japanese." And at the museum, on my tours, I just show that this is how it was back then. Especially when the minority students come, there's a picture of three college grads working in a fruit stand. So (when) we get some of the students just from the minority area. I tell 'em, "This picture, you could forget everything in the museum, but don't forget this picture. Because this is what it was when I was your age. Today, it's not your face or your color but what's up here." So I told 'em, "Study hard, and if you feel like dropping out or quitting, I want you to keep thinking of this picture. That, 'Yeah, I can't blame my face for it.'" So that questionnaire, we're still using it. I pass it out to the teachers all the time.

TI: And when you started getting the results from that questionnaire, did it surprise you?

CS: Well, that's when I decided the future and getting a decent job until... so that's why I figured the best job I could get has to do with Japan-America relations. So my mother arranged so that I'd go to Keio University right after I got out of UCLA. But then Congress passed a law that men of military age could not leave the country. That's why I went to UC Berkeley for graduate study, hoping things would die down, then I could go study. But Pearl Harbor came instead.

TI: Okay. Going back a little bit to the questionnaire, I have another couple questions in terms of what was the response when this information was published in the Rafu? Were people angry, surprised?

CS: I don't know what the response was. I remember then, because of those, I was called out to make talks to different groups about our survey, I remember that.

TI: And was this your idea, to do the survey?

CS: Yeah.

TI: And what were you hoping to do with the survey?

CS: I wanted to see what our future was. What companies, most of the positive results came from companies that were already hiring. Like companies that owned the fruit stands, like that. But a few, there was a clothing store, I remember, that hired Japanese. And there were very few, but most of them just negative.

TI: And so it was interesting, because based on that survey, you decided your future would be U.S.-Japan relations?

CS: I didn't know whether it was going to be in business or government or what, I didn't know what. But all I know is I had to learn the language, I had to learn the Japanese culture, and the only way was to go to Japan.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: And so your mother helped you, you mentioned your mother helped you get into Keio, I guess, University.

CS: In fact, she was, she just came back on the next to the last boat, I guess, and she had just made that arrangement. See, 'cause I had graduated, and I was all set to go to Japan.

TI: But then at that point, the U.S. government had a law that prevented people from doing that. Otherwise, you would have been in Japan?

CS: Yeah, right.

TI: Well, that's interesting how circumstances can change your life. I mean, if you were in Japan during the war, how much different your life...

CS: Well, I told you, I don't know if I told you, but this tournament I had with this Waseda team, I became very close friends with one of their fencers, and he eventually became the head of kendo school in Waseda University. He used to send me the correspondence books in learning Japanese. And every time he came to the U.S., he would stay at our house. So we had a very close relationship with this fellow from Waseda, even though I was gonna go to Keio. [Laughs]

TI: And at this point, how good was your Japanese?

CS: Well, I guess I was average, or maybe I was a little above average of all the Niseis because my mother and training.

TI: And for you to have gone to a Japanese university, how difficult would that have been for you?

CS: I know it would have been difficult. That's why I was, this Oshima Sensei was sending me this correspondence thing, that's what I was studying like mad.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: And then you mentioned, instead of going to Keio, you went to UC Berkeley. And what did you study in terms of when you say graduate school?

CS: Well, they didn't... both at UCLA and Berkeley, there were very few courses on Japan or Japanese or anything. There was nothing, you might say. So I majored as international relations, but my master's thesis was going to be on Japan-American relations. But I had to do the research myself because there was no classes.

TI: What's interesting to me as we're just --

CS: Well, you know, there was Japan-bashing going on in those days. And as I kept researching, hey, there's another side to this story that's not being published. Why don't they say why Japan is doing this and why is Japan doing that, and all the U.S. (is blaming) Japan for doing that. But the whole story wasn't told. That's why, with that information at the museum today, I'm able to tell Japan's side of the story about Japan-bashing. In fact, when I was working at Honda, they gave me all the material I needed to give my anti-Japan-bashing speeches.

TI: But back in these early days at Berkeley, how would you do your research? How would you get the information?

CS: Oh, I would have to go to the library, study the books, study the historians, you know. That's about everything, to see what was going on. Publication from Japan that was written in English. [Laughs]

TI: And when you think about how the, say the media portrayed the U.S.-Japan relationship, and your research, I mean, what were some of the main differences do you think between the two?

CS: Well, they said Japan went into Manchuria, went into China, and they get blamed for it, they're becoming a colony. Well, I tell them the seeds of all this began in 1929 with the big Depression. I won't go into details, but Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley Bill that raised the tariff fifty to seventy percent to save the American business from some of the imports that were coming in. So when they passed that law, all the countries couldn't export to the United States, so they all went on their own. So the whole world collapsed, even the League of Nations, the U.S. wasn't in there, so they were helpless. So things, the whole world just collapsed. Well, Japan did these things, went into Manchuria and China, and when the United States criticized 'em, Japan came back, "Hey, you passed this law, why don't you rescind it? Then we could start exporting to you. As long as you're not, we're going to be like England. We're not going to be a colonizee, but we're going to be a colonizer like England." So already, nobody talked about that. They Japan went into China, they're being aggressive. Well, they didn't see the roots of all that (was that) Smoot-Hawley Bill.

TI: And so you had this perspective, this, in some ways, clear sense of this building tension between the two countries, because you could see it fundamentally in terms of trade relations, military, everything building up. I mean, did you have a sense that war was imminent?

CS: That day, on Pearl Harbor day, I was typing, and I was just typing, "U.S. passed the oil embargo." That was one of eight, eight-step plan to provoke Japan into attacking. I won't go into it right now, but when the oil embargo was passed, I was just typing on my thesis, "Japan will have to make a move, and I predict that she'll probably go into Borneo to take over the oil fields of Borneo." And I was living with four hakujin roommates, and one guy came in and said, "Hey, we're being attacked."

TI: And so it was almost like you said, well --

CS: I didn't think they were gonna attack Pearl Harbor, but they'll go to Borneo.

TI: So you knew they had to do something, but you were maybe surprised at the aggressiveness in terms of going after Pearl Harbor.

CS: Yeah.

TI: But did you have a sense that they had to in some ways neutralize or defeat the American forces in the Pacific for them to continue?

CS: Well, now (in looking) back, they had to attack Pearl Harbor if they were going to go to Borneo, which they did, you know. But at that time, I didn't dream they would attack Pearl Harbor.

TI: And this point of view, this research and this thinking, were you seeing this in other places? Were you reading, like in the newspapers and columns that were predicting this also, or other scholarly papers?

CS: Oh, yeah, there was a lot... there were other scholars presenting Japan's point of view, because that was part of my research, too, that many people knew what was coming, what the U.S. was doing was forcing Japan's hand.

TI: Then why do you think the U.S. was so unprepared in Pearl Harbor when the attack happened?

CS: Well, I think, just to give an idea, at UCLA there were two courses, one by Professor Kawai and one political science professor Steiner. He was supposed to be an authority on Japan, so I took it. Just... he was so off base, but he's the authority, you know. Like we talked about his trip to Japan and China, he said, "Gee, I look at these Japanese soldiers and they're all unkempt." I kept in my mind and said, "Hey, who in the front line would be spic and span?" And I think Roosevelt was also advised before Pearl Harbor attack that they looked at the planes Japan was using in China, and they said, "Oh, they're dilapidated." They didn't know they had a fleet of superior planes. They said torpedoes dropped in shallow water will go straight down. Japan had that one that was... lot of things they misjudged, you know. I forgot the question already. [Laughs]

TI: Well, no, it sounds like... I was asking, one, why were they so unprepared, and it sounds like your response is --

CS: Well, I think they thought they could beat Japan with one hand. And they just looked down on Japan as a minor country and not powerful as she turned out to be. So all they wanted to do was have Japan attack, people would get aroused, they could declare war, and his plan worked, but at a huge cost in the Pacific war. But he did save England, that was his main purpose.

TI: So Roosevelt's plan in terms of a way to get into the war --

CS: Well, he couldn't unilaterally declare war. If Japan attacked, then he could declare war against Japan on the Tripartite Treaty, Germany and Italy would automatically come in the war, and Roosevelt knew that. So that's why he provoked Japan in attacking. I won't go into the many ways he did it.

TI: But what's interesting is that you were taking classes from, quote, "U.S.-Japan experts," and in your viewpoint, they totally underestimated what Japan was doing and what they could do.

CS: And all those American students that studied the same major as me, they became expert on Japan, went to Washington, D.C. But me, being a Nisei, automatically declared pro-Japanese. With the same opinion, same side, but because of this face, we're automatically pro-Japanese.

TI: But did your sort of Japanese heritage, did it give you a different understanding about Japan than, say, your other classmates who weren't Japanese? I mean, did you think you had a better insight into...

CS: I think so. Because I was starting off on the positive side to begin with, you know. Then I could hear the Isseis talking, and I could hear their point of view. And so I got exposed more than what the white students would get.

TI: And when you say the Issei point of view, what was the Issei point of view? When you would hear them or maybe talk with them, what were they saying?

CS: Well, the Niseis, I think it was like any American. No one talked much about it, I don't think. We didn't talk about it. Only when I was at Berkeley, it was just that short six-month period where I got that information.

TI: But then when you would overhear Isseis, they were probably more interested in what Japan was doing.

CS: Oh, yeah. The Isseis were all pro-Japanese. I mean, like when my father was (...) pro-Japanese, but he was not anti-American because he loved both countries. Same with me. We loved both countries, and it was like Father and Mother fighting. It was a sad situation.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So going back to that Sunday, December 7, 1941, you're typing your paper about the possibility of Japan attacking Borneo for the oil, things like that. So when you heard the news, what was your reaction?

CS: I pulled out the paper and ripped it up. [Laughs] I wished I hadn't.

TI: Well, what was going through your mind? Why did you pull it out of the typewriter and rip it up?

CS: Well, as I say, if anybody read it, I'm (giving Japan's) point of view, everything else. So right away, I was going to be under suspicion.

TI: Oh, so right away, you knew that if you had this pro-Japanese position, that you would be targeted or you would get in trouble.

CS: Yeah. I got in trouble anyway. [Laughs]

TI: And what did -- your classmates. I mean, the people who were close to you, they kind of knew your viewpoint. You probably talked to them about these things. I mean, what did they say?

CS: I don't recall. I probably did, but I was too absorbed in my... that's why people asked me if I knew the Niseis at Berkeley, and I said I was just so absorbed in my studies that I didn't... they had a Japanese club, but I never mingled. I lived in a co-op which was away from the campus, so it was all with hakujin.

TI: So this is really interesting, because you have a very, what's the right word, sophisticated view of what was going on, more than most Niseis. Even those in college weren't really focused on the U.S.-Japan relations. So when you think about what you knew and what was going on, in hindsight, were there other things the community could have done differently than what happened? I mean, I'm trying to think what this question is. I'm wondering, did you have strong opinions at this point about what should happen next, I guess?

CS: Yeah. Well, the media was all one-sided, like I said. They never presented the Japan side. That's what got me kind of fired up, I said, "Hey," even this latest Japanese-bashing, it's always one-sided. So I think my friends, the American-born Niseis, they would read the paper and I'm sure they believed that.

TI: And so if you could change one thing, it sounds like getting the media to have a more balanced approach to what was going on, more knowledgeable approach, was that happening anywhere? Did you see anything that...

CS: Not that I was exposed to, no. Everything was all Japan-bashing.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And so what happened to you at Berkeley? So you're there, did you continue your schooling or what --

CS: No. The next day, on Monday, I got my draft notice from L.A. to report. So I went to the train depot and showed them my summons. But they won't sell me a ticket because they thought I would sabotage the train, so I had to hitchhike all the way back to L.A. to join the army, so I joined the army.

TI: And so when you... it's almost ironic. I mean, you get your draft summons the day after...

CS: It was already in the mail.

TI: It was already in the mail, and what were you thinking when you were drafted?

CS: Oh, I didn't think nothing of it. 'Cause they were, all of us were expecting it, they were draft age. So just happened to ironically come on December 8th.

TI: Something that I didn't ask earlier, but when you were at UCLA, you were also part of ROTC?

CS: Well, they had two type of ROTC, the one that you volunteer for and you get your uniform and all that, and the rest of us all had to take, all of us had to take a certain amount of ROTC training.

TI: And so you were in that second group?

CS: I was in that second...

TI: Okay, so it wasn't like you were necessarily training to be an officer, but everyone had to take certain...

CS: Yeah, they did. And as far as the close order drills and all that, in the Boy Scouts, we had similar, so I was very familiar with the close order drills and all that.

MN: How did that help you when you got into the army?

CS: That close order was... during basic training, I don't know how, the sergeant knew about it, but we would be going through the close order drill and a couple times he said, "Hey, Shimo, take over." So I don't know how he knew I knew how to do the close order. So I was just barking commands. [Laughs]

MN: And you were in charge of Caucasians.

CS: Yeah, I was out in the basic training. So he must have heard from my (records) that I had ROTC training at UCLA, I think.

TI: So I'm curious, when you eventually get down to L.A., you show up at the draft board, the office. What was the reaction when you got there?

CS: Gee, I don't remember.

TI: So they went ahead and just processed you, there was no...

CS: Yeah, in fact, all the Boyle Heights boys, the same time, so we all went together to Fort MacArthur and got our uniforms and all that. So all the Caucasian guys were on the baseball team and the Cougars, and all those were in there. And it's a funny thing, at the same time, while we all were being drafted, guys were being kicked, Niseis were being kicked out. So there was no uniform command, I guess. Then some were getting kicked out, and here we were being drafted.

TI: Yeah, and that's what I find when I go around the country. It's very uneven in terms of some people tried to volunteer and they were turned away, other people were being drafted, other people were being kicked out. But it sounded like in your case, you were being drafted and processed. Was there ever any mention -- this was right after Pearl Harbor -- about you being Japanese? Were there any comments?

CS: I don't even recall. We were all together, and I think people that were processing, they had (...) interest (only) in giving us the uniform, cutting our hair. [Laughs]

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Now, while you're doing this, these are the days after Pearl Harbor, the FBI is going through many communities and picking up Japanese leaders, things like kendo instructors. Now, was your father targeted?

CS: Yeah, when I was in, while I was in basic training, my mother wrote to me that my dad got picked up by the FBI.

TI: And what was your thoughts and reaction when you heard that?

CS: I wasn't angry at that time. I figured he would be on the suspect, you know. And my mother was a Japanese language school teacher so I figured she might be. But it so happened that she went to Japan to take care of my Keio application, so a substitute teacher came to Compton Gakuen, and she got picked up by the FBI. My mother was ready, she was all packed waiting for the FBI to come, but they didn't come after her because she wasn't on the list.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. Because she went to Japan, she had a substitute.

CS: The FBI had the latest list, I think.

TI: Now did the fact that your father was picked up by the FBI, during basic training, did that make it any harder for you? Were you singled out because of that?

CS: Well, see, after basic training, we were sent to the service unit, we couldn't get weapons. So I was sent to a station hospital at Camp Grant. And the Caucasian soldiers were all being shipped overseas, so all the Niseis in there were being all promoted. So I first got promoted right away to a corporal, and then first I was in the personnel department, and for some reason, they pulled me out of there. I didn't think nothing about it at that time, and I was in the sick and wounded section, and the captain kept trying to promote me because I kept taking over the... and he says he finally went to the personnel department and said I'm under observation because of my father's case. And Buttokai was confused with Kokuryukai, the "Black Dragon," so I too am under observation. "So I cannot promote you anymore." And then, in fact, he transferred me to his office, I guess he was instructed to keep an eye on me.

TI: And they told you all this?

CS: The captain told me that.

TI: And when you heard that, what did you think?

CS: That's why when the major came for volunteers for the MIS, I said, I'll go there. I'll have a chance for a promotion there.

TI: Oh, so you thought, okay, here's a way to get out of this difficult situation and go there.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So let's talk about the MIS. So you go, where do you go for the MIS?

CS: Camp Savage in Minnesota. And they just opened it. It was a brand new facility.

TI: So the MIS started at the Presidio in San Francisco, and then they, the first class moved to Camp Savage.

CS: 'Cause no Japanese were allowed on the West Coast. [Laughs]

TI: So you joined right after that. So you were like the second class?

CS: Right.

TI: And describe... tell me about the first class. How would you characterize, or what interaction would you --

CS: They went overseas already by that time. And then we took a test, and they put me in what they called advanced class, a three-month class. Normally it's a sixth-month class, but they put me in the so-called "advanced students" class, and I think there's only two Niseis in there and the rest of them were Kibei. And I couldn't keep up with them, and boy, I was studying like hell. [Laughs]

TI: And so who was running the school at this point?

CS: Oh, John Aiso.

TI: And describe how John Aiso ran the program. What was that like in those early days?

CS: Well, I didn't even think about it. I didn't know who he was at that time. I knew of him, but all I knew is we just, I had to study like hell.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: And so this was, I'm thinking chronologically, the timing. So about this time was when the mass removal...

CS: It was just beginning.

TI: was just happening.

CS: This was in March, I was in Camp Savage, and I think that's when the evacuation started, around March, right?

TI: March was, I think, Bainbridge Island was the first community, and they were in March. And so what, what was your reaction when you started hearing that the Japanese Americans on the West Coast were being removed and put into camps?

CS: Oh, we were angry, very much so. We had bull sessions, saying, "What are we doing? Why did we volunteer?" Like I mentioned earlier, the cadre, the Nisei soldiers that were running the camp administration and the mess hall and all that, they were calling us inus, I think, "traitors." "How come you guys volunteered for this when our family is being put into camp?" you know. And we were looked down upon at that time. Later on, of course, with the 442 and all that, their attitude changed and they were gung ho. But at that time, March of...

TI: '42?

CS: Yeah. But then, four or five of the cadre were Cougars. [Laughs] So I used to talk with them because they weren't mad at me or anything, you know. But that's where I got the news that, "You guys are considered a bunch of inus." And in fact, one guy, Cougar told me, "I was trying to get you a transfer so you could become a cadre member." [Laughs]

TI: So I'm curious, why did so many of these Cougars, former Cougars explain to the other cadre that you guys weren't, that it was just, it was almost a timing situation. You guys had all agreed to join the MIS before you knew about what was happening on the West Coast.

CS: Yeah.

TI: And so these Niseis who were part of the cadre assumed that you were just more pro-administration, sort of the same group that was rounding up these people. It just seems like an unfortunate sort of communication.

CS: Yeah, I think I mentioned this... did I talk about that? About this Takahashi, that nighttime, stoked the potbelly stove, the coal, so the room, kept it warm. And I was, my bunk was right next to the... but I could hear him muttering, "Damn traitors, inus," I think he was purposely making a big racket so we can't sleep, you know. Takahashi wasn't, no, he wasn't a Cougar.

TI: And so what was the reaction of this new class, the second class? I mean, being called inu, dog, and things like that --

CS: Oh, I don't think they knew. I don't think they knew, 'cause I knew because I had contact with the cadres because of the Cougar association. They probably didn't know.

TI: Well, how did you feel then? 'Cause you, when your friends told you --

CS: Oh, that time when the bull session was real angry, but we were prepared to go overseas. I kept studying and everything, but I guess that's the Japanese tradition, you would think, shikata ga nai, and we were studying, and I expected to go overseas and everything. But still, you see the injustice of it all.

TI: And when you say these "angry bull sessions," how many men do you think were with you talking?

CS: Well, right in the barracks there, there were about four or five of us. There was Clifford Tanaka, I don't know if you know him. He was the first Japanese American stockbroker. After he got kicked out, he got a medical discharge, went to Columbia, and along with Asaichi Hieshima, we were all in UCLA together, and he got a medical discharge and went to Tulane and became a doctor. So I tried to get a medical discharge, but I couldn't. And I don't know how they did it, so they were smarter than me.

TI: And so this group, you guys would sit around because your bunks were nearby, and you would talk about what was happening to your families.

CS: Yeah.

TI: And during this time, your family, what was going on with your mother? You mentioned she was --

CS: Well, my father was already picked up by the FBI, and my mother was all alone, so a friend lived with her. And then she moved to another big house with other Japanese just waiting for the order. In fact, I got a furlough when I was at Camp Grant, or was it... I forgot. Anyway, I got a furlough and I helped her pack and dispose of our property and all that.

TI: Okay, so you helped her kind of move, or get rid of her stuff, I guess.

CS: Yeah. And then I was amazed at all the Isseis, they're so stoic. There was no panic, there was nothing. They're just sitting and waiting, obediently waiting to be kicked out. [Laughs]

TI: And when you returned, I mean, so you saw the Isseis, what else was going on in the community that you observed?

CS: When?

TI: When you had enough furlough and you came back to help your mother. What else did you observe during that time? Anything else?

CS: I didn't see much difference. I guess even the Niseis, the stoicism, they were accepting, they were laughing and joking around and everything seemed normal. There was no panic or people complaining. Maybe they were complaining inside, within themselves, but they all accepted it, shikata ga nai.

TI: So it sounds like you were a little surprised by people's reactions. What were you expecting?

CS: No, I wasn't expecting anything. I just wanted to, got to help my mother. And I could visit my friends, and everything seems... if there was no war, you'd think it was still normal.

TI: Okay. So going back to Camp Savage, these angry bull sessions was where we left it off. So what happened after that, after the... so you're hearing about this, angry bull sessions?

CS: Just before graduation, we were given two weeks' furlough, so I applied for Manzanar. And at that time, already, the West Coast was closed now, and no Niseis, even soldiers, were allowed on the West Coast. So my application to go to Manzanar was turned down. And that's when my blood began to boil. Said, "Wait a minute. I'm going to go overseas and I can't go to California?" So immediately I wrote a letter saying, "I'd like to remain in the MIS, but I no longer am willing to go overseas, but I'd like to remain." That's why... you were talking about Aiso, I just summarily was kicked out. And I was so mad then, I said, "That damn Aiso didn't interview me." He probably gave the order, you know, to go out, not hearing our side of the story. So he was hated by a lot of the MIS people, too, he was pretty rough on them. So I didn't know at that time, but at that time, I should have put him on my hit list, but I didn't. [Laughs]

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So when you were essentially kicked out of the MIS, were you given a, maybe not a hearing, but a meeting where it was discussed what, why?

CS: No, no. It was just, it was a built-in order, "You are now transferred," so and so. So we were transferred, they didn't have any units for troublemakers, so they were transferred to a real nice fort, Fort Leavenworth. But they didn't have regular barracks, they had barracks from prewar days, it was buildings, brick buildings. Nice fishing pond nearby, oh, it was lush, you know, it was a soft life. I was working under another captain in the motor pool department, and it was a soft life. [Laughs] Then came the order.

TI: But before we go there, so going back, you said the others, so it wasn't just you, but other men who were also kicked out of the MIS. Did they write similar letters?

CS: Not that... I don't know. We were kicked out two at a time. They didn't turn us out as a group. So two at a time go to different forts. And we didn't know who... later I found out who were kicked out. I didn't know there were twenty or what, I just thought (only) two of us were being kicked out. Then the war was going on.

TI: And how many were, from your class, how many were kicked out?

CS: From the school there were twenty. The one I came out with was a Kibei cadre member, he wasn't a student. So he was under suspicion or something, or he must have made a statement. So with this cadre man, two of us when to Fort Leavenworth.

TI: Right, but I'm wondering, so you went out in twos. How many...

CS: Twenty.

TI: Twenty were kicked out?

CS: Yeah.

TI: Out of, how large was your class?

CS: Oh, that wasn't... this was from the whole school.

TI: Right, and how large --

CS: From our class, I think I was the only one.

TI: Oh, okay. So twenty from the whole school, and you were the only one from your class.

CS: Yeah.

TI: And at that point, when you were kicked out, how large was the school, do you have a sense?

CS: It was pretty big. There were a lot of classes.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Okay, so Cedrick, we're going to start the second hour. At the end of the first hour, we had gotten to Camp Savage, and you were talking about how you were kicked out and went to Fort Leavenworth. But before we continue the story, I wanted to go back to Camp Savage. Because when you were there, you were asked to fill out a "loyalty questionnaire," and I wanted to ask you about that and how you answered it. So can you describe that?

CS: Well, I answered "yes," I am loyal, "no," I am no longer willing to serve overseas. Only because a couple days earlier, I had applied for furlough to go to Manzanar and I was turned down for the reason I mentioned earlier. So I was pretty angry by then, so that's why. If it weren't for that, I probably would have answered "yes-yes."

TI: And again, that was probably some of the reasons why you were kicked out of the MIS.

CS: Well, because I answered "no" to "I'm willing to serve wherever ordered."

TI: Right, okay. So then you go to Fort Leavenworth, and you were talking about how nice the facilities were, the brick buildings, the lake or the pond and things like that. So what happened after Fort Leavenworth?

CS: Then we got ordered, then I guess the army decided to form this 525 Quartermasters Corps, which was made up of Germans, American soldiers of German, Italian, and Japanese descent, that's when we were first sent there. That's what we were demoted to private.

TI: And so at this point, what was your rank and what were you...

CS: I was a corporal and came down to a private.

TI: And so what... how did you feel being put in this unit, and you look around and there are men of Japanese ancestry, German ancestry, and Italian ancestry? What were your thoughts?

CS: I can't even think... I don't know, we did the best we can. And I had a soft job. My job was to punch dog tags all day. So others were on the pick and shovel, here I'm just typing dog tags and signing "Merry Christmas" to my friends on my dog tags, and had a good time. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so with the blank ones, you would type in, like, "Merry Christmas"?

CS: Well, usually I would type out the new soldiers' name, rank and serial number, and I was in the office with all hakujin. They weren't typing, it was a medical unit, and they just had one machine, and that's the one I was operating. So it was a soft job, and good companionship. [Laughs]

TI: And how many other Japanese were in this unit right now, the 525?

CS: Gee, I don't know how many, but there must have been forty or fifty. I guess I never did take a count.

TI: And how large was the 525, roughly?

CS: Well, the Niseis, there was only maybe forty or fifty, but later on, I learned that there was a huge population of German Americans. Later on, I heard that thousands of them were in there. There weren't too many Italians, I remember one, we called him "Little Mussolini," we used to kid him. [Laughs]

TI: Would that make him pretty mad?

CS: Huh?

TI: You did that to sort of taunt him, to make him mad?

CS: Oh, no. We were sort of friends, and his name was Michichi or something. So, "Hey, that sounds like 'Mussolini.'"

TI: Okay. In this unit, was there -- the 525 -- was there any, like, special arrangements or considerations given to the unit because of your Japanese, German and Italian, sort of, heritage?

CS: Special consideration?

TI: Considerations, or did they watch you more carefully, did they, was there anything, restrictions maybe is a better word.

CS: I don't think so. Still army, and we got our furloughs, passes, we went out. All I know is we were all demoted to privates.

TI: And how would you, what was the morale like of this unit?

CS: Well, it wasn't bad. For me, it was... I don't know about those on the pick and shovel, but for me, I had a ball. [Laughs]

TI: And the cushy job, do you think it was because of your college education?

CS: No, they knew I could type. So they needed somebody, a typist to run that machine. I guess whoever was doing that before was transferred out probably.

TI: And so after the 525, I mean, what happened to the 525?

CS: That's my theory, is that they found out that despite our opinions, they were good soldiers, all of them good, obedient soldiers, obeyed orders. So they formed this 1800 Engineers, and so the 525 as a unit became the 1800 and we were moved out of Fort Leavenworth.

TI: And where did you go from Fort Leavenworth?

CS: I don't remember the sequence, but I think we went to Lebanon. There's a picture of the base camp there, and that's where we were transferred.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: And so you went from typing in dog tags, what was your job with the 1800?

CS: The 1800, I think at first I was with the pick and shovel like everybody else. And then as we started moving around and got bigger, it was a real engineering outfit. It had all the equipment, everything, all (except) weapons, so they needed a motor pool, somebody to run the motor pool. So we couldn't get promoted, so I was acting motor pool sergeant. And then they had a big supply department, so they moved me over and made me the acting supply sergeant to take care of the supplies. And then the company commander or somebody pulled me into his office and made me the acting company clerk. So I was working in the office with the Caucasian officers.

TI: When you got these jobs, you mentioned how you couldn't be promoted, so you're still a private. But when you say supply sergeant and things like that, the other men, would they call you Sarge or were they...

CS: Oh, no, nobody called me -- the only Sarge were the cadres who took the soldiers out on different projects.

TI: Even though you were doing the job of a sergeant, they still...

CS: Gee, come to think of it, nobody did call me Sarge. [Laughs]

TI: It just seems so natural to call you Sarge, they go to the supply depot and the motor pool.

CS: Not at the 1800. Just one of them.

TI: And so you're now the company clerk, and then, so what else happens during this time?

CS: Well, until the war ended.

TI: In general, how did the officers treat you and the others?

CS: Well, I think because I was there and was able to tell our story and everything, they were very sympathetic. And that's why I think they treated the soldiers well, and the morale was high, because they understood. In fact, I'll tell you one incident. Periodically, they'll pass out a brief questionnaire. "Are you now willing to serve overseas?" Well, being (in the office), I know they were gonna pass that out at the mess hall the next day. And well, my opinion was to get up there and tell (Lt.) Lovell that (...), "If you were in our shoes, how would you answer it?" you know. So he came, passed that out, and I got on this mess hall table and he took off. So the next day I went to the office and, "Hey, how come you took off on me?" He says, "I know what you had planned." [Laughs] Because, you know... in the office I was telling them, "Hey, if you were in our shoes, how would you have answered?" So they knew. So they knew I was gonna put 'em on the spot. [Laughs]

TI: So did you have a reputation of being outspoken? Because that, to stand up on a table and call out someone would be...

CS: I guess so, I don't know. I was a translator for all the Kibeis, those that couldn't speak English. So I got along with the Kibei. In fact, I was, I still had the intention of going to Japan, so I was studying and the Kibeis were teaching me and I came with a dictionary, I was trying to learn all the Japanese words. So the Kibeis and I got along real well.

TI: So you mentioned periodically they would come out with these questions to see if people would change. Were, in the same way, were you always, like an interview, in terms of your viewpoints?

CS: Interviews they just passed out. And those that answered "yes," I think about fifty of 'em were cleared and sent out to either the 442, the MIS or to the Panama Canal. 'Cause a couple of 'em wrote to me from Panama Canal and said, "Hey, we're in the Panama Canal. We're on these flatbeds with the cannons, we're guarding the Panama Canal." [Laughs]

TI: That's good. As an engineering unit, one of the articles I saw was, I think, flood relief that you did.

CS: What?

TI: Helping with the floods, or after the floods?

CS: Oh, yes, uh-huh.

TI: I thought that'd be a good thing to describe just so people understood the type of work the 1800 did.

CS: Yeah, because all the work was all construction as they were a regular engineering group. And then one day, I guess the White River in Arkansas had the biggest flood ever. And so we were sent to help combat that, placing sandbags on the river and all that, but somewhere else it broke, and the whole area got flooded. We got marooned. Our whole unit had to find a bluff, so with the cattle and the horses and all that, we were up on the bluff all surrounded by flood water. And then the army engineers sent out a couple of steamboats to rescue us, and then after that, they put us on a riverboat on the Mississippi River. They had these, it's a cabin floating on water, so we were operating out of there after that.

TI: And so what kind of work, I mean, so later on, you repair the levees and things like that?

CS: Yeah, because then we had the bulldozers and everything. So that was regular flood work, trying to... and we had fun, too. A lot of 'em were fishermen, so the water's all muddy, so they get soap, put it on as bait, and it sparkles in the sun. So I think I have pictures of a lot of fish that they caught, had for dinner. And then one fellow shot... couldn't be having (no) gun, so it must have been a cadre, shot an alligator, and I have a picture of that, and they served that for dinner. We had fun, too, because it was work, but, you know, work so many hours and take some, go to town or something, visit the town, go to restaurants and all that.

TI: Earlier you talked about having bull sessions when you were in the MIS. Did you guys have similar bull sessions in the 1800?

CS: No. That's why I didn't know who were in the 1800. Only after I left, I found out that the McClellan boys were there and these boys were there, and never asked, and never talked about ourselves. In fact, when the Fort McClellan incident came out, I was saying, "Oh, those dumb guys," you know, and here they were all in the 1800 and I didn't know it.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: When you were in the 1800, you were interviewed by a intelligence officer who asked a question, asked, "If Japan invaded the United States, which side would you fight for?" Do you remember that question?

CS: Yeah.

TI: How did you answer that?

CS: Oh, I told him, "I'll fight for whichever side is defending the camps." I said, "That's all we have left," and I says, "If the Japanese army came into the United States and were heading toward the camps," I said, "I can't picture the guards shooting at them and defending us. I can just picture (them machine gunning) all our inmates and all the local populations going into the camp and massacring them," you know. So I said, "I'm going to fight for whichever side is defending the camp," because that's all we have.

TI: And the camps you're talking about are the concentration camps, the camps where Japanese Americans were being...

CS: Manzanar and all those ten camps.

TI: What was the reaction of the officer when you said that?

CS: I don't think he liked it, 'cause he didn't clear me. I still stayed in the 1800. [Laughs] They expected a hundred percent loyalty, I guess, even shooting our own people.

TI: That was, I mean, it was an interesting answer. I wouldn't have expected it either. Had you been thinking about that, were you prepared?

CS: Oh, it was common sense to me. I said, that's when I said, no, in that letter I wrote, "I don't want to go overseas," the, what do you call it, civil liberties over here, "and if necessary, I'll die fighting for defending the camps."

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Eventually, how were you and the other soldiers discharged from the 1800?

CS: What?

TI: How were you and the other soldiers discharged from the 1800?

CS: Oh, we all had, they had a hearing for everyone, a special hearing where they had to determine whether this soldier would (...) get an honorable discharge, dishonorable discharge, or discharge without honor. So we all had to present our case in front of the hearing board. And I got an honorable discharge with, I forgot the figures now, I think with forty others, and then about seventy got what they call without honor. And then about thirty already were in prison 'cause they were already court-martialed, given dishonorable discharge, and they were serving time in prison already.

TI: So you were given an honorable discharge, and so on your record, you, if someone looked at it, it would be just a regular...

CS: Yeah, about twenty of us, I think, I forgot the exact count, got the honorable. 'Cause we presented the... in fact, I got the, I had to make a presentation, and I wrote it all out, and I brought the copy of that letter. And I gave it to the, Hyman Braven who was the defense attorney. I said, "This is my story," he liked it, so, "(Just) read it." So I just read it to the board.

TI: And do you recall the main points you made in that?

CS: Well, I had three pages, going all along, all along it proves that I was, everything I did was loyal. Nothing to the detriment to the...

TI: Loyal, and you're consistent in your views and all that. Okay, good. Yeah, we have a copy of that.

CS: I think you'd be interested in reading that. I just read it for the first time last night after all these years, "Hey, it's pretty good." [Laughs] And then on top of that, all the officers on the hearing board I knew personally, 'cause they were working in the commander's office, I got to know the intelligence officers and all that. So I was on a talking basis with them, so I had no strikes against me, I guess, when we started.

TI: And so I'm thinking of all the time you were in the service, so early on, you were promoted up to corporal and then you were busted down to private. Did your rank remain private the rest of the time?

CS: Oh, yeah. I got, every time I did something well, they promoted me to PFC, and they asked me again, "Are you now willing to go wherever ordered?" "No." I got busted three times.

TI: Oh, interesting. So it was almost like a carrot and a stick. They would promote you, and then you knew if you said, "No," again, they would demote you up and down.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

CS: Do you know, at Hattiesburg, this fellow, Mr. (Finch)?

TI: Yes.

CS: I guess the officers in our unit must have contacted him and said, "There's two fellows that could be salvaged," and my name and Matt Matsuoka was on, so (Finch) always invited us to dinner, you know, and he tried to convince me to get out of the outfit, and I didn't think nothing of it at that time, but I kept saying no to him. And then I started thinking back, I bet you he was instructed by our officer, "Rehabilitate these two guys. These guys can be rehabilitated."

TI: I'm interested in Mr. (Finch). And so when he would invite you over to his house, can you describe...

CS: Yeah, he took me to lunch... near the end, I turned him down, 'cause I know what his purpose was, so I saw through that and I said, and I got, I didn't bring it, but I got several letters written from him, very nice letters saying that he knew I wanted to go back to Japan eventually and study again. He was trying to talk me out of it. If you're interested, I could send you those letters.

TI: No, I would like to see that. So he was trying to talk you out of going back to Japan?

CS: No, talk me out of... I forgot what it was.

TI: Or talk you out of saying you won't serve?

CS: Oh, well, he wants me to get out of the outfit, I think. So if you want, you want me to mail those letters?

TI: Yeah, I'd like to see that.

CS: I'll forget. [Laughs]

TI: I'll remind you later. In terms of, can you describe what Mr. (Finch) was like? I mean, I've read about him, I don't know much about him.

CS: He was really a nice fellow. He really took an interest into the Nisei, especially the 442nd boys. And they had the USO there, you know, and he liked the Japanese Americans. He was sincere, and I think he was called a "Jap lover" and all that. He had a nice store there, where he made his living, I think. So he spent all this money for the, mostly for the 442 boys.

TI: But it was interesting, he also had a, it sounded like a pretty close relationship with the officers, the Caucasian officers. And so he was almost like a, I'm not even sure, like a go-between sometimes when there were sensitive issues, he would come into play. So after you were discharged from the 1800, where do you go next?

CS: Well, my folks were already deported to Japan, so I went to Boyle Heights. And where we lived, the next door neighbor was a hakujin neighbor that owned, was the owner of our house. So she took me and I had a place to go back to. In fact, during the war, she was, all the Japanese were in camp, but she was the only one that would -- excuse me -- send me cookies and all that, you know.

TI: And so when you, and so after the war, you would go there and she would take care of you?

CS: Yeah. See, her son, she had three sons, one became a minister, one became a doctor, and one became a police officer. And I have a close relation, always had close relations with them. But that minister, we used to go, after the war, we'd go golfing. And the one that was the police officer, he was the closest. And his daughter, the granddaughter, I'm still in touch with her.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: And so when you return to Boyle Heights and you have some time, what are you thinking about what you want to do next?

CS: Well, I had to find a job. [Laughs] So I went, there was the Helman Building on Spring Street, which housed all the U.S. Customs house, plus all the brokerage were all in the same building. So I went, there was a GI Bill of Rights where if you worked for an American company, the government will pay the first month's full salary, and then the next month they'll deduct one month, and eventually in one year, the employer would have to pay the full salary. So I went around to all these companies saying, "You want to hire somebody for nothing?" and I'd leave my name. By the time I got home, I had a phone call, "Come to work." So I went to work.

TI: And who hired you? Which company was that?

CS: W.J. Byrnes.

TI: And what kind of work did...

CS: It was a custom house brokerage. And I was interested in foreign trade already, so I learned a lot there. Of course, I started off as a messenger boy there.

TI: And did they specialize in any type of special...

CS: Yeah, all the, anybody importing, imports from Japan were just starting now, and they were customs and paid the duty.

TI: And so did your Japanese language abilities help you?

CS: No, didn't help. No need for it. But I had a, we had a Chinese customer, and he was importing from Shanghai and all that. So he asked me to help him on Saturdays. So I used to, weekends I used to go help him. And at the end of the year when I was supposed to get the full salary, they didn't want to give it to me and so I quit and went to work for this Chinese who wanted me to work for him. So the next day I'm calling my former boss and giving him orders. [Laughs]

TI: Now, this is right after the war, and you're working with a Chinese American. Were there any tensions, given during World War II, the animosity between China and Japan, the war?

CS: No, I was with this Chinese company, so I met all the Chinese businesses and all of 'em. In fact, one funny incident, there was a Caucasian customer, and she thought I was Chinese, naturally, working for Chinese. Boy, she was badmouthing the Japanese, you know, and I didn't want to lose the sale, so I agreed with her, "Yes, yes," and got the sale. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, that's a good story.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: And so while this was going on, you mentioned your mother and father being deported to Japan. I mean, were you in communication with them?

CS: Oh, yeah. I was sending, like, for the black market, my mother was telling me they lived off the black market. But I was sending all kind of gift packages. In Little Tokyo they had a store that made gift package to send to Japan, so I was going there all the time and sending packages.

TI: And what was the word you were getting back from your parents? I mean, how were they doing in Japan?

CS: At first they went back to that brewery, you know, so that wasn't damaged. And then they wanted to go back to Tokyo, so we had a relative there who had a pharmaceutical factory, and he said the fire just came to the door but was spared. So they converted one of the offices into living quarters, so my folks lived there for ten years. And they had all the MIS and... rather, I should say all my mother's Japanese school students, kendo students, were in the MIS and occupational force. So they really took care of my folks.

TI: Oh, so they knew your parents...

CS: Oh, yeah. In fact, one of 'em helped in processing them to get back to the States.

TI: And when did that happen? When did they come back to the States?

CS: Well, after I told you that my father, when we found out was because the authorities associated Budokukai with Kokuryukai, the Black Dragon, and (his kendo friend, a member of the Diet), went to the authorities and told 'em, hey, Budokai is, at that time a martial arts school. It's like the NCAA, you know, it's (a sports) association. So that cleared my folks, so that's why they came back.

TI: So your parents wanted to come back to the States but they were...

CS: Oh, yeah, from the beginning I'd been trying to get 'em back.

TI: Good. And so how long were they in Japan before they were...

CS: I think it was about ten years.

TI: Ten years, wow, that's a long time.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: There's a group that you belonged to, the Quixotics?

MN: Quixotics.

CS: Oh, Quixotics, Quix.

TI: So tell me about that group.

CS: Well, right after the war, a bunch of Niseis made different clubs, bachelors clubs, and the womenfolks and all that, they made a lot of girls' clubs, and they used to have socials all together. The Quixotics were formed around 1946 or '47, so right after the war. And the Quixotics was made, mostly professional people were in there like Frank Chuman and Harry Honda, Stanley Uno who was the first police officer, Roy Uno, people like that. And we would have all kind of... we had a reunion last month, I think, and Harry Honda wrote a little... he used to publish in, we used to have a periodical. He likes to write, so we had a "dirt sheet," you might say, who went out with who and what party, and got all that information.

TI: Oh, like a little gossip column.

CS: Gossip column, yeah. So he kind of summarized it, and at that reunion, he made an, gave us a whole history. So it's all in that information I brought you.

TI: This is funny. So Harry wrote this column or this article, and he distributed it amongst the men, or he just wrote it...

CS: Well, there weren't too many men there. Most at that reunion were widows. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so he, this was all his notes...

CS: Well, we had, at the reunion, we had a display of some of his old writings, we had all kind of things on display, including this newsletter.

TI: Oh, good, I'm curious, I want to read that. That's good. And so tell me how you met your first wife.

CS: Oh, it's through the Quixotics. In fact, I think most of the, ninety percent of the men in the Quixotics married through meeting a girl in one of the club affairs, socials.

TI: So this was a way to meet and then eventually find a girlfriend or a mate.

MN: What was Mitsy's group's name?

CS: Seven M's. Seven Maidens, they're from All People's Church.

MN: What was Mitsy's full name?

CS: What?

MN: What was Mitsy's full name?

CS: Mitsuko Uyeno. So she belonged to the All People's Church, so that's why I joined. And it was a mixed group, they had a baseball team, half of 'em were blacks and I was playing with them.

TI: And when you say you had these kind of mixers between groups, I mean, describe one. I mean, was it, like, with a band, a dance?

CS: Oh, different things. We had beach parties, we'd have Halloween parties, masquerade parties, hayrides, go out to picnics, oh, we had a good time. [Laughs]

TI: It does sound like a good time. And when were the two of you married? How long did it take for you to get married to Mitsy?

CS: Oh, let's see. That was '46. 1949 or '50 I got married. Wait a minute, I'm trying to get this straight. (1951) we moved into the house (when) my son was nine years old when he got real ill. Must have been around 1949 or '50.

TI: Okay. And you mentioned a son, so how many children?

CS: Just one.

TI: Just one.

CS: He's handicapped, yeah.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: After the war, you got involved with -- and you mentioned earlier -- Honda, American Honda. Can you tell me how you got involved with...

CS: Well, I was working, I've always wanted to work for a Japanese company. After the war, they started to come. I go for an interview, the pay was so low that I stayed at this Chinese company for twenty-five years. And a friend of mine, we were classmates at UCLA, he became an attorney for Honda. So every time there was an opening, he would let me know. And I'd go for an interview and once I hear the pay, I couldn't accept it, it was so low in those days. And then one day he called me and he said, "Hey, there's another opening. They'll meet your pay, so just go for an interview." So I went, and didn't talk pay at all. As I left that day (they said), "I'm overqualified for this particular job." So I went home and then there was a phone call there, "Come to work tomorrow." [Laughs] So I thought, "Wait a minute, I've got to give a notice," you know. So after two weeks, I joined Honda.

TI: So when you tell me this story, it's almost like someone high up wanted to hire you, and it was already arranged? Or it's kind of like, it was almost like the personnel person didn't know to hire you?

TI: Well, when I went for the interviews on a Saturday, the general manager and another executive -- there was one person, I never... 'til then, my friend was at Honda and I used to play golf in a golf tournament, and I knew most of the executives at Honda. So there was one strange man there, I didn't know who he was. He did most of the questioning. After I was hired, it turned out to be Mr. Awanohara, who was the founder of the Bank of Tokyo in the United States. And he happened to be in Chicago at that time. And when Honda had big financial problems one time, Bank of California refused to fund it. So Mr. Awanohara just started Bank of (Tokyo), gave Honda all the money they want. So when he was retirement age, this Mr. Kawashima of Honda, in gratitude, pulled him out and brought him into Honda. And (...) he came down from Chicago to be part of that interview team, and I didn't know who he (was) -- I thought he was an executive that I'd never met before. So once we got hired, I was hired, he was my boss. That's when I found out we both entered Honda at the same time. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, that's interesting. And so his, almost his first task or job at Honda was to hire you?

CS: Yeah. I thought I was going to be a warehouse manager, so I was prepared for that. And then they said, "No, we're growing so fast in the southern California area, we have six warehouses. So we want you to consolidate them, find the property, build the warehouse and consolidate it." I don't know anything about real estate or anything, but somehow I managed to get a big warehouse made. And we were ready to operate when Honda got worried because the company that was operating it before were all unionized. And they were afraid if we, even under a different name, operated it, there was a danger of all of Honda becoming unionized. So they said, "Hey, let's let the old company run that warehouse." So I was out of a job. And then, what happened was, in preparing for that job, I made a system, how to operate it. And they liked that system because Honda had a problem then. They had inventory problems, the computer had one inventory, the warehouse had one inventory, and the accounting department had another inventory. They couldn't get the three working together. Under my system, it would consolidate it. So I spent the next year going all over the country to the warehouses and introducing the system and then we had a great big meeting of all the warehouses, showing the new system, how it operates. And they were operating that 'til just about a few years ago. Then when that was done, I was out of a job again. [Laughs]

TI: Well, you're the best type of worker, you're supposed to work yourself out of jobs, right? You're supposed to be so good.

CS: And then at that time, there was a big trade deficit going on. So the U.S. Congress passed a law that the companies that export would get tax credit. So Honda made a new company called Honda International Trading Company, whose sole purpose was to export. So Mr. Awanohara, being the president, put me in charge. So we started from zero and became a pretty big company in a few years.

TI: Oh, so you would export cars to other countries?

CS: Oh, no. Cars would be handled by another department. Our job was like, for instance, Honda's automotive carriers would come to the States and dump the cars. Well, we'd load 'em up with stuff, feed grain, corn and milo, thirty thousand tons, all our ships. So we became the biggest exporter of feed grain. Then another container ships would bring the motorcycles and power products, and we'll fill them up. In fact, there weren't enough containers, so we started using other containers to fill our own agricultural products and aluminum, and waste paper. We were at one time shipping between five hundred to a thousand containers a month, and we became the biggest exporters of those. And then two of our ships, we were flying cattle to Japan along with the other trading companies. Well, Honda put cattle pens on two of the vessels, so now we could put loads of cattle in there. So we became the number one shipper of live cattle to Japan. So they were a pretty big factor.

TI: Oh, so you were taking advantage of, essentially, the empty containers that had to go back to Japan.

CS: Even the cattle was accidental. Honda was going to start breeding cattle, so they bought a mountaintop, flattened that out, put a feedlot and everything, and working with the farmers below. And they wanted to get Black Angus and try to breed cattle to make it like the Japanese wagyu, you know. So that was the plan. And so my first job was to get sixty breeding cattle. So I don't know anything about cattle, but I finally found sixty breeding cattle. And they had to be quarantined before they go back to Japan, they had to have a sixty-day quarantine. Well, in the meantime, they caught a disease they call "blue tongue," and we couldn't export it. And in the meantime we had already leased one of the Flying Tigers, a huge plane costing us a hundred thousand dollars or something, which we would have to pay even though it goes back empty. So we were panicking and read the rules and regulations and found that fat (beef) requires only thirty-day quarantine. So we just went and bought thirty fat cattle. Now, people in Japan were all ready for the breeding cattle, they don't know anything about fat cattle. "What do we do with it?" you know. But we had to do it to save the (air fare) money. So the cattle man that I was working with, we shipped it and he went with him and took care of it. And then these fat cattle are sold at auction. So we made a killing on it. So they said, "Forget the breeding, let's go into importing fat cattle." So that's why we kept going at it.

TI: Oh, and that's why, later on, having some of the containers with a pen, so you could do a lot more.

CS: Yeah, we were flying in. Then after that, when they decided it was a profitable business, Honda put these cattle pens on the boats, and we became the largest, we shipped about sixteen thousand cattle.

TI: It's funny, I'd never heard this before, but it makes sense that they would do that.

CS: And (in) Japan they were panicking for a while, "Hey, what do we do?" So on the job training, and then, you know, they became experts at it. [Laughs]

TI: So you took advantage of lots of things. So there was a, not only the empty containers, but you would find products that would sell well in Japan, but there was also incentives from the U.S. government to export. So you were taking...

CS: So Honda was getting a lot of tax breaks, we became so big.

TI: So it sounds like you made a lot of money for Honda. [Laughs] Okay, that's fascinating.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So you're at Honda, and Honda as well as other Japanese automakers became very successful. And as you remember, in the 1980s, there was a backlash to that. Can you talk about that time period?

CS: Yeah. Because (as) they were bashing (us), I know they were leaving out facts. Like, for instance, I'll go with the Japanese buyers. And Honda was just going to construct a new factory in Ohio. So we went to all the American parts and manufacturing and saying, "We'd like to buy parts from you." And they said, yeah, they'll sell us what they have, what they make for GM and all that. Honda's the one that had the metric system. And (they) said, "Well, we're not going to spend all that money to convert to the metric system, so you take what we have." So at that time, we knew we had to bring it in from Japan. Well, newspapers were saying, "How come they're buying, bringing it in from Japan?" Well, we had the parts here, that's one of the stories. Another case, we ordered some small valves for the Honda Accord, big shipment. Then a few days later, I get a call from Japan, "Hey, defective." So I called this company up and said, "Hey, Japan is complaining they're defective." Said, "How many percent defective?" I said, "About one or two percent." They're happy. "Oh, that's great, that's within our guidelines. We just go on at least no more than one or two percent defect." I says, "In Japan, we have a zero defect system," this Demming fellow put in that system, you know. So we, you know, had to have that company go into a new system. There was another case, catalytic converter, this was an interesting story. Catalytic converter, we went to... what's that company that makes ceramics, the big one?

MN: Marubeni?

CS: No, American company. Not ceramics, but also microwave... CorningWare, Corning. I went to Corning and said, "This is what we want. This catalytic converter had little squares of the ceramics, and it had to have the perfect, perfect square. And they showed us those they're making, "Look, it's almost perfect." Well, it has to be perfect, so we didn't place an order. One year later they called us, and we went over there and says, "Look." It was exactly the way we wanted it. So we placed a big order with them not only for the Honda factory (in Ohio), but sending it to Japan, too. So they were so happy. But I could go on telling you stories after stories of, that counters what was publicized in the press. So that's when I'm, when I'm making a speech, I've got one story after another of, hey, this is only one, here's the other side of the story. Like, for instance, steel, well, take a glass. We were buying glass from Asahi Glass in Japan. And we were bashed, "Why can't they buy it from the American guy?" They didn't know the story. We had placed the order (to make) the rear windows with a curvature. Honda had it, we ordered it from American companies, it was so brittle, it cracked and broke. So we had to call the engineers from Japan to teach 'em how to make it. And until then, we had to bring it in from Japan. Same thing with steel, the steel hoods. Japan made real thin, flexible hoods, you know. American steelmakers couldn't make it. So sent our engineers and taught the American steel manufacturers how to make this thin thing. In the meantime, we had to bring it in from Japan.

TI: So what's interesting is, in many ways, the Japanese manufacturers really helped American manufacturers.

CS: (...) Honda continues to order in Japan, so they weren't losing anything. And when Japan asked, "Please teach them for the American market," they were willing to teach.

TI: Right. And so they were really open to teaching American manufacturers, and then when the American manufacturers were able to rise to those standards...

CS: Then we would start buying from them.

TI: Then they would start buying, not only domestically, but also in Japan, it sounds like, sometimes.

CS: Yeah. So as I say, Honda right now is practically buying everything locally if they meet the standards. And they all learned the Demming method. There was one company I visited, he sells to General Motors and Chrysler and Ford, and also to Honda. So when I was talking to him, he said, "When Honda first came, we went to get their order and I'm sure they were disappointed with our products. But instead of cancelling, they worked with us," he said. "They would get our workers to go to Honda to look at what happens if you don't meet the delivery in time or it's defective. And they taught us, they taught us 'til we finally were able to make products that met Honda standards. GM and Ford never did that," he said. "What a difference between the two companies," he said.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: And so from the engineering, manufacturing, business standpoint, Honda was doing all these good things. Meanwhile, in the American press, they were getting very negative press, in some cases, or some people believe, leading to, like the death of Vincent Chin, for instance, in terms of just that anti-Japanese, anti-Asian feeling. And so you mentioned going around and just explaining this, talking to groups.

CS: Yeah, I went to, I think for a whole year, each speech was different. I'll take one subject at a time, and then bring in old ones, too, and explain it. I remember at the University of Chicago when I made that talk, a student came to me later and said, "Gosh, I wish my father was here. He belongs to the union, and he's always talking (bad about the Japanese). And you explained everything that my father got wrong." And says, "I wish he was here."

TI: And how much of your job was doing this?

CS: Well, see, I was about to, I announced my retirement, the next year I was going to retire. So I thought I would take life easy. Well, until then, we'd been getting requests for making speeches, we turned them all down. So now, the higher ups said, "Now you're going to retire, spend the next year accepting these speeches."

TI: And so was this as a Honda employee, or as a retiree?

CS: No, I was still working for Honda.

TI: So they said, "Okay, don't do your old job anymore..."

CS: (My staff continued and I just managed.) After I retired, I still had requests. So I told them, "I'm no longer on the front line, I don't know what's going on." All I know is what I read in the paper," so I turned down all the other requests when I retired.

TI: But for a whole year, you went around and talked.

CS: Yeah.

TI: And what did that teach you about America? Because you went to lots of different places...

CS: Oh, yeah, they're fair. You tell 'em, you know, the truth, and they realize it, that the bashing was wrong. Because I've got a manila binder full of letters that came in, and I brought two samples here. One was from Ambassador Mansfield, and the other is from another trade negotiator. And I got one, the most one I'm proud of is a letter I got from a president of the dealers, Automotive Dealers Association. And in Congress, there was a very anti-Japanese automobile bill pending. So I'd been sending him the speeches, so he wrote me a letter saying that, "Thanks to your (speeches, we are) going fully armed to meet the people of Congress." That bill never passed. So I was proud of that one.

TI: And so where did the... when you, again, go back to the media, where did the anti-Japanese sort of marketing come from when it came to, like, anti-cars?

CS: It's all from the union. The unions were instigating all this and feeding the press the information, one-sided information.

TI: But yet, when you look at what was happening, Honda was creating jobs in America. But I guess, were they non-union jobs? Was that the reason why there was a union...

CS: No, I don't think that so much as... all the Japanese companies were coming there, TV, all kind of companies coming here. And the unions were losing their jobs, so they would try to stir up the public by giving false information to the media.

TI: Were you ever given a bad time or hard time when you went to speak?

CS: Well, the most interesting was when I had, I spoke in Fresno. And then I remember that time they were bashing rice, on the rice matter, you know. So when I started off my speech, I says, I didn't know how many were from the rice growers there, so I says, I told them, I said, "My getaway car is over here, and after I finish now, I hope somebody will be, escort me to my car." [Laughs] So I bashed the American rice growers. Fortunately... in fact, I got one letter, says something about, "Did you make your getaway car in time?" [Laughs]

TI: So, again, you were very willing to be outspoken about difficult issues.

CS: Yeah. Yeah, 'cause I was confident, if they came back with an argument, I'll argue right back. So at question and answer, they would ask questions, you know, and typical Japan-bashing, then I'd tell 'em the story and they said, "Oh, I understand now."

TI: But were there some cases were even though you had the information, someone would just disagree with you and just give you a bad time.

CS: No, 'cause most of the people I spoke to were universities and trade associations. They were all intelligent people. So like at the University of Chicago, the student came, but the father didn't come. He didn't want to listen to the anti-Japan bashing speech.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: You've been very open about sharing the experiences of the 1800, and so I've learned a lot. But it's only just recently that, I think, others or most people have heard about the 1800. And a lot of it probably has to do with you and your sharing of the story. What made you decide after all these years to come out?

CS: To do it? Well, I told you about Kiku Funabiki calling me, and that's how I got started. And I keep blaming her for getting me into all this. I can't retire in peace. [Laughs]

TI: So explain the story to me again.

CS: After the war, I got this call from a strange lady. I didn't know who she was, she said, "Will you please" -- it turned out to be Kiku Funabiki at that time -- she said, "Will you write an article about the 1800?" I said, "(No). Because that's water under the bridge, I want to forget it, because I have more important things to do to make a living." Well, she wrote an article that went to, I guess she must have sent it to all the Japanese papers. So after I read it -- it was a good article, and in fact, we both can't remember that article, 'cause we don't have copies of it. But that's when I decided, gee, if anybody's gonna write about the 1800, it has to be somebody that was in it. So that's when I started to write.

TI: And what was the reaction, and in particular, from other vets like the 442, MIS people?

CS: Oh, I think, see, like the 442 people, the veterans are all accepting (me) because they knew I had volunteered for the MIS. And they said under the same circumstances, they would have done the same thing I did, you know. So like JAVA and Grant Ichikawa and all those people, they accepted me. And, in fact, a lot of the MIS people keep inviting me to their convention. I said, "Hey, wait a minute, I was kicked out of the school. I can't go there." [Laughs] But I got along. The vets had accepted me, so all my talks and all that, I haven't had a negative one yet.

TI: Well, in fact, I was wondering. So when you told the story of leaving the MIS school, two by two, you would leave, what did your classmates... did they know why you were...

CS: No, nobody knew. We just all of a sudden, boom, we're out. That's why Harry Fukuhara says, "Hey, you're here one day and next day you're gone. We never knew what happened to you."

TI: And so what did Harry and other guys think had happened to you?

CS: Well, they didn't know. 'Cause with Harry, after I told him, he thought maybe we were sent to a special assignment or something, you know. But when he found out, and I gave him a copy of one of my speeches, "Is it okay if I pass it on to all of my friends? 'Cause all of the students were saying, 'What the heck happened to that guy?'" I was the only one in the class, (to be) booted out.

TI: And do you recall any of your former classmates contacting you or saying anything?

CS: No. Actually, I can't even remember their names. Just one Kibei fellow that went to Iwo Jima, and then Harry Fukuhara, only because I took a picture of him when he sat in front of me. Otherwise, I wouldn't have remembered his name.

TI: There were other Japanese Americans in the 1800. Again, I'm thinking about the press and what I've read, I haven't seen very many others, or anyone else, speak out like you have about the 1800. Do you know why that is, or why you think that is?

CS: I guess most of 'em were Kibeis, and the Niseis, except for Matt Matsuoka, who graduated from USC, we two were the only college grads. And Matt himself was ashamed. He was, I kept telling him, "What are you ashamed of? There's nothing wrong with what we did." So he didn't want to speak out. So I guess I was the only one.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: You mentioned earlier about, sort of keeping these memories fresh, because you volunteer at the National Museum, the Japanese American National Museum. When did you start doing that?

CS: Oh, I've been asked to be a volunteer for a long time. I kept saying, "No." And then the museum put on this Boyle Heights exhibit, and Dr. Sojin Kim called me and said, "I understand you lived in Boyle Heights. Do you have any photographs or albums about it?" And I said, "Yeah." So they had a big session at Roosevelt High School auditorium. Everybody brought material to contribute, and that was that. And then they opened up this exhibit, and she called me again. I says, "Hey, you lived in Boyle Heights and we need some docents to explain the story to the guests." So I said, "Okay." And first thing I know, I became a permanent docent. [Laughs]

TI: And what was the reaction of the museum when they heard about the story of the 1800? Did they want to do anything with that story?

CS: Oh, no. They put it into the display. When I first joined the -- that's troublemaker me -- when I joined the museum, it was all 442. And then they, and I didn't expect to say anything, but they came out with a letter (about a) suggestion box. "We'd like to have suggestions from everybody, how to improve our..." oh, I said, "This is the opening." So I says, "You wanted suggestions, here's an opinion. Your display is too one-sided. There's nothing about the resisters." So they put in some of it, but they still haven't put in all. They're going to revamp the whole program in two years. And I hope they put more about the renunciants and the "no-nos" in there, tell both sides of the story. Did you know, I had a big controversy when I made a speech at the Smithsonian.

TI: No, I haven't heard about that. What was that controversy?

CS: Well, I made a talk about -- I'm going to send the... they had a publicity saying, about the other two speakers, but they didn't say anything about my talk about the 1800. So I wrote to Uchida of the memorial there.

TI: Craig Uchida.

CS: And just blasted him, saying, "You still continue to just favor the 442 and all that, and nothing about the camp and military resisters." And from there, had many exchanges, and finally it was settled, and they're changing. In fact, the last e-mail I got is that, "We're changing our website so that we'll start including all the stories." 'Cause the veterans will go on and just talk about 442, nothing about the whole story of what happened during the war. So it's a long one, but I'll send it to you. You got your e-mail address?

TI: Yeah, I'll give that to you. So you've been... I'm trying to think of the right word, but sort of really instrument in getting people like the other groups to acknowledge the story of the 1800, including the National Museum, you mentioned they're now...

CS: Yeah, especially a book came out last year, so that helped. In fact, we're having one, the MIS is having one in December and January, dedication for that MIS building in the Presidio. So I've been, Shirley and I are supposed to go and talk about army resisters.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: Sort of... we're running out of time here, so I want go get to, you recently received an award from the Japanese government, Kunsho, for your work. Can you tell me what that was for?

CS: That was because of what I did on those anti-Japanese bashing speeches. So I was being honored for something I did twenty-five years ago. [Interruption] I wish I could have brought you, I have a big album on it. But what happened was, why I don't have so many pictures here, two weeks ago, TBS, Tokyo Broadcasting System... are you familiar with that drama "Sanga mo Yu" about the, "Futatsu no Sokoku," the brothers on opposite sides, one on MIS, one fighting in the Japanese army? There was a big drama.

TI: Oh, this was...

CS: Years ago.

TI: ...years ago, yes.

CS: Now, this TBS, it's not a sequel to it, but they're going to make a drama of the Japanese American wartime story. So they're really on the preliminary stage, 'cause they came to the museum just to see what kind of clothes they were wearing, what kind of hairdos. They're going to Go for Broke Foundation, they're going to Manzanar, interview a lot of Niseis. They interviewed me, so I gave them all the pictures I would have liked to have shown you, but they got it all. I had a couple videos and some nice photos. But my favorite photograph of Manzanar is where I'm leaving, and there's the barbed wire, and all my friends are behind the barbed wire and waving, and I'm in an American uniform and leaving. So that was my favorite picture. I wished I could have shown you that.

TI: Yeah, I'd love to see that photograph. Well, hopefully they'll return it.

CS: Oh, yeah. Well, I don't know how long they're gonna keep it, they've got it there in Japan now.

TI: Well, I'm glad they interviewed you. Because sometimes these different stories don't often... they're not considered. And so I'm glad they got in touch with you.

CS: I don't know. It'll probably be another two or three years before it's on the, released to the stations, I guess.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: Cedrick, I mean, we actually cruised through all these questions, and I'm wondering, in ending, is there any, when you think about your life, what are some of the important things to you in terms of how you lead your life? I mean, what, in terms of if you were to give advice to someone younger...

CS: Oh, you mean for... well, in my case, I'm glad I'm back to my original ambition of trying to be a bridge between Japan and America, I'm still able to do that.

TI: And why do you think that's so important? As a Japanese American, why is it so important to keep that bridge?

CS: Well, I don't know. I guess I love both countries, and I'd hate to see one bashed unfairly, you know. Japan was being bashed unfairly, and I knew it was wrong. And I want, right now I'm glad that the countries are close together now.

TI: Good. So Martha, do you have anything, questions or anything like that? Okay. So Cedrick, we're out of time, so I'm going to end the interview now. So thank you so much for doing this.

CS: Well, thank you. Help spread the 1800 story.

MN: Unless you want to add when you married your second wife, Millie.

TI: Oh, sure.

MN: So you want to just add that in?

TI: Yeah, just to finish the family. So what happened to your first wife?

CS: She had cancer and passed away. And in the meantime, a good friend of ours in Chicago had written to my parents that there was the perfect girl for me, you know, but they didn't say anything. And then about two years later, I started to date. And that's when my parents said, "Hey, Mr. Sumida talked about this girl, would you like to meet her?" So I said okay, so we exchanged photographs. And she sent me two photographs, one I liked. The other one, she had a fur coat on, and I thought, "Gee, that's too sophisticated for me," you know. Not knowing that in Chicago, everybody wore a fur coat. So in our exchange, correspondence, I was very careful. "Dear Madam" type of a letter. Then she had to come here for a wedding of her friend. And that's when I first met her, and I said, "Boy, I got one week to convince her to say 'yes.'" So I never worked so hard in my life. But later on I figured, I think she was chasing me, too. [Laughs] I didn't have to work so hard. But she gets mad when I say that. So we got married.

TI: And how long ago was that?

CS: Oh, I was married to her longer than the first wife, so that was, let's see... this is terrible. If she were here, she would clobber me. [Laughs] Let's see.

TI: But do you remember about long you were married to her?

MN: Oh, about thirty years, thirty or more years.

TI: And then she also had cancer?

MN: Same cancer that went to the brain. So it's good when it goes to the brain, 'cause it's fast. She had (stomach cancer), and that would have lasted forever, but it went to the brain.

TI: And how long ago was that?

CS: 4/2/02. I remember one date.

TI: Okay, so 2002. And her full name was?

CS: Mildred Setsuko Sasaki. Her father was a minister (...) from Japan.

TI: Very good. Well, so Cedrick, I think we have it. That was good. Thank you very much.

CS: Thank you.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.