Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Harry K. Yoshikawa Interview
Narrator: Harry K. Yoshikawa
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: April 14, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-yharry-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: What was your first job at the prison camp?

HY: They put us on the rock crew, building a, busting the rock down below the, down below the mountain there. Rock crew, you get a twenty-pound sledgehammer, you bust rock all day.

MN: It's a hard job.

HY: Oh, yeah, it was a hard job.

MN: What kind of other jobs were there on the, on the prison camp?

HY: Then I, rock crew, then I got off of that and I got on the, it's a jackhammer crew, you know, making holes for the dynamite crew. And it was dusty and getting too hard for me so I applied for a garage, garage work. Then I got garage work, got the garage work and then from there, I went to the mess hall.

MN: Now, was it during the jackhammer crew that you got sick?

HY: I think that was the jackhammer crew, yeah.

MN: Tell me about that story.

HY: I caught a cold, you know. And one morning, I couldn't get up anymore. I just couldn't get up. And Bill Nagasaki was an orderly in the barracks, so he had to clean the barracks or something. And he saw, he saw me in the bed, I mean, the barrack, in the bunk. I told him that, "I can't get up." And so him and another fellow by the name of Harry Hiyoka, he worked in the officers' mess, he came over and carried me to the infirmary. I went to the infirmary and checked my temperature, over a hundred and five. Yeah, he got worried about this, he got. And so I think he gave me that penicillin or whatever. I stayed in there for about a week and came out.

MN: Was the doctor Caucasian?

HY: Uh-huh, yeah.

MN: Was there any nurses there?

HY: No.

MN: So it was all male.

HY: Yeah.

MN: And you were there one week.

HY: I was there one week, yeah.

MN: Did you lose a lot of weight?

HY: Oh, did I.

MN: So after you got better, you didn't go back to the jackhammer crew.

HY: No, I, they asked me if I want to be a fireman. You know, there's a big old oven in that mess hall for, to make bread every morning, bakers. So you had to build a fire, you know, before the baker, they'd come and bake bread. And I got that job, waking up four o'clock in the morning and build a fire in the oven. And after I'd build a fire, I used to get down and get on the chow line, you know, whatever, the mashed potato or egg or whatever line, whatever you want, to dish it out to the inmates. I did that and later on... later on, I got this dishwashing. That was a hard work, gee, hot, man. Those trays and stuff, we got our spoons and forks and knives, you know, yeah. That was a hot job.

MN: Going back to this kitchen fire man work, how'd you get up at four o'clock in the morning?

HY: The guard would come and wake me up every morning. I couldn't get up the first time, never did get up. I said, "Okay, okay, okay," and I fall, go to sleep. And he comes in again. But the third time he came in, said, "Man, I better wake up, man, you're gonna kick my..." So I, he was an old man. Mr. Seward his name was. I remember, Old fellow. 'Cause any young guy, it would have been a different story, he'd kick me out of bed. He never did that to them. And after I built a fire, he used to call me in the officer's mess hall. And I must have, I wanted some coffee, he poured coffee, said, "What are you gonna eat? You want to eat some bacon or eggs?" [Laughs] I said, "What? I'm gonna eat with this guy?" He said, "Go in this box and make egg and bacon and eat breakfast." He was a nice guy, real nice guy. Never treated like that, you know.

MN: Why do you think he was so nice to you?

HY: Because he knew what we went through. Because he knew we were citizens, and we got thrown out of our homes without due process. Yeah, there were real nice guards in there. But my, one of my friends was working on a wood crew, and this guard, he was resting there, you know, underneath a tree. And I heard he came along and kicked his head, you know. So he got mad and he told him off and the next thing you know, he was gone. They sent him to Texarkana or somewhere, another prison there.

MN: I think Joe Yamakido remembers him at --

HY: Huh?

MN: Joe Yamakido remembers him at Texarkana.

HY: I think so, yeah, Naruto. Yeah, next thing you know, "What happened to Naruto?" "He's gone. They took him away." Five years on top of that.

MN: So I heard the bread at Tucson, the bread at Tucson was really good.

HY: Yeah, it's freshly cooked. And that guy made a, one of those pound cake, you know. Oh, man that was good. Even Gordon, Gordon wrote a letter to this baker. He said, "Yeah, Gordon wrote a letter saying nice things about me, you know," that baker, the Mexican guy.

MN: Gordon Hirabayashi?

HY: Yeah.

MN: So while you were at the prison camp, did the staff ever call you in to try to change your mind to go back into the army?

HY: Yeah, yeah. They called me in two times, asked me if I changed my mind. He said he'll have this all, everything erased. I thought, "Like heck it's gonna get erased." Once you're convicted, you're there on it. Well, anyway, I refused. I told him, "No."

MN: Why'd you tell him, "No"? Why did you tell them, "No"?

HY: Because, you know, like I told him, if they want me to join the army, then send me back to where I was before and give me back everything I had. Then I'll go. Otherwise, forget about it.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.