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

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Okay. Today is April 14, 2010. We're at the residence of Harry Yoshikawa, and we have here Tani Ikeda on video. My name is Martha Nakagawa, and I will be interviewing Harry Yoshikawa. Harry, I'm gonna start from the beginning. Where were you born?

HY: I was born in Montebello, California.

MN: What is your birthday?

HY: 6/26/22.

MN: And what is the name of your sanba-san?

HY: Her name was Harada.

MN: And what is your birth name?

HY: My birth name is Katsuma.

MN: Now, you had two older brothers. Can you tell me their names and where they were born and what happened to them?

HY: The oldest one is Katsuiji, was born in Japan, he passed away in Japan. And next was Kiyoto. He passed away in Montebello.

MN: And how old were you when Kiyoto passed away?

HY: About a year or a year and a half.

MN: So you never knew any of your two older brothers. What is your father's name?

HY: My father's name is Kitaro.

MN: And how about your mother's name?

HY: Mother's name is Isami.

MN: What is her maiden name?

HY: Maiden name is Tagawa.

MN: So it's Isami Tagawa Yoshikawa? And what prefecture were your parents from?

HY: Hiroshima.

MN: Your father came to the United States first. Do you know what year that was?

HY: No, I do not know.

MN: Where did he land?

HY: He landed in Seattle, the way he told me.

MN: What did he do in Seattle?

HY: He worked on the railroad.

MN: Do you know what he did on the railroad?

HY: Yes, he was a cook on the railroad.

MN: And then what did he do after working on the railroads?

HY: He went back to Japan and got married and came back again.

MN: Now, why did he come back?

HY: Beg your pardon?

MN: Why did he come back to the United States?

HY: I guess the relatives were here, too, see, you know, in the United States. And he was over here, and I guess he liked it over here, to work. To work.

MN: Okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: And so from... so I'm assuming he went back to Seattle, and then he made his way down to Montebello?

HY: Yeah. First he came to this United States by himself, then he went back and got married and brought my mother with him, you know, and he came back to the United States again. Then from Seattle, they moved to, out here in the southern Cal area.

MN: And that's where Kiyoto and you were born.

HY: Yes.

MN: What did your parents do in Montebello?

HY: Truck farming.

MN: What's truck farming? What kind of crops?

HY: Well, vegetable like beets, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach.

MN: Tell me what Montebello was like when you were growing up.

HY: There was nothing out there except coyotes and rattlesnakes, that's about all. [Laughs]

MN: Now, at what age did you get the name "Harry"?

HY: That was at the, when I first went to school, grammar school. Teacher asked me what, you know, instead of my birth name, she wanted me to select a name, American name. So I told her, "Harry."

MN: How did you come up with "Harry"?

HY: It was an older, there was a neighbor that was older than me named Harry, so I named myself Harry.

MN: But at home, did your parents call you Katsuma?

HY: Uh-huh, yes.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Now, from Montebello, your family moved to Venice. Do you remember what year that was? Or how old were you?

HY: I was six, I think six or seven years old. Six, six years old. Five or six years old.

MN: And then your family also farmed in Venice. What did they grow?

HY: Celery was the main. Just celery, just a celery farm.

MN: Now, what grammar school did you attend in Venice?

HY: Grammar school was Machado, I believe. Machado.

MN: Did you attend Japanese language school?

HY: Yes, I did.

MN: Which language school?

HY: Venice, Venice gakuen.

MN: Was this every day, or just Saturday?

HY: That was every day.

MN: For how long? About an hour, two hours?

HY: I believe it was about an hour.

MN: Were you also taking judo lessons?

HY: Yes.

MN: And when did you take judo lessons? On Saturday, or was this every day?

HY: It was twice a week, I believe it was.

MN: And where did you, where did you take the lessons?

HY: Venice.

MN: Venice dojo?

HY: Yeah.

MN: Was that, like, next to the Nihongo gakuen?

HY: I believe it was. I can't recall what, the location, but pretty big one, close by.

MN: Do you, do you remember your judo sensei's name?

HY: At Venice, no.

MN: From what age did you start helping on the farm?

HY: I was seven years old.

MN: And how old were you when you started to drive the truck on the farm?

HY: I was seven years old. [Laughs]

MN: How did you learn how to drive the truck?

HY: This was on a field, so they drive the truck on the farmland and as you drive it, they loaded the vegetable on the truck. That's how I learned how to drive.

MN: But you're so small. How can you reach the brake and the gas?

HY: I was standing. I couldn't reach the, you know, pedals, so I was standing and driving.

MN: So what happened to your ofuroba when you were in Venice?

HY: Oh, that burned down one night.

MN: Why'd it burn down?

HY: I guess some ember, you know, caught on one of those... bathtub.

MN: Was anybody in the bathtub?

HY: Nobody was in, no.

MN: Someone just left the bathtub going, and it was empty and it just caught on fire?

HY: Probably so. You know, it was late at night. Didn't, we didn't take care of the fire, so I guess the ember, ember or whatever. It was just a wooden, wooden shack.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: So how old were you when you moved out of Venice?

HY: Let's see. I was about, about nine years old. Nine, ten years old.

MN: And why did you have to move out of Venice?

HY: Because they started drilling the oil right in the middle of the field.

MN: So essentially, they kicked you off the land?

HY: That's about it. On account of they put a road right into the, in the center of the field, too. The Lincoln Highway, they built that Lincoln, yeah, all the way to Washington.

MN: Yeah, that's the main street now.

HY: Yeah. From that... what is that up there? Hill up there. What's that hill up there where that university is?

MN: Are you talking about Loyola?

HY: Loyola, yeah. Loyola.

MN: From all the way there --

HY: Yeah, all the way down. They built that Lincoln Highway.

MN: So that's why you were kicked off your land?

HY: Well, they came right through the center of the field, so...

MN: So where did you move to?

HY: We moved to 118th and Central.

MN: And what did you farm out there?

HY: Oh, mostly vegetables like spinach, carrots, radish, some cabbage, some celery.

MN: Now this was --

HY: A variety of vegetables.

MN: This was during the Great Depression. Did your family have enough to eat? I know you're farmers.

HY: Well, my dad used to take a truckload of vegetables and come back home, and he said he bought a loaf of bread and... loaf of bread and, you know, sausage or something, and then he's broke. That's how bad it was.

MN: But your family always had enough to eat. Is that right?

HY: Oh, yeah, we had plenty of vegetable.

MN: How about, you said there were people who were coming onto your farm.

HY: Oh, yeah. Those WPA workers. They used to come by truckload just to, you know, so they can get some vegetables. And my dad used to let 'em cut the grass or work on the farm, you know. Take the grass off the, where the vegetables are. And the end of the day, he'd give 'em vegetables.

MN: Now, those WPA people, were they all Caucasians?

HY: Mostly, yeah. Mostly Caucasian.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: Now, you mentioned there was this Japanese grocery store on Imperial and Wilmington.

HY: Yeah. That was... do you remember "Tokyo Rose"? They used to, their family used to have a store there. And when we were kids, we used to go to buy candy from 'em.

MN: Do you remember Iva Toguri?

HY: Yes.

MN: You do?

HY: Yeah, I remember her real good.

MN: What was she like?

HY: I think at that time she was going to UCLA, and very nice. Very nice.

MN: What did you think about the trial, when she was tried for treason?

HY: I thought they were using her. They used her. I don't think she was trying to commit treason and all that like that reporter said, you know. I forgot his name, with that cap on. But I guess later on, what was that president?


HY: No, no, United States President after... what was his name that...

MN: That pardoned her?

HY: Yeah.

MN: I don't remember which President pardoned her.

HY: Who was that President who was kicked out?

MN: Nixon?

HY: Nixon, yeah. After Nixon.

MN: Ford.

HY: Oh, Gerald Ford. Yeah, he, I think, gave her a pardon. Yeah, Gerald Ford.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Let's go back to your childhood. Now, when you moved to 118th and Central, what school did you attend?

HY: I think it's 118th Street school, elementary.

MN: And then what junior high school did you go to?

HY: Let's see, it was Gompers.


MN: Your school, Gompers, what was the ethnic makeup?

HY: I was the only Japanese to go to that school.

MN: So if you were the only Japanese American, did you experience harassment?

HY: No, not one time.

MN: How about Japanese language school? Did you attend Japanese language school?

HY: Yes, I did. Compton Japanese school.

MN: And how about judo classes?

HY: I went to Moneta dojo.

MN: And who was your judo sensei?

HY: Yamauchi. Yamauchi Sensei and there was Sasaki Sensei and Nishimori Sensei.

MN: And then you mentioned that your father loved judo and sumo, and he took you down to the Rafu Dojo in Los Angeles.

HY: Oh, yeah.

MN: Tell me about that.

HY: I took sumo, too, there.

MN: Did you win?

HY: No. I had a, fought with one fella, and he came rushing at me, so I grabbed him and threw him, and he went flying out of the ring. And the ref says, "You used judo on him." Said, "This is sumo, it's not judo," so he disqualified me for that.

MN: How was it wearing, you know, just the... you're not wearing a whole lot in sumo. Were you embarrassed?

HY: No.

MN: No. 'Cause all the other guys did it, wore...

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Okay, 1938, when you were about sixteen years old, can you share with us what happened to your father?

HY: Yeah. You know, it was a Sunday night -- no, yeah, it was Sunday morning. He was taking his load to the market and had an accident. And he was thrown out of the truck, and the truck fell on him, and I guess he died instantly.

MN: How did you hear about your father's accident?

HY: Through my cousin.

MN: They came to your house?

HY: No, I guess he... I guess, no, the police officer came, I think, at that time. We didn't have no phone then, you know. The police came and said that there was a bad accident. So we had to, towards the end, he's in Georgia Street emergency. So we went over there, and sure enough, he's gone.

MN: Did they ever catch the driver, the other driver?

HY: The other driver was a, was a gypsy, I believe, and they were living in a tent. And they didn't have no money, you know, so we couldn't do anything. Seven years, it took seven years, you could sue 'em, but still, I guess we didn't, we didn't pursue it.

MN: How did your mother react to this?

HY: Tough. Real... it was tough.

MN: And how did you feel?

HY: Well, I felt, gee whiz, it seemed like it was the end of the world, like, you know. Sixteen and no father, huh? I had to carry the load.

MN: What did you do with your father's body?

HY: We cremated him and took him back, took Dad back to Japan.

MN: And then how long were you in Hiroshima?

HY: One year.

MN: Where did you stay?

HY: In my relative's. There's a lot of relatives around there, so I stayed there with my uncle.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: And you mentioned that you helped on the family farm in Hiroshima. Can you tell us what kind of farming you did there?

HY: Oh, they, it's a rice paddy, and it's the, you know, fields where they grow vegetable and stuff. And I don't know what you call them, the big tatami, you know, the long reed they grow, stuff like that, make tatami. You know what tatami is, huh?

MN: Was farming in Japan very different from farming that you knew here?

HY: It is, it is.

MN: How is it different?

HY: Well, it's... they put water in there, they plant the rice, you know. We don't do that here. And the, when they water the vegetable, they scoop the water and they pour it out instead of irrigating.

MN: Is it any harder or is it easier?

HY: Well, it's just a small, like here, the acres, over there, just a little, you know, plots is it.

MN: Now, while you were in Japan, you also attended school there. Now, what was school like in Japan?

HY: They put me in, in sixth grade, I believe, yeah. And it was completely different to here.

MN: How was it different?

HY: Every morning, you go through the gate, you had to bow toward the emperor. Then when they go in and then you have to clean the, your room, study room, end to end, the floor and everything else. Just spic and span. Then they make you exercise before you start class.

MN: Did the other --

HY: It was completely different.

MN: Did the other students tease you for being American?

HY: No, no. Kids were okay.

MN: How much Japanese did you speak at the time?

HY: I guess pretty good, I would say. [Laughs] Been going to Japanese school here, you know.

MN: Now, while you were there, Japan's growing militarism and nationalism.

HY: Yeah, we had China and Japan war, huh?

MN: Was that very obvious at school and where you were living?

HY: Oh, yes. All the soldiers used to come there all the time, you know. All the soldiers on the field trip, I guess. Field trip, they come to the school, and all the people cook for them, and put it in their... what do they call the... they got the little, I don't know what they call that, Japanese soldiers, they got a, for putting the rice and stuff, little bit of this, little bit of that.

MN: So as students, you cooked for them?

HY: Not the students, the parents come up to the school and cook for them.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: So why did you return to the United States?

HY: Why? I missed it, my birthplace, that's why. Living in Japan and here is, it's hard, hard living in Japan. Everything you have to do, fire, you know, cook rice, you gotta build a fire. Bathtub, you gotta build fire. It's completely different, you know.

MN: So it was more modern over here?

HY: Oh, yeah, sure. You get used to living here, well, you can't, I couldn't live there.

MN: What about your mother?

HY: My mother said, "If you're going, I'm going, too." I told her to stay, I'll go myself. No, she wanted, she wanted to come with me, so I had to bring her back, too.

MN: So once you returned to the United States, what did you do? Where did you end up and what did you do?

HY: I worked in the garage up in Boyle Heights, garage around Wilmington. And eventually we acquired a farm in Wilmington. That's where I started the farm over there. Also, I didn't want to be a farmer the rest of my life, so I took up a trade. Went to this automotive school in L.A.

MN: What was that school called?

HY: National School of Automotive.

MN: Was there a lot of Japanese Americans there?

HY: Uh-huh, they were from Hawaii, all over the world, it looked like.

MN: So you liked to work with cars.

HY: Yeah, uh-huh.

MN: So your schedule was, you were farming, you had a farm in Wilmington, and then you were also going to school?

HY: Uh-huh, took me one year.

MN: What about your mother? Was she farming also?

HY: Yeah, sure, of course.

MN: Then you said on Saturdays and Sundays, you had a part time job at a car garage.

HY: Oh, yeah. That's a neighborhood garage. I used to go there and help out whenever I have chance.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: Now, around this time, Pearl Harbor was attacked.

HY: Right.

MN: And can you tell me what you were doing on Sunday, December 7, 1941?

HY: Yeah. Friend of mine and I were, we were, we went to this theater in downtown. I think it was a million dollar theater in Main Street, downtown, and we were watching that movie. Pretty soon, they were, they announced that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Don't blame it on the people that's here, see. That kind of relieved the... and we got the heck out of there and we came home. [Laughs]

MN: What were your feelings when you first heard that?

HY: I was shocked, you know. Yeah.

MN: Did you know where Pearl Harbor was?

HY: Sure. I've been to Japan, you know, Hawaii. Went all around Pearl Harbor, took a tour back in 1938.

MN: So were you certain now that we're gonna go to war with Japan?

HY: Oh, yeah. That was certain.

MN: How about the car garage that you had a part time job? Were you fired the next day?

HY: No. They were my friends.

MN: Now, you said about a week later, something happened to your Japanese American neighbor. The FBI came.

HY: Oh, yeah. The Uyeno family... can I name 'em?

MN: If you want to.

HY: Yeah. The Uyeno family next door. And couple of FBI came over and grabbed the old man and took him away.

MN: Now, at that time, did you have any idea why they took him away?

HY: Yeah, I knew. I knew.

MN: Why did they take him away?

HY: Well, they participated in some kind of Japanese, you know, activity.

MN: You mean like the Japanese Association?

HY: Yeah, probably so, yeah. I don't know, I guess there's a bunch of dogs writing all these Japanese, all these old-timers, you know. Then the FBI, they gave it to the FBI and they just picked all those people up, see.

MN: Who were these informants?

HY: I don't know. You know, there's always a dog, you know, in every race. I call 'em "dogs."

MN: After Pearl Harbor, you experienced some harassment.

HY: Oh, yeah. My god, I would go to this store in Wilmington, it was about five, six, surround me, you know. Was gonna beat me up, tell me to get the heck out of so-and-so.

MN: So what happened?

HY: Well, I told 'em, "I'm gonna take one of you guys. Come on." Yeah.

MN: So at least --

HY: He had a big old machete, grabbed a machete. They all dispersed. [Laughs] Not only that, a cop stopped me coming over from Wilmington, and asked me to take the spotlight off my car. I told him I can't do it because people come and steal my vegetables, I shine the spotlight and scare 'em off. He said, "No, you got to take 'em off."

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: Now, you, while you were working at the car garage, you saw this line, the caravan of people coming down one day.

HY: Oh, yeah, yeah.

MN: Can you tell us that story?

HY: That's... I went to gas up on Wilmington and Avalon, it was that gas station I know. And there was this caravan coming, you know, towards us from San Pedro on Avalon. I guess it's just a line, I don't know how long. It was a long caravan from Terminal Island.

MN: Would you say it was about a mile long?

HY: Maybe longer than that, maybe. Yeah, lot of people from Terminal. There was a lot of fishermen there, you know.

MN: Why were they caravanning?

HY: Huh?

MN: Why were they caravanning?

HY: They had to get out. They were the first people that were instructed to leave, leave your home.

MN: So what were your feeling when you saw this?

HY: I felt, gee whiz, you know, it wasn't right, you know. And to leave your home, can't even sell it, leave everything in the, carry only a few belongings. Then they, you know, put us in the, I call it a concentration camp. I know somebody don't like the word "concentration camp," you know. It was just like those American Indians, put 'em in a reservation.

MN: So the government allowed this small window, three weeks, for Japanese Americans to move out of the West Coast military zone. And I've read that some of the neighboring states didn't want Japanese Americans to come to their state, and even the JACL Utah chapter didn't want Japanese Americans to move to Utah. And yet, you decided to move. Why?

HY: Yeah, we had, people who knows people in, lived in Colorado. And the governor said that the Japanese are welcome in Colorado. That was, I believe his name was Governor Carr at that time. And I moved my family to Colorado before evacuation. And I was the only, I was the, me and another kid, you know, one of our, what do you call it, friends' kid stayed there and farmed a year in Wilmington 'til the last day.

MN: So your mother, your mother went first.

HY: My family, yeah. My mom and a friend, two friends.

MN: How did they get to Colorado?

HY: Train. I put everything on the train.

MN: There was no problem with that?

HY: No problem. Heck, bedding and stuff, you know, throw it in there.

MN: Now, you said you stayed behind. Why did you stay behind?

HY: Why did I stay behind? I just... because I wanted to take my car, that's why, too. I had two cars, but I had to leave one out here, to the guy who owned the garage. And I took my other car and a couple of Hawaii boys that I met at the auto school, they were caught, you know. They couldn't go back, so they said, wondered if I would take them to Colorado.

MN: So was it --

HY: And we get, we didn't get any, he didn't get any traveling permit. I didn't get any traveling permit. I told him that and he said, "I don't have it either." Well, only thing to do is take a chance. Only thing you could do is put us in the camp if they catch us, so we went.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: Now, before you left, what did you do with your farm?

HY: Oh. The Filipino, we had three Filipino working for us, and they said they would... Filipinos, we gave it to them, in other words. Everything. Just run it as it is. But told 'em, "The first crop, if you could send the money to us," and by god, he did. Yeah, exactly. That really helped us out.

MN: But they got a good deal. They got the farm and a car --

HY: Oh, they got everything, yeah. The whole crop and everything. Everything I had in there.

MN: So why didn't you get a travel permit?

HY: I didn't have time, you know. I guess I could have, but only thing I had was my birth certificate.

MN: And you took one car?

HY: One car.

MN: It was the two Hawaiians and the young boy?

HY: Yeah, yeah.

MN: And yourself.

HY: Four of us.

MN: And what kind of car was that?

HY: That was a 1939, 1939 Chrysler I had.

MN: So it was a fairly new car at that time.

HY: Fairly.

MN: When did you start your drive to Colorado? In early morning?

HY: Early morning, the last day, I stayed 'til. I don't know what day that was, what year, I don't know. I stayed, we slept there 'til the last day.

MN: What route did you take?

HY: 66.

MN: Did you meet other Nikkeis?

HY: Yes, I did. We ran into a caravan near Needles, the border of California and New Mexico, huh? Needles. And lo and behold, I knew these guys. 'Cause one of the, he was our neighbor. And they wanted us to go with 'em. I told him, "We don't have no travel permit, gonna be a lot of trouble for you guys. So we're gonna go ahead of you guys." So we took off ourselves. New Mexico, Gallup, New Mexico. And gee, that's a lot of Indians there, though. And so we got one of the Indians, said, "Is there any Japanese living around there?" "Yeah, yeah," he says. "There are several Japanese living here. There's one working at the garage there." It was in the evening, so it was closed, you know. I think that was that Hershey, that celebrated the Gallup, New Mexico veteran?

MN: Hershey Miyamura.

HY: I didn't, we didn't meet him. And he took us to another Japanese family. And they were nice. They took us in, and her father was a, he worked on the railroad there, fixing those locomotives. And they put us up for the night. They were nice. And how sorry they were, you know, being, house, home and everything else. And the next day, we took off. At the border of New Mexico and Colorado, you know, there's a border patrol there. Oh, he worked us up. He really worked us up, yeah. He almost tore the whole car inside out trying to find something, you know. Held it up, held us up for about two, three hours. They couldn't find, he couldn't find a thing. So he called the FBI up in Denver, tell 'em what he should do with these guys. And the FBI said, "Well, let him go. And when they come to Denver, tell 'em to stop in the office." And man, he got mad, I'm telling you. He said, "If it was me, man, I'd line you bastards up and shoot you." [Laughs] Yeah.

MN: Do you think he would have shot you guys?

HY: Oh, yeah. I think he would have. Yeah.

MN: Now, this is at the border of Colorado and New Mexico.

HY: Yeah. Raton, Raton.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: I'm gonna backtrack a little. Did you have any problems when you came to the border of California and New Mexico?

HY: Yeah, because the border patrol was a young kid, just got out of high school. And he knew a lot of these Japanese people. And we started talking and then I get, you know, we got, we got so involved in it, and he said, later he said, "You guys got a travel permit, don't you?" I told him, "Yeah." [Laughs] He said, "Okay, go." Yeah, we got away from there.

MN: So when you were crossing the border from California to New Mexico, you were okay.

HY: Yeah.

MN: You got through.

HY: Yeah, we got through, but they caught us at the Colorado and New Mexico border. That's where we got caught. He couldn't do a thing. [Laughs]

MN: So the sheriff, the sheriff had to let you go.

HY: Of course. The FBI said to, "Let 'em go."

MN: So you went to the Denver FBI office?

HY: Oh, yes.

MN: So what happened there?

HY: Well, they said, "Yeah," he said, "what do you guys want?" We said, "We were caught at the border at the New Mexico and Colorado and told us to, you know, stop over here and check in, so here we are. He says, yeah, he says, "Where are you guys going?" "Oh, we're going to Fort Lupton." Says, "Yeah, okay, go ahead," without giving a note or anything, said, "Go ahead." And as soon as we drove into Fort Lupton, here's the sheriff, stopped us. California license...

MN: On your car.

HY: Yeah. And he says, "Where's your traveling permit?" Said, "We don't have any." So he stuck us in the jail again, overnight. He calls the FBI over, and the next day the FBI came over. The one that came was a second-generation German. Says his parents were from Germany and, "I'm the second generation like you." He said he couldn't understand, you know. He says, "I'm just doing my job. I can't do nothing. Anyway, only thing I'll do is wish you guys good luck." He understood why -- he's the second-generation, I was second-generation. They kick us out of our home, why didn't they do that to Germans, Italians then? They know there won't be anybody to fight for this country then. [Laughs] Anyway, that's what happened.

MN: So you were released from jail after this German FBI --

HY: Oh, yeah, yeah. "Go wherever you want."

MN: So the Hawaiians went a separate way, and you --

HY: Yeah, they went, they went back to Denver. They said, "We're going back to Denver."

MN: You know, while you were going through these experiences, were you scared?

HY: No.

MN: Well, how were, were you feeling angry, or what were you feeling?

HY: I was, you know, ticked off. Why I, that's my home over here, and then they kicked me out of my own home. My god. That's not right. Where's our right, anyway? Where's our due process? Then I hear this Gordon Hirabayashi, you know, he refused to evacuate or nothing, he was there, fought for his rights. That's when I said, "Oh, yeah, okay, I'm gonna follow him."

MN: How did you hear about Gordon?

HY: Through the papers. Through the papers. Then, well, we were in the, before that, we would hear about the, Frank Emi. He was on the paper, too, all the time.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Before we get there, though -- you're jumping the gun here -- so let me go back to Fort Lupton. You were reunited with your mother?

HY: Yeah.

MN: And then what did you do at Fort Lupton?

HY: We worked on the farm. Japanese farms and hakujin farms. Lot of Japanese lived in Colorado now. I drove tractor for fifty cents an hour, I cleaned the ditches for fifty cents an hour, thinned the beets for fifty cents an hour, about a mile long, with a hoe about two feet long. Broke my back. Broke my mom's back, too. I said, "This is enough, so let's go into the town."

MN: So you went to Denver.

HY: Uh-huh.

MN: And what did you do in Denver?

HY: I looked for a job in the garage. You know, there's a lot of garage, mechanics were open. Each one I went in, they said, "Leave your name and your phone number, we'll get to you later." I didn't even, I didn't even write it down.

MN: They weren't hiring?

HY: No, no, no, they wouldn't hire you.

MN: So if you were a different race, they would have hired you.

HY: That's right. Like now, just like that.

MN: So what did you end up doing?

HY: Finally, I... I was still looking for a job. Then one independent place where you have the gas station and a car parking and a garage, looking for a mechanic. So I went down and applied for it. And he hired me right there, this guy. What was his name now? Oh, he was a hell of a nice guy. And I worked there, and, for about three months, you know. He calls me in the office, he says, "Harry, I got something to tell you." He says, "This happened years ago. Ten, maybe when I was about eighteen, nineteen." He said, "I stole a loaf of bread, and they put me in with a Georgia chain gang, and I escaped from there 'til now." I said, "Who recognized you or how did you get caught?" He said, "One of the attendants who parks the car in the garage was an FBI agent." He put a check on him and found out he was a fugitive. He says, "I may have to go back, you know, finish my sentence." So asked me if I would run the place for him. I told him, "Yeah, sure, I would. I'd run it for you." And so during the FBI, I guess told the parole board or whatever that, "I want him as, in my custody." So either way, we won't have to go back to finish the sentence. The FBI got him so he could be the... what is it?

MN: So he didn't have to go back to jail.

HY: So he didn't have to go back. The FBI fixed it for him.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Now, you were there for a while, but then you also ended up working at a natural ice cutting job.

HY: Yeah, up in the mountain, yeah, up in the Grandview Lake up there.

MN: This was after, at the garage?

HY: No, this was before the garage.

MN: Oh, okay. Well, let's talk about the natural ice cutting job, then.

HY: Yeah, they were promoting this natural ice packing, one Japanese guy. And me and my friend, we applied for it. We worked there for about couple months, packing natural ice. The lake, he cuts it in blocks, you know, then they store it, see. Summertime, summertime.

MN: To be used for ice boxes?

HY: No, they used it for packing the vegetable in the, at the packing sheds, summertime, yeah.

MN: How cold was it up there?

HY: [Laughs] Some guy stole our blanket one night, and man, we almost froze. You know, we slept in the caboose. And they had a potbelly stove going, you know, it was pretty warm, you know, while it's burning, but it was cold. Some guy stole our blanket. [Laughs] Oh, man.

MN: So if you went outside and you peed, would your pee just freeze up?

HY: I know I went out and peed. [Laughs]

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: So after you finished this ice cutting job, you told me that you went to Heart Mountain.

HY: Oh, yeah, yeah, that's right.

MN: Share with us --

HY: There's a fellow by the... should I name him? No.

MN: If you want.

HY: Anyway, he wanted to go to, he had a car, see. Yeah, he had a car with him. And he said, "Hey, you guys want to go to Heart Mountain?" he said, "I'm going." "Yeah, I got a relative there, too, so I'll go with you." So the four of us got in the car and went to Heart Mountain. I think it was around about March or April. You know that worst winter they had back in '40 or '41? '42 or something like that?

MN: No, it had to be '43.

HY: '43? '42 or '43?

MN: 'Cause '42 is when you guys went into camp. Well, you didn't go into camp, but '42 is when the...

HY: Oh, yeah, yeah. '43 then. Anyway, then it was the worst blizzard they had there. So when we got into the Cody, you know, it was just snow. Everything's white. And far away, we could see bunch of light, just miles away we could see the light. So that must be the camp. It was about ten o'clock at night when we got into Cody. So we took off. We didn't know there was a horseshoe turn there. And as we drove, we went down the seven-foot bank and messed our radiator up, we couldn't do nothing. So we walked back, maybe about couple of miles, to town. And we see "empty," "empty," sign on that that cabins, I mean, "vacancy." So I went to one of 'em and knocked on the door. This old lady came out and looked at me and said, "We don't rent to no Japs." Bam, you know. "Oh, man. Hey, let's go into town anyway." So we were walking to Cody, and we see a light coming from far away. And he was the sheriff, so we flagged him down and told him about the, what happened. He said, "Yeah, it's pretty bad around here now." But he says, "I got the jail with the heater going, and nobody there tonight. You could stay there." Oh, heck, that's a good deal, you know, with the heater going and everything. It's cold outside. He said, "I bet you guys are hungry, huh?" "Yeah." He said, "I've got a friend of mine who had a restaurant. I'll take you there." Man, we went and ate up a storm. Gee. And he took us to the jail, god, they had the heaters going. He said, "We got plenty of blanket, you guys want it." And we stayed there overnight.


MN: Okay, ready? We're back on. Tell me what you did the next morning.

HY: Next morning, the sheriff called the tow truck. And there's a town named Powell close by, and there was a car agency there. I think it was a Ford agency. Ford or Chevy, anyway. And they towed it to the agency and had it repaired. From there we went to camp.

MN: Was it hard to get into Heart Mountain?

HY: Huh?

MN: Was it hard to get into Heart Mountain?

HY: No. No. Went there and registered, you know, right in, no problem.

MN: So you said you had relatives at Heart Mountain?

HY: Uh-huh, yeah. My cousin was in there.

MN: So you were staying with them.

HY: No.

MN: No? Where did you stay?

HY: They gave us one... you know, that time, there was a lot of empty barracks. Lot of 'em, you know, they were, they went to Chicago, Denver, whatever. Those people can't get out, see. So there's a lot of barracks open. So they gave us one barrack, we stayed in the barrack there, yeah, about a week.

MN: What did you think about seeing Japanese Americans living in camp?

HY: Oh, man, it was sad, man. They kicked us out of our home and, you know, put us in this damn compound? It wasn't right.

MN: And you got into Heart Mountain in early 1943. The draft resistance movement should have been just starting. Did you --

HY: Yeah, they give us 4-C classification.

MN: Now, in Heart Mountain, did you see any of that movement starting already?

HY: I saw some fliers up there, you know, yeah.

MN: Where did you see the fliers?

HY: In the kitchen area, the mess hall there. Japanese, you know, the one in Japanese, one in English.

MN: Did this influence you later on to resist your own draft?

HY: I didn't think too much of it then. But after that I went to Chicago, you know, and see the papers, and see Frank Emi and all the people's name on there, Heart Mountain people. Amache groups, I know they were in county at that time.

MN: Okay, before we go there, though, we're still in Heart Mountain. So was it difficult to get out of Heart Mountain?

HY: No. No problem.

MN: No problem, you just walked out?

HY: Go in, yeah, walk in and out, like.

MN: Did you have to pay to stay at Heart Mountain?

HY: No, no. Not a single penny.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: So about a week after you left Heart Mountain, and then you went back east with your friend?

HY: Yeah. These friends of mine went to Chicago.

MN: And what did you do in Chicago?

HY: I worked in a Ford agency over there, Litsinger Ford.

MN: And then in Chicago, you got your induction notice.

HY: Yeah. Worked there for about six months, I believe, in Chicago. And here, this induction notice comes. "Report for the physical." So...

MN: So on the day of your physical, what happened?

HY: Well, I got drunk before that night with my friend, you know. And supposed to be there at eight o'clock, I went there at nine, and the sergeant was standing there with a gun and all that, you know, all attention. And he says, "You're late." And he chewed me from top to bottom. Said, "You're in the army now." I'm not in the army, heck. Anyway, he's starting to yak off and all. He says, "Come on, I'm going to take you to the captain." So he took me to the captain's office, and the captain said, "Have a seat." And the captain, he's looking out the window like this, you know, I guess looking at the sergeant or somebody. And about five minutes, he said, "Go in line." [Laughs] Just like that. He didn't say a word. [Laughs]

MN: So you got in line.

HY: And I got in line, I took my physical, he said I passed, you know, and you report to Minnesota or somewhere. I think it was camp... what's that language school up there? Anyway, I didn't even know what that... you know. He was going to send me to this language school in Minnesota or something like that. "Report to that," he said. "Go get something to eat." Oh, yeah, I'm hungry, I could eat half a horse, you know, I'm so hungry. And I ate and went home, and that night I got, with my buddy, I said, "I'm going home," and I took off to Denver.

MN: So you had no intentions of joining the army.

HY: No way.

MN: Why not?

HY: No.

MN: Why?

HY: The way they treated me? Well, you know, I can't even live my own home. And you know, all the inconvenience and what it did to my family? Hardship with my family, everything, I couldn't go, no. So I told, I told this, told the judge, says, "If you could give me back what I had before the evacuation, I'd go in. Not when they kick me out of my own home. I can't bear arms." "Well," says, "on top of that, you give me 4-C. I'm an 'enemy alien.'" "Well, 'enemy alien,' we can take 'enemy aliens.' There's a war on, we could take 'enemy aliens,' too." Not this "enemy alien."

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: I'm gonna go back to your, well, you're still in Chicago, okay? You're in Chicago, you tell your friend you're not going into the army. How did you get back to Denver?

HY: I took that cattle car. [Laughs] I couldn't get the, that overnight Zephyr. It didn't run that day, that night, no. I hopped onto this, what they call a cattle car. Slowly go through Kansas and, you know, Nebraska, all around there, Iowa. And took me quite a while. Gee whiz, go back home. And when I went home, for about couple of months, nothing happened. And I got a job and worked, and that morning, that morning, one morning, I'd hear a knock. I opened the door, and here's a great big old marshal, U.S. marshal standing there. You could see the badge, "U.S. marshal" and all that, you know. [Laughs] And he said, he said, "You know why I'm here don't you?" He didn't have to tell me, you know. I said, "Yes." Said, "You ready to go?" Said, "Yeah, ready to go." And we walked to the county jail. And we're walking, he asked me all kind of question and all, why I don't want to go.

MN: And what did you tell him?

HY: I told him, you know, "What would you do if you were kicked out of your home like that?"

MN: What did he say?

HY: He said, you know, "If I listen to you any longer, I might be sympathizing with you." [Laughs] So he said, "Good luck to you."

MN: So you didn't get handcuffed, you guys just walked together...

HY: No, he says he's supposed to handcuff me, but he says, "I'm not gonna handcuff you."

MN: And this is about two or three months after you came back from Chicago and you were back in Denver, and you were working in a garage?

HY: Yeah, uh-huh.

MN: Now, when you were put into the Denver County Jail, who was in there with you?

HY: From Amache group was in there. Around twenty guys were there.

MN: How did they react to you?

HY: Not too good. I was surprised, you know. Said, "What's wrong?" you know. "I'm your brother, and how come you guys don't accept me?" But there was one guy, his name was Yoshi Kubo, he was, he was spokesman, I believe, their bunch. And he was asking me all kind of question, this and that. And I got to where, ah-ha, they thought I was an informant or something like that. And I didn't, I didn't blame 'em for that, because they don't know me and I don't know them, huh? So, until my mom brought the musubi, you know, then the whole thing changed. [Laughs] The whole thing changed, man. I was the king of the what-do-you-call. [Laughs]

MN: So you got accepted by them. Now tell me, before you got there, there was also, the Amache group had visitors from JACL. And is that why they thought you were also an informant?

HY: Yeah, they were harassed many a time before me. I don't know who they... Masaoka or somebody, I don't know.

MN: Joe Grant Masaoka and Min Yasui?

HY: Uh-huh, those guys.

MN: Because that's when Noboru got put into solitary confinement, isn't that right?

HY: Right, right, Nob. Nob was in there, too, when I went there.

MN: Uh-huh. So they got interrogated, and then that's... right after, you came in, right?

HY: Right.

MN: So that's why they thought you were an informant.

HY: I didn't blame 'em. I didn't blame 'em at all.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: Do you remember any of the Amache/Granada guys who were there with you in that jail?

HY: Sure.

MN: Give me, you want to name some of them?

HY: Joe Norikane, Min, Min... what's his name? What's what-do-you-call-it's name?

MN: Yenokida?

HY: Yenokidas... Yenokida brothers, yes, two of 'em did that, Sam and Min. Yoshikubo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, Joe Norikane, and his brother-in-law was in there, I forgot his name. And... I can't remember other guys.

MN: Okay. Were you the only outside person to join the Amache/Granada group?

HY: Outside?

MN: Yeah. Were you the only non-Amache/Granada group to be in that county jail with them?

HY: Yeah, I was the only one then.

MN: Then.

HY: Yeah.

MN: Then later on, a Heart Mountain person came through, right? Kawasaki? One of the, Kawasaki came into the group from Wyoming.

HY: Oh, yeah. Yeah, his name was Kawasaki.

MN: Why was he there?

HY: I think he was in the hospital in Denver. See, yeah, they brought him a, I think he had, he had some sickness and they brought him to Denver, and he got well during that time when threw us in the, threw him in with us for a month, yeah. That's all I know, Kawasaki. But he said he had to go back to Washington, you know, with the, Kuroni and those people.

MN: McNeil Island.

HY: Yeah, McNeil, McNeil. His daughter was there at Driscoll, remember?

MN: Are you talking about the JACL apology?

HY: Yeah, when we went over there. I forgot her name.

MN: And were you hearing about the Heart Mountain draft resistance?

HY: Heart Mountain draft resisters?

MN: While you were in jail, were you hearing --

HY: Yeah, I was in jail at that time.

MN: And were you keeping up with them?

HY: Keeping track with that Denver Post.

MN: Were you still in jail when the first group of sixty-three Heart Mountain draft resisters were convicted?

HY: The first ones?

MN: Yeah.

HY: That was Sus and them.

MN: No, no, no, when the Heart Mountain group, you know the first Heart Mountain group, they were convicted? Were you still in Denver County Jail?

HY: I was in there, yeah. I was, you're right. I was in there.

MN: So the Heart Mountain group, they were convicted, so how did you feel? How did you feel?

HY: How did I feel? Feel they're getting a raw deal, yeah. Shouldn't be in jail. We all shouldn't have been in jail.


MN: Now, when you were in jail there, did anybody in that group change their mind and join the army?

HY: Yeah, there was one fellow, I think he was a Heart Mountain, he was at Heart Mountain. Wait, wait, wait. No, Amache group. He was from Washington, state of Washington. He changed his mind, he couldn't stand it. I forgot what his name was.

MN: How about you? Did you ever think about changing your mind?

HY: Not me, no. No, I was with them hundred percent.

MN: How long were you at the Denver County Jail?

HY: Six months. And the Amache group before me, they were there maybe seven, eight months. So they were there when I, you know, went there.

MN: So what did you guys do in jail all day?

HY: Not much. What can you do? Talk, read the magazine, paper, not much to do, you know. Boring.

MN: How were you treated by the Denver County Jail staff?

HY: Oh, they were, they were real nice. We wanted seconds, they brought us seconds. We had plenty to eat.

MN: What did you eat?

HY: Wieners and crackers and peas. [Laughs]

MN: You told me about saltpeter. What is saltpeter?

HY: [Laughs] This was in Tucson. They put it in the coffee, you know.

MN: This was not in jail?

HY: Jail, no, I didn't have any experience there.

MN: Well, since we're talking about it, tell me, what is it?

HY: You know, from getting, you know, thinking about... you know what I mean.

MN: So men don't get an erection?

HY: Huh?

MN: So men don't get an erection?

HY: I think that's the purpose, yeah, because hurt like hell, you know.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: Okay, tell me about the day they took you to court.

HY: Beg your pardon?

MN: Tell me about the day they took you to court from county jail.

HY: Oh. Yeah, like I said, This sheriff, not sheriff, what they call 'em? What do they call this... United States...

MN: Marshal?

HY: Marshal, marshal, yeah. This one morning I was ready to go to work, and I hear a knock at the door, eight o'clock, no, about seven-thirty. And I open the door and here's this great big old guy with a U.S. marshal badge hanging. He said, he asked me if you were so-and-so, Harry Yoshikawa. I told him, "Yeah." And asked me, "You know why I'm here for, don't you?" I told him, "Yeah." He asked me, "Are you ready?" "Yeah, I'm ready." He says, "Let's go." And we walked to the, we walked to the county, not rode.

MN: Now, what I'm asking you is, when you were in, okay, you're in jail now, right? So from jail, they took you to the courthouse for your trial. Tell me about that when you went to trial. Did they handcuff you out?

HY: I believe they did, yeah.

MN: What did they handcuff you with?

HY: Handcuff and... I think it was, my partner was Hiro Yamauchi. Handcuff and a... I don't know if they put the leg, leg iron, but we were handcuffed, I believe. I can't remember too good, the trial.

MN: How did you get to the court? They take you in a truck or car?

HY: Bus-like, yeah. County bus.

MN: You said you were in jail for six months?

HY: About six months.

MN: And did you have a change of clothes or did you, were you wearing the same clothes?

HY: Same clothes.

MN: So when you went to trial before the court, before the judge, you're wearing the same clothes? You're wearing the same clothes that you were wearing for six months?

HY: [Nods]

MN: Did you shave? Did they let you shave?

HY: Oh, yeah, we shaved, yeah, brushed our teeth. Yeah, we did all that.

MN: Did you have an attorney?

HY: Uh-huh.

MN: Was this a public defender?

HY: I don't know who that... we all chipped in, you know, so much.

MN: How much did you chip in?

HY: I think it was under a hundred bucks, I think, each.

MN: And did you meet with him before the trial?

HY: I don't recall. What we did was, see, we had to write why we refused, you know, our case history, and I guess we gave it to him, each one of us.

MN: Do you remember --

HY: Because each one, the sentence was different. Some guys, some... it was our group, six months, uh-huh, maybe year and a half, and I got two years. They gave me two years. Maybe I talked back to the judge, maybe.

MN: Do you remember your lawyer's name?

HY: Gee, can't remember. Can't remember a thing.

MN: Were you tried as a group or individually?

HY: Individually. They put us on the stand, you know.

MN: And what happened?

HY: Asked us why we don't want to go, you know, bear arms. Told 'em if they take me back to where I was, give me back what I had, then I'll bear arms. But otherwise, no. And besides that, I'm a 4-C, and I'm not qualified for the draft anyway. And he says, "Well, in time of war, we can draft 'enemy aliens,' too." [Laughs] They always got some kind of answer, you know.

MN: You said you got two-year sentence.

HY: Uh-huh.

MN: How come everybody didn't get the same sentence?

HY: I don't know. They, individually, you know, whatever he's feels like, he'd slap it on you. Six months... two years and six months of parole. So I had to, even though I came out, I had to report to the parole board each month.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: Well, after your trial, where did they take you? Did they take you --

HY: County jail, back to where we were.

MN: And how long were you in county jail before they moved you to prison?

HY: I don't remember. Maybe a month or two.

MN: At that time, did they tell you that you were going to the Santa Catalina prison camp in Tucson?

HY: No, no. I didn't know where we were gonna be sent to.

MN: Can you share with us how you were sent to Tucson? Were you handcuffed, were you on a truck?

HY: We were on the leg, leg iron and handcuffed with the partner, you know. Then, with the coach with the bars, there were one soldier in the front and one soldier in the back with a rifle.

MN: This is on a train?

HY: Yeah, this is on the train, yeah. One in front and one in back.

MN: How long did it take to get from Denver to Tucson?

HY: Gee, I don't know. I don't remember now, maybe ten, twelve hours, maybe. Slow, slow-moving. We went through all, what do you call it, through El Paso, Texas, came around.

MN: And all that time you were handcuffed and also leg irons?

HY: Yeah.

MN: With the same person? Was it Hiro? Was it Hiro that you were handcuffed to? Hiro Yamauchi?

HY: Yamauchi, yeah, Hiro.

MN: You were handcuffed to him?

HY: Yeah. Hiro Yamauchi.

MN: So they never took it off. So what happens if you had to go to the bathroom?

HY: Oh, we, we go together, yeah. He's sleeping, I had to wake him up if I wanted to go, you know. If he wants to go, he had to wake me up.

MN: So when did you get to Tucson?

HY: It was late at, late at night. It was dark already, it was about eight, nine o'clock. Then we got off the train, they put us on a truck with the canvas, you know, canvas truck, closed, enclosed, so we didn't know where it was going. Then the bumpy road up the mountains, you know, twenty miles up or whatever. Finally reached there, got us out, took the leg irons and handcuff, debrief, get debriefed, give us our bunk. It was late at night, yeah.

MN: You know, going up that, up to Santa Catalina, it's a pretty steep drive up there. Were you scared?

HY: [Shakes head] You can't see outside anyway, you know. They got it all closed up, canvas. We don't know where we're going, the thing was just rocking, you know, because road wasn't finished yet, and it was breaking rocks and smoothing it out and all that.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: So once you got to the prison camp, you got debriefed. What does it mean to be debriefed?

HY: Well, they issue you a bunk, they issue you clothes, you know, take your old clothes out. You can't have it anymore, yeah.

MN: What kind of clothes did they give you?

HY: They give us a uniform, you know, yeah. Blue uniform, prison uniform. Then they give you a number, 4173, I guess my number was. And they never call your name, they call you by the number if they want you.

MN: Was there other Nisei draft resisters already at Tucson?

HY: Yeah, yeah. First one was Bill Nakasaki from, I think he was from Arizona.

MN: Osu?

HY: Osu, Bill Nagasaki from Terminal Island. The first one was Gordon, Gordon Hirabayashi. He was the first one there.

MN: Was he still there when you got there?

HY: No, no. He, I think he got six months, I think. Then they released him and they went back to Washington with no escort or nothing, now. And from Washington, they say, "Go however you want, you go to Tucson," they told him. It took him two weeks to, you know, reach Tucson. He slept in that outside one, and one night, the ants got him, you know. [Laughs] Yeah.

MN: How about the Topaz group?

HY: Oh, they came later. Yeah, one was Sab and Ken and Joe... Sab, Joe, Ken... I think Tak, I think, is another brother.

MN: So when you were there, there was Bill Nagasaki from Poston?

HY: He was the first one there. And the first group of the Amache group were there. The first group. We're the second group.

MN: And then, and then later the Topaz, Central Utah group camp.

HY: Yeah, the Topaz group came, and then the Colorado group came, yeah.

MN: How about people like you? You were a "voluntary evacuee excludee." Were there other draft resisters like you?

HY: Well, like I told you, the Ishimoto brothers, Ishimoto brothers.

MN: So including them and you, it was three?

HY: Including who?

MN: The two Ishimoto brothers and yourself?

HY: No. There was three Ishimoto brothers and one brother-in-law there.

MN: That were like you?

HY: Uh-huh.

MN: So --

HY: I knew them, I knew all of them. Because we met the, when I went to Colorado, we saw a caravan and I met 'em there, see. I knew, I knew one of 'em from here already from Wilmington. He lived not too far away from me.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MN: So tell me a little bit about this prison camp. How many barracks were there?

HY: A Barrack, B Barrack, and C Barrack. A Barrack were mostly conscientious objectors and, you know, thieves, you know.


MN: Which, who were in Barrack A?

HY: Huh?

MN: Barrack A. Who were...

HY: Oh, barrack.

MN: Yeah.

HY: Yeah, A Barrack were conscientious objectors and petty thieves, you know. And what else now? And no draft dodgers, I think. And B Barrack were our group, Amache group, and the illegal immigrants on the other side. And some draft dodger were in there. I think there was one, a couple of thieves in there, yeah. And the C Barrack, all of 'em were conscientious objectors -- no, I mean Jehovah's Witnesses. All of 'em two-hundred-and-some-odd members there. JWs.

MN: So where the Jehovah's Witnesses the most numerous in camp?

HY: [Nods] That's right, yeah. Mostly JWs.

MN: You were telling me about the story about this young kid from Beverly Hills you met there.

HY: Oh, yeah, yeah. He kind of mooched cigarette off me, you know. Said, "You did JW and you want a smoke?" He didn't, he didn't... he wanted, you know, he didn't want to go, period, those guys. They just used the Jehovah's Witness as a, as an excuse. And I asked him, "Where you from?" He says, he says, "I'm from Beverly Hills." And next thing I know, his family comes out of a limousine and visited him. [Laughs] You know, rich people. You only get about six months and takes off.

MN: How did that make you feel?

HY: Oh, make me feel so mad. Got money, well, you get away with murder, like. Here we were in there, we were in legit, you know, our... as a citizen, our privilege was taken away from us. But they had, those people, they got the privilege and everything else. But still, they don't want to go to, you know, defend the country. I guess when you have money, you get away with murder, they say. And when we saw that, oh, man, these guys, kanemochi, rich people was there.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 25>

MN: Now there were Hopi and Navajo draft resisters also at camp.

HY: Yeah.

MN: And can you tell me about the Navajos first, your friendship with the Navajos?

HY: Yeah. Those Indians used to call us, call us the "Sharane." We thought 'cause that meant bad words, they're callin' us. And I asked this Hopi guy, he says, "No, that means 'brother' in Navajo." [Laughs] Well, you look from the back, you can't tell the difference.

MN: And tell me about this hogan they had.

HY: Huh?

MN: The hogan.

HY: Oh, yeah. They had this Indian, authentic, they made it themselves, with a round hole in the center. And I think once a month I think it was, they'd go in there and whoop it up. The guards let 'em do that, I think some religious, there... yeah, they're whooping it up [imitates sound] you know. Build a fire inside.

MN: Now, how about the Hopi? You learned how to weave.

HY: Yeah. One of the fellows that was making those belts, so one day I was, I looked at it and said, "Gee whiz, I think I could do that." So I asked him if he would show me how to do it. He said, "Yeah, I'll show you, but don't ever show this to a white man, otherwise I won't show you." Then I thought, "No, I wouldn't show it to anybody." And he showed me how to make the belt. I was getting pretty good at it, too. I made about dozens of, other a dozen sold. But most of it I gave it away. I think Emi got one, big one I made. I gave most of 'em away. Oh, I gave one to Mary Veril, you know, one of those belts I made.

MN: She's with the Forest Service.

HY: Yeah, Mary, yeah. She says she's gonna put it in the museum.

MN: Would you know how to make one now?

HY: [Shakes head] I forgot. I only had two, I don't know what happened to my two, all gone.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MN: Now, you mentioned that just before the war ended, you were, like, the prison camp was preparing room for more Nisei draft resisters.

HY: Yeah, from Poston. Over two hundred was gonna come. But since the war ended, so they only paid a dollar fine and that was it. Yeah, they had the place, Bill was saying they had it all ready for them to come, but they never came 'cause the war ended.

MN: So you said they had it ready, but, so did they have to build another barrack?

HY: No, no, no. They, those, I guess they didn't take the other people from, you know, those conscientious objectors and those crooks and all that. So they had a, I think in our barrack, B Barrack, they had it open, yeah.

MN: So in prison, you wore the blue uniform. And so when it was time to leave prison, what did you wear?

HY: Oh, they gave us a outfit from shoe, you know, from foot to head, see. One of those gunnysack suits, you know, they're not worth a darn. And the shoes, heck, they look like a cardboard sole. Then they give you twenty bucks. [Laughs] And the bus fare.

MN: So when you left prison, did you leave with another draft resister?

HY: Yeah, yeah. No, no, he wasn't a draft resister, he was a, he was a thief. He got in, it was a robbery. He got off at Tucson and took off.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MN: So they drove you down from Santa Catalina Mountains to Tucson, and now you're a free man. What did you do?

HY: I think this guy here, he had a, he rented a hotel or something. And I waited 'til the, when the bus was, you know, time for my bus, I waited 'til then and then from there I got on the bus.

MN: Where were you going?

HY: Denver. That's where I met this old man. [Laughs] He said, "What tribe are you from?"

MN: What'd you tell him?

HY: I told him I was a Navajo. [Laughs] And asked me all kind of, you know, question, you know. What their, what they do and how they live and all that. So I told him. I told him the story, and he believed it. [Laughs]

MN: How come you didn't just tell him you're Japanese American?

HY: No, I don't know. I just, he told me -- I was just as dark as that bag there, you know. I did look like an Indian. So I just, I don't know, it just came out, you know. He thinks I'm an Indian, all right, I'll be an Indian. [Laughs] Yeah.

MN: So from Tucson, you went to Denver, but you had a stop in Santa Fe?

HY: Santa Fe, yeah. Then I had to transfer over to another bus from Santa Fe.

MN: But you missed that first bus.

HY: I missed that first bus. I had to wait all the way up to that night again for another bus.

MN: Why'd you miss that first bus?

HY: Huh?

MN: Why did you miss that first bus?

HY: I think I slept in the bench in the bus depot, missed it.

MN: So when you got to Denver, your mom, was she still working at the same Chinese restaurant?

HY: Uh-huh, yeah.

MN: She was washing dishes?

HY: [Nods].

MN: And once you were out, how long were you on probation?

HY: Six months.

MN: Now, during those six months, what did you have to do as --

HY: Got me a job in a garage.

MN: And how often did you have to go to parole board?

HY: Once a month.

MN: And what did you do there? What did you tell them?

HY: They asked me, "Where you working?" "Same place." That's about all.

MN: Was it hard to find a job after you came out of prison?

HY: No, it wasn't that hard at all.

MN: So once that six months was over, then what did you do?

HY: Then we said, "Let's go back to L.A." So I had my car and then the other car, I still had it. So first we came to L.A. and find a place to live. Found a place, then I went back, we went back, loaded our stuff and came back.

MN: So you came back here by yourself first.

HY: No, no, no. With another fellow.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MN: Okay, Harry, when you, you came back first to look for a place, and you went back for your mother. Now, coming back to California, did you take the same Route 66?

HY: No. I came back the other route, through Wyoming and Utah. I don't know what route that was.

MN: And why did you decide to take that route?

HY: Seemed like it was cooler that way, that route, instead of south, going to the south.

MN: So, when you came to the border, did you have any problems, state border?

HY: No, no. No problem. All they asked was fruits and... some kind of fruits, they can't take fruits across the border. No problem.

MN: And what year was this? Was the war already over?

HY: Yeah.

MN: So '45, '46?

HY: Somewhere around there. '46, '47, something...

MN: 'Cause you were in jail for how long? Prison for two years? Did you serve your two years?

HY: Sixteen, sixteen... let's see. I think sixteen months and ten days, something like that.

MN: And the war was already over?

HY: Uh-huh.

MN: When you returned to southern California, where did you end up staying?

HY: 182nd and Western. We rented a home, house.

MN: So when you came back here, was it difficult to find a job?

HY: No, I worked for another Nisei garage. They had a garage in Boyle Heights, S&E Garage, Sam & Eddie Garage. I got a job at S&E Garage.

MN: And I know after that, you were with Morningside Auto with Roy Mori.

HY: Yeah, we worked together at the, Sam & Eddie's Garage. And he opened a shop in Morningside, so I went there.

MN: And then you and your friend opened Y&Y Garage?

HY: Yeah, that's... veteran, yeah. He's a veteran.

MN: And he had no problem with you being a draft resister?

HY: No problem.

MN: And then after that, you became a mechanic with Toyota, a Toyota dealer.

HY: No, from Morningside, I went to West L.A. I worked there, and from there, I went to Toyota.

MN: Now, at that time, Toyotas were just coming into the United States market.

HY: Right, right, right.

MN: Now, tell me what's the difference between American-made cars and Japanese-made cars at that time.

HY: There's no difference. Cars are cars.

MN: The Japanese-made cars were just as good as American-made cars at that time?

HY: It wasn't... I don't think they, not as good as the U.S.-made cars. They had little problems, you know, brake problems and stuff like that. It was mostly four-cylinder cars, they had small cars. Had transmission problems, brake problems. But as time went by, they got better and better and better. I owned one, two, three Toyotas.

MN: Did you have the first car, the Toyopet?

HY: No. Toyopet, no. I didn't have that one. They were all Toyota.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

MN: Now, back in the 1980s, people started to talk more openly about draft resisters. How did you feel about that?

HY: How'd I feel about that, draft resisting?

MN: Or people talking more openly about it.

HY: I felt like they should, they should know about it. More of, they should know more about it.

MN: Were you ever ashamed of resisting the draft or going to jail?

HY: Never. Never. Matter of fact, I was honored to, to be in with the Heart Mountain group. See, we had a meeting in Sacramento. That's when Mits Koshiyama represented the Heart Mountain group, and Bill Nagasaki over here.

MN: Do you remember what year that was?

HY: I don't remember. I can't remember times.

MN: Well, this was in the 1980s.

HY: Something like that.

MN: Did you ever feel ostracized for being a draft resister?

HY: Ostracized meaning that I wasn't, that I wasn't as, I'm foreigner-like? I felt like that, sure. I did feel like that. I felt that my, supposed to be a citizen, and they treated us like an "enemy alien," you know. Took away our rights, everything. Yeah, it was bitter.

MN: Do you still feel that way?

HY: Well, as time goes by, you know, they say it heals. But still, deep down, I do have that feeling.

MN: What about even with the governmental apology and reparations?

HY: I think what I lost is, that's hardly... what I lost during the war, well, that's nothing. But I guess, I guess it's better than nothing.

MN: Now, you were never in camp, but as somebody who was an excludee, were you eligible for redress?

HY: Eligible for what?

MN: Redress. Did you get an apology and the $20,000?

HY: Yeah. They, I guess I was eligible because they gave me the redress.

MN: Now, looking back on what happened during the war, would it have been easier if you and your mother went to camp instead of going to Colorado?

HY: No, I don't regret it, no. Eventually we had to move out of the camp anyway, you know. You can't stay in camp. And besides, Denver was the heart of the evacuation, I mean, from the camp. They all congregated in that Denver area.

MN: You're talking about resettlement.

HY: Yeah, resettle, yeah. From the chick sexer to all the guys. Veterans, they all came to Denver.

MN: But if you went into camp, you actually would be fed.

HY: That's true, yeah. But we didn't make much money, but we didn't go hungry.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

MN: Were you ever a JACL member?

HY: No, never.

MN: What do you think about the JACL's action during the war towards the draft resisters?

HY: I think, I think that was kind of appalling, the way they acted. That's no way to treat your people. Should have helped us, not trying to encourage us to, you know, do whatever they wanted us to do. You remember that Sergeant Kuroki? He came to Heart Mountain trying to recruit those guys. I wonder what he thought of his people incarcerated like that? That I could not stand.

MN: But Kuroki was never in camp.

HY: Yeah, he wasn't in camp, yeah. Well, he knew top people, they got him in the Air Force, see. That's how he got in. But Roosevelt shouldn't have, you know, this 9066, you know. He should have never done that, I think.

MN: Were you personally harassed by a JACL member?

HY: No. Because I didn't, I wasn't in contact with them.

MN: Now, if you had gone to camp, would you have still been a draft resister?

HY: I believe I would, yeah. Yeah.

MN: Or would you have gone one step further? Would you have ended up at Tule Lake?

HY: Yeah. They, you know, arrest me and I probably would have gone to Tule Lake, yeah. I'd be with the "no-no" boys.

MN: So you, were there thoughts ever of renouncing your United States citizenship? Did those thoughts ever go through your head?

HY: I thought about it, yeah. Once upon a time, yeah.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

MN: Now your parents are from Hiroshima? Did you lose family members in the atomic bombing?

HY: Lost one whole family, they're gone.

MN: How did you hear about that? Were you still at the prison camp when you heard about the atomic bombing?

HY: No. The relatives wrote a letter to Mom, then they were gone. Whole family just wiped out forever.

MN: And how did you feel about that?

HY: Those, they were civilians, innocent, you know, civilians. See, like this terrorist Osama Bin Laden, he even said that, "Well, you guys dropped the bomb on Hiroshima." Then he killed a lot of these innocent people, not the soldiers, you know. Why couldn't they drop it in some ocean or someplace and demonstrate it, how devastating this bomb is, instead of killing the innocent people?

MN: Were you still in prison camp when the war was over?

HY: No, I don't think... I was out. I was out.

MN: When you heard that Japan surrendered, how did you feel?

HY: I felt they was gonna lose anyway, yeah. But I didn't like the attitude of them, you know, Japanese people there. They were too arrogant. I was there, like I say, I lived in Japan one year, and I saw these, how they treat their soldiers. Beat 'em up and they, I don't know, they cuss at 'em, really treated 'em like dirt. Over here, they don't do that, see. I'm not used to that kind... I'm not used to that kind of treatment. I saw all that, see. Yeah, one time a soldier, they come by our house. And one soldier said he lost one those screws in a rifle he had. And this sergeant, without saying anything, bam, he just let him have it. It wasn't his fault, you know, he just lost it. Something like that, that really bothered me. So I didn't want to, I didn't want to join the Japanese army, no way. Treat you like a dirt.

MN: Now, had you stayed in Japan, would you have been drafted?

HY: Oh, yeah.

MN: You have dual citizenship?

HY: Uh-huh, yes.

MN: I want to go --

HY: They would have taken me, all right.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

MN: I want to go back to JACL for a moment, because there's one more question I want to ask you. How did you feel when the JACL passed the resolution to apologize to the draft resisters?

HY: Well, I thought it was coming, you know, yeah. They should, the way they mouthed off and treated the, you know, telling us to join the army and all kind of, you know... like Masaoka telling us to join the army so they can use us, use us as a, you know, what they call this... what did they call this? When, you know, when they use you?

MN: Cannon fodder?

HY: You know, they use you as a "suicide squad," you know, all that. I think if everybody had resisted, I think that would have been better. That's what I think. Because the way they treated us, you know, they didn't treat us like a citizen, see, in the first place. You think these, some Japanese Kibeis, they resisted the draft, too. Some of 'em got about five years, I believe. I know a fellow I know, he got five years for fighting with a captain. Dishonorable discharge.

MN: Was the JACL apology enough? Do they need to do more?

HY: I don't think so. I think they realized the mistake. I think so.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

MN: Harry, I'm gonna ask you just a little more personal stuff. When did you get married?

HY: 1968 or '9, something like that. [Laughs] Somewhere around there. Wait a minute, wait a minute. 1964 or something like that.

MN: How did you meet your wife?

HY: Through a friend.

MN: Was your wife a Nisei also?

HY: No, she was from Japan. She lived in Altadena.

MN: And what was her name?

HY: Elisa.

MN: And is the name she received when she came to the United States?

HY: [Shakes head] She was harassed in Japan because her name is English. That's the only name she had since birth. See, her mom used to work at a, in a Ford agency. She's fluent in English, Issei, that's very rare, you know. And she used to work for the Ford agency in Tokyo. And they were harassed, I hear. Her name, English name, she was working for United States-made car, she had a bed instead of a tatami, and she was harassed on that. Oh, man.

MN: Did she have any problems that you were a draft resister?

HY: No. After Truman gave us our pardon, remember that, Truman gave us our pardon? I, that's why I got a job at the City of Torrance. Otherwise -- I reported that I'm a draft resister. I told 'em I was pardoned by Harry Truman, and they know it. Still they hired me.

MN: Harry, did you date Nisei women? I find that draft resisters and some of the Tule Lake people had a hard time with Nisei women, and a lot of them, like yourself, married Issei. Is that why you ended up marrying an Issei?

HY: No, not... it so happened that she was from Japan.

MN: And how many children do you have?

HY: Just her.

MN: Amy.

HY: Just one.

MN: And when did your wife pass away?

HY: '05.

MN: Okay. Anything else you want to add on to this?

HY: No, I can't think of anything else.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.