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Title: Masamizu Kitajima Interview
Narrator: Masamizu Kitajima
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 12, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-kmasamizu-01-0023

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Earlier you had mentioned the 442, the men who were training at Camp Shelby. Describe that. I mean, I know that the men oftentimes came to Jerome and Rohwer to visit, and you were there, so describe how that worked.

MK: Well, there was a lot of boys from Kapaa, Kauai, who were church members, in Shelby, so when, once they found out that we're in -- no, only one person find out that -- Reverend Kitajima's family's in Jerome, they would use their three day passes and come over from Shelby. While they were in basic training, they would come, Shelby to Jerome, and we would... and the block, our block being all Hawaii, would make special accommodations so they would have good food and all that. We would have, we used to ration our rice, just so that we would have enough rice for the boys to come and stuff like that.

TI: So how would you ration rice? I mean...

MK: The mess hall would ration our rice. The mess hall would have, and they said, "Oh, tomorrow no rice. We will have, all having potatoes because we're gonna save the rice for this weekend when the boys come over." Or we're gonna have to cut down the meat for this week. The next week we have extra meat. Every week the boys would, some guys would come over. We didn't know how many were coming, but they're all Hawaii boys who were coming. They want to come to see Hawaii, Hawaii people, so every week until they shipped out they came. And they would always bring presents for the kids and for us kids and stuff like that. Never to you specifically, but for the, for all block, they would bring. And then the block manager would call the kids over and say, "Here, for you, for you." Distribute it.

TI: And when you, when these boys came from Camp Shelby, what did you think about that? Because you're, you're, what, maybe eight, nine years younger than they are, so how was that for you to see these young men come to camp?

MK: As far as being in the military?

TI: Or just, you know, looking up to them, or --

MK: Well, I looked up to them, yes. And I felt, oh, they're so lucky they can go in the, they can go in the army and train as... but I also felt kind of sad for them in this fact that they weren't near their home, near their families. So I'm happy they could come to our family and enjoy it with us. And then I also knew some of 'em from Kauai, and so I would remember them by their first names. It was almost like being at home to see them again.

TI: And when the boys came to Jerome, were they always happy, or what were, what were they like?

MK: Oh, yeah. Very happy, and actually it was like celebration. Like the girls would decorate the mess hall, clean all the... we used to go and help mop the floor so that they could have dance, the canteen night at night and stuff like... the crepe paper, decorate the mess hall and they have music and dances. And after that, to go, earlier in the evening before that they would have things for the kids and they'd have singing and stuff. Like a celebration every Friday night or Saturday night, just for the guys.

TI: And would the Kauai boys bring their friends, too?

MK: Yeah. They would bring, too. Well, anybody who was, who was on pass that week, practically all of 'em come to Jerome.

TI: And about how, do you, like a dance, about how many soldiers would be there?

MK: About thirty, forty guys. A truckload, couple truckloads.

TI: And where would they sleep?

MK: I don't know. [Laughs]

TI: Someplace on, on...

MK: There was some accommodation, I'm sure.

TI: But then for food, you guys had to sacrifice.

MK: Well we had to do some sacrificing because the, each block was rationed so much. But, like, all year round, the guys used to go out and they'd go fishing on their own and bring, bring fish back for the barrack, for the mess hall, and stuff like that. And they, it used to be, used to be not unusual to have livestock from what the people have plant, raised themselves in the camp, to be used in the mess hall. The Japanese are, would do all kind of things just to, just to keep themselves busy, and they have so much byproducts.

TI: And this was a good way to use, or a good occasion to use, maybe, the extra fish or the livestock.

MK: But remember when you went to Little Rock, where the sharecroppers said they were envious of us because we use, we're eating military pork and ham, which they didn't realize that was all camp-raised from our garbage. And they accused us of using GI food, whereas we're supplying all the truck crops to all the federal institutions in Arkansas during the war, from Rohwer and Jerome. I didn't really realize that until I went to...

TI: You didn't realize that the sharecroppers were envious of...

MK: Yeah, I didn't know that. And then they, the sharecroppers told us that in Arkansas, it's the last visit.

TI: But they didn't know that you had raised all, most of that food.

MK: Yeah, we raised all of it because we didn't know what to do with the garbage.

TI: Okay, good. So the... yeah, so I just wanted to talk about the 442, so they would come on weekends, and you said almost every weekend they would, they would come.

MK: Yeah, after they were, after they finished their basic and they were doing the, their combat training, specializing for the European campaign, they would come every week. Every time they had a break they would come out.

TI: And when the men from the 442 went to Europe, I'm guessing some of them probably still wrote back and forth?

MK: I don't know.

TI: Okay, but when they were in Europe and people start hearing about the casualties of the 442, is that difficult for the people at Jerome? Because they had entertained so many of the boys and some of them...

MK: You know, when they, when they went to combat I really don't know, because by this time we had been shipped to Tule Lake. Now, the Tule Lake we were in internment camps. We didn't even know what had happened to the 442 after that.

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