Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tetsushi Marvin Uratsu Interview
Narrator: Tetsushi Marvin Uratsu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: May 25, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-utetsushi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today's Thursday, March 26, 2011, and we're in Emeryville, California. And on camera we have Dana Hoshide, I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and we're here today with Marvin Uratsu. So before I start the interview, I just wanted to acknowledge you. Because when Densho first started, you came up to Seattle, and I distinctly remember -- this was probably over twelve years ago -- and you were interviewing the MIS. And I just wanted to acknowledge that it was really inspirational to watch you do that.

TU: [Laughs] Wonderful.

TI: And we were just beginning, and to be able to work with you in those early years was really great for us. So I just wanted to, on the record, say that.

TU: Well, I appreciate that very much.

TI: So we go a long ways back in some ways.

TU: Yeah, I think we first met in Hawaii.

TI: That's right, and that was probably '97 or something like that.

TU: I forget the exact date.

TI: Yeah, there was some big, something in Hawaii. Okay, so Marvin, let's start with your interview, and why don't we start off by just, why don't you tell me when you were born and where you were born.

TU: I was born on February 7, 1925, in Sacramento by the hand of the sambasan, I think. Because actually, my sister told me later on in life that I was actually born on February 4th but was reported by the sambasan three days later, February 7th, and that's what the official record showed, February 7th.

TI: And so what day do you celebrate your birthday?

TU: February 7th.

TI: Okay. And your name, what was the name given to you at birth?

TU: Tetsushi Uratsu, Tetsushi.

TI: And so where does "Marvin" come from?

TU: I think it was about the end of the grammar school period, the teachers were having a hard time pronouncing my name, Tetsushi. One called me "Teksuskie," made me a Polish descent. [Laughs] But I thought it would make things easier that I'd pick a name, and I picked up Marvin. I looked through all the names, there was a book on names, and I kind of liked the name Marvin because it had, I think, a pretty good description or definition, so I chose Marvin.

TI: Now, do you remember why you chose Marvin? Was there a particular meaning to it?

TU: Yeah, it's something like "high ideals." Beyond that I can't quite remember, but something like that. It was for a high goal.

TI: And you did this while you were in elementary school, or when did you select this name?

TU: I think at the end of the grammar school, before high school.

TI: Right before high school, okay, good.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

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

TU: My father's name was Hango Uratsu. He was from Kumamoto, Tamana-gun, Yokoshima-mura, that's the town.

TI: What kind of work did your father's family do?

TU: As far as I know, from what my brother Gene tells me, he wasn't doing too much. They might have owned a farm, I'm not sure about that.

TI: And so do you know why he came to the United States?

TU: That's something that always puzzled me, why he came and just what happened and what he did. Yeah, that's something that even my brother Gene didn't know.

TI: So it's kind of a family mystery.


TU: You know, when I think about it, we should have talked to him some more. But in those days, you realize at a later age that you should have done this, you should have done that. But there was nothing excepting my brother found out that he was married to a person before and they got divorced and then married my mother, nineteen year old girl, that was a second marriage in 1916.

TI: And the first marriage, was that in the United States or in Japan?

TU: Japan.

TI: Okay, so he had this marriage, he got divorced in Japan and then he came to the United States?

TU: Yeah, and then he went back to get my mother. It was 1916, or 1915 or '16, somewhere around there. Because my brother Gene was born in 1917.

TI: And what was the age difference between your mother and father?

TU: Eighteen years.

TI: Oh, so he was about thirty-seven and she was nineteen?

TU: Exactly. And so they had some difficulty. It wasn't a smooth marriage, but I'd like to say at the end that things worked out pretty well. When I say at the end, when they retired in Berkeley, they were getting along okay and we were happy to see that. [Laughs] But it was a rocky marriage when they were younger.

TI: And when you say "rocky," was it kind of arguing back and forth, or what do you mean by "rocky"? Or just tense?

TU: Well, they didn't see eye to eye on some things. I don't know, beyond that I can't say. I know they used to have hard arguments. But being a young kid, I didn't know why he was arguing. I know he got teed off every now and then, what my mother did or said and the arguments would start.

TI: And would it ever get to the point where it would get physical or just arguing?

TU: No, no. But like my brother said, it was a rocky marriage. There was a big age difference, made a generational difference there. She was pretty well-educated. He was pretty well-educated for that time, too, but she had more education and she was educated to be a teacher, schoolteacher.

TI: And what was your mother's name?

TU: Mashi, M-A-S-H-I, Mashikawa. Mashi was her first name, Mashikawa was her last name.

TI: So here she's nineteen years old, she's well-educated to be a teacher, why did she come to the United States to marry someone who was almost twice her age?

TU: That's a puzzle. But I think it's that dream of America, land of opportunity, and she was impressed with my father at first, I guess. But then she learned later that he was just a farm laborer. [Laughs] And so here she is, sort of a city girl trained to be a teacher, came to the States without knowing anything really, and then having to spend a farmer's wife's life with her callused hands and so on. So it was quite a dramatic change or traumatic expectation, high expectation was real low in the actual or practical side.

TI: Did you ever hear or did she ever talk about her family in Japan and what they did and what they thought about her coming to America?

TU: Well, that, I don't know. But I know she used to tell me anyway that she used to get homesick. She wanted to go back to Japan, but her family was a bunch of teachers in the educational field.

TI: So when they were in California, where did they live and what did they do?

TU: See, as far as I remember, 1931 was when my grandfather died and therefore we got sent back.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Okay, before we go to Japan, let's go back to California. And so like 1917, 1918, let's talk about that first.

TU: Yeah, he was just a simple farm laborer.

TI: And where...

TU: In Sacramento and Placer County, I think.

TI: Good. And while your father was a farm laborer, what did your mother do?

TU: Worked with him, therefore the callused hands. [Laughs] As far as I know.

TI: Well, that and she had lots of children also, right?

TU: By the time she had me, I'm number four, and she had five, actually.

TI: So let's, before we talk about your story, let's go through your brothers and sisters. You said you were number four, who was the oldest?

TU: My brother Gene was the oldest.

TI: And he was born in 1917?

TU: 1917. And my sister Nobu, N-O-B-U, born about two years later.

TI: Okay, about 1919.

TU: And then my brother Rusty, better known as Rusty. His name is Kiyoshi, but he's better known as Rusty, he was born in 1922. And I came in 1925. And in 1928, my younger brother came.

TI: And what's your younger brother's name?

TU: Tom or Tsutomu. Japanese name is Tsutomu.

TI: Good, okay.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So why don't we go ahead, or do you have any childhood memories before you went to Japan? Do you remember the house or anything before you went to Japan?

TU: See, I was born in 1925, and my mother took us four kids at that time back to Japan in 1926. So I was just a year old or something, in that order, so I didn't know what the reason was.

TI: So your mother goes with the four older, Gene, Nobu, Rusty and you, to Japan in 1926. And do you know why she went to Japan?

TU: The thinking was, as my brother explains it, I didn't know at that time but he explained it later on that she thought she would leave the four kids, four of us kids, with our grandfather and grandmother on my father's side, Uratsu side. And that's, the thinking was, then she could come back to the United States and work with my father. Whereas if she had four kids with her, she'd have to spend most of her time taking care of the kids. So that was the idea as I understand it for us being taken to Japan. And then in 1931, my grandfather died.

TI: Well, so before --

TU: Oh, excuse me.

TI: Yeah, so she was supposed to leave the four children, but then only you and your older brother stayed.

TU: Yeah. I didn't know enough to make a difference, but my brother by that time, my brother Gene had made friends in a very short time and so he was happy to be there. And the two in between, Nobu and Rusty, they made a big fuss. [Laughs] Wanted to go back with my mother, and so they compromised. They left two of us there and then she brought two back with her.

TI: And then Gene would then kind of look over you also as the older brother?

TU: No, not so much. The one that really took care of me or helped me is my grandmother and grandfather, they were very good. I liked my grandfather. And then in that little village there were these Uratsu relatives, you see. And so one of the relatives was Auntie Okie, and they had a family a little older than us, and so they used to take care of me. And when I left the Uratsu house and went to the Okie house, and they took care of me. Gave a bath, I remember, things like that.

TI: So your first childhood memories are from Japan.

TU: Yeah, exactly.

TI: That's the first things you remember. And then you were saying your grandfather died?

TU: In 1931, my brother's notes shows.

TI: And then so you and Gene were sent back to...

TU: Yeah. And that was in 1931 because that's when I remember President Hoover was the president at that time, and I remember that Roosevelt came in in 1932. And one of the things he did, as I remember, I remember at that time, he closed all the banks. Whatever that meant, I don't know, but they closed all the banks so you couldn't draw any money out if you had money in the bank. But for what purpose I don't know. To this day, I don't know. But anyway, that was a story that kind of remains in my mind.

TI: That's a great memory, because you're only six years old, and you would follow...

TU: Six or seven, yeah. Yeah, six years old.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: And so you're returning during the Depression.

TU: Exactly.

TI: It's a really difficult time. How was your family doing? When you come from Japan and you come to the United States, how was your family doing?

TU: Okay. We went to this farmhouse, farmhouse number one, let's call it. And we were, I think, sharecroppers, where we did the work. And the hakujin landowner owned the land and we worked, the family worked for him and got paid so much. I don't know what arrangements there were. That's number one, and then we moved to farm number two, then on to three and four. By that time it was 1937, and that's when my mother wanted to buy a farm because she realized people with land are making a reasonable living, and she wanted, that was her dream. After four years of just circulating around as farm laborers, she had this chance to buy a ranch. And, of course, they were aliens so they couldn't buy the land, so they bought it in the name of my brother Gene, which he was eligible at that time.

TI: Yeah, so right about that time he'd be twenty, twenty-one years old, Gene.

TU: Yeah.

TI: Okay. So your mother was sort of, had a lot of foresight saying this life as a sharecropper is too hard, we need...

TU: Yeah, you're not getting anywhere. I think she had the smarts. She was always kind of the driver, and she worked hard. I remember she worked hard. The life of the farm wife never ends. She would do all the housework, cooking and so on, and then in her free time she's out there in the ranch helping out. And then she'd have to come back for preparing meals for all of us. And then on Sundays, the fellows would have a day off on Sunday, and she would do her laundry. And she used to, every now and then, try to give us the sad story that a housewife's work never ends, she doesn't even get a Sunday off. [Laughs]

TI: So all the famworkers could get -- and she was a farmworker, too, and she still had...

TU: Exactly.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: I want to back up a little bit. Going back to when you returned to the United States, you had to go through Angel Island. Can you tell me what memories you have of Angel Island when you came back?

TU: Yeah, I had no idea where we were going, but then we went to Angel Island and realized later on. And there was a barrack there where these so-called "detainees" were housed. I think they had double decker beds, very simple furniture. We spent at least one night there, from what my mother's notes show.

TI: And was this kind of like immigration process? You said "detainees," is it because you were just being processed as an immigrant, or why...

TU: We were okay, excepting that my father didn't come to the pier when he should have. So I guess the authorities, they couldn't do anything else but to send us over to the Angel Island for safekeeping for the night.

TI: Oh, interesting. So if your father had been there, then you wouldn't have...

TU: Wouldn't have had any problems.

TI: Do you have any recollection of other people at Angel Island when you were there, like who else was there?

TU: Well, I noticed there were a lot of other Orientals or Asians, and I presume they were Chinese, mainly. And then one day, on that day, later on in the morning, I guess, I looked out and down to the other barracks, and I saw these white women smoking cigarettes outside and I said, "Wow."[Laughs] It's an impression on me, a young mind, a lady, woman smoking. That's unusual. In Japan, they were smoking, but to see a white woman...

TI: So this is 1931 when... these white women, were they like the workers there or were they there also being detained?

TU: Well, I understand they were Russian detainees, Russian immigrants detained, for what reason I don't know. That's my presumption.

TI: And in general, do you remember the treatment you and your brother and your mother had when you were at Angel Island?

TU: See, my brother and I came back alone. My mother had come back already with the middle two children.

TI: Oh, that's right, yeah, it's just you and Gene. So you and Gene. And so, but the treatment, because you're two boys essentially.

TU: No problem at all.

TI: But the only reason you were there was because no one was there to pick you up. If your father or mother or someone had been there...

TU: That's my presumption, yeah.

TI: Because both of you were U.S. citizens so you should have been able to just...

TU: Yeah, there shouldn't have been any problem. But I didn't know what was going on. I just waited for events to take place.

TI: Now, do you ever, were you ever afraid? When you would come back, for you, a strange country, and it must have been somewhat scary for you.

TU: No, not really. At that age... I don't know. I wasn't afraid at all except for the things that were strange. [Laughs] While I was in Japan, the relatives used to tell me that, "Over the hill and across the wide ocean was America, and that's where your father and mother are." I used to get that message from the people who take care of me in Japan.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Now for you, you had no memories of your mother or father because you were so little. So when you come to United States, what was it like to meet your father and mother for the first time?

TU: Well, before that, my uncle that's my father's younger brother lived in Berkeley. So what happened was my father took us to our uncle's house and I met his wife, and I thought she was my mother. But it wasn't until we got back to Loomis, to farm number one, that I met my mother for the first time since she left us in Japan.

TI: Okay, and you are now about five, six years old. What were your first impressions? When you get reacquainted with your mother who you didn't remember or anything, what was that like? What were your first impressions?

TU: Well, as I remember, it was a happy time. And I think we used to say, "Well, you take care of my father when he gets old, I'll take care of Mom." Talked, things like that we talked about.

TI: So explain that again. It was kind of like you would take care of your mother and Gene would take care of your father?

TU: Yeah, some other guys take care of the father because I like my mother. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, you said that. Okay, so you were fond of your mother, so you said you would take care of her, and "the rest of you take care of Dad."

TU: You know, as children, I think there might have been conversation like that in other families also, that they take care of you now, but further on down the line when they get older, somebody has to take care of the parents, so we share the burden. That was a big talk. [Laughs]

TI: But it says to me that there was something about your mother that you were fond of. And so what was it? Tell me a little bit about your mother that made you so fond of her?

TU: Well, it developed over the years. She was a Christian, and she used to read Bible stories to me. And she would explain it so that we could understand it a little bit better than just reading the Bible. And I think that kind of seeped into me. But I had my difficulties with her, but initially, things were okay.

TI: So you mentioned that she read the Bible, she was Christian. Do you know how she became a Christian or when she became a Christian? Was this back in Japan or did she become a Christian when she was in Loomis?

TU: It was in Loomis. I don't know which farm it was, either farm number one or two, I forget. But Sunday evening they used to drive the Model T Ford into Sacramento and attend a Salvation Army meeting. And there was a Reverend Matsushima who was very influential. And when my folks got into arguments, sometimes he would come and arbitrate or try to smooth things over. So there was that kind of connection that my folks had with Reverend Matsushima.

TI: And was he the one who got your mother and, I guess, father into Christianity?

TU: Yeah. So she got her start as a Salvation Army member, and then of course turned into Methodist church later on. Loomis had a Methodist church.

TI: When you say Salvation Army, I have this image of the musical Guys and Dolls, and they have the Salvation Army, and they do a lot of preaching in the streets?

TU: Exactly.

TI: And so that's similar?

TU: Exactly.

TI: And this was a Japanese...

TU: Yeah, Reverend Matsushima would be talking in the middle of the street in Japantown in Sacramento.

TI: And he would be talking in Japanese?

TU: Yeah.

TI: And kind of preaching on the corner?

TU: Yes, he's trying to save these single men, really, who might be spending all their money in some ungodly ways. So he would preach to them to try to get them into the Christian religion. But anyway...

TI: Oh, what a sight. Again, it's almost like from a movie, I can see someone doing that.

TU: Well, you have your Salvation Army cap and the uniform, maybe he looks impressive, but I always wondered what he's doing out in the streets there. [Laughs]

TI: But the interesting thing is he's preaching in Japanese about Christianity in the Salvation Army. So that's why it's so visual for me to think about that.

TU: Yeah, I don't know how much you know about Sacramento, but there was Fourth Street, Fourth and M Street, something like that. It was a conglomeration, grouping of Japanese businesses. And the Reverend Matsushima would be talking on the street corners to some of the stray old, or not so old, laborers.

TI: And when he did that, was there, like about how many people would be around him when he's talking?

TU: Oh, half a dozen or so, sometimes more, sometimes less. But he kept at it, and I admire him for his dedication.

TI: Now when you were there with your family, would they stop and listen? Or because they knew him, they didn't have to do it, or...

TU: Well, after that, they would have a meeting at the house, at his house. They had a pretty big room in the basement, and he would be preaching there to the congregation there.

TI: And so your family would go to those?

TU: Yeah. And in the meantime, I'm sleeping.

TI: [Laughs] Again, what a great story. But then Loomis, your mother would attend the Methodist church there.

TU: Later on, yes. She started going to the Methodist church there.

TI: Did she ever have a falling out with the Reverend?

TU: Matsushima? No, no. I don't know, just somehow they grew distant. But she was still in the Christian religion, yes.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Now, you come back from Japan, you're around six years old, and you have to go to school. I'm assuming that your English isn't very good or even nonexistent because you've been in Japan all this time. So tell me about school and how that was for you.

TU: You know, I remember this teacher, Mrs. Moulton, M-O-U-L-T-O-N, she was a grandmotherly type of woman, I recall. And she was very kind, and she got me reading this primary book about dogs. "My name is Terry, I'm a dog, I say bow-wow," words to that effect. And she got me going and I started picking up the language, yeah. So I guess I must have done okay, 'cause at that age, you pick up language pretty rapidly.

TI: And do you know what grade you started at?

TU: First grade.

TI: First grade.

TU: Yeah, and then second grade was a Mrs. Brace, another grandmotherly type, very kind. That was at the Loomis Union grammar school.

TI: Now, when you started first grade, were there very many other Japanese in your class?

TU: Quite a few. Loomis had a lot of Japanese farmers and the kids went to school there. So I don't know what the percentage was, but there were quite a few.

TI: Now were there very many others who came in not speaking English or not knowing much English?

TU: I don't remember except about my brother and me starting out not knowing one word of English and trying to make a go of it. [Laughs]

TI: Well, in some ways, even though you were much younger, it may have been easier for you starting school because you're in the first grade. Your brother was more like in... was he in high school yet?

TU: No, he was in grammar school, yeah.

TI: But he was like in upper grammar school.

TU: Yeah, I forget what grade. I think he came in the same class as my sister Nobu. She was in the seventh or eighth grade, I don't know. I don't remember just exactly.

TI: But how was it for him? Because again, his English probably wasn't very strong, and he's thrown in with older kids...

TU: I don't know what kind of difficulties he had, but his math was good. He went to school in Japan, he did pretty well as I understand it. So that part, aside from the language, he did okay.

TI: And plus, he had the sister, your sister to help also, probably.

TU: I don't know how much they helped each other. [Laughs]

TI: Well, tell me about that. Were the siblings pretty close, Gene and Nobu and Rusty and you? Did you do a lot together, the four of you?

TU: I remember fighting with my brother Rusty. [Laughs] But otherwise we kept pretty much to our own circle of friends.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So we talked a little bit about school, regular school. How about Japanese language school? Did you go to Japanese language school?

TU: Yeah, we got sent to Saturday mornings at the Methodist church. There was a Reverend Haratani there, and his wife, they were both Japanese language teachers. So we spent Saturday mornings there. I don't know how regularly we attended but we did attend. And... let's see. Sometimes at night we used to go to night school.

TI: For Japanese school?

TU: Yeah. Besides the Saturday. And there was a teacher named Asazawa, I forget his first name. But I remember him distinctly telling us, "The way you might learn the language is to keep a diary and write every day something in the diary. For example, if it rained, write the kanji for 'rain.' That way you'll pick up the language or pick up a word." That's the way we kept up with the Japanese language. But then Saturday, getting back to Saturday, we had more fun playing. [Laughs]

TI: And that playing, was it, in part, I'm thinking whereas in the regular school you had to catch up with English, but in Japanese school I would think you and Gene would be much more advanced than the people your age.

TU: Well, Gene was, I wasn't that good because I only had a year's education in Japan.

TI: But I would think just in terms of picking it up, because you had much more experience with Japanese in terms of speaking it and understanding it more than the other kids your age?

TU: Could be, I'm not sure. I don't know if I was that smart. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, I think you probably did well. Going back to the regular school, I'm thinking that here you were in Japan, probably brought up as Japanese, and then you go to the United States, and one of the first things they do every morning is "Pledge of Allegiance." And here you're pledging allegiance to United States, and I'm just wondering how you felt about that. It must have been a different concept for you in terms of all of a sudden pledging allegiance to a country you didn't really know that much about. Explain that.

TU: Well, I think at that time, at that age, I'm doing what the other kids are doing. If the other kids were saluting, I would salute. But later on, we didn't salute, we held arms this way across our chest.

TI: So explain that. When you first started, when you did the Pledge of Allegiance, how would you salute? Go ahead and do that.

TU: Well, there'd be a flag in the corner of the room and we would all point our hands to that and recite the "Pledge of Allegiance."

TI: So it's very different than how it's done now where the hand's over the heart. And in fact, when you did that, it reminded me a little bit of the salute that in Germany...

TU: That's right.

TI: ...that they would do.

TU: I think the presumption is it's too much like what the Germans were doing, so eventually we went this way instead of this way.

TI: Oh, interesting.

TU: I think, that's my presumption.

TI: But when you were younger, you would see --

TU: We would just go along with what the other kids were doing.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: When you were doing that, did you feel any different allegiances between Japan and the United States? Did you think of yourself as being more American or Japanese back in those days?

TU: I never thought it out. I never thought it out excepting when the Japanese went into China, we saw all these war movies and the Japanese newsreel where they had the Japanese soldiers conquering this town. They would raise the Japanese flag and say, "Banzai, banzai." We saw a lot of that after we came back to Loomis. And in my heart I'm saying, "Hooray for Japan," but that was when I was a young kid. I don't feel that way now. I think it was terrible what the Japanese were doing in China.

TI: And did your parents ever talk to you about being Japanese and what that would mean or anything like that?

TU: No, not really. I think the decision came a little later on in life when we realized where we were at. I think behind my folks' thinking was that someday we may be sent back to Japan because of all the anti-Japanese propaganda and anti-Japanese feeling prevalent in California. I didn't realize how bad it was. But I read a book by a gal named Linda Gordon on the life story of Dorothea Lange, and this Linda Gordon details all the anti groups, anti-Japanese groups, including the major Institution of Farm Owners. So I thought, I'm presuming that my folks must have thought someday we may have to go back to Japan, that we would at least have some knowledge of Japanese.

TI: Interesting. Yeah, because a lot of the anti-Japanese sentiment was in that area. It was very fierce.

TU: From what this Linda Gordon writes in that book on Dorothea Lange, she just lays it out, these anti Institution of Farm Owners that were afraid of the Japanese buying up the land. So she puts it right out.

TI: Good. I haven't read that book, I'm going to have to look it up. It sounds interesting.

TU: It's a book on Dorothea Lange, but Dorothea Lange was the person who took...

TI: Those photographs.

TU: Photographs of the evacuees, yeah.

TI: They're fabulous photographs.

TU: And she wasn't allowed to take photographs in the camp, but this Linda Gordon got some photographs done by Toyo Miyatake, he had secretly brought in a lens and made a camera out of it, and he took some pictures.

TI: So she used those photographs in her book?

TU: Not too many. What she did with those photographs was she worked with Gary Okihiro.

TI: Okay, I know which book you're talking about, okay.

TU: And he and Linda Gordon did that book, I don't know what the title is.

TI: Was it Impounded?

TU: I'm not sure.

TI: Okay, I think I know which book now.

TU: But anyway, getting back to our story, there was this just virulent anti-Japanese propaganda. And the politicians were going for it, the media was writing things up.

TI: Now for you as a boy growing up --

TU: I didn't know that.

TI: Did you feel it, though? Did you feel kind of this discrimination or maybe Japanese being viewed as second-class citizens in terms of not having the same kind of rights as maybe whites? Did you feel some of that?

TU: No, not really. I guess I had some of that Japanese spirit, you know, "study hard, work hard and you'll get ahead or at least you make a living." [Laughs] Because my experience -- maybe we're getting ahead of our story -- in high school, for example, I had no problem.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Well, before we go there, I just wanted to -- and this might be part of this -- but I know you were pretty active in sports, that you really enjoyed sports.

TU: Yeah, in grammar school we had a baseball team. And I did pretty well in that, and played a little basketball also.

TI: And then when you went to high school, you also continued doing sports?

TU: Yeah, I did a little baseball, little bit of basketball. But by that time, I was short of stature, and so these bigger boys could cover me pretty well. [Laughs] So I didn't do too well, but I did some sports.

TI: And you have one story that I wanted to mention about sports, and this is -- we're jumping a little ahead, but since we're talking about sports -- is right when, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I think there was like a championship game that you played. And why don't you tell me that story about, you were supposed to get some kind of award.

TU: Yeah, if you won a championship, you get a silver ball. Anybody that served on the, played on the championship team in Placer High School got a silver ball. Well, it so happened that this is spring of 1942 now, and the war has started, and many of the teams in that league fell by the wayside, they dropped their program. And we had this team from Roseville High School that we were playing for the championship, just the two teams, and we happened to win that. [Laughs] And I don't want to blow up the story too much, but I remember when I was at bat, the bases were loaded, and this pitcher got behind two balls to nothing, no strikes. And I figured he's gonna come in and give me a good ball to hit, so he did come in with a strike. And I saw him, I don't know, I closed my eyes and swung. [Laughs] And the ball went over the outfielder's head and so all the guys scored and that started a rally that we won the champion.

TI: And this was the championship game that you did this?

TU: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: And normally, after you win the championship game, all the players would get this silver ball?

TU: Exactly. But that was the spring of '40, and that was, I think, April. Well, in May, I think it was in May that we left for the camp. The school wasn't out yet and we were put in camp, and this silver ball, a game named, I understand later on, was in charge of that, guy named Nelson Poole. I don't know what he did with the balls, but I never got a silver ball.

TI: And it sounds like this was a pretty big thing to have one of these silver balls. This is like the championship ball.

TU: Yeah. In the sports world, whether you are in baseball, basketball or football, if you win, you get a silver ball. That was a big thing in high school.

TI: Now was this the type of thing that they would even attach to like a letterman's jacket or something?

TU: Yeah, yeah. I never got one of those either. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, that's a good story.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So I want to back up a few months because before Pearl Harbor, your oldest brother Gene entered into the military service. Can you tell me a little bit about this? So, what, like a month or so before Pearl Harbor?

TU: Okay. We had bought the ranch and it was very successful. And it was the spring of '42 that the draft was instituted. And his number came up rather rapidly, and so...

TI: I'm sorry, spring of '42 or '41?

TU: '42.

TI: So this is after Pearl Harbor or before?

TU: Excuse me now. Let me think about that.

TI: Yeah, because my notes indicate that it was even, it was before Pearl Harbor that, because he was with the first class with the MIS.

TU: That's right, yeah.

TI: Even before.

TU: I'm glad you reminded me, yeah, I take that back. In the spring of 1941, the draft was instituted, and he got drafted early in the draft, and he served in the artillery company. He did basic training and then served with some artillery outfit. And then somewhere along the line, early in 1941, he was interviewed by Colonel Dickie, or Major Dickie at that time. And he was kind of scared because wondering why he was getting called. He's out in the field with his artillery company, and he's told to report to this headquarters to talk to this officer. Didn't know who he was. But Major Dickie showed him a book, Japanese book, and asked him to read it. He had no problem reading it, so the officer told him, "This is very secret, I don't want you to talk about it to anybody. If you did, you're going to be court martialed." So it scared the dickens out of him. [Laughs] It was strict censure on him. But the colonel said, or the major said, "You'll hear from me later on." And that later on, of course, was a call to report to Presidio San Francisco.

TI: And this was Building 640 in Crissy Field?

TU: Yeah, that's in Crissy Field, and that's where the first class was held. And started with a two thousand dollar budget, I understand, and there were sixty students in that class. And it started November 1, 1941, and in May they graduated. And even before that, one or two of the better linguists got sent out into the Pacific.

TI: So this is the beginnings of the Military Language School.

TU: Exactly.

TI: Good, okay. Now, when this happened, he was told this was top secret. When he was transferred to Crissy Field, did the family know anything about that? Did they know that he was being transferred and he was going to do Japanese language training? Did you or your parents know this?

TU: Well, there was an indication something was brewing, because an FBI agent came to the house, the ranch that we owned now, and started asking my mother questions about my brother Gene. And then this fellow came over to me, I was outside playing, and he wanted to talk to me. "I'm an FBI agent and I have a few questions to ask you." Of course, I had enough smarts not to say anything that might hurt my brother's situation. So we knew something was cooking. My mother thought that he was in big trouble because FBI agent came out. But all that was clearance to the secret school. So I don't know when the family knew he was at that school. We found out later, yeah.

TI: Okay, so yeah, so it was still top secret even though you had an indication something might be happening, you didn't really know what that was.

TU: No.

TI: Now did your older brother Gene ever come back on leave while he was with the MIS? Did he ever come...

TU: Yeah, I'm not sure but I have the thinking in the back of my head that he did come back before the evacuation to help with the preparation for the evacuation, but I don't know that.

TI: Because I'm wondering, even during that period, if it was still top secret and he couldn't really tell people what he was doing or what it was like.

TU: Yeah, 'cause I think the thinking at that time was if the Japanese Kempeitai, the Japanese military police, found out that we were doing this, they might have given a lot of trouble to our relatives in Kumamoto. And then, of course, our life would be in jeopardy. The guys in the MIS, their lives would be in jeopardy if they ever got caught, why, it'd be certain torture, possibly a death.

TI: So it had to be kept really secret.

TU: Yeah. It makes sense to keep it a secret, but then how long are you gonna keep it a secret? Now with the 640 Program, we could go full blast telling everybody what happened, and hopefully that will tell the American public that the Japanese American population really helped in the war effort.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So I'm curious, at what point were you and the others able to talk about the MIS? I realize that during the war obviously and right after, it was all secret, confidential. But at some point, you were able to talk about it. Was there ever any official clearance that said you guys could talk about this or do you remember anything like that?

TU: Well, 1972 rings a bell, the Freedom of Information Act. That kind of opened the doors for everything.

TI: So that's when they, because of that act, information started coming out about the MIS?

TU: Yeah, and the war was over and a lot of the bad feelings were water over the dam.

TI: That's over forty years after the beginning of the MIS -- or I'm sorry, thirty years.

TU: Of course, it's a blanket clearance. But there was some secret things that some of our guys felt was confidential and didn't want to talk about it, because it would embarrass people higher up. I can give you an example.

TI: If you can, please. What would be an example of that?

TU: Have you heard of Kan Tagami?

TI: No, I haven't.

TU: Okay, he was one of the better linguists, he worked for MacArthur at the Tokyo headquarters, and MacArthur wanted him to take a message to the emperor of Japan. And he knew that the emperor never saw people without a staff being present, Japanese staff. Even Japanese dignitaries, they wouldn't be able to visit the emperor without the staff being present. Well, MacArthur told Kan to make a one-on-one appointment. "You alone with the emperor to pass this message on." Well, Kan felt that he didn't want to talk about that until the emperor died. 'Cause that might have embarrassed the emperor in Kan's mind. But then there were some...

TI: Now I'm curious, going back to that story, did MacArthur understand the protocol? And even though he understood that, he still wanted Kan to go one on one? It was almost like... yeah, did MacArthur know what was happening?

TU: Well, that's why... I think he realized that. That's why he asked Kan to privately arrange this meeting. I think MacArthur had the smarts on things like that. And the message was that at that time the American media was clamoring for full disclosure on the emperor's life, because he was treated as a god in Japan but they wanted to cut him down to size. And so they wanted to delve into a lot of his private life, and MacArthur wanted Kan to tell the emperor that, "Your private life is your private life, and that's not for everybody to, you don't have to tell everybody about your private life." But he didn't want to tell the press, the press was just clamoring to get more information, but MacArthur didn't want to tell the press to stop doing that. That would be politically detrimental to his standing, I guess. But anyway, for whatever reason, he wanted Kan to bring this message one-on-one, and Kan didn't want to talk about it. I guess he must have told some of his real close friends, I'm not sure.

TI: But what's interesting is so the men of the MIS, even though like 1972, potentially they could start talking about this, the men still used their discretion.

TU: Exactly.

TI: There were some things that they felt, even though I guess officially they could talk about it, they felt it'd be better for some pieces of information not to until much later, or maybe even to this day there might be some things that they choose not to talk about.

TU: Exactly. So can't tell, it's not a blanket thing. A lot of... well, I wouldn't say a lot of 'em, some are very highly secret operations.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TU: Have you heard of (Sakakida)?

TI: Yes, I've heard about this one, but go ahead for the camera, go ahead and tell me about this.

TU: Well, as I recall the story, is when he was captured by the Japanese, he got tortured in the worst way. He gave a talk in Monterey before a big crowd, and every word he said, people were on pins and needles to listen. You could hear, in other words, a pin drop. He said, "I never talk about this even to my wife." And so he said, "I want to tell you for the first time what the torture procedures were," and he described all this torture methods that they used on him. And he swore to himself that, "Someday I'm gonna get revenge on these guys." And of course, fortunately, he lived through it, and the war ended, and he was privy to the list of prisoners of war, Japanese prisoners of war. And he saw the names of these guys who were torturing him, Kempeitai guys, there were two or three of 'em, the worst ones. And so he had the clout, "I want these guys to report to me," or words to that effect, that, "I'm helping the investigation of war crimes and would like to talk to these three guys." So the day comes and these three guys appear before (Sakakida). And at that time he had dark glasses on. He asked, "Do you recall the name (Sakakida)?" They said, "No." Then he took his dark glasses off and he says, "Now do you recognize me?" And they fell on their knees asking for forgiveness. I mean, they thought maybe they were going to get shot right there and then because of the things that they did to (Sakakida). But then he forgives them. So I asked (Sakakida) while he was still alive, "What made you do that?" It's compassion. He's a Buddhist by training, and he has this compassionate feeling. So he said, "When these guys fell on their knees to beg for forgiveness, all that anger seemed to have dissipated."

TI: Going into the meeting, did he have a sense of what he was going to do with these men?

TU: That we haven't, we're not given that information as far as his talk was concerned. But the thing of it is, he let them live, okay. All right, they're top notch Kempeitai personnel. Well, somewhere along the line, he gets an order from topside, "Want you to get some information, and I don't care how you get it, but get that information." Well, the only guys he could think of who might be able to get that information were these two or three guys. And by that time, these guys were willing to do anything for (Sakakida). So he gets that information, nobody asked where it came from. And that's something that he didn't want to talk about, because he could be court martialed for using enemy personnel to do what they did.

TI: Why would... they were prisoners, so I would think anything was fair game in terms of if he got confidential information, why would that be a court martial offense? I would think that's part of his...

TU: Well, he's using an enemy personnel to find this information, but he didn't want to tell the higher-ups how he got that information. And the higher-ups were saying, "I don't care how you get the information, just get the information."

TI: So he protected his sources.

TU: Exactly, exactly.

TI: And he kept this confidential up until much, much later.

TU: Yeah. So there you go, some of these things that we're talking about, the individual concerned thought better of not divulging that information until later. I can tell you another one about (Sakakida).

TI: Yeah, it's just riveting, go ahead.

TU: From Manila, where the war crimes trial were, he was ordered to take this Japanese officer to Tokyo for execution. While on the airplane ride into Tokyo, they talked, and family matters came up. And this officer, Japanese officer said, "I have a family in Tokyo, family with kids." And so (Sakakida)said, "Would you like to see them? I'll let you go and you can see them if you promise to be at this certain spot tomorrow morning where I can pick you up." You know, doing that kind of thing, if this guy escaped, tried to escape, (Sakakida's) in big trouble. But he knew the samurai code, that once a samurai makes a promise, he's going to carry out whatever the consequences may be. So sure enough, the next morning, this guy's there at the exact time specified, and (Sakakida) picks him up. And the kicker of it all is that people are suffering. During that time they're short of food and so on, especially families who are having a hard time. So what this woman did, this wife of this officer did was make about two or three nigiri with rice, hard to get rice, and this soldier presented it to (Sakakida), and that gesture really touched him, touched (Sakakida). And he turned around, walked a couple of steps away and had tears in his eyes. He was touched because they're willing to sacrifice their food to thank (Sakakida) for allowing this Japanese officer to meet with them one more time before he went to execution. (Sakakida) knew that he's going to be executed, but he gave him a chance to see the family for one last time. You talk about a special soldier, (Sakakida) was one of them.

TI: Well, for him to really understand, more than just being generous, but to be able to understand and trust...

TU: You've got to know the culture. That's one of the things we learn as interpreters and translators and interrogators that you've got to know the culture of the people you're dealing with, especially the Japanese soldier. How do you get them to divulge information that you want? It's not like Harry Fukuhara used to say, just putting words together to try to get information. You've got to go beyond that.

TI: But on the other hand, too, to balance it, some of these men probably did some horrible things. To be put to death, he had probably done something to have warranted that, so it's, I guess, balancing all that, too.

TU: Well, I have questions on that, because a lot of the war crimes trials, to my mind anyway, I could be way off base, they were vengeful... how would you say it?

TI: A revenge against the Japanese?

TU: Yeah, revenge. It's like, as I understand, the First World War, the German people really suffered because of the revenge policy that the Allies took. Well, in this case, revenge, the trials were tainted with revenge in mind. Well, kangaroo court is a good word for it. I'm not saying that happened to all the cases, but a lot of it is just that, taking out revenge on the Japanese people. Now, this fellow, I was going to say, in (Sakakida's) mind was a brilliant soldier, and it could have been that I was in his shoe when he was in my shoe. He respected this man, soldier, as a man who could be trusted and who could be used to help build Japan back up again. So (Sakakida) must have felt all that.

TI: That brings up an interesting point. So during the trials, many of the Nisei linguists were part of that, and if there was this feeling that perhaps some of these Japanese officers were not getting a fair shake, I mean, was there any attempt to do anything? I mean, couldn't there be anything done?

TU: Well, you know, there was a fellow named George Koshi from Seattle? Maybe you know him.

TI: Yeah, I know the name.

TU: Well, he was defending some of these Japanese soldiers on trial. And he has his ideas on it. But man of his position serving as a defendant of the accused, he can't say that it's a kangaroo court. It's just not ethical as a soldier. So it put the Nisei linguists who were trying to do some good in a very tight spot or tough spot.

TI: When the former MIS men get together, are there more stories like this that even you can't share? I mean, do you guys talk about things amongst yourselves that perhaps aren't shared with others?

TU: Well, the only reason I could share what I did because it's pretty much written in the book on (Sakakida). But this story about letting the officer go for a night, that's something.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So we're going to start the second hour, and where we left off with your life was just around the time of Pearl Harbor, and then we sort of got off on a tangent talking about some of the MIS stories. But let's come back to your life, and why don't I start by asking, so December 7, 1941, why don't you describe to me that day and what happened to you?

TU: Sunday, December 7th was a Sunday. And we had a radio, Philco brand, and turned that thing on, and sure enough, Pearl Harbor was bombed. We didn't know where Pearl Harbor was. So all kinds of things settled in our minds. At first it's a shock, and so everything's kind of a blank. But then later on thinking about it, the war's started, and we may have to go back to Japan, and we would be fighting my brother who was already in the U.S. Army.

TI: So those kind of thoughts were going through your head?

TU: There you go.

TI: That they'd round up all the Japanese, send 'em back?

TU: Yeah. All kinds of wild thoughts come in. It's like a dream I guess. But at that age, I'm sixteen, yeah, sixteen, seventeen. So I had enough brains to think about these things. But then on the other hand, thought, well, Gene's in the army, U.S. Army, so we should be okay as Gene's family. But those are wishful thinking. [Laughs]

TI: So when you were thinking about that, did you think about things like, well, you're an American citizen so you should be okay? Maybe your parents, there might be something, were you thinking also along those lines?

TU: No, it never occurred to me; we would always be together. I wasn't afraid, but just wondered what could happen.

TI: And so what was it like the next day when you went to school?

TU: You know, that was interesting because the principal had called an assembly of the whole student body in the auditorium. And we listened to Roosevelt's speech, "Day of Infamy," etcetera. And everybody listened quietly, and then it finished, and I don't know if the principal said anything, but anyway, we were dismissed to go to our classes. And we're going to our classes, nobody said anything derogatory towards us, towards me anyway. I don't know if that was the same with the other guys or not, but in my case, my friends, they kept being friends with me.

TI; Well, do you recall the principal or any of the teachers saying anything though about... because you mentioned earlier there were quite a few Japanese in Loomis, anything about the treatment of Japanese Americans during this time?

TU: No. Oh, I should back up a little bit, Mr. Gates was the principal of the Loomis Union grammar school. Now, I hear later on that he had nothing against the Japanese because Japanese kids were good students. So he kind of stood up for us as I understand it. Now, I'm hearing this third-hand possibly. But anyway, he paid for that. I don't know if he got dismissed or anything like that, but anyway, he got into kind of hot water as far as the public was concerned.

TI: So it was kind of an environment that if you were viewed as pro-Japanese American, that that would be a negative thing, that I guess the whites would have to be careful in some ways, is what you're saying in terms of showing too much, they showed that they liked Japanese.

TU: Yeah. They put themselves on the spot if they did that. They'd be called "Jap lovers." But anyway, getting back to our assembly, when we went back to our classrooms, nobody said boo about the Japanese army doing what they did. Nobody took, said anything overtly to me. They might have held something in their mind, I don't know, but keep in mind that I was on the baseball team and at practice and so on, no problem there.

TI: So even the weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military had the military success and military victory after victory. And so I know there was a lot of fear on the West Coast about that. I mean, as that happened, was there more tension or anything else about that? Especially as people found out in terms of what the Japanese army was doing in the Philippines and different places like that? Was there more tension during that time?

TU: Not in our particular case. You know, up in Newcastle and Auburn, it was a little different, I guess. We walked down the stores, it might have been store that said, "No Japs." But on our farm, no problem. My friends were friends, we continued to play with each other. Nobody said, "I don't want to play with you," or anything like that.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so things were kind of going along, but then eventually the orders came out that you and the rest of people of Japanese ancestry had to leave the area.

TU: Yeah.

TI: Your family, you mentioned earlier, had a very successful farm. They purchased it in the late 1930s, they had some good crops, they actually paid it off, and it looked like it was going to be another good year. What happened to the property?

TU: You know, my brother, Rusty, in high school, took agricultural subjects from these teachers. There were two involved, one's name was Richardson, and I think the other one was called Bonito. I guess they took a liking to my brother and somehow they arranged to have them run the farm while we were away. I don't know just what arrangement Rusty made, what kind of monetary settlement they made or anything like that. I don't know if they paid our family enough money to pay their taxes and stuff. I don't know those details. And like my brother Gene says, it was more of a handshake agreement, no paperwork, just handshake agreement. But fortunately, these people, during crop season, that is the time to pick the fruits, they had enough high school kids to come help out. So it worked out just fine for them. First year, everything ready excepting for the picking of the fruits. Well, he just comes in at the right time, and I don't know just how much money we made, but we were just happy to get the farm back when we came back.

TI: So I guess taking a step back, it worked okay for the family but also worked okay for these two teachers, because it sounds like they were able to probably make some money.

TU: Yeah, well, they must have made some money because that's when the economy was gradually picking up, we were making money at that time. We were able to pay off the farm no problem. And the war in Europe was heating up, and so was Japan, and so wartime prosperity came into the picture and I guess that's why the fruits shipped to the east might have sold well. I don't know that.

TI: Well, so maybe I should ask this question. So from your perspective, was it a good arrangement for the family? I mean, you mentioned you got the farm back, but yet, they were very lucrative years where the family would have made a lot of money if they remained there. So how do you feel about that arrangement? Did it work out or not?

TU: Well, I don't know what my folks thought, but I think mainly we were happy to get the farm back. Because stories going around some lands were being taken up by the government, and then the escheat cases were kind of talked about where they're trying to take away the farms from the Japanese immigrants. So these wild rumors put us in a position where we're satisfied just to get the farm back.

TI: And after the war, when the family returned, did they stay on good terms with those two teachers? Would they remain friends and how did that work after the war?

TU: Well, see, that was in 1945, I mean, '42, '43, '45. Four years. I lost the train of my thought.

TI: Yeah, so the teachers had the farm for four years...

TU: Four years, yes.

TI: ...and then you would return.

TU: So in '45, and we took over the farm in '46. The '46 crop was ours. Yeah, my brother Rusty came back, I think, later part of, in the fall of...

TI: Probably fall of '45.

TU: Fall of '45, yeah.

TI: And then, so then starting... yeah, so he would prepare the fields and then the spring or summer of '46 he would have the...

TU: Okay, by that time, in '46, May of '46 now, the farm's in productive stage, that's when I come back from the army. See, I got discharged in May of '46.

TI: So just in time for the harvest, so you could go help with the harvest.

TU: Yeah. So after that was done, I left the farm to go to Cal to the fall session. So I don't know if my brother kept up in contact with these two teachers or not.

TI: But going back to the harvest of '46, when you came back, was that a pretty good year, did you make some money off that year?

TU: I never got into the family finances, but I think they did. I just worked there. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

TU: When you're number four son, you don't get in on all the decision-making.

TI: But what happened was Rusty found two teachers, they took care of the farm while you went, and your, rest of the family went away to camp.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So let's pick up the story there. So from Loomis, which assembly center did you go to?

TU: Arboga.

TI: And what are some memories you have?

TU: Of Arboga?

TI: Arboga.

TU: Well, I remember we got to talking to the cook, the block cook, and he's a nice, talkative guy. And we're hanging around to see if we can get any handouts, boys are always hungry. And he said, "Hey, would you like to do some work for me?" I said, "What?" "Washing pots and pans." "Yeah, okay." [Laughs] We wanted to do something, didn't want to just lay around and mope about things. So we helped with the pots and pans in the dining or mess area. And we used to hear talk about this, we learned that we're going to be sent up to Tule Lake.

TI: And this is from the cook? The cook knew this.

TU: The cook. Yeah, we were friends with the cook. And he said, "Gee, you're going to love the water up there, it's got a lot of mineral content, and the water is going to taste so good." I remember him talking about that. So here we are, very impressionable young kids, teenage kids, "Wow, we get to a place where the water's going to be so super." [Laughs] But he was a friendly guy that gave us a little work to do, do something.

TI: And do you recall where the cook came from? I mean, was he a local person, or how did he get that job?

TU: We're just hanging around the kitchen area.

TI: No, the cook. How did the cook get that job?

TU: Oh, I don't know how they did it. See, these are things that you think about later, I should have found out about, talked more about...

TI: Yeah, I was curious about where he got his training or how he learned to be a cook, where he came from, why he did it. It'd be interesting to hear those things.

TU: Yeah. Well, for that matter, you wonder about the teachers that came into camp to teach.

TI: Yeah, all those things. Now that you've done so many interviews, you have all those questions in your head.

TU: Yeah, there you go.

TI: So I want to keep moving, so after Arborga, you went to Tule Lake. And so how was the water at Tule Lake?

TU: We couldn't tell the difference. [Laughs]

TI: So that must have been almost a running joke amongst your friends about the water at Tule Lake.

TU: Yeah, well, the guy that shared that kind of news is gone, he's passed on.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: But what were your first impressions of Tule Lake when you went there?

TU: Well, you've heard the description of the barracks. We had an end barracks, and there were my folks and three of us boys and my sister. So we have one room for the six of us. But my sister didn't live with us for long because she was in nursing school or trying to be a nurse. And so she had quarters, the nurse's quarter I guess. We didn't see much of her at Tule Lake.

TI: Oh, so did she work at the Tule Lake hospital then, right there?

TU: I imagine, I'm not sure. That's something I haven't talked to her about. It's too late now, she's gone. So we go into this unit in Block 46, and you know, the barracks were put up hastily, minimum expense. And so the outside wall was covered with tarpaper, but the inside wall, the sheetrocks were still not placed. Us boys wanted something to do, and we heard about this carpenters crew was going around the block putting in the sheetrock. And the foreman, who was a Japanese fellow, young fellow... and I wish I had his name. But he was very good, he treated us well, kids, you know. But we were kind of sincere and we worked hard and helped put up the sheetrock to get prepared for the winter weather, yeah. So that's what we did for a while. When that was done, this is still summertime, so my mother kept telling me anyway, "You got to find something to do." So, okay, my buddy and I and a couple of our other friends decided that we were going to work on the farm. Volunteered for farm work, picking potatoes and feeding the chickens, cleaning the chicken nests and so on. So we volunteered for those things. It's surprising that there was so much land outside the camp being used to raise vegetables, potatoes, corn, chicken, pigs, I don't know if they had cows. But anyway, we were driven out to the farms on the truck. We had a gay old time. And every now and then the hens would lay these soft-shelled eggs, too soft to send out or mail out, so we'd get a free egg meal. [Laughs] Boiled egg or scrambled egg or whatever was available, it would be.

TI: And would you do that out in the field someplace?

TU: Out in the field. So we're eating extra, not only the mess hall food, but we got a chance to eat some of the food out on the farm.

TI: Good. So it sounded like a good job, then, to have in the summer.

TU: Yeah, and you know, I think these people see the young kids around, trying to do some good. That they take a liking to us and give us breaks like preparing eggs for us. I didn't know eggs could be soft shelled. But anyway, those things did happen. So my experience in Tule Lake, it wasn't bad. We were too busy playing or working, keeping my mother happy. [Laughs]

TI: Well, now in the fall when school starts, tell me about school. What was school like?

TU: Yeah, school was, classrooms were barracks, you know, same as the living quarters, barracks. And they'd be divided up to three or four classrooms and we would be studying in these rooms. And I think early on there was a shortage of books, and especially like chemistry classes, there was a shortage of things to work with. Mechanic, some guys that took mechanics, they didn't have a power saw at all, it's just hand saw as I understand it. So it was crude classroom facilities, but we got by. And by the time the school year ended, things were going pretty smoothly, I thought.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: And during... fairly early in the whole process, the government handed out the leave clearance form with questions 27 and 28 about some "loyalty questions." Do you recall any conversations with your family about that and how they answered that?

TU: You know, my mother looked into some of these things and she found out that we could put in a preference of camps. That is like Heart Mountain, Amache, Gila River and so on. You had a choice. And they gave you a choice. Whether they could go through with that choice or accommodated you or not, that was something else. But my mother heard that Colorado was, along with other places compared, was suitable, more livable. So we got sent to Colorado. And the question number 27 and 28 didn't bother us much at all. We pretty well said, "My brother's in the army already, so we want to stay together." I think we all must have answered "yes-yes" to those questions.

TI: Yeah, I was thinking about your family, having your brother already in the U.S. Army was probably fairly rare at that point, at the very beginning of the war. Because once the war started, they didn't allow Niseis to join during that period. So if you had someone in the army, it had to happen before Pearl Harbor, so there probably weren't that many. Did that ever come into play? I mean, was that ever brought up in terms of discussions with others, that you already had a brother in the army? Or did, I guess, in some ways, you would think, why are you there if your brother's already serving in the U.S. Army? It's kind of... I'm just trying to think how did you think about that? It seemed like a contradiction.

TU: It was a contradiction, but I didn't realize at that time that it was a contradiction. I'm a sixteen year old kid, and we did a lot of discussion with my buddy, Joe, we both decided to answer "yes-yes." We talked about it a lot, and why should we pledge allegiance to the emperor? We didn't pledge allegiance to him in the first place. It's like somebody asking a married person, "Do you beat up on your spouse?" And if you answered "yes" you're in trouble, and if you answered "no" you're in trouble. So we had enough smarts to think about those things. And so we used to talk about it and I said, "Joe," if a guy had a gun at my forehead and told me what to do, I'll do whatever he tells me because I want to live another day and hopefully we could do better in the days ahead.

TI: Oh, so that's interesting. So in some ways, that's how you viewed these questions. You kind of knew what the government, how they wanted you to answer in some ways, but you were under duress, you were kind of locked up.

TU: Oh, yeah. When you really think about the legal situation, it's bad. Well, that's another reason why I sympathize with the resisters. We can talk about that later on.

TI: Yeah, but that's kind of the ruling by Judge Goodman for the Tule Lake resisters. He essentially said, "These guys are under duress." So he let them go... well, let them go back to camp. I mean, he didn't put them in federal prison, but he had to return to Tule Lake. Yeah, so legally...

TU: It's a no-brainer. It's wrong.

TI: So your family essentially, they all said "yes-yes," and then your mother was thinking about which camp to go to next because Tule Lake was going to become a segregation camp, and the people who went "yes-yes" would be allowed to go to another camp. And then the other people who said "no-no" at the other camps would then come to Tule Lake.

TU: Tule Lake.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: But now, so did you move with your family to another camp?

TU: Yeah.

TI: And then you went to Amache?

TU: We went to Amache, and I stayed there a few days and I told my folks, "I don't want to stay in here." So I went to the camp placement officer, I guess that's what they called them, I'm not sure. But I went to see 'em and they asked me what I wanted to do. I said, "I want to go to an outside school, get my diploma from an outside school because I want to go into a college later on, and I feel that a diploma from an outside high school would be more conducive to my entry into a university." So he said, "Okay, where do you want to go?" I said, "I don't care, anywhere. I'm willing to go anywhere." And he said, "Well, we have people in New York, we have people in Philadelphia, we have people in Chicago and places like that. But he says, "How's Des Moines, Iowa, sound to you?" I said, "Sounds good to me." [Laughs] I didn't know where it was, but that's what he suggested. I said, "Yeah, I'll take it."

TI: So what did you know about Des Moines, Iowa? Did you know anyone there or anything?

TU: No, not a single person. I didn't even know the name of the director of the hostel there.

TI: So let me back up and give a little context. So you were at Tule Lake going to high school there, and in fact, entering your senior year, before you entered your senior year, you were voted class president? You were going to be the class president?

TU: Student body.

TI: Yeah, student body president of the Tule Lake high school.

TU: Tri-State High School, yeah.

TI: Tri-State High School. But then your family was transferred...

TU: To Colorado.

TI: Amache, Colorado. And then rather than go to high school there, you wanted to go outside. Now, this is pretty unusual. I've interviewed lots of men and women, and they tell me stories of going to college from camp. You're the first one I know that is actually leaving camp for high school.

TU: Yeah.

TI: And that was okay with the camp administration? Even though you were a minor at this point, they were going to let you go out to a strange city by yourself.

TU: All by myself, yeah. So I think it was a morning train I took out of the camp, or, no, an evening train I guess it was. So I got to the depot in Des Moines in the morning. I don't know how early in the morning it was, but I got off the train with my one suitcase, that was all my worldly belongings, just one suitcase. And I was looking around to see what I should do next, and lo and behold, this fellow, Ross Wilbur, comes up and says, "I'm with the hostel and I'm here to pick you up. And you could stay at the hostel for a few days until you find a more permanent place." I said, "Well, gee, that's great." So he took me to the hostel, and that was still morning, and he said, "Yeah, you're probably still kind of tired after overnight train ride, so why don't you wash up? Then when you feel up to it, come down and talk to me." So I'm in a hurry, so I washed up, and I went down to see him. And he said, "What do you want to do?" Said, "Well, I want a job as a schoolboy, I'll work for room and board to be allowed to go to school, high school." He thought about it and he said, "Hey, I think I have the ideal family for you." And I said, "Yeah? Can I go see them?" And he said, "Well, I'll call up and see if Mrs. Allen is home." Sure enough, she's home, and so he said, "You can go up this street to this Allen house, talk to Mrs. Allen, and go from there." So I went to this address, and she let me in, "Have a seat," and we started talking. And I said, "I'd like to have a schoolboy job." And she said, "You know, we're looking for somebody like you." I said, "Well, that's great." Said, "Is it okay if I work with you?" And she says, "Yes." And I asked, "When and when can we start?" She said, "Right now." [Laughs] So I hurried back to the hostel and picked up my baggage and reported to the Allen house, Allen home.

TI: So from the moment you got there on the train, within that day you already had a job and a place to stay.

TU: Yeah.

TI: So you didn't even spend the night. Within that day you already had a job and a place to stay. So you didn't even spend a night at the hostel.

TU: Exactly, yeah. So things were developing fast. They're used to having... I found out later that they're used to having young kids stay at the house, do odd jobs.

TI: "They" meaning the Allens were used to it?

TU: Allens, yeah.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Going back to the hostel, can you tell me how that was organized? Like who would run this hostel, and why were they set up? Can you tell me?

TU: Well, as I understand it, the Quakers headquartered in Philadelphia, they were civic-minded people, I guess, and apparently they heard about the incarceration of the Japanese Americans. And I think in cooperation with the War Relocation Authority, they must have set up some of these co-called "hostels." I don't know exactly what the procedure was, but anyway, they had one in Des Moines, Iowa. And I understand Bill Hosokawa was there for a while before he got a permanent place to stay. And one of my minister friends, this Dr. Lester Suzuki, stayed there for a while. So I wasn't the first Nikkei to go to the hostel, but I was the first to go to high school there. I was the only Japanese, or Asian, I was the only Asian. I don't think there were any other Asians, so I was the first one.

TI: But just more questions about the hostel, I just wanted to make sure I understand. So these hostels were set up and designed specifically for Nikkei, for Japanese Americans leaving the camps as a place for someone to meet them, have a place to stay until they could find more permanent circumstances?

TU: Yeah.

TI: And the Quakers did that?

TU: Yeah. So I have a soft spot in my heart for the Quakers. It wasn't a very popular thing to do, I'm sure, but they did help us. Not only me, but they helped thousands of our guys, I think.

TI: Yeah, because when you first told me about leaving the camp as a high school student, going to a city you knew no one and knew nothing about, I was thinking, who would meet you? How would you figure things out? And so having this gentleman meet you at the train station, having a place for you to stay if you needed it, and actually having the contacts for the job for you was invaluable. That was so important.

TU: Oh, yeah. So when I look back, I think the camp director, the placement officer, must have telegrammed the hostel that such and such a guy is coming on this such and such a train. There must have been some liaison that I didn't know of. They didn't tell me that somebody was going to meet me, so that's when I was wondering what to do.

TI: Now, when you worked with the Allen family, was there anyone in Des Moines, Iowa, that you could check up with if you needed help from someone? Was there someone that checked in, like, "Marvin, how are you doing?" or anything like that?

TU: Nobody.

TI: So you were on your own.

TU: On my own, all by myself. But I think that speaks well for the family. The Allen family was just super. They told me later on that when I first came in to live with them, some of the neighbors were kind of frowning. Here the Allens are harboring a "person of enemy ancestry." But then, when they got to know me, that is the neighbors got to know me, saw me doing the work around the house helping the Allens do this and that, one neighbor started asking me, asked the Allens if they could ask me to do some of their work. So by the time I left, I had created a pretty good atmosphere for the whole neighborhood, I guess. Because after I left, a number of people came back, came in to do the job that I was doing.

TI: Oh, so you, they took multiple people to take your place, you mean? It took more than one person?

TU: Yeah, not at the same time, but one after another.

TI: Oh, I see, right.

TU: My brother stayed there for a while, my brother Rusty.

TI: Okay, so even though he was older, you left the camp before him?

TU: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So you were kind of the trailblazer.

TU: Well, in a way, when I look at it now, that pioneer. [Laughs]

TI: Now, what did you do for spending money? Did you get paid for some of these jobs?

TU: Yeah, I forget how much they paid me, fifteen dollars a month or whatever it was, I had some spending money. But they were wonderful people. Mr. Allen was a judge, and municipal court judge, and I remember he used to get some of these free tickets, I guess, for the shows. You know, Des Moines was kind of cultural, relatively well-cultured town. And they used to have these shows come into town, and they were more semi-opera, not the strictly opera style. Semi-opera they brought in, so they're more understandable. Whereas the opera, they sing in Italian, and in those days, they didn't have subheads, subtitles. But because he could get these tickets, he would invite me along. We would walk down the aisles to the front seats, there I am with the Allens. [Laughs] You know, kind of select seats up front.

TI: And when you did that, when you would walk with the Allen family at a place like this, could you feel the eyes on you?

TU: No, I just followed Mr. Allen.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So tell me about school in Des Moines, Iowa. So you started your senior year in high school there. How did people treat you at the high school?

TU: Well, they took me right in. I forget the name of some of these fellows, but they knew I played basketball, so they invited me to play basketball with them. And during the gym time, there was this guy named John Mackie that was kind of a guy that palled around with me. There were other kids that kind of came up to me, but we got along fine. And they had this basketball team outside the high school, I got invited to play with them. And Mrs. Allen also arranged for me to go to the Methodist church in Des Moines. She called up the pastor, head minister, and told him that I'll be going there and, "Help him out," kind of thing.

TI: Now, how did that come about? Did she know that you were Methodist? Did she ask you?

TU: Well, we talked. The Allens, they wanted to know just how it was, they wanted to know about the evacuation and all that. They were interested in me personally, yeah. And so the question about religion came up, and I'm a Methodist, I belong to Methodist church, and they were Episcopalians. So instead of taking me to the Episcopal church with them, they arranged for me to attend a Methodist church in Iowa. And the Methodist church there had youth fellowship high school kids, I got invited to be with them, to participate in their program. And they want to know my story. They took an interest in me so I told 'em about camp and they were all receptive. Not too many questions, but they still listened to my story.

TI: Now, were any of them surprised that you had a brother in the U.S. Army? Did that ever come up, and were people saying, "Oh, that's interesting"?

TU: Nothing that pointed toward that. Nothing focused on that. But I think I told the Allens. Now, the Allens had a son in the Army Air Corps, the Air Corps was under the Army at the time. He was flying one of these bombers over Italy from North Africa. And then they had a son-in-law, he was a navy lieutenant, one of the "ninety-day wonders."

TI: Yeah, OCS?

TU: Well, these guys were pick of the crop from college, they're supposed to have brains, and they made officers in ninety days. [Laughs] And so two of their family in the service. And, of course, Mrs. Allen wrote letters to them saying that they brought in a Japanese boy and how they felt about it. And they wrote back and said, "Oh, he's welcome. He's American. We have no objections." So the son-in-law, we kept up with him for years and years. And he finally came out to Alameda, and we went to see him in Alameda. And then a few years later, I think he got into physical problems. And I said, "I'd like to come out and see you, Phil," and he said, "No, I'm not in a position to see anybody." But anyway, I think for some reason, he was hallucinating or whatever it was. He was legally blind, by the way, and the way it came about was he was on watch during the daytime in the Atlantic Ocean, watching out for the German subs. And the glare of the sun on the ocean, they think, damaged his eyes. So he used to get allowance for that. But anyway, the point is, they had no bad feelings towards me and I didn't have bad feelings towards them. So for years and years we kept up with Mrs. Allen, we went out to see them in Iowa, and then Phil came, and the Allens died, and Phil and the Allens' daughter came out to Alameda. We kept up correspondence for a while until she passed away. So of the Allens, I don't know if there's anybody remaining now.

TI: But it sounds like your time in Des Moines, Iowa, was good. Between the Allen family, school, the Methodist church, that it was a good experience even though you were all by yourself, high school student.

TU: Yeah. So I didn't have, I didn't need to lean on anybody. And I was a pretty healthy kid, I didn't get sick. I remember catching a cold, but I didn't have to call up anybody and say, "Hey, I really need company," or whatever it was.

TI: Did you stay in touch with your family during this time, like letter writing or your brother or people like that?

TU: I remember writing letter to my mother, but the other kids, no.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So after you finished school, after you graduated from high school, what did you do next?

TU: It was May of '44. And at that time, they were re-drafting Japanese American citizens. And I didn't want the draft board to tell me where to go, so I wrote a letter to MIS school in Savage, Minnesota. And this personnel director, Major Paul Rush, wrote back and said, "Write something in Japanese." And so I don't know what I wrote, but I wrote something in katakana and hiragana and sent this letter up there. Right away he says, "We want you to come in." So that's when I told the judge that the MIS school wants to have me. So he said, "I'll call the local draft board, that is the Des Moines draft board, and make arrangements for your induction." I said, 'That's fine." He went through all that trouble to set it up, so I had no problem. They sent tickets to me to go from Des Moines to Camp Dodge, Iowa. There were tickets for two or three other guys that were traveling with me.

TI: And this was to your basic training?

TU: No, Camp Dodge is just the induction center.

TI: I see.

TU: Okay, so I stayed there one or two nights, and I called up the Allens, I felt real lonely, you know. I called up the Allens and they said, "Well, we'll come out and see you." So they drove out. And she said, "You know, you did exactly what our son would have done. Our son Don would have done the same thing."

TI: Called them when you were lonely.

TU: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So there was a real special fondness or feeling between you and the Allens.

TU: Yeah. So they were wonderful people, and so they kept up with me.

TI: So I want to go back, and there are two questions I have. The first one is, your classmates that graduated the same year, did very many of the others volunteer for service when you all graduated?

TU: Well, see, this is before graduation. Just a week or so before graduation I'm in the army. So our graduation ceremony took place while I was not there anymore.

TI: So you missed your graduation?

TU: Yeah. But the interesting thing is by that time, my friend Joe was living at the Allens, and the graduation day, he attended the graduation service. Whoever read the names of the people who were in service, I don't know how many, but anyway, "In the service of the United States Armed Forces, Marvin Uratsu." And he said, "I felt so proud of you." [Laughs] But anyway...

TI: So there were other classmates that had volunteered while they were still in school.

TU: Yeah, there must have been. I don't know just how many were on that principal's list.

TI: And this is John Mackie?

TU: Well, Joe Nakamura.

TI: Oh, Joe Nakamura, okay. Got it.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: The other question is, you applied to the MIS language school. At that point, how much did you know about the MIS? I know your brother went through it, but how much did you know so that you would apply to the MIS school?

TU: I didn't know too much about them, but I knew my brother was in, and of course I have kind of an entree, and I didn't want to be sent to any ordinary military infantry outfit. So I thought I'd go to the Japanese school there and make use of that later on.

TI: Did your brother encourage you to join?

TU: No, I did it all on my own. I didn't even tell my folks that I'm going to do this. But they found out later.

TI: And when they found out later, how did they feel about you essentially joining your brother in the army?

TU: Oh, I don't know what they felt, they never told me how they felt. But eventually my brother Rusty also, this time he was drafted. So there were three boys in the Uratsu family of four boys, three boys are in service. And that just about drove my mother nuts as I understand it from my sister. My sister told me, when she was alive, that Mom really was upset that the old folks are kept in camp and the boys are taken away to be soldiers. It really bothered her, yeah. And so she went around trying to find a way to get one of us out of the army, and she went to the Red Cross. And fortunately, the Red Cross, something special, they saw the hardship that was created when three boys of the family were taken. So my brother Rusty was able to get out. I understand he was out in the field and a jeep came after him in Germany, and the guy says, driver said, "Hey, I've got to take you back to the office. You're gonna go home." So that's what happened.

TI: So in the field, Germany, was the war already over?

TU: Yeah, it's over.

TI: The war is over in Europe.

TU: Yeah.

TI: So he was able, even though he didn't have the points, he could come back early then.

TU: Yeah, under family hardship or whatever, however the Red Cross reasoned. But they were... they had human feelings.

TI: And it sounds like that really helped the family because Rusty could then go back to the farm and get everything ready for the next year, the family, 'cause he had that connection with the teacher, so that seemed to work out really well.

TU: We were lucky ones. When we think of the others who had their barn burned and stuff like that, and my wife's folks got along real well, too, because they had somebody taking care of their farm.

TI: So let's get you now to, was it Fort Snelling that you went to?

TU: We reported to Camp Savage.

TI: Okay, Camp Savage.

TU: Yeah. And right away we got sent down to Fort McClellan, Alabama, for basic training, basic infantry training. Ours was a hurry-up course, they shortened, I think it was an eighteen weeks training, but they cut it short to sixteen or something like that. I forget, it wasn't the full infantry training, but we trained in, as infantry soldiers in Fort McClellan, Alabama. And then we came back, I think it was July or August, and we entered the August class, MIS class, August '43.

TI: August '44.

TU: '44, huh? Yeah. August '44.

TI: And my understanding of the MIS school is there's some kind of testing because they put you at different levels.

TU: Exactly.

TI: And so what level were you placed?

TU: I don't know.

TI: You couldn't tell by...

TU: I didn't have the smarts to figure that out. [Laughs]

TI: Well, so let me ask you this: in your class, how good were the others with their Japanese?

TU: I did just as well as anybody else, I guess.

TI: Were there others in your class that were better?

TU: Yeah, knew Japanese better.

TI: And there were others that were worse or not as good?

TU: Yeah.

TI: So maybe you were kind of like in the middle class?

TU: I would think so. I wasn't head of the class, I'm sure.

TI: Now, when you got there, did people know that you were Gene's younger brother? Did that ever come up while you...

TU: It never did. But it did in Manila.

TI: Okay, well, before we go there, any stories about the MIS Language School that you want to tell before we go to Manila? Is there anything... because you were there for, what, about nine months?

TU: Oh, yeah, I got to tell you, we did a lot of marching. They wanted to keep us in good shape, so we got kind of tired of that. On Saturdays we were on these long marches, yeah. You had a choice, you could sing in the choir, the post choir. [Laughs] So my buddy, two or three other guys, signed up for singing in the choir.

TI: Including you? You did the same thing?

TU: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: Just to get out of marching.

TU: Yeah, just too much of that.

TI: Oh, that's a good story.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: Okay, so let's now go from the school, and was this at Snelling at this point?

TU: At this point it was in Snelling. The number of MIS students had really grown. It was probably at the peak about the time I graduated.

TI: And when did you graduate? What time was that?

TU: That was in the spring of...

TI: '45?

TU: '45.

TI: Okay. And so where were you sent after you graduated?

TU: 'Course, you know, they had to arrange for transportation and all that. We got to Stoneman, Camp Stoneman here in the East Bay. That was the shipping point of the going overseas. And I think that was sometime in May or June of '45. And we got to Manila on July 1, '45.

TI: And at this point, how was the war going from your perspective? We all know that the war ended in August, but July, like a month before, what was the sentiment or what were people thinking in terms of the war in July '45?

TU: Well, we knew that the Allied forces were gaining the upper hand, yeah. But we knew that there was a chance of submarines attacking troop ships. And I was impressed with the convoy that we had. We were right in the middle of convoy. By convoy, that means there are protective vessels, destroyers, etcetera, that could catch up with the submarines. And we had a couple up front, couple in the back, four on each side, so we were right in the middle. So I realized then that, gee, we were valuable property. We got real top-notch protection. But anyway, there was still the danger or possibility of a submarine at that time. So we sailed from San Francisco, and, of course, we all got seasick one day out, because that's when the sea is the roughest. And we got to Kwajalein in about twenty-one days, I think it was. Kwajalein is one of those islands out there in the Pacific, and there was some fighting on that island, but it was cleared by the time we got there. That was getting pretty close to Japan. And then from there we went to Manila, we got to Manila on July 1st as I remember.

TI: And what was the sentiment in terms of, I guess, maybe fighting in Japan? I mean, was the sense that it was going to be a tough battle fighting in Japan and possibly you would need to fight, perhaps, maybe people you grew up with?

TU: Well, see now, we got there July 1st, and we went to this MIS pool, language pool, they called it ATIS at that time, Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, and we were housed in the infield of the Santa Ana Racetrack in Manila. And, of course, we were getting prepared for the final invasion into Japan. We found out later now -- we didn't know this at that time -- we found out later that November was the day that we were going to go in. In the meantime, we were preparing which group will go here or what group will go into Hiroshima. They had about four or five areas where they were going to enter into Japan. And one of the areas was near Kumamoto and Kagoshima. Kumamoto is where our relatives are, but at that time I didn't think of those things. It was later on that we found out the battle plans, my brother's group got hold of battle plans, and that would have meant slaughter either on the U.S. side or both Japanese and U.S. side. They were well-fortified to try to repel the invasion. But we didn't know that at that time, and thank heaven that the war ended in August.

TI: So let me make sure I understand this. So your brother worked on the Japanese battle plans, and from that he could tell that they were well entrenched. And so when the Americans would come, it was going to be a very bloody, difficult battle for both sides.

TU: That's found out later, not at that time.

TI: What would the role be of the MIS guys? When the Americans would land, what would the duty or role of the MIS people be?

TU: Well, I guess it would be the same as when they were going through the jungles. We would go in and battle would ensue, and hopefully lives could be saved, hopefully civilians wouldn't be killed. But they had this coordinated thing about airplane attacks, bombers, navy attack, long range cannons and so on. So it was just like going into Philippines, for example. That our guys would be the interpreters on these units that are at the forefront. They would want them up front to do the interpreting that may be needed and so on. So I think it would have been the same thing that took place when they went jungle island hopping.

TI: So you would interrogate prisoners, you'd look at documents trying to figure out, like, troop location, troop size, all those things that could help tactically on the ground.

TU: Yeah.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Earlier you mentioned, when I was asking about your brother Gene, you said by being Gene's younger brother, it helped you out in Manila?

TU: Yeah. Because, see, we were in the Santa Ana Racetracks, and then we were being assigned, our guys were being assigned to various units. And the guy that was doing the assignment was a friend of Gene's. And when it came time for me to appear before him, he had my dossier, and he looked at that thing and he said, "Hey, you're Gene's younger brother?" I said, "Yes." And he said, "I'll give you a good deal." [Laughs] And a "good deal" turned out to be my assignment with the Engineers Headquarters. So I didn't quite appreciate what he said, but later on I thought about it and I said, "Gee, I should have gotten the guy's name," because I should have thanked him for a good assignment.

TI: Now, so what made your assignment a "good deal"? What made your assignment a good assignment?

TU: Well, I was with the engineers, they're not the infantry guys up front, engineers come later. And I'm with the headquarters. Headquarters wouldn't be situated up front. The up front guys would be taking a beating, and the headquarters were back in the back echelon. So I thought, gee, in a way, it's a good assignment, but in a way it's not. Because you're going to be under the control of all the brass, generals and colonels. [Laughs]

TI: But probably safer, though. Safer but...

TU: Exactly.

TI: ...more brass.

TU: Yeah, you had to be alert around the soldiers, I mean, the officers, you had to salute them. They could chew you out if you don't.

TI: When you were there, where was your brother? What kind of assignment did he have?

TU: I think he was in Mindanao, in the Philippines. 'Cause I asked this placement officer, "I'd like to go see him." He said, "Oh, no, can't go out there. He's in the boondocks still fighting."

TI: So he was out in the jungles with the infantry people.

TU: Yeah, he was with what they call 158th Regimental Combat Team. He stayed there with them for a long time, taking part in their invasions or battles all along.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Well, and you mentioned earlier, luckily in terms of avoiding this bloody battle, the war came to an end. Do you remember what it was like when you heard the war was over?

TU: Okay, we're still at the Santa Ana racetrack, and some guys had a radio. And said, "Hey, the emperor's going to speak pretty soon," so we all gathered around the radio. And the emperor's voice came on very soft, very soft-speaking emperor. And he read the, I guess he must have read the surrender document, telling the imperial army to quit fighting, "lay down your arms," words to that effect, I imagine. I didn't understand what he was talking about. He's talking about this thing in this very, very complicated Japanese language.

TI: Yeah, my understanding is that he spoke in a very formal Japanese.

TU: Yeah, formal.

TI: That was very difficult, that probably even the common Japanese wouldn't understand.

TU: Yeah. So the fear was that some of the emperor's message may not have gotten to every soldier, Japanese soldier. There were some guys still fighting after that, because they didn't get the message.

TI: Or especially if you're in a jungle or someplace.

TU: There you go, yeah.

TI: And so the emperor's message, and Japan surrenders. So what's your role at this point? What happens next?

TU: Okay. We're still being ready to go into Japan. MacArthur went into Tokyo Bay and signed the surrender papers in September 3rd, I think, of 1945. And earlier, some of the advance troops went in, I think, the Eleventh Cavalry, went into Tokyo earlier and set the stage for MacArthur to arrive. He came in sometime before September 3rd, and then September 3rd on the battleship Missouri. The Japanese delegation boarded the ship and signed the surrender papers. And there were two or three Nikkei interpreters there witnessing. They didn't take part in the interpretation, but they were there to witness it. And among them was Tom Sakamoto.

TI: Who's still around, who's still alive.

TU: Yeah, he's still around.

TI: And to witness, why a Nisei linguist to witness? I'm not sure why...

TU: Well, he was one of the privileged guys. He was one of the better interpreters. I guess the deck of that Missouri could hold just so many, and they must have had some kind of a arrangement where they chose people to witness. Or I don't know if they were witnessing, maybe it didn't make any difference if he was there on board.

TI: Okay. And eventually you got to Tokyo also.

TU: Yeah, now we got into Tokyo October 1. October 1 we were in Tokyo, yeah.

TI: And what was your role in Tokyo? So October 1, 1945.

TU: Yeah, before that, we sailed into Yokohama. And then by truck we went to Tokyo October 1. And what was our role? We were still with the engineers, and as soon as we got settled, we were to report in to the office of the Chief Engineers Headquarters in a section called Utility Section. And of course our job was to renovate some of the concrete building that remained standing with all the bombings, and our job was to renovate these buildings for occupation purposes.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So we're actually coming to the end of the time, so I'm going to jump around a little bit. And so I want to go to the end, when you're in Japan. And there was a time when you were able to visit your uncle? I think you were going to leave Japan, and before you left, you wanted to visit your uncle, and I wanted you to tell that story of how you saw your uncle.

TU: Yeah. I think it was in May because I came home in May. Before I came home, I went to see them, and there were about four families that I should see. And so I packaged up four bagfuls of goodies for four families, those that I could buy from the PX, and went down there. And took the train down, and I felt kind of uneasy. The train, there was one special train just for GIs like me, and then the ordinary Japanese would be crowded into a limited number of cars. And I thought, "Gee, that's not right, but who am I to try to change that?" [Laughs]

TI: Because your car was just almost empty and you had lots of room, and other ones were overcrowded?

TU: Yeah, yeah. So it's unfair, but that's what happens when your country is defeated. So I get to, I think it's Tamana station, and I have this duffle bag full of stuff, it's kind of heavy. So I was going to get a taxicab, naive me, a taxicab at that time? No way. There's no transportation taxi-wise. So this stationmaster, I guess it was a stationmaster, he said, "I'll get you a jinrikisha." You know what that is, jinrikisha? It's this buggy-like that a man pulls.

TI: So it's kind of like a rickshaw?

TU: Rickshaw. Jinriki is "manpowered rickshaw." That's what it is. Should have explained that. So this guy comes along, and sure enough, he's got this rickshaw. And he tells me to get on, and the baggage gets on, and he started to move. And I see he's an old man, bowed legs and everything. So I felt sorry for the guy and said, "Would you stop, please?" So I got off and I said, "Just take my baggage for me." And I said, "Where do you want to go?" I said I wanted to go to this school where I knew my uncle was a teacher. So we go to the school there, and you could see that I was creating sort of a stir there at the school. 'Cause here I am with a U.S. uniform, and my uncle told me later on that they thought, the teachers thought, that I was there to investigate if they complied, if the school complied with the edict that certain textbooks shouldn't be used anymore because they're too militaristic. They thought I was there to check on that. Well, when I told 'em I'm Tetsushi, "Oh, you're Tetsu." [Laughs] Tet-chan.

TI: And so was this an uncle that remembered you when you were a little boy?

TU: Yeah, my mother's brother, mother's younger brother. And I knew he was a teacher there because I went to school there. So anyway, the principal told him, "Take the day off and take your nephew wherever he wants to go." So from there, went to the village, Yokoshima-mura, where I met with the rest of my relatives. Curiously enough, they wanted to know how we were treated in the States. We're thinking we're worried about them, but they're worried about us, that we are mistreated.

TI: And how much did they know about the removal, the camps and things like that?

TU: I don't know. I told them that we were all gathered in camp, shuuyoujo, I guess is the term that was used. They had some inkling about that, because I think for propaganda purposes, they must have picked up on that. But anyway...

TI: And so that was kind of the end of your time...

TU: In Japan.

TI: Japan, and then that's when you then returned and then worked as kind of a farm worker to harvest the...

TU: Just in time. I got back in May of ('46) just in time for harvest. When I finished the harvest, then I went to school here in Berkeley, and I've been here ever since.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So at this point -- we could talk for hours -- but we have, in the last few minutes, I really want to get to your time spent documenting the story of the MIS. I mean, when I think of the MIS story, you've probably done as much as anyone else in terms of making sure this story gets documented and told. So I guess the first question is: why? Why do you think the story of the MIS is important to remember and preserve?

TU: Well, the thought came to me that this is an American story. We're not trying to vindicate what happened to us, we're not trying to beat the drums for the MIS with all the war heroics and so on. No, more importantly is to tell this American story that not only the Nikkei community can be proud of, but all Asians could be proud of, in fact, all Americans could be proud of, that this kind of thing could happen only in America. And so as far as I'm concerned, I'm gonna beat the drums on this American story.

TI: Well, and one of the ways that you can do this, the plans are -- and we talked about this a little bit earlier in the interview about Building 640 at Crissy Field in the Presidio, so tell me about that project. Because we're, again, we're May 2011, so tell me where the project is now and your hopes for the project in the future.

TU: Yeah. Right now, there's some structural work done already because it was an old airplane hangar, and it was kind of dilapidated. So for safety purposes they did some of the structural construction and firmed it up. Now, with the signing of the lease agreement --

TI: Which hasn't happened yet. I mean, we're talking, this is just about --

TU: Possibility of Memorial Day.

TI: So just in a few days. So we're talking just like almost at the eve of this signing of this lease agreement.

TU: Yeah.

TI: And explain the lease agreement. Who is between and what's it...

TU: Well, it's between the Presidio Trust, who's the controlling entity of the Presidio there, their mandate is to take over the Presidio, which was an army base, and make it into a self-sustaining project. And they have certain mandates to go by, I don't know exactly how it's worded. But our story fits right in to the mandate, the words of the mandate, there be an education center. And we have this in mind where when Truman invited the 442 boys when they came back from Europe, and he told them that, "You fought not only the enemy but you..."

TI: "Prejudice not only in..."

TU: Yeah, and then he ended his talk by saying, "Keep up the work and make this nation a more perfect union." Well, now our ultimate goal, however impossible it may seem, is just that. We want to use the MIS 640 project for informing the American public, and hopefully it can help to make our nation a little bit more perfect. So that would be our ideal goal, and that's why I kept telling our guys, "Hey, ours is an American story, and we got to pitch it as that."

TI: And what's, I guess, important to note is in a few days there's going to be an important milestone where this lease would be signed, I believe it's fifteen years, and that will then give you the time or the authority to now go in there and renovate this building and make it into a learning center.

TU: Yeah. And some of those plans are already made, architectural drawings have been made. And one of the things that's going to be shown is a replica of what the classrooms looked like at that time, and all the modern gadgets used to tell the story. I think some of the interviews we're doing now could be entered into the computer to be looked at as people pass by. So the blueprints are in, and we have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen. There's going to be a memorial wall where people who donate $2500 or more will be listed on the plaque. All that kind of thing is already thought out.

TI: Well, good. I know this has been in the works for years and years and years, and to now be this far along is a real accomplishment.

TU: Yeah.

TI: So Marvin, with that, I'm going to end the interview and just congratulate you on getting so far. And I hope the stories that you've collected, Densho's collected, all can become part of this, too, especially about the MIS.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.