Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Spady Koyama Interview I
Narrator: Spady Koyama
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), James Arima (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 23, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-kspady-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Now, how did that relationship develop between you and Judge Kelly? Why was he so fond of you?

SK: Well, he knew that, that I had been wounded in the Pacific and he also knew that I had been turned down by the, by a veterans organization for membership in Spokane. In fact, it involves a person who now lives -- if he is still surviving -- lives here in Seattle. A member of the 442nd Infantry, Regimental Combat Team who got turned down for membership while hospitalized at the same Baxter General Hospital that I was hospitalized in. And he got turned down and I read about it in the paper and I thought, "He got turned down because of his race." So, I contacted other veterans and I'm the only one from the Pacific, but other European 442 veterans and I said, "How about applying for membership? Not all of you at the same time, but let's say two at a time," and I said, "You and you next month." And I, I controlled or I suggested that, that these periodic applications be made to the same organization and as expected, they would find minimum of three blackballs denying membership. Now, before they applied, I would contact my friend in the newspaper, I said, and the, and the Spokane Chamber of Commerce leader, a retired major. And I would apprise them of what we're going to do and he would turn to the paper and give them the background. So and so, and so and so's going to apply and we're sure that we're gonna find three blackballs. In those days, every veterans organization was controlled by World War I veterans who thought that the presence of Orientals might disrupt the, the overall harmony of the organization. Especially those coming back from the Pacific theater, one article said. And that was my cue. I said, "Okay, I'm going to apply next, because I'm not only a Pacific theater veteran, but I'm a Purple Hearter and I give the newspapers the background of, of my background as much as I could." I couldn't tell them that I was doing interrogation work or whatever. But, as expected, we found three blackballs when, when my application went, went in. Judge Kelly knew about it. He supported me and I think when he was interviewed, he had a lot to say about what he thought of us as Americans.

TI: And so you were, you were blackballed, and I imagine all the other Japanese Americans were blackballed up to this point?

SK: Right.

TI: How did that change? I mean, it sounds like --

SK: Over the years, the World War I veteran leadership was replaced by World War II veterans, who wanted our membership. And I have a, in fact, in one of my albums, I have a, from the national commander, an invitation to join. "This is your ticket for a membership in any local organization that you choose," and so forth, so forth. I've got that in my album. But I've never applied, of course.

TI: And so, even though you're working with the newspapers and I imagine some of these stories came up, it wasn't until, it really was more of a gradual process over time that things changed?

SK: Yes, and it continued until my re-entry into the army in January 1947. In 1945, '46 it was just a series of newspaper articles regarding the denial for membership in the veterans organization to the point that a national commander from back east apologized on behalf of the entire organization, but he could not control the will of the local chapter, you see. So, he was powerless. But the sentiments were clear. The local newspapers and media supported us and then especially when my story came out, that there's a man back from the Pacific theater, not only the Pacific, but also a Purple Hearter, and yet his application for membership was turned down. So we played it to the hilt, with people like Judge Kelly and local leading citizens supporting us. But now, of course, they feel very, very embarrassed and several times I've been contacted by officials of the organization asking me to, to join them because, "Things are different, we run the show now, no World War I veterans are around to run it." I said, "No, no thanks, I might find three blackballs yet." [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so you've, so you've never joined after this.

SK: No.

TI: Oh.

SK: But I've joined so many other organizations. That's when the Purple Hearters took me in and made me their adjutant. Paid adjutant with an office in downtown Spokane, and I was Aide-de-camp to the national commander of the Purple Hearters until I went back into the army. Since that time, well, to name a few, my gosh, I belong to the Disabled American Veterans, I belong to the, the Reserve Officers Association, I belong to the Retired Officers Association, what else? Those are some of the national organizations that I can think of.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.