Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Spady Koyama Interview II
Narrator: Spady Koyama
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 28, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-kspady-02-0010

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TI: So Spady, we were talking, where we sort of left off, we were -- we're still Vietnam...

SK: Am I all right?

TI: Yeah. You're okay.

SK: Okay.

TI: And so we're December 1966 -- you're the head of counterintelligence, Vietnam -- and we talked a little bit about this. But you were there for one year?

SK: One year.

TI: And then what -- why did you leave Vietnam?

SK: Because my one-year tour was finished. And I had been notified that I would be returning to the staff and faculty of Army Intelligence School where I had left my family.

TI: Okay.

SK: And...

TI: Before we get there, in the history of Vietnam, what time period -- ? What was going on in Vietnam at around 1967, December of '67?

SK: December, '67. We are on the offensive and everything's going very smoothly. And -- but unknown to us, the other side is planning a major counter-attack to change that status. And so several months after I left, they initiated a campaign that we refer to as the Tet Offensive, which included incursions right into the heart of Saigon, and overran many major Allied positions. But, by that time I'm back in the States with the staff and faculty.

TI: But before we do that, I'm trying to understand. I'm remembering my history about the Vietnam War. It was right after the Tet Offensive that, that our military involvement really escalated. Is that, is that correct?

SK: No -- it was before then. It was a strange war, in that we did not go all out from the very beginning, if you recall history. And we were stymied and held back in many instances from the kind of offensive that we would envision our side to take, that we could take. But we were simply following regulations and orders, I suppose, and... so it was a, somewhat of a frustrating period. But since my tour of assignment of one year was finished, I was due back to, to the staff and faculty because I had left my family in, in Baltimore. And so I returned in December, and went back to staff and faculty. That would be December '67. And sometime in '68 or '69, I had occasion to seek medical help at the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C., because I'm still on active duty with a, with 40 percent disability from World War II, you see. So I was down there for some medical treatment. And it was noted by some clerk that I was on active duty as an officer all those years since 1947 -- with a grant of a special waiver of my 40 percent disability. And before I knew it I was summoned back there in -- I think it was early 1970 -- to face a medical board of officers commanded by a full colonel. And when I appeared there, in essence, he, the colonel told me that, "We find that you no longer qualify to remain on active duty as an officer because of your disabilities. And therefore, we have decided to let you go home" -- in his words -- "to the Evergreen State of Washington, to go fishing." And I've been doing that now for twenty-nine years, come next month -- July.

TI: When you were originally granted the waiver, was there a time limit on the waiver?

SK: None...

TI: It was open-ended.

SK: ...whatsoever. That's right. That waiver was one point, and the second -- as I've mentioned before -- is my highest World War II rank. Unfortunately, I was only a five-stripe sergeant. And thirdly, if I passed the physical, minus my disability, that I might qualify for a direct commission as an officer. But there was -- what's good about it, or hard about it, is that I explained all this to my Japan-born mother. And all she said -- she smiled and said, "General MacArthur needs you again. You go again." Because she's the one who urged me a few days after Pearl Harbor in the first place, five years earlier.

TI: Right.

SK: December 1941. That you know that no matter who says what to you, she said, "You know that this is your country." And I agreed. I said, "I know that." And she said, "As such, you should be thinking about fighting for your country. But I want you home for Christmas and for New Year's. And then you go." That's what my mother told me. So I waited until after New Year's. And on fifth of January 1942, now -- 1942, I packed my things, and without opposition from anyone, I said, "Goodbye," and walked to the selective service office of Spokane, and then more or less announced that I'm ready to go. Well, they wouldn't process me.

TI: Right. Now -- and you told that story before.

SK: Yes.

TI: So we have that.

SK: That's how I got in.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.