Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Saburo Sato Interview I
Narrator: Frank Saburo Sato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 14, 2017
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-445

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is Monday, August 14, 2017, and we're in Seattle at the Densho office. And so, Frank, I'm just going to start. Tell me when and where you were born.

FS: I was born in Puyallup, Washington, March 16, 1929.

TI: So how old are you now, then?

FS: Eighty-eight.

TI: Eighty-eight. So that's one of those auspicious years, right, eighty-eight?

FS: [Laughs] Yes.

TI: And what was the full name given to you at birth?

FS: My name at birth is Saburo Sato. And let me add on that when I was baptized, there was a Doctor, Frank Herron Smith from Los Angeles who was superintendent of the Japanese Methodist conference, I guess it was. And I'm told he asked what my name was, and my parents told him, "Saburo Sato," and he said, "Well, you ought to have an American name, English name." So he says, "We'll call him Frank," and I've been Frank ever since.

TI: Oh, interesting. So how old were you when your parents had that conversation?

FS: When I was baptized, when I was just an infant.

TI: I see. So, now, did this gentleman baptize you?

FS: Yes.

TI: Okay, so he was also the one who baptized you.

FS: Yeah, he was the minister of the Methodist church.

TI: But you mentioned he was from, I thought you said from California.

FS: Yeah. Well, he was superintendent of the Japanese Provisional conference, I think it was called, a Japanese Methodist conference. And so I kind of laugh about it, but in a way, it's kind of neat, I'm named after a Methodist minister.

TI: Yeah, that's a good story.

FS: And you know, the interesting thing is, as I've tracked through my life, there's a lot of interesting tie-ins that have come in following all that, and I'll cover them as we go.

TI: Okay. So, okay, one is your name Frank, where that came from. And so did you legally get that on like your birth certificate? At what point did that become legal? Because initially you were Saburo.

FS: You know, I'm not sure, but my sister, Betty, who was the oldest in the family before we went into camp and all, she had some document certifying that Frank Saburo Sato and Saburo Sato was the same, one and the same. And that's as much as I have.

TI: Okay, that makes sense, probably because you started using Frank, and maybe it wasn't done legally, but then that document sort of made that connection.

FS: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So you mentioned Betty, your older sister, let's talk about all your siblings. I know you had a lot of siblings, and let's just go down in order.

FS: Okay. I'm the youngest of six, Betty is the oldest, Betty Maekawa, she passed away several years ago. But she is one of the few Nisei women that were in the military. She was in the army nurse corps reserve, but she was an RN.

TI: Okay, and we'll talk more about that later when I hit the war years. So Betty was the oldest, and who was next?

FS: John, my brother John was next, he's the one that was, volunteered into the 442 from camp, and he trained with the 522nd artillery. But he was recruited out to go to MIS.

TI: Okay, so we'll talk more about him, too, so that's John. And how much older is John than you?

FS: Eight.

TI: Eight years. And then Betty is how much older?

FS: Ten years.

TI: And after John?

FS: My sister Bess, who was also an RN, retired. She's one of my two living sisters right now.

TI: Okay, and after Bess?

FS: Is Bob, four years older than I, he's passed away a couple years ago. He's the 442 vet.

TI: And then after Bob?

FS: Rose, my sister, who is in Tennessee.

TI: And is she about two years older than you?

FS: Yes, two years older. All of us are two years apart.

TI: Yeah, I was going to mention that, it seemed like there's a two-year gap between each one of you. So that make it easier in terms of the year. So you were born 1929.

FS: Yes.

TI: And we'll come back to your siblings later on during the war.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: How about your father? What's your father's name?

FS: My father is Masamori Sato, born December 1, 1885, in Kagoshima, Japan.

TI: Oh, I didn't know you were Kagoshima, that's my mom, Kinoshita. So that must be -- we'll get to that later, I didn't know that. And tell me why did your father come to America?

FS: As far as I know, at the time, there were no jobs in Japan. He went from Kagoshima to Fukuoka where there were merchant ships, you know, the old NYK lines that used to go around (the world). And he was a merchant seaman on an NYK line. And that's how he ultimately ended up in the U.S. And let me tell you, you talk about illegal immigration, I found out many years later, my dad never told me, but on one of his trips when he docked in Seattle, he just left and never went back to the ship. But then, several years later, he returned to Japan and then came back in legally.

TI: Oh, so he actually came through the regular immigration channels. But this is after he had lived in Seattle or United States for a while.

FS: Yeah. And it was after he and my mom were married, and he went back to Japan to visit family and all, I guess.

TI: Now, the time where he walked off the ship, do you know what year that was?

FS: You know, I don't know, but I think it's around 1904 or '05, right in there someplace.

TI: And what did he do in Seattle back then?

FS: After he came here?

TI: Yeah.

FS: Well, when he first came, as far as I know, he worked on the railroads for a while, and eventually he came to this area, and he was working on a farm out there in the valley around Fife, and that's where he ultimately began his own farm.

TI: Now, was his family in Japan, were they farmers initially? Because here he was sort of a merchant seaman and then railroad, I'm trying to figure out, did he have some experience?

FS: You know, I don't know. I've visited Kagoshima, and I've seen his place, and I've visited with some of my cousins over there, but I've never found that part out.

TI: So when you say the valley, you're talking about the Puyallup valley, Auburn valley?

FS: He had his farm in Firwood, right outside of Fife.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Let's go to your mother. So what was your mother's name and where was she born?

FS: Masuyo Ishikawa, and she was born in Fukuoka. I always get these dates mixed up, but May 19, 1898.

TI: So how did she come to America?

FS: Well, that's an interesting story. Her father... well, let me back up. My mother's mom had passed away, and her father had remarried. And when her father immigrated to this country, and he was one of the first berry farmers out there in Firwood.

TI: So this would be your grandfather on your mother's side, okay.

FS: Yeah. And so when he came to Fife, my mother stayed behind in Fukuoka, and she was raised by her grandmother. But then, someplace in there, I think about 1917 or thereabouts, she came to be with her father, and when my granddad decided to go back to Japan, is when my mother and father got married, and my granddad returned to Japan. It's an interesting story there, which I found out visiting Fukuoka. Apparently, along about 1917, '18, farmers did real well, he was raising strawberries out there, made a killing, so to speak. And he packed up and went back to Japan.

TI: So he made a killing around Fife.

FS: Yeah, Firwood, which is right outside of Fife.

TI: Uh-huh, Firwood. And so he went back, essentially, probably during that time, a fairly wealthy man, kind of?

FS: Yeah, it's interesting, when I visited Japan, one of the first times I was sleeping on a tatami mat, and it looked like Douglas fir plywood (on the ceiling). And I said to my cousin, "Hey, that looks like Douglas fir," and he said, he came out with this big smile on his face, he says, "Don't you know?" And I says, "What do you mean, don't I know?" He says, "Your granddad brought that back when he came from America." What apparently happened was my granddad was a chonan, and so when he came to the U.S., he told his younger brother, "You stay here and take care of Mom and Dad, I'm going to go to America and make lots of money. When I come back, we'll build these homes side by side." So that's exactly what he did. When he went back to Japan, he sent all this (lumber) from the Northwest, and the house that they had was a fairly large house by Japanese standards, but built of all Douglas fir and plywood, huge planks, it was amazing.

TI: Wow. Did you ever get pictures of that, of the beams and things like that?

FS: No, you know, it's one thing I regret.

TI: Is it still standing?

FS: No, it was torn down several years ago, and they put a new structure on there. My cousin lives in that house yet.

TI: If anyone in the family has photographs of that, back in Japan or something, I'd love to get that, that would be really interesting.

FS: I may have some someplace, I'll have to look and see.

TI: I think it's actually historically significant that, yeah, this lumber was sent back and the house was built in Japan, that's a good story. Okay, so we're still on your mother's side, so that was your grandfather on your mother's side, so she just got married to your father around 1917, so that's where we are, and now we're in Firwood still?

FS: Yes.

TI: And so, at this point, they're a farming family?

FS: Yes. My dad had a farm.

TI: And what crops did he raise?

FS: He grew, as far as I know, strawberries, lettuce, cabbage, just regular truck farm stuff. Had raspberries, stuff like that.

TI: Now, this might be a question you don't know the answer to, but a few years after 1917, Washington state enacted the alien land laws, and so if you weren't a citizen, I mean, if you were, like, a Japanese immigrant, you weren't allowed to own land. Do you know if that affected your family in terms of property or where they could farm?

FS: Well, it affected them in this way, of course. My dad didn't own his farm, he leased it. And when I was a kid, they moved from Firwood, outside of Fife, to Sumner, and he leased thirty acres, and that's where we were before the war.

TI: Now, was there any thought of, like, at this point, putting the land under your older brother's name, or your older sister's name? I mean, they were ten years older, so at some point they probably could have done that.

FS: You know, that I don't know. I think that, number one, my father probably didn't have the resources to buy it yet, is my guess, I don't know.

TI: You know, I forgot to ask this question. I know your mother and father met and married in Firwood, how did they meet? Is that through family connections, or did they just meet someplace? How did that happen?

FS: You know, my guess is it was arranged. My granddad was going back to Japan, their friends around there, I surmise, probably said, hey, they were looking for some young bachelors, and my dad was one of 'em around looking for a bride, and I think that's how it came about. I don't know.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: And now that we have a little bit about their backgrounds, starting with your father, how would you describe it? What was he like?

FS: My father was very strict, but he was very kind. And he was very community-minded. When I was a kid out in Sumner, he was active in the Japanese Community Association, and I think it's fair to say he was one of the leaderships in the community, and he was very respected. And he was... how do I put it? He was very respected, and he was very honest. I know he was a churchgoer. He was one of the founders of the Tacoma Methodist Church, and I've told my wife, June, I could remember as a kid on the farm, we talked about the bible earlier, I could remember as a kid in the wintertime when he could not be working outside, he'd be reading that bible, and that marker would go all the way over to the (left), and next thing I know, he'd be starting (over). He was very devout in his faith, and I don't know how this happens. Because when I visited in Japan, of course, they were all Buddhists. When he became a Christian, I don't know.

TI: Interesting. Yeah, I was going to ask that question. Because I know it meant a lot to you, you used that same bible later on, so this was a Bible, was it common to see Japanese-language Bibles? I haven't seen that many.

FS: Oh, yeah, because my mom and dad used to always go to Japanese services in Tacoma, even before the war. Actually, my dad, my dad had a Bible. I still remember, it was black cover, and it was wrinkled along the edge as it were, and the one thing I regret is I don't know what happened to that bible. The one that I showed you in red was my mom's, but my dad had a different one which was with a black cover. And it was really neat, and I wished I had it.

TI: Well, you mentioned your mother, so tell me, what was she like? How would you describe her?

FS: My mother was probably the most wonderful mom anybody could have. I mean, I'm sure most people feel that way. But I always tell June, I cannot remember ever being scolded or being talked to in a stern way from my mom. And June says, "Really?" And I always say to her, "Yes, but you have to remember, I was a perfect child." And, of course, that goes over like a lead balloon. [Laughs]

TI: That's what I was going to say, so when you needed to be disciplined, how did that happen?

FS: I don't ever remember being disciplined by my mother or father. My mother just was gentle, she nurtured us. You know, like it's an interesting thing, and I've looked back myself on that and say, "Wow."

TI: How about your older siblings? Did you ever see them disciplined?

FS: Yes. I think I've seen my brother John and Bob both being disciplined, and in fact, my older brother John getting pretty argumentative with my dad, but I never experienced that.

TI: I can understand that...

FS: But I think he was the older brother, I was the youngest in the family, by the time they got to me, they gave up. [Laughs]

TI: Well, that, and you get to actually see what was acceptable and not, and you learned from that process, too. And how would you describe the relationship between your mother and father?

FS: Very, very close. I found it amazing that as I grew older, I've seen others who go in different places. My mom and dad were always together and everything. I really was blessed with a very wonderful mom and dad.

TI: Now, did they ever show affection with each other? I mean, I've asked this question about other Issei couples, and generally not, but I'm just curious about your parents.

FS: No, you know, I don't think that's something that, as I've grown older, you don't see Japanese showing that type of affection like we do in America.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So in thinking now, as your early childhood memories in, I guess, Sumner, describe your home. What did that look like?

FS: You know, we had a farm on the West Coast highway coming out of Sumner. And it's a typical dairy farm house. But actually, when you look back on it, for its time it was a nice, big house. We had (three) bedrooms upstairs, a bathroom -- another bedroom downstairs, one bathroom upstairs. But before the war, it did not have hot water. We had running water, but not hot water. A very comfortable home, we burned wood in it. The house was good and we had a typical Japanese furo that my dad had built. And the rest of it was... like we had a huge dairy barn that my dad used for his farm equipment and everything. We had apples, cherries, fruit trees, typical.

TI: And with five bedrooms, did you have your own bedroom, did you share it? I mean, it seemed like you had quite a few bedrooms.

FS: No... my two sisters, Bess and Betty had one bedroom, John and Bob had a bedroom, my mom and dad, come to think of it, it must have been just three, yeah, three bedrooms upstairs. And I shared a bed with my sister in the same room as my mom and dad.

TI: Now, when you were a child, describe a typical non-school day. Like a Saturday, would there be chores, what would be the routine for the family?

FS: You know, for us on the farm, soon as we were grown enough, we were expected to work on the farm. Whether it was weeding, thinning crops, whatever it was, picking crops. I worked on the farm all the time as early as I can remember.

TI: How many acres was the farm, how large was it?

FS: Thirty acres.

TI: Oh, wow, that's a large farm. Was that one of the larger farms in that area?

FS: Yeah, I guess so.

TI: So 30 acres. And so tell me about the business. I mean, would the family hire workers to help in the fields and the crops? Where would they sell it, talk about that side.

FS: Okay. My dad used to hire a couple of farm workers, help, and they were Filipinos that immigrated. And he had a cabin where they could live in, slept, and so forth, and they worked on the farm year-round. In fact, some of my fondest memories (are) from this guy, Joe was his name, he always used to treat me so good, you know. And really a nice guy. In fact, one of them actually took over my dad's farm when we moved. At least for a while, and, of course, it was sold, or crops were sold during the war. Anyway, on the farm, he had rhubarb, peas, beans, corn, spinach, strawberries, carrots, cabbage, squash, this goes on and on. It was a typical truck farm. And the interesting thing, Tom, is this: in later years, when I've visited Japan, and I'm seeing these ditches that are (dug) in the fields and all, typically what my dad was doing there in the farm, there in the valley. They carried that, they drained those fields to nurture those crops.

TI: So you saw the same kind of farming techniques that he brought from Japan.

FS: Yeah. And I remember as a kid, my dad would dig those ditches in order for the soil to drain well. And the first time I went to Japan and I went out in the countryside and I saw that, I thought, oh, that's where my dad comes from.

TI: And so as you walked around Sumner, when you walked around, was your father's technique kind of different or unique from the other farms, or did other Japanese do the same thing?

FS: Pretty much so, pretty much the same. Although I think my dad seemed to dig those ditches and drain stuff much more so than the others, at least as I remember as a kid.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Describe the Japanese community, things like, was there a Japanese language school and did you have to attend that, other Japanese events? What was it like in Sumner?

FS: You know, in Sumner, right next to where the old grade school is, there's an old church that the Japanese community had bought before the war, and that was the community center. And that's where I used to go to Japanese school every day after school. Go from the grade school across the street, go to Japanese school.

TI: For a farming community that is a little unusual. Most of the times I heard in farming communities, it's just on Saturdays and Sunday that they had Japanese language school. But you had to do it every day.

FS: Yes.

TI: Because a lot of times they wanted the sons, especially, to go back and work during the day, too.

FS: Yeah, that's true. And you know, I'll tell you an interesting story. You may want to hold on this, but my brother John, when I found out about him going to Japan, after being on the USS Missouri, he volunteered to survey the damage in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He was given this assignment, saying, "If you guys do this, when you're through, you can get out of the service." And, of course, that's what all the guys wanted to do. But when John was on that survey team, one day, when he's walking through all this rubble, he ran across this lady, her name was Oyanagi, who was our Japanese school teacher in Sumner. Talk about a strange coincidence.

TI: And this was in what city? Nagasaki or Hiroshima?

FS: Hiroshima.

TI: When you tell me that story about your brother being in the MIS and then also being on the USS Missouri, it makes me think that his Japanese language skills were strong, for him to be in that position.

FS: No.

TI: No? Okay, because a lot of the MIS guys were there. So that's what I was going to ask, so how good was the Japanese language school in Sumner? When you talk about seeing the teacher and all that, were you good in Japanese, were your brothers and sisters good in Japanese?

FS: Well, I think the way... I think my older sister Betty was pretty good, John was pretty good, but as the language skills kind of seemed to decrease, I was probably the worst. John was pulled out of the 442 I think because he had some language skills, not strong. But when they tested him, he was one of the highest IQ guys. And so I think they just surmised that he would do well going to Fort Snelling language school. But there's also another interesting aspect to him. He never went to Europe. He was sent to Orlando, Florida, for tactical Air Force training, Air Force Intelligence training. And as I look back on it, I think even then, the U.S. Department of Defense must have been tentatively planning the atomic bombing. John was sent to Orlando, Florida, and from there to Hickam, and ultimately to Guam and Tinian. But when you stop and think about it, why would they have pulled him out and sent him to Air Force tactical training at that time? See, I don't know, but I'm just guessing.

TI: And this was, like, early in the war, like in '43, or about when would this have happened?

FS: '44.

TI: Okay, '44.

FS: John was in the first group of volunteers that went into the 442.

TI: Okay, so that'd be early '43.

FS: '43, yes.

TI: Okay, we'll come back to this.

FS: That's kind of... but I thought it was interesting that he would run across our old Japanese school teacher.

TI: Right, in Japan, so that was interesting.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: What about other Japanese community events? Picnics, things like that, kendo, did they have things like that?

FS: Yeah, we used to have a Japanese community picnic, we had a kendo group out there. And as a kid, you know where the NVC hall is now? My earliest recollection is coming to a kendo tournament there as a little kid about seven years old. And when the war broke out, my dad just burned all that kendo gear.

TI: Talk about that early kendo tournament at the site of the Nisei Vets. I mean, who was there, how many people would show up, what communities were there, just describe that?

FS: I don't remember too much about that other than going to... my guess, thinking back, maybe a hundred people at the most. It wasn't large. Because in those days, judo was more popular than kendo. Kendo was kind of secondary.

TI: And what was the facility before NVC Memorial Hall? What was that building like?

FS: You know, all I remember is where the main hall is now, on both sides, there were some little, what do you call it, stands?

TI: Like bleachers?

FS: Bleacher seats, and that was about it.

TI: And was it a two-story building like it is today, or was it like a one-floor...

FS: Best I remember, it was a one-floor thing.

TI: Yeah, I was just curious. Because I know that after the war, when the Nisei Vets took it over, they essentially built that Memorial Hall, I was just curious what was there before. I know it was donated by the Isseis to the Niseis to build that.

FS: Yeah. I don't remember that much about it, but I remember it coming there. I don't remember too much details about that.

TI: Yeah, you're the first person who has mentioned being there before that, that's why I wanted to ask you that question. When you think, going back to Sumner, growing up, what did you do for fun?

FS: Well, as a kid fishing, I used to go fishing on the stream right next to the farm. And the interesting thing is, we never had regular commercial hooks. I used to take regular (safety) pin, bend the hook, tie it on the line, and that's what we used to fish with, good old days.

TI: And is this trout that you'd go after?

FS: Yeah, trout. They'd come off the streams, off the hillside. And so anyway, fishing, sports, I used to go on my bicycle all over the place up and down the West Coast highway to see my friends. You know Wash Murakami who is still living and had the garage? He was our next door neighbor, next (farm) over. And, of course, the Murakamis were a large family, and we'd visit all the time in the winter and this and that.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: And so tell me about your friends. Who would you hang out with?

FS: Well, the interesting thing is, on that, Tom, I had a lot of Caucasian friends as well as Japanese friends. Joe Mochizuki, no relation to Ken, but a Mochizuki family lived there. And then there was the Murakamis, Kubotas, I'm still in touch with Jim, he's in Phoenix. He's the Jim Kubota who you may know as his son has been writing the Kuroki films and all, that's his dad, Jim, was my good friend. And Mits Katayama, Mits Katayama, who recently passed away, he's another one of my friends. But interesting thing is, I entered first grade (with) that group (who) just had their seventieth anniversary from high school. Although I didn't graduate with them, since I'd come back, and even before I came back, they were looking me up. And I went to this anniversary gathering in Tacoma, and one of the guys is a fellow by the name of John Sager who lives in Mercer Island, I went to school with him from first grade. His wife, who's now passed away, Joanne Cole, a whole bunch of 'em, Dorothy Rutledge, lives over in Lacey now, but she was the ex-mayor of that town on the way out to the ocean.

TI: Aberdeen?

FS: Aberdeen. She's the ex-mayor of Aberdeen, those were all my first grade...

TI: And this was a seventieth anniversary of the high school class?

FS: Yes.

TI: Okay, because, yeah, they're all eighty-eight.

FS: Yes. And there were sixteen of us there.

TI: Now did anyone at the reunion, did they talk about the war and how you and others, Japanese, had to leave?

FS: Very openly.

TI: And what did they say?

FS: And they recall wondering why I had to leave. In fact, John Sager recounts how they visited me at "Camp Harmony," which he did, and that all of the kids were wondering why we had to move away. And I told that group the other day, couple weeks ago when I met with them, I said, "You know, I have to thank all you guys. Because, me, as a little kid, Japanese American kid, in a community like this, you all are the ones who gave me the confidence to fight the battles that I had to face when I had the jobs I had." I never had any problems, but the foundation is because all these kids that I went to school with were always my friends and were always supportive of me. In fact, one of my friends, Jack Huntington, from first grade, his father was a hop king in Sumner. And I remember when I was a little kid, and I first went to his house, they had this big, palatial place, hop king's residence. And I went in that place and I went, wow, what a beautiful place. But they treated me like one of their own. And that's the kind of childhood that I enjoyed. Jack's younger sister Belle, I'm still in contact with. Jack's older brother was a good friend of my brother John's, they played football together. He used to write to me, he just passed away a couple years ago also. But it's that kind of a community that we came from. And we didn't really see prejudice, per se.

TI: That's wonderful. It sounds like this nurturing environment that you grew up in. Talk about school. How were you in school? If a teacher had to describe Frank Sato as a student, what would he or she say?

FS: She'd probably say that I was a good student, which I think I was, I always got pretty good grades. You know, and this goes back to my mother. My mother used to instill in us, study hard, they could never take away what's in here. [Indicates head]. So she always instilled us, from the time we were kids, study hard, work hard, do good. And I was always a pretty good student.

TI: When you talk about having these, sort of, conversations with your mother, what language did she speak to you in? Was it Japanese or English?

FS: Japanese. My mother and dad spoke very little English, just enough words... in fact, it's amazing to me that my dad used to conduct business. But no, they didn't speak much English, not very good.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: And so when your father needed to sell his crops, how did he sell his produce? Where did they go?

FS: Two places. In Sumner, they had the Puget Sound Vegetable Growers Association, where a lot of stuff went. But he also used to take a lot of stuff into the farmer's market in Tacoma, and he used to have certain markets and stores that were his regular customers. I remember going with him when I was little, five, six year old, going with him to the market.

TI: Now, describe the farmer's market in Tacoma? Who were the stalls and what was it like?

FS: You know, it was open stalls, and that market, I think... I was the (youngest), and I'd go with my dad. We'd leave when it was still dark at home on the farm, the objective was to get there at daybreak, and there were open stalls and markets, and hour and a half, two hours later, everything is gone.

TI: So this just opened, like, just a couple hours in the early morning?

FS: That's right.

TI: And they're open, people buy their stuff, and then they're gone.

FS: And my dad, if he didn't sell everything, he had certain places that he would go and sell it to certain markets. And he also had friends that we used to always drop off produce. In fact, interesting story, you know, Tom... Taniguchi, head of transportation for Seattle?

TI: Oh, Harold?

FS: Harold. Harold's grandma was named Hoshiwara in Tacoma, they had the hotel there in Tacoma. Very good friends of my mom and dad. My dad used to always stop there and drop off produce. But Grandma Hoshiwara used to treat me as her own child. And I have such fond memories about that, and I tell Kerry and Harold about that experience often. I really have fond memories of that time.

TI: That's a good story. Okay, good. So any other prewar childhood memories? Stories or anything that you want to talk about before we go to December 7th? Like any events that were significant for you or the family that you remember before the war?

FS: Well, one thing that sticks out is, as a kid in grade school, every Christmas, each grade would practice Christmas carols. And before Christmas break, we'd all go to the Methodist church, which is down the (street), it's still standing there today. And we would have, by each grade, sing carols in a Christmas program there. And as a kid, I remember walking in there and seeing all those glass, painted glass...

TI: The stained glass?

FS: Stained glass, and the organ and everything. And I distinctly remember that, I used to really enjoy that. But that's one thing that sticks out.

TI: Yeah, that visual is so powerful. So when we go to December 7, 1941, you're, what, about twelve years old at this point?

FS: Yeah.

TI: And I just want to set the scene in terms of your siblings now. Your oldest sister would be, then, around twenty-one, twenty-two, and then after that was John, so he's close to around twenty, nineteen, twenty. And so what were they doing? Because they were out of high school, were they still at home, or where were they?

FS: Sister Betty was still at home, she was helping on the farm. John was a sophomore at the University of Washington.

TI: And what was he studying at that point, do you know?

FS: Physics.

TI: Okay. He was a really smart guy, wasn't he?

FS: He's one of the high IQ guys I mentioned to you, even when he went into the service. But he was studying physics and was one of the top students, as far as I know.

TI: And then Bess? What was Bess doing?

FS: Bess had just started nurse's training at Tacoma General Hospital.

TI: And then Bob was in high school at that point?

FS: Yes. He graduated in Hunt High School.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about, so December 7, 1941, how did you hear about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

FS: You know, that particular Sunday morning, if I remember right, my dad harvested squash down the far end of our farm, and came in that afternoon, and that's the first I heard of it. I was just kind of stunned, but that's the first I knew about it. Pretty devastating time.

TI: And what about your father? Because you were with him, what was his reaction?

FS: You know, I don't know. Typical Issei, kind of a situation, they really didn't talk too much about stuff like that. They never talked about stuff that would let you know that they were worried about anything or deeply concerned about anything. So me being the youngest of six, he never did say much of anything to me. He may have to my sisters and my brother John.

TI: On that day, any recollections of anything that was unusual, other than hearing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor when you came back that afternoon? Anything else, like any family discussions or anything else like that?

FS: I don't remember a thing, but like I say, if my mom and dad had any discussions, it probably was with my older siblings. But I don't know, I wasn't in on any of that.

TI: How about the next day? The next day is school, it's Monday, December 8th. Anything interesting happen that day?

FS: I don't recollect any negative or anything different. I remember going to school the next day, and I didn't experience any discriminatory comments or anything like that. My friends were just like any other day.

TI: And how about teachers or the administration? Was there any mention of the bombing or anything like that?

FS: I don't remember that there was. I don't remember anything unusual from that time.

TI: And your school, what percentage of your class was Japanese?

FS: Very little. In fact, in my class, I think Joe Mochizuki and Mits Katayama, and there was one gal out of maybe fifteen or twenty of us.

TI: So not large, but significant. I mean, it was like you were, sounds like, about four or five out of twenty, so that's maybe twenty percent, twenty, twenty-five percent?

FS: At the most.

TI: So in the days and weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, what happened? What was going on at the farm? Was there any thought that something might happen? At some point, Bainbridge Island was removed, what was happening?

FS: You know, I just don't have much recollection about too much going on. The only thing that I remember was my mom and dad were getting concerned because they were aware that some of the Isseis were being taken away. And my mother was concerned that my dad might be taken away. But other than that, the only thing I remember was anything that was, Japanese cultural items and things like that, my mom and dad just got rid of it all, which is a shame. But that's the only thing that I remember of that time.

TI: And did you see them, so when they got rid of it, was that like, I think you mentioned earlier, burning?

FS: Burning, yeah. You know, like the kendo gear that I had, my dad just burned it up.

TI: And in addition to that, did he continue just doing the regular farm stuff? Would he still take these trips to the Tacoma Farmers Market? Well, it's wintertime though, so probably not as much, it's December, so probably not as active at that point.

FS: Yeah. See, in that timeframe, my dad had two rhubarb pits. They would bring in rhubarb roots from the field, and force grow them, and they would harvest those, and they used to go to the Puget Sound Vegetable for shipment. And that part continued, but that time of the year, not much other crops going on. But the interesting thing is, you know, normally, folks would be preparing to plant vegetables later in the spring, and my mom and dad would plant seeds and grow plants. And then in the greenhouse and then transporting those out into the field as the weather got warmer. That just continued, they just went right on.

TI: So they just planted everything, prepared everything.

FS: Yeah.

TI: Well, at that point, they really didn't know what was going to happen.

FS: No.

TI: No one really knew.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So talk about, so at some point, the word got out that people had to leave. So what happened to your family? Thirty acres, I think you mentioned earlier, one of the Filipino workers took it over. But talk about that time period. What can you remember?

FS: You know, my brother John and my sister were the most involved in that. But as I look back on it, it's really incredible what those two did, when you think about it. Betty was twenty-two, John was, like, nineteen, twenty, right in there. Sophomore in college, he comes home because they had to, and they're in the process of dismantling and getting rid of the whole farm. You know, Tom, when June and I moved from Woodinville to Midori three years ago, man, what a chore that was, just to move from our house here. And I think back and I think, what in the world and how in the world did my sister and brother do all this? Because you know that Mom and Dad did not read or write English well, so it was all dependent upon my older siblings to take care of all the paperwork and to understand what the rules were, what had to be done, and what timeframe we're talking about, to get rid of all the stuff on the farm. You know, my dad was trying to sell his crops, some people were giving, offering him such a ridiculously low price, he finally said forget it, he'd plow it under if nothing else. He finally found some young couple that came from, I think, back in Oklahoma or someplace, and bought the crops on his farm. But the guy didn't know how to handle it, and I understood they went belly-up, they couldn't even pay the loan they got from the government to buy the stuff. And that's the kind of stuff it was, but everything my dad had was lost upon a fire sale basis, that's all it was.

TI: You mentioned earlier though, one of the Filipino workers took over some part of the farming?

FS: He took over some of that for a while, but I'm not sure what the sequence is. And there were some interesting dynamics that went on. And I don't know the details of it, I wished I could ask brother John and sister Betty. But, see, my mom and dad were hopeful that maybe those two Filipino workers take over that farm, because they knew the farm, they knew the operation and everything. But somehow I think... I don't know what it was, there was some greed or something involved, they didn't want to pay anything, they wanted it given to them. And that was part of the thing my father got pretty ticked off about. But I don't know the details, I just kind of was on the outskirts of the whole thing.

TI: And so I think you mentioned earlier, the farm was being leased, the land.

FS: Yes.

TI: So what happened? Eventually you just walked, the family just walked away from everything? At this point, what happened?

FS: No, they got, I don't know how much, they got a minimum amount. This couple that came from Oklahoma or someplace back there, got a farmer's assistance loan or something like that, and they bought the crops.

TI: Okay, and so essentially took over the lease also?

FS: Yeah.

TI: So your parents got some money for that when they bought the crops.

FS: Very nominal amount.

TI: But at that point, your family was giving up its home, though.

FS: That's it.

TI: You were leaving that.

FS: Yeah. Well, we were having to leave, and there was a time, certain, you got to get out of there, and people knew it. And so anything you wanted to sell, you just couldn't get anything. My dad had a 1941 Chevrolet sedan that he had bought.

TI: So almost brand-new.

FS: It was, yeah, almost new. I don't know how much he got that, got for that thing, but I know it wasn't very much. It was just that people that were buying the stuff like that knew that we had to leave, and they weren't gonna give an inch to give you the benefit. That's just not the way it is.

TI: And do you remember people coming to the farm to buy things?

FS: Not much, because other than the car that my dad had, you know, all the farm equipment and stuff, he wasn't selling any of that, it was being sold as being part of the farm.

TI: And how about the family things that you weren't able to bring to camp? What happened to all of that?

FS: You know, our personal belongings, the farm belonged to a couple named Baumgartner, and old Swiss couple. And they were good enough to tell my mom and dad that they would store whatever we couldn't take and wanted to keep. And they stored it, and I remember when I came back in 1947, '48, after I finished high school, I moved back with my family, we went to get some of that stuff, like old dining room table and sofa and stuff like that. Well, a lot of it was deteriorated. What it was, stored in the basement, open basement, under one of the homes that the Baumgartners had. So it wasn't a good storage spot. And so it didn't really weather well. They essentially lost everything.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So let's talk about going to camp. So talk about that process. What was that day like, or the days leading up in terms of getting everything ready and going to, I'm thinking you went to Puyallup, so talk about that.

FS: Well, you know, we went to "Camp Harmony," and you know that we were allowed one suitcase and that was it, if I remember right. And so essentially you got rid of everything, it was a pretty sad day. I remember when we left the farm, we put these suitcases on the back of our flatbed farm truck, and it must have been the neighbor, I don't even remember who took us there, but we went to that "Camp Harmony" in Area B, which is the south side, across the street from the fairgrounds. And I remember going in there, and the first thing we had to do was to, after we got our room assignments and get our cots, and they gave us these canvas mattresses, and there were bales of hay, you just stuffed them with straw for your mattress and all. And I remember, I was just devastated. Dinnertime we went into the old dining room that they had set up, and again, that was just kind of a very sad experience for me. You know, on the farm we never went hungry, because we always had abundance of food, and my mother always prepared it nicely. And you go from that environment into this thing where kitchen produced meals en masse, it just was not appealing at all. I don't remember too much other than that. All I know was it was a pretty sad experience, geez.

TI: And then after you got settled in a little bit, what was a typical day? Did you spend more time with the family, or did you have friends that you would do things with? Describe that.

FS: You know, I don't have much recollection of that time. The only thing I remember is just before we went into camp, I had an unfortunate accident where I damaged my front teeth. And so the first thing after we went into camp and we get the care lined up, I used to always go across the street, every day, to get my teeth treated. And that's one thing I remember distinctly of that period.

TI: So this was before the war, before the war you did this, or when was this? Where every day you got your teeth treated, this was in Sumner?

FS: No, when we were in camp.

TI: Oh, in camp, okay. So in Puyallup.

FS: Yeah, at "Camp Harmony."

TI: When you went across the street, you had to go outside of camp?

FS: Well, you know, Area A and B was what is the parking lot across the street from the main fairgrounds. And in the main fairgrounds was Area C, and there were sleeping units in there, too. But the medical staff were located inside the building there. So I used to have to get a pass to leave there and go across the street and get my teeth checked.

TI: Okay, every day.

FS: Every day. You remember Dr. Fukuda? He's the one that used to treat me.

TI: Okay. But in some ways, that was convenient, I guess. You lived right across the street. If you were on the farm, you wouldn't have gotten that kind of treatment.

FS: No. I used to have to come with my dad from Sumner to Puyallup, we used to go to the dentist. But that's the one thing I had to do every day.

TI: And did you take that trip, going across the street to the other area, did you just do it by yourself, or did you go with someone when you went to the dentist?

FS: I think I used go to by myself.

TI: Any other memories or incidents or experiences of "Camp Harmony"?

FS: Well, no, not particularly. It just was not a pleasant time. I remember the mud in that place, the grounds were not graveled and everything, we got some rain, it was muddy and crazy. And the other thing was people talk about the lack of privacy between you, rooms, that was all pretty crazy. Even the walls that were built really were no more than a partition, per se. Bedding was terrible, food wasn't good at all in my view.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So let's go to Minidoka then. From Puyallup they transfer you, or move people from Puyallup, Washington, to Minidoka, Idaho. Tell me, what were your first impressions of Minidoka?

FS: [Laughs] I thought, gosh, what an awful place. You know, when we went there, it was, I think, in August. It was pretty hot, dusty. The barracks had been built, but the rooms, of course, were better than in "Camp Harmony" but not much better.

TI: At this point, what was the family unit? Were all your older siblings with the family, or had they started leaving? What was the family unit?

FS: There were eight of us, of course, and we were given the one room. But my sister, Bess, who was in nurse's training -- I don't know how this comes about, but they wanted her at the hospital to work over there, and they had sleeping accommodations over there. And it was at that time, I think it works out that my sister Betty volunteered to be a nurse's assistant, and she moved over to the hospital, too. So there were six of us, my mom and dad and four of us, in the room.

TI: Okay, so that gave you a little more room.

FS: A little more room, yeah.


TI: So let's pick it up, we're at Minidoka, and you had just gotten there. You talked about how two of your older sisters were working at the hospital, so they were living over there, so the six of you were living in your apartment. What were your first impressions of Minidoka now that you're there? You said it was little bit nicer than "Camp Harmony," but what other, like, first impressions did you have of Minidoka?

FS: Hot, windy, dusty. I could remember, you know, when the dust would kick up, and inside our units, it was terrible. There was dust all over. My mom used to clean it off, but no faster than she'd clean it off, it was dusty again. It was terrible. I remember the other thing that... you know, the mess hall, the dining room was, again, I was used to as a kid on the farm, eating with my family all the time. And that whole scene disappeared. And to me, even as a thirteen-year-old kid, I didn't like it, and I had a little trouble dealing with that for a while. But you overcome these things.

TI: And the thing you said you didn't like was not eating with your family? Or what didn't you like?

FS: Well, it was not being able to eat with my family, secondly, I didn't like this idea of going through the line to get your food and all that kind of stuff. And the food that was prepared was not prepared good in my view, not what I was used to with my mom's cooking. [Laughs] I distinctly remember that. The only thing that was good was the milk. That's terrible. No, that was not a very pleasant experience.

TI: If you could recall any of the fun times, the good memories of Minidoka. I know you were there for a while, and during that time, were there any memories that were good for you?

FS: Oh, yeah. I had some close friends there that we'd play cards, of course, a group of us would play baseball and football and sports and stuff like that. Those were kind of fun times. We'd go down to the canal and go fishing. And I used to like to fish from the time I was a kid, so I'd enjoy that. But generally... oh, and one of the things that I'll mention, two barracks over, the Hikida family. Did you know Ray Hikida?

TI: No, I don't remember them.

FS: Anyway, Julie... what the heck's her first name, now, or her last name? Anyway, the Hikida family that had the Hikida Furniture here in town, they were two barracks over. Ray's mother used to go to the canteen and pick up these rolls. And after we'd be playing out in the yard and this and that in the evening, she would warm up these rolls and put peanut butter and jam on it for us. I have fond memories of that. [Laughs] We really enjoyed that.

TI: Now, how would she warm it up in her barrack? Was there like a hotplate, or what did she have?

FS: You know. We had those potbelly stoves, and when she had that stove going, she would just warm 'em up right on top of the potbelly stove for us. And for a young kid at that time, it really tasted good.

TI: No, that sounded good. Eventually they started up the schools at Minidoka. How were the schools? You mentioned that you were a good student back in Sumner. How was your school experience at Minidoka?

FS: Best I could say is mixed. Number one, we didn't have good science, science courses. Things like math and English and stuff like that I found okay, and we had teachers that were pretty good. But school in general was not the best. I did okay. I didn't find it difficult, it was relatively easy. So I don't have any negative experiences about that at all. Some of my friends that went to the same schools thought the schools were terrible, I didn't find it that bad. The main thing that I thought was we just didn't have good science courses. And during my high school years, I never did get a good science background. And I think that's part of it, because I never was introduced to it well.

TI: What other activities did you participate in? So school, you talked about... yeah, so how did you spend your time when you weren't in school?

FS: A lot of times I'd play cards with friends, guys like George Mano, Katchi Aoyama, Kaz Nakamura. Come to think about it, except for George Mano, all these guys are gone. But we used to play cards, pinochle.

TI: Now, socially, you were a little young. Did you do the dances and things like that, were you old enough for that?

FS: I'd go to the dances, but I wasn't a big dance fan. I remember going to 'em and enjoying the music, the music was very good, the old Dorsey bands and all that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Now, do you recall, this would be 1943, when the government came out with the leave clearance, the "loyalty questionnaire." Do you remember that time period and families and individuals going through and answering that?

FS: You know, I don't have much recollection about that, except I know there was some ruckus going on in the camp about people answering those questions. And the issue of their loyalty, I remember, you know, when my brother Bob answered the draft, there were some people that not only verbally but physically threatened him. I remember that, which I thought, wow, why? And I distinctly remembered that, but I don't know too much about some of the other things. The only reason why I remember that was because of my brother Bob.

TI: And was he volunteering, or was he just responding to a draft order?

FS: Responding to a draft order. He was being drafted as an eighteen-year-old. And the interesting thing on that is, earlier than that when they opened up the services, my brother John volunteered. He was one of the original volunteers for the 442. And I don't remember any ruckus at all at that time.

TI: Yeah, because I would have expected more of a ruckus around that, where people were volunteering and perhaps maybe disagreeing with that. But if you were drafted, unless you chose to defy the government and resist the draft, you didn't have much choice.

FS: No, but apparently some people felt that they should defy the draft. You know, I don't know, I wasn't old enough to really understand everything that was going on then.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So let's talk about your siblings a little bit. So your oldest brother John volunteers, and joins the army. How much contact did the family have with him at that point? Was he sending letters back and forth? Did you ever see a letter from him or did you ever write a letter to him?

FS: No, not me personally. I know he communicated with my sisters, primarily Betty. But I never did receive a personal letter from him. I don't have a letter from either one of 'em that I could say, Tom, here's a letter I got from Bob or John when they were in the service.

TI: Now, did either return and visit the family while they were in camp, after they had left for the service?

FS: Yes. I remember both of them coming and visiting, but I don't remember too much details about it.

TI: Now, would they stay in the family apartment when they came, or they stay someplace else?

FS: You know, that I don't remember. I don't remember that.

TI: Yeah, because I know they had a USO and stuff like that, I wonder if they just had a place for soldiers. I don't know either, I'm just curious.

FS: I don't remember guys that came back on leave, any of the others staying in any particular place or anything. I just don't remember too much about that.

TI: And so you had that time period where men were either volunteering or later on the draft, going in. But then eventually, especially like in 1944, when the 442 was really active and fighting, talk about that time period. As the 442 starts engaging more in battle, and you started seeing casualties, how did that impact the families and people in camp?

FS: I don't know that I can answer that well, Tom. The only thing I know is my mother never said too much. My dad didn't say too much, but I knew my mother was very worried. How did I know that? Well, just things that she'd say, you knew that she was constantly worried about them being in the service. And kind of an interesting thing, you know, while they were overseas, my dad left camp on leave, and he was working for a turkey farmer in Wendell, Idaho, about a half hour, forty-five minutes away. And my mom would go out there to help him, and she lived in a trailer. And I'd even go out there to help my dad, but one of the key things I remember is my mother would take a huge turkey, butcher it, and she'd can it in a regular quart jar like this. And then she would have me take a regular paper bag, put that jar of turkey in the center, put rice, uncooked rice around it, pack it, and we'd send those care packages to Bob and John. And Bob used to always tell me that whenever he got that care package, all the guys really enjoyed it. They would cook rice in their helmets and enjoy the turkey that my mom had canned, actually. And that was, as he used to say, so much better than k-rations. [Laughs]

TI: Because they had rice.

FS: Yeah.

TI: And the rice was a dual function. Not only was it food, but it was probably packing material, too.

FS: Yeah, yeah. So it kept the jars intact, and I did that often.

TI: Oh, that's a good story. And how did you know that they cooked the rice in the helmets? Did Bob tell you that later on?

FS: I asked him. I said, Bob, how did you guys cook the rice? He says, "Oh, we used to just cook it right in the helmet, it's an open fire." I can't imagine how good the rice was, but I guess it was okay. He said the guys all enjoyed it.

TI: Yeah, that's a good story. You know, when you said your mom was worried, was she more worried about, say, Bob, who was in the infantry, 442, versus John? Did the family have a sense of the differences between MIS versus 442?

FS: You know, I never sensed any difference. My mom was worried, obviously, more about Bob, because she knew that he was in combat. And kind of an interesting story, you know, Bob had an injury on his arm that he got in combat, and I learned this later on, they wanted to give him a Purple Heart for it, he wouldn't accept it. He didn't want my mom to know that he'd been hurt. So there was a sensitivity both ways.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So let's talk just a little more detail about each. So John, you mentioned earlier, volunteered, and was first with the 442, and then in the 442 with the 522nd, the artillery unit, which makes total sense because of his math, physics background. He would be one of the guys who could figure out the mathematics of artillery, how to do that. Do you know how long he was with the 522? Was this just in training camp? You said he never went to Europe.

FS: Just in training camp. When he finished training, that's when they recruited him out of there and sent him to MIS, to Fort Snelling.

TI: Before MIS, I'm just curious if you ever heard or knew, I remember talking to some other people in the 522nd, and they talked about, because they had such great math wizards, they actually figured out algorithms and formulas that were better than the manuals. And so, at one point, they actually got in trouble because some of the officers said, "You guys aren't following procedures because you're firing too quickly. If you go through all these steps, it will take you a certain amount of time, and you guys are like half the time. So cut it out." Like, "What are you doing?" And they would then show them that, well, we went through the manuals, and we just did the math a lot better, so here's a faster way of doing this. Did John ever talk about that? I was just curious if he was ever involved with that.

FS: I know nothing about that.

TI: Okay, yeah. It was just a great story of how, because of that, the army started changing their manuals. Because these guys who generally were in college or college graduates, figured out better ways of the procedures of firing and targeting these cases.

FS: That doesn't surprise me, Tom, and I'll tell you why. I don't know how I learned this, but brother John was one of the top physics students at the UW, and there's one other Nisei that I've heard of, and you may know the name, Fumio Yagi. Fumio Yagi was the other guy that I understood was one of the top physicist candidates at the University of Washington. But those guys -- and I knew Fumio from camp days -- pretty strong intellectual guys. So it wouldn't surprise me to hear that, but I didn't hear anything about that. But, you know, my brother John was a very quiet man. He was the kind of guy that didn't say much, and even when I asked him stuff, he was the kind of guy that he'd give you kind of a short answer, you know. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, too bad. I wish I had a chance to interview him. But let's continue with his story. So from the 442 and the 522nd, he then is recruited to go to the MIS, and that's camp Snelling at that point?

FS: Yeah.

TI: Okay. And so he's there, and then you mentioned he then went to, was it Florida, you said?

FS: Yeah. He was with, in Orlando, Florida, for air force technical and tactical training, is my recollection, is what it was called.

TI: Did he go with a group? I've never heard of this sort of transfer, from the army MIS to the air force, so this was a little different.

FS: I think there was a small group of Nisei MIS guys. And I've mentioned to you I don't know this for a fact, but just thinking back, I think the air force was already thinking about the bombing situation.

TI: Now, was their role still as linguists, or what was their role?

FS: He was in MIS. So when he finished that training in Orlando, Florida, he went directly from there to Hickam, and he was stationed in Hickam until he went from there to Guam. Now, did I tell you how I found out about all this?

TI: No, tell me.

FS: You know, when I was DOD, and my job at that time was the head audit guy for the Department of Defense. My boss, Fred Wacker, who was the controller of the DOD said to me one day, "I got to go to Korea, would you line this trip up for me?" And I said, "Sure." And the reason why he asked me was I had staff in Korea and in Japan and Vietnam. So I arranged this trip, and to make a long story short, we went from Washington, D.C. to Korea, we were there a week, a week in Japan, and then Guam, and back to Hickam. And typically what would happen is when I'd go on a trip like that, I'd generally come back through Hawaii and I would see my brother John there sometime before I'd come back to Washington. So this particular times, since I was with my boss, we were staying in VIP quarters at Hickam. And I called John and Ruth, I said, "Hey, come have dinner with me." And we were at the Hickam Air Force Base Officer's Club having dinner, and John says to me, "Okay, Frank, where were you guys this time?" So I told him. And when I got to Guam, I said, "You know, we were at Guam in this place, and there was all these nice hotels the Japanese had put up. And right north of there is a small navy listening station, and we helicoptered right over." And he almost jumped out of his chair and he said, "Frank, that's where I was during the war." I said, "What?" He says, "Yep, that's where I was." It was a navy intelligence listening station that he was at. And they were monitoring broadcasts from Japan and so forth. From there he went to Guam, from Guam to Tinian. And he told me he went from Tinian, then on to the USS Missouri for the signing of the peace accords. And none of us in the family, not even his own family, knew anything about this. But the thing is, they were restricted in disclosing any intelligence data. And my brother John is one of these guys that if you told him this is what you do, you wouldn't see him violating that. So it's only by chance that I found out about that. And that's how I found out about him going into Nagasaki and Hiroshima also, from that same conversation. Otherwise, I'd have known nothing about it.

TI: Now, what was it, did you ever find out why he was one of the four Niseis who were on the USS Missouri? I mean, that seemed like a very high honor.

FS: You know, I don't know. He never did say, and I wanted to find out. And I talked to this lady that I met from the Japanese American National Museum, and when she told me that this other guy, that's when she confirmed that there were four of 'em. I even looked online to see whether I could spot him on board ship. But my guess is he was underneath, below deck, monitoring all the radio transmissions and so forth at that time to make sure that everything was safe. Because that was part of his job.

TI: Interesting, okay.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So we have a little bit about your oldest brother, let's talk about your other brother, Bob, and then we'll talk about your sister. So Bob was drafted, trained to fight with the 442 and then was sent to Europe?

FS: Yes.

TI: As he, at that point, was he a then replacement troop?

FS: Yes, replacement, Company C.

TI: And so about where did he join the 442? Do you know where the 442 was?

FS: You know, that I don't know specifically. 1981, when I retired from the Reagan administration, Bob calls me up and he said, "Frank, we're going to Europe. Can you and June join us?" What it was was the Blaine church was having a group going to the Passion Play in Munich, and he wanted us to join him. So I had just joined Deloitte & Touche and I couldn't take off the full time, but I joined them for three weeks. And we traveled and retraced his steps in Europe. But I don't know exactly where he joined the group.

TI: And did Bob participate in things like the Rescue of the Lost Battalion or the breaking of the Gothic Line? Was he with the 442 during that time period?

FS: You know, he must have been. And I say must have been, although I don't know for sure. And I say this because as part of our trip we were at Carrara, and we got a driver to take us up there. And while we were visiting the area, Bob showed me where they had gone up the steep hill, and he told me that those cables... have you ever been over there?

TI: No, I haven't.

FS: In Carrara you will see all these cables that go from the side of the mountain to the other side. And when we were there, the cables were still there from their mining operation. And Bob told me that when they were there, they went up those hills with full body packs, and that's what, you remember when Eric Saul was here and he talks about climbing the mountainside? Bob told me that the natives actually helped him go up there. And so that's part of the Rescue of the Lost Battalion, is it not?

TI: No, that's the breaking of the Gothic Line.

FS: Gothic Line, that's it.

TI: Where they totally surprised the Germans by, essentially, climbing up this mountainside.

FS: Mt. Folgorito or whatever it is.

TI: That they would be incredibly vulnerable if the Germans knew they were doing that, they were incredibly vulnerable to being wiped out. But they totally snuck up on them.

FS: But Bob pointed out where they were on there, so it must have been, yeah, that Folgorito. I didn't know which battle that was, but yeah, you're right.

TI: Okay, that's good.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: And so Bob served with the 442 in combat, and let's go to your sister. It's unusual to hear about women serving in the military, but your oldest sister, you mentioned, was, I guess in the nursing corps?

FS: Yeah. She went from camp to Colorado Springs. And in camp, she was a nurse's aide, and from that she decided she wanted to go into nursing. She applied for nursing school there, finished school there, and someplace along the line, they were recruiting nurses for the services. So she joined, she never did go on active duty, but she went on various reserve duty things, so that was the extent of her service. But she did hold the rank of an army captain in the (army) reserves nurse corps.

TI: And did very many other Niseis do this? Again, I don't know of very many.

FS: I don't know. I know that, did you know the name Margaret Baba (Yasuda)?

TI: No, that doesn't ring a bell.

FS: Margaret and Betty trained together at nurse's school, but Betty took the commission from the army, I don't know that Margaret did. So the answer, I guess, is no, I don't know.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So coming back to you, there was one story you told me a while back that I want to ask you about, and it has to do with my uncle Chuck. Because you were, the Kinoshita family was also, my mom's side was also Kagoshima, and you mentioned you were Kagoshima. And so one of your friends growing up was Uncle Chuck, Chuck Kinoshita. And Chuck's oldest brother, older brother, was also with the 442, was actually in the 100th, and was killed in action in Italy. The story you told me was I think you were with Chuck or heard about Chuck when he heard about his brother's death. Can you share that story?

FS: Yes. In fact, you know, I was on leave from Minidoka with Chuck and five other young guys, working on a farm in Idaho. And this particular day, the farmer came over and delivered the message that Bako had been killed in action. You know, I will never, ever forget that day. [Pauses] Pardon me. Anyway, I looked around, next thing I know, Chuck was gone. So I went to find him, and he was in the outhouse crying. And I sat there and cried. Tom, I'll never forget that day. So anyway, I told you that that experience kind of drove me in my career in Washington, D.C. and at VA when I was inspector general for the VA. As you go in the main VA building, if you're ever in Washington, in the main building there's a stone monument carved right next to the main entrance, and there's a quote from President Lincoln, which is a charge to everyone in the VA, "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his (orphan)." I would enter that building many a time, and I'd stop and say thanks to Bako, and say a prayer. But I'll tell you, that just drove me in things that I did in my life. And I think we owe thanks to people like Bako, and all those guys that gave their life. You know, that day on the farm, when I found Chuck crying in that stinky outhouse, it just struck me in such a way that every time I came across a tough decision, I'd think about that. Everything else was inconsequential. But I'll never forget that day. And I have to tell you honestly, as I've worked in JACL for redress, I thought about that thing many a time. That's what kind of drove me to things that I've wanted to do.

TI: Thank you so much for telling this. My uncle Chuck and my mom still don't talk about it, because I know it was really, really hard.

FS: Well, as you know, it's very hard for me to talk about that, too. And every time I talk about this, I go through the same thing, and I shouldn't. But you know I feel very strongly about it, and if I've done anything during my career, it was thanks to that man. I think he inspired me to do things that might not have happened otherwise. There's a lot of things that I've experienced in my lifetime. But you know, I've thought about that particular day on the farm so many times, it's even amazing to me that as a young fifteen year old kid, the profound effect it's had on my life and my service also. And I think it's just something I had to do.

TI: Thank you so much for that story. At this point I think we're going to end part one, this is probably a good place to break.

FS: Okay.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2017 Densho. All Rights Reserved.