Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ben Takeshita Interview
Narrator: Ben Takeshita
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 11, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-467

<Begin Segment 1>

VY: Okay. Today is Monday, March 11, 2019, and we are here in Emeryville, California, with Ben Takeshita. Dana Hoshide is our videographer, and my name is Virginia Yamada. So, Ben, thank you for joining us for this interview today.

BT: Thank you very much for having me.

VY: Let's get started with you telling us where you were born and when you were born, and the name that was given to you at birth.

BT: Okay. I was born on August 2, 1930. My name was Ben Takeshita. "Ben" is, the character used for that means to "study hard." My parents wanted me to study hard. It didn't work, but that was a character that was used to make my name. And it's a Japanese name, not Benjamin, it's a Japanese name, Ben.

VY: I see, that's interesting. How many siblings do you have?

BT: Actually, there were nine altogether, but my understanding is that the second son died in infancy, so I have no idea who he was or what it was, but that's my understanding. So I ended up with two older brothers, two older sisters, myself, two younger brothers, and one younger sister, so eight all together, plus my parents, father and mother. So we had a family of ten when the war started, World War II.

VY: So what's the age range? Like what's the first year, what year was the youngest person born and what year was the oldest person born?

BT: That gets pretty technical. [Laughs] I have a hard time to remember my birthday. But the youngest one was, I think, born about 1936 or so, before the war started. And my oldest brother was born in 1921, '22 or something like that, because he was twenty-two, and I didn't figure this out, but he was twenty-two in 1943, so about that age, anyway.

VY: Do any of them still live in the Bay Area?

BT: Actually, out of the eight siblings that I had, there are only three of us left. My older sister, not the oldest, but the older sister lives in San Mateo, and then my younger sister lives in Foster City near San Mateo, and then myself, only three remaining out of eight that were living during World War II.

VY: Well, what about your parents? What were their names and when and where were they born?

BT: Okay. My father's name was Manzo and my mother's name was Hatsumi, but they were both born in the southern part of Japan in Kyushu, the island of Kyushu, and the prefecture of Fukuoka. And so my father came to the United States probably in the early 1900s, and then my mother came to get married to my husband -- to my father, because my grandfather, who was on my mother's side, he had come to the United States about 1890 or somewhere in there, working as a farmer. And he met my father and felt that my mother might be a good match for him, who was the daughter of him, so that's why he called my mother over, and she got here about 1914, somewhere in there, and they got married soon thereafter as farmers in the San Leandro area of East Bay.

VY: I see, so they hadn't actually met before they got married?

BT: No. They were from the same prefecture and same area in the farm country, but they didn't know each other before.

VY: Do you know how old they were when they got married?

BT: How old? [Shakes head]

VY: That's okay. So what kind of work then, did your father do?

BT: So at the beginning, then, when he came, he was working as a farmer. But all our kids, siblings and so on were born either in San Leandro or Alameda, somewhere in there. And in 1934, my grandfather had moved to San Mateo to start a landscape gardening business, and so he wanted to go back to Japan in 1934. So he asked my father to take over his gardening business in San Mateo, so all of us left Alameda and moved to San Mateo to take over my grandfather's landscape business. So that's why we moved to San Mateo.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

VY: Were there other Japanese, Japanese American families in that area?

BT: Oh, yes, quite a few. In fact, they had a Buddhist church there.

VY: What kind of businesses, the Japanese-owned businesses do you remember in San Mateo?

BT: Well, I remember the grocery store, Takahashi grocery store that they had. But most of them, that was about the only one cleaner, there was one cleaner, I think. There were, in fact, two cleaners in San Mateo, the Sunrise and Blue. But those were about the only kinds of businesses, and the rest were either landscape gardeners, that kind of independent contractors.

VY: So what are some of your first childhood memories, then, of growing up in San Mateo?

BT: Well, we had to walk to school. So we just walked from where we lived, and walked to Lawrence School, which was a pretty far walk. But we used to do that without any problems. My mother made lunchbags for us, so that's what we took. So it wasn't... nothing that I remember that was frightening or whatever, we just walked. And then when we got to Lawrence School, then many of us Japanese Americans, we played handball, so we would play handball. Then, later on, before the war, some of the girls who were raised in Japan and had an education, they came back to the United States, and they knew a lot of the games that they used to play on dirt. So we used to do a lot of that kind of, we'd meet on the, what they call Steal the Treasure, which were rocks, and you'd have to go around this area and get inside and get that rock and bring it back to your side. And then if you got tagged, then you're out, so you try not to get tagged, that kind of a game that we used to play. But it was fun, but it was primarily playing amongst ourselves, Japanese Americans, and not with the other Caucasians or other schoolmates. In class, we were naturally together and so on, but recess-time and so on, we normally stuck together amongst us Japanese Americans.

VY: So what was your relationship like with your parents?

BT: My father didn't say too much, but I think I was a bad boy, or had very bad backtalk and that kind of thing, because I remember being tied up and put down in the basement for a while. [Laughs]

VY: From your father?

BT: Yeah, my father and them, so my mother, later on, would feel sorry for me and come and untie my... but he didn't hit us, but I remember being stuck in the basement several times. So I must have been a pretty bad boy. [Laughs]

VY: Did that happen to your other siblings also, or was it just you?

BT: I think my younger brother, he's deceased now, but I think he and I were the ones that were bad. Now, I'm talking about the time when, from 1934, after we moved to San Mateo, my mother took us, six of us, my two older brothers, two older sisters, myself and my younger brother, my mother took all six of us to Japan. Because in those days, it was the custom to send their sons and daughters to Japan to get a Japanese education, not so much because the education was better, but to learn Japanese language so that... because there was a lot of discrimination in those days, job discrimination. So many of them would do that, families would do that, send their sons and daughters to Japan to learn Japanese language. And then hoping that when they came back or became adults, that they would get a job with a Japanese company who were, at that time, in the 1930s, they were beginning to form in Hawaii and in the mainland U.S. So that was the reason that they were going to Japan to get that Japanese language education.

VY: So all six of you went?

BT: Yeah, all six of us went, but my two older brothers were the ones that stayed. My oldest sister was also supposed to stay, but she protested so much. And the reason for her was that for a Japanese, she was slim and tall, taller than most (girls), so she was being harassed a lot by her schoolmates and so on, so she didn't like it, so she cried and didn't want to stay in Japan. So my mother felt sorry, and so when we came back after six months of being in Japan, we left our two older brothers and then the rest of us, we returned to San Mateo after six months in Japan.

VY: I see. So you're probably around six or seven at that time?

BT: Yeah, I was four when I left, but I remember a few things about what happened. In fact, I remember my grandfather taking us to see a circus, but he put me on the backside of a bicycle and we drove there and had to go up, climb up to a higher (seating area) by climbing up a ladder. I remember I was very scared to go up by ladder to the area where we could see the performance. And I remember my grandfather helping us doing things and so on, so I remember a little bit of that. And then coming back on the ship, I remember watching this play on the ship. It was a skit where someone gets behind another person and puts his hand out and then has some noodles and with chopsticks, tries to serve the noodles, but he misses so he's pushing the noodle all over the face, and so on. So I remember that part, because later on in my life, I remembered that part and made my own skit and did a lot of that skit, too, in San Mateo when we had these different opportunities. But yeah, so I remember some things like that, even when I was four. Must have been something different.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

VY: Okay, so that means you probably spoke Japanese pretty well when you were a kid?

BT: Well, the custom was, also, from grammar school we would go to Japanese language school. So school ended about three p.m., so then after that we'd go to the Japanese language school and spend a couple of hours there and trying to learn Japanese and how to write the Japanese alphabet, phonetic alphabet. So the characters, kanji, so to speak. So we were doing that kind of thin, but it didn't, we were more, not paying too much attention. So as far as I was concerned, it really didn't help us. When we had to talk to our parents, we had to use Japanese, because they didn't understand English, so we had to do that, but we made a go of it, I guess, we communicated. But it wasn't a fluent Japanese that you would speak in a business forum or whatever, it was just enough to talk to their parents and so on, that's about it.

VY: Okay, so your parents spoke primarily Japanese?

BT: Yes.

VY: Did they speak more English later on?

BT: My father, naturally, he was, as a landscape gardener, he had to speak some language, and in fact, he worked as a gardener during the day, and then nighttime he would go wash dishes and so on and do that kind of work. Because he was the only one that was earning any kind of an income, because my two older brothers were in Japan during that period before World War II. So he was the only one. My mother had high blood pressure, so she didn't work, so he was taking care of us anyway, but she was busy doing that. So my father, I remember, would go to work at night after doing his daytime gardening work, and then we would wait for him to come back, because many times he would bring home cakes or desserts that he had at the, when he washed dishes and so on, and they gave him things to bring home. So we used to wait for my father to come home and have the goodies that he would bring home. Not every time, but then when he did bring it home... and my father was, in a way, a joyful kind of a guy. I remember him, as I said, sometimes I guess I acted, did backtalk or something, because I did something bad to where I was tied up in the basement. But not too many times, but most of the time was a happy kind of an atmosphere, as I remember.

VY: Did he say anything to you when he would put you in the basement like that, or did he just kind of do it?

BT: He just did it. I don't remember what I did to cause that to happen, but I do remember being put in the basement. And as I said, my mother would feel sorry for us, would come in. And my younger brother and I were the ones, and, as I said, my two older brothers were in Japan, so they weren't involved in that. I don't know what I did, but I must have been bad. [Laughs]

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

VY: Well, okay, let's talk about your brothers. What was their experience like, the two that stayed in Japan?

BT: I don't remember any of them in Alameda or when we were in San Mateo from 1934, except that we went to Japan together, and then they left. The only thing I remember was that my mother would make packages to send to them every month, so we were envious of them getting these nice packages of whatever was in there every month, whereas we didn't get any packages and we had to help out, had to help our mother, and we'd pull a wagon every Saturday, go shopping, and go grocery shopping and so on, so I used to do that, because my brother, younger brother would take this wagon and pull it along and help my mother do the shopping. So that was our chore, and so I remember being envious of my two brothers in Japan getting all these packages every month. That was our life.

VY: Do you know anything about any experiences that they had while they were in Japan before the war?

BT: Japan was at war with China at that time, so the Japanese government dictator was Tojo, which was like, just as bad as Hitler was in Europe, Germany. But he wanted any young people to join the Japanese army, so I found out later that my brothers and all those who were American citizens that were in Japan learning Japanese, they were harassed, or forced to join the Japanese army. But my brothers fought hard, as many of the Japanese Americans did, in refusing to join the Japanese army because they were American citizens. And fortunately, the Japanese government accepted this and didn't put them in jail. Because that's a pretty bad thing to do with the Japanese government, is to refuse to join the Japanese army, when supposedly you're supposed to, since you're there, you're supposed to be patriotic to Japan, but no, they didn't. And I do remember, know of one family whose father had succumbed to this kind of pressure and did join the Japanese army. And he was fortunate to come back alive, because when he was, finally joined, the war ended soon thereafter, so he didn't have to go to war. But I know my second oldest brother, when he came back in 1939, came back to the United States and San Mateo, I remember he was talking about the Japanese navy quite a bit. And later on I found out that my oldest brother really had to talk my second oldest brother from joining the Japanese army or navy at that time, because that was the kamikaze pilots and so on, the navy, Japanese navy. So thank goodness my brother talked him out of it, but he was, I remember him talking about the Japanese navy quite often, it was after he got back, so thank goodness my brother talked him out of it and brought him back to the United States. But my second oldest brother... my oldest brother remembered his English from, because he was old enough, but my second oldest brother, he forgot all his English. So when he got back, then he only spoke Japanese and forgot all his English, so he had to go to my younger brother's grammar school class, and then later on he came into my class and so on to relearn English. So for a long time, he spent time with learning English as his way of making a living, trying to get back that English ability.

Eventually, this goes into World War II and so on, but he studied most of the time in the camps that we were in, and in Tule Lake, when the war ended and we went back to San Mateo in 1945 after the war ended, he stayed behind in camp, in Tule Lake, and graduated from the high school that he was in. And then he graduated from there and came out after December of 1945, after he graduated, and then he went on to Park College in Kansas City, went to college there and then to UCLA, and also ended up in Michigan University to get his master's and doctor's degree and so on. Eventually, he became a sociology professor at Michigan University and spent his time there, and retired from the University of Michigan. So he became a very scholastic person in our family.

VY: That's so interesting, because he was really interested, as you said, in the Japanese army, and it sounds like when he first came.

BT: Navy.

VY: Navy, excuse me, navy. But then when he finally came back and learned English and became more... I don't know, it seems like he kind of changed a little bit?

BT: Yes, he did. His name was Yuzuru, and my mother, she had the oldest brother and then the one that passed away, so two brothers. And then my second oldest brother was the third one, the third male, so in order to change it to get girls in the family, he named him Yuzuru, and Yuzuru, means "to yield" in English, means to yield to another sex. And by golly, it worked, because then we had the two sisters, older sisters, and then myself and our younger brother. And then my younger sister, and then my younger brother. So our family ended up being paired, two older brothers, two older sisters, my brother and I, and then the last ones were the younger sister and younger brother, so it was paired together, and that's the way we lived when we were growing up. My younger brother and I, we used to go everywhere together. In fact, before he passed away, he did thank me for taking him all over. So that was... it was kind of a fun kind of childhood, I would say, no problems or anything.

VY: So how long did you live in San Mateo?

BT: Well, we lived in San Mateo until the war started and then Executive Order 9066 was passed on February the 19th. And on May the 19th, we had to leave our home and go to Tanforan in San Bruno, California, to start our experience in these camps, so to speak. So, actually, after the war ended, we went back to San Mateo and then I grew up going to San Mateo College and also, from there, we moved to Berkeley and went to UC Berkeley that way. And then when I came to Berkeley, then I started to live in the East Bay, went to Oakland and then now in Richmond. So until 1956 or something like that, I was living in San Mateo.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

VY: Okay, so on December 7, 1941, do you remember that day? Do you remember what your parents were doing and do you remember what you were doing?

BT: On what day?

VY: How they prepared for -- the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor?

BT: Oh, December (7th)? My two (older) brothers were, they had gone, it was a Sunday, and they had gone to see a basketball game in Berkeley. And on the way back, on the radio, they heard about the bombing, so when they got back they told us about it. But reflecting back, I think my parents and my older brothers and so on kept the worrying part from us kids, because I don't remember... I remember a lot of things, but I don't remember any of them talking about what's going to happen to us, or anything, or worried. In fact, in San Mateo, many times we would meet for dinner, and we used to sit around this table all together and talk about what happened during the day and so on. But I don't recall any worries that they had of what's going to happen to us or anything like that. So they must have protected us as kids from that kind of worry. I realize it now, too late to thank them.

VY: So where were you sent to when you had to go? What camp were you sent to?

BT: Okay. So when the time came, that was May the 19th as I recall, was the day when we had to leave our house. At that time, we were told that we could only take what we can carry, so I remember my mother telling us to wear as many sweaters, jackets, as possible. And also, I remember my mother, she didn't want to leave the sugar, because sugar was precious, so she made, not peanut brittle because peanuts were expensive, but just sugar brittle. She cooked the sugar and made it into, like, a candy form, and I remember having a lot of those brittles. Because we didn't know what our food situation might be, and she felt that if she made these sugar brittles, that if we got hungry, that we could at least nibble on the sugar and get some energy. So I remember we were getting that and then she also made, those of us who could carry the bag which contained, she had some cloth bags and canvas bags made for us to carry, and it included pillows and blankets and sheets and so on that we were told we had to carry, so I remember carrying that with us as we walked from our home to a meeting place where we boarded buses to go to Tanforan in San Bruno. And the thing I recall is walking by the sidewalk to get to this meeting place. I remember passing by some of my schoolmates' (homes), and I remember seeing them opening their curtains and looking as we passed by. And at that time, I remember thinking, gee, how come they don't come out and at least wish us well? But then, many years later, I realized that they were Germans and Italians, school friends, and they didn't really know what was going to happen to them after us. So I have a feeling that they just didn't want to be identified as being too friendly with the so-called "enemy aliens," because that's what we were called, "enemy aliens." And therefore I forgave them many years later, after I realized that that's probably why they didn't come out to wish us well. And so when we got to the meeting place and boarded our buses, I remember seeing many Caucasian people helping us assign to the buses and also giving us refreshments. And many years later, I (learned) that these were Quakers that were volunteering to help us during this period. And so I mention this to, whenever I get a chance to, to thank the Quakers. Because I'm sure that after we left, they were harassed and talk bad about. I didn't hear anything about it, but I'm assuming that they weren't treated very nicely because they helped us be as comfortable as possible in the circumstances. So we do, the Japanese community does thank them for taking care of us during a trying time.

So we boarded the buses and it took about an hour, I guess, from San Mateo to San Bruno, and when we got off, we were told to go to the grandstand where the racetrack, grandstand, and then there we were told what was going to be happening to us. And because our family was ten by then, we were fortunate in getting barracks, two rooms in the barrack. A barrack consisted of two smaller rooms on the outside, and three larger rooms on the inside. And so we got two of the bigger rooms of a barrack, and the barracks were located inside the racetrack. So we were fortunate and able to find and stay in the barracks. The rooms, however, were just nothing but one lightbulb, and we had extension cords we had to use, and they put ropes, and hang partition-like things over to provide some form of privacy. There was no running water in the barracks, the walls were made out of thin plywood, and there were no ceilings. So we found out that if we talk too loud, we can hear people on the ends of the barracks talking, so we tried to talk in whispers if we did talk, and just try not to say too many things that could be heard. And they had what they called the latrines or toilets, and shower rooms and (laundry) room, separately, were strategically located, and so we had to go to those facilities to take care of our functions, and also to the mess halls. So even at nighttime we would have to do that.

And the government used to tell the (public), I found out later that they were doing, putting us into camp to protect us. Well, if that was the case, then the barbed wire fences that were around the racetracks and so on would have the barbed wire facing outward to keep people from coming in, but it was facing inwards to keep us in these centers, we called them assembly centers. Then the searchlights at nighttime were pointing inwards and not outwards to keep people from coming in, but keeping us inside, making sure we weren't doing anything wrong. And the guard towers are located around the camp, would have armed guards and military police with rifles or submachine guns, and facing inwards to keep us in. So we found out very quickly that this was not for our protection, it was certainly to just keep us in.

And so we adjusted, and we're not fools, so we just realized that, hey, we don't know how long we're going to be in this situation, but we have to make the best of it, and that's what we did. We just do the best we can for us kids, we're teenagers, there were no schools, so then we developed new friends. And so we would go to breakfast and come out and go play, and then lunchtime we'd go eat together and then go out and play and then go home. Then nighttime have dinner and then go back to the barracks and sleep, and rest up for the next day. So that was the kind of life that we started to feel.

My sisters, however, had it pretty rough because there was no partition between the toilets or the showers, and so one day when we were at home, we had all the privacy provided, but the next day, then we come to this situation where there's nothing private. Privacy is nothing, it's just wide open. And so my sisters especially, ladies and girls just couldn't get used to having this openness. And a lot of the men and boys got used to it pretty quickly, but I remember my sisters were pretty upset and not wanting to do it.

Also, I think, looking back, that it was a breakup of the family because we would go to lunch and dinner and breakfast with our friends, and my mother would, she wasn't that sociable, so she would get the, pick up the meal at the mess hall and then go back to the barrack and eat it by herself and so on. Because my father was working at one of the mess halls trying to earn sixteen dollars a month to pay for cigarettes or whatever needs that would occur, because that was the only income that was available. So that was the kind of life that we started to try to get used to when we got into Tanforan. Sometimes they would show movies and so on, but primarily it was, for us, as I said, it was just paradise because no school. But basically our freedom was certainly not there, and we have to make the best of it under the circumstances.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BT: Then come September of 1942, we were told that we would be moving to Topaz, Utah, which is far away. We never went outside of California, so it was hard to know where it is, but we had to board trains. And I remember when we got on the train, this was exciting because we never rode on trains. So I noticed that when we got on the train there was one military police assigned to each car, and all the shades were drawn so that we couldn't look out. And so I knew that the train that we were going to be on would be going to Utah would go past San Mateo and onwards to Utah. So I was bold enough to go to the MP and say, ask him if I could open up the shade when we passed San Mateo so that I could say goodbye to my hometown. And I remember he said, "No." And then I remember he was looking at me very carefully when the train started to move to make sure that I didn't open the shade and peek. So... but I fooled him because I knew that when we passed the railroad crossings, the rails would come down, ding, ding, ding, and then go up when we passed, but it would come down, ding, ding, ding. So I would count those ding, ding, dings from San Bruno to Millbrae to Broadway, Burlingame to Burlingame, and then San Mateo had about three of these railroad crossings. So I figured that we must be passing San Mateo, so I gave my own private farewell to San Mateo, not knowing when or if we would ever come back, because naturally this was part of the war effort and we didn't know what was going to happen anyway. So I remember that vividly, that even talking about it sometimes I feel something inside. Because it was a sad part of our journey, because we were leaving our hometown and leaving California, that we were used to, and then not being able to come back or whenever we're going to come back. So it was a funny, eerie feeling that I remember passing by San Mateo.

The next day, on the train ride from there on was no trouble. We went to the dining room and so on, and had our meals and so on. But then the next morning, this same MP said, "Okay, you can open the shades." So we opened the shades, and then all of a sudden there was nothing there. I guess we were either in the eastern part of Nevada where it was a desert, or into Salt Lake, Utah, where again, that was desert. So there was nothing to see, no buildings or anything, so it was really disappointing as far as I was concerned. And then by mid-afternoon, then we ended up stopped at the central part of Utah where the city of Delta was located. And to this day, Delta is still existing, and in fact, it's a very friendly town now. But in those days, we just got off the train and boarded the trucks, and from there, we were taken on to the central part of Utah to a place called Topaz, Utah. And naturally, no one lived there before we did, and thousands of years ago, when the earth was forming, that whole area was covered with water, almost like an ocean in itself. So the soil was like fine sand, fine just like cement, and so if you got off and stepped on it, it would just puff up. And we found out later that there was a lot of windstorms, so I remember wearing handkerchiefs around our mouth and nose so that we won't breathe that fine sand. So that was the new experience that we had to get used to. The barracks that we got again because of our family, we got two rooms so that was okay. But they had sheet rocks instead of thin plywood, and then they would eventually put the ceiling on top so we were able to, the privacy factor was a lot better than Tanforan.

In fact, in Tanforan, as I said, when we first found the room, we were given canvas bags and told to go to a certain place to get, to stuff those canvas bags with hay and then take it back to our rooms, and that was the mattress. I wonder, to this day, if I started to know about hay fever, because ever since then, I've had running nose, and it was miserable. But we also found out that those canvas bags that they have us were actually body bags, and they were bags that were used to put dead bodies in, and they gave it to us to use to stuff the mattress with hay so that they could be our, be our mattresses to sleep on. So I remember that part from Tanforan. But in Topaz, we had regular mattresses and so on, so it was a little better there.

And Topaz was, had forty-two blocks, and a block consisted of about maybe twelve... it was made into wards, as I said, not blocks. They had blocks with barracks, about twelve barracks on one side and twelve barracks on the other side, and the mess hall and showers and so on were inside, in between, right inside the middle part. So it was a little more, made better, used better, we didn't have to walk as far. And there were forty-two of these blocks, and we were in Block 37, so it was 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 at one end of the barracks. Started out with Block 1, Block 2 and so on, which was closer to the hospitals and so on, that kind of thing. So anyway, we started to get used to this new life in Topaz, Utah. But bad for us was that school started almost right away. So most of my life was spent in Topaz going to school like anybody else. There were times on the weekends when they would, blocks would begin to form baseball teams and so on, and they would play against each other and so we would watch baseball games.

And when we left home, we couldn't take any toys, but I remember having my bag of marbles that I had, so I was able to, we were playing marbles, or some of the other games were like Stick, where you put the stick down, sticking into, make the point sharp and stick it into the ground and have someone else try to knock it down and so on, that kind of game that we would make up and play. And then they started making little things that we could climb up on and do that kind of thing to spend our leisure time, so to speak. And then they had movies that they showed at some of their barracks, and so we would watch those. And so that was the kind of life that you start to get used to. Again, the weather was, we experienced our first snow there because in San Mateo we have no snow. So that was part of a new experience for us to experience the snow. But most of the time was done going to school. But I also remember that we had talent shows and different kinds of shows at the mess halls, and as part of the entertainment for a lot of the older people and so on, and in our block there was this person that was bilingual, and he wanted, he got me and another guy involved in a performance where I was the general, butaicho, called him Onitsuka Butaicho, he was evidently a famous general of the Russo-Japanese War way back in the early 1900s. And so the narrator will say something, and to explain what I was doing, I would then talk and say something, all in Japanese. We didn't have no idea what we were saying, but they would teach us how to say it, and ups and downs and how to say it. And so we would perform and go to the mess halls and different mess halls and perform. And I used to make, I noticed that some of the people who understood what we were saying were dropping tears, so I guess we were doing pretty good. [Laughs] And even to this day, for example, "Shokan wa, shogun no gunji shokan toshite. Shogun no kyoku ni atatte mairimashita." I have no idea what I'm saying, but we memorized it, and I still, to this day, could say it without even thinking about it. But that was the, kind of life that we had in Topaz. So we did that and did other kinds of entertainments, got involved in it. But that was more to kill time and try to make the best of the living in this kind of situation.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

Then comes September of 1944... no, I'm sorry. In January of 1943, almost one year after we were incarcerated, the government, the federal government decided that they wanted to find out how many people in these camps -- and there were ten camps at that time, located two in California, one east of Los Angeles, and one in Tule Lake, which was about 50 miles south of Klamath Falls, Oregon. And so there were two here and then there was one in New Mexico, and one in Colorado, Arkansas, and so on, and the Midwestern states. And so there were ten of these camps, and there were a hundred and twenty thousand plus people who were incarcerated based on Executive Order 9066, which was passed by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942.

And so the government wanted to find out if, how many people would be willing to serve in the U.S. Army. We knew that it had to be the army because they won't let Japanese Americans serve in the navy, and I don't think they had an air force at that time, but it was the U.S. Army that they wanted to see if they would be willing to serve in it. So they devised the "loyalty questionnaire" to find out, and that was the intent. So all those who were seventeen years and over, men and women, had to answer these questions. I understand there were about fifty questions altogether, but there were two questions that really covered the "loyalty" part that raised quite a dilemma for many people who had to answer these questions. So I'd like to read the two questions, question number 27 and 28 became the famous questions to check their loyalty. And it was very loaded questions, and question number 27 said, "Are you willing to serve in armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered?" Now, if you were a young mother with kids, how could they, if they were responsible parents, how could they answer this "yes and serve on combat duty wherever ordered"? And also a father who had young kids yet, and was responsible for the family, how would he be willing to, or be able to answer this "on combat duty wherever ordered"? Now, it's true, later on, they did change the one for the women to say "in the nurse's corps" or "women's corps" or something to that effect, but still, it meant going away from their family in doing that kind of work. And so there was a lot of rumors about how to answer this question, and I remember rumors that this was one way that the United States was going to try to get rid of us by sending us all to combat duty. So there was a lot of questions as to how to answer that question.

Question number 28, "would you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attacks by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor or any other foreign government, power, or organization." Many people who lived in the United States were born in the United States, had no idea who the Japanese emperor was. Of course, our parents knew because they were born in Japan and immigrated legally to the United States. But so if you answer this "yes," then that means that at one time you had sworn allegiance to the Japanese emperor, and now you're swearing allegiance to the United States. And besides, our parents were Japanese citizens, born in Japan, they were forbidden by American alien land law in 1924 where they could not become American citizens even though they wanted to, and they could not own property. So it again became a dilemma, because like my parents, if they answered it "yes," then they would be a person without a country. Because in those days, the Japanese emperor was the leader of Japan at that time. So there was a lot of questions that happened, were occurring.

Now, remember I said that my two brothers and a lot of those who got educations in Japan were being harassed by the Japanese government to become Japanese, to join the Japanese army or navy, Japanese military. But they refused because they were American citizens, so my brother at that time, my oldest brother, was twenty-two, so he was very irritated because he fought so hard in Japan to prove his American citizenship, and then came back in 1939, and in 1942, with Executive Order 9066 that President Roosevelt signed, it had no difference as to whether you are an American citizen or not, and it just meant everyone, regardless of citizenship would be put into these so-called camps. So my brother was very irritated by this because, after all, we were citizens, and we shouldn't be put into jail, In fact, we shouldn't have been asked to file a "loyalty questionnaire" when we were put into jail regardless. And so he, in Topaz, he went around the mess halls and talked to the people trying to answer these two questions in the negative, "no-no," or don't answer them at all as a form of protest for what the U.S. government did to us U.S. citizens. So he went around to all the mess halls and so on, and I remember going to a lot of, during that period, and in fact, later on I realized that the FBI got a hold of him and evidently had to find out why he was doing, taking part in this kind of an activity. But with all this controversy, then, there were a lot of mess hall meetings and so on as to how people should answer these two questions especially, and a lot of 'em would break up families, relatives and so on, because some would say, "Yes, we're American citizens, so we will vote yes or answer yes and serve our country." Others would say, "No, for the treatment we receive, and regardless of, because of the injustices as American citizens, we must protest this action by the government and answer no." So there was a lot of that, some fathers would say, "I have to vote no because I will be without a country if I didn't, but you as an American citizen, if you want to vote yes, you do what you think is right," and so on. So there was that kind of answer, but a lot of them had to try to convince brothers and sisters, relatives, cousins, they all began, all over the ten camps, they were at these mess halls and meetings and tried to find out how to answer these two questions.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

Then all of a sudden comes the summer of 1943, the U.S. government said, okay, all those people who answered "no-no" or "no-yes," "yes-no" or didn't answer at all, or had conditions when they answered it saying, "I'll answer 'yes' if you put my parents out of camp," and so on, or, "Have them go back to their own home or whatever," they had conditions. They would be free, but all those who answered in the negative, "yes-no" or "no-yes" or with conditions or no answer, they are considered disloyal. And they will all be moved out of their current camps and moved to Tule Lake in northern California. So that's when, and during the summer months of 1943 there were a lot of movement of people moving to Tule Lake, being sent to Tule Lake, and my parents, they felt that they... well, for one, if they answered it "yes," they would be without a country. But also their purpose for answering no was to, during wartime, to keep the family together as long as possible. So that was the only reason that they answered "no-no," not because they're disloyal, but to keep the family together. So it meant that all of them, since my two older brothers, my sister was too young, she wasn't seventeen yet so she didn't have to answer, my two parents had to answer and so on, they answered to keep the family together.

And so it was in September of 1944 or '43 rather, we were all sent to Tule Lake. Now, there were a lot of rumors as to what was going to happen in Tule Lake once we got there, but one of the rumors was that we would all be sent to Japan as an exchange for prisoners of war that Japan had of U.S. soldiers. So then my brother was bilingual, felt that, well, gee, then we better teach us kids how to speak Japanese so that they can survive when we get to Japan. So they started a Japanese language school as soon as possible. We got there in September, and almost right away, started the Japanese language. And he told us that those who were attending the school, the language school that he started, he and some of his friends started, but he told them that, "Since you know enough English, why don't you just concentrate on learning Japanese in the short time that it's going to be, and concentrate on learning Japanese and not go to English classes?" So although English classes did start in December of 1944, '43 rather, we were, in a way, my brother forced us to attend Japanese language school without any choice, so ended up going to Japanese language school all day, five days a week, and learned Japanese history, Japanese geography, Japanese language, Japanese, how to write characters and so on, very intensive training. And I spent my time, during the rest of my time that we were in camp. So that was the kind of life that we started to get involved in in Tule Lake.

In 1944, it was one year after the school started, so our school decided to have a track meet event as the anniversary of the school starting. And so we formed tracks and so on, and we started to have this track field event. All of a sudden, we were surrounded by jeeps with MPs, with rifles, and they quickly took away my brother who was one of the instructors and one of the students took him away. And the student was released that same day, so there was no problem there. But my brother, they kept him for almost a month, we had no idea where he was or what happened to him, but they didn't tell us. And then about a month later, he finally did come back. But I could see that he was subdued and not quite the gung-ho type person that he was before. But because I was a student and he was the instructor, there was that relationship, not brothers relationship, so I couldn't ask him what had happened to him. So many years later, after the war ended and so on, I finally did find out what had happened to him.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BT: But in the meantime, we continued going to school and so on, and then come 1945, August, the war ended, and so we were able to go back to San Mateo to our hometown and leave Tule Lake. My oldest brother, because of the treatments that he got with American citizens, felt that America was not for him, and because he was bilingual he would be able to better, maybe help Japan recover from its war effort. And so he decided to go be one of the first ones to return to Japan. But as soon as he got there, he found that the Japanese citizens were questioning, "Why did you come back?" Because they were very short of food and there were people going hungry. And so they were wondering, "Why did you have to come back?" So my brother did write back to Tule Lake to many of his friends and so on who were planning to return to Japan, and told them, "Don't come back because you're not welcome," and so on. So he turned a lot of people back from going back to Japan. But he stayed, and we have one of the uncles who was high in the bank business, so he was able to get a job with a bank. And later on, because my brother is good at math and really sharp, he was able to get an electronic firm, which later on, wanted to open up a branch in San Jose. So he became one of the persons that would set it up in San Jose, so he needed a sponsor. Because I was working by then, so I had to sponsor him as a relative and have him come to San Jose to start this business, electronic firm in Silicon Valley. So that's how, then he came back to the United States and was able to get to start his line of business. But I was, for one, was very angry at my brother, actually, because he forced us to go to Japanese language school in Tule Lake, so when I got back to San Mateo, I had to start from the eighth grade. My buddies who, we were classmates before the war, they were already sophomores in high school, but I had to start at an eighth grade level and then go on to high school two years behind. So that made me feel a little uncomfortable and really was upset about my brother forcing us to go to Japanese language class. But then when he wanted to come back to San Mateo, I mean, to San Jose to work on this electronic firm, because we were relatives and naturally he was my brother, I decided to sponsor him, so he did come back.

And that was the life that he started, I went on, from San Mateo, during high school, what happened was that from Tule Lake to get back to San Mateo, my aunt and uncle had purchased a property in San Mateo because they were American citizens and they had purchased the property in San Mateo. So they had invited us to come live with them in their home temporarily until such time when we could find a home. So my oldest brother went back to Japan, my second oldest brother, he was learning English still in high school, so he didn't come back, so the rest of us went back to San Mateo. But the house was very crowded so my two sisters, we started working for wealthy families as schoolgirls, schoolboys, and I went as a schoolboy, started working there during my high school period, helped cook and helped wash the dishes and pots and pans and so on, and that kind of thing and do the gardening work and so on, so did that all through high school. And also, right after high school, I mean, right after we got out of camp, I did not admit that I spoke Japanese because I wanted, I felt that maybe that was the reason that we were put into these camps, because they didn't know who we were, so I felt that speaking Japanese might be a sign of disloyalty. So in my mind, I felt I better not speak Japanese. And although our family was Buddhist, I felt that maybe that's too Japanese-y, and so maybe I should start going to Christian schools and so on.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

BT: So I did a lot of those on my own, and started, after I graduated from high school, it was 1950, and that's when the Korean War started. So I felt that, wow, this is a good chance to prove my loyalty, because although I was not old enough to answer the questionnaire, loyalty questionnaire, I felt that all those people who were sent to Tule Lake were considered disloyal, and the government said it, and also the Japanese community, many of the veterans and so on considered us to be disloyal. So I didn't want that stigma to be hanging around all over me for the rest of my life, so I felt that this would be a good opportunity for me to prove my loyalty as a person. So I joined the U.S. Army and went to Fort Ord in Monterey to get my basic training. And after six weeks of basic training, while I was being assigned, they assigned me to KP, kitchen help because of my schoolboy work, I was good at washing pots and pans. And so I found that if you do good, they will use you again. It's not like if you do good they will give you some other, better job, but they just kept me every day after roll call to assign me to this kitchen help to do pots and pans. So I said, oh, this is not what I really wanted to do. So I finally admitted that I spoke Japanese, and the army language school tests that was occurring in Monterey because they wanted people with Japanese language ability to work, go to Korea and interrogate the prisoners and so on. So I took the tests, and because of my intensive training in Tule Lake, I was able to pass it and I got into the class of Monterey and spent almost a year going to, learning military language in Japanese.

And after that was over, then when I got assigned to the Military Intelligence unit and was assigned to Tokyo where my brother was already living there and making a living. So then on weekends then I would go to his home and spend time talking and so on, that's when I learned a lot of things. And that's when I asked him what happened to him when he was sent by the MPs. And he said, well, the FBI and so on talked to him a lot and asking questions and trying to find out if he was loyal or disloyal and so on. And one day, after all those questions, then they took him out and put him before a wall, he could see military police in front of him with rifles, and he even heard the command, "Ready, aim, fire," and he heard a lot of "click, click, click" sound, but no "bang, bang." And what they were trying to do was to scare him into showing that they were the boss and the next time they would have bullets in there. And so this was the way that my brother was forced to experience, and I'm sure that he remembered the time, in that short time between the "click clicks" that this old man in Topaz, who was walking... they say that he was walking his dog, but as far as I know, we didn't have any animals to use in camp. So I remember it as being, this man was in this direction from Block 37, so outside our block area, it was in this direction that this man was shot because he got too close. My remembrance was that he was picking seashells and what we do, I've done it too is that because it was all ocean at one time we would check and the sand was filled with seashells and we would pick a seashell and squeeze it, and if it breaks, we throw it away, but if it didn't break, then we would keep it and give it to the ladies, and they would make necklaces and so on, rings and trinkets out of it. So that's what, my understanding was that that's what he was doing. And so then so he didn't hear this guard saying, "Get away, get back, you're too close to the fence." The man was about fifty-five, I understand, and possibly also hard of hearing and also concentrating, and so the guard just shot him dead. And so my brother probably remembered that incident as well as this one in Tule Lake where this truck driver, he was in the next barrack right next to us, and he used to talk to us. He was a big man, but he used to come and talk to us kids about different things, and that kind of a nice gentleman. And he was, as a truck driver, he would take the farmers out to work on the fields and then bring 'em back to the camp. And one day, the guards stopped him from coming in, so he got out of his truck and went towards the guard to find out what was the matter. And the guard got scared and just shot him point blank as he was coming towards him. So those are the two instances that I remember. In Topaz, I remember the direction this way, but when I went to a Topaz reunion, they said that the person died this way and the person was walking his dog, and I couldn't believe that. But anyway, the two stories, I don't think there were two killings, but anyway, there were different stories that I found. But anyway, so my brother got that treatment, and then I found out, I thought my brother was the only one that was experiencing that. But when I went on a pilgrimage to Tule Lake several years ago, I found that there was another group in Tule Lake that refused to do something. And as a result, they were put before a firing squad with the same incident happening, with, "Ready, aim, fire," click, click, click. So evidently that was the thing that the MPs did to keep us subdued and taken care of, so that they were the bosses and that we would have to obey what they say. So that was the kind of thing that I remember, and my brother told me about when I went to Japan to see him.

And when I was in the military in Japan, then eventually I was sent to Korea to interrogate prisoners of war, the Chinese and the Korean, North Koreans that were that were captured. But I didn't speak their language so I had to use an interpreter. And I would ask the question in Japanese to him and then he would talk to the Chinese or the North Korean in their language and give it back to me in Japanese, and I would write it down in English. So that was the kind of procedure that we followed to get information about conditions and so on. To this day, I keep thinking, I hope I got it right, because all the interpreting that had to go on in that situation. But evidently it was okay because later on, I also interrogated the fishermen that were caught by the Russians in the northern part of Japan, and we had to ask them questions. And their dialect was something else, too. But we managed, so I guess it was, everything okay.


VY: Okay, so continuing with, when you were in Korea?

BT: After that assignment, during interrogating and so on, they said that they were going to start a Korean language school in Japan, and would I be interested? So I said, "Oh, yeah." And they said, well, but in order to... I said yes, that I would be willing to go to this class to learn, but I said, instead of learning Korean, because they were going to teach Chinese and Korean, I said, "I'd like to really learn Chinese because that would be a better future than the Korean language." So I said that and they talked to Tokyo and they came back and said, "Okay, that's fine." So I went back to Japan to learn, in the hopes of learning Chinese, but then when I got to the school, they said, "Oh, no, you're Japanese American, they're teaching Korean language to Japanese Americans, and to Chinese Americans they're teaching them Chinese." Which was logical, but at the same time, that wasn't part of the agreement. So I had no choice but to start learning Korean, but then one month later, Tokyo called me back into, back to Tokyo. Because this was in Chiba, which is a little bit away from Tokyo. And so I had to go back into headquarters in Tokyo, and they said, if I go to this language school I would have to extend my enlistment from three years to one more year, or I think it was two more years, in order to benefit from the language. So when I went back to Tokyo, they said, "How come you didn't extend your army for two more years?" I said, "Well, because the agreement was that I would go back and learn, go back and extend if I learned Chinese. But I had no choice, I had to learn Korean." So they said, oh, and it was recorded there, thank goodness, that that was the agreement for me of going back to the class. So then they said, "Okay, well, you can go back, but you're going to still have to learn Korean." So I went back and I didn't have to extend my three-year enlistment, and I just went there and I was learning Korean. And I was getting pretty good, we were able to answer questions in Korean, and give it back, and we used to also write in Hangul, which is their phonetic alphabet, so I was doing pretty well. But then my father got ill in San Mateo with cancer, so I was given a Red Cross emergency leave and come back to San Mateo, and I was assigned to Fort Ord to stay there and to end my enlistment, but go back and be close to my father, because he was in pretty bad shape. So that's how I got back to San Mateo.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BT: And then before I went into school and going into the army and so on, I used to do a lot of funny things. Like for example, in those days, we were able to blacken our face, and I was doing the impersonation of Larry Parks, who was doing the, he did a movie of Al Jolson as Larry Parks, and darken his face and so on. And so I liked what he was doing, I liked the voice and the sound of Al Jolson, so I started to lip synch that and I watched the movie several times. And then I started to do that by getting charcoal and burning it and making it black and then darkening my face, and then making the lip part white so that you could see the lip. And so that's what I was doing, and when I got back to San Mateo where my father was ill, I thought I would do that again just to tell him that it was like before again, and everything was back to normal. So I started to do that kind of thing at the Buddhist church in San Mateo, and I was in this dressing room to blacken my face, and that's when I met my wife. She was going to be singing, and her older sister, she was with her older sister, and I didn't know who they were, but she was going to sing after me or before me, and I was just getting ready to do my part. So I saw her, but I didn't know, I didn't talk to them or anything. So I did my portion, and this lady was watching me from the side of the stage, and when that Al Jolson number comes on where "sonny boy" and you get on your knees, and here's the microphone up here, and I'm down here, and then this lady thought that I was singing all this, but I was just moving my lips. And so when I got down on my knees, then the microphone's up there and here I'm bellowing away with all this music on tape. And so then she realized that it wasn't my voice, it was just a recording. So we had a big laugh afterwards, and, "Oh, I thought it was your voice singing," but actually it was lip synching.

And so I used to do that kind of thing, but then I remembered seeing my wife at that place, but didn't know who she was or whatever. Then I went back, on weekends, to Fort Ord and then came back on the weekends to San Mateo. And then one weekend, I came back, and San Mateo Buddhist church was having a bazaar, then I saw, my wife was named Fumi, I found out later, and she was manning one of the booths to sell things. And then all of a sudden she disappeared, so I started looking for her, and she ended up resting, taking a break. So I found where she was, so I went up and introduced myself and started talking to her, and that was the start of our comrade relationship. And then two years later, got married. And when I went to UC Berkeley from San Mateo, she came with me. And we stayed in Berkeley while I went to two years of UC Berkeley, got my Bachelor of Science degrees in public administration, and got a job with what was then called the Department of Employment to pay out unemployment insurance to help people get jobs. And worked in Berkeley and then went to Oakland, and then from Oakland, found a, got settled, so we moved to Richmond where I'm living now for over sixty years. And with my wife for sixty-three years together. And so that was the start during that 1950-ish period, 1956.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

So I worked for the state, now called Employment Development Department, but I worked for them for forty-two years and graduated in January, I mean, August of the year 2000, so I've been retired for eighteen years. So I retired in the year 2000 in August, and after I retired, I just didn't do anything, didn't set an alarm, and just wake up when I wanted to and so on. But come December of that year, I felt so sluggish and didn't feel right. So come January of 2001, I started going to the local Richmond YMCA to do the exercises. So ever since then, I've been going Monday through Friday and work with my arms and legs, equipment and so on to lift. And I used to lift about 54,000 pounds a day, and then developed hernia after a fashion because I was straining myself, so I stopped doing that. And now I continue the same exercises but less weight, about 18,000 pounds a day. And I do that Monday through Friday, and then, in the meantime, when I was working, I didn't get a chance to, but when I retired then I have more time, so I started bowling, and now I bowl three times a week. And then I'm learning how to golf now to get some outdoor experience, so doing that, and so bought some clubs and so on, and doing that and enjoying my retirement life.

But, in the meantime, while I'm doing that, while I was going to school and working for the Department of Employment, I decided... I was active with the Japanese American Citizens League, and so there were things about redress that started to be talking, and Edison Uno was one of the leaders who was helping out from the Los Angeles standpoint. He was from that area and also San Francisco, and was talking about trying to get redress from the U.S. government. And John Okada, I think it was, who wrote the book No-No Boy, he got a hold of me because he got my name and he sent me his manuscript before he finalized it into a book. And he wanted me to read it, but I didn't have time to read it, so I regret doing that.

VY: About when was this? What year do you think that was?

BT: That was in the 1960s, I think it was. And what happened was that we were with the Japanese American Citizens League that I was active in. I started to do that, and some of them were 442nd, which was the Nisei army team that became famous in the European stage. And two of the veterans came up to me who lived in Richmond and said, "Ben, forget about redress. Just don't rock the boat anymore, just forget about it and let bygones be bygones, and let it go at that." Because in those days, being in camp and so on wasn't very popular, they didn't talk about it, and so a lot of people didn't want to talk about it, especially about Tule Lake and the "loyalty questionnaire" and that kind of thing. So I thought, well, we'd better find out, so the Northern California, Western Nevada, Pacific District Council, which is northern California, Nevada and Japan, Hawaii and so on, and so we send them a questionnaire out asking them if they are interested in doing redress. And John Tateishi was one of the people from San Francisco State College, he was the chair of this committee, and he tried to see if the membership was willing to go for redress. And by golly, over eighty percent of the people responded saying, "Yes, go for it." So we started out with about seventy-five thousand dollars per person, but then it got dwindled down, dwindled down to where it came down to twenty-thousand dollars per person. But then the veterans also then, once it started moving, they began to help with the redress movement and was able to help get the congressmen and senators to back us on this program. And because of what the 442nd did in Europe and so on, they were in a big push trying to get redress going. So thank goodness for their help. It took us twenty years, but we were able to get the redress moving.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BT: And still part of JACL, I was also on the committee to put the wording on the plaque for Tule Lake, because there were, a lot of the camps and so on were beginning to make plaques to commemorate their existence and so on. And so we looked at the Manzanar plaque that was already done, and started out with, "This was one of ten America's concentration camps," and so on. And even the word "American's concentration camps" was sensitive because the people, the Jewish people, felt that we shouldn't use the term "America's concentration camps." But we differentiate that by saying that, well, the camps in Europe were death camps and not concentration camps, and ours were concentration camps. So we defined it and made it separate, and it was acceptable then to use "America's concentration camps," and that's what we started to use. And then, because of my experience in Tule Lake, and I was on the committee going to Sacramento for these meetings, and I wanted to put, add to the plaque wording that, "it later became a segregated camp," for Tule Lake, because it was a segregated camp. But the committee refused to accept that, and the Nisei person that was representing the state plaque committee or whatever it was, he said, "Ben, it's too wordy," and won't accept that. So I resigned from the committee to try to make a point of adding that. And I said, "You guys are not working with history. History says that it became a segregated camp." Said, "No, we don't want people to have to ask questions about it," and they wanted to let it go. And a lot of the people that were on the committee went from Sacramento to Tule Lake directly and then left because they answered "yes-yes" and then left camp. And so they didn't want the bad name of "segregated camp" as a bad name for Tule Lake, and that's why I understand was the reason. But anyway, so even the wording, right now, it just says like any other camp without the word "segregated camp." So I was governor at the time, so I had to make the dedication at that time. So in the program, I was able to put "and later became a segregated camp," so I was able to get away with it that way, but I couldn't get the wording on the plaque. And the plaque is with a monument and everything, it looks nice right now, but it has nothing to do with describing that as a segregated camp. In fact, there was another group that put up another camp that says it was a segregated camp. And, in fact, the town of Tule Lake, which is nearby there, calls it a segregated camp. So even on the road sign it says it's a segregated camp, but on the plaque that we had to develop, it says nothing about segregated camp.

So that's the sensitivity of all that, the controversy that occurred when how to answer these questions, in the 1960s, it's, all those came together. And now, finally, we're talking about maybe JACL will learn to at least forgive us, forgive the Tule Lake dissenters and recognize the fact that many of them did it as a form of protest and not because of disloyalty to the United States. So we're hoping that that resolution will eventually pass. About three years ago when they had the San Jose Council, National Council meeting in San Jose, I went over there and tried to get a microphone to use so that I could tell the people to go back to their respective homes and find out, find the people that answered the "loyalty question," and find out why they answered the question. That's all I wanted to say on the microphone, and Floyd Shimomura was the national president when I was elected to become the national vice president of general operations. So I worked under him, and so I met him in San Jose at that conference, so I had lunch with him and I explained to him what I was planning to do, and explained to him, and he admitted that, "Yeah, if I had to answer that question, I would have problems myself." So I thought he understood what I was talking about, and that he would yield me the microphone, because I was not a delegate and therefore I could not just stand up and talk. So I wanted them to yield the microphone to me so that I could ask the people to go back and find out why they answered "no-no," because I knew that the answers would be very interesting. But Floyd Shimomura just won't yield me the microphone, and I found out later that there were veterans who were in the JACL organization, and they had told the office of JACL officers that, "If you appease the 'no-no' group at any time," that they will drop their membership with JACL. And JACL, at that time, was having a rough time losing membership, and their budget was very tight as a result because they were losing it, so they didn't want to lose any more people, so they just backed off and didn't even mention it at all about Tule Lake and all that. So that's the reason that I got, that they didn't yield me the microphone.

So I've been fighting and trying to get the thing about, because the Kibeis got a wrong deal because of their experience in Japan, and the reason that they protested was because they protested in Japan and they recognized it, and here our own government did not recognize that American citizenship. So I'm trying to justify and at least get the people to know that that's probably why most of the Kibeis answered, and then they get there and they try to convince others to answer the questions "no-no" or not at all. And that's my duty now, and on the last Thursday of each month, I go to the Rosie the Riveter in Richmond, the Rosie the Riveter Museum, where at Thursday at two p.m., we show the Blossoms and Thorns DVD on the cut flower business on the Japanese Americans' experience before and after the war, and then after that twenty-minute movie, then I go into the story about Tule Lake and about the "loyalty questionnaire" and why people answered these questions in the negative as a form of protest, and our constitution guarantees individual rights to protest as part of the constitution. So that's my story, Virginia. I hope people will learn something from this. [Laughs]

VY: Well, thank you so much for being here today and telling us all this information and telling us your story. Before we wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

BT: I think I covered everything. It's been a long while. But as long as I can, my mind stays active, I want to continue to do this because of the fact that some politicians are still talking about using our Japanese American experience as a precedent to do the same thing to other racial groups like Muslims or people with different sexual orientation and so on. So I figured I'd better keep telling people that, hey, it happened to us here in our U.S. history, and we don't want it to happen again to anybody, any person or any individuals, any groups, this is in our constitution. So that's why I'm alive.

VY: Thank you.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

[Addendum added by Ben Takeshita]

When I was interviewed by Virginia Yamada of Densho in Emeryville, CA on March 11th, 2019, I covered almost two hours of my life before and after WWII. However, I had forgotten to mention some important parts of my life so I wish to briefly covers those areas first, and then go into a WWII "theory" I have had for many years, which I would like to publicly bring up for others to research and verify my "theory". I had discussed parts of my Theory in the pre-interview time with Mrs. Yamada, but had decided not to bring it up in my interview because I wasn't sure if it would be appropriate, but after the interview and going home, I began to realize that I am going on 89 years of age, and I am retired, so anything I say at this time is not going to affect my life. So I have decided to make it public for others to consider. With this introduction, let me first cover those areas I had forgotten to include in my first interview.

#1:� In my interview, I had mentioned that in Tule Lake from Sept 1943 to Sept. 1945, I was attending a Japanese Language school full time to learn Japanese and its history, geography, reading and writing to prepare us if we were sent to Japan in exchange for the US military prisoners that Japan had held in their country. So during the almost 2-1/2 year of Japanese Language education, I had become fairly proficient in the Japanese language. As a result, after we were released from Tule Lake and returned to San Mateo in September 1945, where I was raised, and after I graduated from San Mateo High School in June 1950, I enlisted in the US Army for a three year period from August 1950 to August 1953 to prove my loyalty to my country, the USA, because I didn't want to be called "Disloyal" by even the Japanese community even though I was not old enough to respond to the Loyalty Questionnaire.� After my basic training at Fort Ord, CA, I was able to take the Monterey, CA� Army Language School test for Japanese,� and pass the test and sent to the school to study and learn Japanese military language for almost one year. And in the interview, I had mentioned my assignments in Tokyo, Japan and in Korea after being assigned to the Military Intelligence Division of the US Army. So after my three years of enlistment in the US Army, I went to San Mateo College and UC at Berkeley, CA and graduated with a degree in Public Administration. Then as of August 1958, I started working for the then Dept of Employment, a State agency. During my 42 years of service within the Department, beginning in June 1964, I started volunteering as the Japanese interpreter for delegates who came to the US to attend the annual International conferences. They were Local Office Managers or Regional Directors of the Japanese Ministry of Labor, but most of them did not speak or understand English. Therefore, they needed me as their Interpreter, so they can understand what was being discussed at the conference and workshops, as well as to order the selection of foods during meal time. I did this for over 32 years, and also attended 51 Int'l conferences thru June 2018, the most number attended by any member of the Int'l Association of Workforce Professionals (IAWP), a professional organization for those throughout the world who worked in the Unemployment Insurance and Employment Service field to help people get jobs. The Int'l Conferences usually lasted about 7 days, including travel time, etc.

So when I went on these interpreting assignments, I had to use my own vacation time, that I had accumulated as I worked, so that I could spend time with the Japanese delegates.�

#2: While I was still working for the State Agency, I also volunteered my time on weekends or after workhours, to play an active role in the IAWP organization as local Sub-Chapter Officers to include Chapter President, and also got elected to become the only Asian American State President of the State IAWP Chapter from 1969 to 1970.

#3:� While still working for the State Agency, I volunteered as a Co-Host of a Japanese language TV program called "Asians Now!" which was broadcast in the greater San Francisco Bay Area on TV Channel #2, KTVU station on the 3rd Saturdays of each month. We would find someone who would be of interest to the Japanese-speaking community and interview them as to what they did and how available they might be to the community for their services, and make a 30 minutes program on Friday nights after work hours, and show the program on the 3rd Saturday of each month at 9 AM.� The Korean and Chinese racial groups had their own programs on the 1st and 2nd Saturdays of each month. On the 4th and possibly 5th Saturdays of a month, we would have the other Asian groups such as the Filipinos or East Asian groups put on their programs. I did this for about 8 months until I got so busy with my work that I had to let someone else take over my co-host role. But I must add that I was able to do all this in Japanese because of the intensive Japanese language training I had received in Tule Lake and at the Army Language School in Monterey, CA�� I often tell my community that my Japanese was "Made (learned) in the USA" and not in Japan. I do admit, however, that I do have many deficiencies in the Japanese language by not knowing many of the Japanese characters, or vocabularies, but I forge ahead as best I can.

#4:� Now my 4th addition to my interview is about my "Theory" about the start of WWII and the so-called "Surprise Attack" by the Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor. My contention is that President Roosevelt purposely became unavailable before the attack occurred and so made it a surprise attack to get the USA into WWII. I came to this conclusion. First� In the movie named, "Pearl Harbor", where� there was a section where the military Admirals and Generals, tried to find where President Roosevelt was in Washington, DC. But no one could find him. That was the start of my curiosity as to why the President was not available at such a critical time of the attack. The next event shows up in the Movie made in Hollywood by Japanese and American actors called, "Tora, Tora, Tora" (Tiger, Tiger, Tiger the Japanese code word used to start the attack), which was a more detailed movie about the Pearl Harbor attack. In that movie, it shows that our US Intelligence had detected the Japanese Navy sending ships toward the Philippines for a possible attack of that country. The movie also discussed the possibility of Japan attacking Pearl Harbor. That's when the movie showed how hard they tried to find President Roosevelt, but no one could find him in Washington, DC. Where was he? Why was he "Hiding"? The next movie I saw was the recent movie named, "The Darkest Hour" about Winston Churchill and England when the Germans were getting ready to attack and invade England. In the movie, Churchill calls President Roosevelt on the phone and asks and pleads Roosevelt to help England by sending airplanes and ships and give them the help they needed. Roosevelt replies to Churchill's pleads by saying, "I'm sorry, but I have an agreement so I can't" He didn't say what that agreement was, but I assumed it was an agreement to the people of the USA to not get involved in the European War. since the US citizens did not want to get involved in another European War effort when they felt that it was not very good being involved in WWI. At that time, Roosevelt hung up the phone, and the British were getting ready to fly out the Royal Family to Canada. But that would be dangerous too since the Nazis had a lot of planes and so could have shot down that plane with the Royal Family in it. So the British had decided to fight it out to the end, without any help from the USA. Now we knew that President Roosevelt was a very close friend of Churchill, and the US was a very close ally to England over the 100 years of relationships. Now all during this period, over the years prior to December 7th, President Roosevelt was preventing Japan from getting oil for the Japanese ships, and also imposing many forms of Sanctions against Japan to get them to act against the USA. I don't blame our President for doing all this because Japan, with Tojo as their Dictator, and who felt that Japan was invincible and fighting China, so our President was doing what he can to help China. But this is where my theory starts. President Roosevelt could not let England be destroyed by the Germans who were so close to invading England. Therefore, Roosevelt had to find some way to get the US citizens to want to go to war. President Roosevelt was a politician and a well-liked President. So he had to devise a way to get the US into the War and also for the US Citizens to want to go to battle. What better way than to develop a "Surprise Attack" and sacrifice many of our Navy men and military personnel and ships stationed in Pearl Harbor to get the US into the War and help England and Churchill, his very close friend, whom he could not leave alone. President Roosevelt therefore chose not to be available during the attack to make it a so-called "Surprise Attack." In recent years, someone in Washington, DC learned that during that attack, Roosevelt was in his private Stamp Collection Room, and therefore could not be found. Can all of this be verified? I feel there is enough information available to prove all this.� But no one wants to accuse our own US President of doing such a drastic thing and having many of our own navy men and soldiers killed to get us into the war, although as the Commander in Chief of the US military, our President has the authority to send our men and women off to war even without Congress's consent.� What do you think?

On Feb. 19th, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 to get 120,000 of us People of Japanese Ancestry into the War Relocation Camps (Prisons) He said this was for our protection. And this could have been true because in many parts of our Country there was violence and attacks made on Japanese Americans. It is also a known fact that the President called on the JACL Executive Director at that time, Mike Masaoka, to tell the Japanese people to go quietly and to not protest being put into camp. The President even told Mike or someone in JACL that going into camp will be "the Japanese Americans �contribution to the War effort. I think President Roosevelt felt sorry for us Japanese Americans?

In Conclusion: I personally commend Densho for getting all these different interviews to find out what happened to many of us before, during and after the War. It is a very big project.� I therefore wanted to give all of my thoughts, private and not mentioned publicly about many of my thoughts which had developed over the years. I hope that those who read about my "theory" and thoughts, will research and find out more about whether my Theory about the Start of WWII and the "Surprise Attack" was really a surprise? But of course, the other alternative would be to leave all this "theory" alone. What good would this information do at this time. By accusing our President of doing all this to get us into WWII, would do nothing to change what actually happened.� So, although I have made my "Theory" public, I'm not sure even to this day, whether this will do any good to the Japanese community or to the world? Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Ben Takeshita