Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gary M. Itano Interview
Narrator: Gary M. Itano
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 21, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-479-10

<Begin Segment 10>

LT: Let's go back to your discovery of your father's role during World War II. You knew nothing about that. When you went back to the United States and talked with your mother, what did she tell you?

GI: Well, she confirmed they had done that, and that was the writing on the back of the tombstone. And the reason that they hadn't told us, and who the fellow DB Boys were, Nomiyama and Ogawa and all those guys.

LT: Can you tell us a little bit about what the DB Boys did?

GI: You mean what the incident was about, how that went?

LT: Yes.

GI: Okay, we spoke about them volunteering for the military and then being rejected because they were Kibei. And then, after the initial wave of Japanese were killed off, they were drafted. And then they were all sent to Fort McClellan in Alabama, and as far as I can gather, a number of them had samurai legacies like my father, and they had this idea of representing our families and our ethics and that sort of thing, and all those values that you subscribe to, bushido and all that sort of thing, and had it overlaid onto, into the American scene. And they knew that what had happened was unconstitutional, no due process of law and that sort of thing. And I recall one of the DB Boys, we'd gone to, like a celebration, and I recall one of them telling me that it was a tradition for the samurai to... if you go into battle and you come back alive, it's like a shame on your family. Because if the war is still going on, then maybe you didn't give all of your effort. So in order to go to war in that frame of mind, the tradition is to go to your commanding officer and tell him, like, "Oh, please take care of my family or my sick mother," whatever it is, and, "unburden my mind from worldly things so that I may devote my entire spirit to this effort." And so they decided they would do something like that. Now, I've seen different stories. I've heard, like, fifty, sixty men, and I've read in your book there was like a hundred or so, but a group of men, Japanese Americans, decided to march up to the commandant's office, and they stood out in front, and the corporal or sergeant or somebody came out, and they asked, "What are you guys doing here?" and they said, "Oh, we need to speak to the commandant and express our grievances." And the sergeant or whoever he was got very upset, "This is U.S. Army, you don't express your grievances to anybody, you just follow orders. I'm ordering you to turn around and march back to the barracks where you came from." And there are different versions of this story that I've read and I've heard, so I'm just telling the one that I heard. So they were marching back, and then suddenly somebody in the ranks said, "This is as far as we go," and they all stopped. And the guys in the back were, like, bumping into the guys in the front, and all that kind of stuff, and they finally just came to a standstill. And then the sergeant was running up and down, saying, "I gave you a direct order," blah, blah, blah, "start marching," and then they wouldn't move. So a higher officer, a lieutenant or a major or somebody came out and said, "What's going on here?" "Well, I gave these guys an order and they won't move." And the way I was told the story is the sergeant takes my father and pulls him out of the ranks and says, "This is the ringleader." I don't know if he was the real leader of the whole thing, but as far as that sergeant was concerned, he was. I don't know how the sergeant knew. And then the major calls out a group, the soldiers, to set up one of these big machine guns on a tripod, and facing this ranks of fifty to one hundred men. And he said, "Okay, all you guys who want to just go back to the war and follow orders and that sort of thing, just march yourselves back to the barracks. And all you other guys that want to stay with this guy, stay back here." And so maybe a couple dozen hung back, and the rest of them marched back. And these guys, there's another story where there's a separate group of men who came later, and they weren't aware of this having gone on already, but they had protested all on their own, and so they were ultimately grouped in with these initial guys.

And one version of the story that I heard from one of the DB Boys, and I can't recall which, is they were put into what they called a fieldhouse, and they were given two doors to go through, the right or the left. And if you went through the right door you would go to the war, and if you went through the left door, who knows what would happen to you? So the way I heard the story is these... well, these guys were trained in the samurai behavior or code of conduct, and they knew that if you did anything to countermand an order of any superior, you would be beheaded right away. I mean, there would be no questions asked, it would be just, it would just be over. Unless you agreed to honorably disembowel yourself as a show of your sincerity that you weren't just doing this out of cowardice, which happened a lot. And so these guys fully expected to have that kind of result happen, they fully expected to be executed on the spot. Like if you went through that left door, you're gone, you're not coming back at all. But it didn't turn out that way, they were court-martialed and sent to Fort Leavenworth prison.

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