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-1000-479-11

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LT: So after you came back from Japan, you spoke with your mother about this because you didn't know that story. You eventually learned it from other DB Boys and from your research and from your mother. By the way, what does "DB Boy" stand for?

GI: Well, when I first heard the story, I was told that the D stood for Detention and the B for Barracks, because I understood that that was where they were kept locally in Fort McClellan. But when they were remanded to Fort Leavenworth, the official name for that was Disciplinary Barracks. So DB, "disciplinary," "detention," depends on where you were.

LT: Okay. So you didn't know the story, what did your mother tell you when you spoke with her after your return to the United States?

GI: You know, she didn't give me any kind of detail, only that it had happened, and that our father was hounded by the FBI.

LT: Upon his return.

GI: Yeah. Well, yeah. And he was an accountant by training or skill, so he had gone on a couple of jobs, and like one of the, what would be today, like a Big 8 accounting firm type. And he would be hired, and then a couple days later, he would get a phone call. "Sorry, Mr. Itano, we made a mistake," were their exact words. "What do you mean, you made a mistake?" "Well, I really can't talk about it, but we just made a mistake in your hiring, we just can't hire you." And it happened a couple times. And as she was telling me this story, the image clicked in my mind as a child walking home from school -- this happened at least twice -- where these men in suits, in a nice clean car, kind of like, they looked, you would think, of "men in black" type guys, except they were just regular suits. And a nice, clean car, something that you don't see at all in Watts. And they would say, "Hey, kid, how's your parents doing?" "Oh, they're fine, Mister." And at the time, I thought all the kids were asked this kind of question from these kinds of guys. But, I mean, they had to have been the FBI guys, who else were they gonna be? But thinking back to those guys and knowing about FBI and having worked with the FBI in my cybersecurity career fairly closely, I know that these guys are federal investigators, so they know the backgrounds of their charges. And I kind of get the sense that these guys that were assigned to keep an eye on us DB Boys kind of knew the backgrounds, and I think they had a, they must have had a fairly high regard for these guys.

LT: So your father was not able to get a job as an accountant then. Do you know how he made the decision to move on in securing a job?

GI: Well, yeah. My mom said that his friends were confident in his abilities, so they would lend him money and stake him so that he could start his grocery store, and then he in turn would, they would all help each other out, so that's how they got started.

LT: Did your mother tell you why you weren't told about your father's background?

GI: Sure. The reason we weren't told as children was because our parents didn't want us kids to become politicized, and to gain our majorities before we heard, so that we could make our own decision as to... they didn't want to taint our opinion of what they had done, just let us arrive at our own conclusions.

LT: You also spoke to your mother's sister, your Aunt Taniguchi. What did you learn from her?

GI: The image that she related to me was the first time that she saw my father returning to home. And I don't know if he was... he was just walking down the road, I don't know, maybe he'd been dropped off by a cab or something like that. But she said that he looked like a skeleton, he was so emaciated, like he had just come out of a German death camp or something. And the shock in her voice in telling that story kind of gave you an impression of what she saw, the apparition of somebody who had not taken well to the prison life.

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