Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kunio Otani Interview
Narrator: Kunio Otani
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Rebecca Walls (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 31, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-okunio-01-0026

<Begin Segment 26>

KO: But I just have a memory about how... going over to Germany, that I thought was kind of unusual. One of the things was that we shipped out of New York, and the night before we left, the people -- I think there were quite a few Hawaiians on the boat that day -- they had a nice evening of singing, and all that kind of stuff that people enjoyed. And I thought a lot about it because I wrote home to the paper about that. And then, the other moving experience I had at that time was going past the Statue of Liberty; and I was wondering then, would I ever see it again. Fortunately, I was able to come back, and it was a welcome sight. But we shipped out on the Queen Mary, which was turned into a troop ship at that time, which, you know, it's a big pleasure boat.

AI: That was one of the big luxury liners, wasn't it?

KO: That's right, it was the biggest, one of the biggest of the time. And we had Bob Hope and Jerry Colona, those people were going to Europe to entertain the troops. And they put on a program for us. That part was interesting, the other part was I got seasick, so I didn't enjoy the two things very much. [Laughs] Oh, I was sicker than a dog all the way across.

But we ended up in -- I'm just reflecting back -- we ended up in Gerk, Scotland. And we were put on trains, in boxcars -- I don't know how many to a boxcar -- and we were railroaded through Scotland to South Hampton, England. But on our way through, going to South Hampton, England, to ship oversea, over to Europe, we'd stop at these cities, and the ladies of the city would have food prepared for us so that we'd have something to eat. And they kept looking in the boxcar and saying, "What are you people anyway?" [Laughs] And I can remember the people saying, "We're Japanese Americans," and they'd say; "Oh no, you can't be. You wouldn't be fightin' for the United States." But they thought we were Indians or something else. That was one of the memories that I thought was quite different than most people would experience.

AI: Isn't that something. Right.

KO: So, we went from South Hampton to Le Havre, France, where we saw the port all torn up and then eventually went to Schwabacher, [Schwabach] where I spent my time. That's digressing a little bit, but I thought it was kind of interesting.

AI: It is interesting. Well, and I'm wondering, did you have other kinds of reactions like that from other townspeople that you met while you were in the service?

KO: No, but that one really stands out.

AI: That was the most striking.

KO: Because, they did not believe that we could be of Japanese descent. They wouldn't believe it. It's just -- and the ladies were very, very nice. 'Course some of the food they prepared was kinda' bland. [Laughs] But they beat, it beats army food anyway.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.