Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Rudy Tokiwa Interview II
Narrator: Rudy Tokiwa
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Judy Niizawa (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 2 & 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-trudy-02-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

RT: And so then the volunteering came out. We never talked to our parents or anything like that. But the group got together. All of us young guys, we got together and went out, down in the mesquites. In Arizona, you gotta lot of mesquite trees. Evening time, we went down there to talk about, what should we do? Either way you look at it, just seems a little foolish. Here you're in the damn concentration camp, and you're gonna go volunteer to fight for that country? So there was, there was quite a few of us. There must have been about forty of us that were down in there, just to talk this over. And see actually, I had no worries about it, because they couldn't draft me yet. But they said everybody sixteen years old and over are invited to come to this session that we're gonna have to see what we should do.

TI: Now do you remember who called that together? Was it someone that, just an older boy who wanted to get everybody together to talk about it?

RT: Yeah. It was just one of the older guys that, in fact, his name was Lloyd Onoye. He was the one. He got us all together. In fact, when I was going, when I was workin' at the railhead, I got to know one of the hakujin truck drivers pretty well. So before we were gonna have that meeting, I talked to the guy, and I says, "Think you can get us about five or six bottles?" He says, "Well, it cost you." I says, "That's all right." He says, "Yeah, okay." And see, the reason why I knew how to get him to get it was, when I was workin' in the railhead, the old men, they love to drink. And they never had nothin' to drink. So what I used to do is, I used to, I became buddies with one of the liquor store guys, but I couldn't go into the store. So he would come out to see me. And I'd say, "Hey, how 'bout a couple of cases of beer?" And I'd collect money from the people in camp. And this guy here, his job was to wet the road down, so the dust don't fly. So he had a big water truck, and he'd go from Poston, Arizona, to the town of Parker. So he'd take the truck, and he'd drive it out towards camp about quittin' time. And then we'd pull up alongside of him. And I'd hop over, and we'd pass the cases of beer, and drop 'em into the water truck, the back. This way nobody inspects it. That's how we used to get it through the gates. [Laughs] And I tell you, the old men, they really used to appreciate that. They say, "Aw, tastes so good, beer once in a while." So I says, well, I told Lloyd, I says, "Well, I'm too young to drink." But he says, "Yeah. You think you can get a hold of some hard liquor or somethin' for us?" I says, "Oh, yeah, I can do that." So I talked to the guy. He says, "Oh, yeah. I'll get it for you." I think it was six bottles or somethin' like that of VO. I had it brought in.

JN: That's how you became a battalion runner. The same stuff (communicating).

RT: And so I had all this stuff brought in. Then we had the meeting. For a while, in fact, for quite a while in the meeting, everybody was saying, "Aw, the hell. Why in the hell should we go out, fight for a damn country that locks us up?" And so there was some of us like, the more I thought of it, the more I kept feeling, you know, we're not gonna go to Japan. And if none of us volunteers, that's gonna give Roosevelt all the ammunition he needs. See, in them days, I didn't know who was in back of puttin' this 442nd together. So that was one of the things I brought up. And I said, "All right, say nobody volunteers out of any of the camps. I says, "What can Roosevelt say?" Everybody says, "Well, he can say that we're more loyal to Japan than the United States." So I say, "Well, do you guys plan to live here all the time? Do you plan to go back to Japan after this is over?" Some of 'em were saying, "Nah, I couldn't, I wouldn't be able to make it in Japan. I can't hardly speak Japanese." And all this came up. Finally, everybody started saying, "Well, if we plan to settle in this country, we better be able to prove ourselves." And that's when it came out to be that we would all volunteer.

TI: So the whole group ended up volunteering?

RT: Yeah, damn near the whole group. And so I didn't know what I was gonna do. And anyway, see, I wasn't in the age to volunteer. So when the day came, it was in the June that we all had to go sign up, and what we wanted to do. It was either a "yes-yes" man, that meant you're gonna volunteer. And you can be a man that was, "No, I wasn't gonna volunteer, but I'm loyal to the country." And then there was the ones that said, "No-no, I was not going to." And so we had, we all had to go down and sign up. And the guy looked at me, and he says, "Well, what are you gonna do?" I said, "I'm not old enough yet." I'm pretty sure I was sixteen then.

JN: Yeah, that makes sense. June of '42, you were sixteen. You turned seventeen in July. So that's where that comes from...

RT: Yeah.

JN: You volunteered when you were sixteen (answered on the questionnaire).

TI: This is actually was the, what we called the registration...

RT: Yeah.

TI: The "yes-yes," "no-no."

RT: Yeah, yeah.

JN: Right. The military.

TI: And then later on, and maybe I'll, I'm gonna ask our cameraperson, Larry. And later on, they did the actual volunteering?

LH: Yes.

RT: And so what we did was...

JN: It was a matter of saying you'd be willing to (on the questionnaire).

TI: Right.

RT: Yeah, right. You'd be willing to, see. So when I went down to sign up, and this guy says, "Well, what are you gonna do?" And I says, "Well, I'm willing, but I'm not old enough." So you never believe draft people. So he says, "You don't have to worry, because we can't take you 'til you're eighteen. So you volunteer now, and then we'll draft you when you're eighteen." Well, I got (inducted) when I (turned) seventeen.

TI: So that was, was that kind of a bureaucratic mix-up? When you turned seventeen, they thought you were eighteen?

RT: No, no. I think the reason why, I think the reason why they actually took me early was because, I think they expected more people to volunteer. So when they took me, too, they was scraping the barrel. Because this fella, Lloyd Onoye, who was the original man that started the meeting, he reported in on the first...


TI: Okay. But let's pick it back up. We are, oh, this is to the point where you're volunteering. You're seventeen. You're saying they're scraping the bottom of the barrel.

RT: Yeah...

TI: Need more people...

RT: Are you ready?

LH: Yes, I am.

RT: Yeah, see, 'cause I figured they must have been scraping the bottom of the barrel, because, now Lloyd was one of the first to be called. And he came back 4-F.

TI: Explain what 4-F means.

RT: Unfit for duty.

TI: Because of...

RT: Because of health reasons. So he was very disappointed. And he came back. He had a (heart murmur). They said, "Definitely, you cannot be taken, because with a (heart murmur), you're on the front lines, you're gonna die of a heart attack." And so they sent him home. We, him and I, we used to talk quite a bit, well, we were pretty good friends. He was much older than I was, but we used to talk quite a bit about what happened and everything. And he says, "You know, that's funny. I played football and everything, and never worried about a (heart murmur), but they refused me in the draft, so I guess I don't go."

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.