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-02-0043

<Begin Segment 43>

TI: Now, you mentioned Pursall, you also earlier mentioned a Colonel Pence and what was Colonel Pence like?

RT: Colonel Pence, now he was our big boss. He was the man that was in charge. In fact, he was the man that was with us right from the start in Camp Shelby. And very few people even today realizes this, the 442nd damn near got disbanded, because the mainland Japanese Americans and the Hawaiian Japanese Americans were fighting each other all the time. Like a lotta the Hawaii guys couldn't understand the mainland guys, because of the, "Hey, you mainland guys, something wrong your pupuli heads?" And they tell, "What's wrong with it?" "Aw, you buggas, you sit quiet, never do anything wrong. Don't go out and get polluted and stuff like that." So Colonel Pence sat, and he was tryin' to figure how can he cure all this. Because now he's already gettin' word they may disband the 442nd. They can't work together, they can't have an outfit like that.

So he got this idea, because the Hawaii guys could not understand why the mainland guys don't go out and raise hell and get drunk and spend money and stuff. And where they go out, they get drunk and spend money, and when they need more money, they can write home. And the family sends 'em, well, we used to always say, "the little blue slip" comes in the mail to 'em, and they pull it out, and they go cash it. Where the mainland guys, their parents are all in concentration camps. The parents didn't have big money that they can throw around and give to their kids. And he realized this. So he turned around, and he sent three big busloads of strictly Hawaiians, and Senator Inouye was one of the troublemakers, and he was one of 'em that was in that group. And he sent them out to Jerome. And when they got to Jerome, like some of 'em were tellin' me, came and they would talk to me, because, I got along, like I say, pretty good with the Hawaiians. Because I knew the pidgin English. I picked it up real fast. And I can act like they do, I talked like they did and everything.

And so when they came back, they started askin' me, "Hey, Rudy, all you mainland guys, your families in places like that?" I says, "Well, majority of 'em, yes. I would say about 80 percent of the guys, all the parents are in concentration camps." "Hey," they says, "we get to (see) da kine in Jerome, yeah. The bus pull up and stopped in front of a gate. And they frisk us. They went through everything." So I says, "Well, it's a concentration camp. They can't have you bringing in things to them, to the people there and everything." And then they start saying, "Well, how much money these guys gettin' paid to be in there?" So I said, "Well, they don't get paid." I says, "They got their meals and stuff, but even the meals and stuff, it's not good stuff, and sometime it's a little bit short. But what are you gonna do?" And this is the way they realize why the mainland guys never used to write home and get more money like they did, so they can go to New York and raise hell and stuff like that. Because the mainland guys, their parents were in the concentration camp. They started to realize this. And like (Dan) Inouye (who was one of the Hawaiians) told me (later), "I was real surprised that they checked us out before they even let us in the first gate." I said, "Well, you may have been carrying a contraband inside." He says, "But what can the guys do inside? They got soldiers on the outside watching 'em." I says, "Well, if you get couple things smuggled in and somebody's liable to get shot or somethin' like that. It gets dangerous." I says, "You don't go in and out until you're completely searched and checked."

TI: How did that make you feel, now that the Hawaiians better understood what you and the other mainland guys went through?

RT: Well, I felt real good, because I felt that we were gonna gel now. And I felt that, gee, now they're understanding. And they were saying, "Hey Brah, we go down to the dat kine PX and drink some beer, yeah?" And they would say, "Aw, nah, nah, nah." "I asked you to come down. I buy." They didn't want us, make us feel bad because we didn't have the money and things. So this is the way they got by with it. And deep down inside, I felt, "Hey, we're gonna gel. It's gonna be a good outfit." And one of the things that was real good for us, we always called the 100th the "Big Brothers." Now, the 100th went over ahead of us. And I don't know if I told you this before, but they went over as a fighting unit, but they became a work battalion when they went to Africa.

TI: Right, yeah. Yesterday you talked about that.

RT: And see now when all this came up, and the 100th people were gettin' wounded, gettin' killed, the replacements were coming from the 442. So a lot of mainlanders were being sent as replacements. You see now, this is the difference between older people and the younger people. Now the 100th were older people. So they never gave the mainland guys any trouble. They understood what the situation was before they were even sent over there. See, so this was the difference between, like we said, they were our bigger brothers, and we were the young brothers.

TI: Going back to Colonel Pence, so Colonel Pence had the, it was his idea to try to have the Hawaiians go to an internment camp, a concentration camp, see what was happening, hoping that, after they did that, the unit would gel and things would work out. And apparently, it worked really well.

RT: Yeah, well, the thing is, another thing that really surprised the people from Hawaii, was they went inside the camp, there was a dance put on for 'em, and they had dinner in there. And they said, "Oh, that gotso they put out." You know what that means? That means they went all out, they had a big party, a real good party with a lotta food. And so they had asked, they started asking the mainland guys, "How can they put all that food up?" So the mainland guys, they're saying, "Well, when the report came that you guys were gonna come to camp, they cut down on their food so they can entertain you people and give you a party." And I had some of 'em say, "Hey, you katonk buggas, good up in the head, yeah? You like be buddies with everybody." That meant, we appreciated what they did for us. Like they said, "Whoo, the first time in a long time, yeah, we be able to hold da kine Buddhahead wahine in our arms and dance, yeah?" And they says, "We had good time." And they said, "Gee, now, but you guys volunteered outta places like that." So then it came up why we volunteered. So they realized that, hey, these guys, we volunteered because Japan bombed our home island. And these guys went through hell, and they're still volunteering to prove themselves. Like I say, I always take my hat off to the Hawaii people, because they coulda said, "Aw, to hell with 'em. We don't wanna associate with the mainland guys." But no, they realized what was going on, and they wanted to help us.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.