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-02-0047

<Begin Segment 47>

[Ed. Note: After this Densho interview was conducted, Mr. Tokiwa provided a written addendum to this section of the interview, describing his encounter with Brazilian soldiers and officers.]

[Begin Addendum:]

(There was a regiment of Brazilians who were expected to relieve us by the Arno River in Italy (before we left for France). The Germans used to send small patrols across the Arno River to harass us. K. Co. was picked to find these patrols that were coming over to harass us. They found one of the patrols and there was a firefight between K Co. patrol and the German patrol. The Germans finally pulled back and they left some of our guys wounded and some of their guys woulnded. Chaplain Yamada heard that some of our boys were wounded real bad and our first aid group was sent in to help the wounded and bring out the one fatality. Chaplain Yamada heard about this and was going to help them because he had a jeep. But his jeep hit a land mine and his driver got killed and the Chaplain was wounded mildly.

Even though he was wounded, he went looking and found an Italian home where he begged to borrow their bicycle. And even though he was wounded himself, he rode back to K. Co. to get help for his driver and the other wounded soldiers. Chaplain Yamada went back with the squad of six to eight men to show them where the wounded were. I went back for the ride to see if I could help.

When the medics got there they could see the wounded soldiers - our guys and the Germans, and there were fresh German troops that had arrived by the time they had gotten back.

The medic started to work on the German who was wounded, and a German soldier hollered and said that the medic was trying to kill him when he was supposed to help.

The medic replied, "I don't care if he is German, American, Japanese; I'm going to help him."

The Germans were going to take the wounded back and they also took the medic as a POW. He protested by hollering, "You can't take me. I'm a medic. That is why I wear this cross." But they took him. When the wounded were picked up, they might have figured they wanted to keep him alive because he helped them. They didn't take any of the American wounded because the Germans knew help was coming and they weren't prepared to go into a gun battle. I never heard about the medic again.

After that K. Co. crossed the Arno River (near Romagno) where they were holding grounds. I was told to go pick up a group of Brazilians who were going to relieve us.

So, I went back. They were bivouvaced around three miles away and I went by foot for about an hour and a half. When I got there the officers were going to come to see where 3rd Battalion headquarters were. From there, they wanted to go to the frontlines to see how we were deployed.

Before I had gotten there, I kept wondering to myself how I was going to speak to them. Would I use Spanish? I didn't know what their language would be.

So when I got there a sentry said something to me, and I answered, "Four-four-two." And he realized I was from the 442nd so then afterwards we tried to speak, but not very well and we were trying to understand each other. Since I was going to take them back to headquarters, I signaled to them to follow. We had to walk, otherwise we would have been shot at. While I was walking I was trying to figure out how I would communicate. What language was I to use? I tried my broken Spanish I learned as a kid. Finally, one of the officers asked me if I was Chinese. "Chino? Chino?" I said, "No. Japonese."

Then in Japanese he asked, "Nihongo o wakarimasu ka?" (Do you understand Japanese?)

I answered, "Hai. Wakarimasu yo." (Yes, I do understand.)

I expected to meet Brazilians, not Japanese Brazilians.

They wanted to know why an American spoke Japanese fluently. So I told them I was in Japan for school and had learned to read and write Japanese.

I asked why they spoke Japanese. I was told that most of the unit was Japanese and all of the officers in the unit were Japanese.

They said, "Yokatta. Yokatta. Nihongo o hashashite, wakari yoni narimasthita." (How fortunate. How good. We spoke Japanese and it was understood.)

While we were just shooting the breeze, one of the officers asked me, he had heard all the Japanese were rounded up in the United States.

I told them, that it was just those from the West Coast - California, Oregon, and Washington.

He said the U.S. government tried to round up all Japanese in Brazil and put them in concentration camps in the U.S.)

[End Addendum]

RT: And so naturally he wanted to know if I knew any Japanese words, as far as army was concerned. And I said, "Yes," I says, "I went through Japanese military training." And so they were real happy after that. And they, 'cause they'd come in to relieve us.

TI: Was it a segregated unit, a Japanese unit?

RT: Yeah. Well, no. It wasn't, see...

JN: Officer in the Japanese...

RT: We never knew, we never knew that, what kind of an outfit it was. We just thought it was a Brazilian outfit so I figured they would be Brazilian officers. But no, all the officers were Japanese.

TI: And the soldiers were Brazilian?

RT: A few were Brazilians, but even a lotta the soldiers were Japanese. So naturally, I was curious. So I asked 'em how come so many Japanese in this outfit. "Oh," he says, "no, we're Brazilians." But I says, "You speak Japanese and everything, so you must be Nihonjin." And they said, "Well, we're Nihonjins that live in Brazil, and we are Brazilians now."

TI: And conversely, was he surprised to find Americans, Japanese? Was he surprised when he talked to you?

RT: Well, they were told, they were told that there was American Japanese, American soldiers there. And they felt that we wouldn't be speaking Japanese, that we would speak American, English.

JN: Was there some reputation building by then about the 442?

RT: Yeah.

JN: They would have known about you.

RT: Yeah. It was amazing. I, every time I think about that, I sorta chuckle. Because here we were, trying to figure out how, they were worried about, they said, they couldn't understand how they were going to communicate with me. And I'm thinkin' to myself, "How in the hell am I gonna communicate with these guys?" And then we find out we got a common language of Japanese. [Laughs]

TI: That's pretty funny.

RT: Yeah. Can you imagine that? A common, our common language is Japanese.

JN: Yeah, even today, the South Americans do maintain the Japanese (language and culture much) more than we do. It's like a third language, a fourth language.

RT: And see now, they were the ones that told me that the United States had ordered Brazil to round up all the Japanese and send 'em up to the United States for exchange later on, for the American soldiers that are captured in South Pacific.

TI: So were the Brazilians pretty angry about this?

RT: Oh, yes.

TI: These were family members that were sometimes taken and sent to...

RT: Yeah. Oh, yes. They were, well, the Brazilian government itself said, "No. We are not gonna round 'em up. They are our people." So the United States said, "All right, if you won't round 'em up, we're gonna come down and pick 'em up." And this guy was a full colonel in the Brazilian army. He's the one that's telling me this. And he says, "You know what our government told your government?" I says, "What'd they say?" "You try to come in and pick up these Japanese Brazilians who are Brazilians, you are declaring war on us. We will fight you." Can you imagine that? Now, you see, this country's never brought those things out in the open. But if you sit, you know everything about the history down there. You sit and you think about it. You never hear this country saying anything bad about Brazil, because they couldn't afford to have that come out in the open. It's something that is all wrong, what they were doing.

JN: Peru is the only one that complied, right?

RT: Huh?

JN: Peru.

RT: Well, no. Peru didn't exactly comply, either. As far as Peru went, (the U.S. military) had ordered the Peruvian government to round up all the Japanese in Peru. And the Peruvian government said, "If you want 'em, you gotta come down and get 'em yourself. We are not going to round them up for you." So the United States had to send its own planes into Peru, with its own soldiers, and round up the Japanese. So it wasn't the Peruvian government that was rounding up the Japanese, it was the United States.

TI: But the Peruvian government allowed this, whereas the Brazilian government said, "No."

RT: Yeah. The Brazilian government said, "No."

TI: And part of it is, you're thinking is that the, because in Brazil, the Japanese held high ranks in the military, and probably other government positions?

RT: Well, and not only that, see, in Brazil, the big-money people were the Japanese Brazilians who were in the farming. They went into Brazil and they didn't farm 50, 60 acres. They farmed hundreds of acres. I was invited down there to see them. And they took me out to a chicken farm. And can you imagine a chicken farm covering a hundred acres?

TI: I can imagine the smell. [Laughs]

RT: Yeah. Well, I couldn't even picture this. A hundred acres of chickens. And another thing was this guy that had invited me down there, when I went to his place and everything and we were talkin', then he says, "Would you like to see my farm?" I'm sayin', "Oh, yeah, that'd be great." So I see some pick-ups over there. So I figure, "Oh, he's gonna take me out in the pick-up." And we're goin', start walkin' towards the pick-up. And he said, "No, no, no." I said, "Aw, we should go in the pick-up. We don't wanna go in the car. Get your car all dirty." "Oh, no. We can't go in the pick-up." I said, "Why?" "Well, no, we gotta take a helicopter." And I looked at him, and I said, "Take a helicopter?" "Oh," he says, "You go by pick-up, we're not gonna be back for three, four days." Can you imagine? Over 5,000 acres.

JN: See today, Brazil has more of a population than all of us. It's in, a million.

TI: Yeah. No, I'm...

RT: But can you imagine? Here they are. In order to see his farm, I gotta go up in a helicopter so I can see it from the sky. Otherwise, I won't see it all in one day.

TI: That's a great, a great story about the Brazilians.

<End Segment 47> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.