Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Frank Fukuhara Interview
Narrator: Frank Fukuhara
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Hawaii
Date: February 9, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-ffrank_2-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

gky: This is Frank Fukuhara, February 9, 2000, in Honolulu, tape two. Frank, will you tell me again about how you were trained to be a suicide bomber and what you were supposed to do?

FF: Well, they, in Kyushu our main job was digging foxholes and caves, but about from three o'clock on we come back to our barracks and then they'll train us on suicide, which means we carry bombs and dive into American tanks when they come up, land in Kyushu island. And then, that's, that was the early part of July already, 1945, and then about that time, I trained for about a couple weeks altogether, and funny things started happening, happened. And I don't know exactly what date, but anyway, there was several Korean soldiers in my outfit, so a couple of 'em escaped, so we were told to go into town to look for 'em. So we went out, we couldn't find anything, but I was talking to this Korean, other Korean that graduated college in Japan and he told me that, oh, they're all gone back to Korea by now. So I couldn't understand. I didn't know that, I knew Koreans were in the Japanese army and they were fighting for, for Japan and all that, but I did not know that at times they would escape, go AWOL, in other words, and go back to their country. That's the first time I heard about it, and I felt real funny because I thought it was more, different than that, that the Koreans knew, I think, at that time they knew that Japan was gonna lose already. Maybe Japan, maybe, it was right close to the end of the war, and so after that several things happened. They never told me that the war ended, so eighth, sixth of August that year atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, and I was, since I was from Hiroshima... but I didn't know until, all this time funny things happening, but, like the Koreans escaped, and then they asked me if I wanted to become an interpreter for the American POW camp. I said no because I lost my English right away and I couldn't, I didn't use English for over seven years at that time already, see, so I couldn't understand any English, so I said no. And then they assigned us, our squad, to guard the Kokura arsenal, and the Kokura arsenal had guards already, but when I got there, there was nobody guarding it. So we got, our company, our company decided to stay there, and I was with them and we were guarding the arsenal, but the arsenal commander was a retired Japanese colonel.


gky: Okay, you were talking about the Kokura arsenal, but before you, you finish about that, can you tell me, with the Koreans, you said that you were named as squad leader? Will you tell me about that?

FF: Oh, yeah, that's right, there was about ten or nine Koreans left in our company yet, and all of a sudden they told me to become a squad leader, and in the squad there would be nine or ten, I don't remember exactly, Koreans. They wanted me to be in charge of the Koreans, but I was the only one that, in that squad that only had four months' time and they all had six months to about three years' time in already, so I said, no, I don't, I can't control them. And they said, no, they wanted me to be in charge, so I said okay, and I asked them what they wanted to do. It was really something. They never told us the war ended or nothing, but that time the war was ended for sure because they said, I told my company commander that the, my men in my squad wanted to go out, outside, so he said, okay, but make sure and be back by six o'clock. So early in the morning we took off and I asked 'em where they wanted to go. They, they said they wanted to go to this certain Korean home and they were farming at that time, so we went there and they all enjoyed Korean food, and I was just with them, but they said, "Why don't you just lay down and take it easy?" so I did. And then about three o'clock I told 'em that, let's start going back home, so they said okay and they all went. They obeyed my orders, but it was really funny to me because I was just a new man in the outfit. But something like that, funny things happened, and all of a sudden they say I can go home, but still they didn't tell me the war has ended, see, so I went home. I took the train and went back home.

gky: When they trained you to be a suicide bomber, Japan was obviously then expecting some sort of invasion.

FF: Right, right.

gky: Because you were gonna be on Kyushu, but they only trained young, I mean, you're twenty-one, twenty-two years old, they were only training young people to be suicide bombers rather than the forty-year old men who were...

FF: No, there was a, just the younger ones. There was like a, when I was drafted, the same time, they were short on personnel, so they drafted, in my battalion they drafted about twenty or thirty, forty to forty-two, age of forty to forty-two, about thirty or forty of 'em were drafted, and that was the first time they ever drafted. But they couldn't train with us because we were so young they couldn't keep up with us. They're all our parents' age, some of 'em. And at that time, outside, like my mother or all the ladies that were holding their homes -- all the adult or grown up men were all either working outside or they were drafted in the military, see? So they, my mother and the ladies were training for, like spears, how to fight with spears, bamboo spears, you know? [Laughs] You haven't heard of it maybe, but they were training for that every day, maybe thirty minutes every day.

gky: How did you feel being an American in the Japanese army? I mean, you're fighting against your own country.

FF: Yes, I always tried to keep out. That's the reason why I, when I was drafted I was really disappointed. But through basic training I didn't feel too much about it, until I was assigned to that suicide. That really hurt me and I didn't know what to do, but I just had to obey orders. If I don't they're gonna shoot me anyway.

gky: You talked a little bit about the feeling of losing hope, of having nothing to live for and not minding as much being a suicide bomber. Can you talk a little bit about that?

FF: Well, everything started about 1940, '41, so food became rationed, clothing, everything started being rationed, and nothing, and we had to work all the time, no school hardly, just on Saturday and Sundays, and no hope for nothing. You know, if you live like that you start... and, but I didn't think about Harry or Mary much. I was just worried about my mother staying home all alone all the time. But when I was assigned to this suicide unit, that was, I thought that, well, I'm not gonna live long anyway, so I'll just go along with it and I might be lucky and live through it, but I just didn't have any hope, no fight. But at least my company commander was a very nice guy, and he was always on the side to try to help me. Since I was a Nisei he thought, he asked me, "Any hard feelings among the other guys?" And I said no. There was, but I didn't want to worry him. No use telling him yes, so I just said no.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.