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_2-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

gky: What was it like, what were the conditions under which you met Harry for the first time after the war and learned that he was alive and had been serving in the army?

FF: Well, like I told you before, I was, nobody told me in our outfit that the war ended, so I was stuck in Kyushu until about another extra month or more, and I came back and I looked after my mother and Victor, but I had to work, so I found a job. But the first job I found was an interpreter job, and meantime I took tests at the prefectural government for interpreter, but I couldn't pass the test, of course, because all Japanese teachers, they couldn't understand American English, so I couldn't understand their English either. They asked me in their English, Japanese type English. I couldn't understand what they're talking about, so I couldn't pass it. And anyway, after about three weeks after I got home I decided to go to work, and at that time the American government has sent atomic bomb research team into Hiroshima city. I didn't know anything about it. Nobody knew about it. But I went to work for this Japanese company, which they were going to go after the Japanese soldiers that were sick patients. They're gonna, so I went, helped them, but that boat wasn't gonna take off for about a week because they were still getting ready, loading water and medicines and things like that, so they, right next to our barracks there, American atomic bomb research team was there, and they were looking for an interpreter. So my friend that got me this job, he said, "Why don't you go over there and train for about a week, you might pick up some English since you forgot it." So I went over there and they said, oh yeah, he understood me right away. I said I'd like to work, and he said, "Yeah, what is your name?" I said, "Frank Fukuhara." "Well, we were looking for an interpreter, but we never got an interpreter. Let's go to work. "

So I was working already, and next, two days after, the third day, I went to work and I start working for this one person. He was in uniform, but I didn't know what kind of uniform it was. And about five minutes after I got there, Harry was standing there. And I recognized him right away, but I couldn't figure out why he was there. The first thing went through my mind was I thought he was POW, he was a POW and deported back to Japan. That's the first thing that went through my mind. And I asked him what, how he got here. He didn't say a word about it, and next thing he said, "I'm in Kobe right now. Would you like to go to Kobe?" I said, I do, because I was looking for a job, and these two jobs, both of 'em are temporary. I'm not hired officially. I just started working day before yesterday, I told him. And he said, so Harry talks to this guy that I worked together with, and I was looking at him and I noticed that Harry had the same kind of uniform on, 'cause I didn't know what kind of uniform American soldiers were wearing at that time. So we all, my brother, after he explained to this guy that I'm his brother, because we were speaking Japanese all the time, and he said, "I want to take him back to my outfit," and things like that. They said, "Yeah, he's temporary, so please go ahead. We're hurtin' for interpreters, but," and then I later found out that he was the youngest and the lowest rank, but he was a still a major already. People say scientists and doctors were, all had temporary ranks on, like generals and colonels and all. But anyway, Harry and I started back for Kobe, and on the way back we dropped by Kure where the American 41st Division was there as occupation, and Harry was told when he left -- he was in the Kobe 33rd Division headquarters -- that if he had any trouble, to report with the 33rd Division commander, so when he was visiting us my mother told him to hide the jeep, doesn't look good. So my brother hid it right next, by --


FF: Well, I got permission to quit working for this atomic bomb research. Later on they called it the ABC something research center, but at that time they just came from the States and just started, and I took, so Harry said, "Let's go," and I went outside and there was a jeep sittin' there. And there was a big Caucasian boy sitting in the jeep, so I looked at him, didn't say a word, but Harry said, "Get in the back," so I got in the back, and he was driving. So I just, I just thought, I still had that in mind that Harry was a prisoner of war, so I thought that this Caucasian guy is guarding him all the time, because he had a pistol on both sides, see, and Harry had pistols, too, but I didn't know, I didn't notice that. So anyway, I thought he was, I didn't know who he was, but we went towards the 41st Division, and as you approach the 41st Division you have to go through a tunnel, and right after we finished the tunnel there was a big colored soldier. He was guarding the peoples going in and out through the tunnel, and he stopped us. And it was raining, and he started talking to Harry, and Harry, I couldn't understand what they were talking about because I forgot all my English at that time, but anyway, he said, I'm gonna, he had a talkie talkie, so he was talking to the headquarters' commanding officer. I didn't know that until later, but he was talking, he talked, the guard was talking to the commanding officer, and the commanding officer said, "Yeah, I know Harry and I know, I heard that he went to Hiroshima, so please let him in right away." So he came in and he asked for spare tires 'cause he, somebody stole all four, besides the four tires he used he had, from Kobe to Hiroshima he thought he'd get a flat tire because all the cities in between were all burned out. There's a lot of nails. But on the way coming to Hiroshima he had four flats, so they're all flat tires, but somebody stole all of 'em anyway, so he asked for good tires and a toolbox and things like that, everything that was stolen from us. And the commanding general says, gave us some C-rations and K-rations to eat on the way and things like that. That time guard said, "Go ahead," and he saluted Harry, so I said, why salute Harry? So I start talking to Harry. I said, "Why'd he salute you?" He didn't say much. He said, one thing he said was, "This Caucasian sittin' here is working for me," he said in Japanese. I didn't, I couldn't understand what he meant. What, what did he mean, working for him? Later on I found out he was driving for Harry and his commander ordered him to drive, but I found out later this Caucasian -- big guy, he was young, but he looked old to me. He looked like thirty, thirty-five to me, but he was only nineteen, and he was scared all the way, Harry said. He was so scared Harry would try to get off the jeep and go someplace, he'd follow him all around because all these Japanese soldiers were demobilizing, going back home, and they would start a fire on the street and get drunk and all that, so if they, they start talking loud words, "What are you doing wearing American uniform?" and things like that, so he was really scared. They were talking actually to Harry, but Harry said, "This is my boss. I'm just an interpreter." That's the only way he got through. That was a promised thing when they took off, he said. So they got back safely and they came in safely, and on the way back, but I still couldn't understand what he meant until I got back to Kobe. It took us about sixteen, eighteen hours. I have no memory for that. Early in the morning, pitch dark, we went into this hotel. There was a guard standing there, and he said, "Please go in," so this Caucasian boy, he was driving and he drove up to the entrance of the hotel, he got off and he drove the jeep and took off. So then Harry said, "This is the officers' quarters." I couldn't figure it out. [Laughs]

So anyway, he, they, everybody knew he left four years ago, but nobody knew when he, when he was gonna come back. But word got around fast, because we got in about four o'clock and I slept a couple, three hours, and I got up -- and I never lived in a, or stayed in a hotel before, nice like that -- and he said, "Let's go to eat breakfast." I said, I was kind of worried because I only had one set of clothes, and I was wearing it all the time, so... and I went, we went to the mess hall and Harry said, "What do you want to eat?" I didn't know what to eat, so Harry just ordered me, like bacon, eggs, and things like that. And I hadn't eaten American food for a long time by that time, maybe thirteen years, something like. I was nine and I was twenty-one that time, so twelve years I hadn't eaten American food, so I was really -- besides, I was hungry. I couldn't eat much, last four or five years I couldn't eat much, and I was young, so I think I ate quite a bit. I'm not sure. I ate all the rolls up there and everything. [Laughs] But anyway, right after breakfast I went together with Harry to the headquarters. The American army, or military has this newspaper, Stars and the Stripes, those people were there. Japanese newspaper people were there already. I don't know how they found out that, I think words got around after he came back that night before, so they're all there already. I didn't know what was going on, see. I knew there was Japanese people and taking pictures and things like that. That's all I knew, and I didn't know they were news press people. Anyway, the word got around fast because from the Stars and Stripes the news got, all over America, mainland too. And I hear that the news press people in Chicago, where my sister was living at that time, got a hold of it, and they located Mary, my sister, in Chicago and, early in the morning, she said, my sister did, they woke me up and said, your brother Harry located your family, he said, or mother or something like that. Anyway, related people. And she didn't know anything about it. Well, she was very much surprised, she says, because she, she knew he was in the service. They went to camp together and Harry volunteered from the camp into military and into the language part, and then he was sent to Intelligence school where they had to take Japanese courses. But anyway, she was very much surprised that, because she didn't know the exact type of work Harry was doing in the military. She didn't know he was a lieutenant. And, well anyway, words got around pretty fast and a commanding officer said that, to tell me that I can live on base, I can go to any mess hall, officers, non-commissioned officers, or GI, the private, I can eat any, so I was really hungry, so I ate about five meals, sometimes six meals a day I'd eat. [Laughs] That didn't last long, but for about a week I was really hungry. I ate, ate, ate, ate. Because I remember coming back from Hiroshima to Kobe there was a box of chocolate bars, chocolate bars, and I ate the whole box in about two, three hours, but for five years I didn't even want to look at chocolate anymore. [Laughs]


<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.