Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Kan Tagami Interview
Narrator: Kan Tagami
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Mililani, Hawaii
Date: January 5, 2001
Densho ID: denshovh-tkan-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

gky: This is an interview with Kan Tagami, T-A-G-A-M-I, in Mililani, Hawai'i on January 5, 2001. Mr. Tagami, can you tell me the story about, right after Pearl Harbor, about patrolling in front of Joe DiMaggio's restaurant?

KT: Yes. On my regiment, which is the 53rd Infantry Regiment, I moved up from Fort Ord to San Francisco as a garrison troop. This was before the war. And when the war came, I was on guard of a small motor pool in front of DiMaggio's restaurant, and I was walking my post in a military manner. And around midnight, there was a drunk civilian walking down the road near my post. And he looked at me and he stared and then he started yelling, "Japs have landed," and he run down toward the bridge. Nothing ever really happened, but I thought that was really typical of the strained relationship or atmosphere.


gky: You were drafted before the war started?

KT: That's right.

gky: And then Pearl Harbor was bombed. What was the difference in people's attitudes to you, in non-Nisei attitudes to you?

KT: Well, in my regiment, they're mostly from California, so there wasn't that much because we knew each other and all that. In fact, I was sort of protected from the civilians because I lived in the military barracks and surrounded by my buddies. So I can't say too much about what the feeling was at the time I was there.

gky: But the soldiers didn't treat you differently?

KT: I don't think so, because they were with, or we were together, for about six , seven months, and they knew me and they knew everybody else. They might have thought something about that, but it never occurred to them that I was one of them, so used to it.

gky: And what camp were you in at this point? What fort were you stationed at?

KT: We were stationed at San Francisco Presidio.

gky: And then you got moved to Camp Crowder, Missouri?

KT: Yes, we were -- after the war started, the regiment was moved here and there and finally they were assigned to guard the Union Pacific line from Ogden to Green Rivers. That meant living in a boxcar along these small stopovers. But we didn't know how to take care of our equipment in the sub-zero weather, but we found out how to do it.

gky: So when you were called on to guard them, that meant that you had guns and everything?

KT: Oh, yes. We had our sidearms and rifles, machine guns, but it was sort of a lonely place and you hardly see anybody, really. So as far as I was concerned, there wasn't much things to do except guard the line.

gky: When you got sent to Camp Crowder, when you were sent to Camp Crowder...

KT: Yes.

gky: And you found that there were a lot of other Nisei there.

KT: That's right.

gky: Did that surprise you?

KT: Well, not really, but I was surprised how many there were. They were all over California, and they didn't know what to do with us. There were rumors about creating an all-Nisei regiment, and I suppose they had us together there until the time come that, when they could form the regiment. But it was just a rumor. But in the meantime, at Camp Crowder, there was a recruiter from MISLS school, military language school, and I decided to go there and they accepted me. I landed in, landed at the school sometime in January 1943, I guess. I think it was '43.

gky: What made you want to go there?

KT: Well, I was an infantryman for a long time, and I decided to use my language skill; that's what they wanted. So I volunteered to go there. When I went there, there were about 200 of us that came from the army, and we were the first soldiers that was -- it was just a mattress factory and really nothing there, but we made do and school started in April, I believe.

gky: How did you feel that you volunteered to a language school, and yet your parents were in an imprisonment camp?

KT: Well, that's something that no one -- I didn't know how to accept it, you know. Here you are in the army and my parents, brothers and sisters were behind the wire, barbed wire. I thought that was pretty bad, really. It didn't take much for us to get angry at anything because of that, but we sort of lived through it. Fights with your fellow students, fights with teachers, you know, things like that. It sort of settled -- there was one incident in which the senior instructor, at the beginning of the course, said, "You better shape up right because if you don't, it will have effect on your parents and brothers and sisters in the, in camp." The way he said it sort of got everybody angry, you know, threatening us for something had never happened. Well, anyway, that was one of the worst. We were in a rebellious mood, but never did rebel.

gky: Do you know many other stories about going to Camp Savage the month that you were in the learning part, not when you were teaching, but in the student part? As a student, do you remember any stories?

KT: Any stories about whom?

gky: About you, or about studying, about other students?

KT: No, not that I know of. I've sort of forgotten.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.