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

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

gky: Do you consider yourself a Kibei? You were there from the time you were eight years old until thirteen.

KT: Yeah.

gky: Do you consider yourself a Kibei? I mean, I know you don't speak with an accent.

KT: Not exactly, because I didn't have the Japanese accent. I spoke, I got my fluency back once I got back. But I understand that I could be classified as a Kibei, but I didn't feel that I was.

gky: Even in terms of knowing the mentality behind the Japanese, how they were trained, how they were told to bow to the emperor, things like that?

KT: Yes. I do know emperor was looked upon as a living god, and at school every morning you bowed to the emperor picture which was on the school ground. As far as discipline is concerned, I guess they more or less fall into it once they are told what to do. But I remember one time when I entered school as the only American, I didn't bow to the emperor, emperor's little place, and the principal called me in. He says, "Why didn't you bow?" I said, "Well, I'm not a Japanese," you know. He says, "Well, you're in a Japanese school," which is true. "I understand what you're saying," he said, "but there's an old saying, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do,'" which is pretty apt, I think. So I told him, "I'll bow if that's a rule." That was the only thing that -- but, there's a difference in how I feel and how the ordinary Japanese feel. They're not very independent like I was. Maybe I was too independent, I don't know. So I stayed in school and as soon as I got my Japanese fluency, my class rating went from thirty something to number five, or something. The reason for that is I read everything that I could get my hands on, even scientific stuff which I didn't understand. But that's how I acquired fluency in Japanese as far as, because I read everything.

gky: Yeah, but, only being eight years old starting to do this, or ten years old, that's pretty young for that kind of determination.

KT: Well, I don't know. I was all by myself. My parents weren't there. I had no one except my grandparents and they weren't that close to me anyway, so I was sort of all by myself, which meant that I had to be more or less independent in my thinking and...

gky: Is there any difference between the Hawaiian Nisei and the mainland Nisei?

KT: Yes, there is. Hawaiian Niseis are, have never been isolated and treated as a second-grade citizen by the Americans or white population. So, definitely, as I got to know them, they were a very independent lot as far as catering to existing custom and pretty much independent, in that sense. Not that they were any better than the mainland Nisei, but mainland went through that. As they grew up, they found that they couldn't go to swimming pools every day. On Friday, they could go because the water. [Laughs] Couldn't go to restaurants with a date or they won't wait on you. Couldn't go to theater because they won't sell you tickets. Things like this, sort of, the mainland Nisei grew up with and they weren't too aggressive about getting a better deal. So the difference in the two groups, Hawaiians were sort of brought over and brought into this group and the Niseis were independent. They weren't gregarious, they were individual, but they didn't go in for aggressiveness as far as customs, local customs were concerned because they were beaten on the head so often that they said, "Oh well, won't bother, you know, we'll live through it." That's the difference between Niseis of the mainland and Hawaiian. Hawaiians were gregarious; they grouped together and did things together, but the mainland Niseis were less aggressive and more individual, individually independent.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

gky: Right after you went to Camp Savage, they kept you there as a teacher for close to a year?

KT: Yes. After I graduated, they picked up ten students, and picked up ten students with the best grades and I was one of them.

gky: Okay, but, after a year, you requested to go overseas, and you were part of the Mars Task Force?

KT: Yes. I was there a year or so. I was due to go out with a team.

gky: In June 1944?

KT: Yeah, '44 or July, I think, June or July. So I took a team of Hawaiian students who graduated; there were fourteen of them, all young. That's another thing about Hawaiians, they were all young, you know, so they were more aggressive, naturally. But anyway, Hawaiians like to act together, you know, anything. They like to -- and they expect the team leaders to sort of be part of them. I didn't feel that way. I said, "Well, we're all in this together, but we don't need to live and drink and everything together, you know." And I was a senior officer, non-commissioned officer. I did what I wanted to do. But I was there when they needed me. For that reason, I think these people that were with me didn't feel that close to me, but that's natural for any American group put together. They do what they have to do, but they keep their own counsel, and the war wasn't going to last that long, or I thought. Anyway, Hawaiian kids needed special handling and I wasn't a Hawaiian so I believe there wasn't much really living together, and I didn't want that anyway. So, but we went, the team was assigned to the 124th Cavalry Regiment from Texas. And our mission was to go to India and then to Myitkyina, which is in Burma, to form up a unit to fight the Japanese. Well, the 124th Cavalry Regiment became 124th Cavalry Dismounted. Then later on, there wasn't a whiff of cavalry anymore; we a were plain, ordinary regiment, infantry regiment, and by the time we hit Burma, Myitkyina, we were plain, ordinary infantrymen. It's still called the 124th Cavalry Regiment. In the meantime, they had the remnants of the regiment that fought in Myitkyina, older group, and they formed the regiment of 475th Regiment. They had two regiments and that became the Mars Task Force. The Mars Task Force mission was to penetrate the Japanese line and go behind their line and force them to retreat, which we did quite well. I figure we must have marched, oh, 500 miles, literally walking, going back and forth. And we finally reached our goal, pushed the Japanese out of the terminal point of Burma Road.

gky: So your mission was successful?

KT: Yes, it was very successful.

gky: And, as a language specialist, what exactly did you do with the Mars Task Force?

KT: Well, our mission was to translate, interpret, and interrogate Japanese prisoners and documents. Because of our nature of -- we were just hitting the Japanese line from the rear and were getting some documents which were translated. And I interrogated one prisoner who was on the verge of dying because he was pretty heavily shot right here. I got some information which the regiment could use, and the documents were gathered by the team in the process. But the only prisoner of war that I remember is this fellow that died on me. He gave, he said, "Don't question me because, or kill me, because I'm not going to talk," you know. I told him, "Look, you might have a chance to go back home after the war if it ever comes, and you want to see your children, your wife?" And he broke down then. He says, "Yes, I do." "Well, you don't need to talk too much, just tell me what your regiment is and what their disposition is. If you don't know, tell me how many people in your regiment," I mean your company, which is, you could average it out. Out of 300 people, they only had fifty effective. The rest of them were either died or sick and wounded. So we figured with fifty, they can't have more than over a thousand people, you know, in the regiment. So we, based on that, we charged and captured. It was the last battle of Burma that we had. We took them and took the hill and the Japanese sort of slipped away. So that was very successful, because as soon as we captured the Burma Road at terminal point, the trucks start going to China because they were waiting. Mars Task Force, a part of it went to China, and others were special mission like me, they were sent to India, sent back to India. My team was taken away from me and they were sent to China.

I went back to India and at New Delhi, India, they gave me a commission, direct commission. In those days, the Nisei didn't get a chance to get a commission because, you know, they still had that -- but that taboo was broken. That's when I went back to Delhi, they opened up for commission for me and I became a commissioned officer, and they assigned me to a British unit, which was the 34th Army Corps destined for landing in Malaya, and I went along with them. One day, after the war was declared over, we moved in to Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and after Occupation was over, I was sent back to New Delhi and then home. But in between, before I joined the 34th Army Corps, my group, or my colonel, American colonel, wanted to take a dash down Burma Road, which they said was halfway over anyway, and go to Rangoon. I was called in one morning and they said you're assigned as one of the members of the team that penetrated Rangoon. So I went with him and we accomplished our mission. There was nobody there in Rangoon. The Japanese had pulled out and the, no troops, no Japanese troops, no American troops, no British troops, just us, fifteen people. We didn't have much to do except maybe check the government and it was all gone by then. I remember getting into trouble when the colonel wanted to inspect the bank, Bank of Burma. I said, "What for? Leave it go." But he went in there, made them open the bank vault and checked what's there. But we didn't do anything. We just sealed the bank and left.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

gky: This is tape two with Kan Tagami in Mililani, Hawai'i on January 5, 2001. You said that the trip to Rangoon was interesting. How come?

KT: Well, there was no opposition. We were expecting something but I don't know what we were going to do if we did. We only had fifteen people. But the colonel believed some of my, the report I told him that hardly anybody there, you know, which was true. The Japanese had taken off toward Thailand. Oh, there was one American unit there. That was called... I forgot the name. They only had two or three people, but we didn't get to meet them. Anyway, I told you about the bank. About five years later -- I don't know where I was -- somebody contacted me and wanted to know why I opened the Burma Bank. I said, "Don't ask me. The colonel was in charge. We did nothing but take a look," you know. They had a big investigation on that for a long time. They finally found out that we were telling the truth and nothing was missing. So that's what it was. It was interesting in the sense that we went into an enemy territory, no Japanese troops, nothing. It's sort of empty of most -- no British troops, no Japanese troops, except us. We just stayed there about a week and then came back. I don't know what the purpose of the trip, because I was only a sergeant then. I think it was interesting, at least. And the Japanese war scrips were still good. You could eat on that, they were still accepting that, the civilians.

gky: How long were you with the Mars Task Force?

KT: Oh, all right. In November, 1944.

gky: I have that you went over in June or July of 1944 with the Mars Task Force, and then it was November of '45?

KT: Yeah. I think we left this base camp that we were in, Myitkyina, in December, 19...

gky: Must have been '44 before the war was over.

KT: Yeah. And we started our march down the road and ended up in Burma, I guess that's where it was.

gky: How many Nisei were with the Mars Task Force?

KT: Well, there was my team, which was fifteen, including myself. And there was fifteen in the other one, 475th Regiment, all former Camp Savage graduates

gky: So, there was a total of thirty?

KT: What?

gky: There was a total of thirty?

KT: Yeah, a little over that, I think. There was some OSS [Office of Strategic Services] people.

gky: And how big was the Mars Task Force?

KT: Oh, two regiments. Two regiments, a brigade actually, with attached field artillery and things like that, one brigade.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

gky: Okay, just sort of to recap then, Mr. Tagami, after you came back from Burma, you went to New Delhi.

KT: New Delhi.

gky: From New Delhi, you went back to the United States. The war was over by now, you went back to the United States, arrived there on Christmas, 1945, and then you were reassigned.

KT: Yeah, to Washington document center.

gky: And, that's the center in Maryland, right?

KT: No, it's in the city.

gky: Oh, it's in Washington D.C. In the Pentagon or in...

KT: No, it's in a different building. We're supposed to -- all the documents that we collected, supposed to translate it. I got one temporary base called "Yalu River Project." The Japanese had built dams on the Yangtze River. It was very complicated stuff. I'm glad I didn't need to finish it, because by that time my request for transfer to Japan was approved. I left there.

gky: Why'd you want to go to Japan?

KT: I had lived there before the war, and I wanted to see how it is after the war, and how the people react, you know, things like that.

gky: But it must have been devastating in a way, because the people were a different people than when you were living there before the war.

KT: No, they're basically the same people, very polite, and observing niceties and social obligation. But the only thing they didn't have is money, and when you have no money you sort of resort to a lot of things just in order to eat. But I think they lived quite well. After the war, women became stronger in Japan because they were the one that's hustling for food. They were the one that's going out in the country to hustle food and things. The male, they were in sort of a daze because the shock and things like that. But it took them a long time to get back. In the meantime, the women were living, or trying to live. I think that the thing about Japan is that basically their education standard was high. Everyone at least went to grammar school, and their family ties were strong. I think that sort of kept them up, kept them from sort of dispersing or -- and it didn't take them long to get back, you know. They had no natural material to fall back on, only themselves, just the people. And they did all right, I think.

gky: What year and month did you go back to Japan?

KT: In July, 1945, I think, June or July.

gky: You mean '46?

KT: No, no.

gky: After the war?

KT: Yeah, after the war.

gky: You were there...

KT: Oh, yeah, it was December of '45. The peace treaty was signed in August, so I was one of the earlier ones. By that time, the Occupation force was in Japan and what they need most was language, linguists. I was in the officer replacement depot when the call came for me to get an interview as MacArthur's interpreter. Of course, they didn't say MacArthur's interpreter, but interpreter at General Headquarters. I had an interview and they picked me, because they were very -- people were moving out because of the war and all that, and going home, or doing something. I landed the job with MacArthur.

gky: I talked with someone, I can't remember who it is right now, who said that he -- someone had told him about the job. He said, "I'm not qualified, I can never interpret..."

KT: Some people like that.

gky: Yeah, "Why don't you talk with Kan Tagami?"

KT: Oh, yeah?

gky: Uh-huh. I'll have to think of who it is.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

gky: So, what kind of things were you expected to interpret for General MacArthur?

KT: Well, I didn't have a clue. But, from the position that I was occupying, I'm supposed to be his interpreter and I didn't know who the Japanese counterpart, visitor would be. I found out that they mostly were courtesy calls for assuming the new position, like the prime minister, Bank of Japan director, president, judges, and politicians.

gky: Were you ever called on to interpret between an individual's meeting, you know, a member of the general public, as opposed to some sort of official?


gky: You were talking about interpreting for civilians that came to see General MacArthur.

KT: No, not civilians. There were some who wanted to see him, but their requests was too broad and we didn't know who he represented. There were others who was pleading their case for their husbands, like Tojo. His wife was Austrian, I think. She used to come every day to request that his ashes be given to her, but there was a rule; he was a major war criminal and his bones will not be released to the widow. There were others like a group that claimed they were the emperor, they called them the Southern Group, that always claimed they were the emperor's lineage, but that, all those things were sort of died out.

gky: What happened to Tojo's ashes if they weren't given to his family?

KT: What's that?

gky: What happened to Tojo's ashes if they weren't given to his family?

KT: Well, I don't know what the time limit was, but it wasn't -- it was strict. If you were a major war criminal, your bones or ashes will not be given to the family and no cemetery.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

gky: Can you tell me about that meeting that you had with the emperor, just you and the emperor, that no record was ever kept of it? Can you tell me about that meeting?

KT: Yeah. That was later, later part of the Occupation, I think sometime around '48, around there, 1948. I was asked by the, by General MacArthur to go see the emperor in his behalf. And he was very concerned about outside agencies, like Foreign Ministry and Imperial Household Ministry were trying to get the emperor to let the newspaper and media in to see the family, and they wanted to photograph their daily life, and all that. The pressure was mounting. So MacArthur heard about it. He says, you know, he was very pro imperial household, especially the emperor. He liked the emperor and he wanted to make it straight that he, General MacArthur and GHQ will not approve anything that is not acceptable to the emperor and that he, himself, as an individual, rights to privacy as any other Japanese. So, that's what I told him. I asked him if he understood this. So that was the end of it. And we talked here and there about other things. We talked about my family in Hiroshima. Yes, he said, he remembers Hiroshima well. He used to go there. He told me that, "You Niseis have done a great job and will be doing a great job as a bridge between two countries." So he asked me to tell the others that he appreciates the Nisei work.

gky: Why do you think this was such a special mission that MacArthur gave you?

KT: Special mission?

gky: Well, to go see the emperor, to have a --

KT: Yeah, well, that was because of his concern for the emperor and the rampant activities of the media, and he wanted to be on board to the emperor that he is against anything that is, the emperor does not want and not be powered or pushed, and that MacArthur would support him.

gky: And then how did you get, you all get the emperor to agree to meet just with you, not with any other interpreters or...

KT: No. Aide-de-camp, full colonel, called the Imperial Household Ministry and told them that, "Captain Tagami will be there tonight. He represents the general. Please give him time to see the emperor. He represents the general." So, that's -- when I walked in for the meeting, the household minister -- I don't know what his rank was -- anyway, Chief of Ceremonies said, "Go to that room and you will be alone with the Emperor because the emperor will be alone himself." I said, "Where's the book?" He says, "Oh, you mean the visitor? No, you don't need to sign it because it will be unofficial," which was good because I didn't want my name on something like seeing the emperor. I'd rather have it informal, anyway. So that's how it was. There's nobody in the room when I talked to the emperor.

gky: So, it seems like that and the -- well, first of all, tell me about the mission to Hiroshima.

KT: Mission to what?

gky: To Hiroshima, that you went and gave --

KT: Yeah, yeah. Well, that was kind of early in my assignment. I was called in and they said they had a request from the mayor of Hiroshima requesting the general give him a message on the atomic bomb day, first atomic bomb day. The general wrote a short letter to be given to the mayor. I think in the newspaper it shows that I did. But after that, after the first message, I don't think he tried to do it again because a lot of people tried to take advantage of his endorsement. That was the first time and the last time he left, gave a message to the people of Hiroshima because the atomic bomb was a sore thing for United States anyway. He didn't want to bring it up too much, too often. That was my feeling about it.

gky: So a couple of times you were asked to act as the general's special emissary, I mean, to go and give people a message from the general. So you were acting as more than an interpreter for him.

KT: Yes. I was interpreting not as an interpreter but his aide representing him in bestowing that letter to the mayor of Hiroshima. Like I say, that was the last time I went down for -- it was an eerie thing, you know. He decided to play it down a little bit, because we didn't want the media and things to get hold of that saying that, explain our feelings and all of that.

gky: Where is your family from?

KT: What?

gky: Where is your family from in Japan?

KT: My family? Hiroshima. Hiroshima. My cousin, first cousin, female, was burned in that attack. Her face is all scarred up. But my father left Japan for the United States early in the game, so he left some -- he left a sister. My first cousin is that -- she came down to see me. Her face was all... but, believe it or not, the Japanese are funny people. In spite of that, they didn't say one word about revenge. There's that word shikata ga nai, something like that happen. If that were a European, you never hear the last of it. If somebody dropped an atomic on Berlin or somewhere else, you'd never hear the last of it. The Japanese just accepted that as part of the war.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

gky: We hear a lot of stories about General MacArthur, about him being very bombastic and very sort of staged. And yet, it sounds, in some ways, like he's a very, got a lot of compassion for the emperor and for the emperor's situation.

KT: Yeah, that's true. He was -- he liked the emperor personally, individually. He met him a couple times and he felt that he was a man of the center of the whole Japanese feeling in Japan. No matter how you look at it, you know, he's the man that you should know. And he like him personally because of his no political ambition or no other feeling except he being the emperor. He was told to renounce his godly image, and he did. He did everything MacArthur told to do, you know. So, MacArthur always respected him. And when he needed to, he interfered with his staff.


gky: This is tape three with Kan Tagami on January 5, 2001, in Mililani, Hawai'i. Do you think MacArthur had any appreciation for all that the Nisei did toward rebuilding Japan and working the Occupation of Japan?

KT: You mean...

gky: Did General MacArthur, what kind of appreciation of the Nisei did General MacArthur have?

KT: Well, most of his feeling, probably expressed by General Willoughby with G-2, and most of the Niseis were on that level under him. He realized that Japanese language was important. Without it, GHQ couldn't go too far without being stuck with some misunderstanding, or something like that. So most of the -- General Willoughby has said many, many times how important Nisei effort was. He was talking MacArthur's feeling on that.

gky: Can you describe what it was like to work for General MacArthur?

KT: Well, in the highest office of the occupation, the staff wasn't that busy, you know, because they only dealt in high-level things. For me, it was pretty good because I happen to interpret for him about once a week, and more than twice a week sometimes. The rest were coordinating Japanese requests for visitors and having General Willoughby handle most of the Japanese liaison matters, and I was there to interpret and translate for the emperor, I mean, for MacArthur. So I was pretty much not that busy.


gky: Okay. Again, you were talking about General MacArthur, describing General MacArthur to me.

KT: Yes. His feeling toward the linguists or Niseis was very appropriately expressed by General Willoughby, who handled most of the linguists. The general, of course, appreciated my effort, but he also understood that Niseis, in general, were very, very necessary for the occupation. Of course, he doesn't come into that every day, but he certainly sees the result of the language work done by the Niseis.

gky: You said that you got some of your first personnel reviews from gen -- your first personnel reviews, you got them from General MacArthur who personally filled them out.

KT: Yeah.

gky: What were those personnel reviews like?

KT: Well, it's like, it's a performance review, and I was first evaluated by the general, my performance together with other generals; the general commanding the Korean 8th Army, and all that sort of thing. I came out quite well being a junior officer. I guess he gave me excellent, superior and all that sort of thing. But that was one time, and after that evaluation was done by the senior aide-de-camp, because he was too busy for fooling around with that. One general, he got a pretty bad one from the general. I was lucky that he appreciated me.

gky: Was this a nine to five job?

KT: No, not necessarily, because whenever the thing is needed, you expect to work 24 hours. In my case, like off-duty hours, like meeting with the emperor, meeting with other Japanese officials, so it's not really a nine to five job. I had to be expected to be available for anything that's later. But normally, it's finished by five. Evening is more reserved for geisha parties. Not geisha party in that sense, but get to know each other kind of party, and good food. But, I tried to keep it down. They keep you too busy doing nothing, yeah.

gky: But also, wasn't General MacArthur a very private person?

KT: Yes. Because of his age, only thing I can remember, he went to one cocktail party, just once, at the beginning of his term. And after that, no parties, just home.

gky: So he didn't socialize with Japanese or didn't socialize with any of the military?

KT: No, no. At first he went to one cocktail party, but he says no more of that. He just stayed with his family.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

gky: What would you say was the biggest contribution you made as an MIS person?

KT: Well, my presence at the office, my ubiquitous presence, I think helped. The Japanese understand that I was fully entrenched in that type of work. The biggest is with the emperor, I believe. When I had a talk with him after the official part was over. He actually went on quite a bit about the Niseis and the importance of a bridge between the two countries.

gky: There's a plane going overhead. Could you repeat what you said about the importance of your meeting with the emperor?

KT: What's that?

gky: There was a plane going overhead. Can you repeat what you said about the emperor?

KT: Oh, yes. After my meeting with the emperor, the official part of it from General MacArthur, the second part I thought was very significant in that the emperor understood what the Niseis were doing here, and he mentioned that the Niseis were contributing as a bridge between two countries and he hoped that we would continue to do so. I thought it was good that he understood what the Niseis were doing, and he made a special part to mention it. I think that's about what I feel about the general.

gky: So were you asked to interpret not only language-wise and conduct these couple special missions you did for the general, but to interpret the Japanese people, who the Japanese people were, what they were like to the general or to other people?

KT: No, there were other people that took care of that, the government section they call it. They took care of the Japanese counterparts. But there was no attempt to give him an orientation on Japanese because he was in Japan many years ago as attache, and I don't think there was any necessity for anyone to give him a Japanese psychology lesson or history lesson, anything like that. I don't recall anybody ever attempting that.

gky: When General MacArthur was fired, what happened to you?

KT: What's that?

gky: When General MacArthur was fired

KT: Yeah.

gky: What happened to you?

KT: Well, he asked me what I wanted to do. I said I need an assignment in Baltimore, counter-intelligence. So he called this G-1, or general, to make that appointment that I go to Baltimore and get my assignment there. It's called the Counterintelligence Corps in Baltimore.

gky: Why did you want to do that?

KT: Well...

gky: Why didn't you want to stay and interpret for General [Matthew] Ridgway?

KT: No, I didn't want to. After that, everything would be different. Because once a general leaves, I didn't feel like staying and I took a job in Baltimore, which is a good thing.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

gky: So how do you feel about being part of the occupation army, what you did, what you were responsible for doing, how you helped the Japanese people?

KT: Well, I wasn't in the lower level who really dealt with these people, but I did meet a lot of people during cocktail parties and things, which I felt that they understood what my thinking was. I think a lot of European Americans didn't, really understood Japanese well, but I did and I took the tone that the Japanese won't be under occupation too long, and when that times comes, you had to be standing on your feet and think for yourself. All that type of philosophy I'd been preaching right along, and that there'll be bad feelings about the occupation, not everything was going that smoothly. I was telling them that no matter what happens, the first thing is to gain independence and the occupation will be dissolved and they'll be on their own. I had no doubt that they would do well if they were on their own. They didn't need to play monkey business with GHQ. I knew the time would come when they will become fully independent and hoped that they would be our friend.

gky: When you first went to Japan, it must have been very different by the time you left Japan, what, five years later?

KT: Yes. Most of the -- when I got there, the whole city was in rubbles. But there'd been a lot of construction going on and business coming back. They no longer depended on the U.S. assistance in the form of aid and things like that. They still did, but they weren't dependent on them. We did a lot for them, but it was quite different when I left. There were houses coming up, businesses coming up, and people were more than ever full of pride. One of the things that I noticed during the war, or right after the war, you don't, Japanese don't dare leave anything on the sidewalk or outside their sight. But when I left, things were pretty much even, pretty trustworthy. Things could be out on the curb and nobody would pick it up. It would have been gone in a lickety-split fashion in the earlier days. They're getting back their pride and sense of responsibility, I believe.

gky: So pretty much a lot of the values that they were instilled, that were instilled with them as they grew up, were coming back now.

KT: Yeah, coming back.

gky: Were coming back to the people as a whole?

KT: Yeah.

gky: They'd sort of lost this mentality of having lost the war, being defeated.

KT: Yeah. Like I said, one of the big noticeable things was women getting ahead and with more responsibility. But I think that as soon as the necessity to eat is no longer, you know, a necessity, there seemed to be some quest for self-responsibility and something better than just getting something to eat. So I think that's good because they'd gone through that and they're getting back. Hopefully they'll be our friends.

gky: Can we go back a minute to Hiroshima? And when you went back there was, when you went back there on the mission from the general, the first time you had been back there since the bomb was dropped?

KT: Yeah, the first time.

gky: How did it make you feel?

KT: Well, I...

gky: I mean, because your family was from the area also.

KT: Maybe I'm a little bit like the other Japanese, because when I saw Hiroshima I felt deeply about the loss and destruction. But to me, it was war, you know, something that happened. In contrast, my European American was with me, was shaking his head. He says how bad, how disgusting, about the bomb. I don't feel that way. This guy is expressing the same thing that a normal American would. It would be disgusting seeing, especially my first cousin who was disfigured. But to me, it wasn't revenge or anything like that. It's the war that that happened. And to me, I never even thought about feeling bad about my cousin. I just felt that it was war and hopefully that it would go away.

gky: Anything else you can think of that you might want to tell us about the MIS, and serving in the MIS, particularly as it relates to any patriotic feelings you may have had, or any ways in which you served your country when your parents were in an imprisonment camp here in the U.S.?

KT: Yeah. That's something; most of our parents and brothers and sisters were in camp, including mine, I felt anger, you know. Here my people are behind the... and here I'm serving the country. There's something about it that sort of disturbed me. I didn't think it was right that they're behind barbed wire, because they're American citizens, and I hope something like that will never happen. Well, the most recent was about Iranian. We got into quite a hustle about Iranians in the United States. We wanted to throw them all in a camp, or chop their head off, that kind of stuff. But it become hysterical for a while. I was telling my wife, I hope they don't -- they remember the Nisei debacle that happened, you know, so many years ago. And sure enough, the government started to put down that kind of feeling about picking up every Iranian and send them back, you know, that kind of stuff.

gky: What effect do you think what the MIS did in the war had on the redress movement and improving the image of Japanese Americans after the war?

KT: Well, in the -- not a general sense, but I think a lot of Americans worked with their Japanese American counterparts in the war, and it was clear to them that what they had done and aid their, assisted their war effort in the Pacific by translating, documenting, interrogating prisoners. So I thought the work that they did wasn't headline, but every American that worked with them or heard about them, knew of MIS work and there's not one word spoken about otherwise. I think they haven't been headlined like the combat people, like 442 or 100th, but they did a tremendous job, I think.

gky: Okay. Anything else?

KT: No.

gky: Okay. Thank you very much.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2001 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.