Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Gordon Yamada Interview
Narrator: Gordon Yamada
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Monterey, California
Date: July 1, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-ygordon-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

gky: Dad, will you give your name and the years you were in the MIS?

Gordon Y: Gordon Yamada. I was in the MIS from the latter part of 1944, all of '45, and through the end of 1946.

gky: So can you say "Gordon Yamada, 1944 to '46"?

Gordon Y: Gordon Yamada, '44 to '46.

gky: The war was ending when you were drafted and at Fort Snelling.

Gordon Y: We didn't know that. The war ended in, Europe ended in the early part of '45. Japan was August of 1945, we didn't know when that was gonna end. And I went in in '44. I was drafted in '44.

gky: But you got trained, by the time you trained and everything, it was early '45.

Gordon Y: Yes.

gky: Spring of '45.

Gordon Y: Well, let's see. I got my basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, armored corps. And we were, about six thousand of us there were training to replace the troops in Europe, Battle of the Bulge, which was 1945. And we were shipped to Fort Meade, Maryland, to ship out to the European war. And while we were in Fort Meade, around the first part of '44, the war ended in Europe, VE Day. So we were diverted to the Pacific. And since tanks were not used in the Pacific, all people, all soldiers of Japanese descent were diverted to Intelligence. So we actually went into Intelligence in, must have been about mid-'45, while the war with Japan was still going on.

gky: So you were not originally drafted for the MIS.

Gordon Y: No.

gky: But you were drafted as a 442 replacement?

Gordon Y: Well, we didn't know. Tanker replacement, so we didn't know where we were gonna go. But it obviously would have been to support all the soldiers and troops in the European Theatre.

gky: Can you tell me about parading around as a Japanese soldier?

Gordon Y: Oh, yeah. That's an interesting episode. What happened there was right after the VE Day was announced, the team, a team of officers and sergeants came around to Fort Meade, and they interviewed all of the Japanese Americans. I don't think there were that many, out of the six thousand in that group that I was in, maybe couple dozen, dozen to two dozen. And we were ordered to Fort Ritchie, Maryland, and it was a counterintelligence school. That's where we first went into Intelligence. And the whole point of it was we were all fitted out for, to wear Japanese uniforms, and we didn't know what the reason was at that time. And what we did was we wore Japanese leggings and shoes, the rubber shoes, and carried the Japanese rifles and had a Japanese helmet with a star on it. And I was one of the bigger guys, so they had a hard time finding a uniform to fit me, 'cause these were all captured uniforms. And the point was that we were supposed to act like Japanese soldiers, and they were training us in Japanese and Japanese military commands, and having us do exercises, maneuvers around the lake at Fort Ritchie. And they told us at the time that what they were gonna do is, I think there were maybe forty or fifty of us there, and they were going to use us as troops to take to the different basic training places to parade us around and show the other American troops that "this is what your enemy looks like." And we couldn't believe what they were planning to do, but of course we were soldiers, so we had to follow orders. And I think there could have been a more ulterior motive in mind, because if we had learned well enough, we could have been dropped behind the lines, I guess. But they didn't ever tell us that. After about six months of this, four months, maybe four months of this, I think the army realized that we never looked like Japanese soldiers, really, 'cause we didn't act like it. And then we got, they disbanded the unit and shipped us to Fort Snelling for military language training.

gky: So this was before you had any training?

Gordon Y: Yeah, before I had any language training, so we didn't, we're all Americans. We didn't sound like, I'm sure we didn't sound like Japanese soldiers, even though they made us, the army required us to act like it. So there are not too many people that know about this, 'cause I talk to a lot of people, and they never knew we were doing anything like that. And at any rate, we were, I think they terminated the program about mid-1945 and shipped us off to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and that's where we began our language training in, must have been about mid-'45, something around there. Before the war with Japan was over. It was still going on 'til August.

gky: How did being in the MIS change your life? You weren't in a really long time.

Gordon Y: No.

gky: But your life did change.

Gordon Y: Yeah, it changed because for the first time, I left California after I was drafted out of the camp. And, see, we were drafted in 1944, and then we left, then we were in the army and went to several states to do our different things, and wound up at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, in Military Intelligence. And up to then, I had never been out of California to any extent. So this was the first time I was really seeing the United States, being drafted and shipped around to different military camps.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.