Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Shigeya Kihara Interview
Narrator: Shigeya Kihara
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: Monterey, California
Date: July 1, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-kshigeya-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

gky: Okay. Will you please give me your name?

SK: Pardon me?

gky: Will you give your name?

SK: Shig Kihara.

gky: And you were one of the first teachers at, at the language school. How did you get recruited?

SK: One day in late September of 1941, I got a call from the University of California. It was from the office of Professor Florence Wong, chairman of the Oriental department at the University of California. She wanted me to go to the Presidio of San Francisco to be interviewed by Colonel John Weckerling, who was trying to establish an army Japanese language Military Intelligence school at the Presidio. I told Miss Wong, "I'm not qualified to be a Japanese language teacher. I've never been to school in Japan at the elementary or high school or university level." But she said that General Weckerling, Colonel Weckerling at that time, was having a difficult time finding qualified instructors. She said that I would be able to do the job. I had studied Japanese language at UC Berkeley under Professor Wong and I had even taken a graduate course in Japanese literature at UC Berkeley, and she urged me to go, so I said okay, nothing to lose. I'll go. So I went to see Colonel Weckerling at the Presidio of San Francisco and he didn't ask me to read one word of Japanese. I didn't have to read a Japanese newspaper, a Japanese military manual. Apparently Miss Wong had written such a laudatory letter of reference that the General accepted it, and he said fine after about fifteen minutes. He said, "You'll be hearing from me in about a week's time," and a week's time, a week later I got a letter from Colonel saying, "I'm offering you a job as an instructor of the Japanese language at the Fourth Army Intelligence School," and the letter directed me to report to his office on the fifteenth of October, 1941.

gky: Did you think it was strange that they were going to be starting a language school?

SK: Well, the relations between Japan and the United States were gradually getting worse and worse. In June of 1941 Japan had invaded French Indochina, and that point the United States cut off all trade between United States and Japan, particularly raw steel and oil. And the climate was getting a little touchy, so it was a surprise to me, but war was going on in China, in Europe, France had surrendered already, Dunkirk had occurred, so it wasn't a complete surprise to me.

gky: So what happened when you reported for work on October 15th?

SK: Well, I reported to Colonel Weckerling's office, which was on the second floor of headquarters building at the Presidio, and he said, "Come with me." And we went down the stairs to an empty basement room at the headquarters, and there Colonel Weckerling introduced me to John Aiso and Aki Oshida and Private Arthur Kaneko. Then on an empty orange crate there was a set of books. Later on I found out that they were Naganuma readers developed in Tokyo by Professor Naganuma, who was the director of Japanese language training for American military attaches. The school was conducted at the American embassy in Tokyo. And there were half a dozen dictionaries, huge dictionaries that I had never seen before, and a military dictionary, from Japanese to English and from English to Japanese. It was written by Creswell, an army officer. And there were two dictionaries of naval terminology, and there was one United States training manual, the title of which was "Japanese Military Forces." Then after we had been introduced to each other the Colonel said, well, let's go down to the school. So the General went down in a staff car and I followed in my old beat up car, and leaving the tree line, the green lawns of the headquarters buildings, the residential areas of the Presidio, we crossed some railroad tracks and there was a wide expanse of nothing, just sand, and we drove down about a couple of blocks and there was a corrugated tin abandoned airplane hangar. And we parked and we moved in. There were two individuals, Sergeant Peterson and one Officer Schneider, standing against the wall, and there was a carpenter banging away. We later found out that he was creating partitions for three classrooms, an office for the deputy commandant, and a faculty room.

gky: When you saw the Naganuma readers and the dictionaries there, was that all that, all that you were supposed to start the school with?

SK: That's correct. Colonel Weckerling took us into the building, and the books that were brought down were placed on one army steel cot, and he told John Aiso, "Sixty students will report for training in two weeks. Be ready to start training." Then he did an about face and left. Then John Aiso and the three instructors looked at each other, and we, I just would say, "What do we do know?" But John Aiso was a very well educated, capable individual, lots of experience in life, and he said, "Okay, we'll start with getting furniture into this building," and he told Schneider and Peterson, "Go wherever you can find buildings in the Presidio and ask these different offices if they have spare chairs, desks, and other furniture necessary to start a school." And Peterson and Schneider went off, and eventually they were able to get used mess tables with thatched seats, was able to get a couple of desks and chairs, and John Aiso told Peterson, "Be sure to find a mimeograph machine and borrow or beg or steal stencils so that we can cut instructional materials on them." And then he ordered Aki Oshida and myself to go around town in San Francisco and find printers who would be able to duplicate the one set of Naganuma readers in one hundred copies, and we found printers, and, "Be sure to order that they be ready in two weeks' time." Then John Aiso sent me to the bookstore at the UC Berkeley and at the bookstore at Stanford University to buy up all of their Japanese dictionaries and English grammars on Japanese grammar. Then we went to downtown San Francisco, visited the Goshado, Japanese bookstore, and we bought up their supply of dictionaries. And John Aiso began to whip up a course, how do you start teaching the Japanese language, so he devised a weekly schedule, two hours of reading and translation from eight o'clock to ten o'clock, then one hour of kanji, the Chinese characters. Then from one o'clock to two o'clock, English to Japanese translations, each of the instructors would have to write up translation problems and exercises for each of our three classes. Then a class in military terminology, the military terminology in Japanese was developed from an English training manual back into Japanese, and Aki Oshida, having the best handwriting of the three instructors, on a daily basis began to write out the language, the terminology for the Japanese army, starting from the emperor, the commanding general of Japanese forces, and then the minister of war, down to the various divisions, and from the divisions to the brigades, the battalions and the companies and so forth. And each day that we were there, for two weeks, preparing for the school, Mr. Oshida, myself, and Mr. Imagawa, who had been employed to take the place of Kaneko, who didn't want to do the job. He preferred to be a student. So Oshida, Imagawa, and myself, we translated the English TM, using Creswell's military dictionary, back into Japanese, then Aki Oshida wrote out the lessons on stencils each day.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

gky: What were you doing before you were recruited?

SK: What?

gky: You were twenty-six years old?

SK: Yeah. Well, I started college, then along the way my father got critically ill, so I had to stop school for three years to support the family, then when he recovered I went back to school and majored in political science. This was in 1935. It was in the middle of the Depression. Unemployment throughout the United States was at twenty-five percent. Nobody had jobs. Stockbrokers were jumping off of their Wall Street buildings in New York committing suicide. Grown adults were selling apples on street corners. There's no jobs for anyone, so my father said, "Well, why don't you go back to school for one more year?" At that time the University of California, being a state institution, didn't have tuition charges. All you had to do is put down twenty-five dollars for registration and have good high school grades to get into the school, so I... and I graduated school with the same way. All I had to do is put, pay twenty-five dollars for registration, so I went back to UC and got my Master's in one year. Still there were no jobs. The unemployment rate at that time was, as I said, twenty-five percent, so my father said, "Why don't you go to Japan and see if you can go to school in Japan and using your English knowledge to possibly get a job?" possibly with the Domei news agency that a number of university graduates, Nisei, in the United States were doing. So I went to Japan in September of 1940, and while I was on the boat Japan signed a treaty with Germany and Italy called the Tripartite Alliance, and I landed in Japan and the climate there was a climate of war. Japan was already fighting in China, the dead were being transported back from China to Japan, and I had promised my father I would go to school and study, but the atmosphere was so tense that I didn't go to school at all. I traveled around Japan to get to know Japan a little better, and I boarded with a friend who worked in the, the offices of War Minister Matsuoka. He worked in the Public Affairs Office of the Department of the Army in Tokyo. And I was able to read the newspapers imported from England, from New York, San Francisco, and the situation in Japan was getting from bad to worse, and the reaction of the British government, the United States government regarding Japan was getting a little bit tense, so finally I wrote my mother and I said, "I can't stay in Japan. War is gonna break out for sure. If I stay here I'm gonna get conscripted into the Japanese army," and I don't want, I didn't want any part of it.

gky: Could I, could you say that again about how, how you wrote to your mother and you didn't want to stay there anymore? We had a train go behind you.

SK: Pardon me?

gky: Can you tell me again about how you wrote to your mother and told her you wouldn't want to stay in Japan? The train, we heard the train.

SK: Oh, I see. Fine. Well, the situation in Japan was getting so bad that I wrote my mother and said, "I can't stay here in Japan. War is going to break out sooner or later. I don't want to get conscripted into the Japanese army and go to war for Japan." I said I would prefer to come back to the United States and take my chances getting a decent job and continuing life in the United States. My mother wrote back and said, "Papa says that if you come back to America you won't have a home to come back to." My father said that he would disown me, and she didn't send me any money for a steamship ticket, so I sold a couple of pairs of shoes that I had and I sold my overcoat, I sold my portable typewriter, and got enough money to buy a third class steamship ticket back to the United States. And I left Japan and Japan had gone into French Indochina. The United States abrogated the trade treaties that had been in existence in Japan for one hundred years, and the steamship which I was sailing was the Tatsuta Maru, an NYK steamship. It had a million dollars worth of raw silk in its hold, and the night that we understood that the boat would reach San Francisco we celebrated, all the passengers on the boat celebrated and went to sleep. And the next morning when we got up the sun was on the wrong side of the boat. We found out that the, the captain of the ship had received a radio message from Tokyo ordering the boat to go back to Japan. They didn't want to get the million dollar cargo of raw silk possibly confiscated by the United States government. And this continued for one week. The boat went up and down the coast of California. We'd go in one day, come out the next day. Finally we landed in San Francisco, and at the wharf in San Francisco my brother was waiting and my future wife Aya was waiting, and my brother told me, "Papa says you can come home."

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

gky: And then, so you didn't have any experience being a teacher?

SK: No. I had never gone to school in Japan. I wasn't able to read a Japanese language newspaper, let alone a Japanese military document, the training manuals and the like.

gky: And none of, none of the other people with whom you were instructors, John Aiso or, were any of them trained as teachers?

SK: None of us were trained as teachers. In anything. And Aki Oshida had graduated from Meiji University in Tokyo, was good in Japanese. Tets Imagawa had graduated from a middle school in Japan and he was good in Japanese. Aki Oshida had taken ROTC in Japan, so he knew military terminology to a certain extent, but he had never taught Japanese to anybody before.

gky: It seems like the other instructors, because John Aiso was also, also studied at Waseda University, right?

SK: No, he went to a special school in Japan after he finished high school in Hollywood, to gain some rudimentary knowledge of Japan, of the Japanese language, and then later on, after he had graduated from Brown University and Harvard Law School, he gained a job on Wall Street in New York. But his pay was only twenty-five dollars a week. That's how bad the Depression was. And he didn't see any future there, so acting on advice of family friends, including people from Japan, he went to Japan and wanted to study law for one year at the Imperial University, but he being an American citizen, he was not permitted to go to the Imperial University in Tokyo. So he went to another school, another university, for one year, and studied Japanese legal terminology, and then he was employed by the British American Tobacco company in Manchuria. So all the three other instructors, beside myself, had some Japanese training, but not as teachers.

gky: So how'd you know what to do? I mean, do you just do what John Aiso said in terms of, copy these readers, and this is what the instruction schedule will be?

SK: Well, Aki Oshida, being the best in Japanese, was given charge of Section A. Tets Imagawa, being good in Japanese, was given responsibility for Section B, and I, being the least competent in Japanese was given charge of Section C. And then John Aiso whipped up a schedule, a course of study. Section A will go through volumes one, two, three of the Naganuma readers in about one week. Mr. Imagawa's class would probably be able to go through reader, reader one, reader two in about two weeks' time. Then the third section, Section C, my class, would probably go through reader one and two in about two weeks' time. So as the printers printed up volumes one, two and three and delivered them in one hundred copies, I had my own copy of the Naganuma readers that I could study and prepare for teaching, and I had two weeks' time to do that. And although my Japanese was very elementary, I could handle book one, book two, book three without too much problems. Then my strong aspect of my education was English, so it was very simple for me to develop a translation exercise for my students, and for English to Japanese exercise I could write them up with no trouble at all. So in the beginning I had to get used to the Naganuma readers one, not difficult, reader two, not too difficult, then with reader three the language became a little bit more complicated and I had to study one day ahead of my students to be able to teach.

gky: Yeah, the, after you started teaching, what were your students like, the first, that first class of students? What was that first class of students like?

SK: Well, it was a strange situation for the teachers and the students. It was the first time in our lives that Oshida, Imagawa, and John Aiso and I were ever attempting to teach the Japanese language to English-speaking Japanese American Nisei soldiers. So the students were very skeptical and very critical in their minds, however, they were soldiers and they were gentlemen and they never questioned the instructors regarding their competency, education, or things like that. In my instance, I didn't know Japanese that well, so I said, "If there's any question that you may have regarding the Japanese that you're studying that I'm not able to satisfactorily answer, let me know. I'll have the answer for you the next day." And so that's the way it went. If I didn't know the answers I would hurry back to the faculty room at noontime and ask my colleagues, "What is this, what is that," and I would get their advice, look up dictionaries, and the next day I would go back to class and inform the students. And I had very little problem teaching my students in that way.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

gky: Can you tell me a little bit about John Aiso, describe what he was like?

SK: John Aiso was thirty-two when he became chief instructor of the Fourth Army Intelligence School. He was a very intelligent and bright student. He finished Hollywood High School when he was sixteen years old, I believe, or seventeen. Anyway, he was on the Hollywood High School debating team, and he was scheduled to go to Washington to participate in a national debating contest, but the principal and the authorities involved in the oratorical contest didn't want him to represent Hollywood High School and the state of California in the national oratorical contest, so on some kind of excuse they let him go to Washington as a coach to the other student who did the debating. And in Washington he met with the Japanese ambassador from Japan to the United States, and this ambassador, Matsudaira, knew the president of Brown University on a personal basis, so the ambassador talked to the president of Brown University and got a four-year scholarship for John Aiso to go to Brown University. His parents were not that wealthy. His father was a gardener, and this intervention by Ambassador Matsudaira proved to be a godsend. And after he finished Brown University cum laude, he entered Harvard University and then, as I said before, he got a job on Wall Street. Then he proceeded to Japan for one year of legal studies, then became the legal counsel for the British American Tobacco company in Mukden.

He was a mature individual, impeccable English, a gentleman, and very scholarly type. In Mukden, Manchuria, he became sick with hepatitis, and from the hospital in Mukden he wrote to his mother saying that, "I'm sick, but I hope to get better and get back onto my job." His mother said, "John, you come home right now. I want you to come back to the United States and recover." And John said, "No, I'm gonna stay." So his mother, a small woman, less than five feet tall, booked herself on a steamship from San Pedro, sailed to Tokyo, by train went up to northern Japan, crossed over to Korea, took a train all the way up the Korean peninsula and then down to the city of Mukden in Manchuria, and grabbed John Aiso by the ear and brought him home. And in the late months of 1940 he was drafted, and when he reported for training at Camp Han in the Los Angeles area, the sergeant who looked at his papers said "another damn lawyer" and assigned him to become a parts worker in the motor pool. And about that time Colonel Rasmussen, who was a graduate of the American Japanese language course in Tokyo, had been tasked by the army in Washington to start interviewing potential students for Japanese language training. This was in the late spring of 1940. Colonel Rasmussen interviewed John Aiso at Camp Han and immediately recognized that he had come upon an irreplaceable individual for the new school, so John Aiso was given orders to proceed from Camp Han to report to Colonel Weckerling at the Presidio. Standing at attention before Colonel Weckerling with the American flag in the background, Colonel Weckerling told John, "John, I'd like for you to become the chief instructor of the new school that we are going to establish." John said, respectively, "Sir, I'm not a young person anymore and I'm engaged to married, and I want to start my law practice in Los Angeles as quickly as possible. My one year draft term is coming to a close, so I decline to accept your offer."


SK: Private John Aiso was transferred from Camp Han in Riverside and reported to Colonel Weckerling at headquarters, Fourth Army, in San Francisco. John stood at attention before Colonel Weckerling, Colonel Weckerling said, "John, I want you to become the chief instructor of the Fourth Army Intelligence School that we are going to organize in a couple of weeks." John said, "Sir, I'm not a young man. I'm over thirty years old. I'm engaged to be married, and I want to start my law practice in Los Angeles as quickly as possible, so I decline to accept your offer." The Colonel stood up from behind his huge oak desk, came around and put his right arm, his right hand on John's left shoulder and said, "John, your country needs you." This was the first time in John's life that any person of authority in the United States had ever referred to America as "your country," and when John heard this, he had no choice but to say, "Yes, Sir, I'll accept." And so this is the way Private John Aiso agreed to become chief instructor of the Fourth Army Intelligence School.

gky: Do you remember any anecdotes about those first, that first year, before, the first class before Pearl Harbor?

SK: Well, the four instructors worked like crazy and prepared for the reporting of students on the first of November, 1941. By that date the Naganuma readers had been reproduced in San Francisco in one hundred copies, enough dictionaries had been purchased in San Francisco, UC Berkeley and Stanford, so that the students would be able to look up terminology and translate them Japanese into English and from English into Japanese. There was no problem with the start of the school. Everything went smoothly. But John Aiso was very busy organizing everything. He had a schedule for the first week of instruction but not the second, and Colonel Weckerling would come in every day, in the morning and many times in the afternoon, to check with John. He would say, "John, what are you going to do next week? What are you going to do about this?" And so forth. John would express his ideas and the Colonel would approve or disapprove or suggest changes. And then Colonel, excuse me, Captain Kai Rasmussen, who was commander of the coast artillery at Fort Scott, would come in periodically, also to check with Colonel Weckerling, with John Aiso to see how the plans for organizing the school were proceeding.

Then the commanding general of the Fourth Army, General John DeWitt, under whose command the school was being organized and taught, came in to inspect the progress that Colonel Weckerling had been able to achieve during the one month of operation. And he said, he checked Section A, checked Section B, checked my section, stood around for a few minutes, observed how things were going on, then he moved back to Section A and he sat down close to Private Iwao Kawashiri, and while Aki Oshida was teaching he whispered to Iwao, "Private, if there is anything I can do for you, just let me know." And then after the inspection was over he left. In about two months later General DeWitt was greatly responsible for the evacuation of Iwao Kawashiri's family, families of all the instructors, families of all the students, plus a hundred and twenty thousand other Japanese Americans into American concentration camps in the interior. Then instruction proceeded.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

SK: Five weeks after instruction started, on Sunday, December the 7th, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. I was at home early that morning studying for my Monday's lessons. I heard the news on the radio. I ran downstairs and told my father, "Japan has attacked Pearl Harbor." My father said, "Never happened. That's a lie," he says, "German airplanes camouflaged as Japanese airplanes had attacked Pearl Harbor." But throughout the day, every fifteen minutes I would come downstairs and tell my father, "The attack at Pearl Harbor is still going on." Finally, towards the late evening, he could no longer fight the situation. He, he was heartbroken, said Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and life would never be the same for him and his family again. And the next morning when we report to school, Colonel Weckerling and his deputy commandant Joseph Leaky were there. All the students were assembled in class A, and Weckerling told us, "Your training has as contingency plan for the possibility of war is now a grim reality. I expect you to study hard and become a confident linguist and be able to do combat intelligence in the war that's just started."

gky: Tell me, how did you feel at this time? I mean, you're, you're five weeks into this new program, you're starting to train Americans in Japanese, now Japan's attacked and you don't know what's gonna happen to you.

SK: Everybody was confused. Nobody knew what to do. The newspapers, both the Japanese newspapers in San Francisco that my father read, the newspapers that I read, the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, had all kinds of weird information. The next day President Roosevelt declared war between the United States and Japan, and very soon Italy and Germany declared war against the United States. The whole country was in a state of confusion, and as an example, Private Kazuo Kozaki at the school, on Monday, December the 8th, knocked on John Aiso's door and he said, Sensei, I'd like to talk to you. And John said, "Sit down, please go ahead." And Kozaki said, "No, I can't talk here. Let's go out on the greenway," on the green runway, and out there on the runway with no buildings in sight, just San Francisco Bay and the hills of Marin in the background. Kozaki told John Aiso, "Let's run for it. Let's hide in the hills somewhere." And John said, "Why?" And Kozaki said, "I know that the army is going to kill all of us," and Aiso was able to calm him, calm him down and get him back to study. So the situation was, was tense. As teachers we had to do our job in an efficient and meaningful way, so we conducted our training every day. And the army put guards on the San Francisco Bay Bridge that I crossed every day to go to work, and all people with Oriental faces had to drive off to a certain area and be questioned by army guards. Chinese people quickly put up signs in their automobiles, "I am a Chinese." But I, being a Japanese, there's nothing I could do but to show my credentials, but I never had any problems at all with the army guards. They looked at my credentials, my pass from the Fourth Army of San Francisco, and I was able to cross the bridge every day, coming and going.

gky: Did you have the license plates, the PSF license plates then?

SK: Yes. Soon as I got to work, in order to enter the Presidio every day, that was my pass to go into the Presidio.

gky: So would you just tell me what, your car had the PSC, I mean PSF license plates?

SK: Well, I had identification papers that I carried in my wallet, that I was employed by the Fourth Army Presidio of San Francisco, signed and approved by General DeWitt. And very soon General DeWitt ordered that, on information and signals, there was potential trouble, all the Bay Area, San Francisco, the Presidio included, were blacked out, the reason being that there were rumors that the Japanese air force in, on aircraft carriers, were bombing places. One Japanese submarine actually bombed an air, an oil field in Santa Barbara, and there were rumors that the Japanese were going to attack San Francisco, so there were frequent blackouts. When these occurred, I had to report to school twice a week from seven to nine to help our students study, and when the blackouts were on I couldn't drive in the streets, so I had to wait in there, wait there at the school until eleven o'clock sometimes, when the blackouts were called off. Then I could drive across the bridge to go home. And then the newspapers began to print hysterical articles. Attorney General Earl Warren with the state of California said, "The Japanese in California have not attacked or bombed or created any sabotage yet, but that means that they are waiting for a more opportune time." The Native Sons of the Golden West, a patriotic society, began to publish articles in the newspapers. The Japanese population in California cannot be permitted to continue to live in California. Evacuate them. The Los Angeles media especially was very virulent in their propaganda. Walter Lippman, a national commentator, columnist, began to scream for evacuation of Japanese. City of Los Angeles was very powerful, and Japanese American employees, city of Los Angeles, the state capitol in Sacramento, were fired. And a tremendous amount of publicity was written up in the newspapers putting tremendous pressure on General DeWitt, who had been promoted from Commander of the Fourth Army to Commander of the Western Defense Command, and he wrote back to his bosses in Washington regarding the situation in California and indicating that there was a military danger, a hazard to the United States by permitting Japanese, first generation Japanese and second generation Japanese, from continuing to live in California, Oregon, and Washington, and Alaska. Finally, on February the 19th, 1942, President Roosevelt signed evacuation, excuse me, Executive Order 9066, and under this order General DeWitt was authorized to remove all Japanese Americans living in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California to the interior.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

gky: Can you tell me first, how did this make you feel? Here you are training people for the United States Army and your family's gonna be evacuated. Your father and mother are gonna go to camp.

SK: As I said before, when I was in Tokyo, residing there from October 1940 until July of 1941, I suddenly realized that a war would eventually break out between Japan and the United States, and I was born, raised and educated in the United States. At that time I made up my mind I'd prefer to come back to the United States and take my chances in America. When the army asked me to teach I swore to Colonel Weckerling that I would defend the United States and the Constitution. I had sworn to serve the United States, so when war broke out, that didn't change the situation at all. I realized that my job as an instructor of Japanese for the United States army was really important, and so it didn't make any difference at all in my own personal attitude towards the United States, towards Japan and the fact that war had broken out.

gky: I guess, I guess though, I mean, on the one hand, you've sworn to defend the Constitution, on the other hand, your constitutional rights are being taken away.

SK: At that time the evacuation -- this is in February 1942 -- the evacuation was going to take place, I was working for the army. I knew that my family would be evacuated, but I had a job to do and I had no intention of quitting the job and quitting my service to the United States. So at our humble home in Oakland the notices went up that the people in that part of California would be moved to a temporary assembly center at the Tanforan racetrack in San Bruno, so my family, my father, mother, brother, and sister, began to negotiate with people who might buy the small the grocery business. We were able to sell our business to a Chinese couple. And preparations were being made to move, my wife and myself, from the Bay Area to Minnesota where the new school is going to start. So we had our, the army movers came and took all of our furniture except for one mattress that was left behind, and we slept on that mattress until we actually moved in June of 1942.

gky: What was the feeling at the school, you all are gonna, of having to be uprooted after you had spent so much time and energy to make it into a school?

SK: Well, the teachers had all sworn to serve the United States. The men had sworn, when they were inducted into the army, to fight for the United States and to defend the Constitution regardless of whatever happened, so they had made their choice and it was a matter of just living up to what you promised to do. There's no question but that we would continue to serve the United States as instructors and as soldier students of the school.

gky: But I mean was there any confusion or fear, uncertainty?

SK: No. The confusion was in the community, including my parents. "What's gonna happen to us?" So the Japanese American populace began to sell their farms, their businesses, and their household possessions. We were permitted to bring only what we could carry in one or two suitcases. Everything else had to be left behind or destroyed, and scavengers scoured the Japanese American communities, buying up automobiles that were worth a thousand dollars for a hundred dollars, refrigerators, stoves, tractors, everything that the Japanese American community had labored for over fifty years to accumulate. It was all gone in one day. That was total confusion, but this was the United States Army ordering all of this, General DeWitt's orders. There was nothing we could do, so my parents reported to an assembly center, moved to Tanforan, and my wife and I slept on one mattress in our home until the orders came for us to move to Minnesota.

gky: So when you, when Pearl Harbor happened, is that what precipitated you, you and your wife getting married?

SK: Yes. Pearl Harbor happened on December the 7th. There was much talk of the evacuation of Japanese, and my wife and I, who had been close friends for a couple of years, decided that we had better get married or we might get separated and never get married, so on December the 24th, in the second floor of our small home in Oakland, we were married by a Judge Kennedy, for whom my father had previously worked as a gardener. Judge Kennedy was a judge in Oakland. He was very glad to come down, perform the ceremonies, and we were married on Christmas Eve, December the 24th, 1941.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

gky: Now, when you actually moved to Minnesota, first class had already graduated. Matter of fact, the first class that had been shipped out?

SK: Well, graduation was on, I believe it was May the 1st or around that time. Some of the more capable students had been shipped out already to the South Pacific area, to the Fiji Islands, to New Caledonia. The problem was that the commanders out in the field were so disorganized that they didn't know what to do with the graduates of the Intelligence School, so they were ordered to drive trucks around. And anyway, to set up the new school in Minnesota we had to have instructors. The original four had been supplemented by Mr. Tanimoto, Mr. Tekawa, Tad Yamada, and Mr. Tsukahira, but the number of faculty members was insufficient to take on the load anticipated at Camp Savage in Minnesota, so the ten best graduates of Section A were ordered to Minnesota to become the cadre, the enlisted cadre for starting the new school. And so they all, they all proceeded by train to Camp Savage, and Camp Savage was an abandoned old men's home. The grass was three feet high. In one large building called the mattress factory there were hobos living there. The hobos living there in the mattress factory, mattresses were filthy with fleas, lice, cockroaches, even rats, and the first ten students, the best of the graduating class, were ordered to clean out the mattress factory, cut the grass and so forth. They dragged the flea-infested mattresses out into the open, chased the hobos away, poured gasoline on the mattresses and burned them up. And here these sergeants were expecting to be teachers at a school, had to chase off hobos and burn mattresses and cut grass to get the school ready for instruction. [Laughs]

gky: And these were from the first class, the November class at the Presidio? These ten instructors?

SK: Pardon me?

gky: These ten instructors were from the first class at the Presidio?

SK: Yes.

gky: Okay. Tell me about your trip across country.

SK: Well, the Japanese American population of California were in assembly centers, and the political situation in Nevada, Idaho, Dakotas, was not clear. There was a talk of the possibility that Japanese Americans traveling in that area might get shot, might get arrested, and so the army gave each of the instructors personal escorts.


gky: Can you tell me again about, a little bit about the trip across?

SK: The army was a little worried about us, the teachers and their families being able to cross the continent without any incidents, so for each instructor the army attached officers. These officers were students at the Fourth Army Intelligence School. Right after Pearl Harbor all of the army personnel in the entire United States who had any language training in Japanese at universities, such as the University of California, University of Stanford, University of Washington, were called up to active duty, and one of these a Captain Eugene Wright. He came to the Presidio to study in December of 1941 and he was assigned to us, that is John Aiso, Sumi Aiso, my wife Aya, and myself. And in the escort car was Captain Wright, his wife Esther, and their child, Jerry, so we traveled in a group. We, our car met the car from San Francisco at the highway between the end of the Bay Bridge and up north to Sacramento. So we met there on the highway and then we proceeded to Sacramento, went, drove to Orino and stayed at the downtown Orino Hotel, had our dinners without any problems. Then we moved to Ogden and we moved to Yellowstone National Park and proceeded across the country. The only time that we ever had any inkling of trouble was in North Dakota, at Bismarck. One Caucasian couple in the restaurant where we were having dinner kept on staring at us, and Mrs. Wright, Esther Wright didn't take kindly to being stared at, so she got up and went over to this white couple and said, "What are you staring at? What's your problem?" [Laughs] And the people said, apologized and said, "I'm sorry," and the matter was settled. But one of the groups traveling across the country, escorted by two Chinese Americans officers, Captain Pang and Captain Chang, were having lunch in Pocatello, Idaho, with their group of Japanese American teachers, and the sheriff told the two Chinese officers that they were to report to the police station for questioning. They didn't say anything to the Japanese instructors. They told Captain Pang and Captain Chang, "Where are your papers? What are you doing here in Pocatello?" And they said, "We're reporting from Fort [inaudible] in San Francisco and we're proceeding to Minnesota," and they showed the sheriff their papers. The sheriff said, "Okay, I'm gonna phone the Fourth Army to verify that these documents are valid and not a counterfeit." And the charge, or the suspicion, was that they were Chinese or Japanese officers masquerading in American army uniforms. [Laughs] They called Fourth Army and the matter was straightened out, but they proceeded on their way.

gky: It just seems odd that the government would send Chinese to escort Japanese when you, a lot of people can't really tell the difference between the Chinese and the Japanese.

SK: Well, there're only a limited number of officer students available who were proceeding with the group to Minnesota, and I guess the assumption was made that if you have an American uniform on that you're beyond question.

gky: Is, was Judge Wright, or was Captain Wright a student at the MIS school?

SK: He took some courses at the University of Washington in Seattle, and when he was called up to duty he was sent to the Fourth Army Intelligence School. And he was our escort officer and finished his training at Camp Savage in December of 1942, and he went on to the Solomon's Campaign with the, I believe, the 45th Division.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

gky: Let's go to Minnesota. What was it, what was your reception there like? Do you remember the, do you remember, for example, the day that you drove into Minnesota and unloaded your car at a, at the hotel?

SK: There's no problem at all. The stage had been set by Governor Stassen when he assured Colonel Rasmussen that the state of Minnesota would welcome Japanese American students. He assembled the power structure of the Twin Cities, St. Paul and Minneapolis, and especially the newspaper publisher and editor, and the chamber of commerce, the Red Cross, the USO, and the Bar Association, and he described what was going to happen. And he said, "I want all of the state of Minnesota, the people of St. Paul and Minneapolis, to welcome these American soldiers who are going to stay at Camp Savage, and anything that comes up, just let me personally or Colonel Rasmussen know and we'll take care of the problem." So the whole state, which was not racially, racially oriented anyway, welcomed us in St. Paul, in Minneapolis, at Camp Savage. There was one incident when Tad Yamada and Paul Tekawa, who when they drove into Minneapolis were ready for a drink, so they stopped at a bar and they wanted to have some booze. The bartender said, "Sorry, I can't serve you." And Paul and Tad said, "Why?" He says, "In the state of Minnesota we are not permitted to serve Indians." So Paul and Tad said, "We're not Indians. We're Japanese, and we're here to teach at a school at Camp Savage." "Oh," the bartender says, "okay, I understand," and made out the drinks. [Laughs]

gky: What was, physically, what did the camp look like?

SK: When we pulled into the highway along the Red River and the Mississippi, excuse me, the Minnesota river, we saw some beautiful buildings to our right, tile, red tile and tan walls. I said, oh, this is the new school. We're jumping up and down we're so happy. But we found out that it was a Masonic home, not the new school, so we drove down the highway and finally we came to the town of Savage, and right adjacent to the town of Savage was the old folks' home. It was an abandoned old folks' home. Grass was three feet high. The buildings were dilapidated, the roads were rutted. And we realized that this was our new home, and we were in a state of shock. And we were told that our living quarters were not ready and that we were to proceed to the city of Minneapolis and stay at the Curtis Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, and that the instructors would be picked up by army bus each day to go to work and then come back in the evening. So Sumi Aiso and my wife, Aya, lived in the hotel for one month, getting their food at the delicatessen downstairs, and they just had a ball. They enjoyed it. They thought Minnesota was gonna be a wonderful experience for them. In one month's time our living quarters in the residential area of Camp Savage were readied. Sewer lines had been put into the small bungalows. Stoves, iron potbellied stoves had been set up for heat. Water lines were laid out for each of the cabins. And we got there, it was quite a difference from Camp, from the Curtis Hotel downtown. It was a primitive sort of existence right alongside the Minnesota River, and for the first time in our lives as the evening approached we could see lights toward the river. We wondered what are, what is that? And we found out that they were fireflies in the marshes along the Minnesota River, so it's the first time in our life that we had seen fireflies.

gky: I'm a little bit confused. I've heard that the Camp Savage, before you occupied it was a California Conservation Camp --

SK: No, not California, Minnesota.

gky: I'm sorry, Minnesota.

SK: Civilian.

gky: Civilian, yeah. And I've also heard that it was an old folks' home. I've heard that it was an old men's home. What was it?

SK: Actually at one time it was a CCC camp, but then it closed up and it became an old folks' home, an old men's home, old men's home. And that activity had been terminated and in May, June of 1942 it was unoccupied, and so our cadre of ten enlisted instructors had to go in, chase the hobos out, cut the grass, and get it ready to utilize as a school. And on June the 1st, 1942, about a hundred and eighty students reported, and the original faculty of four, plus four from the Presidio, augmented by ten enlisted instructors, were the faculty that started the school at Camp Savage.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

gky: And what was it like when you started the school, when you started the new school there? How much of, how much of the old, old curriculum did you transfer from...

SK: We transferred the curriculum lock, stock and barrel. The original teaching materials on stencils were reproduced in a sufficient, sufficient copies for the new students. New dictionaries had been published by Harvard University and by the University of California Press, so there was a complete set of textbooks ready for our students. And after Pearl Harbor courses in Japanese geography, in Japanese documents translation, in prisoner of war interrogation had been established, and courses in Japanese field operations based on a Japanese manual called Sakusen Yomiuri, and then another one called Oyo Senjitsu, meaning applied tactics, were reproduced in sufficient copies for the incoming students, and the training was very, very intensive. Regarding interrogation of prisoners, the only experience that the United States could look for was an experience of the British army in their different wars with different people in Europe and throughout the world, and the British theory of interrogation was to be very positive, to use strong armed tactics and procedures in interrogation. And this type of interrogation was taught to our students reporting to the Solomon's Guadalcanal Campaign, and they found that if they used positive, strong armed tactics, the students, the POIs would just clam up and some of them would bite their tongue and commit suicide on the spot. They refused to respond to positive tactics. And so they --

gky: Hold on just a second. Let's wait 'til the train goes by. Okay, now what were you saying about positive -- oh, wait a second. What were you saying about positive tactics?

SK: Positive tactics of interrogation, for instance, grabbing an individual and twisting his arm and calling him bakatare, "you damn fool, answer or I'll hit you," and tactics like that. That positive tactics of prisoner of war interrogation just simply boomerangs. The POIs wouldn't answer. And so the opposite tactics of meeting prisoners of war and saying, how are you? Do you have a headache? Would you like an aspirin? Would you like some water? Do you have any other ailments that we can help alleviate with medication? Are you married? Where do you come from in Japan? How is your wife? How are your children? Are they being provided for? And they, the prisoners would begin to cry at this tactics and say, "Thank you very much. I haven't heard from my family, but I understand they're alright. I have a headache. Can I have an aspirin or two?" And then they would begin to talk. So this information was relayed from the Solomon's back to Colonel Rasmussen and then that new tactics of interrogation taught in the classes.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

gky: What was Colonel Rasmussen like, or I guess he was Captain Rasmussen at first?

SK: At first Captain Rasmussen, then when the school moved from San Francisco to Camp Savage he was jumped from captain to full colonel. Colonel Rasmussen was born and raised in Denmark, and in the Depression the family had no employment in Denmark and as a young man he immigrated to the United States. And conditions in the United States were so bad that there was no job, so he enlisted in the army. Food and a place to sleep each day.

gky: What kind of a, what kind of a person was he?

SK: Well, he was Danish and a very warm person, but he always spoke with a strong Danish accent. I remember distinctly when he was addressing the incoming students and graduating students that he always used the expression, [inaudible], and then he would begin to talk. He was married to... let me go back a minute. He was a private in the United States and he was assigned to be a driver for the commanding officer at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, at Honolulu. And it was his job to drive the general around, and the general's wife and the general's child to school and so forth, and the child -- I forget how old he was, must've been about eight, nine, ten years old -- would talk to Private Rasmussen. The general's son said, "What do you want to do when you get out of the army? What would you like to become?" And then the private, Rasmussen, told the general, "I want to go to West Point." And so the son told his father and the father got him an appointment to West Point, and he went to West Point, graduated, and got married to a wonderful person, and one of his assignments was to go to Tokyo to study Japanese as an American attache at the Tokyo embassy language school. Then he came back, assigned here and there, and one of his early assignments was to be Coast Guard Commander at Fort Scott, right adjacent to the Presidio of San Francisco. So he had a certain amount of knowledge of Japanese, and he advised his bosses in Washington periodically on the urgency and the need to start a Japanese language school because in a survey in the spring and summer of 1941 the army found out there were only about two dozen people, officers, in the army, navy, and the Marines, and in the graduate schools in American universities who could handle Japanese language intelligence. And so he wrote to his bosses in Washington urging that the army set up a Japanese language school, and he was instrumental in interviewing over three thousand people in the training camps up and down the Pacific Coast to select students. And later on Colonel Weckerling did the same, then Major Dickey did the same and established the Presidio of San Francisco school and moved to Savage. Colonel Rasmussen was a gentleman and his wife was a lovely person, and he and his officers on the staff, Colonel Stewart, Major Dickey, Colonel Pettigrew, treated the faculty like family. It was the first time in my life, at least, that I had dinner, a sit down dinner with Caucasian people, and periodically they would have cocktail hours on Friday afternoons, and it was a very, very pleasant, truly friendly relationship with these West Point officers. And from Savage and from Fort Snelling, Presidio of Monterey and [inaudible], the commandants have been, they have gone out of their way to befriend and work with not only the Japanese faculty but the Russian faculty, Chinese faculty, Korean faculty. A wonderful educational atmosphere.

gky: Did you have much contact with Colonel Weckerling?

SK: No, I did not. The school was just starting. There was no atmosphere or environment or condition for socialization between the faculty and Colonel Weckerling, then Pearl Harbor occurred and it was just total confusion.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

gky: What was the difference between the students that first, that very first class, and as we got into war and this war's being stepped up, the feeling among the, and the kind of students that came in, in Camp Savage?

SK: It was no different. First class were all volunteers. The second class at Camp Savage, also all volunteers, and the quality of their Japanese was very good. The problem started to arise for assembling the third class.

gky: Hold on a second. You, you said problems...

SK: Yes. The reports from the field, Guadalcanal in Fiji, were that MIS graduates were badly needed, and for the first class at Camp Savage in 1942 there were quite a number of people who had previously been interviewed by Colonel Rasmussen. Then there were people, these were people already in the army, and so about a hundred and eighty of these people reported to, for training for the first class, but for the second class the conditions were quite different. By now all the Japanese Americans in Washington, Oregon, and California were in relocation camps, and the atmosphere in the relocation camps was negative. "Hell with the United States, throwing us into camps like this and treating us like enemy aliens," because that's what the Selective Service classified Nisei as, enemy aliens, not as 1-A draftees. We don't, the army said, we don't want you, and so there was no more drafting of Japanese Americans in the camps, and being thrown into these desolate camps, the feeling of the Japanese American was, I don't want to fight for the United States. I want to go to Minnesota to become a language student. And so Major Dickey and Aki Oshida were ordered to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin where the 100th Infantry from Hawaii were in training. The 100th Infantry was formed from two reserve units in Hawaii. The situation in Hawaii was getting very tense. They, the army didn't want Nisei troops in uniform in Hawaii, so they shipped fifteen hundred Niseis of the 100th Battalion to Wisconsin. They were training there. These were young men who were good in Japanese. Major Dickey and Aki Oshida were able to recruit a hundred of the 100th Battalion people to come for the third class that was starting in December of 1942.

And the recruitment problem still continued, so Colonel Stewart was sent to Hawaii in the spring of 1943 to recruit Japanese Americans, civilians, to come to Minnesota to study as Japanese language combat intelligence soldiers. And the response was absolutely positive. Colonel Stewart came back with over three hundred people. Many of these Japanese Americans were already close to forty years in age, people, principals of high schools, lawyers, bankers. They wanted to serve the United States. In Hawaii the situation was quite different from that on the continent. The people of Hawaii, first generation, second generation, third generation, were not in concentration camps, but they were not trusted by the army, so when they got this opportunity to volunteer they volunteered by the hundreds. At the same time, in February 1943, the United States under President Roosevelt's guidance decided to establish a 442 Regimental Combat Team comprised of Japanese Americans. The quota for the original recruitment was about three thousand from the mainland and one thousand from Hawaii.

gky: Can I interrupt you, and can I ask you about something else? You know when you described being at Camp Savage to me and living conditions, it sounded in a lot of ways like the camps that your parents were taken to. Did you ever think about that, that here you are, your working for the army, you're living in camps in a lot of the same, same kinds of situation as your parents, sharing a common toilet?

SK: No. The feeling among the dozen or so instructors at the residential area of Camp Savage was completely open. We were free. Clerks, military clerks would come around each week and take orders from each of the families for food to be purchased at the PX and the commissary at the Fort Snelling. We had access to butter, to bacon, coffee. Then we were free to shop at the neighboring town of Shakopee. The main thing is that we were free and working as instructors for the government. We were treated like family by Colonel Rasmussen and Colonel Dickey, and the people of Minnesota were warm and friendly. Each week while we were there, Aya and I would go shopping in Minneapolis and fix up sort of a comfort carton box full of goodies and magazines, cookies, candies, coffee when we could find it, and send it to our parents in camp. So we were free. We were working for the government. People from Minnesota welcomed us, so our feeling in Minnesota was, you know, we are American citizens. We're working for the government. People are friendly. Had no problems whatsoever. We communicated weekly with our parents in the relocation centers and we sent them cookies and candies and things like that, so we understood what the situation was. It was completely different from that of our residence in Minnesota.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

SK: The army had difficulty recruiting students for MIS. Based upon our teams doing combat intelligence activities in Guadalcanal, the Solomon Campaign, and in Alaska and in New Guinea, the commanders were being, beginning to clamor for MIS graduates. The atmosphere in the camps in 1942 was not conducive to young men volunteering for military service, and so the army sent Colonel Stewart to Hawaii, and he came back with three hundred good students. Lot of these men after the army became Supreme Court justices in Hawaii, regents of the East West Center at the University of Hawaii, hospital administrators, legislators, and so forth. Still, the response from the men in the relocation camps was not good. Colonel Rasmussen sent recruiting teams to each of the ten camps. In some camps men would volunteer, but they had to be snuck out of the relocation camps or be subjected to beatings by the pro-Japan group in the camps. So in June of 1943 Colonel Rasmussen sent Mr. Imagawa and myself to Camp Shelby, where the 442 was training, and we came back with two hundred fifty more good men, both from the contingent from Hawaii and then from the mainland Nisei who had volunteered for the 442. And then in the fall of 1942 Sergeant Kawahara, an original 100th Infantry man, was sent to Hawaii and he came back with three hundred more. So all during '43 and even '44 the army had a difficult time getting volunteers from the relocation centers. One factor was that the pool of Kibei, those competent in the Japanese language, was getting smaller and smaller. And so in 1944 the language course was extended from six months to one year. Then in the spring of 1944 the draft was reinstated for Japanese Americans, and that was a factor in the number of students volunteering for MIS.

gky: Wait, when you say the draft was reinstated, when did the draft, was the draft stopped for Japanese Americans?

SK: Right after Pearl Harbor. It began on an informal basis. In many, many instances Japanese Americans already in uniform were discharged from the army. It was a matter of local preference by commanders of different units, and slowly the Selective Service boards throughout the United States, especially in California and Oregon, Washington, began to tell Nisei who were classified as 1-A that they were now 4-C, "enemy aliens." Then on a national basis, in the fall of 1942, General Hershey ordered that all Japanese Americans have their draft status changed from 1-A to 4-C, so it started out in an informal way, then it became an official Selective Service policy in the spring of nineteen, excuse me, in the fall of 1942. Then, because of the record of the MIS men working in the Pacific area and because of the record of the 100th Battalion fighting in Italy, the Selective Service reinstated the draft for Japanese Americans in 1944, and Japanese Americans in the camps and outside the camps had to report for their induction into the army after that.

gky: Okay. Now can you tell me about WACs and, WACs?

SK: The need for MIS trained linguists, combat intelligence operators, became so intense, every commander, every division was clamoring for MIS men to do intelligence work. The MIS men were attached to the United States army, the navy, the Marines, the air force. They served the British army, Canadian army, the New Zealand army, the Australian army, the Chinese army, and the Indian army. There weren't enough MIS men. And so the command in Washington decided that WACs, Japanese American WACs who could handle the Japanese language should be trained to take the place to do desk jobs behind the lines at intelligence centers in Brisbane, in Honolulu, in Ceylon, that these WACs should be able to do desk jobs and free men for front line duty. So in 1945 a contingent of fifty WACs was recruited in the camps and in the areas where the Japanese were not imprisoned, and fifty WACs reported for duty to Fort Snelling in 1945. And the interesting thing is that one Chinese private was in the group. The army felt that since the Chinese language was written in characters and the Japanese language written in characters, the Chinese would be able to pick up Japanese with no problem. But it's quite different. This Chinese girl joined the WAC group and was trained in Japanese, but she had a hard time.

gky: So what happened with the war ending and the WACs being trained? What happened to the WACs?


gky: Okay. What happened with the WACs?

SK: The one year training of the WACs was completed after the war ended in August of 1945, and so there was no place that the WACs could be sent to relieve front line MIS combat intelligence operators. And the occupation had started in Japan already, so those WACs who volunteered for duty in Japan were shipped to Tokyo and they were given clerical type jobs to do in Tokyo and in other parts of Japan.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

gky: How do you feel about what you did for the war effort?

SK: Oh, an unanticipated opportunity to serve my country had opened up for me even though I was unqualified, but Colonel Rasmussen and John Aiso had confidence in me and wanted me to be a supervisor, so all during my service in San Francisco, in Minnesota, and at the Army Language School here and at the DLI, was a wonderful career for me. I taught Japanese from 1941 until 1958 when I was asked to report to headquarters and become the single civilian expert, so to speak, in foreign language administration. So at the headquarters at Army Language School I did all the staffing concerning academic and language matters for Colonel Kraus, for Colonel Long, for Colonel Collins, who later became a general, and for Colonel Horne. And then a separate activity was set up for me in what is known as the research and development area where I have, where I was given charge of a government printing press, the textbook warehouse for over fifty different languages, and all the teacher training for all of the languages being trained at, language training being handled in about fifty languages at the school. As new instructors were hired they had to be trained in the methodology used at the school, so I had one expert, a former Romanian instructor, who did all the faculty training for the newly hired employees. I had a testing measurements officer who helped the language departments develop their language tests. I ran the training aids, the studios for developing records and tapes for language training. And so my job was expanded over the entire gamut of foreign languages taught at the school, and it was a wonderful experience for me.

gky: So you never planned to become a teacher and yet you wound up teaching thousands of people.

SK: Yes. At the original schools in Minnesota and California, I participated in my group, my small group of twenty-five instructors teaching six thousand graduates. Then at the language school here I continued to train thousands more, but in my job as the director of research and development I was involved in the training of hundreds of thousands of students and dealing with all of the foreign languages at the school.

gky: So the MIS really had a big effect on your life?

SK: This is the only permanent job I've had. I've had one career, and that is Japanese language and foreign languages, and though I was totally unprepared for it, I learned as I went along and I must've done a satisfactory job of it.

gky: The work that you did with the original MIS Language School here in the Presidio was really the groundwork for what later became the Defense Language Institute.

SK: Yes, I had a small part in it. When I reported to headquarters in 1958 there was nobody in the operations and training branch that knew anything or had any experience in foreign languages or academic matters, so all the correspondents that came in to the commandant having to do with foreign language training and academics I staffed for the commandant's signature. So my work with the successive commandants from 1958 until I retired was a wonderful opportunity for me.

gky: When the Defense Language Institute moved to the Presidio, was that very different from when you moved out there in the first place, out to Minnesota in the first place?

SK: It was exactly the same. Everywhere we moved it was an abandoned facility. The Presidio of San Francisco was an empty corrugated tin airplane hangar. In Minnesota it was an abandoned old folks', old men's home, summer grass blowing in the wind. And when we moved to the Presidio of Monterey in June of 1946 it was the same thing. The Presidio was abandoned as an empty army post, and the summer grass was three feet high. And in the summer there's fog here in Monterey, and the foghorns were blaring away. The buildings were all peeling with old, old paint. There was no building suitable for conducting classes. We were told to set up classes in abandoned mess halls, and in June of 1946 it was cold, so we fiddled around and there was a kitchen range in one of the faculty rooms up the hill here, and we turned the gas on and it hissed. There was gas in the buildings. So we lit a match and set the, tried to set the stove on to begin heating, but the kitchen range was filled with loose gas and almost blew the door over, and somehow or the other we were able to put the fire out and then restart it so we could get some warmth in the offices.

gky: Wow.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

gky: When you look at, look back over your career, more in the very beginning, and you think of the things that you've done and now, as you said, we see Janet Reno and we see Norm Mineta in Congress being a member of the Cabinet. We see General Shinseki being a four star general. In some small way you had your role to play in that.

SK: Well, my life as an individual, a Japanese American individual, starting with my parents, immigrants to the United States in the twentieth century, it's been almost like a storybook experience. Totally uneducated, or untrained to do the things that we were asked to do, all the changes that have occurred in my life in the twentieth century, it's almost incredible. My father was a Hawaiian pineapple, I mean, a sugar plantation contract officer, excuse me, employee. He worked for about nine dollars a month in the sugar plantations of Maui. Then he came to the United States and I was born, and World War I started, and went to school and then was employed there. And my parents were interned in American concentration camps. Then after the war the veterans came back from the wars in Europe and in Asia and started their educations, start life all over again. I, fortunately, had a job, just continued on. But along the way the second generation slowly began to rebuild their lives, but they didn't want to talk about the relocation. To them the experience was an experience of having been raped, and who wants to talk about having been raped? It was the third generation, lawyers like Dale Minami and other activist type Sansei lawyers, who started the movement in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and they worked to have the Korematsu, Hirabayashi, Yasui, and the Endo cases revoked. These are Supreme Court decisions. They were declared null and void, and the crimes that they were charged and sentenced, convicted and sentenced to, were revoked.

Then in 1977 I was approached to help Joe Harrington write an MIS story, so I helped Joe from 1977 'til '79 get interviews with MIS veterans in the continent, on Hawaii, all over the place, and he published his book, Yankee Samurai, in 1980, I believe. Then this impelled the 442 people in the Bay Area to organize, so Tom Kaguchi and Chet Tanaka organized the Japanese, National Japanese American Historical Society in San Francisco. And through the efforts of an individual by the name of Eric Saul, who was curator at the San Francisco Museum, and General William Peters, who had commanded OSS Detachment 101 in Burma, had personally used fourteen Japanese American MIS men in the Burma Campaign, he was an influential individual in the Bay Area and he wrote to the department of the army in Washington and he asked that the San Francisco Museum authorize the creation of a Go For Broke museum exhibit. At that time the chief of military history was General Collins, for whom I had worked in 1960, and General Collins approved, as chief of military history, the creation of a Go For Broke museum exhibit at the Presidio of San Francisco Museum, and it was a huge success. And then following that, a Yankee Samurai exhibit was set up. Then the Los Angeles County Museum asked for the exhibit to be shown there, and so the exhibit was brought to the Los Angeles County Museum and it had a very, very successful one year showing. And the Smithsonian people, Dr. Kennedy came down from Washington to look at the Yankee Samurai, Go For Broke internment exhibit in Los Angeles, and he said, "I want this for the Smithsonian," said, "I want it in 1984." But then he went back to Washington, talked it over with his staff, and he said, "I want this exhibit for the bicentennial celebration of the United States Constitution in 1987." And when the news got out there was an uproar from Congress that funds the museum, from the media in Washington, and individuals, especially from veterans, the American Legion and the VFW, the idea was, how can you put on an exhibit that tells about the mistakes of the United States government to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution? But Dr. Kennedy persisted. I was put on a special committee for this, this exhibit and I traveled to Washington a number of times. I had participated in the exhibits of the museums in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where the reception was very good. I brought it to Nimitz Museum in Texas for half a year, successful, and at the MacArthur Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, where it was very well received. And I reported to Dr. Kennedy that the American people will welcome these exhibits. They find out a lot about the history of the United States, the history of World War II, and they will not violently oppose these showings in the cities, so I said in Washington the public will welcome the exhibit, in Washington at the Smithsonian. And so on October the 1st of 1987 the Smithsonian exhibit titled "For a More Perfect Union" opened with the internment section of it, the 442 section of it, and the MIS section of it, and it was a huge success. It was opened in October the 1st, 1987, in twelve years more than fifty million people have viewed it, including all members of the Congress. And Representative Matsui wrote articles, encouraged the people from Congress to go visit it, and I feel that the museum exhibit, which was publicized in a National Geographic magazine at one time, 1980 I believe, had a lot to do with pushing forward the investigation by Congress of the relocation, and President Carter in 1980, I believe it was, organized, or put in charge a congressional committee called the Commission to Investigate the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, and they traveled from Washington to Los Angeles, San Francisco and up on to Washington, and they produced a report, personal justice...

gky: No, I've seen that report, but can we get back to your days at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling and here at the Presidio, the very first, with the very first class here? Are there any last thoughts you have about your feelings about having worked there or having been part of the whole effort?

SK: Well, as I explained, I was totally unqualified for the job, but because the army was desperate and thanks to a letter of reference sent by Professor Wong to Colonel Weckerling, I got this job, and I learned fast. Had to learn, had to study hard every night 'til one or two o'clock to be able to do the job, but somehow or the other I managed to do the job. The, working for the army, the civil service, from 1941 'til I retired in 1974 has been just a wonderful career for me. The commanders I've had, the friendships I've made with individual students, hundreds of thousands of people, were totally unanticipated, but a most rewarding career, and I wouldn't change it for anything. And even today I keep up my contacts with DLI, help writers write books. I'm helping Jim McNaughton write his MIS history. I'm working with Dr. Swift in Hawaii, who's writing another book. I've worked with Japanese authors. The foremost female writer in Japan, her name is Toyoko Yamazaki, she wrote a Japanese language novel on the MIS experience and the evacuation experience and it sold three million copies in Japan.

gky: Is that Two Motherlands?

SK: Pardon me?

gky: Is that Two Motherlands?

SK: Two Motherlands, Futatsu no Sokoku. Then NHK, the Japanese broadcasting company, developed a one year drama series based on that. Then, as late as 1994, NHK, the Japanese broadcasting company, contacted me to work on a Japanese language documentary on the work of Japanese American CIC activities in Japan. And postwar Japan, the possibility of Communists infiltrating Japanese people and Japanese government was very strong, and one of the most important work of the Japanese American linguist was to work as plainclothes CIC personnel to infiltrate the Communist Party itself, infiltrate the labor unions, and report back to MacArthur to prevent demonstrations and riots and strikes. And in 1994 NHK produced a film that was shown in Japan on a national basis, and it openly said that the Japanese American CIC prevented the Communization of Japan. So all these activities are a result of my having worked with MIS and continuously, even to this day, so the opportunities I get, the chances I get to speak up on the injustice of the evacuation, the work of the MIS in winning the war and in winning the peace of Japan, the work of the 442, has been an ongoing work of dedication for me. Perhaps that's what keeps me alive.

gky: [Laughs] Well, thank you very much.

SK: You're welcome.

gky: You gave us a lot to think about.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2000 Bridge Media and Densho. All Rights Reserved.