Densho Digital Archive
gayle k. yamada Collection
Title: Roy Uyehata Interview
Narrator: Roy Uyehata
Interviewer: gayle k. yamada
Location: El Macero, California
Date: October 20, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-uroy-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

gky: Okay, this is tape two with Roy Uyehata, and this is October 20th, the year 2000 in El Macero, California. Roy, you were talking about being a Nisei, and what that was like.

RU: Well, it was also depended on what theater you were with, because in Burma, China-Burma-India Theatre, the things that the Merrill's Marauders did was a little bit different from what we did. We didn't get a chance to do much of enemy communication interception work like they did over there, but our work was almost limited only to the strict interrogation and/or translation of documents, and we didn't have a chance to do much interception of signals, but we were asked to interrogate Signal Corps POWs for information about the four-digit code, or the five-digit code. In my case, it was the four-digit code. And right after the second battle of Bougainville, the Signal Corps intelligence sent a captain to find out how they could be four-digit code. And I was asked to interrogate one Signal Corps man, POW, about how to identify the certain four-digit code identification. And so since I had interrogated other Signal Corps POWs, it was fairly easy for me to find out from this POW that the identity of the numbers that were allotted from 9000 to 9020. And the captain asked this POW, "What does 9013 stand for?" And he said, "He's the commander of the 18th Army General as [inaudible]." And so once he told us that, then he started to tell us all the numbers, what they meant, what they were assigned to or some unit from 9000 to 9020. And so we broke the four-digit code that way. The mechanics of the code was in the code book, but never, that was something that was not written in the code book, and so by interrogating the POW, that's how we broke the four-digit code.

gky: Other than the prisoner in Bougainville, can you tell me about a memorable interrogation experience?

RU: Well, that as far as I'm concerned, the only memorable one is the one that for the second battle in Bougainville.

gky: Walt [Walter Tanaka, who was also in the MIS] said that he was not allowed to actually interrogate for a few years.

RU: That's right.

gky: But you were, in fact, doing interrogation, not just interpreting.

RU: That's right.

gky: How would you explain the difference?

RU: In the Southwest Pacific, in ATIS section, there were enough officers to do the job of interrogating so the Niseis had to become the interpreters. So then this is one section where it is called Allied Translator and Interpreter Section. All the other ones were called, "Intelligence Central," or [inaudible], they were always called the Translation and Interrogation Section. That's the difference, because they had enough officers to do that, whereas we didn't have enough officers to conduct an interrogation so we conducted our own interrogation.

gky: When you got to move to Caledonia, was it apparent to you why you were let out of school early to go there?

RU: Oh, yes. They were short-handed, because Guadalcanal was still, Guadalcanal fighting was still going on by the Marines and the Americal Division, so they were really short-handed.

gky: You said that the only time you were required to have an escort was when you were bathing.

RU: Bathing on Guadalcanal, because if we went on the team...

gky: I'm sorry. Just start over and say the only time we were required to have an escort is when we were bathing on Guadalcanal.

RU: Uh-huh, that's correct.

gky: Okay, can you just say that?

RU: Oh, the only time we were required to have an escort on Guadalcanal was because we were afraid that the Marines and the army personnel near the beaches would fire at us if we did not have a Caucasian escort.


RU: The army felt that our work on Guadalcanal was so important that they promoted five people that went to Guadalcanal. In February, they promoted us to one rank from T/5 [Technician Fifth Grade] to T/4 [Technician Fourth Grade] and three weeks later, promoted us to T/3 [Technician Third Grade]. So we received two quick promotions while we were on Guadalcanal.

gky: Did you and the other Nisei that you were with, did you ever talk about what it was like to be Nisei, to not be trusted, to then be trusted?

RU: Well, there were... all five of us were never in one unit before, so we all had different kinds of experience. Each had a different experience, different camps. I was the only one out of Camp Wolters, so I only know what I went through; I don't know what the others went through. I don't think theirs was quite so drastic like ours though. Camp Wolters -- when you start replacing stockade prisoners, that is quite bad, you know, for morale.

gky: At what point did you feel like you were trusted?

RU: Oh, after we got a promotion, that's when we felt pretty good because they had trusted what we had done, and even though there were no real officers to watch over us, we did our own interrogation and we turned in our reports, and then they suddenly believed what we wrote down on the POW report, so that's why we felt very good when they trusted us. But going back to New Caledonia at [inaudible] headquarters, all that trust meant nothing to the navy people. We were shoved into one room and guarded by a Marine sentry out, we couldn't even go out to the latrine without him accompanying us. That's how little trust the navy had in us.

gky: Well, it could have been that, or it could have been for your own safety.

RU: Well, both -- well, you could look at it that way. If you...

gky: You know, because this happened fifty years ago, you could look back at it with hindsight.

RU: That's right.

gky: Do you recall when you were, back in 1942, 1943, the whole mood of the country is different, or in wartime, or in that we've never faced before with both the East and the West. Can you sort of project yourself back then?

RU: Well, when I was in Guadalcanal, my sister sent me a care package. You know what a care package is? Well, when I got my care package, the colonel said, "How come you didn't ask me, ask for my permission to have your sister send the care package?" I was shocked when he told me that. You know, care package, just a simple thing like candy, or hair tonic, shaving lotion, things like that. So he said, "In order for your sister to send anything, you need my permission." So I had to go and get his permission from then on to have a care package sent to me. That really is, you know -- it really ruins your morale when you have that kind of situation. They don't trust us enough to have your siblings send you a care package.

gky: So was that only for the Nisei or was it...

RU: That's right, only for us. Only for us. Nobody else. Oh yes, I saved a sheet of paper that says, "signed by my CO" over there.

gky: At any point did you feel, I guess, bitterness, or did you feel...

RU: No. When you went through what I did at Camp Wolters, I could understand how they could mistrust you. So it was easy to understand. So all I did was next time send for a package, I got permission from my CO and sent it back to my sister, and she sent it to me. That's all.

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