Densho Digital Archive
Loni Ding Collection
Title: Herbert Y. Miyasaki Interview
Narrator: Herbert Y. Miyasaki
Interviewer: Loni Ding
Location: Hawaii
Date: December 2, 1985
Densho ID: denshovh-mherbert-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

LD: At the outset...

HM: Let's say a prisoner comes in front of me. Then I look him over, then after I look him over, I would say, "Do you have something to tell me?" Then some of them, "Yes, who are you? You're an Oriental, aren't you?" Oriental, of course, Asiatic, Asiatic. I said, "I'm Japanese just like you. The difference is I was born over there in the United States, you were born here. I went to United States schools, you were educated here. Childhood, our education was directed differently. You were controlled. Mine was never controlled. We don't degrade our flag or anything of that sort, but the President of the United States is nothing superior to anybody, he's put there by the people, whereas in your case, it's different. And you people believe in sun god and all that, well, it's all right for you people. That's the difference between you and I." And they said, "Where did you learn to speak Japanese?" "Well, my Japanese is not as good as yours, but I couldn't have learned in Japan." I never told them I went to Japan, he's a prisoner there. Said, gee, I can't believe... I have some writings from the prisoners, they said, oh, no, this can't be. They're not Japanese. They're devils or something, you know, in writing. And at the end, they conclude that after all, we are born in the United States, and we had a whole wrong perception of Japanese Americans, Japanese in the United States. Because they're not this type, they're not that type. You see, what they were led to believe comes out at that time, that Americans are huge. I'm an American, but I'm not white. We went to the same school, we ate the same food. "Oh, you eat Japanese food?" "We have, yes. Because our parents came from Japan." "Oh, is that right?" They were really surprised, "and you speak English, too?" "I do," and all those things come in.

At the same time, I have to get their confidence, main thing. So, "If you have anything you want to tell me about yourself," throw it at him and then let him go. I just give a leading question and just get him to talk. "Now, you went to school, you went chuugakko, middle school, high school?" "You married, I take it, at your age?" "Yeah." "Where's your wife at now? What prefecture in Japan?" And then when they give me the prefecture, I know the division already, military division, second division or fourth division, different prefectures, different divisions. And you come from inside of that prefecture, then there'd be certain regiment, three regiments make up a division. And, of course, slowing down and down until pinpoint his organization. Even if he doesn't tell me, by then I would know by area.

And going into details, but many of them just couldn't get over it, that we Japanese, speaking Japanese, but born in United States, and fighting for United States Army. No, I'm not fighting for United States, I'm fighting for my life and country, same country that you're fighting for your life. I'm not fighting for United States, I'm fighting for my country, which is United States. Anyone born in that country will fight for that country, regardless of... because it's inside you. It's not what you, come out of the mouth, not something that comes out of your mouth or my mouth or anything, it's inside of you that cannot be taken away. Then they got to thinking, and some of them, I could never convince them, but they knew I was Japanese, and some of them even called me "traitor" at the end. Not at the end, right through. "No, I think you're a traitor. You don't know your Japanese blood," all those things. But if I lose my cool, I'm the loser in a battle of wits there, so, no. But I never, well, I tried my best not to let them have the initiative or come to me with questions. But sizing the prisoner up, I would let them come out first, if they have anything to say or something. Then they will come out, out of curiosity.

LD: How about the American troops, the other American troops? They understood that that was your attitude?

HM: By then... when we go into combat, just as Hank Gosho was known by his people, the 3rd Battalion kaki group, kaki were orange, you see. Everybody in Regimental Headquarters knew it, and they didn't call me by Miyasaki. "Hey Herbie, Herbert." Even old man Stillwell used to call me Herbert. My name was Herbert to everybody. And they talk about the interpreter, "Yeah, the chief, call, get Herbert." And they would yell "Herbert" here and there. So I got along real nicely, not at the beginning, but as the campaign went on in the jungles, sleeping, at first some of them, at the end they told me, "Gee, I thought some night you would come hit me with a dagger or something." "Why should I? I was afraid you would come for me," in Japanese. That's the kind of conversation I used to have with certain... at the end, no. We're all one, we're all human beings. That's the main thing, you need to think of yourself in these, or yourself in that. That's when the greed, selfishness come out, problems would set in.

We used to share whatever we had in the way of food. Like our troops, we were supplied by air. Every fourth day they would come over in the air, drop parachutes, food, medicine, ammunition, weapons, clothes. The first drop would be animal fodder for the mules. Then comes the medicine, then comes the weapon, weapons and ammunition, then clothing comes last. I wouldn't say last, but behind that other equipments, picks, shovels and all that. And by looking at the parachutes, we know what's coming down. But the enemy used to hit as soon as the drop comes by, the enemy hit and take it all, we had to run away without food. They hit us two or three successive times, that means we went hungry for about nine days, over nine days, fourteen days. But we lived. That's how we were fed, equipped, supplied, right through.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.