Densho Digital Archive
Loni Ding Collection
Title: Kenji Goto Interview
Narrator: Kenji Goto
Interviewer: Loni Ding
Location: Hawaii
Date: December 8, 1985
Densho ID: denshovh-gkenji-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

LD: Did you ever request going overseas? Is that what you... what did you want?

KG: Yes, I requested to go overseas. As soon as I returned from the recruiting trip and I was asked to teach, I had attended class for two months, had only a few courses out of the six months' course. And so I felt I was not quite well-trained in the language, therefore I said I would like to go overseas. So I even was sent to basic training, combat training, to be sent overseas. But the train... I went to Florida, Camp Blanding, Florida, for combat training. So the train came up from the south and it stopped at Camp Savage. Then the company, the battalion sergeant came on board the train and said, "Corporal Goto, get off the train," at Camp Savage. "All the rest of you, go to Fort Snelling." I was sent to basic training and combat training because I was going to be sent overseas. Now, why should I be singled out at the train stop at Camp Savage only to drop me off. But I found out that was, had a teaching assignment again, in spite of me. So I told the guy, "The agreement was that I was to go overseas." He said, "Well, you are worth more over here than overseas, so we want you to stay here and teach." So that's where I was stuck. But all the department heads were mainland Niseis, except I was the only department head from Hawaii, which I'm still, cherish that honor. Department head of the Oral Language Division. So Major Aiso must have had lots of confidence in me, despite the fact that once I wanted to go overseas and abandon the Military Intelligence Language School. [Laughs]


LD: What kind of experiences or challenges or responsibility did you want? I know it may seem obvious, but I want you to tell me in detail, why you wanted to go overseas. Could you talk about that a little? Maybe it's what other fellows felt, too, but what did you feel? You're not a nineteen year old, eighteen year old kid champing at the bit to get into action, you were mature, you had responsibility, all that. So for you, what was that desire to go overseas?

KG: Well, the main reason for my wanting to go overseas was I felt that going overseas and interrogating prisoners and translating captured documents would be much more interesting than staying at the MISLS and teaching.

LD: Riskier, too, of course.

KG: I beg your pardon?

LD: Risker, too.

KG: Yes, well, riskier, too, but still, well, I was not thinking too much of... well, although I valued my life, I felt that it was much more, I would meet lots of Japanese soldiers and then I would meet someone from the north, someone from Kyushu, and I was brought up in Kona where there were lots of Kumamoto people, and they have their special dialect, and northern Japan people have their special dialect. I thought meeting all these type of people would be very interesting. So instead of going through the drama of every day getting the class and pounding into their brain all kinds of difficult Japanese terms.

LD: You did play poker, too.

KG: [Laughs] Well, from time to time.

LD: The attitude or the atmosphere of the, of Savage was, would you say it was like any military school? What was the atmosphere there?

KG: Well, I think everybody, the morale was high. And the Nisei soldiers were very much motivated. Well, some of us... well, like myself, I was pretty confident in Japanese language so I did not really burn the midnight oil and study. But some of them, well, I think other MIS men had said this, but in the middle of the night they'd go to the latrine because that is the only place that there is light. And you'd be surprised, I was surprised that there were about twenty men in the latrine, and they're studying in the latrine. This is one o'clock, two o'clock in the morning. So I felt that the morale was high. They had their objective, what they were studying for, and I was very much impressed with the seriousness of these people.

LD: Why were they studying so hard?

KG: Well, I think they felt that they had to do their duty, they did not want to make any mistakes in translation, so I think that is what they were thinking, to be dependable. Except for that Company K, the Oral Language Division.

LD: Who came late.

KG: Yes. That group was, as Tamotsu Shibutani has written in The Derelict of Company K, that group was very different. But, according to Dr. Shibutani's book, they were not led by people who, by officers who understood the Nisei, these hakujin officers. For that reason they rebelled, they did not study as hard, and many of them purposely slept in classes and so forth, which later I got Colonel Rasmussen to come and catch then and bring them to my office. And Colonel Rasmussen said that he was going to court-martial them. So in the midst of the... I was asked to take down their names and report that they were sleeping in classes. And then one of them went to see the colonel, and I guess he must have said that he would from now on study seriously and would not sleep in class. Therefore the colonel said, well, "Sergeant Goto, I'll excuse them this time. But next time I catch them, I will court-martial them." So after that, the atmosphere in my division changed and everybody started studying. But they wanted to test our patience, I believe. [Laughs]

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.