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-01-0007

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KG: Well, in Hawaii, there were lots of rumor mongers when the war broke out. And I know of one person who tried to do that on me. In Kona, we had a special vacation schedule, and that was in September, October, November, that is when the coffee ripened and so during those months the students stayed home and picked coffee for the parents. Therefore the school began on December 1st. So from Grant Pass, Oregon, a teacher came to teach at the school that I was teaching. He was a social studies teacher and on December 7th, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and this fellow started to spread all kinds of talk. One was that the Japanese Issei did not become American citizens even though they'd been in Hawaii for many years because they wanted to side, work for Japan as spies and do sabotage work. He also said that the Japanese language school taught the young Japanese to be loyal to the emperor instead of to the United States and so on. So I, one day, encountered him and said I used to teach in my university days to earn my expenses by teaching Japanese language school. And if you don't consider me a Japanese spy, would you? Well, he didn't say much, and I told him that, "You are a social studies teacher and I hear you are accusing the Japanese Issei of not naturalizing, and don't you know that even the Issei wanted to become American citizens, the American law did not permit them to be naturalized. Shame on you, not knowing such things and making accusations that the Japanese Isseis are not getting naturalized as American citizens." And so then I heard that one of the students whom I was teaching, she was also working for one of the teachers in the teachers' cottage in the afternoon and evening. And she told me that, "In these school cottages, people have been discussing you being a possible traitor." And so, well, I knew who were my enemies. But when the call for 442nd came, anyway, I felt that if we could not serve in the military. We had no way of proving that we are loyal to the United States. And, well, for many years before the war, even they have the newspaper articles and the magazine articles discussing about Japanese in Hawaii and Japanese in the mainland, should there be a war between the United States and Japan. Not only the Issei, but even Niseis who attend Japanese language schools and attend Buddhist churches would spy for Japan and to sabotage and all that. At the same time, there were Caucasians who would defend Japanese, saying that the Niseis will be loyal to the United States even in the case of war. So, but as you know, as soon as the war began, that the drafting of the Niseis stopped, and so really we had no way of proving that we were loyal to the United States. But as you know, some of the elderly Nisei here and on the mainland petitioned the President to allow at least volunteers to serve in the special unit composed of only Nisei. And that was approved. And so I felt that this is my opportunity to prove not only myself, but prove that other Japanese are loyal to the United States, and I volunteered for the 442nd. I was thirty-eight years old and my wife was pregnant, second child. But since I was thirty-eight years old, the 442nd, I was not taken to the 442nd.

Then a few, about a month later, the call for language men came, so I volunteered again, and this time I was allowed to enlist and I was accepted. Then in October 1943, only about, after I attended classes for about three months, five of us were sent back to Hawaii to recruit more language men, and I was assigned to the island of Hawaii. And this teacher from Grant Pass, Oregon, which I was, later found out was the hotbed for anti-Japanese feeling, I met him at the Hilo post office, so he congratulated me and I said, "Barrett, I'd like to see you in uniform just like me. When is that going to be?" And he smiled and he left, and that is, got good satisfaction. Now, I have that story in Yankee Samurai, that book, and one of the, a friend of mine, a Nisei, who was the district superintendent of the island of Oahu. And he said, he asked me, he says, "I read in the Yankee Samurai that you had a run-in with a Caucasian teacher who had arrived from Oregon." Said, "Who was he?" So I said, well, he was the fellow that later ended up as the principal of Kahuku school by the name of Barrett. And he said, "Oh, is that so?" he said. He said, "That fellow was mentally sick. And he had a beautiful wife and he was so jealous that somebody might take his way," and he was very incompetent as a principal, always crying on his shoulders for help. So we had a good laugh. This was only about a couple of years ago.

LD: You had a real satisfaction, didn't you?

KG: Yes. Well, I didn't have to really prove myself by getting into the military, volunteering in the army, but the main purpose was not to challenge him. The main purpose was to prove that not only myself, but if possible, all the Japanese in Hawaii, Japanese in the United States, were loyal to the United States. That was the main purpose.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.