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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

KG: Because Kiyoshi, Mr. Okubo was going to Japan. So later, I read the Hilo Times, and this is the clipping from Hilo Times. This Kiyoshi Okubo was very proud of, I think, this article that he had written in his paper. And he's written three times, because I have three clippings over here. So when Mr. Okubo took this quote back to Mrs. Tojo, well, Mrs. Tojo brought out three poems which General Tojo had written just before his death. And so I'd like to talk about those three poems. One is "Kaeri nan izaya shinyo no futokorori. "I shall return to the bosom of truth." Well, I don't know, but I guess he meant that, you know, Japan was being pressured by the United States and other countries, therefore, "I started the war because I believed that it was for the good of Japan." I believe that's what he means when he says, "I shall return," just before his execution, he says, "I shall return to the bosom of truth." Then, "saraba nari, uinofuyama kefukoete mida no moto ni yukuzo ureshii." Now I interpret this, "Farewell, I shall go over the wilderness full of changes, and I'm happy to go to live with Amitaba. Amitaba is Buddha, you know, the reincarnated Buddha. Then he also, another one is "Yume nareya bajou ni kurasu gojuunen." "It is like a dream to have lived fifty years on horseback," which means being a general in the army, and an officer, he spent fifty years in the army. So these are the three poems that Mrs. Tojo gave to Mr. Okubo. So Mr. Okubo brought these back, and I don't know how many he gave to Dr. Urasaki, either one or two, or maybe more. But that is the story.

LD: You recruited him, and you also recruited quite a few others. Could you tell me a little bit about that? When you went to recruit, what was the need at that time and then how did people respond to your recruitment? You went to recruit [inaudible] and you yourself said [inaudible].

KG: Yeah, well, like Urasaki, he came to my office in --

LD: Excuse me, Kenji, I have to tell you, my questions will disappear, therefore you have to introduce the subject. You have to say, "When I went to recruit..."

KG: Five of us were assigned to come back to Hawaii to recruit more men with language ability. And I being from the island of Hawaii, I was assigned to the island of Hawaii, that is the Big Island, and I was stationed in Hilo in the intelligence office. The head was Major Bryant. And while I was there, a Dr. Harry Urasaki came and volunteered for the language service. And after interviewing him, I found that he was a dentist, and I told him, "You are earning much larger, what do you call, income than we have been. And furthermore, you are a dentist. Why should you volunteer for the language service? Why don't you volunteer for the dental service?" However, he said that it's already, the 442nd had gone, and he said he had volunteered for the dental service of the 442nd but he was not accepted, and therefore he did not think that the United States Army would accept him. "But since you are here, well, I'd like to volunteer because I have confidence in my Japanese language." And so I accepted him.

LD: What was his background in Japanese language?

KG: Well, I did not go into that because it was a test that would prove. But I believe in those days we attended Japanese language school at least ten years.

LD: Did you ask him any... what did you tell him, what was the nature of, or suggested was the nature of what you went through? For instance, Yamane used to, when Captain Dickie came and recruited him, he said, "Would you be willing to be sent on a submarine or air dropped in Japan on a mission for your government?" That's the type of thing he was asked.

KG: Well, no, we did not have that type of instruction. It was more vague. It was more interrogating Japanese prisoners of war, and also translating captured documents. Those were the two duties that we stressed. And, well, it was only after two months of class attendance at Camp Savage, we were suddenly told to go back to Hawaii and bring back competent language men. For that reason, I really did not know exactly, I did not go through that six months' curriculum, and I was rather vague. But at least I knew that we had to interrogate prisoners of war, and also translate captured documents. So that is about all that we, that is, all I told him.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KG: Well, I did not experience too much... in fact, none of the people who volunteered told me that they had brothers or sisters or relatives in Japan who might be serving in the Japanese army. However, personally, I had my cousin, who was a professional soldier, he was a warrant officer in the Japanese army, and well, I was afraid that someday I might meet him. Because at the time that I volunteered, I was not expecting to be an instructor, to be kept at the Military Intelligence Language School. But my cousin, who was the head person of the Goto family in Japan, was in the Japanese army. Well, however, at that time, I did not know where he had served, he was serving. But there was an inkling of fear that I might meet him. Then, well, what would I do? But besides that, nobody among the people I had recruited said anything about having a relative in Japan or in the Japanese army or navy.

LD: You never heard any of the students discuss that, or the staff itself, nobody discussed it?

KG: No, no.

LD: You never saw that as a potential problem?

KG: No. There was one person who had volunteered in Hilo, I forget the name, but just after he volunteered and he signed up with me, his brother, who was in the 442nd, got killed. And so he came and said, "My parents are worried that I might be killed. I'm the only son left." So he said he wanted to withdraw, and I allowed him to withdraw. But the enthusiasm was really great. One person who was forty-two years old, who was a theater owner at a place called Honokaa on the island of Hawaii, wanted to volunteer. He was, since he was forty-two years old, and he had been in business for many years, he was very good in the Japanese language. He was a Nisei, so he was good in English language, so I thought he seems like a good man, person. And I accepted and took him over to Camp Savage. But he was an alcoholic, and so about, after about... so every day he had to have about one quart of whiskey. So the army finally found out when he would come to class drunk, so he was discharged.

But there was another fellow who was my classmate at the University of Hawaii who took ROTC and he was commissioned as an officer. But then after graduation, he had gone to the Honokaa plantation, and there he was a field overseer. And as to his keeping up with his military training, I think he must have been a little lax about it. And he told me he was in the reserve, he was a captain. So he asked me if he could be, you know, get back his captain's commission and serve in the Military Intelligence Service. So I telephoned Major Bryant, and he said most likely no. He said, "He has to start as a buck private." So I told him that, and he said "All right," he said, "I'll start as a buck private, but I think I have the confidence that as soon as I graduate from language school, I'll try to get back my commission." And this fellow's name was Kenneth Hino. Now, he went to Camp Savage and graduated and went to... where was this place, where they make the "ninety day wonders"?

LD: Camp Benning?

KG: Yeah, Camp Benning. And he was commissioned again, second lieutenant. And so he went overseas, and I don't know what... when the Korean War started, he was a captain by then. So he had a company. But he was banged up pretty bad, wounded. And then, but still, after the Korean War was over, he kept on in the army and he retired as a major. So there were people like that who had a commission, but who was willing to start from buck private.

There was another fellow by the name of Mihata, he was a Honolulu boy. He was also a University of Hawaii ROTC graduate. But when he was, when he volunteered for the MIS, he started as buck private. But no sooner he became a master sergeant and went overseas.

LD: That was a sore point, wasn't it? Sounds to me, I've heard it many times, really, from many of the MI, that they really never got the rank that was their due. Some fellows have [inaudible], they took a lower rank just to go into this program. There were also people just, that all the fellows coming up never, most of them, made beyond sergeant. Do you recall about that?

KG: Yes. Major Aiso told us once that he had tried to get commissions for the instructors. However, he was not able to get the War Department approval on that. Anyone who became commissioned officers, officer, had to go overseas. They could not stay in the school to teach. Well, we felt that being a... well, we got the, as soon as we became instructors, we were made staff sergeant, and by the time of the end of the war, most of us were master sergeants. So when we went to town, all of us were either tech sergeants or staff sergeants or master sergeants. You know, some of the downtown hakujins used to say, "You people are a zebra outfit," because there were very few buck privates, the instructors. Well, there's no buck privates, we instructors went to town.

LD: What is a "zebra outfit"?

KG: Because we had lots of stripes. [Laughs] Master sergeants would have three stripes, and then the rocker and then another stripe below the rocker.

LD: But how about the MI guys who went, did go out overseas?

KG: Yes, well, that was the point that many times I felt that we who were instructors had very little chance of distinguishing ourselves. We had been selected as instructors because we were well balanced in the knowledge of the English language and also the Japanese language. But those people who were way below, many of them way below our ability, when they'd go overseas and we'd hear that, well, he did a good translation, found some secret in Japanese military force, and then get commissioned a second lieutenant, or get a medal. And so we felt that we were really, so-called suckers, staying back at the language school and teaching.

LD: Are you talking about the MI Issei?

KG: Well, Niseis too, that is, well, we had classes from section one, which is the top, well balanced, way down to around section 30, with twenty men each in class. Now, well, many of these people way down in the lower sections, they were more dictionary carriers. [Laughs] But the organizations there, it was a team of ten people, and usually the leader was very good in both Japanese and English. Then there would be Niseis who are good in English. Then there would be Kibeis who are good in Japanese, but not so good in English. So in reading captured documents, especially diaries, it is written in slurred style. For that reason, it would be very difficult to read, but it would be the Kibei who had maybe high school education in Japan or maybe even university education in Japan. But not well balanced, because those university graduates in Japan did not have too much of American schooling, so were not too good in English. And so, you see, then they would be way down about the ninth or the tenth would be some people, some of these fellows who were way down in the lower sections. But, well, through some luck, some of these way down lower class person would be decorated with a Bronze Star or a Silver Star or something of that sort. But we instructors at the language service, naturally, we had to study what we're going to teach the following day. I know that I used to spend 'til about one, two o'clock in the morning to get everything ready. When you teach the higher class, they can really mess you up if you don't prepare. They'd start arguing about the translations and so forth. So you had to be very sure of yourself, but in order to do that, the instructor had to study until one, two o'clock, prepare for the next day's lesson.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LD: You feel that many instructors were disappointed that they didn't have certain opportunities, they felt like that they were kind of [inaudible], that they didn't have certain opportunities? And then what kind of things did more, did they have the opportunity to do teaching? What kinds of things?

KG: Well, number one, I think we should have been commissioned, second lieutenant, first lieutenant. Now, when I was made the chairman of the oral language, because when 1945 arrived, the need for language men was so great out in the battlefield that most of the language men were stationed in the regimental headquarters or battalion headquarters. And whatever document that they captured would be brought to the headquarters. Or a prisoner was captured, well, he'd be brought to the battalion or regimental headquarters and get interrogated. By that time, the situation on the battlefield had changed, and for that reason, they say that they needed more language men right up in the battle front. And as soon as the Japanese soldier is captured, well, he would be interrogated. Now, therefore, instead of learning difficult Japanese words, but I was asked to train people, "What is your name, what is your rank, what is your, how many men are in your, what you call outfit? Where is the machine gun, where is this and where is that?" You know, so that type of training that, this oral language division, and I was selected as the chairman, and I was given twenty instructors to train these people in war interrogation technique. So whenever the...

LD: What would you emphasize? How was the interrogation, what were the important things that you always did out in the field? What was your basic approach, laying some technical aspects, what was the basic stance that you were training the students? What would you say to them about how to approach a prisoner, how do you interrogate them? And did that change as the war went on and you started getting reports back from the field, and then did you say with a single way of interrogation, did that stay the same?

KG: Well, first of all, well, out in the battlefront, we felt that food is, you don't carry food but if you had some food and if a prisoner looked famished or give him anything to eat, and in that way create a friendly feeling and tell him that, "You are captured, but we're not going to kill you," and give them a sense of safety, and then start interrogating. So those questions are sort of, from name and rank and so on, we taught them how to go about that.


LD: Why don't you start by telling us again that you were in charge of the oral, what did you call that?

KG: Oral language.

LD: Training, speaking and interrogation, conversation and so on. Could you tell us that and then talk about what would you actually tell your students? When you first start with them in a class on interrogation method, what would you say to them? You can start by telling us that you were in charge of the oral language program.

KG: You mean in Japanese?

LD: No, telling me now that, "I was influential because..."

KG: Yeah. As I said, about the beginning of 1945, there was more demand for language men, and the demand was more for language men who would be out in the battlefront interrogating prisoners immediately after capture. So these men, we did not have to teach them too much kanji or too much writing or too much translation. It was more, they are to be specialized in interrogation, and therefore it was more oral than translation. So the purpose was, when the prisoners, under the old system, the prisoners used to be taken to the battalion headquarters or regimental headquarters and interrogated. But while, when they are taken to the regimental headquarters or battalion headquarters, well, the situation in the battlefield had changed already. So many times, what the prisoner has told the interrogator, and the order goes out to the battlefront, the situation already had changed. Therefore they wanted to interrogate the prisoners right on the battlefield. So it was more a list of questions to ask in regard to the enemy's situation.

LD: You would not have any, use a "get tough" method.

KG: No. There was one disadvantage that the instructors had. We've never gone to the battlefront. We were just picked out after graduation. Well, so and so is good in both languages, he might make a good instructor, and therefore... and most likely that, for instance, I was in section 1, that is the well-balanced person, people in both English and... so all the section 1, twenty people became instructors. And so, but from the report we received from the battlefront, that the Japanese soldiers, the Japanese are very appreciative if you are kind to them. Now, therefore, as soon as they are brought to the headquarters for interrogation, well, you give him cigarette, give him food, and treat him nicely. Then he would respond and pour out, tell everything. And another thing that the Japanese army did not instruct their men was that Japanese soldiers were not supposed to be captured. They were told, "When you are to be captured, well, kill yourself," or something to that sort. And so they were not taught what to do when captured. Well, the Americans are taught you give your name, rank, and your serial number, and according to the Geneva treaty, well, they cannot beat you up. So, but the Japanese were not. Therefore, the first thing we did was to offer cigarette and gave 'em food. And in that way, then he would feel very appreciative and start telling you everything he knows.

LD: Were there students that [inaudible] during your training at Savage, who didn't do so well out in the field or vice versa, some students who, of course, you thought they were poor, not very strong, and when they went out in the field did very well, and what is that, what does it take to do well out on the field?

KG: Well, I guess it was luck, maybe a fellow was gutsy. Wasn't too good in the language but gutsy. For instance, there are people who went into the cave single handed and without weapons, and talked the Japanese out of, to surrender. Well, I wouldn't say Hoichi Kubo, who did that, was... he was one of the good language men, he knew his Japanese. But there were some people, I think, who had the bravery to go in and tell them, "If you don't surrender, we're going to dynamite this cave and close the cave. But we will not kill you, we will not treat you badly if you surrender. And they got the, not only soldiers, but civilians to surrender. So those people who were not too good in the language and distinguished themselves were, I think, gutsy. I think that's where the difference is.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

LD: All in all, how did you feel about the job that your staff was doing in training these men? What do you think the experience of, what you think was fairly, not quite as strong as it could have been, what did you feel at that time?

KG: Well, being an educator when I entered the army, I felt that there were lots of things that the army was doing, you know, that wasn't really effective. For instance, teaching the so called sousho, the cursive writing. We were taught how to write, but that was not the purpose. And I used to argue with my division chairman, said, "The purpose is not to teach them how to write, but teach them how to read." And I've taught shorthand, and the way to start teaching shorthand is not to teach how to write from the beginning, but to read, read, read shorthand. And then when the fellow's able to read, I used to teach them after about two months of reading, reading, reading shorthand, to write. Therefore, I used to tell my department, said, "You know, the way so-called sousho you start is wrong." The main purpose is to read and not to write, and therefore, as long as one is able to read, well, lots of time has been wasted teaching how to write.

LD: What about the attitude of your students? I mean, very often the teacher had to teach not only technical skill, but also reminding them of their purpose clarified, or purpose... what about that? Did you ever report to your students, the last time you see them before they graduate, that you know they're going to get their assignment going out, or maybe [inaudible]. Did you ever talk about that?

KG: Well, the thing is that in high school we have homeroom, but there was not homeroom type of... so that each one went and taught this subject, and therefore you were not in charge of that particular class. And so, but I was once asked by Major Aiso to take hold of a class of Kibei and teaching them English, English, English. And so I was with them about two months, the last two months before graduation. And so, well, as far as the Japanese, the reading of Japanese, well, they could read very well, of course, the Kibeis. And, but when it comes to translation, well, I used to tell them that, remember, it's army language, so-called, it's classical, what they call the bungotai, not the kougotai speaking type. So said, "You people can, you understand Japanese enough that you can just translate the classical Japanese into spoken Japanese, and then you translate this into English." And so with them I had lots of rapport because I was with them two months. So after, and one of them... well, at the time of graduation, there were people selected as best student, most improved student and so on, several categories. And I felt one of my Kibei students had improved in his English very much, and therefore I recommended him for the most improved student. Well, I burned the midnight oil to write my recommendation, and then he got this honor of being the most improved student. Then immediately after graduation, Major Aiso called. "Sergeant Goto," he said, "I'd like to commend you for taking care of that Kibei class." He said, "I'll read for you some of the comments," because at the time of graduation, they were given several questions to answer, how were the instructors, how was the food, how was the sleeping quarters and all that. So I think to the question, "How was your instructor," and they just gave me all kinds of good remarks. And one I still remember and I feel, well, I was very happy that what I did for them is reciprocated, was that "Now we are going overseas, I hope Sergeant Goto will lead us. And without him, we might be lost." So that comment I still remember, and it's one of the things that, satisfaction I get teaching students. So with that group I had lots of personal feeling.

LD: That student was saying that he would want you to lead him.

KG: Yeah. Well, I guess...

LD: He wanted that, too.

KG: Yeah. But each of his twenty students were in that class, but they got put in a different team. They were strong in the Japanese language, you see.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 6>

KG: You going to tell about Harry Urasaki?

LD: Yeah, I have seen about the poem that you read, the fact that he could hear Tojo.

KG: You mean from the beginning?

LD: "One student that I recruited..." you said it before, but this is for a new tape.

KG: One of the students that I recruited in Hilo after the war was over and he was one of the early ones to be, to land in Japan. Was assigned a personal interpreter for General Hideki Tojo who attempted suicide. And after I don't know how long, but maybe about a month of being a personal interpreter between the American doctors and General Tojo and between the American nurses and General Tojo, General Tojo recovered enough to be transferred to Sugamo prison. And at the time of his transfer, General Tojo told Harry Urasaki that he had nothing to give him as a memento of his appreciation for what he had for him, so he picked up his coat, which has bloodstains on it because he had shot himself trying to shoot through his heart, but he missed the heart. So this article came out, I think it was in 1959 in the Hawaii Times. So I took lots of interest in this article. Then in 1963 I saw another article in the Hawaii Times saying that Harry Urasaki had sent back the, General Tojo's coat to Mrs. Tojo. He felt that I guess it would be more worth to be given back to Mrs. Tojo than he hold it. And so in 1963, the editor of Hilo Times, Mr. Kiyoshi Okubo, took the coat back to Mrs. Tojo and brought back three poems which Mrs. Tojo had given him to be given to Harry Urasaki.

LD: We have the poems.

KG: Yeah, you have the poems.

LD: Did you hear these stories on occasion about the MI men who, in fact, meet with the family, bring something back to them, sometimes the personal effects of soldiers in the field who died, who picked up their battle flag, a number of other persons who brought back. Somebody from the mainland did that last year, after forty years. Now, why do you think they did that? Why do Nisei sometimes do that, some of them have done that.

KG: You meant sent back...

LD: Send back or even go and visit the family before they sent them back. But could you explain that a little bit in terms of the attitude, the value, what it is that Nisei feels about that family? And there again, it's something that may seem obvious to you, but please explain to someone who needs that drawn out a bit.

KG: Well, I don't know of any other case. But I've read in the Pacific Citizen about a hakujin who had done that. And therefore I don't think this was any Nisei characteristic or anything, I think it was just a feeling of sympathy, how happy the family would be if any of these, for instance, captured flag with all sort of signatures on, but says shusei so and so. Shusei means, or should say, "Congratulations for being inducted into the military force."

LD: No one's ever explained what's on that flag. Could you tell us what's on the battle flag?

KG: Well, in the corner of the battle flag is shuku so and so, shusei. Shusei means being inducted in the military. So it means, "Congratulations." For instance, if I am to be in Japan, and if I am inducted, well, they say, "Shuku Goto Kenji," or, "Shuku shusei Goto Kenji-sama," which means, "Congratulations to Kenji Goto, you are inducted in the military force. And then all the rest are people who send that congratulations with a, what do you call it, rising sun right in the middle, red ball. And so it's... and many of them, I think, have even the address, I think. So when these people brought back these war artifacts, well, after a few years they start thinking, well, even I held it, what am I going to do? Then they start feeling sympathy, compassion for the family who's been waiting for the person to come back. So he would say, "Well, I might as well return this artifact to the family." Many people did that. Then they became close friends, and fellows would go to Japan and visit that family. When Japan became, people became wealthy enough, they were visiting Hawaii and visiting the mainland, even hakujin homes, to thank them for returning these artifacts.

LD: A note about a time that you talked to her about a fellow teacher, hakujin teacher who accused you to your face and also of being a...

KG: The schools in Kona --

LD: Go back to before, this was at the time of the outbreak of war, right?

KG: Yeah.

LD: Okay. Start again.

KG: The schools in Kona had a special vacation schedule. Their vacation months were September, October, November, because that is when the coffee ripened. And so the students would help picking coffee, and this was instituted when the stock crash came in 1929. And I happened to be the president of the PTA at that time, and not that I was the only one who negotiated with the department, the principal and the supervising principal, but many of the parents worked with me, and we worked with the legislature and members of the House and the members of the Senate of the, those days, Territory of Hawaii, and we got that instituted.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

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.

<Begin Segment 8>

LD: How do you feel about those fellows who refused the draft because they felt that they wanted to make the point about reestablishing their civil rights first before they would sign on? I'm talking about, obviously, the fellows who were locked up, the families who were locked up, who said, "When you restore my civil rights I'll sign up the very next day?"

KG: You mean those people who were sent to Tule Lake?

LD: No, just the fellows who refused to accept the draft who went and served Leavenworth? They went to Leavenworth and then McNeil Island, draft resisters. They were the draft resisters, especially out of Heart Mountain. Heart Mountain had quite a sizeable, seventy-two of them. How do you feel about those men?

KG: Well, I think they must have a good reason for that. They were asked questions about, "Would you renounce your..." but they were Nisei, weren't they? Well, I really don't know what's the reason.

LD: How do you feel, what do you think of the position of the Nisei who were in camp, saying, how do you feel about that group that took the position that they did not want to enlist or be drafted unless the government recognizes their rights as citizens by releasing their families from the camp? When they did that, restored their rights, then they would also carry on.

KG: Well, I think they had their philosophy, especially being, I think, most of them, all of them had been Nisei, they were American citizens. And being American citizens, they were treated without any trial or anything as being enemy aliens. I think they had the right to do that. I have sympathy for them.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LD: You've been, you're really known for, is the, your activity, your service with the Japanese American community keeping cultural heritage intact, in fact, in heading up this committee for so many years. Why do you think it's so important to keep the culture alive?

KG: Well, number one, I think the United States is really a melting pot. I heard the other day that New York is just as much a melting pot as Hawaii, only maybe the different racial group gather there than Hawaii. And I think before the war, I believe this white supremacy idea came about because the Caucasian population did not know enough of the Oriental culture and history. And now that things are changing, and I think that up until the war, World War II, it was more what was, for instance, here in Hawaii, used to say, "Americanized, Americanized." Even some Japanese would use the word beika, means Americanized. Now, what is American culture? I did not think those days, but now when I analyze, it was nothing but the European culture. But after the war, especially, I think with the occupation force going to Japan, and many of the American GIs staying there for two, three years, they began to understand more about Japan. In Los Angeles I was there for the Veterans, AJA Veterans Convention, and I went to eat at a Japanese restaurant, and I was surprised that so many Caucasians were eating Japanese food. They knew more about Japanese food than I knew. They knew the name of the sushi and different things. [Laughs] So I think the Americans are getting more internationalized in their thinking. So... but I think there are many people in the United States who should be, understand more the Oriental culture. So this centennial of the coming of the so-called kanyaku imin, we debated as to what to name, versus saying, well, "Let's name it contract laborers centennial celebration." Now, I said, "Let's use the word kanyaku instead of government contract." And the others accepted that idea, so we called Oahu kanyaku imin centennial committee. And now, other races, other ethnic groups are using kanyaku imin, kanyaku imin, just like it became just, I think it's adopted like sukiyaki or judo. And so one purpose of this centennial celebration in my writing that I write, I usually say that not only that Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei know about the history of their ancestors, their forbearers who came from Japan to Hawaii, and with sweat and tears, built up the educated Nisei. And the Nisei fought in World War II, Korean, Vietnam Wars, with blood. They spilled their blood so that the Sansei and Yonsei would have a much better life.

And so what made the Japanese people, why did the Nisei have that yamato damashii spirit, gambare spirit? Well, it's because it is the heritage brought by the Issei. Why are we a little more girigatai than other races? That's the way I feel. For instance, if you're invited to a dinner at some party, well, we bring something in return, ten dollars or twenty dollars or twenty-five dollars. And you don't try to get everything free. So I think all these traits, I think, has been brought. Then while the songs and dances and things, in June this year, all kinds of groups came from Japan, showed these things. I think by doing that, the other ethnic groups, and especially Caucasians, would understand more, not only Japanese, well, in this case Japanese culture.

And then we issued a book written by Roland Otani, we commissioned him and had a book written on the Japanese in Hawaii, essentially on struggle, and we sold it for three dollars per copy because we felt that if a book was sold for twenty-five dollars or thirty dollars, very few people would buy and read it. But when it is sold for three dollars, it will sell. If anybody acquires it, most likely that at least around eighty-five, ninety percent of them will read the book. And we sold twenty thousand copies, and I know that some Nisei and some Issei who came and bought fifteen, twenty copies at a time, said, "I have this many, twenty grandchildren and great grandchildren. I want them to read, everyone to read one of these." And in that way, they would appreciate. And other races, too, bought this book. Then other groups published this photographic history of Japanese in Hawaii. And by having this celebration, I think the other races, other ethnic groups, got to understand Japanese better than they used to. So I think the United States is getting to be more international minded. Now there's even talk right now of knowing one more language than English... I think I gain a great deal by knowing Japanese. I studied French and I studied Spanish, but due to lack of use, I've forgotten them. I can recognize words, but I cannot speak in a complete sentence. But Japanese, I've had so much contact, because I can speak Japanese, I have made lots of friends in Japan. And even being asked to serve as the general chairman of the centennial celebration, I think my knowledge of the Japanese language has helped to, for the people who selected me because of my knowledge of Japanese language.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

LD: You were, were you a Kibei?

KG: No.

LD: You were never Kibei?

KG: No. All my Japanese was learned in Hawaii. But at the time that I was growing up, well, all my surrounding was Japanese speaking. And, well, I knew some English when I went to first grade, but my wife tells me that when she went to the public school and entered the first grade, she just could not understand the English. So then attending Japanese language school, then even when I... well, the first job I had was a salesman in the grocery department of one of the Big Fives here. And those days there were, mostly Issei used to have a small general merchandise store here and there. They used to call and say, well, "I'd like to speak to Goto." [Laughs] And so I used to take orders for these retail grocery stores. And so we benefited. Then before I became a teacher, at the age of twenty-four, I went as an interpreter in organizing the PTA at the Konawaena High School and elementary school, Konawaena High and elementary schools. I was elected president of the PTA. I was still a bachelor and I had no children. [Laughs] And that's when this coffee schedule was instituted, when I was the president of the PTA. We worked with the school department, we worked with the legislature, the legislature finally passed a resolution to allow Kona schools to have vacations during the months of September, October and November. And then when I --

LD: Explain that again. The importance of those three months is because why?

KG: Because coffee used to ripen those three months, and that was the harvesting season. So instead of using hired workers, children could pick coffee as well as adults. Well, children, say, about ten years and older.

LD: This would allow the kids to work, is that the idea?

KG: Yes. So a child permit was given. And then when I became a schoolteacher during the Depression, well, that was one way of my change in my work so that I could earn a living, I became a schoolteacher. I came back to university and took one year of a course in education. But the first appointment came out, only five out of eighty got appointed, and I was one of them. I was really lucky. Then, you see, the parents at Konawaena school, I would say a good seventy percent were Japanese Issei. And for that reason, I was a sort of a counselor, and after I went to teach, I continued to be PTA president for a while, ten more years. And that required my meeting with parents and writing letters to them for some problem child and so on. Then I went to the Military Intelligence Language School. Then when I came back here, I was asked to run the Kuakini medical center. And there again, there were many Issei on the board of directors, so meetings were held in Japanese. So I had to convince them on many projects, building new facilities, instituting penchant system, raising salaries for the employees, all kinds of... I had to explain in Japanese, to convince them. So I think I must have gained because of my knowledge of Japanese, and now I think I, it is, I don't know, audacious for me to say this, but I think people have respect for me because I know the Japanese language and be able to serve the Issei just as well as the Nisei and Sansei and Yonsei.

LD: During the war, Buddhist churches and language schools were closed, am I right?

KG: Yes.

LD: Can you talk about that a little? That's one of the ironies, isn't it? That the only reason why you fellows knew Japanese as well as you did, to some extent, was because of the languages schools.

KG: Yes. Some years ago, the Hawaii Times asked me to write an article on MIS in Japanese. And I wrote a ten-installment article. And I ended up by saying that I was able to serve the MIS and six thousand others were able to serve MIS and help the United States defeat Japan two years earlier than what General MacArthur had expected the war to end. And I said this is due to the fact that our parents, with meager earnings, felt that in order to get that rapport between the parents and children, they were too busy to earn their living to bring up their children, so they could not attend night school to learn the English language. But they contributed money from their own small earnings and started the language school way back in 1893, starting with. And then by 1941, at the time of Pearl Harbor attack, there were 42,000 Japanese children attending 200 language schools. And on account of this language, our parents did not expect that their children would serve the United States as interrogators and translators, as language specialists in World War II between Japan in that way. But anyway, they maintained the Japanese language schools.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1985 The Center for Educational Telecommunications and Densho. All Rights Reserved.