Densho Digital Archive
National Japanese American Historical Society Collection
Title: George Koshi Interview
Narrator: George Koshi
Interviewer: Marvin Uratsu
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 10, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-kgeorge-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MU: This is a interview with George Koshi and I am the interviewer. My name is Marvin Uratsu. To begin, I'd like to ask you, George, where you were born.

GK: I was born in Greeley, Colorado, about 60 miles north of Denver.

MU: Sixty miles north of Denver? When was that?

GK: June 16, 1911.

MU: And how many siblings did you have?

GK: I had twelve all in all. Two died in infancy, so ten of us survived and I'm the third in the family. But the older sister passed away already and older brother passed away, so I'm next in line.

MU: How many of you still left?

GK: One younger brother passed away and one younger sister passed away, so out of the twelve, six of us (are) still living.

MU: Did any of those siblings go, join the army?

GK: Yes. My older brother for health reason was not taken, but the rest of us, five of us, went in the service.

MU: Five of you were taken into service? Did they go to the 442 or the 100th?

GK: (I did not, but) one brother, who passed away since then, was in 442nd and saw combat duties in Italy. There was some pass that they had to cross, I forgot the name of the pass, but he talked about carrying machine gun up the steep incline.

MU: But he came back alive?

GK: He came back alive with two Purple Hearts.

MU: Oh, okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MU: Okay. Well, we're going to continue with your story. Were there many Japanese people in Greeley at that time?

GK: I don't know. Not too many in Greeley, but in the entire state of Colorado there were about 2,000 Nikkeis, Issei and Nisei, and about 800 (of them) in the city of Denver.

MU: Now, do you have an idea of why your mother and father take the, chose to live in Greeley?

GK: It's a long story, but first my father went to Hawaii, then Hawaii got -- in 1902 or '03, then he decided that he'd rather wanted to see the United States -- he called the mainland United States, and Hawaii something else -- [Laughs] so in 1906, he came to the United States, intending to settle in the state of California. But on the first day in San Francisco he went out to see the sight and he was attacked by three drunkard hakujin, so he got into fisticuffs. And he had a little experience with judo, so he and one other Issei took care of them. And before they knew, all three hakujins were (...) on the street, bleeding. So they were afraid that they may be lynched so they hastened back to the hotel, packed everything and got on the first train as far as their money (could carry). They had money enough to pay for the fare up to Cheyenne, so they got off at Cheyenne. (...)

MU: Trouble.

GK: Trouble. And went to (the) east of the mountain. And in Cheyenne, they didn't have any penny, not even to have dinner or meal. So after the bus station -- no, train station -- they saw a restaurant which said, "Help wanted." So he went right in and applied for a dishwashing job, washing dishes. And that was the first meal he had in Cheyenne or east of the mountain.

MU: Was that owned by a Nikkei or hakujin?

GK: No, hakujin.

MU: Now, where did your father come from?

GK: He came from Kikuchi-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture.

MU: And your mother, too?

GK: Mother came from a different county, Kammashiki-gun, also in Kumamoto.

MU: Oh, yeah.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MU: Now you went to school, I presume, in Greeley.

GK: No. (...) Soon after I was born, my folks moved to Denver and bought a hotel. (...)

MU: Went to school there.

GK: No, I stayed, I was raised there until five. And I started going to Sunday school at the Methodist Church, that was the only Japanese Christian church and I went to Sunday school there. I just started kindergarten at the public school when my father decided to send all the children back to Japan. So I went to Japan in 1906 or '07.

MU: Uh-huh. And how long did you stay there?

GK: I stayed in Japan for ten years.

MU: You went to school there, presumably, and how many years did you go to school there?

GK: Well, grammar school and then junior high, that's eight years. And then I had to go to Kumamoto city to work and while I was out there, I went to night chuugakkou for two years.

MU: Now, that's a lot of schooling. Was that about the maximum schooling...

GK: No. Maximum is chuugakko and high school and college. But I just went to two years of chuugakko, which is equivalent to high school today.

MU: And then after that you came back to Denver or where your folks were, did you?

GK: After I was born in Greeley, my folks moved to Denver, bought a hotel, and while I was in Japan, they sold the hotel, and moved to eastern Colorado and bought a cattle ranch.

MU: Cattle ranch?

GK: Uh-huh. So when I came back in (1928), I came back to the cattle ranch in eastern Colorado, a place called Agate, Colorado.

MU: You said, "1947," but that must have been 1937.

GK: (...) I was born in (...) 1911, and then went to Japan in (1918), and came back in 1928.

MU: 1928, oh, okay, okay.

GK: Get our dates straight here.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MU: And how about your schooling here in Denver, or, what was it -- Agate?

GK: At Agate. That was a small cowboy town. I started in from (an) orientation class, then went through grammar school for three years, and high school for three years, then went right on to Denver University for three years, and then (...) to law school for three years.

MU: Okay. Now, when you first came back from Japan, it must have been hard for you to pick up the English language.

GK: Yes. I only had smattering of English. I couldn't engage in any conversation (in) English, so I had to learn everything from the bottoms up.

MU: Now, when you went into law school, was there something that prompted you to go into law study?

GK: When I graduated from high school, I didn't know what to do. Then soon after I graduated from high school, I was notified that I had a four year scholarship to Denver U. So at that moment I decided to go through law school, which was about three undergraduate and three law school. But I thought if I could go to college for four years with a scholarship, I should be able to manage the remaining (two) years. So I decided to take up law.

MU: Was there anything else that prompted you to go into law, like your father's influence?

GK: For some reason I always wanted to become a lawyer. And I didn't have any chance to even activate that desire. But then the original influence might have been my father's avocation...

MU: Yeah, tell us about that.

GK: ...he spoke English quite well, for an Issei. So he was serving as a translator, interpreter for Issei in all the dealing with the... in the community. And whenever there was troubles, Japanese had to hire an attorney, and he was a go-between. And when there was legal cases, he went into court to interpret for the Japanese. So I used to hear about that, and then my father used to talk about lawyers, and I thought that lawyers were gods. Because everything had to be... dependent on lawyers. So unconsciously, I developed the, I guess, desire to go to law school if I could.

MU: Wonderful. Now I was curious about how you managed financially to go to law school. In those days it was very hard to get into law school in the first place and then to finance it was another problem. And so it was the scholarship that you --

GK: Scholarship paid the tuition and part of the other expenses.

MU: Okay, now where did you get the scholarship?

GK: Oh that was from (my high) school.

MU: From school?

GK: From, it was a merit scholarship. Just because I was in the top of the, top of the ten in the class. So I thought that was great, but there were only six in the class, graduating class. But I don't tell people about that. [Laughs]

MU: Now, were you about the only Nikkei attorney that...

GK: I was the only, we were the only Nikkei family in this area, place called Agate. So we were the only one, the only Japanese in grammar school and high school. And then, when I decided to go on to college and study law, I was the first one to study law. So there was a great expectation among the Japanese community for me to graduate. When I graduated in 1940, and got my license, I was the only one and the first Nikkei to become an attorney in the state of Colorado.

MU: First one, huh?

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MU: Now, after you graduated or got your law degree, were you practicing law?

GK: Before my graduation, I knew I was going into the army -- the Universal Man Act was enacted -- and I was already assigned my number, by draft board, so I knew I was going to be drafted. So in the meantime, I passed the bar and I got my license but I didn't know what to do in the meantime. So, I did not open my office or practice. But I was giving some legal advice to Issei in the meantime. Then, came March 18, 1942, and I was drafted.

MU: Okay. Let's see. Go back a little bit. You got out of law school in 1940, was it?

GK: '40, June.

MU: And then the war started in '41, and you weren't quite in law practice at that time.

GK: No. I graduated in 1940 and took the bar right after graduation. So, I passed the bar in 1940. And in the meantime I didn't know what to do, so I just waited.

MU: Okay. And then in March you got the call --

GK: March 1942, I was drafted.

MU: You were drafted. Uh-huh. Where did they send you?

GK: First I went to Texas, and that was the induction center for our area, so I went there. And they didn't know what to do with me or with the Nisei. So I stayed there for about two months. And then in the meantime I was sent to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, for basic training. And then after six months of basic training, I was sent to Cheyenne, Wyoming. And still, they didn't know what to do with Nisei. So in 1942 they decided to organize 442nd Special Combat Team and also organize, establish the MIS. So from Fort Warren, Wyoming, I was sent to Camp Savage for MIS training.

MU: Were there other Nisei with you at that time or were you alone?

GK: I was the only one at that time. (...) From Camp Robinson, there were about 200 of us Nisei who were sent to Cheyenne. From Cheyenne there were several of us -- including Tak Matsui, he was at Fort Warren -- we were sent to Camp Savage.

MU: Okay. Now, Pearl Harbor was in 1941, so that was after Pearl Harbor that you were inducted.

GK: It was after that that I got drafted, and basic training, and MIS training.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MU: I want to go back just a little bit to Pearl Harbor day, December 7th. What were your feelings at that time? What... any special thought, can you recall you had at that time?

GK: Yes. It was Sunday morning that I heard the news that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. My first feeling was, "What a stupid act on the part of Japan. Why do they have to bomb Pearl Harbor?" And, "What do they expect to accomplish?" And, so that was my gut feeling. Then again I thought, gee, I had my draft card already and I was, I knew I was going to be drafted. But then again I had certain doubts whether they would draft me or what they're going to do with the Nikkei people in the United States. And I expected Issei to be in the concentration camp or rounded up and placed someplace. But I didn't think government would do that to Nisei. So we were, I was on the limbo, wondering what they were going to do. But in the meantime, I was drafted in March and still I didn't know what they were going to do with me -- with us. [Laughs]

MU: Tell me, do you recall talking to your father about what happened?

GK: Yes. When I got drafted... well, they were in San Jose at that time, when the war broke out. And when the war broke out, there was a period of time when they could evacuate freely to anyplace east of the West Coast. So coming from Denver to San Jose, they immediately thought that they would come back, they would like to come back to Denver. They called me. So I had a pickup at that time, so I drove the pickup to San Jose to pick him up. Finally loaded up everything that we could on the pickup, and abandoned everything else, and drove back to Denver, and arriving back in Denver on 18th of March. I was drafted the following day. So I just, I had a place for them to stay, and I dropped them off there, and went into the service the following day.

MU: Okay. That's interesting. Now, when your folks moved voluntarily from California back to Colorado, did they qualify for redress?

GK: At that time there was no talk about redress. Nothing.

MU: Yeah. I know, but --

GK: But subsequently, they were qualified because they were evacuated after the 9066 came out. So they were qualified for redress. But then when redress came up, they were already dead. But the, my, rest of the family were entitled to it. But I stayed in Denver, to go to school. So I was not entitled to it.

MU: Yeah. Well, I understand. But I'm glad that your folks got redress.

GK: Well, they didn't get it -- because they died before the...

MU: Oh, they died before the... okay. Do you recall --

GK: Wait a minute. My father passed away in 1955 and my mother died more recently, so she got her redress.

MU: Oh, that's great.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MU: But do you recall what your father said about Pearl Harbor and the fact that you're going into the army, U.S. army...

GK: Yes. He said that, "You're American citizen, so your allegiance is to the United States." Of course, I had no question about that. But he said, "I'm a Japanese subject, so I may go into a concentration camp or someplace." And I expected my parents to go into some sort of confinement. So when I left them and went into the service, I wasn't sure what fate waited for them.

MU: So your folks did not have to go into the camps, but...

GK: No, they evacuated before that. But I think they evacuated on the 18th. And I think it was about 27th, they stopped the voluntary evacuation, and then stopped them all and put them in the assembly center, and then to the relocation centers. But they left while it was still possible to evacuate.

MU: Did you... well, I guess you were aware that other Japanese Americans were put into American-style concentration camps.

GK: Yes. There were a lot of Nisei in the same unit with me. And their parents were put into assembly center, and then to concentration camps.

MU: So you were well aware that was happening.

GK: Oh yes, we heard about it all the time. Because in the meantime, we were in the service and after the basic training at Arkansas, we were sent to Camp, Fort Warren, Wyoming. And then I was surprised to find that there were 200 others from Arkansas on the same train sent to Wyoming. So, most of them had their parents in the West Coast and they talked about their parents all the time; wondering what is going to happen to them, and after the evacuation they were wondering, what's going to happen to them?

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MU: Now, that was the time when they were asked to serve in the U.S. army and maybe even give up their lives, and then, on the other hand, the government puts them into American-style concentration camp. It was quite a turmoil there.

GK: There was. But, of course, most of the Nisei that I ran into were already in the service. They volunteered in the meantime, some of them with their parents in the concentration camp. One, one person said that he volunteered, and the following day, FBI came in and arrested his father. At that stage he didn't know where father was. Apparently he was sent to Santa Fe and then to Missouri -- Missoula.

MU: Missoula, yeah.

GK: Uh-huh. And so at that time he was just cussing up and down. And at Arkansas -- no, was it at Fort Bliss? I ran into a Nisei soldier. He was completely drunk and he was cussing Roosevelt up and down with the most vile language I ever heard. And then a friend of his came over and asked me, "Are you going back to the camp?" So I said, "Yes." He said, "Can you take him back with you? Because he's... I don't know what's going to happen to him the way he talks." So I took him on the bus and we went back to camp. By that time he fell asleep and quieted down. But he was really cussing Roosevelt. I never heard anyone cuss so much. So that was the general feeling of Nisei whose parents... I heard that his parents, his father was arrested the following day after he volunteered, and the mother subsequently went into somewhere, assembly center, and from there to a relocation center somewhere.

MU: Oh, the family was split there then.

GK: They were split.

MU: Now, how could, how could somebody like that be able to fight for our government?

GK: Of course, this particular person, I don't think he pledged one way or the other, he was already in the service.

MU: Oh, he had no choice.

GK: But then he stayed in. And I think that primarily, that we all felt that we were American citizens and our first duty was to serve the country, regardless of what happened to our family. And I was kind of optimistic that eventually they will be freed.

MU: You saw a silver lining there, huh?

GK: Yes, uh-huh. And then since the impact wasn't as great for me because I was in Colorado, none of my friends were interned, and my parents came back from San Jose and they were at large in Denver. So I didn't feel the impact of the concentration camp.

MU: Well, yeah. But you, talking to the other Niseis...

GK: Yes, all my friends were, had their parents -- who were scattered here and there -- most of them were in relocation centers.

MU: You could understand their agony.

GK: Yes, I could understand. I shared their anger, too. For Issei, they're Japanese subject, that's understandable. But then for Nisei, how can they do that? And then, on top of that they're drafting Nisei at that time.

MU: Drafting, and then even asking for volunteers.

GK: That's right, uh-huh.

MU: So, we've kind of covered that but, is that the way you reconciled your anger or tried to help the other guys kind of reconcile their anger...

GK: Not too much reconciling. Just trying to convince myself that we were American citizens and our duty, first duty is to the country. And by doing so it might help Issei who were in the camps. And then I was... because of their past record, there was no sabotage, no un-American activities by Issei or any persons of Japanese ancestry, so eventually they would be released. Maybe not to the West Coast, but like many of them came to Colorado. And I thought most of the people will go to the inside United States.

MU: Do you think that maybe your legal background helped you to reason that way, that eventually...

GK: Maybe, maybe so. I don't know. I didn't think about the legal reasoning, or ordinary common sense. But I thought that after initial excitement was over, they will be released. I was counting on the Nisei reputation, or Nikkei reputation: that there was no sabotage, un-American activities, nothing to suspect Nikkei people.

MU: Yeah.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MU: Then, then you went into Camp Savage?

GK: First to Fort Warren, Wyoming, from there to Camp Savage.

MU: How did you get, what were the circumstances that brought you to Savage? Somebody come recruit you or...

GK: Yes. I was at Fort Warren, Wyoming. Doing nothing except the camp... menial jobs around the camp. Then one day, Mr. Aiso and somebody else came to Fort Warren to interview Nisei for language school. And I talked to Mr. Aiso. And he asked me, "Would you like to volunteer for Camp Savage?" I said, "Oh, no. I don't want to volunteer for anything." I got my license, and only thing I (was) hoping for is the immediate discharge so I could go back to Colorado and start practicing. At that time I used to receive letters from my friends in Denver saying that they're in a dire need of an attorney. I was the only one there, first one in Colorado. Lot of people evacuating from the West Coast were looking for house, jobs, and there were lot of legal services required for those people. So, hearing those, I thought, gee, I should be right in the middle of it. So I wanted to get back and get out. So I asked for a discharge. Nothing happened. And then so...

MU: Let me ask you: what did Mr. Aiso say to that?

GK: Mr. Aiso said, "Yes, that's understandable. But we need your service at Camp Savage, in the MIS." And he had a legal background, too, so we had something in common. But he felt that our first duty is to serve the country (...), then do whatever we could with the rest of the time, or rest of the public sentiment.

MU: But eventually you were convinced that the right way for you to go was to go to Camp Savage?

GK: I never was convinced. But then I was sent to Camp Savage anyway.

MU: Ordered to it.

GK: Ordered to it. When Aiso asked me to volunteer, I said, "No." But next thing I (knew) I was ordered to go to Camp Savage.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MU: Okay, now, how long did you stay at Camp Savage?

GK: I went to school first session. I went to Camp Savage in December -- or, I think November of 1942. I went through one session, six months of it and graduated in June. And then I was drafted, I was appointed as an instructor, so I stayed for another six months to teach (...). And then I was sent to War Department in Washington, D.C. So I stayed in Camp Savage for one year.

MU: Apparently, the Japanese class was not that difficult for you then.

GK: Oh, that was the easiest class I ever had. Everybody was struggling but, class one was mostly Kibei, and they were proficient in Japanese to start with. For me, during the civilian life, while I was going to college and law school, because I was the oldest, older (Nisei) in Denver, and proficient in Japanese language to some extent -- and we had Japanese language school in Denver and surrounding areas, and their teachers were from Japan. But Japanese students stopped coming, so they were recruiting anyone from, proficient in Japanese. There was one other old (Nisei who) was a Kibei. (...) We were selected as (instructors), so, I taught in Japanese language school in Denver, before being drafted. So with this background, when I was, I was at Fort Warren, Wyoming, they concluded that I was good enough to teach Japanese.

MU: Was there anything that happened during that time -- when you were studying at Camp Savage -- do you recall any incident at all, something sticks to your mind, or memory?

GK: Nothing special. Just everybody was studying hard...

MU: And you had an easy time.

GK: I had an easy time. And then I was selected as an instructor, so I started teaching there --

MU: Okay.

GK: Which was a easy job, too. And I remember, I was the most hated teacher. Because the first day at the class -- there were twenty in the class (...) that I taught (...) -- and the first lesson I assigned to them was a translation of the Preamble of the United States Constitution. And I wanted to test their ability to read and write and translate. So I was the most hated person because of that. [Laughs]

MU: That was a tough job. [Laughs]

GK: That was a tough job even for myself. I had to struggle hard to translate that preamble into Japanese.

MU: So any interesting replies that came in, interesting translations?

GK: Well, some of them, only a few did a reasonable job. But most of them couldn't do it.

MU: Couldn't do it?

GK: Couldn't translate it.

MU: So you got labeled a tough teacher.

GK: That's right.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

GK: So, outside of that, nothing special. Of course, I was at Camp Savage, and then from there, there was a name request from the War Department for my transfer, or assignment, to the War Department. So I taught one session at Camp Savage, and was sent to Washington, Washington, D.C.

MU: Oh, someone in Washington, D.C. wanted your services?

GK: Went through my records, and they wanted to have a linguist, a language specialist in the War Department. So they slammed through, and sent for me.

MU: Now what was your rank at that time?

GK: Master sergeant. I was a buck private when I went to school at Savage. Then when I taught, I was promoted to staff sergeant. And then when I was sent to Washington, I was promoted to master sergeant. So I went to Pentagon as a, with six stripes.

MU: They never gave you an officers'...

GK: No. Never was commissioned.

MU: Oh. After all that education you had...

GK: And at Camp Savage I was teaching a bunch of hakujin who just came in (for) graduation -- it was OCS for them -- and upon graduation they were all commissioned, and I was still a tech sergeant.

MU: You were their teacher and you were not commissioned. Did you feel that you were being cheated?

GK: I knew there was discrimination. And I felt it all along. Because, when I was drafted, even at Fort Warren, I applied for OCS, or administrative training school for commission... but every time I submitted my application it was turned down.

MU: Oh, you did ask for, or apply for...

GK: Oh yes. Anytime there was something on the bulletin board I asked for it. Later on I knew it'll be turned down, but just for the heck of it, I applied.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MU: So, what was your job in Washington?

GK: Oh, Washington I was a language specialist in the order of battle section.

MU: You were the only one there?

GK: I was the only one in this particular section. There were translators, who translated (...) Japanese documents. And from that I established the reference cards, 5" x 8", and put down the name of the officers, from General Tojo down to newly appointed second lieutenant, with their background and specification. And kept that in the cabinet. (We had four cabinets with four drawers each, full of cards.) (These cabinets were) referred to as, "Koshi cabinets." And we had the complete list of Japanese army officers (...), with their specifications. And then I had some helpers. We reorganized that by unit, regiment, division, army, area, and then headquarters. So we knew exactly who were at top with Tojo. And in general staff, area command, divisional command, regimental command, and the (...) company (headquarters through our the Japanese army system.)

MU: Now, who had access to that information?

GK: Anyone had access, but according to the request, I was in charge. So anytime there was a request (...) I dispensed the information -- they were all military personnel. (Often I was asked to speak on Japanese military organizations.)

MU: That was a pretty important piece of information --

GK: I think so...

MU: -- that you were compiling.

GK: I was only a master sergeant, and all of my co-workers were officers, captain and up. But then I had to rationalize that at least this job is important.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MU: What happened there? How come you didn't stay there?

GK: (...) There were myself in the office and (...) four translators (which constituted MIS section. Later this section was enlarged.) The War Department in Pentagon was too small to accommodate this extended MIS group. So we were moved to Camp Ritchie, Maryland. A new section was organized -- (...) what did they call it?


GK: PACMIRS. So we went to Camp Ritchie to organize the place. And then receive the rest of the people that came in.

MU: Who were they that came in?

GK: Oh, they all came in from Camp Savage or Fort Snelling.

MU: Nikkei?

GK: All Nikkei, and there were two or three hakujin officers. And then Itami-san, you know Itami?

MU: No...

GK: He was a famous man. He was a leader who came (...) from Savage -- well, by that time it was Fort Snelling.

MU: Uh-huh. What kind of work did you do there?

GK: I was still (in) Order of Battle (section).

MU: Order of battle.

GK: (Our section kept track of the Japanese military organization) on the strength, number, and the type of equipment assigned to company level, and the regimental level, and battalion level, and area level. So we knew exactly... if you said that, "(...) The Thirty-Four Regiment was going to Iwojima..." when we got that information, (we) had all the information: how many people, "23,000 men in the unit," and how many howitzers, how many machine guns, how many rifles (this unit had.)

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MU: During that time, did you communicate with your father, for example, by letter?

GK: Communicate with who?

MU: Your father.

GK: Oh yes, we were writing to each other quite often.

MU: You talked to him about what you were doing?

GK: No, not, not with anybody. As to the nature of my work, I never discussed it with, not even with my wife -- who was my girlfriend at that time. But I didn't discuss anything about what I was doing.

MU: You're a true MIS man.

GK: Uh-huh.

MU: I was wondering what your father might have thought...

GK: When I went into the service, he told me that, "You're American citizen first so whatever you're assigned to, do the best you can." And then, he, too, wanted to become an American citizen. So (when) naturalization act was passed in 1953, (...) he applied for citizenship and took the examination in 1954.

MU: And he got it.

GK: And he got it. And, both my father and mother at the same time.

MU: That's wonderful.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MU: Now, how long did you stay at PACMIRS, or Washington?

GK: Oh, PACMIRS... until (the) end of the war. When the war ended, we were needed for occupation service immediately. So they asked for, I think it was almost the day after the cessation of warfare, the commandant at PACMIRS assembled all the people and asked for volunteers to go to Japan.

MU: Oh really? Who was the commandant? Was it a hakujin general?

GK: (...) He was a colonel, Colonel Gronich.

MU: Now, just about, just prior to the end of the war, the atom bombs were dropped. Of course, your relatives would be in Kumamoto, so they wouldn't have been hurt. But did you have any idea how destructive this bomb was?

GK: No. Of course, I didn't know anything about the atom bomb, until... (I) heard about it afterwards. I was really surprised at its effect, at the terrific power it had. (...) I'd been to Hiroshima before, so I knew how sprawling city it was -- the whole place was wiped out. (...) We heard about the, its effect, and I read about it. So I knew about it. When I was sent to Japan, the first thing I did was to go to Kumamoto to see my relatives. But on the way I stopped off at Hiroshima, and I saw the Hiroshima city. Actually, there was nothing. Went to the train station. The roof was all gone, just a cement platform with broken off steel posts (...). But there was nothing, actually. And I was really, almost felt aghast at this power.

MU: Did you, did you realize at that time what radiation did to the people --

GK: No, heard about it (later). (I was aware of it and) thought about it. I had been standing right there... not too far from the epicenter. And there might have been some effects of the radiation somewhere. (...) I went to Japan in (...) November, of 1945.

MU: '45, November of '45.

GK: But there were a bunch of people there (...)... there were, like, black market, right in front of the station. With the little shacks and plat-, tables, and they were selling all kinds of goods, not too much. Mostly bamboo products and wooden products, and vegetables. (They all looked shabby, but I saw no sign of bomb's effect on them.)

MU: Who was running all this, black market?

GK: Well, the individual people.

MU: The Japanese?

GK: Japanese, uh-huh. Service had nothing to do with it.

MU: Oh.

GK: And (they were) all the Japanese (...) wearing rags and (in) titter tatters, (what made it so sad) (...) is that so many of them looked just like my parents.

MU: Yeah.

GK: So (it) was really...

MU: A traumatic experience for you?

GK: Yes, uh-huh. And then when I first went to Japan, I was assigned to NYK Building in front of Tokyo station (right in front of the Palace grounds). And just as soon as I got there, I went out to see (...) the Palace grounds, (...) just to look around the place. And what hit me... well, hit me... very... another traumatic experience, was the young girls -- hundreds of them, just sitting there, waiting to be picked up by the GIs. I thought, "Gee is this what Japan (has) came to? Or, is this what the defeat brought about?" (...) I was almost in tears and I went right back to my quarters.

MU: It was a sad sight to see.

GK: It was a sad sight, uh-huh.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MU: Now, kinda jumping ahead, but, have you gone back to Hiroshima since then?

GK: Yes. I've gone a couple times. And then, after coming back, I went back to Japan again about five years ago. Hiroshima (was then) a thriving city. The places which was bombed out and leveled to the ground (was now filled) with high-rise buildings. (...) I went around, but I couldn't see any scar of war anymore, except at the epicenter --

MU: Still there.

GK: Still there. Kept as the memorial (...)(site.)

MU: Back in 1945, could you imagine that Hiroshima could rise up like that?

GK: No, I thought, "Gee, people are saying that Hiroshima will be gone for a hundred years." So... well, not believing it, but then I thought, "Yeah, it'll take a long time, because actually there was nothing." And looking at the people, there was no spirit, fighting spirit, or "Go For Broke" type atmosphere among the Japanese there.

MU: Yeah, it's all gone. Now, some people say that -- this is a controversial question -- some people say that, "The bombs were not necessary," and other people say that, "It saved lives because it ended the war." Do you have any feelings on that, about that?

GK: Well, I think that it's not necessary in retrospect only. (However) at that time, just before the bomb was dropped, Japan was willing to fight to the last minute. And, there were women, even high school girls were trained with the bamboo sticks -- cut off at the end to make a spear. And they were all trained to attack the airborne American troops, just as they land, they (would come) out of hiding and annihilate all the Americans. And that was the spirit. And they were all... I believe Japanese were going to do it. And then in Kumamoto, not too far from the Kumamoto castle, there were about seven diehard rightist Japanese (who) committed suicide because of the defeat. But they encouraged other people to resist until the last man. And I could see that Japan was ready to resist any invasion that came in. So, atomic bomb --

MU: Ended all that.

GK: Ended all that. And then Emperor spoke up in time, that, "If this is the way it's going to be, there will be millions and millions of innocent children and women (...) destroyed." So, I (think) that was a wise decision, maybe only decision he could (have made). I don't know. So, I think that the atomic bomb was a lifesaver.

MU: On both sides?

GK: On both sides, uh-huh.

MU: You know, I have kind of mixed feelings about that. I keep wondering why they dropped it in the middle of the city where the people who are going to be hurt are the ordinary people...

GK: As to the decision, the judgment as to where to drop, we have a lot of questions. Why did they drop it on Hiroshima, with wide open space and atomic bomb could have full effect? Nagasaki was surrounded by a mountain, and where they dropped it in Nagasaki, whole (area) was destroyed, but just beyond the mountain range (remained) untouched. But Hiroshima had no such natural protection. So whole town was wiped out. So as to why they dropped it there... I read some literature about why it was dropped. They were headed for Yokohama and Tokyo. But then, something happened and they had to drop it before reaching (their destination.) I don't know what kind of credit to give to that report.

MU: Oh, or that theory. But I guess, when you went back -- five years ago -- to Hiroshima and saw all that re-building, and modern design --

GK: Oh, modern design, and you can't tell the war had ever visited Hiroshima.

MU: Kinda made you feel good, huh?

GK: Oh yes, I think so. And then that reaffirmed my conviction -- the indomitable spirit of Japanese. They may be (...) finished, (...) but they'll rise again from the ashes. And Hiroshima did really rise, rose again from the ashes.

MU: The ashes, yeah. Literally from the ashes.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MU: Now, you have relatives in Kumamoto region?

GK: Yes, (...) we had no communication with Japan after we left (but I had uncles, aunts, cousins, and other relatives.)

MU: Did you have a chance to visit them while you were there?

GK: Yes, (...) in November of 1945, first thing I did was to go to Kumamoto. And on the way I stopped to see Hiroshima.

MU: Oh yeah, you said that.

GK: And then went on to Kumamoto and saw my cousins.

MU: I wanted to ask you what the reaction was on their part, when they saw you.

GK: They... it was very positive. I ran into my cousin, who was in the Japanese suicide airplane...

MU: Tokkotai? Tokkotai.

GK: Tokkotai, uh-huh. And he just came back. He was assigned to the defense of Tokyo and Yokohama, and when the B-24 came in, he engaged in combat with them and he got shot down. He claimed that he shot down one B-24, but he got shot down. And then when I went, he was just back home, still limping and with the bandage on his head. He said he was found unconscious by the local people and nursed back, and just got back to Kumamoto just before I went there. And then I saw my other cousins and my aunt. And my cousin said, "That was war." He... I asked him, "How do you feel, how do you feel seeing me in American uniform and we're the ones that shot you down?" He said, "Well, that's the war." Japan, Japan was full of warfare during the feudal age. And they fought family against family, and brother against brother in various provinces. So, that was nothing unusual. It's common in warfare. So, he had no antagonism. And he was glad that I was in the United States army, keeping up the samurai spirit.

MU: [Laughs] That's neat.

GK: So we had a pretty good relationship with them from (the start) and then even today. I was in Japan as a child. And I grew up with him. He was just born and I took care of him. But his father raised us while we were in Japan. And (...) when I went back, I took care of the family. I sent him to school, medical school, and college. So he became a doctor with my assistance. So we helped each other, through generations.

MU: And they're still in Kumamoto?

GK: Still in Kumamoto. He (however) moved to Osaka. He has a big hospital of his own in Osaka. He just came (...) -- first part of this year -- he comes in every now and then, and comes to stay with us.

MU: Is his last name Koshi?

GK: Koshi, uh-huh.

MU: Oh really, I'll look him up. [Laughs] Well, that's good.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MU: Now, what was your work in Japan? You went there in '45, and what was your assignment?

GK: In November of 1945 I was with the PACMIRS. The PACMIRS established the Washington Document Center advance. And sixty of us were sent to Japan in November. So I was with Washington Document Center. Our assignment was to go to universities, and colleges, and libraries, to see what kind of publications Japan had (regarding) the United States (...) forces, or about the information (about) the United States. But they didn't have anything much. So then, after four months of that, my assignment was over and I was to (be sent) back to be discharged.

MU: Now, when you went over there with this group of sixty, were you the leader?

GK: I, there was, sixty was divided into three groups: twenty, twenty, twenty. I was the leader of one group. Itami -- was another master sergeant -- led another one. Another group of twenty was headed by Jimmy (Matsumura).

MU: Also master sergeant?

GK: Master sergeant. So we were assigned to lead the three different groups.

MU: And then did you say you came back shortly after that?

GK: No, I stayed until the mission was over. And then I took my discharge in Japan.

MU: Oh, okay.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MU: Okay, tell us about that. You took your discharge and you came on as a civilian for U.S. government?

GK: Yes. I was only a linguist when I went to Japan. Then I, it became possible to get discharged in Japan, so when I heard about it, I went to the replacement center and asked for a discharge. And at the same time I heard that the war crimes trial was about to begin. So I went to the war crimes section to see if they had any place for linguist or attorney. So when they saw my qualification, a linguist (with) a legal background -- just graduated, still no practical experience but still I had my license -- so they jumped for me. So immediately I took my discharge and went into war crimes section to take care of the defense -- I went to the defense section to take care of the B class, B and C class war criminals' trial. There were A class, B class, and C class. A class involved the twenty-eight -- class A people included Tojo. And B class and C class were those that were charged with inflicting mistreatment and atrocities against the American POWs. I went into to that section to defend those, Japanese defendants. So I took my discharge in March 1945 -- no '46. And then went into the defense section in April of '46.

MU: Did they give you a pretty good jump in pay?

GK: Oh, yes. From master sergeant to, at that time it was Professional II, which was changed to GS 13, later on. So it was quite big (jump). (...) I was a master sergeant when in service, but the minute I took my discharge I was classified (...) on the same level as a colonel.

MU: Oh, you were?

GK: So my civilians activation thirteen, fourteen, were given colonel treatment. So my barracks, too, immediately (changed) to officers quarters from enlisted men quarters.

MU: Oh yeah? Well, your hard work paid off.

GK: Oh, yes. Of course, all this happened before the war, before I was inducted. So then I came back to legal side upon my discharge. (...) Then I went to war crimes, and then upon (...) finishing the war crimes trials -- in 1948 I went to legal section GHQ SCAP. Which (took charge of) the judicial reform of Japanese government. I was in that section to supervise Japanese legal and judicial reform. So that was an interesting job.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MU: We were talking about war crimes, George. There were A, B, C, class criminals and you were concerned with the B class. Could you tell me again what B class involved?

GK: B class involved the trial of Japanese suspects who visited cruelty upon the United States or Allied forces personnel captured by Japanese and placed in Japanese prisoner of war camps. And these camps (were) not only (...) in Japan, but in Korea, Philippines, and southern parts, too. And then even in Java, there were quite a few Allied forces personnel captured by the Japanese and placed in camps, and there were Japanese guards who are accused of perpetrating cruelty upon those people.

MU: In other words, you had a whole group of B criminals, suspects...

GK: Yes. Not only in Japan, but in all those other places, too, (but) I dealt only with those who were tried in Yokohama.

MU: Oh, this was in Yokohama. Did they have other trials elsewhere?

GK: Yes. In Hong Kong, Philippines, Java, Singapore, and altogether I think about 1,200 Japanese were tried.

MU: How many?

GK: 1,200 tried as B class suspects.

MU: Now, you were involved with quite a few of them, weren't you?

GK: Yes. There were, we had a prosecution section and a defense section and I was assigned to the defense section. And we had about twenty American attorneys in the defense section to defend the Japanese suspects, and there were additional thirty or so Nisei linguists to serve as court interpreters, or interpreters for the attorneys to interview Japanese suspects, and, of course, there were quite a few Nisei secretaries. At that time they had to have special permission to go to Japan. And there were quite a few Nisei girls that came over to serve with the occupation forces.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MU: Now, was there one or two or three cases that stand out in your memory?

GK: Yes. Of course, those cases I tried stand out more. The first case I was assigned to was a trial of one army captain who was a commandant at a POW camp. And he was tried for causing the death of one American POW and bringing, bringing cruelties upon the other POWs.

MU: So what happened?

GK: Well, we, there I was assigned to defend this captain who was tried for causing the death of one American POW and others, for cruelties visited upon others. And I served -- there were about twenty or thirty American attorneys in the Defense section and we were teamed up. I teamed up with one other American attorney (...). And we were also assigned Japanese attorneys by the Japanese government so two of us with the two or three Japanese attorneys worked together to gather all the information and went to court to defend the Japanese. The first one I tried (...) resulted in death.

MU: Resulted in death?

GK: Death, and he was convicted and eventually executed by hanging.

MU: Can you describe the circumstances involved in the trial? How they reached that conclusion that he was to be executed and so on?

GK: Yes, the trial was based upon American method, but it was not American court system; neither was it the American court-martial system. It was something specially rigged up for the trial of war criminals. The basic procedure was drafted by General MacArthur and his legal section, which was more or less based upon the court-martial (procedure) with omission of a lot of amenities granted to the accused. In this trial, any statement -- sworn or un-sworn -- (was) admitted. In a normal trial, there would be affidavits prepared by the witnesses which will be used but then the writer of the affidavit himself would be placed on the stand for cross examination. But in a war crimes trial... well, maybe for the entire 800 trials of Japanese war criminals, maybe only about three or four Americans appeared as witnesses. And the rest of the trial was based upon the affidavits and statements made by the former American (...) POWs, and only on the documents. So in that respect, it was very unfair, and the trial procedure was something... maybe politically incorrect. But still, under the circumstances... that was the way a trial was conducted.

MU: The people who presented the affidavit didn't have to be cross-examined by the...

GK: No, they were not present so they would not be, could not be cross-examined. So whatever they wrote were accepted as fact. And maybe mistaken -- there were some cases of mistaken identity. Still, they were accepted. And when defense, it was defense job to show them that there was a mistaken identity. We had to produce somebody else, who were the true person that they intended. And then most of the charges were, bringing cruelty upon the POWs by not providing sufficient food, sufficient medical supplies, sufficient blankets during the wintertime, no heat in the barracks. Those were the cruelty, cause of cruelties. But then, that's the way the Japanese lived. (...) POWs were in the POW camps, they weren't given a special heating system or special blanket. That's the way Japanese prisoners were treated themselves; so it was the same treatment given to the POWs. That constituted cruelty under our system. People were tried, base commanders, camp commanders to start with, and then other guards, and other members of the camps. They were tried as war criminals.

MU: Let me see if I understand you correctly. Now, the treatment that the American POWs got was no worse than what the Japanese soldiers...

GK: That's right. (...) Japanese soldiers and Japanese prisoners' treatment wasn't (as) humane as in the United States (...). (...) That difference constituted cruelty. So our defense was to say that that was the treatment Japanese gave to the Japanese. No special cruelty intended for the American prisoners. But then, that defense...

MU: Didn't hold?

GK: No. [Laughs] Fell upon deaf ears of the commission or the judges. (And) the trial went on, started in the end of 1945 and ended in 1948. The first part of the trial, the sentences handed out, handed out were more severe, but the second half -- I guess the spirit of revenge waned -- and they received little bit more better understanding. So if you were tried the first half of the trial, you received more severe sentence or maybe death penalty. Toward the second half, they received more lenient sentences. There was some acquittals in the war crimes trial, but they all came during the second half of the trial. First half --

MU: When you say "first half," that means earlier part, earlier part of the trials and then later half --

GK: Until first part of 1948, the treatment was little bit more severe. Toward the end of '48 it was a little bit more lenient.

MU: Yeah, I've heard it said that, generally, a trial like that, "Vengeance comes to the fore first and then justice later."

GK: That's right.

MU: And is that about what happened?

GK: That was the basis for our defense. Vengeance, not justice, is what they were after. But during the first part, or early part of 1945, -6, -'7, and '48, that's what ruled. Toward the end, people became little bit tired, too, of the trial, and became little bit more considerate.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MU: Now, in this particular trial, what was your personal thinking whether he'd be judged guilty or not?

GK: Of course, at the beginning (of each trial), we know what the true facts were. And we also knew possible outcome of the case, and possible outcome is more severe than what we expected. Like the very first case I tried, I thought that the person might get three or four years, but he was given a death sentence and was executed the same year.

MU: Now I know that you're a very sensitive, intelligent person --

GK: Thank you.

MU: -- and when you saw these cases, where possibly the punishment was greater than the crime, that must have bothered you an awful lot.

GK: It sure did. So after the cases (were) over, in 1948, I went into the review session, and tried to review the severity of the cases. The system was that the first set of trial was a trial of facts, a trial of the persons. Then upon conviction, or upon the termination of the trial, all the cases were sent to the appeals board and (...) reviewed by the appeals board to see whether or not the sentence was too severe or too cruel. And so after the completion of the trial, I went into the appeals section to review some of the cases. But the trial board -- I mean, review board, was about as bad, not as severe, some of them cut down the sentences, but maybe two or three acquittals, but that was about all out of 800 cases tried in Japan.

MU: Well, I've heard it said, "If you gonna fight a war, you better make sure you're going to win it because..."

GK: That's right. So, first advice to the Japanese, "Next time you start a war, don't start it if you're gonna, if there's a chance of losing."

MU: Well, I've also heard it said that in the first World War, after the first World War, the Allies tried the German, so-called, criminals and their treatment was overly harsh and might have left some ill feelings long, long afterwards. Do you think that might have happened in Japan when the penalty was great and would leave bitterness?

GK: Exactly the same thing. Nuremberg Trial is always compared with the Japanese trial. It's the same start, same process, same ending. And toward the end of, from maybe March 1948, sentences became more lenient and acquittals...

MU: More common?

GK: Not common, but we started to see acquittals in 1948.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MU: I've also heard it said that some of the criminals were blamed for... no, I'll put it the other way: sometimes the commanding officer was held responsible for something that somebody lower grades committed. Anything like that happen?

GK: Oh, yes. For instance, in Nagoya area, B-29s (and) B-24s (...) were shot down (...) and airmen captured. And some of them were captured in Nagoya area. And I think there were about eight of them -- were captured in Nagoya area -- and three of them were executed. Because they were charged... actually, they were charged and tried by [Ed. note: Narrator submitted revised transcript for clarification: the Japanese as war criminals. Under the Japanese military system, ascertainment of facts constituted a trial. Hiroshima was bombed out, and so was Nagoya. Most bombings destroyed schools, churches, temples, and thousands of people were killed. The bombings were indiscriminate. After ascertaining fliers participation in the bombings they were executed. Execution was carried out by lower ranking soldiers, but since the order for executions came down through the channel, all persons were responsible for the execution. The area commander, divisional commander, regimental commander, and battalion commander, and of course, the company commander who supervised the execution were all tried as war criminals, convicted and executed.] [End note]

MU: Yeah, this is kinda getting off the subject, George, but I... you know, you're an attorney and you were involved in the war crimes... the one that sticks in my mind is what happened to General Yamashita. I think he got executed in Manila. He was hung in Manila, wasn't he?

GK: Yes.

MU: What was your feeling about that trial?

GK: Well, I think... without the question of fair or unfair trial, he as the commander, whose subordinate units perpetrated all these atrocities in the city of Manila and other places. And in many cases, there were atrocities committed. Of course, they didn't even know, like General Yamashita. He just went there in March or so, and had nothing to do with the atrocities. But then because his subordinate units committed it, he was tried.

MU: He got blamed for it.

GK: He felt that, "Well, I'm not guilty, I didn't even know about it, but as the commander for the entire unit, I assume the responsibility." So he and (...) General Homma, they willingly went for the trial and accepted the conviction and accepted the execution.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MU: Okay. Was there any other case that comes to your mind when you were involved with the B criminals?

GK: Yes. One other case that I tried was a trial of the certain number of people who were on (a) hospital ship called Tachibana-Maru. Which was a hospital ship with the red cross clearly marked on deck to be distinguished from (...) other battleships. But this battleship -- in addition to some of the sick people evacuating from Guadalcanal and those South Pacific Islands -- (it was) stopped by the American vessels and inspected. (It was) found (that) all the people aboard were bandaged and in hospital robes. (...) The hospital ship -- at that moment -- was transporting an entire regiment (of combat soldiers), aboard the ship. And they were disguised as (patients).

MU: Patients?

GK: Patients. And there were patients, too. Because they were (sick and) half starved (...), and they were picked up from the islands (to be) transported back to Japan. They were not in shape -- but not in healthy shape. However, they were organized regimental combat team. So when this was found out, the ship was taken to Manila, and then entire ship commander, ship personnel, were tried as war criminals. And they were all convicted. But then, the ship commander, captain, was given only about seven years. And others, seven, five, three years. And there were some acquittals (...).

MU: Well, that's something... we haven't heard about that kind of case.

GK: Interesting sideline: this Tachibana-Maru, after the war, served as a commercial vessel, or tourist vessel, shuttling between Tokyo and Manila. I took a trip, vacation trip to Manila, well, I happened to ride Tachibana-Maru to go down to Manila, and it was same captain, it was still the same captain. He was tried and released and he went back to the boat. He recognized me aboard the ship...

MU: Yeah. I was going to ask you if you ever bumped into any of these people that...

GK: Yeah, they were very kind, nice to me. Of course, I was on the defense side, and I was nice to them while they were in confinement and during the trial. So I had, I was given royal treatment aboard the ship.

MU: Was that name still Tachibana-Maru?

GK: (Yes,) it was (still called) Tachibana-Maru. (...) Tachibana-Maru, subsequent to that, was (moored) at the Yamashita Park in Yokohama, as a restaurant, floating restaurant so I went there to eat one time. It was the same boat, same dining room where we ate before it was a restaurant.

MU: [Laughs] Did you meet any other...?

GK: No, at that time I didn't see anyone that I knew.

MU: No, at other times, have you bumped into somebody that you might have helped?

GK: Some of the criminals, war criminals, I ran into them here and there. And they remembered and the families remembered my name. And they all appreciated it.

MU: Your help, huh?

GK: Uh-huh. When I went to Osaka one time on a trip, yjrm some people from Osaka -- (...) they knew, they heard that I was coming, so they invited me to a restaurant for a special dinner.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MU: Now, we're going to move along here. But you received a medal from the Japanese government. What was that for? Did that come afterward for work you did afterwards, or was it for work you did during the war crimes?

GK: War crimes were cited in the commendation, but it was mostly work I did after the war in connection with the reformation of Japanese judicial system.

MU: Okay.

GK: This was awarded to me in 1974.

MU: 1974? And what was it called?

GK: Zuihosho, third class.

MU: Zuihosho?

GK: Uh-huh. I think, it's called, "Sacred Treasure."

MU: Sacred Treasure?

GK: Uh-huh. Third class.

MU: Now, there weren't many Niseis that got this award...

GK: Not too many, but then, for some reason, Taul Watanabe, he was an attorney here in Seattle, and became a legal consultant for this lady who became the governor... what is her name? Well, anyway, she took a business trip to Japan and Taul Watanabe accompanied her to Japan, and apparently for that service Japanese government appreciated it, and awarded him the same medal. And then one other... Fukuhara --

MU: Harry...

GK: -- was given the same, third class.

MU: And then I think, (Ray) Aka.

GK: Oh, (Ray) Aka, that's right.

MU: Now, could you tell us the circumstances, what was in that citation that tells why they gave it to you?

GK: Yes, it cited... (...) I don't remember (the exact wording). The one that you quoted a while ago, basically that's what it says. "For distinguished service rendered for the betterment of the relationship (between) Japan and the United States..." And I guess to some extent, helping develop new Japanese judicial system.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MU: Tell us a little bit about that revision of the Japanese judicial system. What was wrong with it and how did the revision fit in?

GK: Well, basically, Japan adopted -- they called it, "New Constitution" -- but during the Meiji reform in 1886, or thereabout, they adopted the first written constitution, patterned after the German constitution. (It) was (an) unitarian type, autocratic, and government had the entire power. And emperor was in, had the full command of the entire nation. (The) committee, or board, served as advisory (committees), which governed (Japan)... well, entire legal system, governmental system. Which was very autocratic, there was nothing said about the individual rights (...). The word "democracy" was not mentioned. When the war ended -- they (...) on their own went to revise the constitution, (but) when MacArthur came on and said, "Here's your new constitution," (...) they had to adopt that. And some of the expressions in the new constitution -- of course, translated into good Japanese -- but the idea was kind of foreign to the Japanese. But they accepted the whole thing, and not a word was amended or changed from the MacArthur constitution. That's what it is today, too. Not a word in the past fifty years, no change was ever made. And that constitution started out with the preamble in the same nature as the United States preamble, saying that the people were the sovereign power of the nation. And it's a democratic system, and whole system would be based upon democratic process. That's the preamble. And autocratic portion of the old constitution was deleted, and everything was patterned after the American system. And the first twenty articles, or so, were almost like the ten amendments of the United States Constitution. And then, of course, it set out the government system, dividing into three systems: judicial, executive, and legislative. And that was patterned after the United States Constitution.

MU: And you helped develop the so-called MacArthur constitution?

GK: No, this constitution was adopted in 1946. I went to the legal section in 1948, after the war crimes trial was over. But in the midst of implementing the new constitution, Japan had the statutes-at-large, with thousands, thousands of laws, regulations, enacted under the old constitution, which had to be reviewed and revamped. Either completely cancelled, or amended, or certain portions deleted. And they were in the process of doing that when I went to legal section. So, because I was the only one who spoke Japanese -- there were several committees to work on various aspects of the constitution -- but they all came to me for advice and consultation. So I was busy with my own assignment. My assignment was the judicial section of the constitution. But other committees came over, so I was pretty busy day and night... attending most of the meetings...

MU: You were kind of then facilitator then.

GK: Yes. And intermediate. Because of my language ability, I served as an interpreter for the other committees and worked on my own committee.

MU: Well, you certainly deserve an award.

GK: Well, they thought so at least, fortunately. [Laughs] So they cited that in the, my...

MU: Gee, that's wonderful. Okay.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MU: Then, let's move on. You came home... or was there something else you'd like to say when you were in Japan, something that comes to your mind, that you'd like to say?

GK: Well, all I can say is that, at the beginning, they were completely dependent on the U.S. forces; General MacArthur's section to revamp their system. And subsequent to that, was the implementation of the new system. They wanted to know how (certain) particular (phrases) worked in the United States. (At the) end of 1941, they organized a special Supreme Court... what did they call that?

MU: Study group, or...

GK: (Yes), study group, that came to the United States, led by a Chief Justice and three (...) Supreme Court Justices, (...) one legal scholar, and one or two high court justices. There were eight of them that came to the United States. (I was) appointed (...) as the escort to bring them (...) to the United States, to make contact with various legal (and) judicial organizations. The first place was Texas, and then Washington D.C., New York. And in Washington D.C., they (...) contacted (...) the Justice Department and the Supreme Court, high court. And then we went to the Supreme Court of New York, and then into Albany, and then also the Supreme Court (at) Denver, and Cheyenne. I accompanied them at these places. They assigned us a Nisei interpreter. He was a pretty good interpreter, but not a legal interpreter.

MU: No legal background.

GK: No legal background. So wherever we went I had to do the interpreting. And at Washington, D.C... this was at the... no, Washington, D.C. And one of the Washington Post newspapermen...

MU: Reporter...

GK: Reporter, accompanied us. And they thought that was great, and they gave a special article written about me, in the Washington Post. That was a great honor.

MU: That's wonderful, that's wonderful.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MU: Okay, now, let's get back to your resettlement, after all the good work that you did in Japan, and helping out... then you came back to this Northwest area, is that what happened?

GK: Yes, I stayed on to serve as the legal advisor to U.S. forces in Japan. Then after the termination of the occupation on 28, April 1952, I stayed on as the legal advisor to the U.S. forces, which dealt with the Japanese on many matters pertaining to the rights and (privileges) of the U.S. forces stationed in Japan -- under Japanese law, because after the termination of occupation, we were under Japanese law. But they amended thirty-two Japanese laws to accommodate the stationing of the U.S. forces, and special rights for the United's forces (under their) immigration law, and custom law. We were exempted from Japanese law in bringing in our tanks and U.S. supplies -- they were not subjected to Japanese customs duties. Or immigration, whoever came in as a U.S. forces personnel (were) exempt from the Japanese immigration law. So all those things helped us smooth out the operation. And I was there to deal with the Japanese government in dealing with the operation of new Japanese law, which permitted Americans stationed in Japan.

MU: Oh really.

GK: So that was (an) interesting part. And I was busy with the Japanese... dealing with them all along.

MU: Oh, we could have you write a book on that one. [Laughs]

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

MU: Well, now you came back, and... how many children did you have?

GK: I had three, all made in Japan.

MU: [Laughs] All made in Japan. Three.

GK: Three. My wife came in 1946. We got married in -- we weren't married at that time, rather, we were engaged before. I was going to come back and get married, but then I decided to stay in Japan, so I told her to come over. Then we had a little problem because we weren't married, so she had to get a job to go to Japan. So she had to, she had to wait for appointment, for a job in Japan, and then finally came over. She was assigned (to) Eighth Army Headquarters in Yokohama. So I was with the legal section, Eighth Army, so we got married in Yokohama. That was in 1946. (...) The first child was born in '48, and the second in '52, and the third in '56. And I came back in '74.

MU: Okay. So they're all grown up now, and have kids of their own.

GK: All grown up. They all went to the UW.

MU: Did they follow your footsteps, any of them follow your footsteps?

GK: No, none of them. (...) Their example was bad.

MU: Oh? [Laughs]

GK: So they decided to go every which way. [Laughs] My oldest one, daughter, became a teacher. And then the second one went into social service, first studied geography, but there was no job. So went into social studies and got a job in social area. And the third became a CPA, became a CPA. She was the one that went right through, knew exactly what she was going to do. And finished the CPA, accountant, and then went to special training as a CPA.

MU: Do they live around here? All of them?

GK: Yes, all of them in Washington. One of them, the oldest daughter is on Bainbridge, and the second one is in Renton, and the third one is in Puyallup. So they're all in...

MU: And then you have, let's see, five grandchildren?

GK: Five grandchildren. First two by first daughter, and the son is married but no children. And three by the third, or second daughter.

MU: How old is the youngest?

GK: Youngest is, just became three. And he's the one that I have to babysit, and... a lot of joy, but...

MU: A lot of work. [Laughs]

GK: Lot of work, too. [Laughs]

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

MU: Now, before I ask you the final question, I wanted to know what your feelings were about the draft resisters in Heart Mountain. You know of them, of course.

GK: I don't know any of the specific persons.

MU: But you know the case.

GK: (Yes), I know the cases. And one case came to me (for legal advice.)

MU: Oh it did?

GK: Uh-huh. But then, I told him that... well, my whole approach was that the Issei we cannot help, that they are enemy aliens and whatever (the government decided to do would most likely) be legal -- and I was very optimistic about the outcome anyway. Internment of the Nisei, I thought was unconstitutional. And then drafting them from the camp was very, very unreasonable. I thought, "American government got nerve to put them in the camps saying that, 'They are disloyal,' and, 'We don't want you outside, but we want you to serve because you are loyal American citizen.'" And then this quotation from Roosevelt, that, "Americanism is a, not a matter of color or race." He's got nerve to say a thing like that when he's the one that --

MU: Put us... yeah, okay.

GK: Issued Executive Order 9066. (He is) the one that placed the Nisei in the concentration camps. (...)

MU: You don't hold any grudges against...

GK: Oh, I... I think it was unreasonable, but no grudge actually.

MU: Uh-huh. Well, it took a lot of nerve and guts to stand up like they did. And, they were punished for it.

GK: That's right. So... but eventually I was optimistic about it, always, because as long as there is no record of criminality, no record of disloyalty -- American government, basically, is fair. There would be fair-minded people, working someplace, which will start speaking up. The wee little voice at the beginning became a regular voice of America and the legislature, also saw to it. And after that we start seeing the amendment and...

MU: The redress.

GK: Redress. All those came up after 1943 -- '53. And eventually, everything now, even the California anti-alien land laws --

MU: That's all done away with, okay.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

MU: The other thing was, were you active in JACL at all?

GK: No, I was in the army all the time.

MU: Oh, okay.

GK: After I got discharged and came back here in 1974, then I joined the JACL, here. I didn't do too much. But I'm a member of the local JACL.

MU: Oh, good, okay. Okay, George, kept you for some time now, but one last question or two. You know, you've lived through a lot, lots of turmoil and everything, but you've lived through it. How do you feel? You feel like you've accomplished something, personally?

GK: Well, I feel quite satisfied with my part in the evacuation, postwar evacuation and current days. Because, I was already an attorney when the evacuation, war started, and I was able to use my legal background to assist Issei and Nisei in resettlement after the evacuation. And then, helping out some of the people in service, who had their parents in the camps. And they had the resettlement program -- problem, afterwards, and most of these, I was able to help them. Most of them, as a pro bono. Because a... well, just a consultation, (...) as a social conversation. And helped them out with the... whatever settlement problem they had. And I'm very satisfied that I was able to do so. And especially to Issei group -- because of my language background -- I was able to help them directly in their language, to explain their situation, and help them with the execution of their rights.

MU: You feel pretty good about all that.

GK: I think so. Maybe it was over... patting myself on the back, but --

MU: No...

GK: -- then I thought, I came at the right time, with the right (background), for the occasion.

MU: The other question is, what is your religious preference?

GK: I was born in a Methodist family.

MU: Okay.

GK: So I've been a Methodist all my life.

MU: Did that have any influence on your life, how you looked at things?

GK: Not particularly. The church... I'm not such a religious (...) person. The church organization, I consider more as a social organization than religion.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

MU: Now, one other thing is, you have five grandchildren, three children of your own, now five grandchildren. You don't know how many more is gonna come along.

GK: Hope not. [Laughs]

MU: [Laughs] Do you feel that you've made things a little bit easier for them?

GK: No... I think maybe easier for my children, grandchildren are just growing up like any other grandchildren anyplace. They don't speak Japanese, and my children don't speak Japanese. My oldest daughter went to Japanese classes, and she reads, writes, and speaks pretty good Japanese. But the second is a son who speaks no Japanese, and the third wants to study Japanese, because she's the CPA and when she became a CPA she aspired to have some Japanese clients. So she studied Japanese. But she gave it up, because Japanese language is too difficult. And her practice as a CPA, among her own group, was enough to take care of her business aspirations.

MU: But your contribution, your work, laid the groundwork for their...

GK: I think so. But it's not going down to third, I mean, my grandchildren. They're growing up just like any other grandchildren anyplace else.

MU: You've got no influence on them.

GK: I have no influence, except that they have some Japanese background, in that everything Japanese is not foreign to them. So whenever we talk about Japanese things, Japanese food, or meet Japanese, they accept the situation as natural, social activities. So in that sense, I think they have pretty good...

MU: We want to conclude this interview, George, is there any one last thought that you'd like to tell us? Concerning your life, or... any words of wisdom for young people?

GK: Not words of wisdom, but my feeling. When I was sent to Japan I hated the whole situation. I hated my father for sending us to Japan. And ten years of my stay in Japan, I was lonely and, lonely and hungry, because I was in a very poor family. And upon graduation from grammar school, I was sent to work in the city as a helper in (stores). And I was only too happy to come back. And when I left Japan in 1928, I promised that I'd never look back to Japan, and never go back to Japan, (...) forget about everything, and leave everything behind, and start life in the United States over again. And that's what I did. But then again, my Japanese background is so ingrained in my experience that when I started going to college -- and there were no Japanese language teachers in the Denver area, they asked me to teach Japanese, and I needed the money to go to college -- so I started teaching Japanese, and all this background came in handy.

MU: It's kind of a blessing in disguise.

GK: Yes, I think so. And then when I was drafted into the service, and went into MIS, I was selected as an instructor because I was, because of my Japanese background. And I enjoyed teaching Japanese at Camp Savage. And ever since then -- because of my military service -- (...) (I was appreciative of) my Japanese background. And then, PACMIRS, and from there I went to Japan. And I enjoyed my stay in Japan. And all this because of my training, way back when I hated it.

MU: [Laughs] Well, you --

GK: When I was asked to volunteer for Japan at PACMIRS, I said, "No." But I was sent anyway. But I enjoyed everything.

MU: Well, next time you go to see your father's grave you gotta thank him for sending you over there.

GK: Maybe so. I was sad and I hated it, but still...

MU: Well, George, thanks a lot for taking time to be interviewed. Certainly very interesting for me and for these two people, I'm sure.

GK: Well, I sure hope so. And thank you for the interview, because it brought back a lot of memories which I had more or less forgotten, or tried to forget. But now, it's something that I could... it's worthwhile remembering.

MU: Good. Okay, thank you.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.