Densho Digital Archive
National Japanese American Historical Society Collection
Title: George S. Matsui Interview
Narrator: George S. Matsui
Interviewer: Marvin Uratsu
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 11, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MU: Okay. This is an interview with George Matsui here in Seattle. And my name is Marvin Uratsu, I'm the interviewer. First of all, George, let's get a little information on your background. Where were you born?

GM: I was born in Los Angeles, California.

MU: When was that?

GM: 1915 -- March 1st.

MU: And did you grow up in the L.A. area?

GM: No. I grew up in Long Beach.

GM: Long Beach, (California).

MU: Uh-huh. And you went to the American schools there?

GM: Polytechnic High School.

MU: Yeah, and did you go to college also?

GM: I, when I was in junior high -- seventh grade -- my folks took me back to Japan for five years.

MU: Okay.

GM: Then when I came back in 19 -- that was 1929 or '30 -- Frank came back before I did and I came back here.

MU: That's your brother? That's your brother?

GM: Yeah, my brother. I came back, 1934, and I brought my Japanese school credits with me so they put me into tenth grade, high school, and I graduated Polytechnic High School.

MU: Did you go beyond high school?

GM: Oh, no, not really. I -- Frank wanted me to work because we didn't have too much money, those days, besides, so I was working in the produce market, and there was a young lady who graduated from college and said she couldn't get a job anywhere. Only work she could get is working in produce market... so I said to myself, "God, going to college not gonna do me any good if that's the situation.

MU: So you had no reason...

GM: Well, I went to junior college for a while, but it was discouraging to me.

MU: Oh sure.

GM: Yeah. So in, working -- didn't earn too much money so I said, "(...) I'd better start my own business." So I went to a little grocery store, he wanted the produce man to open up a produce market. And I opened that market up, oh, let's see, 1939 -- '40? Got it going pretty good, then the draft came and I got drafted February '41. In line ahead of me I saw James Stewart (at San Pedro induction center). He was ahead of me. He was so tall, head taller than anybody else. (...)

MU: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

GM: Well, anyway, I got drafted in '41. Went to (Camp Roberts, California).

MU: Now, I want to back up a little bit, George. You said you were in Japan for five years?

GM: '29 -- 'bout five years.

MU: Did you go to school there at that time?

GM: I went to grade school for two years and junior high for two years.

MU: So you had pretty good Japanese education there?

GM: I don't think so.

MU: You don't think so.

GM: I don't think so, 'cause I couldn't comprehend all that Japanese (kanji).

MU: All right. Now we come back to...

GM: I could talk about it.

MU: Well, you must have been pretty good from your experience anyway. So you came back from Japan and then...

GM: Went back to school.

MU: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MU: And then you got your business started, and then...

GM: And then the draft got me.

MU: Okay, so that was in -- before Pearl Harbor?

GM: Oh, (drafted) eleven months before Pearl Harbor -- February of '41.

MU: Okay. So...

GM: Pearl Harbor was December 7th, '41.

MU: Right. So where did you go?

GM: I, see, induction center was at, in San Pedro. I forget the name of the place. Then I went to San Luis Obispo -- Camp Roberts (for basic training).

MU: For your basic?

GM: Basic training. And (...) they were really building (army barracks). I 'member, some days we got moldy breads, I 'member. (I think we were about the second group of draftees to arrive at the Camp Roberts Basic Training Center.)

MU: Moldy bread?

GM: Yeah. We had to pick 'em off -- pick the mold off.

MU: How come?

GM: I don't know. They bought old bread, (I guess!)

MU: Yeah. What else do you remember 'bout Camp Roberts?

GM: Oh, well, Camp Roberts -- rattlesnakes on maneuvers. We had a guy, I had couple of guys from Texas, good friends, and they knew (...) -- where the rattlesnakes are hiding. And, my God they were good at it, (to kill them).

MU: Were they Nikkei or hakujin?

GM: No, hakujins.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MU: So, did you finish your basic training...

GM: (...) (Yes.) I (was assigned) to 40th Division, San Luis Obispo.

MU: Then what happened?

GM: And then we went, we had maneuver, Hunter-Liggett Reservation with Washington Division. What year was that? That was summer of '41.

MU: Before Pearl Harbor.

GM: Yeah. Then before Pearl Harbor we had another big maneuver up here in Chehalis, Centralia area and I had to take a squad out for reconnaissance -- or reconnoiter the area one night. I had six, seven guys with me. We got lost. I mean, I got lost. Had a compass that didn't work. We were out of water. We came to a farmhouse early in the morning and this lady was so nice to us. She fed us farmer's breakfast. And to this day, I regret not getting her address to thank her.

MU: That would be somewhere in this area?

GM: (Yes, Washington.) Chehalis or Centralia area. This is south of here.

MU: Okay. Now, that, that...

GM: We had big maneuver with the Washington Division and our 40th -- 7th Division at that time.

MU: This is kind of a practice war (military maneuver).

GM: Oh, yeah.

MU: Was this unit mixed racially?

GM: Yes. (Well, no not too much as far as I can remember) This was before Pearl Harbor.

MU: Okay. So, then what happened...?

GM: Well, that morning they found us and I caught hell from our captain. (...)

MU: For getting lost?

GM: Yeah, that they found out later that that area, for some reason the compass didn't work. Somethin' like, there's iron in those mountains. It -- our compass didn't...

MU: So it wasn't actually your fault?

GM: No.

MU: But you got hell for it?

GM: Yeah. I got hell for it. [Laughs] Then came Pearl Harbor.

MU: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

GM: Since I was in Japan for about four years, they reclassified me to enlisted reserve unit and discharged me. (...) In two months we had to move to Santa Anita Assembly Center. Horse stalls. [Laughs]

MU: Yeah. We'll get back to that. But did they explain to you why they're doing this?

GM: No. Government, by president's order. But I was really miserable when I heard Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan. And here I am, American soldier, (my emotion was in turmoil.)

MU: Well, it was a confusing period, wasn't it?

GM: Yes. What (is) America gonna do with me? Then later this president's order came (and) evacuation.

MU: Let's see, U.S. government Order 9066.

GM: (Yes).

MU: Were there other Niseis, happening to them...?

GM: Oh, after that Pearl Harbor? (...) we were still in the army. Gosh, there were about (...) hundred of us in the warehouse. I can't remember where it was. It was at Monterey or San Jose? Big warehouse, they put us all in one area.

MU: And were they all put into enlisted reserve at that time?

GM: No, lot of 'em (were sent) east to another unit. I don't know where -- Evanston, Illinois, (or) some other camp.

MU: But you think you were kinda picked out because you had five years in Japan?

GM: Because on my record I was in Japan. Yeah.

MU: There was an element of suspicion there?

GM: I think so. Yeah, there were others, too, like myself. But I can't name who they are 'cause I don't know.

MU: Yeah.

GM: I mean, who they were.

MU: Okay, now you're in enlisted reserve, that meant you were temporarily (reassigned).

GM: I could be called up again.

MU: were temporarily out of the army but you could be called back anytime?

GM: Yeah. That's right.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MU: So what happened after...

GM: Well, I went to Tule Lake after...

MU: No, you went to Santa Anita?

GM: Santa Anita Assembly Center first.

MU: Now, how was that?

GM: Worked in personnel department.

MU: Yeah, how was that, George? Santa Anita? Your accommodations, for example?

GM: Oh, accommodations was terrible.

MU: Why?

GM: Well, we had (hay) mattress with horse (stalls). And then dust, and you could hear next door neighbor -- just thin wall.

MU: You weren't married at that time, were you married at that time?

GM: No. I was still single. My brother was.

MU: And it was a horse stall, you say?

GM: Yeah.

MU: How do you know?

GM: 'Cause I'd been there before -- betting on horses -- (at) Santa Anita (race track). (...)

MU: How was, some people said the...

GM: It smelled, too. If you know what I mean.

MU: Well, that's what I hear.

GM: [Laughs]

MU: And so...

GM: So what can you do? You're a prisoner, with guards on the towers.

MU: Was your family with you?

GM: Well, just my brother and his wife and me. (...) Others were in Japan. They're probably worrying about us during that time.

MU: Who were the others? Your parents and...?

GM: My parents and my (brothers) and a sister -- my brothers and sister. So you could understand why I was, had mixed emotions. (...) My brothers back there, folks back there and my brother's here and my sister's here. And I'm an American in the American army. [Laughs]

MU: And at the same time, was this about the same time you were in a American-style concentration camp, huh?

GM: Yeah.

MU: It must have been a rough time?

GM: So, it was miserable, but I tolerated it. What else can you do?

MU: What was your thinking at that time? "How I'm gonna survive?" How did you...?

GM: Well, I, how is your mind gonna work when you're in a situation like that? I like to ask somebody else that question. Each of us might be different. I don't know.

MU: Yeah, everybody reacts differently, yeah, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MU: So, all right, let's leave Santa Anita. And then you go on to Tule Lake?

GM: Yeah, went to Tule Lake. We were the last one to go because we had to finish all the people out of there first -- because I was in personnel work. So they trained us up to (...) Tule Lake 'bout September?(...)

MU: Now while you were doing this personnel work, anything interesting happen or something unusual?

GM: Oh, they had a little trouble. These guys who were ordered to make camouflage nets had a little problem there. That and lot of guys didn't want to do it. That's the only thing I remember. But others, everything went okay, far as I know. The mess hall was lousy. We had lousy chow. [Laughs]

MU: I was gonna ask you about that. What was so lousy about it?

GM: [Laughs] Sometime army food -- no gohan.

MU: No rice?

GM: No. Not, not at the beginning.

MU: Oh. Who were the cooks then?

GM: Oh, it was all the Isseis and Niseis.

MU: Internees were doing all that? Yeah.

GM: Yeah. So the -- I suppose they asked for rice and we got it.

MU: Finally.

GM: Yeah.

MU: Anything else about the camp, Santa Anita?

GM: I can't remember, Marvin.

MU: That's okay.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MU: So you move on to Tule Lake then.

GM: Yeah.

MU: And was that any different from Santa Anita?

GM: Yeah, it was a little better in Tule Lake. I didn't have to do anything 'cause it was all set up. (...)

MU: What block were you in?

GM: I don't remember that. I was only there two months.

MU: Okay.

GM: Army says, "We need you. Come back in."

MU: You mean the recruiters came by?

GM: Yeah. I think it was Stamy Kumagai was there. Then we had several Nisei volunteers, too. I remember couple names -- Mayeda and Doi. I can't remember the others.

MU: So they -- the recruiters came by and asked if you'd like to volunteer?

GM: No, I got the letter from the army. (...) Says, "Come back in." And I, so I went with the recruiter to Savage. And, by God, by then, Thanksgiving, we got there -- oooh, was it ever cold. Whoo! It was cold in Tule Lake, too, but...

MU: You didn't have any choice about going to Savage or joining the 442, for example? You...

GM: No, no. They sent me to Savage. They didn't give me an option.

MU: Well, they apparently saw that you spent five years in Japan.

GM: I guess. (...)

MU: So you went to...

GM: So they put me in Section Seven. Little bit of Japanese and little bit of the English, I guess. [Laughs]

MU: Oh, really? Now how long was the study period, was it six months?

GM: Well see, we got there November -- yeah, 'cause we graduated in July, June or July, following year.

MU: Uh-huh. And then how was it like at Savage?

GM: Oh, it was, how was it like?

MU: Your accommodation?

GM: Yeah, gosh. I remember it was cold in wintertime -- gee, it was (very) cold.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

GM: Gee, can I go back to basic training? I wanna bring up something.

MU: Something about basic training?

GM: Yeah.

MU: Sure.

GM: This is before Pearl Harbor...

MU: Okay.

GM: ...February '41. You know what they gave us for clothes? World War I clothes. Wrap up, wrapping leggings?

MU: Legging -- leggings. Yeah.

GM: And campaign hats. And rifle was bolt action, 30-caliber. World War I stuff they gave us. I happened to just think about that. [Laughs]. No wonder they give us -- gave us moldy bread. Leftover from World War I. [Laughs]

MU: They weren't too modern, huh?

GM: No. 'Cause, like I said, they were building barracks like crazy there. We were about the second or third contingent that got up there for basic training. Our captain, Captain Little, I remember his name 'cause it was, he was really nice to us.

MU: Oh, okay.

GM: Yeah. Battalion, battalion commander.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MU: So, you get to Savage and it's freezing cold up there...

GM: Oh, gosh.

MU: And, how was the food?

GM: It must have been all right 'cause I don't remember.

MU: You don't remember...

GM: Yeah.

MU: ...bad things about it?

GM: No.

MU: Did you know who John Aiso was?

GM: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

MU: Did he speak to...

GM: The -- strict. Yeah. (...)

MU: Director of Trans --

GM: Director of (Military Intelligence) Language School?

MU: Something like that.

GM: Oh, he was strict. But I admired his tenacity, though. (...) I suppose that's what he's supposed to do to keep us in line.

MU: Why do you say he was strict?

GM: Why?

MU: Yeah.

GM: Well, he always struck me as being strict. He, yeah, there isn't any time that he could laugh about things. I don't -- I don't remember.

MU: Did he ever come to your classroom and talk?

GM: No. No. One time when we -- bunch of us gathered -- boy, he gave us a riot act about something I can't remember.

MU: Oh, this was a general...

GM: Yeah.

MU: ...gathering of the enlisted men?

GM: Yeah, the language students. Uh-huh.

MU: Now that's the way you felt at that time, but when you look back what do you think? Maybe he had to be strict?

GM: I think so. (...) 'Cause I think lot of us thought, "God, let's have some fun." Egad. Some of us came from army station back East. Some are volunteers from Hawaii and from various camps.

MU: Yeah. But, in retrospect, you think the strictness paid off?

GM: (...) I think it helped me.

MU: Did you feel that he had tremendous pressure from the top people?

GM: (Yes), I think he did. (...) We were looked upon as, sort of enemy aliens from another world. [Laughs] Don't trust 'em, see.

MU: Yeah. Now was the Japanese language courses easy for you or...?

GM: It was kind of easy for me.

MU: ...because of the five years...

GM: (Yes.)

MU: You didn't have to stay up midnight to study?

GM: No.

MU: Uh-huh. So...

GM: No. I think, I thought I had it pretty easy. But I had trouble with kanjis.

MU: Oh, you did.

GM: (Yes.)

MU: But you could speak it pretty well, huh?

GM: (Yes), I could speak it pretty well. That's why they -- I had frontline duty, interrogation, and interpretation.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MU: Okay, so when were you sent overseas?

GM: Uh...

MU: Roughly...

GM: Let's see -- summer of '43.

MU: Summer of '43, huh?

GM: Uh-huh. I think it was July.

MU: Gee, things are getting kinda hot with the war in the Pacific.

GM: Yeah, hot. We had a team of ten guys and Sergeant Hiroki was our team leader. He was a tech sergeant (...) at that time. And three of us got staff rating, others got sergeant rating. And our team was assigned to Central Pacific area. So we were lucky. We landed in Honolulu.

MU: Got [inaudible]. Yeah.

GM: And, first we went to Schofield Barracks. And then from there, we (were) there for a while, then we went to Tent City in Wahiawa. And from there we had our first operation on Marshall Island, Kwajalein. Our team went to Kwajalein.

MU: Okay.

GM: And that's where we deciphered a hydrographic map and sent it out to (...) Captain Zacharias -- captain of the Salt Lake City Heavy Cruiser. Found out that we translated that and he came (down) and (gave) us a commendation letter (for deciphering the hydrographic map of the Marshall Islands.)

MU: Oh, that's pretty good accomplishment, huh?

GM: I guess.

MU: What was the importance...

GM: Importance was he was able to bring his battle group into the harbor and put the net up at the entrance so the Japanese submarines couldn't get (in).

MU: That was in Kwajalein?

GM: Kwajalein. Yeah. Uh-huh. Marshall Islands.

MU: Yeah.

GM: Uh-huh.

MU: Okay, then from there...

GM: Then there, three of us had to remain, and -- under the sand we found cases and cases of Japanese beer.

MU: Gold mine, huh?

GM: Oh, boy. Was it good. [Laughs] And soon word got around and the commanding general found out, confiscated it.

MU: Ah.

GM: We were smart enough to hide some, though. [Laughs] Buy, was that good. Japanese beer was good. It was cold and it was (buried) in the sand.

MU: It was cold in the sand?

GM: Yeah. Funny, huh? I think the bomb must have hit part of the area that uncovered it. [Laughs]

MU: Pretty nice party, then, huh?

GM: Yeah. God, we had fun. We had, three, three or four of us had to stay back. But, couple of Hawaiian guys were in our group, they were sent back to Hawaii again. I said, "Oh, (gee), what is this? Show impartiality here." [Laughs] We had to stay on that little island -- coral island, and they get sent back to Hawaii.

MU: Yeah, that Kwajalein was a real small place, wasn't it?

GM: Yeah, it was very small. They had Kwajalein and -- other islands, I can't remember the names.

MU: Then from there...

GM: (...) we went back to Hawaii, then...

MU: You went back to Hawaii, also?

GM: Oh, rest and recuperation. (...)

MU: Oh, okay.

GM: Then in the fall, well, not fall, summer, Saipan invasion.

MU: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MU: We don't want to go into too much detail on that. But then, you people were awarded the Bronze Star?

GM: (Yes.)

MU: Can you tell us...

GM: Ben Honda and I.

MU: Can you kinda tell us how it happened?

GM: Well, I'm trying to think back. The battalion was making a sweep of the island and they went beyond. And the reserve unit found some guys in the cave. So, right away, they called us, Sergeant Honda and my -- me to the front line there. And, like I said, we had this guy come up from the cave and we talked to him that, that, "American soldiers never torture or kill anybody yet. We never do that. I think it's your job to live, try to rebuild Japan." I said, "There's no sense of committing suicide."

MU: You gave him a pep talk.

GM: Yeah. He said, "Wakarimashita. Hai, wakarimashita." He must've been a soldier 'cause he's very...

MU: Military-like, huh?

GM: (Yes). So, we told him to go on back down... first we asked him, "How many people do you have down there, including the labor people" -- what they call those people?

MU: Slave labor, or...

GM: Not slave labor but construction people, not military, non-military people...

MU: Okay.

GM: ...and military people. He said, "We have about thirty-five or forty." And I guess he was down there talking -- talked them out of it. First we got the civilians out -- men and women. No children, though. (...)

MU: Oh?

GM: Then, finally we got three military people out and right away we had to send them back to the (...) headquarters -- echelon for them to interrogate them.

MU: Tell me, how did you get this fellow out that you spoke to?

GM: Well, we talk, (and) talked. Honda and I talked about half an hour telling him to come out 'cause we...

MU: Oh, anybody could come out?

GM: Yeah.

MU: Did you...

GM: I would have liked to -- if, if I was really in charge, I would have liked to say I was a captain of Japanese Army so come on out. I would have liked to have said that, but we didn't. But one guy came out, and we convinced him that we don't do things like that.

MU: So, was he a soldier or civilian?

GM: I don't know whether he was or not. But I took for granted that he was. He says, "Hai. Hai. Wakarimashita. Hai."

MU: Uh-huh.

GM: "Yatte kimasu." See, so I figured he was one of the soldiers or a army or navy, I don't know which, 'cause see, right away when they all came out they send them back to the rear for further interrogation.

MU: You guys were open to fire...?

GM: Oh, (yes.)

MU: ...from the cave.

GM: Oh, we had people out, protecting us.

MU: Oh, to cover you?

GM: (Yes), 'cause this was in the coral cave, burrowed way down.

MU: Yes.


MU: So, that cave event worked out real well then, huh?

GM: Yeah. It was, he said it was a big cave. It's a coral cave.

MU: Okay.

GM: It winds down -- easy to get in and out. But another cave, we went in.

MU: You went in the cave.

GM: Yeah. They had storage, a huge food storage area. They couldn't get into that. Some, at night I think some snuck in after island was secured. But we went in and saw tons of food supply.

MU: These are Japanese food supply?

GM: Yeah.

MU: And, now these people that came out of the caves, were they half-starved or...?

GM: No, they didn't look like they were starved. Yeah. I went to the prisoner compounds, several days later. I had to talk to somebody about something but I can't remember what that was all about. I don't remember. And after that I was sent back to Honolulu...

MU: Okay.

GM: ...and I went to another prisoner compound in Honolulu.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

GM: I don't know -- they told me where to go. And I don't know what for, 'cause I don't think I saw prisoners there, but I didn't interrogate anybody. See, I don't remember what I did but one thing I do remember, I met a corporal there -- Masao Takahashi.

MU: Oh, Japanese.

GM: Yeah, at the church. This guy was a good football player at the church. We went to same church. For no reason, the guy, that guy clobbered me.

MU: Oh?

GM: And, I says...

MU: He's a Nisei?

GM: (Yes.)

MU: Oh.

GM: He's little older than I am. I said, "What'd you do that for?" He says, "I don't like you." I heard that he didn't like Japanese. He's Japanese himself. He's the guy was at -- uh, uh, God... not high school, next level.

MU: Chuugakko. Junior high?

GM: No, above high school.

MU: Junior college.

GM: Junior college. That's where he went. He made a name for himself. He's a good football player. But I met him at this brick prisoner of war compound. And he just had a corporal's stuff. I says, "What the heck you doing there, here?" He says, "I don't know." That's, and I remember that he clobbered me at the church one Sunday. But, that's the only thing I remembered. I don't know why they sent me there to this prisoner of war compound.

MU: And when he clobbered you, were you both in uniform?

GM: No, this was when we were still in school. (Civilian.)

MU: Oh. Okay.

GM: Civilian. Long time ago.

MU: No, before the war, before army days?

GM: Yeah, before the war.

MU: Okay.

GM: The hakujin called him "Macho." Masao Takahashi.

MU: Okay. Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MU: Well, I want to go back a little bit. You know when you got your Bronze Star, where was that award made?

GM: That was made on island of Saipan by General Jarman. Honda, me, and several other -- I don't know who the others were but the two Niseis were Sargent Honda and me.

MU: Did you ever get a chance to talk to some of the people that came out of the caves afterwards?

GM: No, no, no. After the island was secured, oh, I think couple of weeks later, we were sent back to rest and recuperation.

MU: Okay.

GM: But I -- then I said I was sent back the next year for training of these recruits from Honolulu, Hawaii (...).

MU: You had to go back to Saipan...

GM: I had to go back to Saipan.

MU: ...and train these new language recruits?

GM: (Yes.)

MU: And how long did you stay for that?

GM: Gosh, how long did I -- two or three months?

MU: Oh, right.

GM: Yeah. Maybe it was three months. Then I was sent back to Hawaii.

MU: To Hawaii.

GM: Then from there I went to Philippines.

MU: Okay. Now, what was that assignment about?

GM: I think they were getting ready to invade Japan.

MU: Oh yeah. Regrouping?

GM: Yeah.

MU: Okay. And that would be what, in 1945 now?

GM: Yeah. 1945.

MU: And were you...

GM: Summer of '45.

MU: Were you sent to ATIS or were you with some other unit already?

GM: I don't know what, where, we were in Manila, but I don't know what group.

MU: Okay. I know there were a lot of people at ATIS awaiting...

GM: Yeah, they're from...

MU: ...assignment.

GM: ...southeast. From Brisbane or Australia, all those ATIS people.

MU: And we were there straight from the States.

GM: Oh, I see.

MU: Okay. So you were sent to...?

GM: Our guys were from Central Pacific.

MU: Yeah.

GM: So, I think this was sort of a consolidation of all the language specialists.

MU: Yeah. Probably Santa Ana race tracks where ATIS was.

GM: Um, uh-huh.

MU: So how long did you stay there?

GM: Well, I don't know, I stayed there... I can't remember. And I don't know if we flew in or took a boat into Haw-, Tokyo.

MU: All right. Now...

GM: I don't remember that.

MU: Okay. Now when...

GM: 'Cause, uh -- oh, I was on Saipan going back after the island was secured. I drank coconut milk and I got sick and rash all over. So they sent me to a (field) hospital right there.

MU: In Saipan?

GM: Uh-huh. Field hospital.

MU: Okay.

GM: And I was in there for a week. I forgot to tell you that.

MU: Okay. Well, that's okay. Yeah. Then...

GM: That was important to me 'cause I got sick. [Laughs]

MU: Yeah, yeah, that's right.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MU: How 'bout when the atom bomb was dropped? You were in Manila then, huh?

GM: Gosh, I can't remember.

MU: You don't remember the bomb?

GM: I remember the bomb. I thought I was in Saipan.

MU: Oh.

GM: 'Cause when -- second time I went to Saipan or -- no, first time while I was still there, when the island was secured, they started to build a airfield. I remember that. And second time I went there, they had B-29s there. One of the captains said, "You wanna see one of these big planes?" I went inside a B-29.

MU: Uh-huh. This on Saipan?

GM: Yeah. So I don't know when the atom bomb was dropped. I can't remember.

MU: Well, dropped in August of '45.

GM: '45?

MU: Yeah.

GM: August. I must have been back in Hawaii then.

MU: Oh, really? Okay. But you don't remember the devastation and power of the bomb?

GM: No.

MU: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MU: Then you went to Japan for occupation work?

GM: From Philippines I went to Japan. The GHQ -- General Headquarters.

MU: MacArthur's General Headquarters?

GM: General Willoughby. (Chief of Army Intelligence.)

MU: Oh, you were with Willoughby. Uh-huh.

GM: Uh-huh. And then from there, they assigned me to natural resources section with a lieutenant colonel and me. And I said...

MU: Now where was that? In Tokyo?

GM: Tokyo.

MU: Okay. So what did you do with the natural resources, you and the colonel?

GM: I said, "Colonel, what am I supposed to be? I'm assigned to natural resources section." He said, "I'll take care of that. You and I are going to Fukuoka." We had the train all to ourselves going to Fukuoka. The train behind us, bunch of Koreans going back to Korea, I suppose, wanted to come into our train because it was so crowded, jammed and... colonel says, "No, keep your sidearm. Don't let 'em in." We both had our sidearm. But, gad, sidearm -- forty-five, is so damn heavy. Then I went home. I shot it once. Boom. [Laughs]

MU: Okay, now, you...

GM: I hadn't shot forty-five before.

MU: That's a big one.

GM: It is.

MU: Now, you're going down to...

GM: Fukuoka. City of Fukuoka. Colonel says, "Hey, George, you got any folks?" I said, "(Yes), I got some right here in Fukuoka." He says, "Good, go see 'em." So, he gave me a jeep and a driver. "How do I get" -- driver says, "How do I get there?" "I'll tell you how to get there."

MU: Now is that where your...?

GM: ...that's natural resources. [Laughs]

MU: Yeah that's nice work.

GM: Yeah.

MU: Now that's where your folks came from? Fukuoka?

GM: Yeah. Saw my mother and my brother and my sister.

MU: And they were there?

GM: They were there. I had a big argument with my younger brother.

MU: About what?

GM: He's the only one (that) wasn't in the army, I think.

MU: About what?

GM: The rest of 'em were in Japanese Army...

MU: Yeah.

GM: ...not home yet.

MU: Okay, now he, he's the one that gave you a bad time? How 'bout the others?

GM: My sister was fine. My mother was fine. I knew I was gonna go there if I went to Fukuoka so I brought her coffee and candy and things she used to, she enjoyed. So I took bunch of those things.

MU: Weren't they glad to see you?

GM: My mother was. But I'm a stranger to them, see? How many years? '34, '41, seven years I hadn't seen them. 'Course, all my other brothers were either in the Japanese Army or Japanese Navy.

MU: Did they come back?

GM: Yeah, they all came back, from what I hear.

MU: So, what was something special about your sister?

GM: There was. Then I said, "Oh, my gosh, this is something like American Civil War -- brothers against brothers."

MU: Yeah.

GM: That's me. And you can't do anything about it except fight for what you believe in.

MU: It's kind of an awkward situation, huh?

GM: Yes, yeah. My brother told me, "Why?"

MU: Why what?

GM: I an American soldier?

MU: Oh, I see.

GM: "You're Japanese."

MU: Now, was that the first time you went to see them?

GM: (Yes.)

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MU: Did you go back afterwards?

GM: I wanted to but I didn't want my wife to know that I had brothers and sister back there, so... when I went back, I didn't want to get into that controversy again, 'cause probably all my brothers were back by then. 'Cause we went back, back to Japan. Took my wife for the first time. She'd never been in Japan -- in '72.

MU: Okay. So did you go to Fukuoka at that time?

GM: No, we went to Kumamoto, then went to Hong Kong instead, when we went to Japan.

MU: Why, why Kumamoto?

GM: Well, I don't know why.

MU: Just sightsee?

GM: I guess.

MU: Uh-huh.

GM: But I should've, to think of it now, you know. Hindsight is better than foresight.

MU: But, you did have a real awkward situation there and...

GM: Yeah. I think even now, when I was recalled to the army at Tule Lake, my bro-, only my brother came to see me off. My sister didn't.

MU: Now, they were here at that time and then they went back to Japan? Is that the way it goes?

GM: No, no. All of us went back to Japan in the late '20s -- I mean, yeah, in '29 or '30. All of us went back there, eight of us.

MU: Oh, I -- so...

GM: And three of us came back way before the war. My brother, me and my sister. The rest, five of 'em, because they were young, they stayed in Japan. My dad said, "If you're seventeen, eighteen, you go out and earn our own living." Said, so I came back to the United States where I knew everything was better than back in Japan.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

MU: What were they doing in Japan, your father and mother?

GM: My dad bought a big house, huge house from another place. They tore that down and brought all that big timber that's supposed to go into it -- lumber over to his lot. They built it up like a little castle. [Laughs]

MU: What was their business there?

GM: Huh?

MU: What was their, how did they make their living?

GM: My dad owned several pieces of land, I think.

MU: Oh, I see.

GM: And he worked it, and other people worked it. He must have made pretty good money. He didn't worry about money.

MU: Well, apparently he didn't -- they didn't suffer too much as far as food is concerned during the war.

GM: No, they didn't. I don't think so 'cause my mom was fine and my sister's fine. My other brother, I guess he didn't get called 'cause he had to take care of the farm, the family business.

MU: Then you had a brother and a sister here?

GM: Brother and sister here.

MU: What happened to them?

GM: They were in Santa Anita Assembly Center and then went to Tule Lake.

MU: And after that?

GM: After that, they got released and came back to Berkeley.

MU: Oh.

GM: 'Cause that's where they orig-, my sister lived with her husband. They're Berkeley people.

MU: Are they still there?

GM: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

MU: Now that, that was when -- well, now we're in Fukuoka and then, oh you're there during the occupation there. You were assigned to the natural resources section there. Was there any real natural resource work that you people did?

GM: Yeah, natural resource, what'd I do? Natural resource, I looked at trees and lumbers, those are natural resources, aren't they? [Laughs]

MU: All right.

GM: They didn't specify what I should look for.

MU: The colonel didn't have...?

GM: I liked this colonel. I can't -- darn it, I can't think of his name. He said, "Go have fun, George. See your folks." Nice guy.

MU: So how long did you stay there?

GM: Gosh, I only stayed there a few days, 'cause he gave me, "Oh, I'll see you back here in so many days." We were supposed to go back to Tokyo.

MU: Oh, it's like a furlough?

GM: Yeah, I guess so. [Laughs]

MU: So, all right, you get back to Tokyo now...

GM: Yeah.

MU: ...and what kind of work did you do then?

GM: Nothing. Five of us were, had to take a military aptitude test. I said, "What's this for?" "Oh, we want you to take it." Three pass, three of us passed it; me and couple other guys. And oh, 'bout the time to come home, gonna give us direct commission, three of us.

MU: Oh.

GM: I said, "I don't want it." I had enough of this. But two other guys -- to this day, I can't remember who they were, they took it and I think one got killed in the Korean War.

MU: Oh. Did you have to go to the Korean War also?

GM: No. No. I came home before that. And after I came home, discharged, oh, several months later, War Department sent me another letter, "Come back in, give you a direct commission." I turned that down again.

MU: No thank you, huh?

GM: No thank you. And year later they still wanted me. I said, "By God, they're persistent." 'Cause I saw enough dead bodies around -- crippled, hurt in the hospital...

MU: You had enough of that.

GM: Oh, I said I had enough of that.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MU: So when did you come back to the stateside?

GM: You know, I wonder if you remember, we had point system to go back.

MU: Yeah, yeah, I remember that.

GM: I had, oh, 'bout 130 points.

MU: Oh yeah.

GM: Guys going back with forty or fifty points, discharged.

MU: Uh-huh. Yeah.

GM: They wouldn't let us go. I said, "How come? I have 100 -- 'bout, almost 130 points." "You guys are essential."

MU: So, how many of you?

GM: I don't know how many there were of, but points counted toward how many combats you were in, how many years you were overseas, how many campaigns you took, you were in. All those counted towards you. And how many years you're in the army.

MU: Yeah.

GM: So I had about 135, I remember. Other guys going home with ninety points. I said, "How 'bout me?" "You're essential. We can't."

MU: Yeah. Well, I came home with less than that.

GM: [Laughs] When you say less, fifteen points?

MU: No, more than that. [Laughs] So, so you did come home and when was that, roughly?

GM: December...

MU: '45?

GM: ...'45. I got discharged, December 10th. And got married five days later, December 15th.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

MU: How did you meet your wife?

GM: Just before shipping out, few days before at the USO in Minneapolis. She was with Harvey's wife, Edith.

MU: Sister.

GM: And, I said, "She looks so cute," I said, "Gosh, I'd like to marry that girl."

MU: Oh.

GM: So, I knew Harvey, so... when I saw Harvey, said, "Who's that girl with your wife?" Says, "That's her sister." "What's her name? What's her address?" Well, they had the same address. They had the same apartment. So he gave me...

MU: Oh they live together, huh?

GM: So, I wrote to her [inaudible] to start it out. Overseas romance, I was shipped out before -- shipping (out) overseas, she says, "I'll see you in the foxhole." Foxhole? How does she know about foxholes? Must've learned it from other GIs. I never told her anything about foxholes. [Laughs]

MU: So, she ever explain that to you?

GM: No. Well, I know she had lots of friends.

MU: Uh-huh.

GM: When I was overseas, she saw a lotta other fellows, too. That's natural.

MU: Okay. Well, at Minneapolis there was so many guys...

GM: We had so many GIs there, like you, Marvin. [Laughs]

MU: Yeah. Lot of single guys were there, yeah. So, you get married and...

GM: Married five days after I got discharged.

MU: Okay. Then, where'd you settle?

GM: Minneapolis.

MU: Minneapolis?

GM: Yeah. I took, let's see, civil service, city civil service exam and federal exam. In the meantime, I was going to trade school, also. The technical school in Dunwoody Institute -- eighteen months.

MU: Then you worked for the post office, did you say?

GM: Yeah, my appointment came through.

MU: Uh-huh.

GM: I was still going to school -- appointment came through. Gotta (work), right?

MU: Yeah, make a living, yes.

GM: Yeah. So I took the appointment and worked myself all the way up to middle management, 'til I retired.

MU: So, how many years was that?

GM: With my internment time, and army time, thirty-five years. Federal time. I got credit for all those times. I accumulated -- gee, I had, oh 'bout four weeks of vacation coming. And oh, let's see, 'bout -- how many days of sick leave I accumulated, huh? Heck of a lot 'cause I hardly took sick leave. That counted toward retirement, so... I had about thirty-six and a half years towards my retirement.

MU: So you retired...

GM: In 1930 -- '76.

MU: You retired then, and did you stay in Minneapolis for a while?

GM: No, I said, "Bye, bye, Minneapolis, too cold for me. San Diego, here I come." [Laughs]

MU: Okay. So you went to San Diego?

GM: Yeah.

MU: And then, you're up here now.

GM: 'Cause my wife is, went to UW here. And her, she has two sisters and a brother here. After sixteen years, retirement in San Diego -- oh, I hated to leave San Diego. But, to be fair with her, I said, "Okay, we'll move up there."

MU: And, so that's where you are.

GM: That's where I am, yes. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 22>

MU: Now, how many children...

GM: Two girls in the Bay area.

MU: Two girls in the Bay area.

GM: And they're, older one is working for UC Berkeley, in finance. And the younger one is with some big water company.

MU: They married?

GM: Yeah, they're both married.

MU: Both married?

GM: Yeah. One in Union City and the other's in El Sobrante.

MU: Oh yeah, you mentioned that. So you see them once in a while?

GM: Oh, once a year. We go down, travel down there, and see 'em. Look 'em up and see how they're doing. Then go to Reno or Las Vegas.

MU: Uh-huh.

GM: She likes Las Vegas. [Laughs]

MU: Lot of people do.

GM: [Laughs]

MU: And now when you go visit like that, you drive down?

GM: Oh yeah. Drive -- never fly.

MU: Yeah. How many grandchildren do you have?

GM: Well, let's see. The older one has three boys and the younger one has two girls. So, five.

MU: Five?

GM: Uh-huh.

MU: You enjoy seeing them?

GM: Yeah. They're growing so fast, though. And I said, "Where did all these time go?" Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

MU: Do your children, or the grandchildren ask you about your army experience at all?

GM: No, no. 'Cause my kids has, they haven't. Two girls, they're busy in their home (...) trying to make ends meet.

MU: In their lives?

GM: Yes.

MU: How 'bout assembly centers, and relocation center, they ask about that at all?

GM: No. They, they -- no, they don't -- no, they don't ask. I think at first, Robin, but my first-born did 'cause she was, she belonged to this Bay area JACL. But now, I don't think she has any Asian friends. She has some Chinese friends.

MU: Uh-huh. Well, right now the Japanese and Chinese are intermarrying and...

GM: Yeah.

MU: I guess it's natural. Now, when you look back on your life, what kept you going through all the...?

GM: All the turmoil?

MU: Yeah.

GM: Gosh, I don't know. What kept me going? See what's there for me tomorrow. That's the only way I can explain it.

MU: Just live for to --

GM: Live for the future.

MU: Live for tomorrow.

GM: Yeah.

MU: Do you have any...

GM: Regrets?

MU: Yeah.

GM: I have all kinds of regrets. But, there isn't anything I can do, right? Just to forget about it.

MU: About it. Yeah. So you've got to accentuate the positive.

GM: Right.

MU: And that's what you're doing.

GM: Uh-huh. Try to make myself and my family happy. Not to dwell on bad thing that has happened.

MU: You tell your children that?

GM: Both of my kids know about me -- that I was a soldier overseas, in the Pacific. Fought with the Japanese.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

MU: Now, how 'bout your brothers and sister in Japan?

GM: I don't know anything about...

MU: You don't -- you're not in touch with them?

GM: According to my older brother, two of 'em -- one of 'em works for Toyota. He's got a pretty good position. He came over several times. And my, I talked to him just the other, the other day and he said the youngest one came over.

MU: But you kinda lost touch with them?

GM: Oh yes, absolutely.

MU: Uh-huh. Yeah, okay now...

GM: Because I keep in touch with just my older brother.

MU: He's in Japan?

GM: No, he's here, in Berkeley.

MU: Oh, I see.

GM: Yeah, Berkeley. And my sister's in Berkeley.

MU: Okay.

GM: I think she's kinda forgiven me, too, for being American GI, 'cause her husband talks to me. [Laughs]

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