Densho Digital Archive
National Japanese American Historical Society Collection
Title: Harvey Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Harvey Watanabe
Interviewers: Marvin Uratsu (primary), Gary Otake (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 12, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-wharvey-02-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

MU: Now, I think you had a brother also that went into the army. In fact, he volunteered for the 442?

HW: He volunteered for the 442 out of Poston.

MU: Out of Poston?

HW: Uh-huh.

MU: And did he come back alive?

HW: Yeah.

MU: Was he the one that passed away just recently?

HW: Yes. Uh-huh.

MU: Now, what happened after that deployment to these various strategic areas? What happened after that?

HW: Well, that was kind of an interesting thing because, I don't know why but all the Nikkei that I knew in other units that were around there, all of a sudden were not going out in the field. They were just hanging around headquarters doing menial work. And I'd come back from the field and that, what happened -- well, captain just says, "You just stick around headquarters." Here my captain was lettin' me go. Setting up gun positions. And then after we finished that, we went to Olympic Peninsula and ran patrol there. And we were running patrol until the day they came and told me, "Harvey, you have to turn in your gun and everything and go back to Fort Lewis." So they drove me back to Fort Lewis and...

MU: You had to turn your gun in?

HW: Yeah.

MU: Did they explain why?

HW: No. And then we get to Fort Lewis, I didn't go to our barracks, our normal barracks. We went to another part of Fort Lewis. There were 'bout 250 other Nikkei there, Nisei.

MU: They're all Nikkei?

HW: All Nisei. Just milling around, doing nothing, having our three meals a day, and gambling or whatever.

MU: Now, at that time, apparently you had some time. Did you folks have what we might call "bull sessions"?

HW: No, we didn't talk too much.

MU: You didn't talk...

HW: No, didn't talk too much.

MU: Hush, hush.

HW: There was certain amount of talk, you know, about what's going to happen. I don't think anybody was particularly afraid of what's gonna happen. But we just -- you might say covered up -- what might happen. And then the Nisei soldiers kept coming in. Pretty soon we had about 350 there.

MU: You didn't share your feelings one with another then?

HW: Not too much, no.

MU: Not too much.

HW: There might've been, privately, off in the corner or something like that. I think there was certain amount of that. Then, then they said, "Pack up." So we packed up and jumped on trucks and went about a mile to the siding. There was a troop train there.

MU: And this is all of your 350 or so Nikkei American soldiers?

HW: Uh-huh. We were loaded on it front to rear, alphabetically. So we had all the Yamamotos, Yamaguchis, Watanabes and...

MU: You were at the tail end of it.

HW: Tail end. [Laughs] Except one guy that almost didn't make it.

MU: Tell us about this one guy.

HW: His name was Nuno, Bill Nuno. And he had his -- practically brand-new '41 Ford four-door sedan. And the train was pulling out, chugging out. I was sitting in the last car with the conductor. I looked out the window and, looked out and there's Bill Nuno driving on Highway 99 alongside the train looking at me like this, you know. Going like this, I remember, you know. So, I told the conductor. So he pulls the emergency cord and the train stops. And we could get out of the car, and go down to the fence. Bill comes to the fence, says, "What am I gonna do with my car?" [Laughs]

MU: So, what happened?

HW: Well, what happened is that a chaplain came to see us off. And the chaplain was about, oh, maybe a couple hundred yards down the tracks -- we left him behind. He saw this going on so he came trotting up the tracks and says, "What's happening, what's happening here?" I explained to him, "Chaplain," I says, "Bill's got a car here, and he's supposed to be on the train." So, mulled that over, and nobody said anything for a while. And then the chaplain says, "Well, where are you going, Bill?" He said, "I'm going to Kansas." That was Fort -- I forget the name of the fort.

MU: Leavenworth.

HW: Yeah. And he says, "Yeah, that's where I'm go -- yeah" -- he says, "Bill," he says, "if you trust me, I've just been transferred there and I'm supposed to report there in two weeks. My wife will drive my car, and I'll drive your car. If you trust me, give me your keys." I looked at Bill... what else can he do? So he gave him the keys. And a while later, when I -- in December when I showed up at Savage -- lo and behold, who's assigned to the same barracks as I am and it's Bill. I says, "Bill, whatever happened to your car?" He says, "The chaplain showed up with the car and gave it back to me." [Laughs]

MU: Worked out like a charm, huh?

HW: Yeah.

MU: Well, that's great.

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