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-02-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

MU: Now, I wanna ask you when Pearl Harbor happened, or even before the FBI was rounding up leaders of the Japanese community, including Japanese schoolteachers. Were any of the schoolteachers that taught you picked up by the FBI?

HW: I don't think so. I don't recall. All I recall is -- well, I mean, this is a.... Last year, my brother and his wife came up for a vacation visit -- younger brother -- and they were gonna stay for a period of time. And, and we went up to Lake Quinault, our family group, for a couple nights. And at that time, my brother told me, he says, "You know," he says, "The FBI came to the house in 1941 and Poppa thought they were gonna come pick him up. So he packed all his clothes and everything ready to go if they said, 'Come with me, come with us.'" And he says, "They came and asked all about you." This my brother, you know, he says, "They knew more about you then I knew about you."

MU: At that time you were in the army?

HW: Yes. 1941, yeah. And so he was surprised, and Poppa was surprised. And that was the encounter. I wanted to talk with him in depth, more about it, but -- few months later he was in a meeting, and he just dropped dead. So I couldn't talk to him anymore.

MU: That's your brother?

HW: My brother, yeah.

MU: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.

HW: Yeah, but...

MU: The FBI did visit?

HW: There, in my life, there are many, funny incidents -- not funny, but they all kinda add up, somehow, because incidents starting in elementary school when I had to take, so-called a test, you know, and they came back and told me what the test score was. And then they wanted me to take it again. So, I took it again and I just forgot about it. When I was in the army, took a test. And then after we were evacuated, army -- those of us that were in military up here in the Pacific Northwest, we were evacuated in March. Went to, we went, the Watanabes were in the last car, 'cause it was loaded alphabetically. We went to Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio. And I was asked to take a test. And then they asked me to take it again.

MU: Do you remember what kind of questions were asked?

HW: No, what it was was an IQ test.

MU: Oh, IQ test.

HW: Yeah. And I don't know why they kept doing that. Then, when I was at Boeing, they asked me to take a test. I did. And, the weird thing about it is that, while I was at Boeing, when we were developing the 707 jet, commercial airplane -- the U.S. government bought three of them to be the presidential plane. They walled off our area and brought the three body sections in there to install secret gear. Which was fine. My boss came over and says, "They're asking if you want to" -- I was a planner at that time, head of a small planning group in our area -- "And if you would take over the job of troubleshooting planning with your crew?" I said, "That's fine." He says, "Okay, I'll tell 'em that you agree." And then he says, "It's gonna take two or three weeks to get you cleared for top secret to handle this job." I said, "Well, that's fine, we'll work it." And I went to work the next day, and my boss comes up to me and says, "They cleared you already." [Laughs] "They cleared you, already." Scratching his head, "I've never seen anything happen this quick. So, you can go to work right away." And he says, "By the way," he says, "I've been told that there's a guy that has lots of experience and probably can help you." Then, things start clicking in my mind, you know. I said, "Well, send him over and I'll talk to him, and if I like him I'll hire him."

MU: Who was he?

HW: I'm sure that he was a secret service agent.

MU: Oh.

HW: These were presidential planes, you know, and military, too. I'm dead sure, and I had an interview with him and everything went fine. I says, "You're hired." He says -- well, we talked about this-and-that, "But what am I gonna do?" I says, "I'm gonna fix it up so that you could be a, just a plain troubleshooter. Not a specific job, but just be a troubleshooter."

MU: That was right up his alley.

HW: Well, that's what he wanted. [Laughs] But those kinda things, you know, come along and... I know that -- it was no surprise that in 1975 when they decided that they could open up all of the archives and get into things, and they found out what J. Edgar Hoover's letter had said. You know, written a letter to the president. There had to be a lot of that going on.

MU: Yeah.

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