Densho Digital Archive
Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann Collection
Title: Bill Shishima Interview
Narrator: Bill Shishima
Interviewer: Raechel Donahue
Location: California
Date: 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-sbill-02-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

RD: So when your parents, when you came back home, you said your father might have been on the [inaudible]. What did they tell you afterwards?

BS: He never said much, but you know, he never told me, but he was a college graduate. He graduated University of Southern California as an architect in 1928, and he never mentioned that. But after camp, he got into the hotel business, and he always used to sketch. I was wondering how come he's always sketching and I asked him, "How come you're always sketching buildings?" Then that's when I found out he graduated the University of Southern California as an architect, but he never got a job as an architect. I believe he built one church building and that was it. So 1928 depression here in America, plus, he looked like me, so maybe that's why he didn't get a job, I don't know. But he never practiced what he got in college.

RD: And he didn't talk to you about it much. What did you tell your children? Do you have children?

BS: Yes.

RD: What did you tell your children about your camp experience?

BS: Not too much. They're not interested. And even though they know I spend much of my spare time at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, they never really cared about it. I tried to get them to some of our speakers, our exhibits, they're not interested.

RD: Why do you think the Yonsei should know?

BS: I think they should know because this shouldn't happen to anyone anywhere again. Just because we look like the enemy, we're incarcerated? There was no charges against us, no due process of law, but just because we look like the enemy, we're incarcerated. In fact, the government called us young American citizens aliens, enemy aliens. So my uncle, he wanted to volunteer and fight for America, but he was classified 4-C, and 4-C is enemy alien, and he's an American citizen, and he was refused to join the American army.

RD: Well, how come someone like Ben Kuroki could go?

BS: I'm not sure. I believe some of this... well, the soldiers that were in the army prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, some of them were, shall we say, booted out of the service, some were taken away from strategic areas, sorry, and some were, their weapons were removed from them, and others were able to remain in the service.

RD: Would you take it from: "some were taken away from strategic areas"?

BS: Yes, that's what I heard, that some were taken away or booted out of the service, too. But I think Sergeant Ben Kuroki, he was from Nebraska, so maybe he was one of the few exceptions, especially he was in the air force. At that time, they were not able to go into the air force, but he was in the air force, so I'm not sure how he was able to go in. Plus, when he came into Heart Mountain camp to recruit, there was mixed emotion, I heard. I was too young I was probably around thirteen or fourteen when he came into camp, and to me, he was a hero. But yet, other people felt, gee, he never went into camp, why should he come and recruit people of Japanese ancestry to fight for America behind barbed wire fence and armed guards? So we had two different camps. I mean, not two different camps, two different ideas about Sergeant Ben Kuroki coming into camp and recruiting for Uncle Sam.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.