Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Nelson Takeo Akagi Interview
Narrator: Nelson Takeo Akagi
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Date: June 3, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-anelson-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Tuesday, June 3, 2008, and we're in Salt Lake City. And I have the pleasure of interviewing Nelson. My name is Tom Ikeda with the Densho project, and on camera we have Dana Hoshide. So Nelson, I'm going to start with just asking you when and where were you born?

NA: I was born in Lindsay, California, June 27, 1923.

TI: And when you were born, what was the name given to you?

NA: Nelson Takeo Akagi, and that is on the birth certificate in Lindsay, California.

TI: So do you know why they named you Nelson? Where did "Nelson" come from?

NA: My dad worked for a big rancher named Walter Cairns, and he had a son named Nelson. So I'm quite sure my dad got the name from his boss's son.

TI: Okay. So you mentioned your father, what was your father's name?

NA: His name was Otoemon Akagi, but I think it was the, it was his boss that named him, gave him an American name Jack, because "Jack" must mean industrious or hard worker, and Dad was a hard worker.

TI: So do you recall, or do you know where your father, from Japan, where he came from?

NA: He came from the Okayama area, and so, and that was back in 1906, he was only sixteen years old.

TI: And why did he come to the United States?

NA: I guess for making money quickly and going back to Japan to live happily ever after, but it never happened.

TI: Did he ever talk to you about that, or is this just something you think he did?

NA: I'm just thinking that that's what his intentions were, but he probably fell in love with America because of the opportunities.

TI: And so how did your father meet your mother?

NA: I would think that it was arranged. And he went back in 1914 to marry her and to bring her over. And by that time, my dad was pretty well-established in Lindsay already. Mr. Cairns had already furnished him with a home, so when he brought his bride, my mother, over, they had a place to stay already and he had a job already with Cairns, so he had a steady income. And all that, I'm quite sure, made him not to go back to Japan, but to stay over here.

TI: So tell me a little bit more about Mr. Cairns. What kind of ranch or what kind of place did he have?

NA: Oh, he had, I think, about a total of 100 acres of orange and olive, what do they call it, orchard or grove. [Laughs]

TI: And what kind of work did your father do?

NA: He was the irrigator and the straw boss. To get the Japanese from Japan, they were the laborers and he would gather them up and put them in the camp right there on the farm, boss's farm. And he was the, well, boss of the crew.

TI: And so how many Japanese workers would work for your father?

NA: Oh, I would say about ten, ten to twenty.

TI: And so your, it sounds like your father had a separate house for himself.

NA: Yes.

TI: And then the workers lived more a barracks kind of...

NA: Barracks type.

TI: Now, do you recall what that kind of looked like? Did they have, like a furo, things like that?

NA: Oh, that's right. They had Japanese type of furo. In fact, our home also had a Japanese type of, a Japanese type of furo. But definitely, yes, no running water, I mean -- they had running water, but no indoor plumbing.

TI: So it sounds like Mr. Cairns trusted your father for him to make him kind of the boss and oversee all of this.

NA: Right.

TI: So was he, was he pretty well-paid, do you think, at that time?

NA: I imagine he was pretty well-paid, or at the going wages those days.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's go back to your mother. What was your mother's name?

NA: Masano.

TI: And she also came from Okayama, same place?

NA: Same place.

TI: So tell me a little bit about your mother. What was she like?

NA: Oh, she was tiny and very industrious. She was friendly with the neighbors, and the neighbors were one German family about... hundred yards would be three hundred feet away, lived across the street from us. And then Mr. Cairns also had Caucasians working for him, and that particular family was on the same block that our home was on. So Mom used to visit, between visiting that boss's Caucasian family that worked for him and the German lady, she learned how to cook. And so my mom was quite a baker, and a Caucasian-type of meal cooker, and she also knew how to make Japanese dish. In those days, every New Year's, the Japanese in Lindsay would make a feast, and each family would have sushi and all the other Japanese delicacies. And Mom used to singlehandedly make all that, and they would celebrate for about three or four days. Each Japanese family would visit the other Japanese family and just keep going around until they probably visited every family for New Year's, and Mom used to do all the preparation for Dad. So I can remember having all kinds of people coming over to our place to eat and my dad and myself, we used to go around to other families, and Mom used to be the only one that had to stay home and work, work, work.

TI: And so how many families were there in Lindsay, Japanese families?

NA: I would say fifteen to twenty Japanese American farmer families. And naturally, there was a Japanese chop suey house in town and then there was a Japanese grocery store. So they would be the two non-farmers. And we had Japanese school there, so we had a Japanese teacher, and he was a non-farmer. So most of the Japanese Americans in Lindsay were farmers.

TI: Okay, good. I'm going to ask you more questions about that later, but I want to go back to your mother. You said she had friends, German family friends, Caucasian? How did she communicate with them? Did she speak English to them?

NA: She could not speak English, so just how she communicated, that's a good question. But her English knowledge was just one-word sentence like "cake," "pie," "gravy," "hamburger." She couldn't say, "I know how to make a cake, she'd just say, "Cake." "Cake tsukurimasu." [Laughs]

TI: And so did she try to teach, like the German mother how to cook Japanese foods? Do you think she tried to do that at all?

NA: I would imagine my mom probably brought rice or something to them. There must have been some kind of a trade in between. Because for Mom to be able to make all those American dish, she must have spent a lot of time with the German lady. And I used to visit the German lady, too, while the husband was out working, so I didn't see him as often as the German lady. I used to go there by myself, and then she'd treat me to a piece of cake or something like that. I spent quite a few, quite a few hours over with a German lady, they had just one son, and by the time I was old enough to go visit her, he had a job and... I don't know if he even lived there. He might have lived elsewhere, he already had a job in town.

TI: Oh, that's a good story. I want to ask now about your father. And what was your father like?

NA: Oh, he was very industrious. Besides working for Mr. Cairns, he had to do a lot of irrigating, so that took up his summer. And then in between his irrigating, my dad started up a nursery business. And I guess it was known as Jack's Nursery, and he used to plant hundreds of orange nursery tree and sell them. And so he had a second income, and I'm quite sure that nursery business brought in more money than the money he received in wages from Mr. Cairns. And by that time, back in -- oh, like I said, my dad went after, went to marry my mother in 1914, and then in, after they came back, in 1915, they had their first two babies, they were twins. The first set were twins, firstborn, and then when the twins, in 1920 or '21, at the age of five or six, they were sent to Japan because Grandpa was over, I think, visiting, and he says, "Oh, let me take the twins to Japan," and so, and my sister, too, the oldest sister.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's back up a little bit, so let's talk about your siblings. So in 1915, you had twin, were they brothers or sisters?

NA: Brothers, twin brothers.

TI: Twin brothers. And then after your twin brothers, what was next?

NA: Two years later, they had a daughter, and her name was Fusako, and she also was taken back by her grandpa to Japan, so the three of them lived in Japan until they graduated high school.

TI: And then after Fusako, who was next?

NA: Then came a boy, and in 1921, and his name was Harry, and then I came in 1923. And then in 1925, my sister was born, my sister May. And then we had a son two years later, but he was stillborn. And then another girl was born, and her name was Betty. And then the last was a girl, Marie.

TI: Okay, so two, four, six... it was a large family, with the first three, the twin brothers and your older sister, were sent to Japan where they were raised up to high school.

NA: Yes, up to, after they graduated high school, then they came back.

TI: And then your brother Harry and younger all stayed...

NA: All stayed in the United States.

TI: In the United States. So let's talk a little bit about your, your twin brothers and sister. So why were they taken to Japan again? Explain that again.

NA: I think that was the custom those days, that they get sent to Japan for their education, and sure enough, they got their education and came, and then they came back and they knew very little English. They remembered a little from infancy, but they were fluent in Japanese, and they were called Kibeis. So they were what they called Kibeis.

TI: And how did it feel when you met your older brothers? I mean, they were quite a bit older than you were.

NA: They were eight years older than me, and I was practicing up on my Japanese when Dad said, "Your brothers are coming back," and what would that be? Eight, eight plus... thirteen, twenty, would that be in '29?

TI: You mean the year?

NA: '30?

TI: Yeah, probably around, I'm guessing they were, 1915, they finished high school about, when they were about eighteen years old?

NA: Uh-huh, eighteen years old.

TI: So that'd be about 1933.

NA: Okay, that's about right. So 1933, when I heard they were coming back, I started practicing my Japanese that I learned in Japanese school. And when I first met them, I started speaking to them in Japanese. [Laughs]

TI: And what was their reaction when they heard you?

NA: I guess they were happy to see me as well as I was happy to see them.

TI: So although you had not seen them very much, there was a fondness, kind of a brotherly fondness for them?

NA: I beg your pardon?

TI: That you were fond or you were happy to see them, even though you had...

NA: Yes, right, we were happy to see them. And since they were eight years older than me, and my dad was quite a businessman, and so all these, all the years he was sending money back to Japan, to Grandma, who was taking care of the three, but on top of that, he was also saving most of the money that he was making selling nursery trees and working for Mr. Cairns. So by the time the boys came back, the twins came back, he had enough money to buy a farm. So he bought one, and up to then, he couldn't buy a farm because the Isseis, due to the California discrimination law, they could not own property. So there he had, he had money, but no property. So as soon as the boys came, twins came back, they were old enough, Dad said, "Well, it's time to buy land." So all these, money that he had accumulated, he bought a 10-acre piece farm, a 40-acre piece farm, and put it all in the boys' name, twins' name. And so now, Dad got his other dream. The first dream was coming to America, get rich quick and go back home, or to actually settle in the United States because he found out it was a land of opportunity, he was making all kinds of money. And so I'm... so here he was, he had all this money to buy all this lands, so he bought... did I mention the 10-acre piece and the 40-acre pieces? And then as the years went by, he had an opportunity to buy a pool hall in the, in town, so he bought a pool hall. And it had a beer parlor in it, and Dad liked his alcohol. And so I'm quite sure that's why he bought the pool hall, because it had the beer parlor, and he'd go over there and...

TI: And so when you said your father liked the alcohol, was it like, with his friends he would like to have...

NA: Socialize?

TI: Socialize.

NA: Right. It started out with sake, you know. In the years during the prohibition, the Japanese from Japan still had their liquor, they could make sake out of rice. And so Dad used to socialize by going to his friend and drink a sake and then he would invite others to come and to have social drinks with him. And then on top of that, after work, I guess he used to patronize that beer parlor after work, and he finally bought it. And then he bought another...

TI: Yeah, before we go there, I'm interested about the sake. So it sounds like farmers would make their own sake. Were there some that were known as better sake-makers than others? Did they ever talk about that, like, "This farmer had the best sake and this one didn't?'

NA: I didn't hear about that, but I knew, I knew some of the families where the father made the sake, the kids used to get into it and they, they would come, come to school. We all went to the same country school because it was more or less segregated. No farmer's kid ever went into town to go to school, we all had to go to a school two miles away out in the country, and that's where all the Japanese farmers' kids like me attended grade school, first to eighth grade. And it was only a two-room school, first to fourth grade was one room, and fifth to eighth grade was the other room.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So when you say "segregated school," you mean so the Japanese American students could not go into the town school? Or was it just more convenient? I'm trying to understand, was it, was it legally segregated, or was it just more by convenience segregated?

NA: I think, I think both, both convenience and semi-segregated, because we still had Mexican kids and Caucasian kids coming to the same school. So...

TI: So the, I'm sorry, so the country school, you had Mexican and Caucasian students there?

NA: Yes.

TI: Okay, there. But then in town, the town school, were there any Japanese Americans?

NA: Yes, the two families, the one that owned the chop suey house, and the other, the grocery store, their kids went to school within the city limit. So whether we could have gone in there or not, I don't know, but one of the farmers' boy, he said he wanted, he wanted to go to Lindsay High School because it was closer. But they wouldn't allow him to go to that high school, he had to go to the neighboring town called Exeter to go to high school.

TI: Interesting.

NA: So, so I think, in a way, it was, they had a little bit of segregation there when it came to going to school.

TI: Although the, the Japanese Americans who lived in the city limits, they were allowed to go to Lindsay High School?

NA: Yes. And once after we graduated, this Japanese American graduated from the country school, then we were allowed to go to the high school in Lindsay instead of being sent to that other town's high school. Instead of Exeter, we lived in Lindsay, so we went to the Lindsay High School. But this one particular family, he lived closest to the Lindsay High School out of all the family, and still he had to go to the Exeter High School. So I think -- and he was quite a bit older than us -- so I think up a certain year, Lindsay must have had "no Japanese kids allowed" in the high school over there. They were allowed to go into grade school but not high school. But that policy might have changed, because after he graduated from Exeter High School, then we were allowed to go to Lindsay High School.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Were there other examples of that kind of discrimination in Lindsay, like other, kind of, facilities or...

NA: We couldn't go swimming into the public pool.

TI: Is that Japanese, was that also the Mexicans?

NA: I'm quite sure the Mexicans weren't allowed either, but the Japanese, I know, weren't allowed.

TI: And how would you know that Japanese could not swim there? Did you have a sign, or did you just know?

NA: No, word of mouth. Some other kids that lived only, maybe a hundred yards from the swimming pool, I think they tried to go in and they wouldn't let them. And by word of mouth, we all found out that we couldn't go in. So the Japanese American kids, the Niseis, we used to go in carpools seventeen miles away to a place called Three Rivers to go swimming in the river, and that was our swimming experience.

TI: And so when things like this happened, where the Japanese Niseis weren't allowed in the swimming pool, what would the Nisei say? Would you guys talk about that?

NA: Oh, we just, we were kind of discouraged, but we took it with a grain of salt. And then another thing, we could not join the Boy Scouts. No Japanese American kids could join the Boy Scouts except the boys from the grocery store owner, they lived in town, so they got to join the Boy Scouts, but none of the farmers' kids could join the Boy Scouts.

TI: So was part of it, do you think, the farmers and their children were kind of looked down upon from the city people? Do you think there was some of that going on, too?

NA: I'm quite sure it wasn't looked down upon. Well, I guess they did look down upon, because we didn't know any of the Caucasian boys our age in the town of Lindsay because we didn't go to school there. But the Japanese American family in town, they went to school with the kids that were in the Boy Scouts, so they got invited to probably go join the Boy Scouts. But oh yes, we really liked to have join the Boy Scouts because we heard about them going on camping trips and having meetings and having fun, and we wanted to get into some of that, too. We were kids, we wanted to go camping, so in order to go camping, the older Niseis, they got up their own little group and they went camping up Sequoia or wherever they could go. But they were the older, older Niseis that did that, but us younger ones, we didn't get a chance to go camping. But we did go to just, I can remember just one evening Scout gathering, where, where we had a wiener bake. And the reason we went to that one was because there was a man by the name of Wolfe, and I guess he felt sorry for us, so he says, "Okay, the Boy Scouts are having a party, I'm taking you guys over there to their party." And so he picked us up and, well, I don't know if he picked us up or our, the twins took us. But anyway, we were able to go because of that one fellow by the name of Wolfe. But he couldn't get us to...

TI: And who was, is it Mr. Wolfe, I mean, who was this person? Was he part of the Boy Scout organization?

NA: He must, he must have been a Scout leader.

TI: But it was only that one, one time that you were able to do this?

NA: Just that one time that he said, "You know, you kids should go to this meeting," and we went to that outing.

TI: So, so you weren't able to join the Boy Scouts, you couldn't use the town swimming pool. Any other examples of, sort of, you can remember being discriminated against?

NA: Not when I was growing up. Those are the two things that I really missed. There might have been other restrictions, but -- oh, there was another restriction. A town called Porterville, which was about fifteen miles away from Lindsay, they had a sign on the outskirts of town, "No Japs allowed."

TI: For the whole town? They wouldn't let Japanese...

NA: For the whole town. So the Japanese stayed away from that town.

TI: And what was the name of, it was Porterville?

NA: Porterville.

TI: And what kind of town was it? About the same size as Lindsay, or was it smaller?

NA: It was a little bigger, and it, but it was a farming community just like Lindsay. Yeah, Lindsay is just made up of orange and olive orchards, and when the Japanese Americans were there, we did the row crop farming, so that's what Lindsay was made up of. There was no industry.

TI: And so in Porterville, that's probably farming also.

NA: It was a farming community.

TI: And so were there, like, Japanese maybe outside Porterville?

NA: Oh, yes.

TI: But they couldn't go into town.

NA: But we couldn't go into town.

TI: So for them to do their shopping, would they have to go to Lindsay or some other place?

NA: Lindsay and Strathmore, and I guess those were the two towns. Because I didn't hear of anybody going to Exeter, which are, which was next to Lindsay.

TI: Now, growing up, do you ever recall the rationale for people like at Porterville, why they said, "No Japanese?" What were they worried about? Why didn't they let Japanese in?

NA: That's a good question, "Why?" Whether they thought, well, I guess there must have been some leader in town that says, "We don't want them," that was, I never did find out why.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: I want to talk a little bit more about the Japanese community events. So you have all these Japanese families around Lindsay, were there ever community events where everyone would get together?

NA: We had our annual picnic, and I'm quite sure it was held in my boss's pasture, my dad's boss had cows...

TI: So Mr. Cairns.

NA: ...cattle also, and my dad used to take care of that, too. And he had acres of pastureland, no trees on it. And so I'm quite sure we used to go to his pasture, because in the spring, the green grass was lush in the pasture. And we used to go there and have a picnic, all the kids would have footrace and rassling matches and what else did we... well, anyway, we had a grand time because when it came to picnics, everybody showed up. And so that was one, and then they had the, do you know what the kenjinkai is? Okay, where each, where the families got together according to where they came from, from Japan, and so they had a kenjinkai and we used to also go and have soft drinks for the kids, and then beer and sake for the parents. And just to socialize, we never had anything. But we had our own Japanese American track... what do you call it? Track meet, and that was at a particular city, and then all the Japanese families 50 miles radius from that central place, we used to have a sports contest.

TI: And was that mostly running races, like you said track meet? Or would there also be, like, baseball and other games?

NA: Mostly running and broad jump, high jump, but no... I don't know if we had discus throwing, but I doubt it.

TI: And who would sponsor this event?

NA: The older brothers used to sponsor it.

TI: And then for the money to put it on, would they get it from, they would donate the money or would they get it from the Isseis?

NA: I'm quite sure in those days, when it came to any kind of a Japanese American activity, the parents would always go for and donate the money. So money was no problem.

TI: And were your parents a pretty prominent family in the community because of your dad's business? So was he, like, an important person in the Japanese community?

NA: Oh, there used to be important person in each Japanese community.

TI: And was your father one of those important people?

NA: No, he was so busy he used to let a fellow by the name of Imoto-san, he was the head honcho, and everybody would do what he says.

TI: Okay. Going back to those track meets, so did you participate?

NA: Oh yes, I ran.

TI: And what was, what were you good at? What event did you like to do?

NA: Oh, I used to participate in everything, broad jump, high jump, and running. So it was just... and everything that came up, I tried for it, whether I won or lost.

TI: Were you a pretty good athlete? Were you pretty good at these events?

NA: Oh, I think I was just in the, about the middle. I wasn't exceptionally good and I wasn't exceptionally bad. [Laughs]

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Well, how about as a student in school? I mean, how were you in school?

NA: Oh, I was a bookworm, so I got straight "A's." And then from my California education in high school, I, they call it the California Scholarship Federation, I had that stamped on my diploma, that I was a member of the California Scholarship Federation.

TI: And is that based on your grade point average? If you have a certain grade point average, you get that? Or how do you get that stamp?

NA: How did I, how did I get the...

TI: Yeah, what qualified you for that stamp?

NA: Oh, just excelling in... excelling in all the classes, and that included physical education. And in order to get an "A" in physical education, I had to go out for football, basketball, track, and in my senior year, I went out for tennis. So there was a requirement, and that was the only way I could get an "A" in physical education. And the rest, like math, history, chemistry, and oh, Future Farmers. And I didn't go into language, but everything I studied in high school, I majored in it. Three years was the major, so, and I got "A's," so they -- oh, and then I became the, in my junior year, I became the class treasurer.

TI: Was it common for Japanese American students to be class officers and getting good grades in your school?

NA: It was pretty hard.

TI: No, was it common, though, for other Nisei? Were other Niseis also, like, class, like class officers and things like that? I'm trying to get a sense of how many other Niseis were in your, in your high school. Were there very many?

NA: Oh, I think each class had about ten Niseis out of a hundred, so that would be ten percent. Ten percent were Japanese Americans. And Japanese Americans pretty well excelled in school, girls and boys. And, let's see, oh, and I was the school photographer for three years. So the yearbook... so that's extracurricular, it didn't count toward my scholarship, but at least, at least I took pictures. (Narr. note: No other Nisei became class officer.)

TI: And so did you, what year did you graduate from high school?

NA: 1941, June of 1941, the year Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

TI: Right. And before we get there, so when you graduated from high school, were you thinking you would go to college?

NA: Yes. My dad really wanted me to go to college.

TI: And what, what college do you think you would have gone to if you had...

NA: Oh, I had California Polytechnic College in mind. One of my friend, well, he was a Caucasian, and he went there, and I thought, "Wow, that's a good place to go."

TI: And where's, where's this located, Cal Polytechnic?

NA: San Luis Obispo, California.

TI: So did you enroll in Cal Polytech? Did you enroll in that college?

NA: Yes, I enrolled.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So now I'm going to jump ahead and ask you about Pearl Harbor, and ask you, where were you when you first heard about the attack at Pearl Harbor?

NA: It was a Sunday morning, I was studying in my dormitory room, and one of the other Caucasian -- well, I was the only Japanese in that dormitory along with Kobayashi. But anyway, while I was studying that morning, one of the dormitory fellows said, "Hey, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." And I says, "Oh, that can't be true," I said. Just a few years before, they had a big scare that the Martians were gonna invade the world and all that kind of stuff, and I said, "Oh, I'm quite sure," I told that kid that, "it's just nothing but propaganda." So I just brushed it aside until I went to class the next day, and sure enough, the professor in the physics class said, "Now, I want you guys to leave Nelson alone, because he's one of us." And sure enough, it was just like that all the time I was attending school in the class there.

TI: Well, when your, when your professor said that, "Leave Nelson alone," what were you thinking? Because then you realized that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. Can you recall some of your thoughts at that point?

NA: Beg your pardon?

TI: What were you thinking when that happened?

NA: Oh, I don't think I gave it too much of a thought, other than that we're in war with Japan. Because my mind was always on studying, studying, studying, and it didn't slow me down a bit.

TI: So when you were able to talk to your parents or your family, what were they thinking? Did you ever talk to them about what would happen to the family?

NA: No. In fact, while I was in school, I didn't know what was going on in the outside world, because I never went uptown, I never read the newspaper, I never communicated with my family until in April, I said, "Wow, that's strange. I'm the only Japanese American left on campus." And so that's when I called home, they had a telephone by then. And so they said, I talked to my brother and my brother said, "Come home right away." So that was in the morning, and so I packed everything --

TI: So Nelson, before we go there, I have to ask you again, so this is April of 1942. So by this time, there were, I think, curfews and travel restrictions on Japanese Americans, and you didn't know about any of those?

NA: I didn't know anything. Like I said, I didn't know what was going on in the outside world.

TI: So no one, no one told you, or...

NA: Nobody told me.

TI: That's amazing.

NA: There were no Japanese Americans to talk to to see what they were doing.

TI: Well, what happened to Kobayashi? You said there was another student in the dorm.

NA: Oh, Kobayashi went home for Christmas vacation, and I went home on Christmas vacation, but we never did talk about the war. In fact, I guess when I went home, it was just for maybe a week or so, and everything was normal. They weren't preparing to get evacuated or anything, but it was... and then so I went back to school because I thought... because nobody said, "Don't go back." But when I went back, Roy Kobayashi didn't come back, and he never did come pick up his belongings. He just up and left, went home for Christmas vacation and never came back. And then I guess the other Japanese American students probably did the same, same thing. After they went back home, they didn't come back. And the reason why my folks weren't too excited of being, just being sent to camp was because we were two, we lived two hundred miles inland, and Kobayashi lived in San Jose. And those people were evacuated to go to assembly center before the people in Lindsay, two hundred miles inland, even got a notice to evacuate. So I'm quite sure most of the Japanese Americans at Cal Poly lived along the coast, they were evacuated, and so they didn't have a chance to come back. And, but I was two hundred miles inland, and my folks said, "Oh, we're two hundred miles inland, we're not gonna get evacuated out."

Therefore, in December when I went home for Christmas, they weren't too worried. But from December 'til April, then that's when my folks said, "Hey, looks like we're gonna get evacuated, so they were getting prepared to evacuate. And when I, in April when I called home and they said to come back, come home right away, I went home right away. And when I got home from the second day, I found out that they were selling the property, everything, because we would get evacuated out in whenever time, whatever time that we were to be given. We didn't know exactly when we were gonna get evacuated.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So tell me how they sold the property. I mean, I imagine other people were also selling at the same time? So it's probably a buyer's market, it probably was hard to sell the property.

NA: Exactly. There was no buyers to speak of, because we were just trying to get out of depression because the war, the war kind of started the economy up. But until then, nobody had money, and I'm quite sure nobody had money during the time of evacuation. So the only person that we could depend on to buy our property were the people that my dad was doing business with, like this nurseryman that Dad sold thousands of trees to. He bought our property... let's see, he bought the, I'm quite sure he bought the 40-acre piece, and that had 15,000 nurseries ready to sell, so he came out smelling like a rose. He only gave us $2,000 for the 40-acre piece, and then the 10-acre piece with a new home that we built two years previously, we sold that to the next friend that we thought who had money, so he gave us, I think, $2,000 and there was about $4,000 worth of tomatoes ready to pick the next day. We evacuated, and I'll come to when we evacuated, but anyway, there was a tomato crop ready to harvest, and then had, we had olive nursery trees on that 10-acre that he could sell for five dollars apiece. And in those days, that was gold. And so we lost all that.

TI: And so how much do you think those two pieces of property were worth, the 40 acres and the 10 acres? If they were just market price during that time, you said they got $2,000 each. How much, if it weren't for the war, how much was that property worth, do you think?

NA: Well, the trees, the nursery trees on that 40-acre piece was worth $15,000. That was the minimum price.

TI: And that didn't even account for the land, I mean, you still had the land.

NA: And that's not even counting the land. And the land was already planted in orange trees, and so $15,000 plus another $5,000 in those days' money. So $20,000, so we sold it for one-tenth of the value of what we could have received if we were never evacuated. And the same thing with the 10-acre piece, the house was worth money, the land was worth money, and the olive trees was worth five, five dollars apiece, at a thousand trees would be five thousand dollars just for the trees, and the tomato crop, 5 acres of tomato crop, that would have had to be worth at least four thousand dollars because we made four thousand dollars on five acres of strawberry. And we were able to harvest that in the month of April and May, before evacuation. And then we had the pool hall, we could not find a buyer for the pool hall, so we rented it out to a Mexican fellow, but we had, after we evacuated, we had to sell that because we got a letter from him stating that if it's in Japanese name, he cannot operate it. So he asked us to sell it to him, and I don't how much we got out of that pool hall, but I don't think it was that much.

And then here's another story. Like I said, my folks didn't think that we were gonna be evacuated because the evacuees from the coast, they came inland and they tried to start business inland because they thought also that they wouldn't get evacuated out from Lindsay. So we had that 3-acre piece, we sold that to an evacuee.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. So this was another Japanese family that thought that Lindsay was gonna be safe, or...

NA: Right.

TI: And so they bought a piece of property.

NA: Uh-huh.

TI: But then they had to then sell that 3-acre --

NA: And then they had to get rid of it, too, because Lindsay got evacuated out finally.

TI: So there was a lot of confusion in those days.

NA: There was a lot of confusion.

TI: In terms of what was gonna happen, whether you could stay, whether you had to leave.

NA: Right.

TI: That must have been really, really hard.

NA: It was all confusion.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So I'm also curious, during this time, after Pearl Harbor, the FBI would go into communities and pick up the leaders?

NA: Issei.

TI: The Issei leaders. Did that happen in Lindsay also?

NA: Oh, I'll say it did. And to this day, those families are still bitter. And like the chop suey owner, he got picked up because Japanese people used to go to eat there, and as long as Japanese people used to go eat there and congregate, the FBI picked him up because, thinking it was a Japanese mafia group, if you want to call it. But they weren't, they were just patronizing the place. And then the community leader Imoto, he was picked up. And these Isseis that were picked up, they didn't even have a chance to change clothes or even say goodbye to their family. If they were uptown buying stuff to, for the chop suey house, they were picked up right there and taken. They didn't even get to say goodbye to the family. Same with Mr. Imoto. I think he was out irrigating his field and they came out, picked him up and took him away without even seeing the family. So they're bitter, bitter, bitter, up, even today.

TI: And they're bitter at the government?

NA: Bitter at the government, right.

TI: And why...

NA: Not at the government, at the whole country.

TI: And who else was picked up? Were they the only two, or were there more?

NA: Oh, it was a schoolteacher and other farmers, so there might have been, out of the fifteen to twenty Japanese American families, there might have been about five. So that'd be one, almost one-third of the parents. So those one-third, they are still bitter to this day.

TI: I'm curious if in Lindsay, was there any JACL activity during this time?

NA: Yes, we had our JACL, but it was mostly for social. I was, when I was a senior -- oh, when I was senior in high school, I was the JACL secretary.

TI: And so was the JACL doing anything during this period?

NA: Oh, no, the JACL couldn't because as soon as we protested on any issues the government was pulling on us, like the travel restriction, curfew, evacuation, all that, if we even opened our mouths up, the FBIs would take us in that quickly. So, so the Constitution wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

TI: It's interesting, I'm a little surprised, because Lindsay, as you say, was so far inland, and roughly a third of the families were impacted. So this is a much higher percentage than even the communities on the West Coast right, closer to the coast.

NA: I'm quite sure, even on the West Coast, it was a pretty high percentage.

TI: There were more people picked up, but probably not as high a percentage, because I think there were more families. But this is a, so there were quite a few. And I'm, but I'm interested or surprised because I wouldn't think Lindsay would be such a, a critical area, to pick up so many people. Unless, were there defense-type of installations nearby Lindsay?

NA: No, there was no installation except Tulare, I'm quite sure, had a flight training school, because we used to see the twin wing plane that the air force was, air force pilots were training, and they would fly over our farm and circle around, we used to see them flying around. And let's see, what other installation, army installation were there, around there? I can't think of any others. Hanford might have had one which was about 40 miles away, but Tulare was only 17 miles away.

TI: I'm curious, earlier we talked about your father's boss, Mr. Cairns. After Pearl Harbor, did your father ever talk to Mr. Cairns about what was going on?

NA: About Japan?

TI: Yeah, about what was happening to Japanese Americans, like when your father was trying to sell his property, did he try to sell it to Mr. Cairns, or did he ever try to get help from Mr. Cairns?

NA: Help others?

TI: Or help, try to get help from Mr. Cairns? Given that Mr. Cairns knew your father, did he ever try to help your father?

NA: Oh, no. Mr. Cairns was dead by December 7th already, and the sisters owned the property when the war started, so they didn't have too much respect for Dad after that, Pearl Harbor, so that war really affected Dad, too.

TI: So do you think if Mr. Cairns was alive, he would have done something?

NA: I'm quite sure he would have, because he really liked Dad, definitely. But nobody helped us; we were on our own. Even other Japanese family, we couldn't help each other because of travel restriction and curfew. How are we gonna meet except in the evening, because during the day we still had to work? If we plowed the field under, then we'd have to go to the state pen. for what they call destroying properties, which could have been used for military purpose or something like that, the food for military purpose or for the country, food for the country.

TI: That must have been difficult because here you were tending the crops, but eventually you didn't get paid for them.

NA: Right, we wouldn't get paid for it, and we wouldn't even profit from it, we wouldn't even be able to harvest the crop. We didn't know that we weren't gonna be able to harvest it, so we still had hope, but that hope never came.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So eventually you got the orders that you had to, to leave. So what happened then, what was next?

NA: Oh, well, we kept on farming, and my brother and I went to the co-op, the Japanese American co-op was still operating next to the railroad siding, we had a warehouse, and we picked up the boxes there and distributed it in the morning of -- well, we distributed the boxes in the morning and that afternoon, I don't know, two o'clock, three o'clock, the WRA came out and said, "You're moving tomorrow."

TI: So... okay, so you, these were boxes for the tomato crops? You put the boxes for the tomato crops out in the fields? And then who was that for? Was that for the workers to, to do?

NA: Oh, yeah. Because the family members were gonna pick it, because it was ready to pick, and we, by that time, we couldn't get the Issei laborers that went from one town to the other, one crop to the other. There was no more Japanese labor, so we were gonna pick it ourselves.

TI: And so what happened to the tomatoes? Did anyone the next day pick them?

NA: Oh, I'm quite sure Mr. Womack, who bought the properties, probably, I don't know where he got the labor, but after we left, we didn't know anything about what happened to the tomato crop or the olive and orange nursery. We didn't know, but I'm quite sure they, they had maybe, like Womack probably had a son, and that son called his friend, and that friend called another friend and they all picked, picked it. But that, and we left the day after we distributed the box. But we were the only family that was told to evacuate June 21st or whatever day it was that we evacuated. We were the only Japanese American family that evacuated. There were a few families that voluntarily evacuated back in April or May, but in April or May, then they stopped "voluntary evacuation." No more Japanese Americans could leave, they had to go to camp. And that was our situation, we had to go to camp. We sold all our property in preparation to go to camp, we got our shots and whatever else we had to do, and oh, and pack our suitcase, one suitcase apiece, we packed that. And all the contraband and stuff, considered contraband, guns, cameras, radio, were already turned in to the police department, so everything was in preparation for the evacuation, and it came soon enough. But the other Japanese American families, they still were waiting to go to camp. They didn't know where they were going to go, but they were preparing to go to camp and they continued to farm. So I think Womack probably went to some Japanese farmer and says, "Hey, how do I sell my crop?" And I'm quite sure the Japanese American family helped him out in that respect. So I'm quite sure he made his two thousand dollar after one day and then some later, by finishing up picking the crop and selling the trees.

TI: So why was it that your family left before the other Japanese American families?

NA: Oh, the reason is because U&I sugar company, through the WRA, War Relocation Authority, came to Lindsay and probably some other towns, Fresno, you name it. Because they came, the U&I sugar company representative from Idaho came out and said, "We need workers. Who will help us?" And my dad, he, from day one, he just stayed inside the house, avoiding getting picked up from the FBI. He didn't go outside working or anything, because the FBIs would just come out and pick him up. But he stayed in the house ever since December 7th, because as soon as they found out that they were picking up the Isseis, he made himself invisible. And so, and so he said that only way he can avoid getting picked up by the FBI and also going to camp, when the representative from Idaho came over and said, "We need workers," my dad said, the first thing he said, that, "Let's go." And so there we were, we said, "Let's go," but even after we said, "let's go," we didn't stop farming. But Dad never came out of the house. And that's another thing, in the evening, lights were never turned on, and the doors were locked. We never did have the doors locked on the house before December 7th, and so that's why our family, being the only family that said, "We will go to Idaho," and all the rest of the Japanese American families, they just said, "We're gonna wait out for the actual evacuation to camp." But my dad didn't want to camp, so that's why we were the first ones to leave Lindsay other than those that voluntarily evacuated, and there were two or three families that voluntarily evacuated, they came to Utah, went to Colorado or somewhere.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So Nelson, I'm trying to, a little... clarify something. So earlier you talked about after December 7th, you went, from school you went back home. And you said things weren't too bad then, right after Pearl Harbor. And then you went back to school and you were there for... January, February, maybe three months, and then April you came back. It sounds like during that time, it was very hard on your father, that he was...

NA: Oh, yes, it was hard on the farm.

TI: So that was a difficult time when you were, actually, probably mostly at school, and your father was not leaving the house, very fearful. And so when you came back in April, when you returned home, what was the house like? Was it, did it feel a lot different?

NA: Oh, it was. I had to take a taxi. When I left, when I left San Luis Obispo, that's another story. When I left San Luis Obispo from school, I went to the police department because I was instructed by my brother to pick up a travel permit. I didn't know why, I didn't ask him any questions. But anyway, I walked to the police station and asked for a travel permit, and instead of a travel permit, they just made me sign a form stating I would never, I will never come back to San Luis Obispo again. And then from there, after picking that, signing that, the policeman let me go, and next stop was the bus stop, bus station. So I walked, I walked from the school to the police station and down, and then from there I walked from the police station to the bus depot and bought my own ticket with my own money for a ride home. But it was for Tulare, which was seventeen miles away. And when I got into Tulare, it was already dark, nine o'clock or something. I pleaded with the taxi driver, that was the only thing, only way I could get home from Tulare. So I pleaded with him, "Hey, take me to Lindsay," which was still seventeen miles away, and he, he hawed around and says, "Okay, I'll take you," because I told him, "You'll get paid, don't worry." And it was a good thing, to this day I thank him because he could have turned me in to the police department because I didn't know that the restriction, travel restriction and curfew was in effect. So right then and there, I could have been picked up. But anyway, it turned out that he didn't turn me in, so he took me home. And all the time I was going home, I says, "Oh boy, this is gonna be a good welcome home." So I go home, no light on the house, so I walked up to the door and the door was locked. It never was locked before I left for college. And so I knocked on the door and my brother answered the knock, and as soon as he opened it for me, he pulled me in and he said, "Hurry up, get inside," and then I told him my situation. So he counted out fifteen dollars or whatever the taxi fare was, in the dark, he counted it out. And he gave me the money and I gave it to the bus driver, taxi driver, and he went on his way and I went back in. And there was no explanation at all that night. I just went to bed 'cause everybody else was in their bedroom already, they didn't come out at all. They were petrified, because the following day I found that Dad was, Dad thought it was the FBI that stopped in front to come pick him up. And so that's why the house had no light on, it was dark. And so I found out quite a bit the following morning, Dad was petrified, and then everybody else, naturally, was petrified, and it was like that every night even after I got home, no light on after dark.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So let's go back, the U&I people have now, are now bringing you up to Idaho, is where we left it. So you've agreed to, your father agreed to go farm up in Idaho with the sugar beet, with U&I.

NA: Uh-huh.

TI: And you were just leaving Lindsay.

NA: Okay. Eight o'clock in the morning, I think we had breakfast that morning, I don't know if we did or not. But anyway, eight o'clock in the morning, the WRA sent out a army bus out with two armed guards with sub-Thompson machine guns. The whole family, and the youngest was a seven-month-old nephew, and the, in my family -- that was in my brother's family -- and in my family, the youngest was my sister Marie, she was only seven years old. And how can the government say they were security risk? That's why we were being moved out, they thought we were a security risk. But anyway, we were of no security risk, so to this day, I say evacuation was never a, never should have happened. But anyway, we got on this bus, and we were bused seventeen miles to Visalia, that was our next big town from Lindsay, and put on a train with the blinds pulled down, and it was an old dilapidated coach. And that was eight o'clock in the morning, well, by the time we got to Visalia it was nine o'clock. And then we were the only family on that train, and then it was coupled up and, with the blinds pulled down, and it was coupled up on an all-freight, we were the only coach on it. And then we traveled another thirty miles to Fresno and picked up three more families. And one of the families, the mother, father and two girls, and the girls weren't, the older one might have been fifteen, the younger maybe twelve, thirteen years old. Well, they're no security risk. And how could they work on the farm? But there they were, willing to go work on the farm. We didn't know where we were gonna go in Idaho, but anyway, we traveled there after picking up the other three families. And all the time we were traveling, we traveled from eight o'clock in the morning 'til the following day in, following day twelve o'clock we traveled. And then it stopped. Well, it made other stops (on) other sidings, but it was to let the trains, other trains, priority trains go by while the all-freight just stopped on the siding. But this time it stopped during the daytime, and so I was wide awake, and I said, "Oh, the train stopped. I want to see where, where we are." So I lifted the shade up just enough to be able to read the... what does it say in Reno? "The smallest..."

TI: "The largest little town," or something like that?

NA: "Largest," oh, that's right. "The smallest little town," or, 'The largest little town in the world." And I said, "Oh my gosh, we're in Reno." [Laughs] And so, so I said, "I know where we are now, we're in Reno. But all the time that we traveled from Lindsay to Reno, we had no food, no water, no heat, no blanket, we were cold. Because even in June, going over the Sierra was cold. And so we were, from there, we were put on the siding and then a man entered. We don't even, we didn't even know who he was, and then the two armed guards, they disappeared. And so we thought, "Well, even, what else could they do to us?" Even if we protest that we were hungry and cold and everything, what else, we said, "What else could they do to us now?" So we got guts enough to complain, and after we told that one man -- I still don't know who he was, except he must have been from the WRA, he couldn't have been from the U&I Sugar Company. But anyway, after we complained, he left and was gone for about half an hour and came back with enough bread and baloney for us each to make one baloney sandwich apiece, and that was our meal. And then we got heat and water in our compartment. And then we proceeded on. We came to Ogden where we were, where we were able to disembark for the first time since the day before, and we stopped at the Ogden Depot for about half an hour and then we proceeded on to Idaho. And lo and behold, we ended up in Idaho Falls, and while we were in Idaho Falls, our destination, the farmers were waiting for us, and we were picked out according to the size of the farm and the size of the family. And our family being the largest, we went to the largest farm. And where the others went, we don't know, and we, since we didn't communicate while we were on the bus because the armed guards were watching us and we didn't want to get shot or anything. So we just stayed to ourselves. So to this day, I don't even know their names. But anyway, that's the way it was with our train ride, and then we were picked out according to the size of the farm and size of the family. Just like slave labor.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Yeah, so at this point, how large, how many members of your family were there?

NA: Well, there were four brothers, three sisters and my mother and father and my grandson. And so four... and then the four brothers and my father, that'd be five that were male that were able to work, and then my sister May and Betty, who was about ten years old, she even had to help on the farm. But Marie and the two wives for the twins and my mothers stayed home. And so, so we all had to work just to make enough money, and that's all we got to live from day to day. We had to pay the rent -- that was another thing. And the farmer didn't even have a place for us to stay, so the first place he said, "Oh, I have a place for you," it was a chicken coop. And the ladyfolks were the only one that went to see it, and when they came back, they were madder than a wet hen. And so we said, "We're not gonna move into a chicken coop," so the, our boss-to-be said, "Oh, there's a vacant home in middle of town next to a grocery store," so we moved into there but we had to pay the rent, and we had to pay for our food there, so it was just like, you know, being in California, only everything we, everything that was paid for in California, here in Idaho, we had to pay it out of our own pocket. WRA wouldn't help us, and so while I was...

TI: Well, and during this time, were there any restrictions on the family in terms of movement, like could you have gone someplace --

NA: If they, if there was, we pretended like we didn't know about it. The only restriction was the, we had to have a coupon or whatever to buy sugar because it was rationed, beans was rationed and the meat was rationed, and there were a lot of restriction in that effect. But for us not to be able to travel more than two miles, we pretended like if there was such a thing, we pretended like we didn't know about it. So we were living just like we were before the war in Lindsay. The only difference was in Lindsay, all the properties were paid for because Dad paid cash as he'd start buying up all the land for us kids. Well, he couldn't own the land, anyway. And then, so here we were in Idaho, and a new territory, and first thing we had to do was, other than find a place to live, we also had to have transportation. So we sold our car and pickup and everything so we had no transportation, we sold it for fifty dollars, hundred dollars or whatever. And so as soon as we got there, we had to buy a car. And that car cost more, twice as, twice, two, three times more than what we got out of the car we sold in California. And so we had a rough time. It was no picnic for us, and then, and then we might have had four thousand dollars in our pocket that we brought from California, but we went through that pretty fast because another boy was born and another girl was born so it went for hospital bill, and our clothing, and four thousand dollars just went like fire. And so we had to live, finally live on our income from the labor that we were doing. And that farmer wouldn't pay us in full, so we really had a rough time there.

TI: So I'm curious, in town, how did the townspeople treat you? Was there any, sort of, discrimination because of the war?

NA: The kids our age were real friendly. We had no problem with them, there was a big canal running behind where we were living, and we used to go swimming in that canal with the kids in town and then... and we used to go to St. Anthony seven miles away with the kids, and then we, with the kids in town. And we went roller skating, which was about five miles away, and we'd pile into the family car and go roller skating. So it was just, and then we went fishing in, at the head of Yellowstone we went fishing over there. So it was just, just like during, before the war, and we pretended like it was, that there was no restriction on Japanese American. If there was, I don't know.

TI: And was this in Idaho Falls, or what town was this?

NA: No, it was in Parker, Idaho.

TI: Parker, Idaho.

NA: It was one post office, one grocery store, and one gas -- well, the, and one gas station. That made up the town.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So Nelson, we're gonna get started again. And so where I want to pick this up is to start talking about your military service. And so can you describe how you first got interested in joining the military? And perhaps starting with the story when the military started the draft again, they came out with a "loyalty oath," or a "loyalty questionnaire." So can you tell me the story about how you first saw the "loyalty questionnaire?"

NA: Well, let me start from when I registered. I had three brothers of military age, and they all registered in California. And I was the only one that was not of age to register in California, therefore I had to register in St. Anthony. And when I, I turned eighteen in June of '42 when we were in Idaho, so I had to register there. And I don't know what month I registered, but anyway, in January or February, up to then, we were classified "enemy alien," 4-C, and couldn't get drafted even, even if I did register. So in January or February of early, January of '43, President Roosevelt said, "Well, all you Niseis from Hawaii and the internment camp can volunteer for a Japanese American fighting unit." And that included me because I was of military age.

And so I think it was in, right after President Roosevelt said that we can volunteer, then the WRA sent out somebody with a questionnaire. And I was sorting spuds, and he said, "Nelson, come outside with me." So I went outside, and he said, "Here's a questionnaire." And I didn't know at that time that same questionnaire was also being given to the internees in the camp. I don't know if the boys from Hawaii had to sign the questionnaire, but anyway, he handed me this questionnaire and I went right down the list, "Yes, yes, yes, yes," and I don't know which question it was, but one asked me if I wanted to join the service and fight for the United States. And I think I reluctantly went ahead and put "yes" on that, but the next question, it asked, "Will you forswear your allegiance to the Japanese government?" or however it was worded. But anyway, I said, "Wow, this is a trick question to, for that guy to take me in, into camp or wherever." And I said, in my mind, "This guy is just trying to drag me into camp." So I told him, "Hey, I can't answer this question because if I put down 'yes,' that means that you think I'm loyal to Japan and you'll take..." and then, and I thought to myself, "He's gonna take me in and ship me to Japan or whatever." And so I said, "I don't think I'll sign that." And without another word, he said, "I'm taking you in," and by then, 120,000 were already in camp. And I says, "I don't want to go to camp," I said to myself, "I don't want to go to camp." And so I reluctantly, without saying another word, "Okay, I'll answer that question," and I put down "yes." And he didn't say anything. And then I went on to the rest of the questions to answer, and I put down "yes-yes," so I answered everything "yes," and the guy left. So I think I, I figured I did the right thing, 'cause he could have just taken me to camp right then and there, by not answering that one question.

TI: But I want to be clear about this. So he, he essentially threatened you to put --

NA: Oh, he threatened, yes.

TI: -- you in camp if you had said "no" to the, "Will you forswear allegiance to Japan?" So, and so it was because of that threat you decided just to, to put what you thought he wanted you to put down, or "yes."

NA: Uh-huh. So I took my chance on putting down "yes," and after I put down "yes" and then finished the questionnaire, he left without saying anything. So I think I did the right thing.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So how about your three brothers, older brothers?

NA: Oh, they were left alone.

TI: So they were not given that questionnaire?

NA: No, they were not given the questionnaire.

TI: Were they later on drafted into the military?

NA: Yes, they were drafted because... what was it, 1944, the Japanese Americans started getting drafted instead of having to volunteer. But during my day in 1943, only way we could join was to volunteer.

TI: But I'm curious about your twin older brothers who were educated in Japan. So did they serve in the U.S. Army?

NA: My brother Harry, two years older than me, was drafted in 1944. And then 1945, my, one of the twins was supposed to report for induction, but the war ended. And so they says, "Oh, war ended, you won't have to go." So, and then the other brother was a 4-Fer, the other twin was a 4-Fer, so he didn't even have to go. But yes, two more brothers would have had to go in had the war lasted a little longer.

TI: So I'm curious about how your family felt about you volunteering into the military, especially your father and maybe your older, your twin brothers. Did they support your decision?

NA: Oh, they supported my... well, put it this way: they did not object, so whether they supported me, I don't know, but they did not object. But my dad, it was really strange. The day I left -- and to this day, I don't even know how I got from Parker to St. Anthony's to take a bus to Salt Lake City. I don't know who took me there, but it might, might have been my dad because he's the only one that I can remember that was with me when I left. And he said, "Shikari shite kudasai," and I wished I knew the exact translation, but I don't know what the exact translation is. But I think that means to "give it all you have." That's about the closest I can come to what... so my dad wasn't opposed to me going to war.

TI: What do you think would have happened if the WRA official called out all the brothers, you and your three other brothers and they all took the questionnaire? How do you think your older brothers would have answered question 27 and 28? Question 27 being, "Are you willing to serve in the military?" and then 28 is, "Will you forswear all allegiance to the Japanese emperor?" How do you think they would have answered?

NA: I think they would have been confused, same as, same as me being confused, I'm quite sure of that.

TI: Because one of the things the army was searching for during this time period, they were actually searching for Kibeis who would volunteer to serve in the Military Intelligence Service. Because I would imagine your brothers, their Japanese was really good, and they could read and speak Japanese really well. So they would be strong candidates to be in the Military Intelligence Service.

NA: Exactly, because every 442nd soldiers were asked that same question, "Will you fight..." how did they put it? "Will, will you fight Japan?" We were asked while we were still in the service, and so my brother definitely would have been an MISer.

TI: Yeah, because his, yeah, because his Engl-, or his Japanese was probably so good.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Okay, so let's continue. So you decided to volunteer, and you go to Fort Douglas to be inducted, so you go to Salt Lake City. And then from there I think you go to Shelby for your training. So why don't we pick it up there, your training, and what was happening there?

NA: Well, let me just work up to it. But anyway, after the, after signing that questionnaire, it wasn't but a few weeks later I received a letter from the draft board stating that, "You can volunteer for the service now." So I walked seven miles in the snow to St. Anthony's to volunteer for the Japanese American unit, and then walked back seven miles in the snow again. And the reason why was during those days, gasoline was rationed, and I didn't want to impose on the family to take me over there for me to volunteer. But anyway, I walked both ways in the snow to volunteer. And then in May, that must have been in February, end of February. And then early part of May, they told me to get, be bused to Salt Lake City from St. Anthony's. So that happened in May under a special order, and that was written on the greetings: "You are now able to volunteer for the service," and then under a special order, and they wrote right on that piece of paper, "special." I don't know what it meant, but anyway, I got sent to Salt Lake City. I left about six o'clock in the evening and traveled to Salt Lake City. And I can't remember if I slept in a hotel that night for the induction the next day, but anyway, I can remember going to Motor Avenue, and that's in Salt Lake City, not at Fort Douglas. I was sworn in over there on Motor Avenue, and then I was bused along with the other inductees to Fort Douglas.

And I was only, I was put in a barrack with at least nineteen other Caucasian inductees, I was the only Japanese American. And after we were all assigned to a bed, this one inductee jumped up and hollered, "What's this Jap doing in the American, in our army?" and boy, that hurt more than the tetanus shot I got. Here I tried to be a friend with them because it was just like being in the dormitory at college. And that took me by shock, and it was a good thing that the QC, Charge of Quarter, CQ, Charge of Quarter came running out. I don't know if it was a sergeant or a corporal, but he ran straight to that guy and quieted him down and nothing happened to me. But the following morning, we all went to breakfast, and when I came back, nobody else came back with me, they were all gone. And so I think they were all shipped out because of that incident. The CQ probably thought the same thing as I did, I was gonna get beat up, so they shipped 'em all out. And so that was my introduction to the U.S. Army. And by that time, I had doubts of why I volunteered, but until then, I said, "I want to volunteer and be in the service," because all my Caucasian friends, I learned through newspaper and letters that they were all in the service, and I wanted to be in the action, too. And I didn't think that there would be a, any... well, I didn't think anything about...

TI: Being discriminated while you were in the army, right?

NA: Oh, well, I'll come to that, too. Okay, but anyway, after that incident about being called a "Jap," I was the only one left in the barrack. After about the eighth or ninth day of isolation, I finally got enough courage to walk around Camp Shelby. And lo and behold, as I was walking around Camp Shelby --

TI: Or Fort Douglas, you were Fort Douglas.

NA: Oh, Fort --

TI: You were at Fort Douglas.

NA: Did I say Camp Shelby?

TI: Yeah, you said Camp Shelby.

NA: Oh, Fort Douglas, yeah. After walking around Fort Douglas, I found out there was another barrack full of Japanese Americans that probably came from Minidoka or Topaz or some other camp. And so I was teamed up with two others, and then that made a party of three, and we traveled all the way from Salt Lake City to Camp Shelby. And at Camp Shelby, we joined others that were shipped over there that same time and same day, and as we were being marched to our destination, I spotted one of my hometown friend over there. And without even asking the sergeant that was marching us to our destinations, I just ran over to my friend and said, "Hi Yosh," and we started talking a little bit and then I said, "Well, Yosh, looks like I have to, I'll see you later," and walked back. And the sergeant just stood there dumbfounded and didn't say a word. He didn't scold me or anything. I got into rank and then he said, "Forward march." And I was sent to the field artillery and all the others were sent to the infantry, so I lucked out.

TI: Do you think it was because you did that you were set to field artillery?

NA: No, I think they had it all pre-arranged because of my college education and I don't know what else. When I joined up, I said, "I want to be in the tank corps," and then they probably figured the field artillery is, is close to the tank corps. I didn't say I wanted to be in the infantry, I said I wanted to be in the tank corps.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Okay, so Nelson, I'm going to jump ahead a little bit here. Because I know you've been interviewed in the past by Go for Broke, so I'm gonna skip ahead to Europe right now.

NA: Okay.

TI: And so I'm gonna skip Camp Shelby.

NA: Okay.

TI: And so let's, let's talk about when you met up with the 100th Battalion. And so why don't you pick up the story there.

NA: Okay. In June of 1944, North of Rome, we finally caught up with the 100th Battalion. And the 100th Battalion had been fighting in Italy from the previous year, 1943. And so after we joined up with the 100th, and the 100th became our first battalion of the three battalions in the 442nd infantry. And so on June 26th, with the 100th Battalion, we were committed, committed into action. And June 26th happened to be one day before my birthday, so I'll never forget the first day of combat. I set up my machine gun, when I first went into Italy, I was a machine gunner.


NA: And so I set up my machine gun, and we had four machine guns guarding the unit, one in front, one in the back, and one on each side, four machine guns. So that was my duty in the outfit. And a few days later, I saw the first Japanese American that was killed in action. It was just like in the movies, he was underneath the shelter half, and two shelter halves make one pup tent. But he was covered with a shelter half with a rifle stuck in the ground with a bayonet on it, with, capped with a helmet, and that was the first Nisei that I saw killed in action.

And then, then on, in another position, I was witnessing a shelling of a farmhouse. We were on a little hill looking down, and as we were watching the shelling, an Italian family was running toward three or four of us that were congregated. And the grandmother of that family, they must have been working out in the field where all the action was going on, because we could see the shell and the dust and everything in the olive grove, and I'm quite sure that's where they came from. And the grandmother, they were all running as fast as Grandma could run. And the grandma came to me and starting, started to hit me on the chest -- whoops, I better not hit the phone -- but started hitting me on the chest, and at the same time hysterically saying, "When is this war gonna end?" in Italian language, and she just kept repeating the same old thing over and over again and kept hitting me on the chest. And it didn't hurt me, hurt, so I just let her hit me. But the son, must have been his son, finally had to come and restrain her. But that was my other incident that I can remember fighting in Italy.

TI: And Nelson, how did that make you feel? What were you thinking or feeling when this woman, this grandmother, was pounding you on the chest?

NA: Oh, I was saying, "Oh, it doesn't hurt, it doesn't hurt. I'll just let her pound me." No, I wasn't thinking about anything else. But anyway, I was thinking to myself, after I thought about that incident a few months later or a few years later, I was there to end the war so that she could have peace.

TI: Okay, that's good.

NA: That's what I thought about that incident, but I also witnessed the, I'm quite sure it was the first presidential unit citation that the 100th Battalion received. And while I was watching that, I had butterfly feeling from head to toe when I heard the national anthem and the American flag being paraded in dusty old Italian field. And that was another experience I had. And another experience I had in Italy, there was a stream, just a trickle of water coming down the stream with holes in the rock with a water puddle in. And during combat, you never bathe. You don't have time to take a bath, so you're all filthy and dirty. Sometimes we never bathed for a whole month while we're in combat. And so when I saw that, I just stripped down right then and there, and we always carry, you know, everything in our backpack, so I got my bar of soap out and bathing, and all of a sudden, they said, "March order," which means, you know, "Pack up, we're moving out." And so there I was, naked, taking a bath, so I hurried up and finished my bath and put my clothes back on. And we're never supposed to take our ID tag off, so I had that, I had that laying on the rock, and lo and behold, I forgot to put that back on. And boy, did I ever get reprimanded when I went for a new, went to the supply sergeant for a new ID tag. He really reprimanded me up and down. [Laughs] But anyway, I didn't say a word, and he got me a new... but anyway, there's a, my name tag is somewhere in Italy, unless someone picked it up by now.

TI: Good, that's a good story.

NA: Yeah, taking a bath was a luxury in combat. And then aside from getting shelled and -- oh, and there was one incident when the searchlight was in the middle of the night, the army set up searchlights pointing toward the enemy. We could see, that way we could see them in the dark, but they couldn't see us because the reflection from the searchlight would blind them. And so I remember that, too, we had searchlight to help the infantry even in the evening. And that was probably when we were expecting a counterattack because it was one hill called Hill 140, where the Germans killed a lot of Nisei soldiers. And so I experienced that, too.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

NA: And another thing I experienced, we had anti-aircraft Caucasian units protecting us from the German planes. And one of the crew member from that anti-aircraft outfit was gonna get a pass to go home. So he was so thrilled about being able to go home because his mother had passed away. And it was raining just hard as it could, it was a summer monsoon, probably, in Italy, dry old hot Italy, and it was just pouring rain. And here this soldier, Caucasian soldier was sleeping in that rain with no protection, rain pouring down on him, and we said, "Hey, get under cover." He says, "Oh, no, I'm going home tomorrow, so I'm going to just, I'm just enjoying the rain," he said. And, and then in Italy, we were able to fraternize with the Italian people, and so in one position, we struck -- well, my other machine gunner, Morishita from Seattle that I told you about? He, he and I was walking around the field, and we came upon this Italian boy. Oh, he must have been eighteen years old, and we struck up, up a conversation with him. And we found out he was an opera singer, so right out in the open, we said, "Hey, sing to us." So he started singing, oh, he had a wonderful voice. That voice, we could hear it echo all throughout the valley. And so that was another kind of a treat we had as a soldier.

And by then, the Caucasian soldiers knew the Niseis, we were good fighters, and so they were friendly with us. In the stateside, they used to call us "Japs," and we used to have to have a fight with them and all that kind of stuff. But on the battlefield, we were good fighters, and all the Caucasian units knew we were. And we were attached to the 34th Division, and again, Morishita and I was just walking around the countryside taking in the views. And we were walking on this railroad track, and lo and behold we came to a warehouse, and the warehouse was occupied by the American army bakery, and we could smell the aroma of the fresh bread. And it didn't, and since the Caucasians, they were now our friends and we were their friends, we were their friends more than they were our friend because we still had bitterness from the discrimination in the stateside. But anyway, this one fellow, he was out for a smoke by the door, and he waved like this. And we said, "Oh, what's he want?" When we got there, he said, "Hey, you guys hungry?" and we said, "Yes." And so he came out, he went back in and came out with two loaves of bread. He said, "Here, catch," threw us one loaf of bread apiece, and it was still warm. And boy, talk about a feast, that bread tasted so good, Morishita ate his whole loaf by himself, and I ate my loaf, whole loaf by myself, and boy, I'm telling you, that's the best-tasting bread I ever had. Good old hot bread right out of the oven.

TI: Good, that's a good story.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Now, can we move to Italy -- oh, I'm sorry, France.

NA: Okay.

TI: So let's go to France now, and in the same way, tell me some memories of France.

NA: Okay. Now, in France, we landed in Marseilles, and it was, oh, weather was getting kind of rough. So to land in Marseilles, we had to go over the side of the ship on a net, and since the sea was rough, the landing craft would bob up seven feet, and I say seven feet because it was about the height of the edge of the top of the landing craft, that's how deep that, the wall of the landing craft was. So it was bobbing up and down, so that meant that the net was also bobbing up seven feet. And then the landing craft, at the same time, it was going up and down, was slamming against the ship and moving back out, slamming against the ship, and if anybody went in hanging on the net, fell in between the ship and the landing craft, they would have been crushed to death. But, so it was quite a job, quite a chore going over the side with the net into the landing craft. But anyway, by teamwork, we all got in the ship, hundred of us got in the landing craft safely. And we proceeded to go to the shore, and I was right in the front where the doors went down, landing platform went down. And so I was right in the front where the water was coming in and I was all soaking wet. And then on top of that, after we landed, it started raining. Boy, it was raining just cats and dog, and what a muddy mess it was.

And then from there, we were trucked all the way, I don't know how many hundred miles to the front line, and that was right before Bruyeres, and we were committed to battle for the liberation of Bruyeres, and we succeeded in that after heavy casualty. And by that time, it was already raining up there and it was cold and wet, and the forest, the trees were three to four, five feet apart, that's how thick the forest was, and we were fighting from tree to tree. And then after that, we liberated Biffontaine, and after we liberated Biffontaine, this was all in the forest, Vosges forest, we got words to rescue the "Lost Battalion." And the "Lost Battalion," the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division, and the A, B, C and... A, B, C Company were trapped behind the German lines. They just advanced too quickly, and so they got trapped. And we had to go liberate them, it took four days.

TI: And so Nelson, I want to ask, in this case, when the "Rescue of the Lost Battalion," what role did the 522nd play? I mean, where, what did you guys do during the rescue?

NA: During the rescue, we had forward observers up the front line that relayed back the enemy position. And the, therefore, the guns were anywhere from two, three, four miles behind the front line, and the only way we could give artillery protection to the infantry was to lob the shell up high and then go straight down. Because normally, the trajectory would be on about a thirty, forty degree angle. But the trees, but the shells would hit the tree first and explode, and it wouldn't even reach the enemies, so we had to lob it up and make the shell go down without hitting the tree. But we, that's how we gave them artillery support, we had forward observers relaying back to our guns saying, "Machine gun, enemy spotted, enemy machine gun. We need artillery support."

TI: It seems that, you know, one of the difficult things is, especially for the rescue of the Lost Battalion, the lines were pretty close to each other. And so how, how could the 522nd be so accurate? I mean, if they, if they missed, if they were short, they would hit their own people.

NA: Right.

TI: So what, what would they do to be, to keep them safe?

NA: I guess when it was too close, the artillery couldn't help, but we were pretty, pretty accurate, put it that way. So we could fire three hundred, hundred yards would be, I'll bet, I'll be we could fire a hundred yard, which would be one football field length, or ever closer, and still hit the enemy and not hit our own troop.

TI: So you're saying your accuracy was within a hundred yards, you could...

NA: Oh, yes. We would, we were really sure of our accuracy.

TI: Even though you were two, three miles away, you could hit it within a hundred yards?

NA: Oh, yeah.

TI: Now, was that, was that typical of other artillery units, or do you think you guys were better than some of the other units?

NA: Anything closer than a hundred yards, let's see, when I went up there, that machine gun nest had to be a hundred yards, three hundred feet away, and we were in the forest and the Germans were down in the valley. And from our position, we could see them with our naked eye, but better with our binoculars. And so it had to be a hundred yards, but we, we did give 'em support even closer than that in, in other combat areas. But, but artillery really did save a lot of infantry casualties.

TI: Yeah, that's... thank you.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So now I want to, again, jump ahead, 'cause there's a point where the 522nd split apart from the 442. Can you talk about that and when that happened?

NA: Okay. After the rescue of the Lost Battalion, the infantry was so low that they couldn't be called a fighting unit, so the whole 442nd Regimental Combat Team along with the 100th Battalion was sent down south to the Maritime Alps to hold the line. And while we were there, from the end of November or the middle of November 'til March of 1945, which was about five to six months, we received a replacement from the state, so the infantry was at full strength. And the infantry had what they called the Gothic Line, which held the, held up three divisions in Italy while we were fighting in France. General Mark Clark requested that the 442nd Regimental, regiment, 100th/442nd infantry regiment be shipped back to Italy to break the Gothic Line, and the 522nd Field Artillery, since shipping us back to Italy would have been a big job because we had all that big gun. And so we got shipped back to fight in Italy -- I mean, Germany. And so we started in France, a few miles before German soil, and so we, the 522nd, after being separated from the infantry, we went back into eastern France, and then from there we fought through the, I think it was the Maginot Line, we fought through that, and then fought in German soil up to the Rhine river and we stopped in March.

And the 522nd had to go, and then one evening, when the order came to advance, we crossed the Rhine River. And to cross the Rhine River, the Germans had bombers patrolling the Rhine River day and night. And that night, everything opened up, anti-aircraft artillery -- I mean, anti-aircraft guns, the field artillery, you name it. Everything opened up. And the anti-aircraft outfit knocked down every bomber that was flying, every German bomber that was patrolling the Rhine River, and it was already dark. And then midnight, under smokescreen, the 522nd went across the Rhine, we crossed the Rhine River over a pontoon bridge. And to this day, how we never lost anything, no personnel, no truck, nothing, no gun, nothing, we didn't lose anything. We crossed that in the dark, under smokescreen, too, midnight. And then once we got over on the other side, we didn't know where the front line was, so I was with a... what would you call it? A... not a reconnaissance party, but a party that was -- by that time, I was a forward observer since we lost so many men up at the, rescuing the Lost Battalion. One of the scout got hit, and he couldn't fight anymore, so I replaced him, and then I became a scout to go up the front line. But anyway, because of my...

TI: Your scout experience?

NA: Yeah, because of my position I held, I had to be a road marker, tell the trucks which way to go, and this was all in the dark, two, three o'clock in the morning, couldn't even see the, my hand. So all I had to go by was with the noise. And I didn't say, "Turn here," or anything, the truck automatically turned this way or that way. And then in the process, we didn't know where the front line was, so we got shelled. And one, one... in the... I still don't know what we were called that were dropped off along the route to direct traffic. But anyway, we were directing traffic, and when we all assembled to, after all the trucks went by, we assembled to go back and catch up with the unit, and we got shelled in the middle of the night. So we must have been where, German had scouts where we were, and then they asked for field artillery to knock us out, and so we got shelled. But since it was in the dark, they didn't know if they hit us or not, but one, just one, Private Sakata, had his rifle button broken, I think one of the shell fragments hit the rifle but no casualty.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

NA: Okay, so that was, that was our experience crossing the Rhine River. And after that, it was just a matter of chasing the Germans all the way back to Austria. And then along the way, we came upon this Dachau concentration camp. And it was just by accident, we had come across other concentration camp way back in Aalen, that was a few days after we crossed the Rhine River, but to go liberate a concentration camp while our own folks were in concentration in the United States, we didn't even think that kind of thing would happen. But yes, the forward echelon, the forward party like the wire section, the forward observers and a few forward, and the reconnaissance party, they definitely were at the main Dachau camp, and that would be just a few. But the, but as a unit, it was a sub-camp, there were many sub-camps of the main Dachau concentration camp. And it was a sub-camp that we opened up the gate, and see the inmates firsthand, they're shuffling around in their striped garb, if you want to call it that, and the POW uniform, and the just skinny. And they looked so sick to me, although I had compassion to, wanting to help them, I stayed away from them. Because others, they went inside the compound and came out with fleas on 'em and things like that. And said, "I don't want any of that," so I didn't even go inside the compound. But since the, since we ate there, right by the gate, we had chow, and I don't know if it was the noon chow or the evening, but we set up and we were able to eat. And the POWs were milling around, and after we, and we were given orders not to feed, feed the prisoners because solid food would kill them. So the cooks, they put water in the garbage can every time after we eat, we scooped the leftover from our mess kit into the garbage can, but this time it was filled full of water so the POWs couldn't get the food. But now way did that stop the POWs, Jew, I think it was a Jewish camp, so we couldn't stop the Jewish prisoners from getting food out of the, the garbage can, they dip their hand in the water and ate the food, even that filthy food. And without shame, boy, it must have hit them just that quick. As soon as the food hit them, they had to do their duty, so they would pull their pants down right in front of us, walk to the side and drop their pants and do their duty. I saw all that and oh, boy, I'm telling you, it was hard to, hard to take.

TI: And when you saw this, when you first came across this, what did you think?

NA: Oh, I said, "Wow," we had compassion for 'em, and we said, "Oh, I wish we could help 'em," but we couldn't help them. And well, anyway, majority of them couldn't, but I think some of the cooks, they shared the food we had leftover and gave it them, but it killed them, yeah.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Now, you formed, actually, an acquaintance or friendship with one of the men, one of the Jewish survivors that you got to, later on, you formed a relationship with this person? A reunion with Larry?

NA: Oh, with Larry Lubetsky, yes.

TI: Can you, can you talk about Larry a little bit and who he was?

NA: Okay. During the process of advancing day after day, chasing the Germans back, we came upon -- well, when I say "we," our unit came -- I don't know where I was. I might have been in that convoy but fast asleep. Because in the service, you fight twenty-four hours a day. In the daytime you're fighting, in the evening you're on guard, and we're all tired. And so I was tired, too, and soon as we get in the, our vehicle to move from one position to another, we're dead tired and fall asleep that quick, and nothing could wake us up. And so, so I might have been asleep or I might not even been with that group when we came, came across these POWs that were down in the ravine, according to what I heard. And then our captain said, "Can any of you speak English?" and this one Lithuanian Jew said, "I can." And he knew many languages, not only the German and English language, he knew his own Jewish language, probably knew a little Russian 'cause Lithuania is next to Russia. And anyway, the captain picked him up, but I don't remember that. And the others that were awake or with that convoy, I might have been a forward echelon group that went ahead, and wasn't even in on that convoy. But the others been telling that they saw, they saw thousands of POWs. I didn't see not a one. But, except for, you know, after we got into position then they came milling around our outfit, and then when we liberated them from the camp and ate lunch or supper there, yes, I saw them. But when we rescued Larry Lubetsky, I didn't see not a one, I don't remember seeing not a one, I did not see the captain picking him up, so I must have been up on the forward echelon or bringing up the rear, one of the two. And if I was with the captain of the scout, always was near the captain, I had to be near the captain. And so I might have been just dead to the world asleep when all that happened.

TI: But much later, you met him, fifty years later. Why don't you talk about that?

NA: And somehow, after Larry, after we came back to the States, Larry joined up with other American outfits, and they, and from there, he went to Jerusalem to fight that Four-Day War, he had something to do with that, too. And then from there, he tried to locate his family, and he found out later that his mother was only a few miles from him at one time. And also, he found out his family was in Mexico. So after fighting the Four-Day War in Jerusalem, he went to Canada, and we knew when he was in Canada because he was corresponding with our captain. But after that, we lost contact. And so from there, he went to Mexico City, which we didn't know, so at, so I said to myself, "Gee, I wonder what happened to Larry?" because I got to be pretty good friend with him when he was with us. And so I said, "I'll just go to Washington, D.C., because they have that Holocaust Center," so I went there that one time when they said it would be open. So I went there, but it wasn't open, so I came home disappointed. And a few months later, I went back because there was a 442nd reunion, or I went back for some reason. And that time, the Holocaust Center was open, and with a picture that he gave me of himself with his POW number on the back, it said, "Don't remember me as Larry, remember me as being POW number 82123," I remembered that. And so with that photo and his POW number, I went over to the Holocaust Center in Washington, D.C., and this time I was able to go in. And the way I got in, you had to get a card to enter, but instead, I just went up there and I said, "I'm looking for a POW, can you help me?" And they know, at the Holocaust Center, that Niseis had some doings with the liberating the Jews. He said, "Oh, you don't have to wait. Come on in, come on in." And boy, he just pulled me right in without having to get in line, and I had the liberty of going through the whole center.

And lo and behold, after that meeting, about six months later, the, I get a phone call from Mexico City. And I was in church, so I came back and I got on the recording machine and found out that Larry called. And boy, right away, I called him. The Holocaust Center wouldn't give me Larry's position or where he lived, but they gave Larry where I lived. And so I called, and lo and behold, to this day, I don't know if we cried more or talked, but anyway, it was a real joyful reunion. And then the fiftieth year reunion was to happen in Los Angeles, so two, three of us got together and bought his plane ticket from Mexico City to be with us at the reunion, and boy, he gave us a mighty good talk. He was one of the main speakers at our reunion, 522 reunion, and then after that, it came out in the newspaper that Larry Lubetsky, after fifty years, got to reunite with his old buddies in the 522 Field Artillery Battalion. And Tom Snyder got a hold of that news, and he called me in Salt Lake City, and he called Larry in Mexico City to be on his program. So we both were on the program, once in a lifetime experience. And so, and since then we've been corresponding back and forth until about two years ago, he quit corresponding, and we don't know if he passed away. So we've been trying to find out if he passed away, but we haven't had any luck.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Okay, so Nelson, now we're gonna pick it up sort of when you got discharged. So now we're through Europe -- I know we're jumping ahead a lot here -- but let's now pick it up when you were discharged back in Salt Lake City. So why don't you pick up the story around there?

NA: All right. While I was in the service, my family, by way of Idaho, finally ended up in Salt Lake City. And so when, when I was in Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia, that's where my port of... well, that's where I landed. And when I was there, they asked me where do I want to get discharged, and I told them, "Salt Lake City," because my folks were already here, but I didn't know anything about Salt Lake City because I've never been here. But anyway, I came back, and was discharged in Salt Lake City. And the first thing I did was, under the GI Bill, it ended up that I could go to the university under the Public Law 16, which was for disabled veterans. So Public Law 16, they paid us a hundred dollars a month, whereas the GI Bill only paid, twenty, thirty dollars a month. So I took advantage of that, but by that time, I had posttraumatic syndrome. I would have nightmares every night, not only due to the fighting but all that pressure I built up inside because I hate, I hate, I hate, because I was discriminated so much.

TI: And back then, what did they call that? Did they call it Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome?

NA: No, they called it Section 8, "going crazy." They called it Section 8, there was no such thing as Posttraumatic Syndrome, they didn't know about it. But I had it, yeah. So after we were...

TI: And I'm sorry, so Nelson, can you describe again what the symptoms were? You said nightmares...

NA: Oh, nightmares, and I didn't want to associate with any Caucasian. It didn't matter who they were, but I didn't want to associate with Caucasians anymore, 'cause I hated them so, so much because of the discrimination and what had happened. And, but I could still associate with Japanese Americans, but I made a mistake there. When I was going up to the university, it was math, I don't know which math it was, but it used, I knew that most of the tests were gonna be open-book tests, so I used to write all the notes in the book. And one day, another Japanese student up there said, "Could I borrow your math book?" I says, "Oh, you bet, you're Japanese, I can trust you," so I gave it to him. And then the next day he said he lost it. And wow. [Laughs] And that plus I was taking political science --

TI: Well, going back to that, so when he, he told you he lost it...

NA: He lost it.

TI: ...did you just explode, did you get angry, or what happened?

NA: Oh, no, I was angry at him, but I could not nothing. He lost it, so I had to buy another... I don't know if he gave me another one, but anyway, I got another one, but no notes in it. Wow. So my math was licked. And then I was registered in political science, I mean, I was taking political science, and the professor said that "Japanese, it was a good thing that the Japanese were put in..." I don't know if he used the word "concentration camp," but he said, put in that form. He said it was a good thing that the Japanese were put in camp, but, and that, that really burned me up, but what can I do? He already had told the whole class of hundred or whatever. Those days, the classes were so large because there were so many G.I. Bill, Bill of Righters. But, and then, and then I had this posttraumatic syndrome and a few other things, so I couldn't even study any more. I was, here I was an 'A' student, and now I could study, those days I could read the book assignment once and be, close the book and be ready for a test. Here, I did the same thing up at the university. I said, "I'll just read the assignment once and I'll be ready for a test." Close the book, I didn't, I couldn't remember a thing, not a thing. Well, my memory was shot, seventy-five percent was maybe a passing grade, but that would be twenty-five percent loss of memory. And so I closed the book and I forgo twenty-five percent of what I read, but I'm, but I'm still thinking I could pass the test, go test, I'd go take the test. Wow, I can't answer the test, simple questions. And I says, "What's wrong with me?" And I didn't know at that time I had posttraumatic syndrome except I know in the evenings, I'm rassling the blanket, 'cause every morning the blanket was all twisted around and bed all messed up and everything. And that kept up for, oh, fifteen years, even after the war. But in the meantime, I was trying to adjust myself, and just little by little.

But I want to tell you why I went to war, finally, after I came back. First of all, I thought it was just to be in the war, just to be fighting. But being in the service had its... what is it called, hidden blessings? It had its hidden blessings. Now I have found out that I went to war so that I, along with my family and all other Japanese Americans, can have their freedom. So I went to war so that we could have our freedom and be accepted, accepted in the American mainstream. And I also went to war so that that Italian grandmother could have peace, okay. And then when I went on a, when I came home on my furlough, at that time, the family was still living in Idaho. On the way back, I had a couple hour layover in St. Louis, Missouri, and I went to the train depot restaurant to eat. And while I was there -- this was back in 194-, still 1943. I stopped in St. Louis on the way back to Camp Shelby to eat, and lo and behold, this girl, the waitress, there weren't too many eating there, maybe me and another guy were the only two there. So the waitress came over to talk to me, and not once did she ask me what nationality I was. She just took me as an American soldier, and boy, after I left, I said, "Wow, that kind of melted the hate I had in me." It started, melted me, melted a little bit. So I went, and I said, "Well, I went to war for that nice girl that was so friendly to me." And I said, "Gee, I wish all the Caucasians were like that," you know, I said to myself. And then I also went to war because no more letters could be sent by a soldier with the word "perhaps." Because during the "Lost Battalion," there were so many German soldiers just dead in the forest, and I, I didn't see the dead German soldier, but I think the letter I picked up was from a dead German soldier. He was already probably picked up and taken back for burial, but I picked up this letter, and every country we went, Italy, France and Germany, we used go get this phrasebook, and I could read Italian, German and French. So I read the letter, and almost every other paragraph started out with the word "perhaps." "Perhaps I'll make it through this war," "Perhaps I'll die," "Perhaps I'll be able to do this after I get discharged," or, "Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps." And so, so I went to war so no more letters with the word "perhaps" will be sent. And then what else did I...

TI: So, so instead of the word "perhaps," what word would you, would you use? Instead of "perhaps," so you're saying you don't want this uncertainty? Like, "perhaps this, perhaps that," you would rather it be what? That it will be this way, kind of?

NA: Oh, no. That if we don't have any more wars, I would think, well, if World War II stopped all other wars from then on, I thought at the time, then, then there won't be any more soldiers so they don't have to write back to their family and start out a sentence with the word "perhaps," and that's what I mean by it. But since World War II, there's still been conflicts all over the world, and people, and soldiers are still fighting a war.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So Nelson, we're kind of running out of time. So I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to bring you back to Salt Lake City. And let's pick it up in terms of your activities in Salt Lake City.

NA: Oh, that's right, we forgot that. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, so we're, let's talk about, so in particular, I want to go in terms of leading up to your marriage.

NA: Okay.

TI: So let's go to, like, mid-1960s, and when you decided to join the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints.

NA: Okay.

TI: So let's talk about that.

NA: Okay. In 1960, after still being discriminated because I bought my home in 1962, I had to get permission from the family living in front of me, back of me, and both side of me that it's alright for me to buy that house. So discrimination was still in the state of Utah.

TI: So you had to get actual permission, written permission from these families?

NA: I had to...

TI: Or they wouldn't sell you the house? I mean, that's the way it worked?

NA: And the real estate man wouldn't sell it to me if any one of them objected me buying the house.

TI: And so how did that make you feel, that you had to do that?

NA: Oh, I thought that guy that, first Japanese 442nd person that I saw dead that I described, I thought, "Wow, maybe he did die in vain." But now that we got our constitutional rights back and all that kind of stuff, I know he didn't die in vain because what service we did had a hidden blessing: we got all our rights back. Okay, so now, but now we'll fast-forward to 1960. In 1960, I said, "Wow, I been working on the farm all this time and I've got to... and that wasn't a good way to make money. So I got a job with Hercules making missiles, and it was just about an impossibility because of being Japanese American. And so I had my attorney friend write a flowery letter stating that I was a veteran of the 442nd, one with the most, most decoration for its size and length of service, and the one with the most casualty.

So I finally got a job over there, and making pretty good money. But I said, "Gee, I'm still single." And up to now, I didn't think too much about getting married. And so I started looking for a Japanese girl that were attending BYU. And one day, after, well, after the Caucasian missionaries tried to convert me into a Mormon, I said, "Nothing doing. I don't want to join your church." Well, when I started dating these girls from BYU, they said, "Oh, there's a Japanese LDS church in Salt Lake City," and they said to go over there. And so I went over there, and whereas I used to attend the LDS ward in Draper where I lived, but they weren't friendly to me even if they knew me, they wouldn't say, "Hi," or anything. But when I went to the Dai Ichi branch, it was called a branch then -- "branch" is a small group of people in the LDS church. Well, when I went there, from the first day, they came over and shook hands with me and made me feel right at home, and I says, "Wow, these guys are friendly," so I said, "Okay, I'll join the church," and so I was baptized into the church. And made a member of the church, and maybe a year or two later, I was married. I married a girl from Japan, she was a student at the Hawaii LDS church, and she was over here. She was working already and attending the church. So I married her, but then she passed away after giving me two children, so I lost her in 1974.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So I actually want to go back... so it was really tragic about your wife dying in '74. But I'm, going back to how the church accepted you, you mentioned earlier how at the Draper ward, they weren't very friendly, then you joined the Dai Ichi branch, and they were much more friendly. Once you joined the, the church, how did you find, were they very accepting of Japanese Americans once you were a member?

NA: Oh, once I was a member, the Caucasians that knew me kind of made fun of me being a Japanese Mormon, and, but they wouldn't, it was just as a joke, they would tease me. They'll say they were teasing me, not discriminating me. And, but I got along good with them after that, especially with the Mormon people, even that Mormon attorney that got me the job at Hercules, he, he was working on me to join the church. But I wouldn't listen to him either, but after I joined, he did a lot of good things for me. And so, so it was a hidden blessing that I did join the church to be accepted both... well, mainly by the Caucasian people. But the total stranger walking on the street down in Salt Lake City, even back in '65, they didn't know, they couldn't distinguish a Japanese American from the Japanese people in Japan. Because one total stranger, he worked for the Salt Lake Tribune, the newspaper, and he got laid off because the computer from Japan, made in Japan, displaced him. Anybody that couldn't operate the computer -- when did it become popular that the computers would take over a lot of handwork and job in the newspaper industry?

TI: Maybe in the '80s.

NA: In the '80s? So even as late as in the '80s, a total stranger walking down, as I walked down to Salt Lake City, would come up and say, "It was all your fault that I lost my job at the Tribune. I got displaced by a computer." Well, if he's dumb enough to, dumb enough that he couldn't operate a computer, he deserved to be laid off, and he shouldn't pick on me. But like him, he's a total stranger. So I know a total stranger elsewhere would have discrimination against me because I look like a Japanese.

TI: So this was, yeah, in the 1980s in particular, there was a lot of Japan-bashing. I think it happened in, like, auto-making places because of Toyota and things like that, too.

NA: Oh, that's right, uh-huh.

TI: But, so let's go back to the LDS church. Did you get a sense, was there sort of Japan-bashing within the church, or how did they view other minority groups, ethnic minorities?

NA: Well, at one time, the headquarters here in Salt Lake City, the LDS headquarters, they, I think, did mention something about disbanding the Japanese LDS church, there's only one. And, but...

TI: I'm sorry, is this the LDS church in Japan, or are you talking about the one in Salt Lake City?

NA: In Salt Lake City.

TI: So the, kind of the ward or the branch you're talking about?

NA: Uh-huh. So they said, "Let's disband the Japanese ward and let us go to our local ward." Because the Japanese ward is in one locality, and the Japanese Americans would have to travel twenty miles or whatever to come to church. Well, the, then the Japanese leader of the Japanese LDS church said, "No, we don't want to disband because we're still getting people from Japan that are LDS, and we don't want them to leave the church because they have no place to go. They won't go to the American LDS church," so we were able to continue. But now, they have never said about disbanding the Japanese church. In fact, now they're saying that you cannot join the Dai Ichi ward unless you have Japanese connection.

TI: So it's almost reverse discrimination. You need to be Japanese or have a Japanese connection.

NA: Yeah, you have to be a, we're discriminating against the Caucasian now, saying, "You cannot come to our church."

<End Segment 26> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Now, the Dai Ichi ward, is that mostly Japanese or Japanese American?

NA: It's, it's both. We have many from Japan, they're going to school here or they come here to work, so they come to our church. And then the locals, they have to be Japanese or if it was a Caucasian, have to be married to a Japanese American. So we have Caucasian at our ward, but they have to have Japanese ties, and any Caucasian without Japanese ties cannot come join us.

TI: And how large is the Dai Ichi ward?

NA: Oh, 250, 300 members.

TI: And is it growing or staying the same size?

NA: It's growing. It's growing, but at the same time it's growing, we're losing a few because they go back to Japan or they move out. But then the new LDS people coming from Japan fills up the gap, keep up the population.

TI: So this next question I want to ask is how, in Salt Lake City, how, like, the Japanese Americans who are Buddhist or Protestant, how do they look at Japanese Americans who are LDS? Is there any kind of differences or anything?

NA: Oh, no. There's no hatred because the Japanese Americans that were JACL credit union honchos, they were LDS. And right now, the... are they called the president of the JACL credit union? But anyway, he's an LDS. And then we have Buddhist secretaries working there, Christian secretaries working there, Christian... so we all get along together. They, they come to our LDS functions and we go to their Protestant function or Buddhist function, dinner, we help each other. And then the JACL are made up of all Japanese American, Buddhist, Protestant or LDS or Muslims, there might be one or two. I know there was one or two Jew, Jewish member, full-blooded Japanese that went to the Jewish church that come to our Japanese functions.

TI: So it sounds like Salt Lake City, the people in Salt Lake City are pretty accepting or tolerant of other religions.

NA: Oh, we accept each other, no segregation there, we all support each other.

TI: Okay, good. Well, good, because Salt Lake City, it's just interesting to me because of such a strong influence of the LDS church, so I was just curious if there were any differences, so that was good. Thank you for that. We're out of time now, so I want to ask if there's anything that you want to finish with, any last words?

NA: Oh, well, I want to thank you for being, for being, I mean, for being here to get my story. Because the stories still have to be out to the general public because... what is it? Ninety percent of the Caucasian population don't know of the Japanese American contribution to this country, both economically and war-wise. They don't know, and so our story has to get up and get out. And so, and long as there's people with Japanese blood, or any other nationality, whether they're Muslims or whatnot, people will have to accept us as Americans and not as foreigners. And the only way is to get our story out and fight for the other minorities, tell 'em, "No more of what we went through, no more of that kind of stuff for other nationality also," yeah. Look like we're doing a pretty good job, you're doing a pretty good job.

TI: Well, especially with help from you, Nelson. So thank you very much for taking the time. It was a pleasure meeting you.

NA: Okay.

TI: Thank you.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.