Densho Digital Archive
Whitworth College - North by Northwest Collection
Title: George Morihiro - Jack Sameshima Interview
Narrators: George Morihiro - Jack Sameshima
Interviewer: Andrea Dilley
Date: 2003-2004
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_2_g-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

JS: My name is Jack Sameshima, and I was in L Company with the 442nd, went over a replacement in November of '44.

GM: My name is George Morihiro. I served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Company I. We fought right alongside of each other, more or less. And I also served in the Korean War.


AD: How do you know each other?

JS: Well, we knew each other I think in camp, huh, George? I used to see George in camp because we lived in the same block in internment camp, next to each other.

GM: That was in Area B in Puyallup, "Camp Harmony," Puyallup, that we knew each other, and then we went to Minidoka, and we were one block away.

JS: We knew each other and had a lot of common friends.

GM: Yeah, we were about the same age. I think I'm one year older.

JS: A lot older.

GM: When you're in camp you kind of congregate with your area friends. Not your old friends, because sometimes they're too far away.

AD: And how, tell us about how you were each drafted and where you were.

JS: Well, I think I was in camp at that time. I was through with high school, and I think the draft started in... when did they start the draft again? '44?

GM: '43.

JS: '43, end of '43?

GM: I think it was '43.

JS: Must have been toward the end of '43 because we were inducted early in '44. So they sent out a lot of the notices to the boys in camp, and we were in the first group that was called. So that was... we were too young at the time, I think, when they originally asked for -- I was, anyway, for volunteers for the 442nd.

GM: I tried to volunteer, but my mother cried so much, she said, "One in the family is enough." I had a brother in the army from 1941. So after watching my mother cry all day, I just gave it up. And I was in the army a couple months later.

AD: What prompted you to enlist?

JS: Well, they, we were inducted or drafted, but then we didn't oppose going. There was no problem, I think, with me, and I'm sure George, too. We didn't have any qualms about not going.

AD: What motivated you to go, Jack?

JS: Well, I think it was just something you're born with, serving your country, and even though you were not being treated as you would have liked, we were still Americans and that's the way I felt. That's part of your duty.

GM: And you have to go back to those days. When Pearl Harbor started, all young kids wanted to be in the army. There was no question about that. Our high school friends, didn't matter what nationality you were, everybody wanted to go in the army. They didn't want to be left behind. Well, we got separated, but still, in camp, under my condition I had a brother that was already in the army and I was very proud of him, the family was proud of him. And I wanted to join the army, too.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AD: What did you think about, during your time of service, relative to your sacrifice for the country?

GM: What did I think of what?

AD: How did you think of yourselves relative to the country that you were serving?

GM: Well, you know when you're young, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, they're very adventuresome in a way. You like to be in a particular crowd, and being in the service was a part of it. Being patriotic or something, that comes naturally. Being loyal to your country, you weren't born with it in the sense that when we went to school, we saluted the flag every morning, we'd pledge allegiance to our country, we thought of ourselves as true Americans, and when the time came for you to fight for your country, it's no problem there. I don't think there's a problem today with young people going into the army, but there are so many things today that you can do other than going in the army, or in the service, that they have to make a choice. In those days, I don't think there was a choice for young people. You either got accepted to go in, or didn't go. I think... times are different. It's hard to explain that, but you've got to remember, there's... from the very time you go to school in the first grade, you start saluting the flag and pledge allegiance to the flag, and told you're Americans, and you believe in America. It's no problem to go in the army. It's kind of a hard problem to tell somebody today why he should go in, but at that time, I think all young guys all wanted to go in.

JS: Being that the country was, your country was at war, too, and it was your country that you were defending or taking part in. So it was just natural that that's the way we were brought up, and that's the way we felt. It was not a matter that we were, our parents were from Japan or whatever, it was, we were brought up in the American way of life, and that's how we all felt.

GM: You also have to remember that unlike most young Americans, we had something taken away from us. We had our house, our business, we had our friends, everything was taken away from us. Our money, we had nothing. And we had to fight to get it back more or less. And we understood the problem a lot better than a lot of young Americans, but that didn't deter us for some reason or other. But it did make some people mad who lost more than they can stand. There's a lot of people that lost thousands and thousands of dollars of business.

JS: Lost their businesses and livelihood.

GM: Yeah, we lost our car, all of us lost our cars, our homes and friends. Well, main thing, we lost our freedom. And you don't understand freedom until you lose it. It's very, very big. It's hard to explain what freedom is 'til you lose it.

AD: Why did you serve for a country that had taken your freedoms from you?

GM: Why did I say that they took our freedom from us?

AD: No, why did you serve for a country that had taken your...

GM: Because it's my country. Where else could I go? Did you belong to do Japan? No. Which country do you belong to? You're only Japanese in blood. You're American by any other way. It's taken for granted today, but until you get this taken away from you -- and I don't mean put in jail because you committed a crime or something, you lose your freedom -- but you haven't lost your true freedom. You can go to court and everything else. We couldn't go to court, we didn't get any trial, we're picked up, thrown into, behind barbed wire fences, we had guns pointing at us. If you tried to leave the area, you'd get shot at, you'd get killed. But the main thing is this: born as an American, you had that freedom, and it was taken away from you. And how'd you explain freedom? You can't explain it until you get it taken away from you.

AD: I think that's real important, that we do take it for granted.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AD: What was tough about war?

GM: A lot of things. I'll tell you what, sleeping in the mud. Not being able to change your clothes although they're wet for days on end, freezing weather with just a jacket on, carrying that big, Jack and I carried a BAR. This is the biggest rifle in the army, it was twenty-one pounds. The ammo around your waist is fourteen pounds, the grenade on you is... I carried four of 'em, that's one pound apiece, I carried thirty-five pounds of equipment, and I carried my pack on top of everything else. I only weight 112 pounds. That's just tough walking a hundred yards, but you had to walk for days and days and miles and miles. There's a lot of things tough about the army. It's not the food that tastes lousy, it's not the K-ration that you had to cook yourself with crackers and a little can of meat, those things aren't tough, but the things that are tough is physical. Not what the country's done to you or whatever, that part that affects you, the elements, a lot of people think going in the army and going to war and fighting, but you're fighting a lot of other things.

JS: The fighting part is only a short thing. In between it's getting from point A to point B or whatever, doing whatever there is to fill your time.

GM: There's a lot of things that you don't like about the army. [Laughs]

JS: Make sure you dig your hole deep enough.

GM: Yeah, you only dig it a foot deep and then they come around and tell you to dig it four feet deep and you don't think you have to. There's a lot of tough things about the army. But there's a lot of fun, too. I think there's more fun than anything else. The camaraderie is very, very important. And the 442nd was different from any other unit. Because we were a segregated unit from Hawaii and the mainland. The Hawaiians spoke pidgin, we spoke more or less perfect English. And when the two mix, the Hawaiians thought we're acting smarter than them because we were laughing at the way they were talking to us, "no can do," and all that kind of English that was kind of hard to understand. But when we got together and during the war, we put that aside and the friendship that developed was so strong. And our goals, especially our goals were there, finally defined to us what we had to do. Because we cannot lose, because if we lost, we lost everything. It wasn't like any other American soldier that went off to war and fought. We fought because we had a purpose. Not just winning the war, not for our country, not for this. It was all this put together in one. It was very, very important that we win.

AD: Tell me more about that purpose. What was the purpose? More than just winning for the country, what was the purpose?

GM: Why? Because we knew what freedom was, first of all. We knew it was taken away from us, we had our mothers and fathers still in, behind barbed wire fence, we had to get 'em out. But it didn't matter if we lived long enough to see that or not, we had to do it. And the fighting there was... we saw the just cause to it. And there's other things that... that's what made us strong as a unit. But there's a lot of other things that made us better yet, such as the 442nd, you have to understand, was made up of educated young people. The U.S. Army was made up of young kids, but the 442nd was different. All of us in the 442nd were at least high school graduates. The rest of the army was young kids, some of 'em who couldn't speak or read or write or anything like that, we were all educated. The other thing is that the rest of the army was just trained to fight. We were trained very good, we were trained to fight to win. Our determination was different.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.