Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George Yoshinaga Interview
Narrator: George Yoshinaga
Interviewer: Alisa Lynch
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: August 10, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_5-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

AL: So one of the things that obviously Heart Mountain is so well known for I think a lot of people think about well, Estelle Ishigo obviously, but even more so the issue of military service, the draft, the Fair Play Committee and I know you were younger than those guys, but what are you aware of... like why is that Heart Mountain is known as the place of draft resistance whereas like at Manzanar there wasn't organized draft resistance?

GY: Well, the thing was that there was two... Frank Emi, he was the instigator of the... and he would go around and talk to the parents. I remember he came to talk to my mother when he found out I was going to go into the service. And he was telling her that she should talk to me about rejecting going into the service. And he had two other people I can't think of their names right offhand but they would go around and talk to the families of these kids and a lot of them when their parents say don't go, they just didn't go.

AL: Why do you think he was doing that?

GY: I don't know what his personal... I knew him, you know, I know him and in fact I know his wife and I just don't understand why he was so adamant about the Japanese Americans not serving. And that's another point that I guess I don't agree with a lot of people is that today they are considered to be heroes, the ones that said, "no-no." And my response to that, 'cause I know one of the guys that he's from Mountain View, he was a "no-no" and they sent him to prison in Washington. But his thinking was completely different and I figured that everybody else in that group must have thought the same way but since I knew him well and he used to talk to me about why he wasn't going. And so Frank is the guy that instilled this in his mind or in his parents' mind.

AL: And a lot of people that we have... of course we have people who come to Manzanar who don't know anything about this or that it even happened. So and then of course you have people who were in the camps and one of the things that people are often seemed to be confused about is the difference between the "no-nos" who went to Tule Lake and who answered the "loyalty questionnaire" and said "no-no," and the draft resisters who were not necessarily "no-nos." So could you explain for someone listening to this tape what the difference is and how you see that difference?

GY: Well, unfortunately I think lot of the "no-nos" had an entirely different outlook because their parents were more Japanese oriented. And whereas the draft resisters had all different types of reasons for resisting the draft. And one thing is people that I know, they just couldn't see going into the military not because they were in camp, they were just anti-military.

AL: Do you, just stepping back from that for a second, do you recall the "loyalty questionnaire" in your family and any discussions that you had with your mom for instance?

GY: Well, my mom was more for me obeying whatever our government told us. She always had that philosophy that we're Americans and we're Americans first. That's one thing that I learned from them, that's one of the few things, is that even though I'm Japanese I'm really an American. So when I was drafted it never occurred to me I'm not going to do it.

AL: So when you were drafted did you go in right at the height of the whole resistance movement?

GY: Yeah.

AL: At Heart Mountain?

GY: They jeered us more than they jeered the "no-nos."

AL: Were you there when Ben Kuroki visited Heart Mountain?

GY: Yeah.

AL: What do you recall about that?

GY: Well, I kind of, I thought it was a great that he would... I have a couple of pictures I took with him, you know.

AL: At that time or since then?

GY: At that time.

AL: Oh really?

GY: Yeah.

AL: That would be interesting. So what was the reception like for him there?

GY: I didn't sense any hostility, I thought more people considered him to be kind of a hero. But of course one thing I thought was like the "no-nos" or the draft resisters, they didn't want to be too public about their philosophy.

AL: Did his visit have anything to do with your decision to serve later?

GY: No, I just... I thought it was my, you know, even though we were there in camp and all, that's why the people my age we seemed to... we never had that we always felt that hey, we're Americans. If the country wants me to go in the military I'm there.

AL: Did you know Ted Fujioka?

GY: Yeah, he was killed in... he volunteered you know. So he went into service six months before I did and I guess that six months made the difference of he went into combat and I went to CIC school.

AL: Were you still in camp when he was killed or were you already in the military?

GY: He left and then I left six month after him.

AL: But was he... were you in camp when you heard that he was killed?

GY: Oh, yeah, he ran for first student body president and I was his opposition.

AL: Oh, really?

GY: Yeah. And then he got 350 votes and I must have got ten. [Laughs]

AL: I've heard people I don't know, do you know Shig Yabu?

GY: The what?

AL: Shig Yabu? Do you know him?

GY: The name is familiar.

AL: He wrote the book, Hello Maggie, about the little magpie.

GY: Oh, yeah, that's right. He was what four years old?

AL: He was a little older than that, I think he was maybe nine or ten. Actually Shig is born I think in 1932 so he's, yeah, about ten years old. But Shig and another, Kay Inaba, a number of people I know who were at Heart Mountain have talked about when Ted Fujioka was killed and the huge impact it had on them because he was this student body president, I think he played football also didn't he? He did something in sports.

GY: No, but he was a popular individual. I mean, being from Hollywood, I guess, that kind of added to his prestige.

AL: So how did you hear that he was killed?

GY: Somebody wrote me. I was in basic training and they said, "Did you know Ted was killed?" And I was shocked you know. In fact his brother's wife was at the party last night, Babe Fujioka.

AL: Was Babe here this time?

GY: I haven't seen him.

AL: I haven't seen him either.

GY: But she came up and she says do you remember me? And I said no. [Laughs]

AL: Do that Ted Fujioka is actually related to Sue Embrey by marriage?

GY: Oh, really?

AL: Sue's brother, Jack, do Jack Kunitomi?

GY: Oh, yeah, Jack, he worked in the paper too?

AL: Yes, and he also did sports didn't he? So Jack's wife, Masa, is Ted's sister.

GY: Oh.

AL: So her nephew Darrell does a program on the letters of Ted that I would actually like to have at Manzanar at some time and he's got all of Ted's letters and he does this play from that. But I know his name has come up many times when people talk about Ted.

GY: That's why it was stunning that because of his popularity and his fame in camp that when he was killed it was really something, more than any other person from Heart Mountain that lost their life in the war.

AL: Did it make you consider at all your own fate or future when you saw that Ted was killed?

GY: No.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.