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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

AL: Okay, today is the 10th of August, 2010. We are at Main Street Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, with George Yoshinaga, also known as the "Horse's Mouth," Rafu Shimpo fame. And so good morning, Mr. Yoshinaga.

GY: Good morning.

AL: Thank you for joining us. The interviewer is Alisa Lynch, videographer Kirk Peterson, and observers are John Kepford and Daniel Inoue. So I would like to start before the interview and just get your permission that we can use this for educational and historical purposes.

GY: Yeah, that's fine.

AL: Okay, and could you tell me when and where you were born?

GY: I was born in Redwood City, California, and I hate to give the years but I feel my age. [Laughs]

AL: We won't tell. What month and day were you born?

GY: In July 19th, so I just had my birthday.

AL: Alright, and what is your full name?

GY: George Yoshinaga. I was one of the unusual individuals in that respect because most of our Issei parents gave a Anglo name and a Japanese name, but for some reason all my brothers and sisters had a Japanese name in addition to their English name but they just called me George and I don't know why. I never did ask them, probably because the only George they knew was George Washington. [Laughs]

AL: So it's actually George, it's not Joji or --

GY: No, George.

AL: Just George, okay. And what were your parents' names?

GY: My father was Isaburo and my mother was Tsuru.

AL: And could you spell their names please?

GY: Yeah, Isaburo is I-S-A-B-U-R-O and Tsuru is T-S-U-R-U.

AL: Do you know what Isaburo means? How it translates?

GY: No. It's one of the things I really didn't get too many opportunities to sit down and talk to my father, and my mother. And so I should have inquired a little bit more about my background. All I knew is where they came from.

AL: And where is that?

GY: In Kumamoto, Japan, that's in Kyushu, the southern island. And when I was in the army I decided to go down there to visit and I went to the temple, Buddhist temple in their village, everybody knows everybody, and so the minister at the church got my cousins together and we sat down and they were shocked they didn't know anything about me.

AL: Did they remember your parents?

GY: They remembered my father 'cause his brothers, they had about four brothers in the family.


AL: So you said your family was from Kumamoto. Do about what year your father was born?

GY: My father was born in 1858 and my mother was born in 1867.

AL: And were they married in Japan?

GY: No, they were one of these what they call "picture brides." He came here to work on the railroad and decided to go back to Japan after a couple years and they were on the ship going back and then when he got to Hawaii, he got off and said, "What am I going back to Japan for?" So he got on the next ship and came back to the mainland.

AL: Do if he knew your mother?

GY: Beg your pardon?

AL: Did he know your mother before they married? Or strictly picture bride?

GY: I don't think so, strictly picture bride.

AL: Okay.

GY: Which was a common thing in those days from what I understand?

AL: Right, sort of like internet dating I guess or something. Do your father's family in Japan, what they did? Were they merchants or farmers?

GY: They were farmers, rice farmers. So that's the other thing, when I went back in '64, I went back and they told me that one-fifth of the property there was my father's. So they said I guess since I'm the son if I wanted to put a claim in I could and that's the biggest mistake I made. I should have said okay, 'cause land value had gone up so much, you know.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AL: Now what about your mother's family?

GY: I really didn't know too much about her side. And it's funny 'cause as I was growing up somehow I just never got very close to my mother and father. 'Cause I didn't speak Japanese and they didn't speak English, so we had a lot of problems communicating.

AL: Do you know your mother's maiden name?

GY: Fukuda.

AL: How would you spell that?

GY: F-U-K-U-D-A.

AL: Fukuda, okay. And when they came, or when your dad came to the United States, do you know where he arrived?

GY: Seattle. And when he passed away I got all the family records, I mean his side, so I still have it and I couldn't read it, it's all in Japanese. So I had someone translate all that and I made it, translated into English.

AL: Do you know why he came to this country?

GY: Strictly to work and that part kind of confused me because he owned land in Japan and I say, why would he come to the United States whereas that time I guess things weren't that great living in Japan.

AL: Do you know where he was in the order of his family, oldest son, youngest son?

GY: He was in the middle, he had an older brother and three younger brothers.

AL: Did any of them come over when he did or did he come by himself?

GY: Yeah, the one just below him, they came together to work on the railroad and they decided to go back and as I said when the ship docked at Honolulu the other brother just kept going back but he turned around and came back.

AL: Do you know your uncle's name?

GY: No, that one thing I....

AL: Do you know what year your parents married?

GY: It must have been, let me see, my oldest sister was ninety-two when she passed away so if you go back ninety-two years. They were married a couple years when she was born.

AL: And when did she pass away?

GY: About five years ago.

AL: Okay.

GY: Today she would be about ninety-seven or ninety-eight.

AL: So around 1903 so probably sometime before 1903, 1901 or 1902.

GY: Right.

AL: And did your mother come to Seattle also?

GY: No, San Francisco, because my father was living in northern California so I guess they arranged it so she could get off in San Francisco and go meet her.

AL: Do you know how he made his way from Seattle to San Francisco or why he came down?

GY: Well see the thing was he... I guess he came on some truck that someone arranged to take... there were a number of them that... he didn't come down by himself, there were I think about a dozen people like him.

AL: Do you know why he came down?

GY: Well, after he quit the railroad work he was looking around for something to do besides that, and he went to work on a farm. And what they call, what do they call that, sharecropping or whatever, and he was doing that and then I guess he saved a little bit of money so he decided to get his own farm.

AL: And what was he farming?

GY: Well, that was a big problem was that he started to grow strawberries and in those days, the soil, after three or four years the strawberry plants wouldn't produce anymore so that's why he kept moving around from one farm to another.

AL: And when he finally bought his farm, where was that?

GY: In San Jose, and so I guess I grew up in San Jose more than where I was born.

AL: Do you know how he was able to purchase land since he was Issei?

GY: That's something I didn't really get into but I know that after he passed away, my older brother took over everything and he bought I think about fifty acres in Mountain View. Of course I don't know if you're familiar area but there's a place called, they built a naval base called Moffett Field and we were right next door. I mean our farm was right next to Moffett Field so we had a lot of problems with the military.

AL: This if before the war?

GY: Yeah, even before the war there was a lot of suspicion about it and I remember they used to come over and my brother would tell them, "What are you talking about? We were here before you built Moffett Field." [Laughs]

AL: You mentioned a brother, sister, how many children did your parents have and if you can recall their names and approximately years of birth.

GY: I had one brother and four sisters and the only survivors now are myself and one sister just above me.

AL: Okay, and what were their names, of your brothers and sisters?

GY: Well, yeah, their English name, Mary, and the oldest one was Shiz, I don't know why we didn't call her by her English name and Suiki and Kay, that was my brother and May, Mieko and it's getting to a point where I can't... when somebody asks me a point blank question I have to think a while.

AL: That's okay, if you think of it later we can always come back. So when you were born, you said you were born in Redwood City but grew up in San Jose?

GY: Well, I grew up in about four different cities because we kept... from Redwood City they moved to Gilroy and from Gilroy we went to Sunnyvale, that's where that Moffett Field thing is.

AL What is your earliest memory?

GY: Of what? [Laughs]

AL: Of anything.

GY: Well, I got to a point now where I don't have too many memories. The only thing was I guess more since the evacuation, those are the things that stay in my mind. And especially during my military career you know. One of my friends volunteered and I told him, "Why are you volunteering?" He said, 'Well, I got to get out of camp." So he went from one camp to another but he was killed in Italy. And so I waited until I was drafted so when I took my basic training, infantry for the replacement of the 442, I was trained in Camp Blanding, Florida. And then just about a week before our basic training was over, four, what we called Kibeis, the Japanese Niseis that were raised in Japan, and they were instructors, Japanese language instructors at Fort Snelling, they came down to interview all the guys. They gave us a test to judge our Japanese ability, and my Japanese was zero so one of the guys that came down says, "Who you trying to kid?" he says, "No Japanese American be so illiterate in Japanese." And I said, "Well, that was me." So then a month after we finished our training, our CO said, "Okay the following twenty guys step forward," and they called my name. I said, "What is this?" And then they said, "We're shipping you out to a counterintelligence school." And I said, "How come?" He said, "Well, all you guys are proficient in Japanese." I said, "No I'm not." But the guy says, "Well, the instructor said that you were faking it so you wouldn't have to go to the Pacific war." But that's where I ended up. [Laughs] And the funniest thing is when I got overseas and they captured a Japanese general, and the commanding officer of our unit said, "Call Yoshinaga over, I want to interrogate this general." So I told him I don't speak Japanese. He said, "What the hell are you doing here then?" I said, "I told everybody but no one would believe me." So finally my CO says, "Well, what can you do?" I says, "Well, I could shoot a rifle but you guys don't want to use me for that."

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AL: That's great. We're going to talk... we'll talk a lot more about your memories during the war and your military service and we want to get all that... make sure we capture all that so that is great. Just to fill in a little more of the early picture, where did you go to school as a kid?

GY: My grammar school was in Campbell, California. That's near where I used to live, and then from there I went to Gilroy and then when I got to high school I was in Mountain View.

AL: Okay. And did your family have any particular traditions that they followed, like for instance, religious traditions? Was your family Buddhist or Christian or none of the above?

GY: They were Buddhist but again because of my lack of interest in Japanese culture, I really didn't consider myself of any particular religion except later on I started to attend a Baptist church.

AL: So your brothers and sisters, were any of them more what do you say, more interested in Japanese culture?

GY: Yeah, they were more Japanese being older and me, I was the youngest so my older siblings were closer to my parents. I was sort of left out in the wilderness. [Laughs]

AL: What was the age difference between you and the next person?

GY: My sister above me is two years older. She's going to be eighty-eight. And then one above her was two years older and two years older and so forth.

AL: Every two years. Did your brothers or sisters go to... or should say your brother or your sisters go to Japanese language school?

GY: Yes, my mother sent me but they threw me out because they said I wasn't paying any attention. That's why my Japanese ability was zero.

AL: But did your other siblings, did they continue with Japanese?

GY: Yeah, they were very proficient in Japanese.

AL: So how did you communicate with your parents?

GY: Well, I would speak to them in English, they wouldn't know what I was talking about and they talked to me in Japanese and I wouldn't know what they were talking about. So I was sort of the outcast of the family. [Laughs]

AL: Did your brother and sisters translate for you?

GY: As a family we weren't really... by Japanese tradition most families are pretty well knit but I kind of went off on my own.

AL: Did your family have any other people around like who came from Kyushu or Kumamoto, like the kenjinkais or other people?

GY: Yeah, there were involved in quite a few Japanese culture type activities.

AL: Do you remember the names of any of them?

GY: No, 'cause as I said, my lack of communication.

AL: When you were in school, were most of your friends of any, you have Japanese American friends or not Japanese friends?

GY: Well, when I got to high school, when I was in grammar school I had... most of us were all Japanese Americans friends. When I got to high school there was only two of us in my class but I guess I must have got along with everybody 'cause in my new year they elected me to class president. [Laughs]

AL: Wow, and that's at which high school?

GY: Mountain View High School.

AL: Mountain View High School. Did you... before the war were you involved in sports at all?

GY: I played football at Mountain View. We had a three years undefeated, I wasn't first string but I played quite a bit and I earned my letter.

AL: Did you play any other sports?

GY: Yeah, football and then I played baseball a little bit.

AL: But football was your favorite?

GY: Yeah.

AL: What position did you play?

GY: I was a... well, in those days there was no such thing as defense and offense. I played a guard and in those days I guess I was, fit in size wise today everybody is two hundred thirty, forty pounds. I was I think 170 pounds, and I was among the heavier guys.

AL: Did your family do any certain holidays like for instance did your family celebrate Boy's Day or Girl's Day?

GY: Well, only thing I can remember is New Year's we had... in those days it was a custom for Japanese families to pay visit to the friend's home, you know, for New Year's lunch or dinner. So I remember that very distinctly.

AL: And who else came to your house?

GY: Well, most of 'em I people that used to visit me was the Caucasian friends and vice versa I would and I don't want to get ahead in the story but when one of my friends classmates he was killed in the Pacific, and that's one thing that always stayed in my mind because when I got back I was discharged, I was still wearing my uniform. So I went to pay my respect to my friend because I had heard that he had died in the service, and when I got to their home the mother came out and said, "You have a lot of nerve coming here, you Jap." And I'm in my uniform and I said, what's this you know, that was really, that really threw me for... so many years later I went back again and by this time everything, thinking changed a little bit so she apologized for throwing me off their porch.

AL: That's got to be really hard.

GY: Yeah.

AL: What was his name, your friend?

GY: Charles Frasier. And I went all the way from elementary school through high school with him so we were very close friends, you know. And I guess having been killed in the Pacific compounded the family's resentment for Japanese.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AL: Did you before the war experience racism or resentment just by the fact that you were Japanese American?

GY: Not as much as after the Pearl Harbor, but I never really... one of the odd things is I never considered myself as being different because when you grow up with a bunch of kids all the way, you don't sense that at all. And then when they elected me president of the class I figured well what the heck. [Laughs]

AL: Well, I think there's a tradition of electing people named George to be president right? George Bush, George Washington, I don't know how many Georges we have as president. Did you think that your parents planned to remain in the United States indefinitely?

GY: Yes.

AL: Or did they have plans to go back?

GY: No. I know a lot of the Isseis did eventually hope to go back to Japan, but my parents, I never got that feeling.

AL: What kind of values did your parents instill in you?

GY: Since I became a newspaper man I guess they didn't. [Laughs]

AL: How would you say that you are most like your father or most different from your father?

GY: Well, I guess one thing was that he was a very stern individual... well, maybe because I didn't speak the language but we really weren't that close, you know. Our father son relationship wasn't like some of my friends and I used to envy the way they got along with their parents.

AL: Your dad would have been --

GY: Right now he would have been hundred, if he was still alive he'd be about I guess 135 or so probably.

AL: Yeah, you said he was born in 18 --

GY: 1867 I think.

AL: Oh, 1867 okay. So when you were born he was --

GY: He was quite old. And that's another factor that kept us not too close together.

AL: And what was the age difference between him and your mother about?

GY: About ten years.

AL: Okay, so you said he's born about 18 --

GY: '67 and she was born about ten years later.

AL: Okay, about 1867, 1877, okay?

GY: Yeah.

AL: What about your mom? Are you like your mom in any way?

GY: I was closer to her than my father because I guess being the youngest kid in the family, she always considered me the baby.

AL: How were you like her though in... are you like her in temperament or personality?

GY: Well, I don't know how I developed my personality but everybody used to call me a hothead. I used to get into a lot of fights and stuff when I was going to school. That's why I took up judo, I figured I might as well learn how to self-defend myself.

AL: You also practiced verbal judo, right? [Laughs] What were you fighting over?

GY: Oh, little things you know, I didn't realize I was such a rascal. When you're growing up as a youngest in the family and everybody seems to kind of look down on you and they expected a reverse, that I should respect them because they're older than me.

AL: Do you remember any particular... I mean are these fights with friends or your siblings or strangers?

GY: When I was going to elementary school we had a, there was one Caucasian, he was a couple grades ahead of us, most of my Japanese friends and he used to bully us around. And that's when, the first time I got into trouble and then we decided, hey, we got to do something about this situation, so they elected me to hide behind a building when he walked by and I had a two by four and conked him on the head. If that was today I would probably be in juvenal delinquency hall. [Laughs]

AL: How old were you at that time approximately?

GY: About thirteen.

AL: Did you get in trouble for it?

GY: Well, they came down to talk to my parents and they left my future conduct in their hands. But they were upset with me, I remember, because you know, they considered me to be the baby of the family and to be the first one in the family to get into any kind of trouble was very disturbing to them.

AL: Do you know what they said to you?

GY: Well, I know he was cussing at me in Japanese. [Laughs]

AL: Did your brother or sisters say anything to you about it?

GY: My sister was very upset because she was going to school at the same time.

AL And why was he, this guy harassing you guys?

GY: How was that?

AL: Why or how was he harassing you?

GY: Well, just picking on us. He was a larger guy than most of the Japanese Americans so he used to kind of bully us around. And he was the only one that we ever had problems with.

AL: Did he bully everybody or just --

GY: Everybody. I mean, just gave everybody a hard time individually because when you're that age and some guy outweighs you by thirty pounds.

AL: Did he stop after you conked him on the head with the two by four?

GY: No. [Laughs] But he stopped even talking to us so it's a good thing I didn't hit him harder I probably would have gone to jail.

AL: Was he seriously injured?

GY: I kind of grazed him on the side of the head and he fell down but he was alright.

AL: So you said that you graduated from Mountain View?

GY: Mountain View High.

AL: What class?

GY: '43.


AL: So the class of 1943. What were you planning to do when you were --

GY: Well, that was the thing, most of my friends their parents tried to prepare 'em to go to college. But since my parents were farmers I just assumed that I would become a farmer so I didn't even plan to study towards going to college. So I was kind of a C student and didn't pay particular attention to academics.

AL: If you think back about yourself as in high school or as a child, if you can recall, what did you want to be, if you didn't have to be a farmer, what would you have wanted to be when you grew up?

GY: I really didn't give that much thought because it was ingrained in me but you start working on the farm, I was working on the farm anyway between school hours and summer time, so I figured I'd be driving a tractor when I graduated from high school.

AL: What were you doing on the farm? What kind of jobs?

GY: Well, we used to... today I guess they call 'em, the immigrant from Mexico we used a lot of them, and one of my chores was to make sure that they got... we had housing for them and make sure they got to the farm on time and stuff like that.

AL: Okay, so you... actually you said that though you graduated before you went to Heart Mountain?

GY: Well, I didn't participate in the ceremony but that's why when I went to camp I was able to enroll in the high school there to play football.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AL: What do you remember of December 7th?

GY: Of the what?

AL: Of December 7, 1941.

GY: Well, we used to... we never subscribed to a newspaper so on Sundays my parents or my family would send me to a local pharmacy to buy the paper. And I remember on that Sunday I did my usual, I walked over to the store and that's the first shock I got. One of my classmates was at the store and that was the one moment that I suddenly realized I was different, a little different. 'Cause he looked at me and said, "Do you know what your people did?" I said, "What do you mean my people?" He says, "They bombed Hawaii." And in those days I didn't even know where Hawaii was so I said, "What are you talking about?" He says, "Well, listen to the radio." we didn't have televisions and you'll get the news. So I went back and talking about Pearl Harbor I said I don't know where Pearl Harbor is.

AL: Do you remember the name of the newspaper you were going to pick up?

GY: The Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle.

AL: So your parents did they subscribe to any Japanese papers?

GY: Yes, they had a San Francisco, there were two papers then.

AL: Do you remember the names of them?

GY: Yeah, they went out of business about a year ago. Nichi Bei Times and Hokubei Mainichi.

AL: That's 'cause you weren't writing for them, that's why they went of business right? They didn't syndicate your column. Do you recall your parent's reaction? Were you the one that told them about Pearl Harbor?

GY: My brother told me after I got home. And at that time my father had passed away already so I guess my mother and my brother and sister were living at home. The rest were all married and the thing was we still had to go back to school and I just sensed that complete difference in the people's attitude.

AL: When did your, just stepping back for a second, when did your father pass away?

GY: 1937.

AL: And from what?

GY: I guess just general aging and deterioration of health.

AL: So it was illness, not an accident.

GY: No. The thing is in those days, you know, even if they were diagnosed with any kind of... they didn't have the medication and things like they do today.

AL: And your brother, Kay, is that right, your brother's name?

GY: Brother, yeah.

AL: How much older is he than you?

GY: He passed away at age ninety-two so today... he died five years ago so he would be what, eighty-seven or eighty-eight or something like that if my mathematics right.

AL: Or ninety-seven or ninety-eight, yeah. So did he sort of take over the role of your father? Or was your mother, who was in charge of the farm?

GY: No, my brother took over most of that.

AL: And was he the one who made decisions in your family?

GY: Yeah, and that's where we had problems too because you know, he and I really didn't get along like brothers.

AL: What was the age difference about between you?

GY: He was about ten years or thereabouts.

AL: That's a big difference when you're a kid. Do you remember, and I'm sort of skipping around a little bit but I want to make sure we get the whole picture, do you remember just emotionally other than being confused about where Hawaii was, at what point did it sort of hit you that this was going be... or did it hit you that this was going to be serious for you personally?

GY: Well, among our Japanese American friends, after that, because we all sensed that feeling among the non-Japanese Americans so we... it may sound strange but we became a little closer as Japanese Americans whereas before Pearl Harbor we were kind of, generally sort of fit in with everybody.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AL: Did the FBI visit your house?

GY: Yes, took away all my brother's rifles and things of that nature.

AL: Were you there when they came?

GY: Yes.

AL: What do you remember about that?

GY: And being at that age I was kind of confused because I was raised, born and raised as an American, I never considered that the kind of things the FBI told us. And at that time we first sensed this thing before they talked about evacuation because we started talking among ourselves that there was a rumor that they were going to put us into camps, this is long before Roosevelt signed the order to evacuate Japanese Americans.

AL: Right.


AL: So we were talking about the FBI coming to your house?

GY: Yeah.

AL: How many agents came?

GY: Three.

AL: What do you remember about them?

GY: Well, I thought they were pretty arrogant. But the situation being was we just had to go the "yes sir," "no sir" route.

AL: Did your mother understand what was going on?

GY: Yeah, I think it affected them a lot more than we Niseis.

AL: What did you think was going to happen to your mother being a Japanese citizen?

GY: Well, the thing that really upset me the most was that she wasn't in good health. And so when we were evacuated it was really tough on her especially when we went from Santa Anita to Heart Mountain, that was about a three day two night and they didn't have Pullmans or anything, we sat upright in the train for that many days. And I could just sense how she deteriorated.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AL: How did you find out that you were going to be sent away?

GY: About I guess a week before. We didn't have that much notice, you know. I don't know why I developed this type of thinking but as far as the evacuation and camp and everything, I don't share the same feelings that most Japanese American do. And yet nobody ever asks me why.

AL: So tell me why?

GY: Well, I guess growing up with as far as school was concerned, I never considered myself any differently. And then when we went to camp I'm sure you may recall that I never referred to camp as a concentration camp. And the thing that kind of bothers me is that today, people that write books or are interviewed or whatever, there's no one of my age group. Most of them were three of four -- even like Norman Mineta, he was what, five years old and yet they ask him for his thinking on camp. And I said, I can't even remember when I was five years old what I did, and yet because of his stature and everybody asks him about camp and so when he gives his point of view, I kind of really object to some of things he says.

AL: And I definitely wanted to talk to you about terminology as we... and sort of how we look back at camp or whatever we call it today. But getting to like the actual experience that you had before you knew what to call it, when you first found out something was going to happen, was that from a poster on a wall? Was that from the radio or the newspaper?

GY: Well, they posted those signs on telephone poles in the Japanese owned business stores, that we were going to be rounded up and taken to camp. And that kind of, as I said because of my growing up experiences, that stunned me because I never considered myself, you know, being a threat to the U.S. just because I was of Japanese heritage.

AL: So how did you deal with that emotionally? I mean had to be, like you said, a shock?

GY: Well, I was really... at that age, it was like an adventure too, you know, that we were all rounded up and given three days' notice to pack our whatever we were allowed to carry. And the thing that really stayed in my mind is we were all taken to the train station in Mountain View and there was only two people that came to see us off, all my friends and that kind of started me thinking, what is this?

AL: Who were those friends who came to see you off?

GY: They were my classmates. Well, one was a classmate and one was my teammate on the football team.

AL: Did they say anything to you as you were leaving?

GY: Well, they were against this, that's why they came, and they told me that... they apologized to me, "Geez, I'm sorry they're doing this to you."

AL: What did you carry, what did you pack to take with you?

GY: I just had my clothing basically. That was about it.

AL: What was the hardest thing to leave behind?

GY: All my personal things like my bicycles and my sporting equipment.

AL: What did you do with that stuff?

GY: I gave it to one of the friends. When we found out I just asked him what do you guys want, come over and get it.

AL: Did you ever get any of it back?

GY: No, 'cause the thing was I didn't go back to Mountain View because when I was in camp I made friends with the people from Los Angeles. They were the majority of the population. So when I came back from the army, my mother was gone, my sister got married, so I had no family. So I decided, well, I'll move to Los Angeles.

AL: What happened to your farm? Did you own the farm you were living on at that time?

GY: Yeah.

AL: What happened to it?

GY: As I recall, a group of people came to Heart Mountain and to make a transaction on buying the property. And I remember that because I sat down when my brother was talking to the people that... and he decided to sell it.

AL: Do you know who the people were?

GY: No.

AL: Or what they paid?

GY: Yeah, at that time I thought it was a lot of money but they had to pay 20,000 dollars.

AL: For how many acres?

GY: It must have been about fifty acres but that area there was really a nothing land. If you didn't farm on it, it was really worthless. Now today if we sold it today it probably would be millions of dollars you know.

AL: Did you get additional scrutiny because you were next to Moffett Field? You said the military used to come out.

GY: Well as I said that there was a lot of talk about that field next to it is owned by a bunch of "Japs." That's the first time I heard somebody use that in reference to us.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AL: You said you went to Santa Anita so you did not go to Tanforan even though you were in the Bay Area?

GY: No, I don't know why they picked just a small group to go to Santa Anita. And when I got there it was really an experience, not just being in camp but being thrown together with people from Los Angeles, and people from Los Angeles were a lot different from those of us from places like Mountain View and San Jose.

AL: How were they different?

GY: Well, the whole lifestyle. For example I didn't know how to dance. So when they had a dance in camp, I said I better learn how to dance. [Laughs]

AL: When you left Mountain View on a... was it a train or a bus?

GY: Train.

AL: Train. What was the last thing you saw?

GY: What was what?

AL: The last thing you saw as you left Mountain View, do you recall?

GY: Well, the train station, that was the only thing that remained in my mind. And I don't know why, but to go to Santa Anita the train went through Reno. I couldn't understand that. Today I look at the map and I say, why did we go to Reno to come down to Santa Anita which is in Arcadia, you know.

AL: Right. Were you able to see your farm from the train?

GY: No.

AL: Were there soldiers or anybody else around?

GY: Well, just on the train, but the Mountain View train station was I would say about eight miles from our farm.

AL: If you could just sort of verbally paint a picture of that train station that morning like who was there, what you saw, any sounds, smells.

GY: I think if it was today I'd feel more sentimental about leaving, but when you're at that age you just... most of us figured well, just another adventure.

AL: Did the MPs have guns?

GY: Yeah, but I think they... that angle is overplayed because I talked to a couple of those and they weren't there to really guard us or anything. It's just something the army assigned them to do, get on the train and make sure nothing goes wrong.

AL: How were they armed?

GY: Most of them had .45 sidearms. They didn't have rifles or machine guns and all this stuff.

AL: They didn't have bayonets?

GY: No, it was just like they were there, police officers just sitting there to make sure that not only that we tried to escape that other people might come and try to do something to us.

AL: Right, I know from the photographs and from some of the movie footage, I mean, some groups did have the bayonets. It depends I guess on what town it was and what date.

GY: That's another thing we talk about in camp, most people talk about the barbed wire fences and guard towers, but I used to talk with the guards, that were in there. And I got to know a couple of them and the thing that made me laugh is the reason they were assigned to guard us in camp is that physically they weren't able to go into combat, they were sort of chosen to do something that didn't require too much.

AL: There's a very famous picture that's often used for Santa Anita and I don't know if you'd probably recognize it but it's a guard tower and then there's what four or six soldiers on the tower.

GY: Well, Santa Anita was little different.

AL: What was it like?

GY: I think that as I look back now, they were there more to... 'cause I don't know if you heard but a lot of time there was Santa Anita, they didn't have fences, they had fences but they didn't put up any special. So they were more concerned about people on the outside giving us trouble.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AL: When you were at Santa Anita did you live in a barracks or a stable?

GY: Stable, no, I lived in the barracks and that's why I... my memory of Santa Anita is not that harsh, so when, six years ago, when they started putting up different I guess you call them monuments at different assembly centers, Santa Anita was the largest one and yet they wouldn't put anything up. So I went to racetrack and talked to the people there. They said, no, says, "Racetrack is a fun place and we don't want to put anything up that will remind people of it." So I said, "It's part of your history, that we lived on your property," but they continued to refuse. So one of my close friends is a supervisor in Los Angeles County and Arcadia was within his territory so his name is Mike Antonovich. So I went to him and I said, "Mike, I'm trying to get this so people will know that this was part of..." so he got on the case and we went to talk to the mayor of Arcadia and so finally the racetrack said, "Okay. Compose the words that you want on the plaque and we'll put it up." So it's there now. [Laughs]

AL: Do you know what the plaque says? Did you write it?

GY: Yeah, it simply just says during the war the Santa Anita race track was used as a housing, they didn't call it a evacuation assembly center, as housing for Japanese Americans. They gave it, "18,000 resided here until they were permanently moved inland." That's all it says but at least now people that go there to visit always stand in front and have pictures taken of it.

AL: Did you have any role in writing that text?

GY: Yeah, I wrote it and I presented it to them and they didn't change anything.

AL: Did you have any... I know like, I should back up, the plaque at Manzanar which was put in, it was cast in 1972 and installed in 1973, extremely controversial.

GY: Oh, really?

AL: The wording on there. Did you have other people who had opinions about what should go on that plaque at Santa Anita?

GY: No, I didn't want to make it too harsh, I just wanted to let people know that that was indeed the assembly center for Japanese Americans who were evacuated. So I chose my words more with a lot of thought. I could've put in a lot of other things but then I figured they wouldn't put it up if I did that.

AL: Why do you want people to know about Santa Anita?

GY: Well, I thought just a part of... I went to a couple of other dedications at different assembly centers, I said how come they don't do this for Santa Anita? But because other assembly centers were not permanent, you know, they had fair grounds, where Santa Anita was more of a established...

AL: So what was your emotional response to the guys who said, I mean I know that you went ahead and talked to Mr. Antovich?

GY: Antonovich, yeah.

AL: When they said, "You know what, people come here for fun, let's not talk about it." What comes to your mind when people say that?

GY: Well, the first thing that came to my mind was that they didn't realize the impact of the evacuation and in fact at one point I told one of the officers at the track, I said that, "Do you know that a large majority of the people that come to your track can bet on horses are Japanese Americans?" [Laughs] And he told me, "What does that have to do with this?" I says, "Well, I think that they would be very appreciative if you did something like this," but that didn't move them. It took politics to get it done.

AL: So I know other people who were at Santa Anita who were very politically active like for instance, Rose Ochi, of course she was a small child there, she's been very involved with Manzanar but obviously has a lot of strong feelings about the whole experience and it's interesting just to me that you're the one that did the plaque for Santa Anita because I know there's so many people who are very politically active.

GY: Yeah, that's the thing is that a lot of these things are political.


GY: Didn't they have a special reception room at the Cal for the last year?

AL: They used to have that same room that we're in though. So we were talking a little bit about the plaque in Santa Anita but I'd like to actually go back again to the 1942 and the trip down you said that your mother was in bad --

GY: Yeah, her health was very poor and if it was today she probably would have survived a few more years but they didn't have medication, the type of medication for... she had diabetes, you know. And then when we went to camp, Heart Mountain, they didn't have any special diet so since we all eat rice they cooked rice and that's the worst thing a diabetic could eat, you know.

AL: What was your family number, do you recall?

GY: My what?

AL: Your family number going to camp?

GY: My sister and my mother went to Heart Mountain and my two other sisters went to Tule Lake.

AL: And did your brother go to --

GY: My brother, yeah, he was... but he was married so we didn't have the same family number, you know. They issued us family numbers.

AL: What was yours? Do you remember the number they issued you?

GY: Yeah, 3772 or something or like that. That's another funny thing is that no matter how old we get we remember our army serial number and our camp number. If somebody asked me what's your social security number, I got to look at my card. [Laughs]

AL: Do you recall your address at Santa Anita?

GY: Yeah, 24-10-A.

AL: 24-10-A.

GY: Yeah, twenty-four, Block 24, Barrack 10, Unit A. They had A B C D E, four different units. A is for people, families of three or less and then the others were for larger families so I can sympathize with some of these families that had six kids all living in one unit.

AL: How big was your unit?

GY: Gee, it was about this size.

AL: So this is like maybe twenty by --

GY: So we had two cots and they had me against this wall.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AL: So this is tape two of an oral history interview with George Yoshinaga on the 10th of August, 2010, and we were talking about your mother and her health at Santa Anita. What are some of the things you remember about Santa Anita? Did they have, for instance, searchlights, were you there during any of the unrest?

GY: I was a spectator when we had that riot.

AL: What can you tell us about it?

GY: Well, the thing was since they were trying to keep everything under control, they would push us back and they came in, the MPs came in but it was such a mess that they couldn't do too much to control. I think if it was someplace else they probably would have taken out the weapons and start shooting but --

AL: What led to that riot?

GY: There was so many rumors, but one of the most prominent rumor was that the government had sent some people in to spy on us. And I don't know how accurate that was, but from what I was told is that they cornered this one person in the barrack and then it generated a lot of... the word started getting around, we got this guy trapped and actually, there was only a handful of guys that started the trouble. And they were shipped out early. After the riot was over they put 'em in military vehicles and I don't know where they sent them.

AL: How many people were involved in that riot?

GY: Oh, the whole camp, as far as the physical part, I would say a couple of thousand people. But the rest of us were spectators, we lined up on the side to watch them.

AL: What were they doing?

GY: Well, mostly yelling and screaming and that's the first time I really sensed that the resentment people had of being in camp. Although we felt that way, it wasn't really brought out physically.

AL: How did the government deal with it? Like who did they send in and how did they deal with it?

GY: Well, the twenty people that were supposed to be the ones that agitated everybody were thrown... I remember we went down to see when they were thrown in the trucks and nobody knew where they were being sent. That was the whole thing and even today I don't think many people knew where they went to. They didn't go to prison or anything but someone said they had sent them to another camp, to a relocation camp that was already established. And I don't know if that was Manzanar or whatever.

AL: How many soldiers were there?

GY: I would say two truckloads, so probably about fifty.

AL: And how were they armed?

GY: Well, they had machine guns mounted on the top of the trucks but most of them had rifles, M-1 rifles, although at that time not being in the military myself I didn't know an M-1 from a bb gun you know. [Laughs]

AL: How did it... I mean they took the guys away but what happened with the other 2,000 people?

GY: Well, after they came in on the trucks, people really kind of settled down. They realized that what are we doing, you know.

AL: Did you take your two by four to the riot?

GY: [Laughs] I would have hit some other Japanese Americans if I did that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AL: How long were you at Santa Anita?

GY: Three months.

AL: Three months. And then how did you find out you were going to go to Wyoming?

GY: We didn't even know we were going. They said, okay, came down and said, you guys pack your grips, we're moving out. But packing our grips are nothing 'cause we didn't take anything to camp to begin with which was a big problem for us because we went from California to Wyoming where the weather was so much different, you know.

AL: Did you have any, what, I mean, what kind of rumors were there about what was going to happen to you when you moved? Did you hear any?

GY: There was all kinds of rumors, that they were going to ship us back to Japan. But then being at that age and being more of a carefree, you know, don't give a hoot type, all of us of my age between eighteen and twenty-one, we had an entirely different outlook. I don't know if I mentioned but today that age group people no one ever asked them for their opinion. In fact, because I'm in the newspapers I'm the only one expressing that point of view.

AL: And that's why we want to interview you.

GY: [Laughs]

AL: No I mean seriously, because that I've heard a lot of people say that they agree with what you write or that they respect that you say things that nobody else would. And if we don't get a broad range of viewpoints, that's not history, that's propaganda. if you only talk to people who think the same thing so that's why I have never tried so hard to talk to anybody as I have... it's been like nailing Jell-o to a wall but because you do have a different outlook which is exactly why --

GY: The thing is I can't speak for the people that were more in what they call the West Coast zone like Manzanar and Tule Lake and even inland Arizona, Gila and Poston, but I think we had more freedom in Jerome, Rohwer, Heart Mountain, Topaz, Minidoka.

AL: Why was that?

GY: We weren't in the so-called zone that they tried to evacuate the Japanese Americans from. So they talk about barbed wire fences, guys in our camp, they took pliers and cut the fence, nobody repaired it. So if we wanted to walk out into the desert we used to do that, you know, go rabbit hunting.

AL: Did you go by train to Heart Mountain?

GY: Train, yeah.

AL: What do you remember of that train ride?

GY: I think that was one of the most bitter experiences because as I said there was no Pullman, no sleeping quarters, we all sat up, and the toilet facilities were miserable. When you take that many people, it's not like going from Los Angeles to San Francisco, you know, you have to live under those conditions.

AL: Did you have MPs on that train?

GY: Oh, yeah.

AL: How many?

GY: But that's the other thing. The MPs that, maybe they checked them out, but they weren't the kind picture they draw is like they weren't that hostile towards us. And I always felt that they were there mostly to protect us from people that might want to attack us from outside when they hear that we're coming through their town. 'Cause I remember when we got to Salt Lake we were parked there for about five hours and there were people coming out and screaming and yelling at us, you know.

AL: What were they yelling?

GY: The usual things, "You dirty Japs," and all this kind of business.

AL: Did you all have the curtains down at the time?

GY: Well, a lot of 'em just had it up peering out to see what's going on.

AL: How many people were there yelling at you?

GY: In Salt Lake I would say there was a couple of dozen people.

AL: And do you know why they were holding you there for five hours?

GY: Because we were on a train that was a special, you know, it wasn't scheduled, so every time we got to an area where there was a scheduled train coming through, they would side track us and we'd have to wait 'til that train passed by.

AL: When did you find out that Heart Mountain was going to be your destination?

GY: I don't know about other people, but when we got on and somebody said we're going to Wyoming and it may sound silly but I said, "Where in the heck is Wyoming?" [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AL: What do you remember of when the train arrived at Heart Mountain? What did you see? What time of day was it?

GY: We arrived about four o'clock in the afternoon. And they had trucks there to take us to our barracks and I don't know how they decided that. But they seemed to be pretty organized. They didn't say you want to stop here or there, they just took us and said this is your place.

AL: Do you remember what date that was about?

GY: What date?

AL: I mean what month, year?

GY: It was late spring as I recall.

AL: Okay.

GY: But then that's right after that the weather was hot and then it got cold and we weren't really equipped and if it wasn't for the mail order catalogs like Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck, we would have froze to death 'cause we were able to order through the mail.

AL: What kind of things did you order?

GY: Mostly heavy coats.

AL: Did you ever get a peacoat?

GY: Yeah, we all had peacoats. [Laughs]

AL: When was that given to you?

GY: It was about I guess early August as I recall.

AL: What is your address in Heart Mountain?

GY: 2410A.

AL: Okay, that's Heart Mountain? What about at Santa Anita?

GY: Santa Anita I was in the barracks. I can't recall what the numbers were.

AL: Okay, but Heart Mountain is 24-10-A.

GY: See, we were, being from northern California we were the last group to come to Santa Anita, that's why we were in the barracks. The early arrivals were in the stables but there again they paint such a gloomy picture of stables. I had some people I knew that lived in the stables. It wasn't the kind of picture that they draw today like lot of people say they smelled the stench of horses and I kind of disagree with that. I think they did the best they could to clean out everything. And even today when the horse race is going on, the stables don't stink of horses.

AL: That's right and people pay money today to go there. Did you ever visit anybody in the stable at Santa Anita?

GY: Oh yeah, I got to know a lot of the LA guys.

AL: So you were in the stables yourself?

GY: Yeah.

AL: So back at Heart Mountain --

Off camera: Before you leave Santa Anita but his name, Horse.

AL: Oh, does your name Horse have anything to do with Santa Anita?

GY: Yeah, that where I got it.

AL: I missed that.

GY: That's where I got it.

AL: So could you tell us how you got the name?

GY: The thing was, being of that age, nothing to do, I used to run around the track every morning for exercise. And then the people would be standing around and started calling me or they started asking me, "You think you're a horse?" And then that's how the name stuck. [Laughs] "He is a horse."

AL: That's where it came from, okay, I wondered. Did they still call your Horse when you got to Heart Mountain, that name stuck?

GY: Yeah, that's where it developed, you know.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AL: So what did you do at Heart Mountain, did you work at all?

GY: Yeah, well I started out driving a coal truck we used deliver the coal to the mess hall to dump it so they used it to cook with, and then we'd get eight dollars a month. Then one of my friends said, "You used to like to do a little writing in high school, so why don't you go work at the paper?" And so I went over and I don't know if Bill Hosokawa, he was the editor there, so I went in and I said, "Mr. Hosokawa, is there a chance for me to join the staff?" So he said, "Well, what's your expertise?" And I said that's when I really blew it, I said, "What does expertise mean?" [Laughs] He says, "You want to be a writer, you don't know what expertise means?" He says, "When you find out, come back." So then later on I went back about a couple weeks later I said, "Well, I'm interested in sports." So he said, "Okay, go out and write a sports story and I'll see what..." and that's how I got the job.

AL: So what was your first sports story about?

GY: I wrote about the high school football team. And then Bill said, "Well, you know what a columnist is?" I said, "No, what is a columnist?" He says, "Well, you could express all your own opinions, so why don't you write a sports column?"

AL: So what were some of the opinions you expressed?

GY: Well, it's mostly like I didn't change too much from those days. That's what Bill enjoyed he says, "Boy, you really know how to sound off." [Laughs]

AL: So what were some of the things you were sounding off about?

GY: Well, last night they talked about the Manzanar High School football team and I started on that issue that how come we can't, nothing to do with Manzanar, but how come the Heart Mountain High School team can't play outside teams, you know. And that's how we started it and we had no problem; we played five outside schools.

AL: Do you remember which schools, which towns?

GY: Yeah, we played in Moreland, Lovell, and then they wanted us to go to Montana but the government said no.

AL: And you said you were undefeated? Your team was undefeated? And so what position were you playing there?

GY: I was a lineman. I was the captain of the team. I don't know why they made me the captain because we were undefeated.

AL: And you were writing? When did you start writing like early on?

GY: Yeah, about that time and I was already interested in sports so even until about eight, nine years ago I was... my actual main activity in addition to writing was more in sports. I used to promote boxing and bring Japanese fighters over here. And then of course as I said I founded the Japan Bowl.

AL: So when you were working on the Sentinel, who else did you work with beside Bill Hosokawa? Like did you work with Estelle Ishigo there?

GY: No, there was a fellow that was the editor of the Nichi Bei Times in San Francisco and mostly ladies. There were very few guys that worked on the paper because I guess they, being the condition as it were.

AL: What did you think of Bill Hosokawa? I mean, did you work a lot with him? Would you say he was a mentor?

GY: Oh, yeah, he was my mentor, he helped me a lot. And he said, I still remember he said, "You have a flair for writing but you got to polish it up." [Laughs]

AL: What was life in Heart Mountain like for your mom, did she work?

GY: It was pretty bad 'cause she had to... they had no special things for people with poor health and even at the hospital she had to go to the hospital once a week and there was no taxi or anything. Fortunately, we only... we're very close to the Heart Mountain hospital but I really sympathize with people that were, lived and they had to walk to the hospital.

AL: Did your mom, did she pass away at Heart Mountain or did she live through it?

GY: No, she passed away when I was overseas.

AL: Okay.

GY: And that was another issue that's every once in a while things hit you that I'm different from... 'cause there's another guy in my outfit, his father passed away and the Red Cross went out of their way to get him back so he could attend the service. When my sister contacted me and said my mother passed away, the Red Cross said, "No way."

AL: Was that other person who was sent back, was he Japanese American?

GY: No, he was Caucasian. And when things like that happen I kind of sense, hey, every once in a while it hits you, that hey, I'm a little different.

AL: At least people think so, people say so.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 15>

AL: So you were talking about when you left that they were jeering you more than the resisters. Did you... what time of day did you leave? Were you one of those people who left in the middle of the night?

GY: No, I left at eleven in the morning. It was about thirty of us, they sent us to Camp Leavenworth in Kansas and then while we were sitting there they sent us to Camp Blanding in Florida, and being a country boy, that was really an experience for me to go to a place like Florida. [Laughs]

AL: I can imagine. What did your... did you see your mother again after you left that morning?

GY: No.

AL: Do you remember her last words to you?

GY: She just said, "Take care." And the thing was, she was sadder than I was, you know, at that age when you're going away, but I noticed she was really moved by when we left and they came down to the gate, my sister and my mother.

AL: So it's the last time you ever saw her.

GY: So when she passed away there's nothing I could do, you know.

AL: Do you ever, when you think back about that and the circumstances that brought you from the student body president and the football player at Mountain View High to leaving to go in the service and leaving your mom in the camp. I mean, that's obviously not something you could've envisioned would ever happen.

GY: But the thing is, that's why I when I think back lot of the things that are said today never occurred to me like, hey, my mother's locked up in camp and I'm fighting for the U.S.A. that locked her up. Those kind of thoughts never entered my mind. I was there, I said okay I'm going to go to war and do you know whatever I can. And so I tell these people that today when they talk about the "No-no boys" and I said, "What do you think would have happened to us," I said, "If all of us refused to go?" It would have changed our life completely I think, and because we went and served and the 442 did such a magnificent job, we were able to re-establish ourselves more quickly. And they can't answer that question when I ask these "No-no boys." That if we all refused to go, where do you think we would've ended up? I says, probably in Tule Lake and on a ship going back to Japan where we never been. [Laughs]

AL: What was... you said that going to Camp Blanding was a different experience for you, what was it like to be off the West Coast?

GY: Well, I could just sense the different type of thinking that people in the other part of the country have or had of Japanese Americans.

AL: In what way?

GY: Well, like when we were taking basic training we'd go on the weekend pass and we're in uniform and we run into say another group of Caucasians in uniform and they act like we were Japanese soldiers, they'd say, "Hey, there's some Japs, let's go get 'em." This happened so many times a lot of us refused to go on our weekend leave.

AL: So at Camp Blanding was that... you weren't a segregated unit there?

GY: We were.

AL: You were, but were there other units?

GY: We were being trained to replace the 442.

AL: So a lot of those guys were also though at Camp Shelby right? Is this just another... what was the relationship between Camp Shelby and Camp Blanding?

GY: I didn't have any relationship problems but the only thing was, as I said, when they came... I don't know if I mentioned this story to you but when they came down to give us a test.

AL: Right, you were talking about that.

GY: Yeah.

AL: So you at the time when you thought you were going to the 442, and after like Ted had been killed and other people, did you think at all about your own mortality that you might not come back?

GY: After Ted I lost two other friends, and at that time I started thinking, what's going to happen. I didn't give it that much of a serious thought but I would follow what they were... 'cause since we were training for replacements we used to get a lot of news about what they were doing in Europe.

AL: What were the names of your other two friends that you lost?

GY: The what?

AL: The other two friends that you lost?

GY: One was the first week in combat he was killed.

AL: Who was that?

GY: I guy named Yamamoto.

AL: Do you recall his first name?

GY: Jim.

AL: Jim Yamamoto. And what about the other man?

GY: That was Ted.

AL: Oh, Ted, okay.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AL: So were you disappointed when you were pulled out to go to language school?

GY: Yeah, 'cause we were... everything was aimed towards replacing the infantry and then to go from there I didn't go to language school, I went to CIC school. That's where the difference... they gave us a test and they thought we were proficient in Japanese.

AL: What does CIC stand for?

GY: Counterintelligence Corps.

AL: Okay.

GY: So the thing was when I got to CIC school in Maryland, the first test they give us was in Japanese. That's where the fun started. [Laughs]

AL: So what is the difference between the CIC and the MIS?

GY: CIC was more of a... we were classified as agents. We were more involved in intelligence work like captured documents, information on the deployment of Japanese troops.

AL: So were you assigned to a specific unit?

GY: Yeah, I was with the 60th, what they call 60th CIC unit and that's another thing was that we were initially assigned to the British Army because there's no such thing as a British Japanese, you know, or Japanese Englishman. So the U.S. Army loaned the Niseisto the British Army.

AL: Did you learn Japanese or did you --

GY: No, so they just kept pushing me around, you know.

AL: So what would they do when they found out you didn't speak Japanese?

GY: The first thing that my CO said, "Do you know how to drive?" I said, "Of course," he said, "Well, you could be my jeep driver." [Laughs]

AL: Where did you go from Camp Blanding?

GY: I went to the Pacific.

AL: Which country?

GY: Well, the war was almost to the end. So Northern Luzon in the Philippines. But by that time there was really no hazard. Things were coming down and then I got on the ship and we were at sea when somebody said, "Did you know we dropped some kind of bomb in Japan?" I said, "What's new about that?" He said, "No, this one was some kind of thing they call an atom bomb and they killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese." And I, "You're kidding me."

<End Segment 16> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AL: When did you first learn about, I mean other than hearing about it, when did you first learn about the atomic bomb?

GY: That was it. And then somebody said it was a bomb capable of wiping out a whole city and I couldn't believe it.

AL: So how did you come to believe it? Did you see pictures?

GY: Well, no, we kept getting news everything was now about the atom bomb, and then that kind of altered our... we were supposed to land in southern Japan if the war didn't end, but when that happened they just shipped us to Yokohama and that was it.

AL: Have you ever visited Hiroshima, the museum there?

GY: Yeah, I have. In fact I have... I'm looking for it now because it was the anniversary, but I took a lot of pictures shortly it was maybe about a month after the bomb was dropped you know.

AL: What did you see there?

GY: It was terrible. The thing that I remember most is because it's such a devastation, you don't hear about it too much but corpse on the street rotting, and the living people are just trying to survive, so a lot of them don't even try to pick them up and do something, you know.

AL: Have you ever thought about or written in your column or like when just this last Friday was the 65th anniversary of dropping the bomb... no, yesterday, was it yesterday was the 65th anniversary of the bomb on Nagasaki.

GY: Yeah, 6th of August.

AL: Right and then three days later on Nagasaki. If somebody says to you... we always hear people say well that should have never had happened Japan was already losing the war they should have never dropped the bomb and Truman was using it as an experiment, other people who say if we hadn't dropped the bomb then a million people would've died. I mean, what's your personal opinion on the bomb and the necessity of the bomb?

GY: Well, when I first heard about it I thought... and knowing how the war was going, I felt it was unnecessary. It was just putting the trimming on the cake and the talk at that time was that we wanted to impress Russia that we had such a weapon. That was the main debate, that if Russia suddenly decided they'll go against us they would at least know we had the weapon to blow them off the map.

AL: And had you already heard that rumor when the first time you visited Hiroshima?

GY: Yeah, and I got to know a lot of the people that survived the bomb you know. And I don't know how they did it but I know I had... I used to be in boxing and I had a boxer that I brought to the U.S. and he failed the eye exam. So the doctor that looked at him said, I don't understand, I never saw anything like this so I didn't know his history so I asked him how come the doctor says he never saw a case like yours? And he said it was from the blast, he didn't get injured but something about the blast from the bomb affected his eyes.

AL: Were you writing your column at the time I guess it was what 1995 when they had the Smithsonian exhibit, they were going to put the Enola Gay on exhibit?

GY: Well, I used to write or contribute every once in a while to the Stars and Stripes, and then when I moved in Japan in '62 the Japan Times asked me to write. So I wrote a weekly column for them, but unfortunately Japanese mind being what it is, the person I was working for, somebody told him, "Did you know Yoshinaga's writing for the Japan Times?" So he called me in he says, "What are doing?" I said, "I'm doing it on my own time." He says, "When you work for me you don't have an 'own time.'" [Laughs] So I had to quit writing.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

AL: So when you heard that the war was over, where were you?

GY: I was on a ship.

AL: Do you remember the name of the ship?

GY: The name of the ship? The Pacific something, there was a Pacific in there and there were four other Niseis with me, and when they altered our ship we landed in Yokohama. That was an experience too, we were standing on the deck and the Japanese workers off the ship, they would look up and they'd see us and they didn't know what to think. They see four Japanese faces on a U.S. vessel.

AL: What was it like seeing Japan for the first time?

GY: Well, not really having studied about Japan it was kind of like a new experience visiting on a vacation 'cause the war is over and there was nothing to do really. The first couple of months we just lived in our tents and it was that time of the year, autumn, it was raining. And then since the war ended those people that were working on the supply ships, they got into the black market business and they started giving, selling it to the Japanese. So a lot of times we still had to eat what they call K rations and C rations 'cause we didn't have any supplies to cook meals.

AL: And what were you... once you got the working over there, what were you doing?

GY: I was, because of my horrible Japanese, I just was doing what the other CIC agents were doing, nothing to do with language.

AL: So what would that be, like what was a typical day like?

GY: Well, we were mostly we were rounding up people suspected of being war criminals, that after the war, take them to trial. So one of our jobs was seeking them out and arresting them.

AL: What was that like?

GY: Well, in some sense it was humorous, in others it was kind of very disappointing to me. Because even though I was, as I say, American Japanese, I had different attitude towards the prisoners that were captured.

AL: In what way?

GY: Well, like they would look at us and wonder... 'cause a lot of Japanese in Japan weren't aware of such a thing as Japanese Americans, you know, so they were more curious about what's this guy? He's supposed to be Japanese? And that's why I was going one time when I thought about writing a book, the most common phrase I used to hear in Japanese was, "Anata Nihonjin desu ka," which is you know, "Are you really Japanese?"

AL: Right. And what would you say?

GY: I have a lot of notes if I was younger I'd probably write because no one ever really wrote about the Japanese Americans and the occupation of Japan. And everywhere I went people that never understood or knew about the Japanese Americans they were really astounded that there were Japanese Americans.

AL: Maybe you could put it in your column if you're not going to write a book, I mean, I don't know, people might not want to subscribe if you're not talking about Vegas and your bad jokes. But I think it would be really important to get that you know, to get that story out.

GY: Yeah, you'd be surprised, when I talk about that now to some people they laugh, they don't believe me. Like I remember this one family that when they found out I was Japanese they would invite me to their home and almost daily they'd come over and say come over and have Japanese meals. And then later on I found out they had a daughter, they wanted me to marry her so she could go to America. I found that out and I laughed. [Laughs]

AL: How did you communicate with your poor Japanese?

GY: Well, most of the people that wanted to communicate with me were interested in English. So with my lousy Japanese and their not too bad English we were able to.

AL: How would you describe the condition of Japan immediately after the war in the places you saw?

GY: That's another thing no one ever touches on, it was horrible. Like in Tokyo we'd go in the subway station there's bodies around 'cause people weren't getting food. And I remember I used to go to the PX and buy candy bars and pass it out to the kids. And those are the kind of things I thought should be written about you know. We talk about occupation but no one ever talks about that phase of the occupation.

AL: Who do you think is... like when you were there and encountering the people in Japan and you look at, obviously you're American, American people, you're there seeing the Japanese people, and yet for three and a half, right, three and a half years we're fighting each other trying to kill each other. What were your feelings about, or what are your feelings about the war and who do you hold responsible in, I mean, maybe not individuals but just when you look at World War II knowing Japanese people, knowing American people.

GY: The thing that... it's probably been advertised but the most common talk when I was in service especially when I joined the Counterintelligence Corps was that Franklin Roosevelt needed an excuse for America to get into war 'cause even though the war was going on in Europe, we weren't involved. So the most prominent talk during that era was that he almost forced Japan to do what they did. Because I have a newspaper, I don't know, I could show you but one week before Pearl Harbor was bombed in the Star-Bulletin the headline was something to do with Japan threatening to attack America. And so I kept that paper, it's at home. And if newspapers are going to write a story like that it couldn't have been a total surprise. And then when I because being in the military I said, "How could we ignore a whole Japanese fleet headed toward Hawaii, you know, and call it a surprise attack?" And I think that if that was touched on more, the anti-Japanese hostility towards Japanese Americans wouldn't have been that bad, you know. That it wasn't really a sneak attack.

AL: It's interesting actually that you say that because a lot of the people who politically may not agree with some of the things that you write or say, I think share that viewpoint that it wasn't such a surprise.

GY: Yeah, having been in the CIC convinced me more that how can... I just can't picture that. A whole armada of Japanese carriers loaded with fighter planes headed toward America, even though we don't have the technology today about tracking down things like this, we certainly should have known that.

AL: What had you heard about Japanese soldiers and Japanese military before the war?

GY: Well that they'd rather cut their stomach and die for their country. That's why I thought that even though they're a small country, they would be a formidable opponent if we ever went to war with them.

AL: Did you have, when you were in Japan, did you have anybody asking you... you said the people were curious about you being Japanese American, did you have anybody who looked at you sort of as a traitor for being part of the occupation?

GY: Well, this may sound kind of amusing to you but lot of people, because I was a little larger than the average at that time, today there's Niseis, Sansei kids are all six foot but I used to pass a lot for non-Japanese. Even the American GIs, they used to think I was Eskimo or Indian, American Indian. In fact, the first time I was assigned to a unit they used to call me Blanket Ass, that's the name they gave to the American Indians. [Laughs] And so I used to get a chuckle out of that, but then they started to realize I was Japanese and the fact that I didn't speak Japanese compounded that about me not being Japanese, being of some other ethnic group.

AL: So it's kind of interesting because the Americans put you in camp because they don't think you're American and then the Japanese don't think you're Japanese. So where does that leave you?

GY: [Laughs]

AL: The Eskimos aren't claiming you.

GY: When I took the job in Japan in '62, boy, it was an adventure, the Japanese company that I worked at. I had so much humorous incidents that I could write a book about it.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

AL: Well, before we get to the '60s when you... how long were you in Japan?

GY: Three years.

AL: Three years.

GY: And the person that hired me died so I had to come back.

AL: Okay.

GY: His widow said, "If you want to stay I'll honor my husband's contract with you," but I said nah, he hired me and so if he's not there --

AL: This was in 1960?

GY: '62, yeah.

AL: Okay, so you were in Japan three years in the '40s?

GY: Three years. Oh in the '40s, no, I was there... as soon as the war ended I was there about a year.

AL: Did you make any lasting friendships over there that you stayed up with?

GY: Well, the family that they wanted me to marry their daughter.

AL: Did you marry their daughter?

GY: No, are you kidding? [Laughs] When I heard that I couldn't stop laughing.

AL: Isn't your wife from Hawaii?

GY: Yeah.

AL: Okay, that's what I heard. When you left and you said you came back to the States and went on the porch and got run off, what was it like trying to rebuild your life after the war? 'Cause your mom is gone, your farm is gone.

GY: Yeah, I was more or less on my own and I tried to get into school but there were so many GIs applying for the GI bill to get into... there was no opening in schools. So I said well, I don't want to sit around doing nothing so I went to junior college that always took people in, you know. And hopefully I was hoping that by the time I put in a couple years at junior college, my application would be accepted at one of the other colleges.

AL: What were you studying?

GY: Just general studies because I had the GI bill and thought I'd make use of it.

AL: What was your first job back in the U.S.?

GY: They had a small newspaper called the Crossroads, a weekly newspaper, and one of my friends was on the staff there and he said they're looking for a linotype operator. I said, what's a linotype? [Laughs] So they said, why don't you train on that and at least you could get started. So for about six months I was operating a linotype. And then a new newspaper, Shin Nichi-Bei, opened up and Saburo Kido who was a publisher said, "I know you're not making a living working on a weekly newspaper, so do you want to come and work for us? You could linotype and do a little writing on the side."

AL: Did that Ted Fujioka's dad was a newspaper man?

GY: No.

AL: With the Rafu? He was I believe he was the English editor for the Rafu.

GY: Oh, yeah, that's going way back.

AL: Way back, before the war but he was also a newspaper man.

GY: Oh, really?

AL: In L.A.

GY: I know Ted was a very intelligent person so he must have got it some place.

AL: Yeah, I want to say his name might have been Sei Fujioka?

GY: Sei, that sounds familiar, Sei Fujioka.

AL: I think or maybe it was, I think he was the English editor for the Rafu. I interviewed Jack Kunitomi and he was talking about it. When did you or were you always in contact with Bill Hosokawa?

GY: Yeah, he used to always inflate my ego by saying, "You're the most widely read Nisei writer." I said ahhh. [Laughs]

<End Segment 19> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

AL: So just to catch up, when did you marry?

GY: I've been married now fifty four years.

AL: Congratulations. Same woman?

GY: Yeah.

AL: That's a good... since you come to Vegas so often I didn't know.

GY: What two women would want to be interested in me? [Laughs]

AL: So you married in 1956?

GY: '56, yeah.

AL: Thereabouts. How did you meet your wife?

GY: She was working for civil service in Japan.

AL: Oh, so you met her in Japan?

GY: No, no, then she came back and instead of going back to Hawaii she came to San Francisco and I don't know how I met her but then we started dating.

AL: And what is her name?

GY: What?

AL: What is your wife's name?

GY: Susie.

AL: Susie and her maiden name?

GY: Sato.

AL: Do you have children?

GY: Four. I have my oldest son is the chief legal advisor for Sheriff Baca, and my youngest son is a Air Force Academy graduate. He's a major, he'd go for a promotion but he's on active reserve. He left the Air Force two years early so he had to stay in the reserves.

AL: How are you different as a father than your own father?

GY: I think I'm more involved in what they do, because from my own experience with my father I didn't want that kind of relationship with my kids.

AL: Did you remain close to your siblings? I guess you said you weren't really close but throughout the rest of their lives did you stay intact as a family?

GY: Well, my sister above me, because we were pretty close in school so we kind of associated with each other's friends.

AL: And so when you moved to Japan in the 1960s, did you take your whole family with you?

GY: Yeah, I had two kids then. And then my third son was born in Japan and that was an experience because I never realized that at time in life that I was, the fact that I was Japanese would be thrown in my face again. But when I went to the American Embassy to get a passport for my son they said, "If you're son, because you are Japanese ancestry, if your son doesn't leave the country in six years, we're going to rescind his U.S. citizenship." I never heard of such a thing you know.

AL: I never heard that.

GY: Yeah and I talk to people and they never because I guess not many people go there and have kids in Japan, but so I figured six years, at least I'll send him back to America once. Once you go back and then you go back you could live all your life there and still be an American citizen.

AL: I never heard that.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

AL: This is tape three of an oral history interview for Manzanar National Historic Site with George Yoshinaga on the 10th of August. And we were talking about you in Japan and your son needing to come back. What was your job in the early 1960s in Japan?

GY: I was working for a sports promotion company, sports and entertainment and the company was importing U.S. sports teams and entertainment. That was my main chore was to travel back and forth and make the contract with the different....

AL: Were you writing at all at that time?

GY: Yeah, I wrote for the Japan Times, but then as I said the person I was working for heard that I was... yeah, that's the Japanese mentality. If you work for somebody even if you work for free for somebody else they don't condone that.

AL: So you came back to the U.S. in the 1960s?

GY: Yeah, 1965 and I went back to the Kashu Mainichi.

AL: Okay. Oh yeah, could you tell us a little bit more about the football league that you were talking about?

GY: The football team? The Japan Bowl?

AL: The Japan Bowl.

GY: Yeah, well, there were the Japanese were watching or taping some of the American football games, and then the Japan Times said that they wanted to put on a game between two American teams, but no American colleges was interested in a team. So then the next talk was what about an all-star game. So they asked me to travel to the U.S. and go to the NCAA and see if it was possible to put on such a game. And at first they said no, we don't have all-star games in foreign countries. But finally after much discussion they agreed to do it and I didn't realize -- oops --

AL: That's okay.

GY: I didn't realize how much work that was involved getting an east team and a west team. And so I told them we have to open an office in Los Angeles so we can have a place to operate out of. Then I contacted five coaches and they thought it was a great idea so they helped me pick the teams, you know, the team from the east and team from the west.

AL: Where did they play in Japan?

GY: At the National Stadium that they had built for the Olympic Games.

AL: Good turnout?

GY: That's the amusing part, you know, the person at the sports, I mean, the Japan Times or Sports Nippon, I'm sorry said that well, don't be disappointed if the stands are not completely filled up. So I told the football players they're all all-stars, so they're used to playing before huge crowds you know. Said, "That's alright, we're here to have a good time." So day of the game we got on the bus from the hotel and we got to the stadium, there was a line, double line all the way around the stadium for people wanting to get in, and that's how football became a sport in Japan.

AL: And are they still doing that?

GY: No, after I quit in '77, I guess it was, they tried to continue it but they didn't realize how tough it was to contact the colleges and get the players but after I did it for four years the coaches all got to know me so when I write 'em a letter they would recommend okay use this guy, this guy and this guy.

AL: So when you came back to the U.S. in the mid-1960s, it would seem like from history that that's a very different place than you left a few years earlier.

GY: Oh, yeah.

AL: Like the civil rights movements, the civil unrest.

GY: Right.

AL: What was that like for you?

GY: Well, at that time I wasn't giving much thought to things like that.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

AL: When were you aware of the Manzanar pilgrimage? When was the first time you ever heard of that?

GY: The what program?

AL: The Manzanar pilgrimage?

GY: Oh. You know, many years ago before all this, you started all this stuff, a guy named Tom Tayama who was in Manzanar said, "Let's drive up there. Help me drive up there, I want to see what the old place looks like." So when we went there, there was nothing, we walked around, and then so I was kind of surprised when they started this movement to develop Manzanar.

AL: If you have a chance tonight if you stop by our table you can see some of the movie footage of a lot, there's a lot of stuff there that was actually buried like Merritt Park and some of the gardens and stuff like that. There's a lot more now then like I first went there in 1980 and it's a whole different place but it's not that we're... well, we have built a few new things but there's a lot of stuff that was there and buried. And I think a lot of people would say they buried memories, you know. And I know one of the quotes I think from that first pilgrimage and I don't know if it was Sue that said or somebody else, I think it was somebody else, and they said, "How many people are buried here at Manzanar?" And the person's reply was a whole generation or a whole people of Japanese Americans. So I'm curious what your perspective was on when people first started talking about the camps, there's the movie, Farewell to Manzanar in 1973 or something like that and a lot of people talk about quote, "Manzanar," but what they're really talking about is the overall experience. It's just that Manzanar is the one everybody knows.

GY: Yeah.

AL: What was your perspective when people started talking about it and when was the first time you started publicly started talking about it?

GY: Well, I always wanted something done that we could remember that era of our history. And after Tom passed away I always wanted to go back and see what it was like since you people took over and developed all this you know. And every year when they have that pilgrimage I say I'm going but I never got to go.

AL: We would all invite you to come up sometime and if you come out at the pilgrimages that's great but it's a really busy time. So maybe sometime you could come up when it's a little less busy and we could actually show you around the site, show you some of the gardens and stuff and have a little more time to... you know. You could do it instead of the cocktail waitresses in Vegas you can do a thing on the cocktail rangers at Manzanar in your column. But what was the first time you publicly wrote about it or spoke about it?

GY: Several times. I can't remember the exact date but I... that's why I wanted to go back and do another update on what I observed, you know. And now I forgot how long it took to drive up there.

AL: About four hours. So when did you first meet Sue Embrey?

GY: Gee, it's quite a while. Now when people ask me about different dates and stuff I draw a blank.

AL: Well not so much the date but like in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s?

GY: Yeah, it was before that.

AL: What did you think when you started hearing people like her speak out?

GY: Well, when somebody I know speaks out, I know what their background is or why they are thinking that way. so it's not objectionable to me. The thing that really kind of aggravates me is as I said, when somebody that was four or five years old now gets up and they're the spokesman for the evacuation. That turns me off.

AL: Which is why we're really grateful that you're willing to speak because it's different... it is very different and we notice that even... I mean, I've only been at Manzanar nine years but the people that we're interviewing now are a decade younger than the people we started the oral history program specifically for Manzanar in 2002. We've done about 200 interviews, but it is changing, we still occasionally will have somebody who's a hundred years old but that's rare. And so you're getting down to the younger kids.

GY: I'd like to hear more from people who are in the late eighties. And that's why you know, Norm Mineta, his father and my father were good friends and I always tell him, I say, "You know, Norm, when you open your mouth people listen because you're a high rated politician." But I said, "I'm going to tell you, you don't know what you're talking about." So now when we meet at public events he just walks away when he sees me. [Laughs]

AL: What is it that he says that you think he doesn't know what he's talking about?

GY: Well, he talks about, of course everybody talks about the barbed wire and the guard towers, but there's more to camp life than that you know.

AL: Like what kind of things?

GY: I asked him, I said, "Were you aware that we used to have dances every week?" When a guy's five, six years old, what does he know about camp dances? That's where we people from different areas of the country that were put together, that's how we got to know each other. That's one of the things that I feel was an important part of our life is that I got to know so many people that if it wasn't for evacuation I would have never had the opportunity to do so. And today I wouldn't be here, I'd be driving a tractor on our farm. [Laughs]

<End Segment 22> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

AL: Speaking of your farm, did your family get anything out of the Japanese American Claims Act in the 1940s? I know there's one in the '40s right after the war, I think it's 1948?

GY: Well, the only thing we got was that 20,000 dollars that the government issued as a form of apology.

AL: So what was your perspective on that, the redress movement?

GY: Of course I can always use the money but I didn't think you could the price on that. There's no way you could put a price on what happened to us, you know, whether it was twenty dollars or 20,000 dollars. And then a lot of people that I thought should have gotten something didn't get it. 'Cause like my mother, I got a check for her that nobody ever in that position or deceased got the check from the government.

AL: What did you... I mean, when they were doing the commission hearing for instance, did you cover those in the paper? Were you involved at all when they did the Los Angeles hearings?

GY: No, I used to cover it but I wasn't there. One thing about the Japanese American community is that I'm not trying to be a, pose as some important part, but I've been doing this for over fifty years and I don't really get that except for when I come to something like this all the people come up to me and say, "I read your column." But I don't get the kind of recognition in the community that a lot of people that I always say, "Who in the heck is he?" They're being honored for this and honored for that, and that is one mentality of our community I think.

AL: Did any of the players in, like did you ever meet Lillian Baker?

GY: Yeah, she and I were completely opposite in thinking at many times but a lot things she said I agreed with her.

AL: Like could you give us examples of where you disagreed with her and where you agreed with her?

GY: Yeah, there's a lot of people... well, actually the majority disagreed with her, you know. So whenever they try to insult me and say, "Who do you think you are, another Baker?"

AL: What would you say to somebody that says that?

GY: I'd said, "Yeah, I cooked two breads this morning." [Laughs]

AL: Are you insulted if someone compares you to Lillian Baker?

GY: No, I just... there was a time when I first started, when people would write nasty things to me. It used to affect me but now I just laugh, especially when you have a computer and you get fifty emails a day. That's why I hate to... computer you can't turn it off. I mean it's connected, so when I come to Vegas for three, four days, when I get home it takes me hours to erase all the spam you know.

AL: What do you think it was though that drove Lillian Baker? Why do you... I mean, she was very you would say passionate or very committed or whatever.

GY: I think she was just trying to kick up some dust. I don't think that was really something she firmly believed in. I just thought that she wanted to be the target of people being anti or pro Lillian Baker. That was my feeling 'cause in talking to her, she didn't sound like she talked.

AL: Did she correspond with you at all?

GY: Yeah, I used to. That's why, well, everybody thought that we were buddies but we weren't, we just... something that happened down the line.

AL: So you didn't have any kind of social, I mean you wouldn't call her a friend.

GY: No.

AL: That's not the woman you were married to for fifty-six years? [Laughs] So I know that Sue Embrey, who was a friend of mine and talked about Lillian Baker used to mail her everything she ever wrote. She would mail to Sue and Sue would see the return address and mail it back and that went on for decades of Sue not opening Lillian Baker's mail. I know from having watched the commission hearings on tape, I think it was a Los Angeles hearing she, Lillian Baker, tried to read the statement from Dillon Myer who was still alive at the time, and she was booed and pretty much everybody got up and walked out, not everybody, but a large percentage of people were very angry. Were you there for any other that? Were you at the commission hearings?

GY: Yeah, I was a couple of times. But the thing is I think issues like this is like politics. You have people that favor Obama and people that are anti-Obama. And it's about the same situation, and I find that I don't know why, but the pro-Obama people never send me things about how they feel, but anti-Obama people, my gosh I get every day I get dozens of email picking things that he's doing or he's not doing. So when these issues come up I think it's almost parallel to each other.

AL: What did you feel when you got the letter of apology?

GY: Whose?

AL: When you got the letter from I assume George Bush, the apology letter from the government saying, "We can never right a wrong..."

GY: Yeah, well of course when you get money. [Laughs]

AL: You just cashed the check and went to Vegas? [Laughs]

GY: Yeah, I donated it to the California Hotel so they're happy. [Laughs]

AL: But did you --

GY: I was not for or against it. I just, I said if they succeed... fine. We all receive... but I didn't think as I said, I didn't think you could put a price on what happened.

AL: So what would you think would be an appropriate redress?

GY: Well, I think an apology would be sufficient because when you put a price on it and among my friends everybody is talking about, ooh, we're going to get money, you know. What does that mean? I mean, you can't put a price on something like that. That we were ripped out of our homes and I always, this evacuation issue I wish I was younger. I would really like to put my thoughts on paper, you know.

AL: I hope you do. You're younger than you think.

GY: At my age I'm having trouble filling one page twice a week.

AL: But you always fill it and it's usually about Las Vegas and bad jokes. [Laughs]

<End Segment 23> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

AL: Of course, with the redress movement there's also been over the last decade or more, movement to preserve some of the sites like Manzanar of course is established as an historic site in 1992, Minidoka in 2001, Tule Lake in 2008.

GY: Topaz, is Topaz on the list?

AL: Most of them are national historic landmarks, but those right now it's Minidoka, Manzanar and Tule Lake in the National Park Service. There are some people who hope that Heart Mountain will be part of the Park Service. We don't know if that will happen or not because the Park Service does not create the sites, Congress or the President hands them over to us and says, okay now run this. But we have provided grants to Heart Mountain through the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program. And then we met you last year at the Heart Mountain reunion. Have you been involved at all with Heart Mountain, Wyoming, foundation?

GY: That's the whole thing. If somebody asks me I'd really like to join in but I'm not going to volunteer. Maybe that's not the right attitude but if somebody will come up and say, "Hey, you work for the paper in camp? So you had your hand on lot of things that other people didn't have." But like Bacon Sakatani was in the sixth grade and he's the leader of the Heart Mountain. I wanted to ask you one thing. Do you have a veteran's plaque at Manzanar? People who were living in Manzanar who went into service?

AL: We just put up one that's a temporary one this last April that has all the names. And the reason it's temporary right now is that we want to make sure we have all the names correct before we do a more permanent one. But we have it in... so you haven't seen the exhibit at Manzanar, right?

GY: No.

AL: Okay so there's a kind of wall it looks like the wall of a barracks and it has a thing about military service, it has a thing about military service and it has a thing about Sadao Munemori, and then it's just a little panel that says those who served and it's got the two hundred and something names on there. So that's where we put it as sort of an educational thing because now that's it's a national historic site we try not to put plaques kind of all over the site. But we do have the Blue Star Highway plaque that was put up in the early 1990s.

GY: 'Cause I remember Heart Mountain was one of the first things they did.

AL: Oh, they had the honor roll.

GY: Yeah.

AL: Manzanar did not to my knowledge have an honor roll. They had the blue star banner that hung in the camp auditorium but I've never seen any, I don't think there was that we're aware of anyway, a historic honor roll. So you would be on the honor roll at Heart Mountain though.

GY: I am. That's why I was wondering about Manzanar 'cause I haven't heard anything about Manzanar doing something for the vets you know.

AL: Yeah, we did not to my knowledge we didn't historically have one. We did list the names in the exhibit and we do have a section on the MIS and on the 442nd. But I really hope that you will have the chance to see it yourself 'cause it's kind of hard to obviously to explain but I can also send you pictures.

GY: I was thinking about you know, what's his name? Cory Shiozaki? Yeah, he and my second son went to school together so he sends me material on his, he's going to give a talk in September?

AL: Yeah, he's going to go up there Labor Day weekend. Cory's worked with us a lot. In fact in some oral histories he's volunteered to be a camera guy. Of course, I could sit here all day and I don't want to keep you from winning your fortune in the slots, but just a couple questions.

GY: I'm just feeling, oh, I got rich during this period.

AL: When you look at Heart Mountain though now being preserved, you know, they have the learning center, interpretive learning center, well, first of all, have you personally been back to Heart Mountain?

GY: No. Three times when my son was at the academy in Colorado Springs I threatened to drive up to Heart Mountain but somehow I guess something happens and I never do.

AL: Do you want to see it?

GY: Oh, yeah, I'm waiting for Bacon to... they're going to have something up there. And he said that come on up for this particular thing but I wasn't...

AL: They're having something next week I think on like the 19th or 20th but then next year is supposed to be the big unveiling. I know they have a company right now working on exhibits for it. I haven't seen what they're doing. I've just seen little pictures of the barracks that they've rebuilt. But when you think about in years to come, because like I said in my email the other day, I mean there will be a time when all of us are gone, even young Daniel. When you think about in years to come and people go to Heart Mountain, or go to Manzanar, and learn about this part of history, what would you want to communicate to people? What do you want them to know?

GY: That it was a critical period in the life of Japanese Americans but not the way it has been pictured in recent years. That like everything else in life there are experiences that some are positive and some are negative and I think that because of the way the people that lived there survived, I think they should look more at the positive side to show the character of the Japanese Americans. The question that I always ask is if you took other ethnic groups, how would it have been? Would they all try to escape or a lot of people ask me, "How come you people didn't try to escape from there?" Because of our philosophy of life that we just accepted something that happened. That's the message I would like to give out. Not sound like it was a Nazi concentration camp where people were being beaten up and killed. And that's the one phase of this entire situation that I think is often neglected. And I feel fortunate that since I am a writer, whether it's good or bad it doesn't matter, that I can get this message out to people.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

AL: Are you aware of the recent JACL resolution on terminology?

GY: Yeah, I used to be a member many years ago but I quit because I just don't agree with the philosophy.

AL: In what way?

GY: Well, today... I don't know if you read, do you ever read the Pacific Citizen?

AL: Hit and miss.

GY: Okay, the Pacific Citizen is billed as the voice of the Japanese American. But if you look at their... nothing to, it's not a racial thing but if you look at the staff and look at the bylines for stories, ninety-five percent are written by non-Japanese Americans. And unless... we don't try to separate ourselves, but unless you are what you are, there are certain of phases of life that you really don't understand. And that's what killing the PC. And I feel that when they talk about ending the print version of it and going online and the membership is really just dropped completely. They don't seem to go to the core of the problem. See, it used to be that JACL used to bill itself as the voice of the Japanese American community. Today it's more Asian American and so people my age, the older ones that still live in the past as you might put it, this is something that we don't agree with.

AL: What have you thought about sort of the trajectory or the, what, the way the JACL has gone from being against the draft resisters during the war and speaking out against them to, what, seven or eight years ago apologizing and then now with the terminology, instead of accommodating speaking out and saying we need to have this terminology, I mean, how would you characterize what has driven that change?

GY: Well they just completely changed. I don't know, maybe it's the leadership, but today it's completely different from say fifteen years ago. And they get involved, what the latest situation they're involved in and I tell myself, it's none of our business. What's this issue in the last issue of PC they were touching?

AL: Is it the Arizona immigration bill?

GY: Well, that's one thing too but no, there was something even more hilarious as when you look at... I can't think of it right now but it not only just turns me off, it disgusts me.

AL: What did you think when they apologized to the draft resisters?

GY: Yeah, I was at the Monterey when they... and all the veterans that were there, I would say eighty percent cancelled their membership to JACL. It's all right to say they have the right to do this and that, but for an organization representing the Japanese American masses to apologize. And Helen Kawagoe was the president then I said, they can't answer the question I put to them, which is I mentioned earlier but if we were all draft resisters, where would we be? They can't give me an answer. If they would give me a positive answer, hey, it means that we all stood up for our protesting what was happening to us, but no one ever says anything they just says, yeah, they were brave heroes and all this crap, you know.

AL: It's interesting because in our exhibit there were people who were upset that we had a draft resister panel and a military service panel both in the exhibit.

GY: Well, I think it's good to give both sides, but for... to go one sided I think is the objectionable point.

AL: Right.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

AL: Well, it's kind of like I'm talking to you now and in a couple hours we'll be talking to someone with the Hoshidan.

GY: Yeah.

AL: Which is pretty far apart but the point is that every person has reasons why they made the choices they did and that's what we want to get is to capture that. Just one more quick question and I wish we had more time because I would love to talk to you all day. But where were you on September 11th?

GY: September 11th?

AL: Of 2001.

GY: Oh, you mean when the --

AL: Twin towers.

GY: I was in Los Angeles.

AL: And what crossed your mind?

GY: I don't know. As a news man it may sound funny to say this, but I didn't feel the impact of that as much as the general public seemed to have felt, you know. 'Cause I just thought oh, the first thing I thought about when I heard that, I don't know if you remember many years ago when by accident an airplane crashed into the... what's that tall building in New York? Empire State Building?

AL: Oh, Empire State.

GY: Yeah, and funny thing is that's the first thought that came to my mind except the Empire State Building didn't collapse you know.

AL: Right.

GY: Why would you want to... what would you think I would... my response would be to something like that?

AL: I was asking because there are some Japanese Americans who will say, "What's happening to Arab Americans today is just what happened to us," and then there are other people who say, "No, that's nothing like what happened to us because they haven't arrested everybody." There are some Japanese Americans who have had like candlelight vigils with Arab Americans, there's been a number of Arab Americans who come to the Manzanar pilgrimage, and for some people it seems like it sort of intertwined, these experiences of a shared experience of becoming the enemy and then other people will say, "What does that have to do with me?"

GY: Yeah, I see your point.

AL: Yeah, so I was just curious if you had a perspective if you feel any identification with that?

GY: No, I don't think in the history, not only the U.S. but in history I don't think what happened to Japanese Americans happened to anybody else. I don't think there's no comparison between... I don't care how horrible or the situation at that time may be. I just don't agree with that.

AL: So when you see Arab Americans saying that we're going through the same thing you went through?

GY: Yeah, that's another point is that the JACL seems to feel that every time you talk about the Arabs or Muslims or whatever, they always say, "It happened to us, we can't let it happen to them." But when you study the situation closely we didn't have any terrorists in Japanese American community. We didn't have any single person that wanted to blow up this or blow up that. So you can't compare the situation when they say we're going to keep an eye on the Muslims and the Arabs. That's my feeling.

AL: Have you followed any of the political situations like the immigration bill in Arizona or do you get involved at all with current politics?

GY: Well, some people in Arizona have contacted me to want me to make some statements on it. That's another thing is that I don't know what your feelings are, but when you just use the word "illegal" I don't see how we can justify anything illegal, you know. And of course being involved in the Hispanic community quite a bit like I do, I see a different situation than what the general media in California... like the city of Los Angeles boycotting Arizona, I think that's ridiculous.

AL: How come?

GY: Well, I mean, I know now that the federal government's involved, it may change the situation, but I don't know if you've ever been to Arizona, I lived there for a while, and that's a problem because of its proximity to the border.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

AL: When did you, just a couple quick questions, 'cause I know we got to... but when did you first start writing "Horse's Mouth"?

GY: When did I start it?

AL: Yeah.

GY: Well, I started in camp but it wasn't the Horse's Mouth then. It was after I started at Crossroads and then I just used my name then but then there was a guy named Masamori Kojima who was a publisher and he said, "Why don't we use your nickname?" And at that time I think there was a book called the Horse's Mouth so there was a little problem there. It was illegal for me to use that when there was someone that wrote a book with the title Horse's Mouth. But then we started it and nobody said anything so it just continued for all these years. [Laughs]

AL: You're always Horse's Mouth to me. So I told you in my email that the most burning question I had was -- and I feel like I need to ask it because it's important that we document it -- but where do you get all those bad jokes?

GY: [Laughs]

AL: 'Cause they're really bad.

GY: You should see the ones that I censor, boy, I'm telling you if I put all the jokes that I want to put, they'll probably say this is a family newspaper. [Laughs]

AL: Some of them are pretty bad but I have to say, even though I'm not Nisei when I look in the Rafu I always skim your column and any references that you ever have to camp things we cut out and we keep a reference file of any articles out of the Rafu related to World War II, to camps, to obituaries. So we have a whole collection of Horse's Mouth related to camp.

GY: Well, you'll see one this next Tuesday.

AL: Uh oh. [Laughs] No, but I think it's like I said before a lot of people who I mean we talk to a lot of people who are the first people who are willing to speak out which is wonderful. But we also know that doesn't represent everybody and there's a lot people who quietly read their newspapers or raise their grandkids or whatever and are not at the forefront of being willing to talk. So that's why we wanted to get your interview. Before we conclude, I was just wondering if there's anything that you guys, any questions that you had to add?

Off camera: I had one question for you and that is very briefly how do you think the whole evacuation and going to camp, how was it detrimental to Japanese community in America and how was it beneficial?

GY: Judging from my own experience, it changed. I think eighty-five percent of the lives of Japanese American's changed and not for the worse but I think that it changed for the better for many Japanese Americans. Like myself, I wouldn't say I'm a huge success as a newspaperman but if it wasn't for evacuation I wouldn't have a college education, I'd be working on the farm, and so from that perspective there's... I know a lot of my friends say the same thing. The evacuation, the reason behind it was not very good but it did help improve the lives... 'cause a lot of my friends that if they went to college they would've tried to get into SC or UCLA, but because of the evacuation and being exposed to the U.S. for the first time, they went to places like Illinois University and I know six of my friends got degrees from Midwest and eastern universities that they never could have imagined doing if it wasn't for the evacuation.

AL: Do you guys have any questions?

Off camera: I have one question that sort of to take you back to the time when you first the entered the army when you left camp and you joined the military. How were you treated from that very first day that you boarded the bus?

GY: Well, the thing was, all along the way we were treated differently after talking to other, my Caucasian friends that went in the service. I think that we were sort of put on the one side of the... and the fact that we were our own Japanese American unit when we went to basic training, I still remember we would march by and they'll be non-Japanese GIs watching us and they'd look at us like what's this? And that was, to me was, as I look back it was kind of amusing.

Off camera: What did the military commanders over you say to you?

GY: That's the thing is that most of them never saw a Japanese American before. I know in Camp Blanding there wasn't a single noncom or an officer that knew what a Japanese American was. But because of the way we trained and I guess it may sound like bragging but we were more attentive to authority, they quickly... I remember my sergeant said, "When they first assigned me to your unit I said, 'What the heck is this?'" But then by the time we finished our basic he had a whole different attitude toward Japanese Americans. But only thing problem we had was the non-Japanese Americans GIs 'cause they're training to fight a war in Japan or in the Pacific. So when they see Japanese American units training they get kind of confused. And the thing that I remember also was that when I was at in Kansas when we first were inducted, they had a Japanese POW that they captured. A lot of people don't know but they shipped them back here and they had them doing gardening work and cleaning up the fort and I was surprised too, at that, since I never heard of such a thing you know. One day I'm out there I see these, I thought they were Niseis but I found out they were Japanese POWs.

AL: Did you ever learn to speak Japanese?

GY: Oh yeah, after I went to work in Japan, every night at first I bought a tape recorder and then I would listen to tapes and then try to emulate what they were saying. But I was like a comedian. Every time I spoke Japanese everybody laughed. I said maybe I should be a comedian and go on stage and use my Japanese.

AL: So you don't write a Japanese version in the Rafu on the Japanese pages?

GY: No.

AL: Well is there anything else that you wanted to say to us or to history?

GY: No, I appreciate your taking the time to listen my gab. [Laughs]

AL: Well, we really appreciate your time and so on behalf of the National Park Service and the staff at Manzanar --

GY: I'd like to come up one day and visit you people.

AL: Yeah, we hope you do and let us know, we'll give you the grand tour. Anyway, thank you Mr. Yoshinaga.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright &copy; 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.