Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: John Young Interview
Narrator: John Young
Interviewer: Rose Masters
Location: San Gabriel, California
Date: May 22, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-yjohn-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RM: Today is May 22, 2015, it is John Young's ninety-second birthday, and he's allowing both Kristen Luetkemeier and myself, Rose Masters, to interview him in his home in San Gabriel. And John, I want to ask, do I have your permission to record this interview for Manzanar National Historic Site?

JY: Yes.

RM: I appreciate that. I want to start way back with both of your parents, and let's start with your dad. What was your dad's name?

JY: Young. They Americanized it when he said, "My name is Yun," so they spelled it Y-O-U-N-G. Biu, B-I-L-L, Lung, L-U-N-G, and he was an herbalist. He came over around 1878, and he got married in 1906 during the San Francisco earthquake.

RM: Do you know, did you say what part of China he immigrated from?

JY: Yeah, Canton.

RM: And do you know what his family did there?

JY: No. He never mentioned much about his family. He was the seventh child anyway.

RM: What year was your dad born?

JY: My dad was born... well, you have to subtract that from 1954 when he died in '97, so take three years, so 1854, I guess, it comes out to, roughly.

RM: Okay. When he immigrated to the United States, did he ever tell you why he decided to do so?

JY: I don't know why. I was proud of him to take a chance like that, coming to America without knowing the language. But we live in the ghetto where the Union Station is, that's the old Chinatown, so near the plaza there.

RM: Did you say he landed in San Francisco?

JY: Yeah, he landed in San Francisco. He was there first before he came down here.

RM: And did he come through Angel Island?

JY: Yeah, I'm sure he did. They wanted people at that time, there was no papers and all that. So anybody from China came during that time was legally accepted.

RM: What did he tell you about his experience of first landing in Angel Island and then moving into San Francisco?

JY: He never mentioned much about that. He was like a grandfather to me. He must have been in his eighties when I was born, so he was pretty old.

RM: What was San Francisco like in the 1870s, 1880s?

JY: Well, they survived the earthquake in '06, and that's when he won a lottery down here and donated a hundred dollars to them and two hundred dollars for my mother, and the rest he kept. Five hundred was a lot of money in those days, 1906.

RM: What was his, did he continue being an herbalist in San Francisco?

JY: Yeah, he was an herbalist in China.

RM: In San Francisco, where did he work?

JY: That I don't know, but we had a store right across from the Buddhist temple on Ferguson Alley, that's where I was born. That's where the whole family was born, 212 Ferguson Alley, right off of Los Angeles, between Los Angeles and Alameda, it's just a brick street leading down to Alameda from Los Angeles.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RM: Let's talk a little bit about your mom's side of the family. Where was she from?

JY: Well, the mom's side I didn't know quite as well. She was so young, she must have been in her thirties when I was born, but she died in 1949 when she was about fifty-seven.

RM: What was your mom's name?

JY: Chin, C-H-I-N, Shee, S-H, double-E, that's her maiden name.

RM: And do you know how she came to immigrate to the U.S.?

JY: No, probably the same way as my dad.

RM: Do you know what year she came?

JY: No.

KL: Did she come to be married?

JY: No, she came to... well, I'm sure they expected her to be married an all that, got some money out of it, the family. That's the way Chinese people were in those days. Can you imagine being thirty-five years apart from my dad and being outlived by my dad by five years? In fact, I asked my dad to live with me, and he said, "No, I'll go with the older brother," which is fine. Went to live with him.

KL: But your dad didn't bring her over?

JY: No, had nothing to do with it. Didn't even know them.

RM: So did they meet in San Francisco?

JY: Well, it was like a picture bride, not even the picture, sight unseen. [Laughs] Just bought her.

RM: Did he ever, or she ever talk to you about what their relationship was like?

JY: No, she never said much about that. She was so busy raising seven kids. I told you my sister was the one that really took care of me, took me everywhere and taught me things, my sister Dora, she was five years older.

RM: Did your parents have any siblings?

JY: My father had, but he never talked much about them. In fact, he never went back to China again after he came here, never returned. Most of them returned.

RM: What about your mom? Did she ever talk about having siblings?

JY: Well, she must have, in San Francisco, but she never went back and visited them after she got married and came down here.

RM: Do you know what her family did in San Francisco?

JY: No, I don't. She was probably manual labor or working in a restaurant.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RM: So did your parents live in San Francisco from... well, excuse me, did your dad live in San Francisco from when he immigrated until 1906?

JY: 1906 when he married and brought her back here. And he had a business established here, too, a Chinese herbalist store called Hung Wo Hong.

RM: Can you spell that?

JY: Hung, H-U-N-G, W-O, Hong, H-O-N-G. Herbalist store, we have drawers, about a hundred, behind me, separated by four, and dividers. There's four drawers and one drawer, there's four dividers in each drawer. So had to remember where everything is, it's amazing. [Laughs] If he had an empty one, I would put my toys in it.

RM: Did your parents ever talk about the challenges of living in California during the 1880s?

JY: No, because they live in the ghetto, and that was their protection. We had the Ung family, U-N-G, they had twelve in the family. Nobody messed with our family or their family because we had so many boys. [Laughs]

RM: And that kept you from anyone who was prejudiced who might have wanted to...

JY: Well, living in the ghetto, they kind of protect themselves. And my brothers were real strong and all that, so nobody fooled with them. But they did have a police lieutenant, Sterling, I remember the last name, and he was friends with my brother Bill, and we kind of got protection from him. Because we lived right across the street from Jerry's Joint, that was an old restaurant. It used to be a gambling place, they opened up the place across from us. We used to get a lot of knock on our door. But we were kind of protected, my brothers would answer the door and then they'd leave.

RM: Did your dad talk about the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882? Did that affect him or his friends or communication with his family or anything.

JY: No, he didn't seem to communicate with his family in China, or his friends up in San Francisco. Although they had a plaque for him when he donated the hundred dollar, and all my cousins used to take me to see it, I said, "Gee, I'm tired of seeing that, I've seen that about ten times." But that's dissolved now, there's no Young Association up there anymore, so it was an alley.

RM: Would you tell me about... you mentioned to me earlier that you have siblings. Could you, if possible, list your siblings from oldest to youngest for me?

JY: Yes. One brother, Fred, and our brother Frank, and our brother Bill, and our brother Ted, and two girls, Emma and Dora, and myself, that was the entire family.

RM: And you were the caboose of that family?

JY: Yeah, I'm the baby.

RM: Yeah. When was Fred born?

JY: (1907). Fred died early... probably in the seventies. And Frank in his eighties, and Bill, and Ted lived to eighty-five, I believe.

RM: Was Fred born pretty soon after your parents were married?

JY: Yeah, they were like brother and sisters to the mother. Even brother Frank, they were only less than twenty years apart.

RM: How old was your mom when she was married to your father?

JY: Fourteen. My dad was forty-nine, and outlived her by five year, I told you, she died in '49 and he died in '54, at ninety-seven.

RM: What are your first... well, actually, let me ask, when and where were you born?

JY: I was born in Los Angeles. We were all born 212 Ferguson Alley. We were all born there.

RM: And what's your birthday? Oh, well, I know it's today.

JY: My birthday is today, May the 22nd, 1923.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RM: What are your first memories?

JY: Well, my memories are happy ones. I had a charmed life, I think. [Laughs]

RM: Do you remember the area of Los Angeles that grew up in?

JY: Oh, yes. Well, we lived in Ferguson Alley 'til I was eighteen, then I got married. Imagine getting married that young, went to Vegas, got married in '42. So I was nineteen, I guess.

RM: Do you remember Union Station?

JY: Oh, yes.

RM: What was that like for that community?

JY: Well, that was a fairly new station at that time. Well, they were building it in '34, '35. I used to go by there, and that used to be Chinatown there, whole section. And they moved, they first evacuated the Chinese area and they went down toward Adams. And the one above Alameda moved toward new Chinatown. We lived in... my sister got married to Doyen Low, and they lived on Solano, that's where the Dodger Stadium, going up there. So when I came back from camp, I lived with them for a while. And my mother is the one that had the money, she never worked a day in her life. My dad was very simple-minded, he would, being an herbalist, he would have medicine for people. And he would say, "Oh, I'll charge you a dollar." My mother would go out and say two, two-fifty, and she accumulated the money and bought two homes with it. When I asked my sister, "Where the heck did Mom get all the money to buy two homes?" One down 29th and one down up Solano. But she told me the story of how she accumulated money, by my dad being stubborn. [Laughs] Kind of naive, and my mother is the one that kept the family together. That's how she made money.

RM: Can you tell me about your dad's work?

JY: He was an herbalist.

RM: And what did he do? Who were his customers?

JY: Well, customers were all Chinese people. It was like a pharmacist, and he would prescribe medicine for them. And he would give them medicine from his own store, that's how he made a living.

RM: Was that store near your house?

JY: We lived there.

RM: Okay.

JY: We were all born there. [Laughs] We were loft, and all the brother and sister, it's amazing how we survived that, and one toilet among nine people, it's amazing. We didn't have any bathtub, we had a tin tub, everybody took a bath that way.

RM: How large was your house?

JY: Oh, I would say about four hundred square feet.

RM: Was it above the store?

JY: Well, we lived above the store and below (on) the store. The store is in the front, and then the girls' bedroom, and then the father and mother and myself, and then the boys lived on top, the loft. And facing the store is a lot of packages with herbs in it, and behind the counter, there was a counter as you come in, come in the door and on the left is a counter, and behind the counter is all the drawers. If you could imagine that.

RM: Yeah, and that's the ones you described to us earlier.

JY: Yeah, yeah, the herbs.

RM: Where did you go to school first?

JY: I think he just learned from somebody else, the herb business.

RM: He was an apprentice?

JY: Yeah.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RM: And what about you? Where did you go to school?

JY: I went to California Street School, it's up on Bunker Hill.

RM: Was that a grammar school?

JY: Yeah, it's a grammar school. And then I went to Central Junior High School, then I went to Lincoln High School, I graduated from that, and here comes the war.

RM: What can you tell us about your grammar school experience? What was the makeup of the classes?

JY: It was mixed, it was Caucasian, Latinos, very few blacks at that area during that time, and quite a few Chinese. We walked to school every day, and we'd walk up to Broadway and then climb a hill, go up to Bunker Hill. And our school was right next door to Central Junior High School. In fact, we used to get our lunch from the junior high, we'd have friends who were in junior high school, for ten cents you'd get hash, mashed potato, and two slices of bread for ten cents. [Laughs]

RM: That's a good deal.

JY: It was amazing.

RM: Were there any Japanese Americans in your grammar school?

JY: Oh, yes.

RM: Who were your friends?

JY: Well, could be Mexican and Chinese, and I had all kind of friends, whoever was in class, and we got along.

RM: What did you do for fun when you were a kid?

JY: We kicked the can, played hide and go seek and things like that. Anything that doesn't require any balls or anything. We played baseball, that was graduating into something a little more, well, different from where we're used to. Yeah, I said that in my book in there. We kicked the can, how we entertained was we all played hide and seek and all that.

RM: Could you... for those of us, a generation that's never played Kick the Can, could you describe what that is?

JY: Well, we have a can, metal, and one guy is elected to kick it, then we all go hide. Then the guy got to put the can back where it was kicked from, and then look for us. That's what the game consists of.

RM: So that's how much time he has, is how far he can kick it, yeah. What about holidays and celebrations in Chinatown? What were those like?

JY: Well, it was a great thing, especially toward Chinese New Year, because we get lychee. Yeah, they gave us quarters in a red paper, we'd go up to the old Chinese and say, "Gung Hay Fat Choy," and they'd give us one. We were pretty busy, because as soon as we leave American school, we have to go to Chinese school, and that's from three-thirty to seven-thirty at night. But really I didn't learn much, but my friend Ada remembers a lot of Chinese words. To me it was nothing... during my gas company job, I never... in fact, they offered me a job as a local manager in Alhambra, so they said, "You want that job?" I said, "No, I can't speak Chinese. I can hardly speak English," I told him. [Laughs] That was a parallel move. He said, "You want it?" I said, "No, I don't want to dress up in a suit every day and go out to lunch and mingle with the officials, that wasn't my sort of thing.

RM: What was Chinese school like?

JY: Well, you learned to read and write, and you have to go up to the class, in front of the class and read the book, see what you have learned. Then you have to write it down. It was pretty interesting.

RM: Do you remember your teachers?

JY: Of course I went to school and then we were the bad boys, we set the clock early when the school teacher comes. [Laughs] Because it had no glass in front of it. It was up in Aliso Alley, August Alley in Los Angeles Street. It was a church.

RM: That was another question I had, was your family religious, did they go to any churches?

JY: No, but my dad had his own religion: as long as you're good to people, don't do 'em any harm, and help if you could. Well, we went to Sunday school, Miss Early, the Caucasian lady that donated her time for the Chinese. We just went because Frank Gets, who used to teach the bible to us, would take us fishing to Sycamore Grove in his pickup. He had little seats in the back where we sat, that's the only reason we went there and listened to him for an hour, then he'd take us out to the beach or Redondo Pier or to Lincoln Park or Sycamore Grove. That's the only reason we went. We weren't religious.

RM: What was your mom's life like during this time?

JY: She was busy working, washing clothes, cooking and all that.

RM: For the family?

JY: The family kept her busy. She didn't have too much time to herself until the boys started getting married and moving away, then she had time.

RM: Did your parents speak Chinese at home?

JY: Oh, yes, Cantonese. In fact, I'm a foreigner now, because most of 'em speak Mandarin, they talk to me in Mandarin and I tell him I'm Cantonese. I was born here and I can't understand. Even when we went back in China, we were foreigners, we can't speak the language.

RM: Did your parents learn English?

JY: Very little, very little, because they lived in a ghetto just among Chinese.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RM: Did you ever go over into Little Tokyo area?

JY: Oh, yes, we used to go down there because they were more organized than the Chinese were. And they had parades and Nisei Day and all that, I'd bike down there to see the girls and all that.

RM: What do you remember about Little Tokyo in the 1920s and '30s when you were a kid?

JY: In the late '20s, yeah, we went down there, just to see the parade and all that. Because they have Nisei Week, they really dressed up, had parades. But the Chinese had the Lion Dance and all that, I used to do that when I was young, my teen.

RM: What was that like?

JY: Oh, it was kind of fun, beat the drum and the gong and cymbal and all that.

RM: What was that for?

JY: Just to celebrate New Year's, and the firecrackers and all that. We used to put firecracker in the can and blow it up in the sky. We had a lot of fun as kids.

RM: We've heard a lot of stories about really good Chinese restaurants in Little Tokyo. Did you know of any of those restaurants?

JY: Yes. In fact, we used to, they always had a banquet almost every week, ten, twenty table, and we would go in uninvited with a bunch of boys. At first we were dumb, we sat with the old ladies, and they eat like pigs. We finally learned you sit with the old men, they were so drunk, we ate all the food. [Laughs] We'd go up there with ten, twenty boys, and we said, "Three go here, two go here."

RM: Do you remember what restaurant that was at?

JY: Oh, yeah, Grandview, Tui Far Low and all that, all the restaurants, all the big restaurants.

RM: Do you remember the Far East Cafe?

JY: Oh, yes, Far East came later. They came later. In fact, I knew the owner, we used to go down to the bar when it was up in north Broadway. I'd go there and drink 'til about twelve. My wife and I would go out about eleven o'clock Saturday night, and we'd drink 'til one or two. And then we'd go eat some jook, it's a rice gruel with chicken or beef or pork, and then go home from there.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RM: So let me switch a little bit into talking about junior high. We talked a little about your grammar school, and then you said, you just moved one building over for junior high?

JY: Yeah, it was just next door. In fact, we used to get the older boys, like I told you, they'd get our lunch for us.

RM: What was junior high like for you? Was there anything that stood out?

JY: Well, we were pretty Americanized, we dressed for gym and all that. We had fun. We had dances and all that in the gym. We may go with all the rest of the kids.

RM: How about high school? Where did you go to high school?

JY: Yeah, Lincoln High School. Mostly Italian during that time. In fact, Kenny Washington came from there, great football player. He was about three years ahead of me.

RM: What was the makeup of Lincoln High School the same as your grammar school had been, the same mix of kids?

JY: Yeah, we had all kind of nationality there, mostly Italian. North Broadway was Italian town. In fact, when we moved to Solano Avenue, mostly Italian there. It was mostly kids I knew, because I went to high school with them and all that.

RM: How far is Lincoln High School from where your house was?

JY: Chinatown?

RM: Yeah.

JY: Let's see, about three or four miles. We'd take the streetcar.

RM: Okay.

JY: So they drop you right in front of the high school, and they go down to Lincoln Park.

RM: Did you play any sports in high school?

JY: Yeah, went out for track and all that, basketball. Yeah, we did everything.

RM: What were your favorite classes? What did you like doing?

JY: Oh, I don't know. None, if I had to study. [Laughs] I didn't take a college prep course because most Asians didn't go to college during that time, only a few from rich families.

RM: Do you remember thinking about what you were going to do when you graduated?

JY: I figured I'd get a job down in produce. I work in produce.

RM: While you were in high school, did you work in produce?

JY: No, no, after high school I got a job in produce, and it was union scale at that time, I'd get twenty-five dollars a week. My brothers used to work for fifteen, sixteen dollars six days a week. So they were delivery boys or working the store or something like that. We couldn't get any job that's meaningful, I should say. I was the first Chinese that went into So. Cal gas company in '51. There was hardly any Chinese.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RM: When you were in high school in junior high, I guess 1937, the war between Japan and China started. Do you remember hearing about that?

JY: Oh, yes, we heard a lot about that.

RM: What were the conversations like?

JY: In fact, we had a big fight down near the city hall there, Hall of Justice, Japanese and Chinese. But it was people that we knew, and we couldn't do anything really. But most of the troublemakers were from high school, they started it. And especially the China-born, not the American-born Chinese or Japanese. So it was the Chinese and Japanese-born that started it. We were more like bystanders.

RM: What kind of tensions, did you feel tensions among your friends?

JY: No, in fact, I had a lot of Japanese friends. In fact, when I went to Manzanar, this guy that went across the fence to get a ball got shot by the guards. Yeah, they were saying that in fact, my daughter wrote something about that. The guards were there to protect the Japanese, so my daughter said, "Then why are the guns facing the Japanese instead of outside, protecting them?" Yeah, that was a Japanese captain that came in the camp, and the soldier wouldn't salute him. And he was in an American uniform. And they came in the camp to recruit the Japanese, they said, "Gee, they put us in camp, why are they coming in here trying to recruit us?" You've heard of the 442nd?

RM: Yeah, yeah.

JY: They were the highly decorated Japanese group.

RM: What did your parents think about Japan's aggression towards China?

JY: Well, really, there wasn't much influence on that, because they were here so long, they knew some Japanese and all that. I think we were friends with them, so they remained friends. My mother-in-law had a hotel, she leased the property in the hotel, and had twenty rooms on Hewitt and First Street, she lost all that when she went to camp. But the Japanese and the Asians were pretty ambitious people, so they came back and recovered. In fact, her family, my wife's family, went back and worked for Bird's Eye, frozen department in New Jersey, they stayed there 'til 1950 after they left camp, after the war was over. And my brother-in-law, Roy, was about a year younger than I was. He never drove in his life, he bought a car and brought the whole family back and lived with us.

RM: Well, let's start talking, I want to open it up for Kristen to ask some questions about prewar, pre-Pearl Harbor.

KL: I just have one. You said that your dad was kind of unusual in that he came to the U.S. and he never returned to China. Do you know why he decided to do that?

RM: I guess he had no connection with his family and all that. I doubt if he ever wrote back to China, to his family, because he's been here so long already. And they're probably, most of them are dead anyway. He was one of the youngest, too. Yeah, never went back. Most Chinese would go back, show how successful they are and things like that.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RM: Let's talk about how you met your wife.

JY: High school.

RM: Do you remember the first time meeting her?

JY: Oh, yeah, I had a class with her. In fact, there was an opening in another class, and I left. [Laughs] That's how we got attracted to each other. She asked me to a Sadie Hawkins dance, that's how it all started. I said, "Gee, I have to work." I parked cars in Chinatown, that's how we learned to drive back in the late '30s, '38, '39. So I made a date with her later, and she had to call me from the restaurant below the hotel, and that's how we got together. Got to like each other, started going around, started holding hands in the auditorium. [Laughs]

RM: Was it common for women --

JY: Japanese and Chinese?

RM: Well, that, too, yeah, was that common?

JY: No, it wasn't. In fact, this friend of mine, David, he's still alive, and he's about two years older than I am, they owned the General Lee restaurant up in Chinatown. Used to tell people, "Oh, yeah, Johnny goes around with a Japanese girl." And next thing I knew, he married a Japanese girl and he worked in a restaurant. So we still remain friends. But he was a brilliant student. I got mad at him for not going to college, because he would have made a great engineer, or even a doctor. He thought that restaurant was the greatest. In fact, when my wife died, my wife was very... well, she was a good person. She picked out her sister, his sister, as my next girlfriend, but we grew up together. We were playing around, and three o'clock, I had no feeling for her, just good friends. In fact, she's come over here for dinner after the husband died. That's about it.

RM: What about, was it common for women to ask out men?

JY: Sadie Hawkins day.

RM: It was a special event, then.

JY: Yeah, a special day. So that's when the girls have a chance to ask the boys, just to a dance, that's all.

RM: And she'd had her eye on you?

JY: Yeah, we both looked at each other and, I guess, liked what we saw. That's about it.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RM: Can you tell me a little bit more, you mentioned this parking garage that you worked in in high school.

JY: Well, there was a lot of empty lots in Chinatown. There was an upper lot and a lower lot, and it's all filled with buildings now. We used to park cars in there. In fact, we started charging, and we found out we got more money by not charging, just tip alone. In fact, James Wong Howe, who was a cameraman, he used to come in with his Duesenberg and give us five dollars every time he comes in. [Laughs] So at the end of the day, there were two or three of us, we just put the money together and split it and go down to Philippe's, if you remember that, ten cents for a hot beef sandwich, we eat two sandwich and a salad for twenty-five cents in those days. Philippe's still exists down near Chinatown, down Alameda and Ward Street, I believe.

RM: How did you get that job?

JY: We just... one of the boys lived there, Bill Wong, who was married to Jenny, we just took over.

RM: No one questioned you?

JY: No questions asked. They were happy that we were taking care of the people's car. Of course, we listened to the radio and siphoned gas out of their car. [Laughs] For my cousin, no, there was an upper lot. We had a long hose, we were bad boys.

RM: Did anyone ever catch you doing that?

JY: No. [Laughs]

RM: You mentioned you also used to turn back the clock in Chinese school, or turn it forward?

JY: Yeah, after the... he owned a Chinese restaurant, Soo Chow on Los Angeles street, and she would come and teach Chinese for a couple of dollars a day. After he comes and when he's kind of half asleep, we'd turn the clock maybe a half an hour or an hour more. [Laughs] After we leave, somebody else comes in, and she leaves, too, and we turned the clock back.

RM: What other things did you do besides siphoning gas and turning back the clock?

JY: Listening to the radio off of cars.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RM: Let's jump back to your wife. Can you just, for the record, tell us her name?

JY: Yeah, Kiyoko, Kay Ishihara, I should say.

RM: And what did you know about her parents?

JY: Well, she had good parents, she could speak fluent Chinese. In fact, she went in to a Chinese store after she was taking care of my mother for a couple of years, and they said, "Here comes that Japanese girl," and she would tell them in Chinese, "I can understand Chinese fluently." And they respected her after that.

RM: When did she learn Chinese?

JY: Well, she had to communicate with my mother, that's how she learned. And she would in turn tell me, she said, "You're sure dumb, you can't even speak Japanese." I said, "That's how your mother and I get along, we just nod at each other and smile." [Laughs] Which I never did learn.

RM: So tell me a little bit, you mentioned that earlier, before we started this interview, you mentioned that both of your parents, her parents and your parents, didn't necessarily -- how did they feel about the two of you dating each other?

JY: Well, they were, after we got married, they finally came over and met my parents. And what could they do? We were married and got along. In fact, when we moved down to, on Wall Street, 21st and Wall Street, I beat up the father because he was hurting the mother. I dragged him out in the hallway and hit him in the stomach and he just crumbled. And the older brother... the older brother, Roy, and my wife was from a different father, and the father died during the Sacramento Flu in 1928 or '29. And he was abusing her, and I dragged him out and hit him. So the older brother called the police and took him into jail, and somebody bailed him out.

RM: Where did her parents live?

JY: Well, they had that hotel on First Street. She was doing all the work and he was a gambler, so all he did was gamble. In fact, when we had our daughter, Beverly, she was going to go in and visit the mother and she was kind of afraid of the father. So the brother, who was a huge guy, the whole family was big for Japanese. In fact, one of the brothers was six-two and a half, and he went to Japan and went like this, all the relative was under his arm. Dinky, yeah, he was the second boy. And so the older brother said, "Come in, I'll protect you, don't worry." But then the father fell in love with my daughter and took her all over, show her off and all. He had to accept that we were married and all that, though. I'm sorry I never got back together with them, because he died in New Jersey. Because we could have become friends. So that's the only thing I was sorry about.

RM: Did your wife have siblings?

JY: Oh, yeah, he had, let's see, Roy, Dinky, Fumi just died last month, and Hideo. Hideo had heart problems, in fact, I'm still in contact with the sister-in-law Nancy. In fact, we knew four Nancy, and we called them "Big Nancy" and "Little Nancy, "Teeny-weeny Nancy," they were all Nancy.

RM: Did you tell your parents, or did Kay tell her parents that you two were dating?

JY: No, but I told them I was gonna marry a Japanese girl, and that's when I told you that I thought my father would raise hell, but he didn't. He said, "Just bring her around and let me look at her.

RM: What did her parents think of you?

JY: They didn't say much. After we were married, they came over and visited our parents and all that. They had to accept because we were married and living together, they couldn't do anything. We had a daughter.

RM: So you two met in high school, and then when did you graduate from high school?

JY: Summer of '41. She did the same time.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RM: Do you remember when the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor? Do you remember what that day was like?

JY: Oh, yes, yes. But it didn't bother us that much because we were more Americanized than Chinese and Japanese.

RM: What were you doing on that day? Can you describe the day to us?

JY: I don't know. Didn't think anything of it, it wasn't a big thing. It was a big thing, but...

RM: Did you notice your community change after the attack?

JY: Yeah, when they were all taken to Manzanar, yeah.

RM: When did you and Kay get married?

JY: February the 14th, 1942, we got married. She died February the 12th, 2006, two days shy of sixty-four years. We got along great. She wouldn't argue with me, she would walk away and give me the silent treatment, that's the way she was.

RM: Do you remember, was she impacted -- so on February 19, 1942, only five days after you got married, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, and there were a lot of changes, curfews and different... you couldn't go more than five miles from where you lived. Do you remember your wife being impacted by those, the curfew or anything?

JY: No, it didn't bother us. We just went in where we wanted to go, that's all, went to the beach or anything. No, that didn't affect us at all.

RM: Where were you living at the time?

JY: I was living with my brother-in-law up in Solano off of Broadway.

RM: What do you remember about learning that Japanese Americans had to leave Los Angeles?

JY: Well, I was sad because my mother-in-law had the hotel and all that, the livelihood. I was really affected by it. And they had to go to camp and they had to give all the radios and things like that away, can't have any radio. And the furniture, I took some linoleum from them and linoleum my parents house, they lost everything. They were so sad about it, all that furniture.

RM: What camp did Kay's parents go to?

JY: Well, first they went to Santa Anita, lived in the horse barns. Then from there they went to Manzanar. I didn't go in with them at first, she had to go in. But there was a few Japanese girls that stayed out and married Chinese. In fact, a good friend of mine, I worked on the produce, and this guy married a Japanese girl and he kept her out, they just stayed out.

RM: What do you remember about making the decision to join your wife?

JY: Well, I was in love with her, and I was making good money at that time. I was making about thirty-five dollars a week as a truck driver, delivering produce to a fruit stand and all that, out in Beverly Hills and all over. And I had to give that up. I gave it to my brother-in-law to do, I went into the camp and started making sixteen dollars as a carpenter a month. But we had nothing to lose, we were so young and didn't have much.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RM: Tell me about the trip to Manzanar. How did you get there?

JY: Somebody took me up there. I had a car, so I sold it. My brother-in-law took me up there and dropped me off. And I went in as a volunteer, I could come out any time I want. I stayed in with her until we had Beverly, she was born there. Then they let us out.

RM: What was your first impression of Manzanar?

JY: Well, it was sad to see all the people, rich people, poor people. The poor people wasn't bad because they had a house to stay in and food cooked for them, and making a few dollar. They were making parachute and things like that.

RM: What did it look like?

JY: Just dirt, wind and dust and barracks. We had one barrack maybe the size of a garage and maybe about four families live in it. We had a little corner, just a bed in there, that's all, sat on the bed.

RM: Who lived in the barracks with you?

JY: Other families, two other families. One family had about three or four kids, and one had one, and us. We didn't have any kids, so we were all thrown in together.

RM: Did you remember the other families' names?

JY: No, I don't. We just kept to ourselves, more or less.

RM: I suspect that you imagined something different for the first months of your marriage. [Laughs] What was it like to have to live in that room with other people as a newly married couple?

JY: Well, we'd been married quite a while already, three or four months we'd been married. So it was awkward living with other people under the same roof. But that's the way it had to be.

RM: What block did you live in?

JY: I forgot, 23 or 24.

RM: Do you remember what building or room you were in?

JY: Yeah, we were the second one. We weren't on the end, and we were near the fireplace. I think it's 23 or 24, I'm not sure.

RM: Maybe 23, it's next to a firebreak.

JY: Probably.

RM: And what do you remember about the latrines?

JY: Well, they were open toilets. For men it wasn't bad, for women it was hard because there was no divider or anything like that, just toilets lined up. And showers were the same way, you go in the big room and you shower.

RM: How about the food?

JY: Pardon?

RM: How about the food at Manzanar?

JY: The food wasn't bad because they had their own cooks, their own people cooking, it was Japanese food and all that.

RM: How were you treated?

JY: Well, I told you I was, went to sleep with a claw hammer. I thought somebody would attack me, being Chinese, but hell, I was treated like one of them. I had no trouble, so I put the hammer away.

RM: Did you make friends in Manzanar?

JY: Yeah, I made good friends.

RM: Do you remember any of their names or what they were like?

JY: Oh, yeah, Miwako.

RM: Can you tell us some of their names?

JY: I've forgotten. Played ball with them, we had fun together. Watched a movie, block movie, outdoor movie, big screen and all that, entertainment.

RM: Tell us about playing ball in Manzanar.

JY: Yeah, I played baseball with them, basketball with them. Her family, my wife's family were great basketball player, because when they went into the service in Japan, they won the championship over there. They got the brother to join the army so they could go back to Japan, and they beat a Notre Dame group back there for the championship two years in a row.

RM: What was your job in Manzanar?

JY: I was a carpenter.

RM: How did you get that job?

JY: Oh, I applied for it. They tried to put everybody to work making something.

RM: Had you worked as a carpenter before?

JY: Yeah, I did a little carpentry, yeah.

KL: What did you build in Manzanar?

JY: Pardon?

KL: What did you build in Manzanar?

JY: Repairing barracks, moving walls. In these long barracks, about 120 foot, the walls can be moved according to the size of the family, so we did a lot of that.

KL: Do you remember installing any plasterboard or anything?

JY: No, we didn't have any plasterboard in there until later, 'til after we moved. It was just the outside, and that's why dust was coming in. A lot of people put up sheets just to keep the dust out. So it was kind of horrible.

RM: How did you make privacy from the other people in your room?

JY: Okay, we put posts up and put ropes and put blankets up.

RM: On the posts?

JY: Yeah, on the rope. It would run from post to post, so that's the only privacy we have.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RM: So your daughter was born in Manzanar.

JY: Yeah.

RM: What was that like for your wife?

JY: Well, they have professional doctors and nurses there, and they took good care of her. We brought them doughnuts after, gave it to the nurse, because it didn't cost us a penny.

RM: What do you remember about the Manzanar hospital?

JY: They were big barracks, yeah, they were all, they had the inside boards and all that, plasterboard and all that. It was nice.

RM: How about the medical staff? Do you remember doctors and nurses?

JY: Oh, yes. They had an American doctor, Dr. Little, I remember that name. He was the head of it, and then they had Japanese, bunch of Japanese doctors under him.

RM: Do you remember who treated your wife when she was pregnant?

JY: The what?

RM: Do you remember who took care of your wife when she was pregnant at the hospital?

JY: Oh, when she was in the hospital? The nurses did. She had professional care.

KL: What was Dr. Little like? What were your impressions of him?

JY: Oh, he was quite a nice doctor. He grew to love the Japanese people.

RM: What about other activities in the camp? You mentioned sports and movies, do you remember any big celebrations or anything other than that?

JY: No, that's about all that was going on, this was the churches and all that, religion going on, Japanese school and all that, American school, of course. They got their education there. A lot of people, some of my brother-in-law, graduated from high school in there before they went back east.

RM: Did you take any adult education courses?

JY: No, I was too busy helping her. I did all the washing and all that, there was a washtub, I washed clothes and all that. My family is pretty helpful, because I had a brother-in-law to help my sister back in the '30s, late '30s. So I followed in his footsteps with the help of my wife. In fact, I did the cooking the last ten, twelve years, in fact, I still do everything here. She appreciated that.

RM: Can you describe the laundry room? Is that where you did the washing?

JY: Yeah, yeah.

RM: Can you describe what that looked like?

JY: Yeah, yeah, it was a big laundry room, yeah. We hung everything up to dry in front of the barracks, it was a clothesline that people made and all that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

KL: I wondered if you remembered an event that happened in December of 1942 over a man who was arrested and jailed and people wanted him, some people wanted him to come back to Manzanar. And there were big crowds, it gets called the Manzanar Riot sometimes. Do you remember any uprising?

JY: No, that might have been after I left.

KL: It was in December of 1942, actually, December 7th.

JY: Well, I was still there, yeah. No, I don't remember anything.

RM: Do you remember tensions in the camp between different groups?

JY: No, the only thing I remember is a friend of mine that graduated from high school got shot, that's the only thing, event I remember. Otherwise we just kept to ourselves.

RM: Can you tell me about that?

JY: Takeuchi, I still have his picture in the annual and all that. Well, he just went across the fence to pick up a ball that they hit over there, then some guard shot him with a shotgun. Didn't kill him, but just injured him. In fact, I think his picture is in one of the things that you gave me. But he was okay, though.

RM: Can you tell us what he was like?

JY: He was a nice guy. In fact, he visited us after we got out, after he was released from camp. I gave him some money, because I was fairly well-established by then, I owned a house by then. Beverly was big, and I had a son by then. In fact, when I had my son in '48, I gave the Japanese Hospital two dollars, he stayed in there for ten days, and we got money back. [Laughs] Now it costs you a fortune to have a child.

RM: Did you say that you knew Hikoji Takeuchi before the war?

JY: Oh, yeah.

RM: Tell us about that, how did you know him?

JY: Well, because he used to hang around with the Chinese. There was two Japanese boys that hung around with us, the Chinese group. So we just became friends, that's all, just casual friends. Associated in high school with them.

RM: Our boss, Alisa Lynch, she did an interview like this with Hikoji.

JY: He still alive?

RM: He just passed away, I believe, last year or the year before, very recently. He was in his late '90s. And if you would like, we can share that interview with you. He might even mention you. [Laughs]

JY: Yeah, we were pretty good friends, but just school friends, more or less.

KL: Who was the other Japanese kid who used to hang around with you and the Chinese group?

JY: The father used to come down and buy produce. I've forgotten his name. He was very shy, he'd stutter a lot.

KL: Did Hikoji change after the shooting, his personality at all? Did you notice a difference?

JY: No, not really. He was still a friendly guy and all that. And he didn't hold any animosity toward the guy that shot him. Because I guess he figured they were doing their job. But I don't know where the hell you would escape to, Mt. Whitney, that's about the only place.

KL: What can you tell us about that landscape, the mountains? What do you remember about that?

JY: Well, they didn't do much when I was there, the first year. In fact, I landscaped the whole building, I put the lawn in and designed the walkway and all that. Then when I started doing it, somebody else came out to help me and all that. Yeah, I thought that was pretty good, because I'm not much of an artist or anything like that, but had a walkway from each barracks going across to... we grew some grass there and all that, planted some trees.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RM: Great, this is tape two, interviewing John Young. I wanted to ask you, February 1943, the government asked -- it wasn't really asking them -- but had them answer something called a "loyalty questionnaire" where they had to say whether they would forswear allegiance to the Japanese government, the Japanese emperor, or whether they would serve in the United States military. Do you remember your wife and her family having to answer that questionnaire?

JY: No, I don't.

RM: And you don't remember answering it yourself. I don't know why you would have.

JY: Why would they ask me?

RM: Right.

JY: I'm Chinese.

RM: Do you remember anyone answering that? Do you remember anything going on in camp like that?

JY: No, I don't. In fact, both my brother-in-law, all three, yeah, all three of 'em, Roy and Dinky and Hideo were in the U.S. Army. Fumi is the only one that didn't, in fact, he just died last month, he was about eight years younger than I was. No, they were all in the service.

RM: Do you know if they joined the service from...

JY: Yeah, they joined the service, yeah, just to play basketball, believe it or not, and to go to Japan.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RM: Can you tell us about the circumstances... so on the roster it says that you left on your birthday, May 22, 1943. Can you tell us about the circumstances of how your family was released from Manzanar?

JY: Well, just because we had a daughter. Then all of a sudden they said you can go back to where you came from.

RM: They told you it was because of your child?

JY: Yeah, because of the family. So I asked my wife, I said, "I don't know what the hell's going on." She said, "Well, I figured, having a child, I can't go Mata Hari around anymore," so that was her answer to it.

RM: So tell us about leaving. What was that like?

JY: Well, we didn't have any real close friends, just casual friends. And my brother-in-law came in, and my cousin Dick came in with a car and just picked us up and just took us home.

RM: What did your wife think? Because she would have been just a handful of people of Japanese ancestry in what was called the exclusion zone. What was that like for her?

JY: Well, she had her family there, but she couldn't go visit her mother because the father was so against us. He was kind of bitter, my beating him up, and plus, I'm Chinese. So there was really no close relationship her mother and I until the father died in New Jersey. And when they came back out in 1950, that's what got close.

RM: Did her family leave Manzanar with you and Kay and Beverly?

JY: No, no, they left later when the war was over. That's when they went back to New Jersey, because they were offered jobs there by Bird's Eye.

RM: So when you moved back to Los Angeles in May of 1943, where did you live?

JY: I lived with my brother-in-law, my sister. They asked us to move in, they had a bedroom for us, so we just moved into Solano.

RM: What was that like for you? What was wartime Los Angeles like at that point?

JY: I don't know, I was too concerned with my own family and then the war. I knew I was going to get drafted sooner or later. Then I had to report to the draft board, and on my folder, there's a big "Jap" there, so I said, "Well, I'm Chinese." So they had to take that off. And by September I was drafted. In fact, they made a big deal out of it, because I was wondering what the hell they were making a big deal in the barrack, and I happened to sleep where Jimmy Stewart slept.

RM: Oh, when you joined the military?

JY: I didn't join, I got drafted. And I went to Denver, Colorado, and passed the test, and they put me in the cadet program, to become a pilot, navigator, or bombardier. When I finished college, I still had my wartime diploma and all that. They cut the program out and sent us down to Vegas to gunnery school.

RM: Tell us about where you went school. Was that in Oregon?

JY: Yeah, eastern Oregon, La Grande, Oregon. Oregon State education, that's what it was.

KL: Can I ask a question? You said you were concerned, you didn't notice much of what was going on in Los Angeles because you were concerned about your family.

JY: Yeah, my family.

KL: How was it to leave them to go into the military so soon?

JY: I don't know, it was just expected, that's all. One of my brother was in the coast guard, but he was in Catalina all that time as a butcher. He was a butcher. The whole family was a butcher, we couldn't get jobs, so all the boys went into the business on their own.

KL: What did Kiyoko do when you left?

JY: Pardon?

KL: What did Kiyoko do after you got drafted and had to leave?

JY: No, not really.

KL: What did Kiyoko do, where did she stay, how did she react?

JY: Oh, she stayed with my brother-in-law and my sister, with my daughter. Oh, yeah, she stayed there 'til the end of the war, until I came back. Because my wife had to take care of my mother, had to go down to Chinatown every morning and give her a shot. She was diabetic.

KL: Kiyoko sounds kind of feisty, like she kind of always knew what was going on and had ideas about it or opinions. What was her response to your having to --

JY: No, she kind of became part of the family. That's why she had to learn Chinese to communicate with my mother, because they hardly understand any English at all.

RM: Were there --

JY: Pardon?

RM: Go ahead.

JY: Yeah, so that's how she learned Chinese, had to communicate. Had to do shopping for them and all that. She does her thing and then she'd go back home again, back onto Solano.

RM: Were there any other Japanese Americans in that neighborhood during the time that you were in the military and Kiyoko was living on Solano Street?

JY: No, there wasn't.

RM: She was the only one?

JY: Yeah, we were the only ones, yeah. After we moved into El Sereno and bought a duplex with my mother-in-law, that's when her family came back, in 1950. That's when the brother drove them all back, and they all lived with us until they found housing for themselves.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RM: So I would like to hear more about your wartime experience in the military. Can you tell us about the school that you went to in Oregon, what it was like?

JY: Well, they had lot of physics, main course was physics up there. When I graduated, they cut the program so they had enough pilots, and the war was coming to a standstill, they sent us to Vegas with no prejudice, and graduated as a gunner. In fact, they had a sign up there, "Gunner today, goner tomorrow." [Laughs] Anyway, we had a lot of those kind of joke in the parachute. In case it didn't work, you bring it back, we'll reissue you another one. But that was kind of fun, I kind of laugh at it. Yeah, so I became a gunnery instructor, and like a dumb young fool, like I said before, I volunteered for overseas. And I joined a group in... where the heck was it? In Denver. And I went to Alexandria, Louisiana, gunnery school, and we crew up and flew together as a crew. And came back to Denver and picked up a new airplane and flew into Wales, England, and from there we were transported with a new airplane. Went to New England State, Greenland, Iceland, Atlanta, all those places, and went into Wales. And with the third line, I got the map there, and we started flying with other crew, with experienced creew for about three or four missions, and we started flying as a crew on about fourth or fifth mission. And I completed sixteen combat missions and got shot down once. Not shot down, but bailed out once.

RM: Can you tell us what those missions were like?

JY: Well, it wasn't too bad. The Germans, toward the end of the war, they had the Schitz at that time and they made one dive at us, and they got the hell out of there. So I was hardly able to shoot them, because they're coming down five to six hundred miles an hour. They take one burst and they get the hell out of there, because they were low on plane and low on combat pilot. So it wasn't too bad.

RM: Where did you fly to?

JY: Oh, I go the whole mission, went to Berlin twice, and I was on the mission where we killed fifty thousand civilians. We couldn't find the primary target, the secondary target, so we dropped the whole bomb load, over a thousand planes, over the city of Dresden. And I got the whole article if you want to see it.

RM: You were on the mission that did the Dresden firebombing?

JY: Yeah.

RM: What did that look like from above?

JY: I turned the camera on and I saw the picture, it was just on fire. About twelve five hundred pound bombs we dropped, and two incendiaries, so we set the town on fire. A thousand planes dropping all that, so you can imagine.

RM: What kind of plane were you on?

JY: B-17, Fortress, Flying Fortress.

RM: And how many guys would be on one B-17?

JY: Nine.

RM: What were their different jobs?

JY: Okay, they got the pilot, copilot, bombardier, navigator, flight engineer, a waistgunner, a ballturn, and a tail gunner, which I was in.

RM: Were the nine of you together on most of those missions?

JY: Yeah. About twelve missions. The first three missions we flew with an experienced crew, just to get the experience.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

JY: Each group, there's two division in England. Each division has twelve group, and each group has four squadron, but they only fly three squadron at a time, they retain one in the base.

RM: Why do you say yours was the most screwed up group?

JY: Because they shoot down their own plane and all that. This was a picture of mine, here's my air medals.

RM: That's an amazing collection. So just so the camera can tell, John is now showing some of --

JY: Yeah, here's my mission I flew.

RM: -- the different missions that he flew, look at that. Oh, my gosh. So we should probably look at this after the interview. Okay, sure. I wanted to ask about the one, you said you were flying back from Berlin.

JY: The second Berlin one. I went to Berlin twice.

RM: It says March 28, 1945.

JY: The only thing I remember about those missions are it's so goddamn cold. It's sixty-five degree minus up there. And we have electric boot, electric suit, electric mask on, and it still gets iced up. Once in a while you had to break up the ice and drop if off. And when you have to go urinate and you think you're your sister, you can't find it, it's so cold. [Laughs]

RM: What about... what's it like to bail out of an airplane? How did you do that?

JY: You hear a bell and you dive out, you don't think. Then you think after you get on the ground, you say, "What the hell happened?" That's when you get... here are some of the, no, leave it there.

RM: Can you hold that up so the camera can see it? What is that? Can you tell us what that is?

JY: It's just something they made up after the war, that I flew so many missions and all that.

RM: Yeah, sixteen combat missions. It says you had a hundred and forty hours of combat time.

JY: Yeah. Most of those missions were eight to ten hours.

RM: Sure. And it looks like they're really close in succession, you have March 12th, 14th, 17th, etcetera, all the way through March and April. Did you have time to rest in between missions?

JY: You don't have time. By the time you even have time to go to the toilet... I think I flew five days in a row, and those missions are, because you have briefings, which takes an hour, hour and a half in the morning, and then you get ready to fly, and then you fly those missions, you come back and you have a debriefing. And that, they give you a couple of shots of liquor when you come back. And then you have to meet with a bunch of officers and explain what you saw and all that. Then you go eat, then you sleep. You never know when you're gonna fly, because about three o'clock in the morning, somebody'll tap you on the shoulder, "You're flying." So you never know. On our wings we wore a blue patch, that means you're on call any minute of the day. So you're not allowed to go to down or anything like that. And imagine, some of those missions are ten hours, that's a long time to be up there in preparation before going, and coming back, debriefing and all that.

RM: Do you know, were you able to communicate with Kay while you were in...

JY: You can't... well, I'll show you something else. I can't tell her where I'm going, but I can send her from Stars and Stripes where I went.

RM: I see. So you sent her the newspaper to tell her about what you had been doing, because that was..

JY: That's the reason I sent these back.

RM: With the date on 'em, I see that, yeah.

JY: With the date on 'em. Here's all my flying time and all that.

RM: Did she ever tell you how she felt receiving those?

JY: She was worrying and keeping her fingers crossed. Of course, I figure it's better than being killed. As an infantryman, you know, plane will blow up and that's the end of it.

RM: Did you lose any of your friends in the war?

JY: Yeah, we lost a navigator, John Lennox. The father was a sheriff in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. [Laughs] Okmulgee, Oklahoma. So if you ever see Twelve O'Clock High, that's our group.

RM: We'll look for it.

JY: Yeah, it's right behind you, I think it's a Gregory Peck picture.

RM: Is there anything else about fighting in World War II that I haven't asked you that you'd really like to tell us about?

JY: Okay. Coming back home, they wanted to fly one of these B-17s home. We said, "Hell, no," so they shipped our crew, we took a vote on it. They shipped our butt over to France, so we had to wait for some infantry guys to come home, and that's when we come home. And we had five hundred infantrymen that came back with us. But they were so seasick, we ate everything. We weren't seasick at all, and I was going to tell you that the Queen Elizabeth, where the hell is that? The Queen Elizabeth took off two weeks after we did, and came in one day ahead of us. The ME-262 was shooting at us, but they only made one strike.

RM: How long was that trip back?

JY: Took us twenty-one days.

RM: And is that because you were in waters that were at war at point?

JY: We hit the Atlantic storm in '46. Yeah, we could have flew home a lot faster but we didn't fly anymore. I'll tell you another thing, too, after about... I didn't fly for thirty years after that. I'd never flown before the war, and all flew with a parachute. Since I bailed out one, I was so scared of flying without a parachute, that was my security blanket. This was our pilot. So I didn't fly for thirty years, until my daughter bought this ticket to go to Hawaii in 1975. From '46 to '75 I didn't fly.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RM: Could you tell me, among the guys that you trained with, it sounds like you guys were a pretty tight-knit group.

JY: Yeah, we were a tight group, yeah.

RM: Did you ever face any discrimination in the military?

JY: No. I never really did. It's amazing, a lot of people have, and they asked me, "Did you face any discrimination?" I said, "No, never did." Even when I was becoming an officer, I had no problem. All the crew member, there's a guy associated with Ball Jar, Ernie Ball, and Hugo was a millionaire because his parents owned a restaurant and taught math. And he ran it, he and his brother retired from it, gave it to their grandkids, they ran it into the ground, they finally sold it for a million dollars. I took him to Low Jo's just to show him another Italian restaurant, he said, "John I'm not bragging, but our restaurant was larger." I said, "Wow." He said, "We have three stories and have over fifty people working for us."

RM: Did you all stay in touch?

JY: Yeah, we kept in touch. Except, well, Hugo, I, and Fred Wages became the closest. The only one I lost contact with, good-looking Henry Brown. He's the one we lost track of, the real tall guy. And I don't know about him. The rest are dead, but I think Henry is the only one younger than I was, the rest is older. Yeah, then the hotel, Hugo and I, we became very close, and Fred Wages. I got a pilot license for anything under a hundred horsepower.

RM: Did you ever talk to these guys about the fact that you spent a year living in Manzanar?

JY: No, I never said that. But said, "We would have had an ideal crew if you were Japanese." I said, "Why?" He said, "Joe Hann was a German," our flight engineer is Italian, he said, "If you were a Jap, we've got it made." [Laughs] That's the only thing we used to laugh about.

RM: Did you guys hear about the 442nd when you were in the military?

JY: Oh, yeah, I heard about that, too, my wife. Here's a newspaper I kept.

RM: Oh, look at that. Can you hold that up so the camera can see it? That's an important one, huh?

JY: Yeah. This is August the 15th, 1945.

RM: Kristen, did you have questions about his World War II experience?

KL: Yeah, a couple. You talked about that run on Dresden. And did you say there were two military targets you guys were looking for, but you couldn't find either of them, so you went to Dresden instead? Did I understand that right?

JY: What was that again?

KL: The bombing raid over Dresden, the firebombing?

JY: Oh, yeah, we couldn't find the primary, we couldn't find the secondary, so we dropped the bomb right over Dresden.

KL: And how did that feel while you were watching the bombs and the fires start?

JY: We don't care. When we heard about the Jewish camps, what they did, we were happy. We had no feeling for it at all. Here's a milkman that turned out not to be. That's the Dresden run, I got the whole shebang on it.

KL: Can you say anything more about learning about the camps in Germany, the Nazi camps? How did you find out about them and what did you think?

JY: We heard from other people, infantry people, that been through it, and they told us about how they killed the Jewish people and all that, so we didn't feel bad about it at all. We thought it was poetic justice. Yeah, we dropped the bomb right over the city, lot of people got killed.

KL: Speaking of bombs, do you remember hearing the news that the U.S. had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

JY: Oh, yes, we heard about that.

KL: How did you hear about that, and what did you think about that?

JY: Well, I knew it was coming, I heard something about the atomic bomb even before it was dropped. We thought they might use it in Japan. That's about it.

KL: What was your understanding of what an atomic bomb was in 1945?

JY: We knew it was really something, because we were told it was a thousand times worse than the bombs we were dropping, one bomb. Imagine a thousand planes, each carrying six tons of bombs, that's a lot of bombs. I told you as soon as they hit the bomb, then I turned the camera on and photographed everything. Just a few planes will have cameras.

RM: What happened to those photographs?

JY: Pardon?

RM: What happened to those photographs?

JY: I guess the army still has them. I set these because our club is still, 306 bomb group, is still active. But now the grandchildren are running it, not even the children. They show us how we fly, where we were placed in the formation and all that. Shows the position where we flew, this is all my flight time. This was my mission, of course. Yeah, that's why I came back on the furlough, right before I went overseas.

KL: That's in Los Angeles?

JY: Pardon?

KL: Is that in Los Angeles?

JY: Yeah, it's in Solono, on Solano.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

KL: Did you have any time in Europe when you were not on base? Were you ever able to go see anything?

JY: Oh, yeah, we go to London or anything, just to get away from the airfield.

KL: What was London like at that time?

JY: Well, they turned off all the light during the wartime, nighttime. They were being bombed. In fact, people were sleeping in the subways. We saw a lot of cot there, that was shocking to see cots in there and family, because their homes were bombed out. That's the first time we felt, knew there was a war going on, unlike the states here, everything was intact. Yeah, those poor people suffered over there.

KL: When you were on your time off, did you just walk around London?

JY: Yeah, we just walked around going to shows and all that. Go in the pubs, of course, get drunk.

KL: So some things were still going on.

JY: Yeah, something was still going on. In fact, I went in the day when Roosevelt died, all the British people come up to me and say, "Sorry," for me, and I didn't know what the hell was going on. Finally I asked somebody, "What's going on?" They said, "Roosevelt just died. Didn't you hear about it?" I said, "No, I haven't." In fact, I voted for him. That's the first time I was able to vote. I turned twenty-one, I voted for him.

RM: What did you think about president Roosevelt? The only thing I was mad about him was putting the Japanese in camp, when he signed it, but that because of General DeWitt. He's the one that thought the Japanese would create a lot of problems. He convinced him to sign, that's all.

KL: Were you aware of General DeWitt in 1942, or did you learn that later?

JY: I was aware of him. That's only... in fact, somebody told me, "You want to stay out of camp, go see General DeWitt." So I tried to see him in Pasadena, and I couldn't see him, of course. In fact, in my lifetime, well, I flew with a general, once. He took over the pilot, co-pilot's seat, fly it as a command pilot, and the co-pilot would come back to the tail and kept me company, and we started bullshitting. [Laughs]

KL: Did you see anyone on DeWitt's staff when you tried to see him?

JY: No. I just saw the sergeant in charge of the secretary.

KL: What was your interaction with the secretary?

JY: I was so, I told him he's a pain in the ass. I didn't care, I was a civilian at that time. Yeah, he was the one that convinced Roosevelt, I read later and found out about it.

KL: What do you remember about Victory in Europe day?

JY: Pardon?

KL: What do you remember about Victory in Europe Day?

JY: Oh, that was wonderful. I was in town, too. I was supposed to fly that day and the war ended. Well, they told us to prepare. Anybody with less than twenty missions, go get your summer uniform, because you're going to the Pacific. I thought, goddamnit. You know how we felt only at sixteen. So that was a lie, it was just a rumor. I went to the warehouse, they said, "What uniform? We don't have any." They said, "That's just a damn rumor."

KL: You were in London when you heard that news?

JY: Yeah, when the war was over.

KL: What was London like? What did people do?

JY: Everybody was happy. Everybody was happy, they were celebrating.

KL: Where were you on VJ Day, and what do you remember about that?

JY: Yeah, I was still over there. They kept us, after the war, fly camera mission, and we flew all over Europe at 20,000 feet, just to take picture of the whole of Europe, all the terrain. And most of the time we were playing pinochle, nobody's flying the plane, it was on autopilot. We did a lot of stupid things, think we're immortal.

KL: What were you taking pictures for?

JY: For the next war, in case, so we know their terrain of Europe. Yeah, we flew for about a hundred miles, then flew back and forth. In fact, they moved our group after December to Europe. All the guys that volunteered, one guy asked me, he said, "Hey, how would you like to be a gunnery officer?" And I said, "What's the catch?" he said, "You got to sign up four year." I said, "Go shove it." I said, "My wife would kill me." [Laughs] I said, "I'm a civilian, I'm not a soldier." Yeah, they offered two of us gunnery instructor, if we would like to be gunnery officer. I got it down here somewhere, I was a gunnery instructor. Yeah, the instructor.

RM: Where were you stationed in Europe when you were...

JY: Thurleigh, just north of, about sixty miles north of London. So we go into London a lot. We went to Bedford, too, because our closest town was Bedford. So we'd go in there when we had a three-day pass, otherwise longer, we'd go into London.

RM: You said you were taking photos in case there was the next --

JY: Oh, here's something interesting I might tell you. The way we wash our woolen, we don't want to send it to the laundry because you could get anybody's uniform back. So we would drain three to five gallon of gasoline from the plane, and we would rinse our woolen, oh yeah, and then you hang you hang it and let it air out, then we throw it away. And this farmer, who lives 60 miles from London, he's in his sixties, never been to London. So we started throwing that gas, and he said, "Gee, can we have that?" I said, "What are you going to do with that?" He said, "Use it on my tractor." I said, "You can't. These are 130 octane." So I said, "You've got to cut it with kerosene or something." So he said, "I could do that." So he went and screened that cut it. On top of that, since we got pretty friendly, we said, "You've never been to London?" He said, "No." I said, "How would you like to go to London?" Our crew took him in. We got a three-day pass and we took him in and bought him lunch, he lived with us, slept with us. [Laughs] And we entertained him, he's a good old man. He was quite a guy. I've even forgotten his damned name.

RM: That's really neat.

JY: So I got my whole history here, what I've done.

RM: Was anyone talking about another war after World War II? You said you were preparing...

JY: I don't think so. With the atomic bomb, I'm sure they would it use it, although I think China's afraid to... keep reading the paper, and pretty soon they have fifty billion dollars invested, you figure in 2020, so they got too much invested here to get in a war with us.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

RM: What do you remember about coming home?

JY: I was happy I was coming home. But we were coming home about a month later, because we stayed in France until these guys were released. I know we threw all our dishes overboard, all the underwear, dirty underwear, we threw overboard, we got new issue as soon we came back to the States. We threw everything away. And we had to use our mess kid, you know, on the ship, you have to stand up to eat, and you have to put your bayonet on your mess kit so the damn thing doesn't slide all over. But we ate. All the air crew members ate and didn't get seasick.

RM: Where did your ship dock?

JY: Camp Shank, New York, that's where they took us after we docked. We docked right next to the Queen Mary or Elizabeth, and from our top deck, we looked at the lowest window. Can you imagine, they took off two weeks later and came in one day ahead of us? I got proof, people can't believe me, I said, "Well, look at that." That's the ship's log right there. I'm not lying to you. So after that, they believed everything I tell them. [Laughs]

RM: What was the mood like in the States when you got back here?

JY: Oh, everything was over. All the celebration was over, we just walked in, and nothing.

RM: Did anyone say anything to you?

JY: No, no. I went to New York Chinatown and had a Chinese dinner. The thing I missed when I went to England was just a plain bowl of white rice. I said, "What the hell, why am I missing that? I used to hate rice." [Laughs] It's a funny thing. But when I went to London, the Chinese people were real kind to me. They saw I was a flier and also a Chinese. They offered not to take my money, but I paid them anyway. I said, "No, you guys need it more than I do." We get good money, we get twenty percent overseas, plus fifty percent flying pay, so we get paid twice a month, the first and the tenth. So the American soldier, any fliers are loaded with money.

RM: How did you get back to Los Angeles?

JY: I flew from Camp Shank to Long Beach Ferry Command without a parachute. I told you I was shaky all the way back, I thought, god, first time I flew without a parachute. 'Cause I used to hug that parachute, I mean, that was my security blanket.

RM: When did you see your wife for the first time?

JY: Oh, right away. They let us all go home and come back and get our three hundred dollar discharge pay. Oh, they were good about that way.

RM: What was it like to see her?

JY: Pardon?

RM: What was it like to see Kay and your daughter?

JY: Oh, wonderful. I saw them not too long ago, about a year ago, right before I went overseas.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

RM: Well, I would like to ask, just if you could summarize the next few years of your life after you got back from the war, what did you do?

JY: Well, like I said, I led a charmed life. I didn't get a job with, I was working on produce, and got a job with So. Cal Gas Company. I spent thirty-six years with them. And got into management, and hell, right now I'm getting close to a hundred thousand a month for retirement with my IRA and all that. I have a happy marriage, I met a good friend of mine, we weren't wanting to get married because she's in the million, and I want her to give to her family what I have to my family. I asked her if she minds, she said no. So we're just staying together, so it's been six years, October 19th.

RM: Tell us about, a little bit about your parents. You said your mom died in 1949 and your dad in '54?

JY: Fifty-four, yeah.

RM: What were the rest of their lives like? What did they think while you were in the military?

JY: They didn't say much about it. My dad was so old, we was more like a grandparent to me than a father. And I told you my sister was like a mother to me. My mother... well, you don't communicate with your parents that much as Asians. Not like you and I with our kids, it's different. It was a little different. That's why I had to ask my sister all these questions, I said, "Where in the hell did Mom get all the money?" Buying homes. It was only 19 and 2900 at that time, but still, where did she get the money? So she finally told me where the money came from. I was amazed. It takes a woman, I hate to say it. [Laughs] Even the gas company, last two years, I was going to get a young lady as my boss. So my division manager came to me and said, hemmed and hawed trying to explain something. I finally said, "You mean I'm getting a lady boss?" He said, "Yeah, I've been trying to tell you." I said, "My mother was my boss, my wife was my boss, big deal." [Laughs] Hemmed and hawed trying to tell me a younger woman. I said, "She wants my job, she can have it." I was in charge of automotive at that time, and I said, "If she knows anything about it, let her run it," what the hell, I'll do anything she asks. I'm leaving anyway. But she became a good friend, offered me a job, begged me to take the morning job in charge of warehouse, and maintenance man, so for her, I said, "It's costing me two thousand a year," because of my bonus, I worked from two to ten. And besides, I'm known as the midnight superintendent with the gas company, I'm the only supervisor around. All the rest of the guys went home already. Well, that's doing automotive. All I have is the garage, five, six garage to take care of.

RM: What did Kay's family do for the rest of their lives?

JY: They did nothing after Bird's Eye, because the boys were grown up then, they all went to work and contribute toward the house and all that. She didn't do anything, the husband died already, the second husband.

RM: Did you and Kay stay close to her family?

JY: Yeah, she always visited her mother when I'm working, so I said, "Come back from the same route in case your car breaks down." I said, "Just keep it locked and I'll backtrack if you're not home by a certain time." Yes, she was close to her mother, she and her mother really got along.

RM: Did any of you talk about Manzanar together?

JY: Not really, no. That's a thing we want to forget. Even the war, I hate to try to remember anything about it. Not happy memories, or just memories.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

KL: I am curious to know what you thought when, in the 1980s, President Reagan issued checks to people who'd been confined in --

JY: Clinton did. I got a letter from Clinton.

KL: Bush. It was an apology letter.

JY: No, no, I got the letter right her.

KL: What did you think of that letter?

JY: It was fifty years too late. That's the whole thing. I think I gave you a letter...

KL: That's okay, maybe we can look at it later. I hadn't seen one from Clinton. So yours came from President Clinton.

JY: Yeah. Clinton sent us a letter. Beverly got twenty thousand, my wife got twenty thousand, I got twenty thousand. I just gave it to the kids. She believed in giving money to the kids, get the house all paid for. In fact, I got thirty-one thousand from my IRA, I gave ten thousand to my great grandchildren for their 529 and all that. She believed in giving the money while we're alive, not holding it 'til we're dead.

KL: It sounds like my grandpa. What did Beverly think when she got that letter or when you guys told her about Manzanar?

JY: Well, she was kind of surprised, but knowing that something would come out of it. She had a good life, we all did. I had a charmed life, I think.

KL: In Los Angeles, when you were in the army, did Kay ever have any experiences that stand out?

JY: As a Japanese?

KL: Yeah.

JY: No, just that Chinese grocery store that I told her earlier, that they made a remark, "Here comes that Japanese girl, or Jap girl." Until she spoke to them in Chinese, then she gained a lot of respect because she knew what the hell they were talking about. No, she didn't have any problems, she didn't have to wear "I'm Chinese" or Japanese. No, she didn't have any trouble. Just because she knew the language.

KL: Yeah, I bet those people were very surprised.

JY: Yeah, they were shocked. That was an old grocery store in Los Angeles.

KL: You mentioned you had one other Chinese American friend who married a Japanese American woman and they never went into any camp.

JY: No, this is a Chinese fellow that married a Japanese, Sue Wong. She just died a couple years ago. She was a friend of my sister's, they used to come over, she and her husband used to come over and play mahjong. In fact, she'd still play mahjong, they'd sit for ten hours.

KL: Were they scared that they would be picked up, or was that hard thing to...

JY: No.

KL: Yeah, that's so unusual, I was curious about that.

JY: No, they weren't afraid at all.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

KL: We talked a little bit about Hikoji Takeuchi. Were there any other people that you remember vividly from your time in Manzanar that you palled around with or you knew from before the war?

JY: No, we didn't get too intimate with anybody, just casual. Say hello, play ball, play ball with a bunch of old men. No, not really. Hikoji, it's just that I went to school with him, that's the reason he was in our same class, summer of '41, Lincoln High School. You know, the other fellow's name I can't remember, kind of a tall fellow.

KL: Do you remember in Manzanar any other people who were not Japanese American but were there with their spouses?

JY: Yeah, just a girl, June Low... yeah, that's the only one, but I heard there was another one. June was a friend of my sister's, she was about five years older than I was, that's the only reason I knew of her.

KL: Do you know what her married last name was?

JY: Well, she was married to Ossie, I don't remember his last name. He was a Japanese fellow, but he used to hang around with Chinese, my brothers and all that. So we always had interracial buddies, because my brother had a meat market down on Tenth and San Pedro, so he knew a lot of produce people.

RM: Did you ever hear about a Caucasian woman named Elaine Yoneda living in Manzanar?

JY: No, I heard of it, yes, but I never met her. There was quite a few of us in there.

KL: Did you hear ever of anyone who was African American who was in Manzanar?

JY: Yeah, there was a little boy there, poor kid, they called him Joe Lewis. He was half Japanese and half black. The kids used to pick on him, I remember.

RM: Do you know where he lived?

JY: No. He lived on the other side of the firebreak. The 1 through 12 is on one side, and 12 through 24 is on this side, I think, of the firebreak, in between all the latrine, things like that. They had some stores and all that.

RM: Do you know if his parents or if the kid that got teased and called Joe Lewis, do you know if his parents were in Manzanar with him?

JY: I don't know which one was black or which one was Caucasian or Japanese. Yeah, but there was one boy, like she was saying, they called him Joe Lewis.

RM: Well, we have a lot we would love to ask you. We recognize that you're family's coming to celebrate your birthday, so we want to let you prepare for that. But I just wanted to ask if there's anything that you would like to share with us that I've completely overlooked or that Kristen forgot to ask, either about your time in Manzanar or World War II, anything?

JY: Not really, not really. A sad part of my life I try to forget, the happy part, I'd like to remember that. Like a happy marriage, and I met a friend that I've known for over seventy years, I didn't even know the kids were adopted. My daughter works in ER in Glendale, I figure... never found out. She's got two daughters that are doctors, the son was a baby doctor, but he's turning his life around, he wants to be in music, a musician. I had a woman dentist the same way, she's quitting that to become a lawyer. I said, "Why are you quitting this?" Tired of looking at people's mouths for twenty years. [Laughs]

RM: Did you hear in 1992 that Manzanar was established, authorized as a National Historic Site?

JY: Not really. I never went back there. No hindsight on that at all.

RM: What do you think about the fact that... well, both Kristen and I work for Manzanar now, and we get about 80 thousand visitors per year. What do you think about that?

JY: I think it's great that somebody remembers. I was part of it and I don't want to remember. There's nothing to remember about it.

RM: Is there anything you would like us to share with visitors or to tell them?

JY: Not really.

RM: What about your wife? What do think she would think that Manzanar is a National Historic Site?

JY: We never talked about it. We even shocked ourselves when we think that our daughter was born there.

RM: All right, John. I want to say thank you very much, both on behalf of myself and Kristen, it was a real job to spend this time talking to you on your birthday. And thank you on behalf of Manzanar National Historic Site.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.