Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George T. "Joe" Sakato Interview
Narrator: George T. "Joe" Sakato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 14, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-sgeorge-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so today is Wednesday, May 14, 2008. We're in Denver, Washington, and...

GS: Denver, Colorado.

TI: Denver, Colorado. [Laughs] And today I have the pleasure of interviewing Joe Sakato. But before we get to you, in the room we have Kirk Peterson, who is operating the camera, and my name is Tom Ikeda, and I'm with the Densho project in Seattle. And so this interview is being conducted in partnership with the National Park Service, so the Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho are partnering doing these interviews, and so this will be a copy that not only Densho will have on our website, but the National Park Service at Manzanar will also have. So I just wanted to let you know that. So Joe, I'm going to start by asking you, what was the name given to you at birth?

GS: My name was, Dad wanted to call me Jyotaro Sakato. Jyotaro Sakato was, Jyotaro was a sword-bearer for Musashi samurai, and so my dad wanted to call me Jyotaro. He sees in the paper G-E-O, well, that's "Joe," Jyotaro Sakato. He gave to the doctor, doctor looks at it, "G-E-O, that's all right." So he turned it into vital statistics, and they turned it around and, "Oh, that's the baby, for George." So it became George T. Sakato. But all my life I've been called Joe.

TI: So that's funny. So your parents always called you Joe, but on your birth certificate it said, "George."

GS: George.

TI: And at some point --

GS: And when I got to high school, they said, "You better start using your real name. Your birth certificate says, 'George.'" So anything I have to sign, I have to sign "George," because that's what the birth certificate says.

TI: Okay, but for the purpose of this interview, I'm going to call you Joe if that's okay with you. So even though your legal name is George, we'll call you Joe. And so Joe, can you tell me where and when you were born?

GS: I was born in 1921, February 19, 1921, in the town of Colton, which is the hub city for the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. And they were the hubs, when the Union Pacific was north and south and Southern Pacific was east and west, and the, so all the, my parents had a barber shop.

TI: Okay, before we go there, so Colton was at this major crossing of these two main railroads.

GS: Two main railroads.

TI: This is southern California, San Bernardino area?

GS: Yes.

TI: Okay, so right there, so you were gonna say, so your parents --- before we talk about what your parents do, let's first talk about your siblings and kind of your brothers and sisters. And so who, who were they?

GS: My older sister was named Grace Sakato, and then my older brother's Henry Yoshitake Sakato, then Ken, Kenbo Sakato was the third one, then Fumiko Sakato was my fourth sister, then there was a George Toru Sakato, but he died when he was just two, three years old. And then I was born and my Dad wanted to call me Jyotaro Sakato.

TI: And so you were, not counting your, the brother who died, so there were five, five kids?

GS: Uh-huh. And then John Toshiaki Sakato was right below me, and the youngest was James Sakato. Hideki, his name was Hideki, James Hideki Sakato. He's the youngest.

TI: Okay, so I count, so I count five boys, two girls?

GS: Uh-huh.

TI: And in terms of, kind of, age difference, your oldest sister Grace, how much older was she than you?

GS: Well, I forgot -- Fumi was older than me, then Toru, and then Ken, and Henry, so Grace must have been five or six years older than I.

TI: Okay, and you were born in 1921. Any of your siblings still alive?

GS: Just the two younger ones are alive.

TI: So John and James.

GS: And my sister Fumi is still alive.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Okay, so let's first talk about your father. Can you tell me his name and where in Japan he was born?

GS: I think he was born in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi-ken, in Japan, and then...

TI: His name was?

GS: Yoshitaro. Yoshitaro Sakato. Now I have to think back... Henry was Yoshitake...

TI: Yeah, I think it's Yoshitaro. Yeah, Yoshitaro Sakato. And what kind of work did your father, father's family do in Japan?

GS: I don't know really what they did in Japan. I don't know. We never did correspond, I never did correspond with the family, although I did go to Japan to see the relatives. I saw more of my mother's side, she also was Iwakuni and Wakicho, they called it. There was a little town between Wakicho, and there was a river that separated Hiroshima from Yamaguchi-ken, Otake was Hiroshima-ken. My great-great-great-grandfather was a samurai.

TI: And this on your mother's side?

GS: Father's side.

TI: Father's side, okay.

GS: And he was killed in battle between Hiroshima and Yamaguchi-ken.

TI: I'm curious, did you know that growing up, that you had an ancestor who was a samurai?

GS: No.

TI: So this was later in your research when you traveled.

GS: '60s, when my dad brought back a katana, sword, that I have. But the webbing and all that is all decaying and falling apart, six hundred-some years old.

TI: Did that, did that surprise you, that you had an ancestor who was samurai?

GS: [Laughs] Yeah

TI: 'Cause that's uncommon, that's not a common thing for a family to have that. Your mother's side, what was her maiden name?

GS: Hatsu Kawado.

TI: Kawado.

GS: Hatsu Kawado. Boy, you're pulling out my -- I have to think back sixty, fifty, sixty, seventy-five, eighty years ago. [Laughs]

TI: I'm trying to stir up those brain paths. Do you know what your mother's family did in Japan?

GS: I have no idea what they did, although I did visit them.

TI: Well, how did, how did your mother and father meet?

GS: "Picture bride," I guess.

TI: So it was kind of an arranged baishakunin.

GS: Arranged, baishakunin type of thing.

TI: Okay. So, do you know why your father came to United States? Did he ever tell you why?

GS: He thought this, the United States would be, they could make a lot of money and then go back to Japan, their plans were. But like they say, they all came here anticipating to make a lot of money and then go back, but they all never did go back.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Okay, good. So this was all kind of preliminary stuff I wanted to ask you, and you were just starting to tell me what your parents did in Colton.

GS: Yes.

TI: So why don't you pick up the story there in terms of...

GS: Once they came into Seattle then he worked the railroad for a while and then he went south, and they stopped in Colton and became barbers. So then my mother also barbered, so we had a barber shop and a pool hall and a bathhouse, because the conductors and brakemen and all from the railroads would come in to get a haircut and would take a bath and play pool and go back on their trips to the other parts of the country.

TI: So I'm curious, when you say bathhouse, was this kind of like a bathhouse in the style of a Japanese sort of furo type of thing?

GS: No, the regular bathtub with, we had three sets of bath, bathtubs that we would have to do all the cleaning, draining and cleaning the bathhouse. And then the, the others would watch the pool tables, so we more or less ran a pool hall and bathhouse and barbershop.

TI: And so this was for, kind of, the railroad workers. I was wondering, did your parents ever, like, cut hair for, like, Japanese families or anything like that?

GS: Yes, but then there's only four families living in Colton at that time.

TI: Oh, so only four. So tell me about the four families in Colton? What did they do?

GS: Next door was Nishida family, they had a chop suey house, Japanese house, and then another, Shimazus had a grocery store on the other corner, and then, and another fellow, he was a single man, he didn't, he worked various places and I think he would help, help at the grocery store with Shimazu family.

TI: So in this case, your parents, the barber, pool hall, bathhouse, then you had the restaurant and the grocery, so were all these catering to the railroad workers, is that who the customers were?

GS: Uh-huh. And the business of Colton, town of Colton. We were just a block from the railroad station, and across the street was the superintendent of the railroad, and behind his house was just this empty lot. And then next door to us they have a wrecking, wrecking yard, automotive, automotive cars, and then east side of us, Main Street, would be the, going north-south where the, we go north to, grammar school was about eight or ten blocks north of us, then we have to walk to school. So when I walked to school, I didn't know how to get back home. So I'm sitting on the curb crying, and the policeman come by and he looks at me and he says, "I know where you live," so he took me back to the house. [Laughs]

TI: 'Cause that's where the four Japanese families lived?

GS: Four Japanese, there's only four places that he could take us to.

TI: So how old were you when this happened? It was just like kindergarten?

GS: Five, about six years old, seven years old.

TI: But it's kind of interesting, so back then, even though you're five years old, you would just walk to school by yourself.

GS: Then my brother, too, John. And I've been, got sick and I missed, held back another year because diphtheria, pneumonia, and all, measles and stuff, so then I went to school with John, so me and John were in the same grade. So we went to school together.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So what are some other childhood memories of that area, Colton? I mean, what, as you grew up, who were your playmates, what kind of things did you do?

GS: Oh, we had, one guy I used to run around with is Bill Turner, he was six foot tall, and I was only four-foot-ten, and we were Mutt and Jeff combination. We used to roller skate to San Bernardino, it's three, four miles north of us, and then we'd skate back. And then I used to run around with two, a Spanish boy, Henry Porteo, we used to, and then there was two black boys, Willard and... I don't know what the other fellow's name was, but we used to go to school together. So we all, they lived south of the tracks, so they used to come across and meet and then we'd go to school, walk together to school, and after that we'd come back. And in junior high school, we would go to, we had to go to -- the highway was the next block over from where the Shimazus' market was, and then the Main Street, and the highway, ten, I forgot what street the tenth was, must have been Tenth Street, would run east and west from Los Angeles to Indio, the valley. And so we used to, when we were kids we used to make skateboard skates, and we got a two-by-four and put a skate on the other one and one, skate on the other. Got an apple box and put it on top, so we made scooters. Put the handles on, and tin cans in front for headlights, we used to skate around the whole block with, with these scooters. And Willis grocery, I mean, clothing store was on the corner of Main Street and where we lived, they used to get mad because every time we go by them we'd make so much noise. [Laughs]

TI: And so it sounds like a rich sort of childhood, lots of friends, lots of different races, mixing of races between white, black, Japanese. Did you ever notice in Colton that, was there... what's the right word? Kind of maybe discrimination or maybe prejudice in terms of the racial minorities from the whites or was it all mixed? Or how would you characterize that time?

GS: All mixed, 'cause we all got together. It was fine, we all knew each other. And then the townspeople knew that, where we, the Japanese was in this one block area, actually, 'cause where we lived, from the Willis, Main Street, and then the Willis store, and there was a beer, a small beer joint, and then the Nishida's chop suey house, and then our house, and then next door to our house was a wrecking yard. And then the corner street was the, Shimazu's was on the highway. And then the bank was on the same... so it was, this whole block was... but we all got together fine, it was no problem.

TI: And when you think of Colton back then, how, how large was Colton?

GS: Oh, it was a small town.

TI: So how many blocks, kind of, like you just talked about? How many would that be?

GS: Oh, north I would say about a mile, go north, and then the next three or four miles, you're in San Bernardino. And then west, you're on to Ontario, Pomona, and going towards Los Angeles. South we had to go towards Riverside, and when you went east, nine miles was Redlands.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So when you look at those surrounding communities, were there very many Japanese kind of in the proximity?

GS: There was Japanese in Redlands, Japanese in San Bernardino, so when we went to San Bernardino, we had to go to Japanese school, we'd get on the streetcar and go to San Bernardino.

TI: Okay, so that's interesting. So there were enough Japanese in that whole area to support a Japanese language school.

GS: Yes.

TI: And so how frequently did you have to go to Japanese language --

GS: Every Saturday we had to go to Japanese school, take the streetcar to go.

TI: And what was that like? Was it interesting meeting the other Japanese from the different communities?

GS: Oh, yes. Even from, people from Ontario, that area would come, and then... Ontario and then San Bernardino, and some of the Redlands because some people from Redlands would come. But then most of it was just San Bernardino, there were several families in San Bernardino area, and so we had... so when they had, we used to have, my brothers would play ball, they would play baseball, my older brothers. And so they used to have teams play against Pomona, and they'd go into Los Angeles, Oliver Tigers, they're Orange County, and we all, Riverside we would play baseball, we used to have baseball teams and stuff like that.

TI: Okay, so all these communities had their own youth baseball teams, and they would travel and play each other. And in this case, the Sakato brothers were kind of half the team, probably.

GS: Then we had, we used to be in kendo, used to go to kendo school, San Bernardino to go to kendo. And then, so we had, we used to go compete with Redlands, and my friends from Redlands, George Kanitani, he was in the army, too, but he was first draftee, too. But he ended up with me in E Company during the war. But all those various groups would get together even as far as central, east Riverside, south of Redlands, the families, different families. And we used to all get together every now and then and have picnics and stuff like that.

TI: Well, and it sounds like also, so like Saturdays were kind of almost Japanese culture day for you. You have Japanese language, kendo, you see all these other kids.

GS: Yeah, different families.

TI: About how many kids would participate during this time? When you think about Japanese language school, for instance, how many people were in your class?

GS: Maybe forty, fifty.

TI: Wow, so that's pretty large.

GS: Yeah. 'Cause quite a few were from San Bernardino and Riverside and surrounding areas, Ontario.

TI: So I'm curious, Japanese language school, how did the Niseis, how did they like going to Japanese language school on Saturdays? I mean, was it something that some were good at it, or how would you describe the class?

GS: Some were good at it, but I wasn't good at it. I tried to memorize the first stories in the Japanese pages, so I'm reading by memory and I'm turning the page like I was reading it, and I turned the page and the teacher was behind me and he says, "That's pretty good, you can see through that page and see..." got caught. [Laughs] I flunked out of Japanese school. I kicked myself ten times over for not learning. I was bad.

TI: So what did you say? You were one of the worst students?

GS: I was the worst student. [Laughs]

TI: So when you say kicked out, were you literally kicked out, or did they just give you a bad grade?

GS: Gave me a bad grade, I wouldn't go and try and learn it again. But in time, maybe I finally got through. When the others got through Book 5, Book 10, I was still in Book 1 or Book 2.

TI: How about kendo? Were you good at kendo?

GS: No, 'cause one of the girls from Redlands, George Kanitani's sister, she whacked me right here in the ear and whacked me under the arm. [Laughs] Hit me through here, and holy mackerel, I wasn't very, my reflex wasn't very good.

TI: And so wasn't that unusual, to have girls doing kendo, too?

GS: Oh yeah, no, they all, girls were doing it, too.

TI: They were doing it, too?

GS: Yes. She was good. She was fast, her reflex was real good, like whack. Shove me right in the throat, missed the guard and hit me here. And she hit me underneath the guard part here, in between here, and I was black and blue all over. Hit me across here.

TI: Oh, she must have been really, she must have done this to other boys, too.

GS: Oh, yeah. She was, she was top, she was a real good kendo player.

TI: Oh, I'd like to talk to her. Is she still alive, do you think?

GS: I don't know, I haven't seen her. But her brother, I see him every year.

TI: Yeah, well, find out. I'm curious, I'd like to interview her. She sounds like she's pretty tough.

GS: Oh, yeah.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And so with all those families, you mentioned every once in a while you would have maybe an outing, like a picnic or something.

GS: Oh, yeah, picnic.

TI: Tell me about that, I want to hear about those. Where, like where would you have the picnic?

GS: Either Riverside or San Bernardino. Sometimes, various holidays, I guess, they would have it, and we would all meet at Dorset Park and have a picnic or something like that. Or we have baseball games, we'd go meet, Riverside we'd play against, so everybody in Riverside would come down and we would go, go, and Redlands would come over and we'd have a regular baseball meet.

TI: Going back to the picnics, what would be some of the foods that people would bring to these, these events?

GS: Oh, everybody would, the made sushi then, and stuff like that. And the inari, what do you call it, various Japanese dishes. Everybody would, each family would bring something, and so they had all together.

TI: And would people, would it be more family-style where everyone would eat from a large table.

GS: Yes. Dishes, everybody go pick this part up and then each, all the different dishes were put down, and then everybody would go up and pick so much in a plate and stuff like that.

TI: So in addition to baseball, what other games would people play at these picnics?

GS: Mostly baseball and kendo, and there was judo, too, but I never went into judo. Some of the others did, 'cause mostly in Pomona area, the kendo teacher, I mean, judo instructor lived in Pomona. He would come around once, once a month or something and we'd have a judo or kendo thing, functions going.

TI: And how about church? Did your family attend church?

GS: There was no Buddhist church, so we went to San Bernardino. San Bernardino had a Japanese Christian church in San Bernardino. We left, catch the streetcar and go across the railroad tracks, and the church was on the other side. And also the Japanese school was there, too, so that's where we all congregated, at the Japanese school, church, for school and church and whatever.

TI: So that was a real hub for the Japanese community, San Bernardino where they had the language school, the church, lots of things.

GS: Everything was happening in San Bernardino.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Now, so you're not too far from Los Angeles. Did you ever go --

GS: Sixty miles.

TI: So would you often, or would you ever go down to Little Tokyo?

GS: Yeah, we used to travel to Tokyo.

TI: And what would the event be?

GS: Takes about an hour and, two, an hour and a half to two hours.

TI: So what would the occasion be? Why would you go to Little Tokyo?

GS: So my brother-in-law was living in Los Angeles, so we'd go visit there. If there was some conference or something going on between the churches, and we'd meet in Los Angeles.

TI: And so coming from Colton to Los Angeles, was there anything special about Los Angeles that you liked to do when you went there?

GS: We used to go to Little Tokyo, that's all we'd go...

TI: So what was it about Little Tokyo that you liked? Was it the food, the people?

GS: Food, all the different shoes and clothes. 'Cause when we were so small that every time we would try to buy a shoe, they don't make fives or sixes. They're all sevens, eights and that. So Little Tokyo always had shoes that'll fit Japanese, so you could buy a size six, or five and a half or six and a half. So that's why we had to go over there to buy. Clothes would be shorter, short instead of regulars, so you were able to buy clothes that way. So that's why we usually go to Los Angeles.

TI: And what about the food? What was your, kind of, favorite places to eat in Little Tokyo?

GS: We always end up in Chinatown. [Laughs] Or Japanese food, too. Japanese...

TI: Good, okay. Let's talk a little bit about school. So what was school like? What kind of student were you in school?

GS: I was one of the bad students. [Laughs] I played more than, than learning, especially in, I, after grammar school we went to Redlands, well, I got to know the rich boys that had cars.

TI: I'm sorry, say that one more time? The rich boys that did what?

GS: That had, in Redlands they had cars.

TI: Oh, cars, okay. So this is more like high school.

GS: High school. During this grammar school, it was nip and tuck, and I was fairly... but even in, when I was in sixth grade, two little girls I used to like, they were, her name was Betty Jean Ferris, she was a blonde, Martina Fontaine was a French girl. They were cute little girls, so I can remember their names.

TI: So these were, like, your girlfriends in sixth grade?

GS: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: I'm not sure if this will last the edits. We'll have to take this out. [Laughs]

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So why did you move from Colton to the Redlands?

GS: 'Cause my parents got tired of cutting hair, 'cause their hands were getting arthritic and stuff like that. And then my brother-in-law had a grocery store in Riverside, so he says, "Why don't you buy a grocery store, fruit stand in Redlands?" So there's one place opened up and had a fruit stand, so we had opened the fruit stand up and then we almost, and bought a meat case, and we had a, Ken would be the butcher, so we had a butcher shop. And then my older brother went to Vista to work with my cousins that were in Vista, farming, and then he would help them, and then he would play ball in Vista. And then me and Ken and my other younger brothers would help in the grocery store in the meat market. Then we start, started to learn how to become butchers and grinding up hamburgers and stuff like that. And then worked in fruit stand, putting vegetables and fruits display up.

TI: And in Redlands, who were your customers? Who came to the store?

GS: All areas, the homes around that area would come to the store and buy, 'cause we had fresh meat. There was a Piggly Wiggly store, chain, two blocks away, they didn't bother us 'cause we had fresher meats and everything, and our fruits were fresher than what Piggly Wiggly could put out.

TI: Okay, so this was a larger chain.

GS: Larger chain.

TI: And even though they were larger and their prices were about, lower or about the same?

GS: About the same.

TI: But you had these loyal customers because they knew that you'd have fresher fruits.

GS: Everything's fresher.

TI: And what was the name of your store?

GS: Ken's Market.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: I wanted to actually go back a little bit about the barber. Any, any interesting stories about your mother and father cutting hair that you can remember? I'm just curious about if you can remember anything about that.

GS: Nothing different about hair, cutting hair. But my father used to, he had a fish pond, we had three fish ponds, goldfish, fantails and all the different type of goldfish we had. We even had eels swimming in one pond and various other ponds. We also had rabbit hutch, rabbit pen, and ducks, chickens. And we had, backyard had a grape arbor, had to, underneath we had cars was parked underneath this fence, grape. And Dad used to tell us, "Don't eat the green grapes." Those grapes looked pretty good, you know, so I climbed up the fence and I was eating the green grapes, pretty soon I hear the back door slam, "Oh my god, my dad's coming out." So I jumped, but I didn't know where I was jumping, I didn't look down. There was a rake with a, on the ground, and the things were sticking up, I landed on top of that rake. The handle came up and hit me in the head, penetrated my tennis shoe, bachi. [Laughs]

TI: So did he have to also take you to the doctor because of that?

GS: He had to take me to the doctor.

TI: So Joe, I'm getting the sense that growing up, you always didn't follow directions.

GS: Nope. [Laughs] We used to play hide-and-seek in the backyards and kick-the-can and everything, and we used to play ball. And like I say, when we were out the ballfield and the open lot, and this bum was trying to cross the railroad tracks and he couldn't wait for the train to stop. When he stopped, well, he'd get on and try to cross on the other side. Then the train moved, jerked and he lost his balance and fell in between the wheel. When we got there, me and my brother pulled him out, cut his legs off. We didn't know what to do so we had to call the police department. By the time the ambulance came over and took him to the hospital, he lost too much blood. So that's when I first saw blood when I was a kid.

TI: And how, how old were you when this happened?

GS: Nine years old, 1930. Also in 1930 they had an earthquake, and I'm out in the middle of the field, the street, and pretty soon I couldn't stand. And the pepper trees are going like this, shaking like this, and "What's going on here?" I couldn't and the brick from the top of our building was falling down, earthquake. So that was the first time I ever went through, lived through an earthquake.

TI: So these are all things that happened when you were in Colton.

GS: That was, I was only nine years old then, that's in Colton.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay, so let's go back to the Redlands.

GS: Redlands.

TI: And after you graduated from high school, what did you do?

GS: Then I had to work at the store. So like I say, 1941, I just graduated, and the opening of the store, and then December 7th we opened the store, and then the radio, Franklin Roosevelt was on there that Pearl Harbor was bombed. Boy, we couldn't believe that, I says, "Oh my god, now what do we do?" Then we heard on the radio that we couldn't travel anywhere, three miles, directions, and so we had to stay home, play Monopoly or whatever.

TI: And so, so December 7th, Sunday, did your store open up on that day?

GS: We opened up that day.

TI: And did any of your customers come in?

GS: Some customers came in.

TI: And was there any reaction from them?

GS: No, they said, "Just sorry to hear that you had to..." but we had one boy, he used to come, and one boy, he used to come, and the first time he came into Redlands, he was from New Jersey and he lived couple blocks away from the store, and his mother would send him down to get some cigarettes. So he'd come to the, our store and he looked, and first time he ever seen Japanese. So he didn't know what to do, so he went back home. So his mother sends him back, and after that, we couldn't chase him away. He was always around the store. [Laughs]

TI: So initially he was, was he frightened, do you think, or what do you think?

GS: He's scared, he didn't know, it was the first time he'd ever seen Oriental. New York, New Jersey, they didn't have Orientals then, so he couldn't see what was going on.

TI: So I'm curious, the days after December 7th, what happened to your business? Did it just stay the same or did business drop off? What happened?

GS: It's, few customers may not have come, but it stayed the same. We still competed with Piggly Wiggly store, and the street peddlers kept bring us fresh fruits. But then when we couldn't travel anywhere, then they kind of go, well, we can't go anywhere, couldn't go to Japanese school, couldn't go anywhere until a few months later, they says, "Well, you can't go to, you're gonna have to go to camp, relocation center."

TI: And before we go there, I'm just curious again, during those weeks when, yeah, the curfew, the travel restrictions, were there any events or incidences of people giving you a bad time because you were Japanese or any comments or anything like that?

GS: No, people around there, they said they're sorry that this thing happened. So the people that came to our store always says, "I'm sorry, I hope everything will turn out all right," and this and that, and they would still come to the store.

TI: Okay, good. Or did you hear --

GS: And we had George Kanatani then and Marian, they lived just about eight or ten blocks west of us. And so we used to get together and play cards and play games and stuff like that, and then it was Kanatanis, Wadas and... what's their name? Makamis, there was about four, those Japanese people that lived in Redlands, close by to us.

TI: And just how about the whole area there? Did you hear any stories of any problems with the Japanese or the Japanese experience?

GS: No, well, we didn't, I didn't hear anything. But the, maybe my other, like in Riverside they had more in Riverside than they did in Redlands. There's only five families in Redlands, so they never did have any problems with them, they seemed to get along. And sorry that we had to leave and stuff like that.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, so now you're, you're now a couple months later, a few months later, so now tell me what happens.

GS: Then we says, we had to move out or get ready to go to camp, Poston. And they said, "Well, we'll give you three days to settle your things, and then you could move to wherever you want to, move out of state." So we had a, brother-in-law's brother was working in Arizona and they said they didn't have to go to camp. So my brother-in-law was in Redlands, Riverside, and him and his wife and his baby, my niece, they all traveled, and they had to report the various little towns that they would go through to indicate that they were traveling, okay to travel. So then we had to, everybody had to report to each town they went through. And we probably did the same thing, although we didn't stop as many times as they did.

TI: So I'm curious, when you only have three days to, to do this, you both had stores.

GS: Right.

TI: How do you close down a store so quickly?

GS: "This is for sale, give me whatever you can, cost." We just had bought a meat case, cost us eight hundred dollars. We sold it for three hundred dollars and threw in the store.

TI: So the person who bought this got, for three hundred dollars, the new meat...

GS: Case.

TI:, and the store?

GS: And the store.

TI: With the inventory?

GS: Inventory and all.

TI: And so who did they sell that to? Do you remember who it was?

GS: I don't know who the people that bought it, but then there's, my brother, older brother Ken did the negotiation and stuff like that.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Now, why do you think your family decided to do this rather than maybe wait a little bit longer, have a little bit more time? Did, do you recall discussions about what they should do?

GS: Well, we didn't want to go to camp, that was the main thing. And then this, and then my brother-in-law's brother was living in Arizona, said they didn't have to go to camp, so to go there. And that's what decided, well, we'll go to Arizona.

TI: Now, why do you think more families, more Japanese families didn't do the same thing and leave the area?

GS: 'Cause Kanatanis, they didn't have a grocery store, but they just worked different places, and they lived in Redlands. But they had just moved out of the house and went to Poston. But George Kanatani was, he was the first draftee. And when the first draft came on, my brother, older brother was drafted, and he was in the army, he was in Fort Ord, California, when Pearl Harbor was bombed. And when Pearl Harbor was bombed, all the Japanese were in the army and the various forts had to go move inland. They went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, or they went to Fort Riley in Kansas, and they went to different camps in Eastern Kansas area.

TI: Okay, but I wanted to go back to the, the Kanatanis, the Wadas, families that you knew in the Redlands. When they saw your family packing up and moving so you wouldn't have to go to a camp, did they ever consider doing the same thing, or did you ever know why they didn't do the same thing?

GS: No, they didn't. 'Cause they didn't have anybody they knew. We had contacts in Arizona, they didn't have any contacts in Arizona, if they moved to Arizona or move to Chicago or wherever. If they had anybody to communicate with, they would have gone there, but they didn't have nobody to communicate with. So that's why the Wadas and the Kanatanis, they went to Poston.

TI: Okay, so you had the advantage of having a relative already settled there.

GS: Right in, in Arizona, contact with them.

TI: So what can you recall from the, the trip from the Redlands to, to Arizona, what was that like? Do you recall very much?

GS: Well, it was a long, hot trip. You go and you go someplace, and then maybe one big town, you might have to report to the police department that we was going through. And then we had to get water and stuff like that. If you stop at a gas station, you had to show that we're traveling, our permit that we have to go to Arizona. Then we get into Glendale and we're south of the railroad tracks.

TI: Well, so before we go there, I mean, were there any events, were there any hard times on that trip in terms of maybe people not being very friendly or anything like that that you recall?

GS: Well, we never did meet anybody other than the gas stations where we had to fill up gas. But they would just look along the, they saw the records that we were traveling under whatchacall, and the policemen escorted us out of town and that was it. That was it until we got to the next town. So all the reports, they were probably, radioed ahead that we were coming through, so there was no problem from there.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, so you make it all the way to the Phoenix area, Arizona, and you mentioned Glendale, so tell me what happened when you got there.

GS: We were, so we happened to be on the south side of the tracks, and there was a, they had a Buddhist church south of the railroad tracks. So we stopped at the railroad, Japanese church there, and they told us, "Well, you're gonna have to move again because people south of the railroad tracks had to go to Poston." Oh, my god, so we had, so these, there was a Buddhist priest there, he would still be able to contact the people on the north side of the railroad. So on the north side of the railroad tracks, there was a grocery store and Nishida Farms about a mile north of the railroad tracks, and one Yamamoto family that lived near Nishida's Farm, they offered us their back porch for us to stay and live in. So then we moved to the north side of the tracks and stayed on Yamamoto farm, and then we worked on the farm with Yamamoto family.

TI: So I'm curious, were other Japanese families doing a similar thing? So if they were south of the tracks, they were just moving to the other side with, with the other Japanese families? Was that kind of happening, or were there some people on the south that actually were, that did go to Poston?

GS: They went to Poston.

TI: So there were some, just, other side of the tracks...

GS: Nakagawas went to Poston.

TI: So rather than finding a place just on the other side, they would end up going to Poston?

GS: Yeah. Otherwise, they'd have to find a family that would take 'em in, and the Nishidas was already filled up with my brother-in-law's brothers and then his family was there. And we also had, Yamamotos had, just had one house, and his back porch, and that's where we lived. So unless there's a family that had a big house and whatchacall it to take 'em in, but I haven't heard about that. And the people in south of Phoenix, they went to Poston. The Nakagawas went to Poston, they had a flower farm, flower shop and a farm growing flowers in south Phoenix, and they went to Poston.

TI: So you were on the back porch, initially, with another Japanese family north of the tracks, and then you said, you were staying at Yamamotos'.

GS: Plus another family was living with, in a little hut, hutment next door to the, still on the Yamamoto farm, then they were working on the farms, too, with Yamamotos.

TI: So the Yamamotos were trying to help as many people as they could, could help.

GS: Right. So he was helping three, three of us families on his farm. Nishidas had about four, five on, he had a little two-by-four fabricated houses, then the, at least you didn't have to have insulation and stuff like that. Had one wall and that was it, that was the outside, inside wall was the, but they lived... 'cause at least in Arizona it didn't get cold, so you live with this, live in a, on the porch and stuff like that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So, and then you mentioned then your family was able to get their own place.

GS: Yeah, finally moved to a little, they rented a house on east, town of Glendale, which was about two miles, three miles away, but still was on the north side of the tracks.

TI: Right. And then what, what did your family do to make, to make a living?

GS: They worked on the farm.

TI: Okay, so all farm, huh?

GS: I weighed hundred and sixty-five when I graduated from high school, and I worked on that farm picking cantaloupes for one season, I lost thirty pounds.

TI: So you weren't used to this hard, this hard labor?

GS: Hundred and ten degree (heat), no, I wasn't no farmer. So that, I lost thirty-five pounds, thirty-some pounds on that one season, just picking cantaloupe.

TI: And how was this transition for your, your parents? When you think about from...

GS: Yeah, they worked on picking or weeding and stuff like that, so they worked on a farm just as we're working with Yamamotos or worked with Nishidas, and I was able to, Komatsu family offered me to drive a tractor doing a little plowing. So I learned how to drive a tractor, Caterpillar tractor, and plowing the fields, so I plowed the fields at night, back and forth. And then I was able, Mr. Kato offered me a job to work in his grocery store, so then I was able to work in the grocery store 'cause I could talk, knew a little Spanish, I knew what the fruits and different vegetables was, so I was able to help in the grocery store.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Yeah, I forgot to ask, in terms of your parents, like your father, how would you describe him? What kind of man was he?

GS: Well, I don't know. He was tall, he was tall for a, for the family. And he was about 5'10", I guess, and he used to smoke cigars, but then he quit smoking. Then he, but he tried to work as hard as he could helping on the farm.

TI: Was he a talkative person?

GS: No, he was quiet. He never did talk too much.

TI: And how about your mother? What was she like?

GS: Oh, she was, like all mother, pick, pick, pick. She was always telling us what to do, and, "Don't do this, don't do that." She'd be nagging me, sometimes when it was cold, and she'd say something to me and I'd go out the door, go someplace and come back, she's still nagging me. [Laughs] She used to nag at me... but she was a good mother. I used to, when I was a kid, I used to hang around her more than the other kids, 'cause they always, Ken used to come by every now and then, every time we sat down for dinner, he'd bounce, hit each one of us kids going down the, where'd he sit at the other end of the table, he'd conk our heads as he'd go down to sit down.

TI: I'm sorry, your brother would do that, Ken would do that?

GS: Ken would do that.

TI: 'Cause he was the older brother?

GS: Yeah he was the older brother. [Laughs]

TI: And how, how would you characterize kind of your role in the family? I mean, if they were to think of you and...

GS: I was the black sheep in the family.

TI: So why do you say that?

GS: I was in the middle.

TI: So why "black sheep"? What did you do?

GS: 'Cause I was always sick. I was skinny and I got pneumonia, chicken pox, measles, anything that came by, I was always getting whooping cough and everything. I didn't think I was gonna live then.

TI: Yeah, because I'm curious, you said your father was tall, five feet ten.

GS: Five feet ten.

TI: And you said you were four feet ten.

GS: Four feet ten.

TI: So were your other brothers all bigger than you?

GS: Yeah.

TI: So you were kind of the runt, runt of the family?

GS: Yeah, I was the smaller of the group.

TI: Yeah, okay. Okay, good, I just wanted to get that. So let's talk a little bit, you now talked about working for Mr. Kato at the grocery store.

GS: Mr. Kato.

TI: Yeah, so what kind of things did you do?

GS: I worked setting up, canned goods up, put the fruits, vegetables out, clerked for a little bit. When they were cooking dinner, Mrs. Kato was cooking, and Mr. Kato, he was put in Santa Fe prison, 'cause he was an educated man and he, he was, I think he used to teach schools, but then, so he was one of the Isseis that was put in Santa Fe prison.

TI: So the FBI picked him up --

GS: Picked him up.

TI: -- from the Phoenix area, Arizona, and put him into the Santa Fe, New Mexico.

GS: New Mexico.

TI: Was that common in Arizona? I didn't realize they did so much inland. I knew they did a lot on the West Coast, but that happened also in Arizona.

GS: Oh, yeah, they did that in Arizona, too.

TI: Do you know, do you recall when that happened? Was that right away or was that a little bit later on?

GS: That, just, after I even, after we got there.

TI: Okay, so probably more like in...

GS: 'Cause I used to remember him.

TI: ...April, around April, maybe around then? Okay.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: You know, I... once the camps in Arizona got established, was there any contact that you had with the camps, like at Poston?

GS: Yeah. Then they were able to, the people in camps, would come out to work on the farms. They would be able to work on the farms, so every different places, farms, they would hire these kids from the camps, from Gila to Poston, that would come into the camps. So then my younger brother, he decided, when after the farm, the crops were over, they would have to go back to camp, so he went back to camp with him. How he got in there, I don't know, just as a farmworker, and he stayed with one of the fellows that worked on the farm. He wouldn't come home.

TI: So your brother went in the camp, and why did he go into the camp?

GS: He wanted to see what the camp was like. [Laughs] He was, then he says all the girls were there, all the girls you could see, all the different girls, so he would go to the block dances and stuff like that in the camps. It was fun, he didn't want to come home.

TI: So when you heard these stories, what did you think? Did you want to go in the camp, too?

GS: So then the farmers would, the workers would come in, and they would buy Japanese goods, order Japanese, Koji rice and all this. So we would truck it into Poston. I would, me and my, the Yoshitake, the owner's son, would drive his, would drive me into Poston with the Koji and all the canned goods, and we had a little flatbed truck that we'd put all the rice and stuff in, and we'd take it into camp. And then we also did a little bootlegging; we would take three cases of booze, and we'd get out to the area that the truckers, water tank would water the roadbeds, rocky, wooden paved road, rocky road, and he would pave down the, water down the, so the dust wouldn't fly. Soon as he emptied his truck of water, put the booze, cases of booze in his truck, we went in with Kojis, delivered the fruits, vegetables, canned goods to Poston, then the water truck would come in.


TI: So we're in the second hour, and so we had just gotten to the point where you were talking about deliveries into the camp, I guess we're talking about Poston.

GS: Poston.

TI: And so you had just mentioned how you had put three cases of liquor into the water, sort of, truck.

GS: Water tank truck.

TI: Water tanker truck. But then now with your supplies, you're going through the gates. So I wanted to ask how, what kind of checking did they do in terms of as you went into the camp?

GS: As we went in through the gate, they'd look at our, says, well, we have, people had ordered food to be able to move in and out. Same with, like the workers in the camp would go out to work on the farms, they would have a little pass to go back in. But how my brother got through, I don't know, but he got into... and so we had a little permit, like we were coming into Poston with canned goods and rice and stuff like that, people had ordered. And so they allowed us to go through camp, into camp and deliver the goods.

TI: And then they would check, so they'd look at your list and they'd see what you had?

GS: Yeah. They would just, "Oh, you got rice here and got canned goods there, okay."

TI: And would you make deliveries directly to the, the barracks, the individual barracks? Is that where you would go?

GS: Yeah, different barracks, 'cause different groups came out of camps, what barracks they were at and what camp they were at, so we were able to go through the camp. And I see my (brother), I told him, "You gotta come home." [Laughs]

TI: Before we, before we go to your brother, I want to ask, okay, so then the water tanker truck follows you with the three cases. So how, how do you distribute that? How does that work?

GS: That was up to them. They, whoever ordered the booze, he would meet that truck I guess, he would meet that certain area and then they, while the guards were somewhere else, well, they unloaded it.

TI: Okay, so that was all worked out before.

GS: 'Cause the guards were only, you know, on each corner and along the fence line, they were never inside the camp, is what I could see, was never, no soldiers were ever inside the camp itself walking around that I see. So we were able to walk, drive to different camps, different part of the camps.

TI: Did you have a sense of what happened to that, to the alcohol, though, and was it like one person who would buy it and then they would sell it inside camp?

GS: That I don't know. [Laughs]

TI: So you're not sure how it was distributed.

GS: No, after we delivered, that was it. That was their problem. So they paid for that and that was it.

TI: Okay. So let's go back to your, so you're in camp, you're doing deliveries, and you see your brother? So what happens?

GS: I tell him, "You gotta come home. You can't stay in camp and all." So then he was able to come out, but he came out with another group of workers.

TI: So he somehow worked out, or figured out how to get in and out of camp.

GS: Yeah. I don't know how he got in and out. Then one of the other guys that worked, worker, he was a finagler, too, one of those workers, and he would finagle the guys and, "Come on."

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So I want to ask you your impressions. So as you would make these deliveries and you would see the camps and how they were set up and everything, what were you thinking?

GS: I said, "What kind of living is this?" Hot, hundred and ten degrees outside, and I don't know what, hundred and thirty or something inside the room itself. Tarpapered roof, that absorbs all the heat. Then the wind would blow, floors had cracks, still, they're not flush, there's always a slight... and all the dust would fly up inside in the room. They would try to put paper, paper on it, flat, to keep it from, wind from blowing up, stuff like that. I don't know how so many people lived there.

TI: How would you describe the people? When you saw the people, did they seem different or, in terms of emotionally, or were they about the same as if you had seen them in L.A. or someplace?

GS: Well, I didn't know them that good, I just, we just talked to 'em when we just made the deliveries to them. And besides, some of the Isseis would try to say something, but I couldn't understand the Japanese, I don't talk Japanese. [Laughs] It was bad. My, like I say, my education was bad, my grammar was bad, and I put my sentences like they should be put into.

TI: But I'm curious, so the people in camp, they were, they were fed. I mean, they had the cafeterias where they would eat, and so you would bring this extra food. So was this food used like in their individual barracks, they would make...

GS: The individual persons bought, they would, in their home they would try to open the canned goods to eat. But the Koji, they made sake.

TI: Oh, okay.

GS: Dig a pit underneath the barracks, and they would make the sake. That's what the Isseis wanted the Kojis was for, to make sake. They wouldn't need to just make rice, they wouldn't use the rice for the rice.

TI: Yeah, that's why I wasn't... 'cause I knew they had rice in...

GS: They had regular rice in camp, but then that rice, they can't take it and use it for, to make whiskey, sake. So Kojis is easier to, you can't eat that as, like, rice like you do the other, Koji itself. So they made sake, that group would get together, the Isseis would make rice. They would peddle so much, some of the other families would, the Issei would buy some of it, the other would buy some of the hundred pound bag and was making sake. [Laughs]

TI: Good, that's, this is enlightening. How frequently did you make these deliveries?

GS: I only went twice, myself. And then Yoshiyuki, he was the son of the Katos' store, he would, couple of other times he would go.

TI: So any other memories about camp that you can recall, just in your short visits that you remember? Like did you recognize anyone when you were in camp that you would see?

GS: No, I couldn't recognize it. Only the people, they worked on the, came out to work on the farm, I got to know 'em. But other than that, the rest of the, I never did get to meet the Wadas or whatchacallit, where they might have been Camp 2, 3, so we were in Camp 1. So there's 1, 2 and 3, next mile was 2 and the next, well, that was three miles away was Camp 3. So we never did get to Camp 3.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Okay. So I'm going to move forward now, I'm going go to about March 1944, because that's when you (volunteered). So why don't we talk about that, why don't you tell me about being drafted.

GS: Well, I wasn't drafted. In March, I volunteered for the Air Force, but then my draft card says 4-C, "enemy alien." "Enemy alien? What do you mean enemy alien? I'm an American." "Your draft card says 4-C, 'enemy alien,' we can't take you." So I wasn't able to. But in the meantime, 100th Battalion, national guard from Hawaii, they didn't call 'em national guard, they called 'em Hawaiian something, but they were guarding the islands, they were in the service like national guards. So they rounded them up, sent 'em to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, took the basic training's over, and they shipped 'em overseas to General Mark Clark. Then went in, marched into, took Sicily, and then they went into Italy and went to Naples and as far as about Cassino. And Mt. Cassino is, the abbey, the church on top of the hill.

TI: Right. So, but so I want to go back to your story a little bit in terms of, so initially you volunteered for the Air Force, but you're saying that you were 4-C, or your draft card said 4-C, so the Air Force said, "No, you can't do this."

GS: "No," wouldn't take me.

TI: So you just went back home.

GS: Went back home.

TI: And then you kind of waited around.

GS: Waited around.

TI: But then eventually they contacted you again, but this time it was with the...

GS: Then I volunteered again.

TI: Oh, you volunteered again, okay.

GS: But I couldn't volunteer 'til Roosevelt signed the decree that we could join the army.

TI: Okay.

GS: 'Cause the, it took the 100th Battalion, "Purple Heart Battalion" to...

TI: Okay, so it was because of the 100th that allowed the change to --

GS: Changed, Roosevelt signed the decree that we would be able to join the army.

TI: And that's when they formed the 442.

GS: That's when they formed 442.

TI: Okay. So when that happened, then you volunteered?

GS: Then I volunteered.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: And then, okay, so pick it up there. Then what happened?

GS: So I, the Camp Shelby was already done, and they were getting ready to go overseas. So I volunteered and I was going in the Air Force again. So I signed up for the Air Force and I got on a train and I got out to Camp Blanding, and I'm looking out and I says, "Where's the Air Force?" "You're in the infantry. The 100th Battalion needs replacements for the wounded that was killed, and they need soldiers to replace them." So I'm it. So then therefore I was in Camp Blanding, but then at that time, the first draftees that were drafted before the war like my brother, George Kanatani and all these others had sergeant stripes and corporal stripes, and they had to take their basic training over. They too would become replacements for 442.

TI: Okay. So already there had been a wave of, of soldiers who, first the 100th, and then the original members of the 442 had already been trained, and they were shipped. And so now it's your group is next, and you're saying that some of these people, the early draftees before the war started, and the new, the new members are now training together.

GS: Right.

TI: So that's interesting, so you're training with older, more experienced...

GS: There was only fifty of us recruits that volunteered to join. We were put in Camp Blanding, and then the first draftees, they had to take their basic training over again, so they were taking their basic training with us.

TI: Okay, so have the, kind of the, kind of older draftees. Were there any newer draftees also?

GS: No, not yet.

TI: Not yet, okay. So you're...

GS: So we were still in, in this unit. And then we took our basic training over again, took our basic training that we went, the day we were shipped to Camp Shelby, the first, then the draftees after that drafted, were drafted and went to Camp Blanding. Two, we were the 232nd, they were the 208, and Camp Blanding, they were the draftees for replacements. So then after we were in Camp Shelby, then we went overseas, and then the...

TI: Okay, so let me, let me see if I understand this. So your group was the group right before the newer draftees from places like the camp and things like that. So you're going, and then they followed you at Camp Blanding to do their basic, and then they would be sent to Shelby a little bit later.

GS: Right.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So let's, let's go back to you at Shelby. What was Shelby like when you got there? Who was there?

GS: There were still some Hawaiians that, with the cadre, cadremen and headquarters, who were still in Camp Shelby. And so we joined them there, and even when we got there, we still had a few conflicts with Hawaiians because of pidgin English, couldn't talk. Because when the first, Camp Shelby was formed, we better go back to Camp Shelby when the mainlanders, the volunteers within...

TI: Right, and they called them kotonks.

GS: Kotonks, and they called them...

TI: And then the Buddhaheads.

GS: We called them buta, butaheads. We called them "pigheaded," but they changed it to Buddhahead. [Laughs]

TI: Buta meaning...

GS: Pig.

TI: ...being "pig" in Japanese.

GS: Pigheaded, we called them pigheaded. But they changed, finally changed it to just Buddhahead, Buddhist. 'Cause most of 'em spoke Japanese all the time, half-Japanese, Hawaiian-English combination.

TI: Right, and so that friction that happened, you're saying was still there when you, even when you still got there.

GS: I said, "What are you guys talking about? 'You go, come back, bombai, come back, you stay, you come, I come.' What are they talking about?" "You stay here, we're gonna go someplace, and we'll be back later." But instead of saying that, they got a little English, they got a little Japanese in it, and they got a little Hawaiian in it.

TI: Portuguese, probably.

GS: Portuguese. So we couldn't understand what they were talking about. Hawaiians knew what they were talking about, but mainlanders didn't know what they were talking about.

TI: So how did you get along with the Hawaiians?

GS: I got along fine because in Redlands, there was a, University of Redlands, they had exchange students from Hawaii. One of the boys, Charlie Nakamura, came to the house. And so he first saw us and then he came up and then he, Japanese, okay, 'cause after that he started coming to the house all the time while he was in Redlands. And then so his pidgin English and everything, so he would even bring some Indian, got from India, and we would make Indian food and stuff like that. But that's, so I was able to communicate a little pidgin English with them. So they thought I was from, they wanted to know what island I was from. [Laughs]

TI: So you were, that's good. So, so the experience of meeting Hawaiians was part of Camp Shelby.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Any other stories from Camp Shelby that you could remember in terms of the type of training in terms of maybe handling weapons or anything like that that you could tell?

GS: While we were there, a group from Alaska, Alaskan, Aleutian Islands soldiers fighting the Japanese in Aleutian Islands, they camp back to Camp Shelby for R&R, they called, reserve, to take their basic training over again. And so they were, they saw us and we're "Japs," so they were calling us "Japs" and this and that. So we were fighting the Aleutian Islands, troops that were in the Aleutian Islands 'til the general came out and took everybody together and says, "He's an American, he's an American, he's an American." They all looked up, and he says, "We're all Americans," so he put this conflict down. So after that, they finally stopped, so we didn't have any troubles after that.

TI: That's interesting. I never heard, so these soldiers who were fighting the Japanese in the Aleutians, because I know about that, that they were then sent to Shelby, and they then saw you guys and they, they called you "Japs."

GS: Right.

TI: And there was this fighting and... do you think after the, the commanding officer said that that they understood that?

GS: They finally says, the 100th Battalion, and they found that the 100th Battalion --

TI: Right. Now, did these men end up fighting with you also or did they just move on to someplace else, these soldiers who fought in the Aleutians?

GS: No, they went somewhere else.

TI: Okay, so that was... okay, good.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Any other stories from Shelby?

GS: We had one kid from Layton, Utah, and then he was about 5'8", 5'10", weighed about 190 pounds, and he's picking up these Hawaiians, fighting with us and throwing 'em out of the hutment. [Laughs] He'd pick 'em up and throw 'em out. They all come back and they says, "Okay," we became one, they finally, well, we were gonna fight, we weren't 'no-nos.' Because of the 'no-nos' is what all this happened.

TI: Oh, explain this, now. The 'no-nos'...

GS: Okay, the 'no-nos' had originally started with the first, 442 was formed.

TI: So you're talking about the men who when they were drafted...

GS: First, first volunteers.

TI: Okay, yeah, the volunteers.

GS: Camp Shelby, Camp Shelby bunch, but we still couldn't understand their pidgin English and whatchacallit, but the Hawaiians knew there was 'no-nos' from the camps.

TI: Okay, so I want to clarify this. So the 'no-nos' meaning the men who, who when they were drafted, said 'no'? You mean, to that one, or the ones who were sent to Tule Lake?

GS: Tule Lake, Tule Lake said 'no-nos,' signed 'no,' they would fight, go to Japan.

TI: Okay, so there were men who, with the "loyalty questionnaire" said 'no-no' to questions 27 and 28, and then they were sent to Tule Lake.

GS: Right.

TI: And so, so explain now, the Hawaiians knew this.

GS: Hawaiians found out about this. That's why the conflicts between the mainlanders and Hawaiians was a, they wanted to know who wouldn't fight. If you didn't fight 'em you were a 'no-no.' If you fought 'em, you were gonna fight, so they became one.

TI: Oh, interesting. Because actually, in fact, all the mainlanders, none of them were 'no-nos' because they were all serving. But then, but the Hawaiians, you're saying, kind of used that as, what is it, almost like a name-calling kind of, that if you weren't fighting, they'd call you a 'no-no.'

GS: 'No-no.'

TI: Interesting, okay.

GS: That's why Dan Inouye...

TI: How did, yeah, how did that make you feel when they did that? When, if someone were to call you a 'no-no,' like a Hawaiian, what would that mean to you?

GS: "I'm not a 'no-no,' I'm fighting." So we fought together and then we became...

TI: Got it.

GS: But then like I say, like Danny, when they were a group, they went to Rohwer and Jerome, and they were going, you probably heard about that one.

TI: Yeah, I interviewed Senator Inouye.

GS: You know that, you know about that.

TI: So I know the story, so we have that.

GS: So that's what, that's what it was all about. So even the Hawaiians, still, they wanted to know who was gonna fight and who wasn't gonna fight. That's why, so we still had clashes, even when we were a unit.

TI: That's a good story. I didn't know that.

GS: 'Til they found out.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So here's another question. So as a replace-, you're being trained as a replacement. I talked to some of the other 442 guys who were there earlier, and they were being trained for a particular task, like a BAR guy or artillery. How did they train the replacements? Did they know what you were going to do?

GS: We took all kinds of equipment, from .45s to machine guns, throwing grenades, shooting 50-caliber machine guns, we took all that basic training. We were trained in all different type of a bayonet practice, we had a, Jake Taguchi used to be Camp Savage army, playing football for Camp Savage. He came, he took, missed basic training, bayonet practice, so then he had a big bayonet, transferred to the haole bunch. So he got out there and he, barrel and all, and right through the stuffing with the... and he pulled it out and goes whack, he knocked the head of the, helmet off the, the dummy. [Laughs] These poor white guys, "I hope we don't go to Japan to fight those guys like that." They were scared. He said he scared the heck out of... they were, oh my god, they're looking at him. He's, barrel and all goes through that dummy, and then he turns around and whacks the head off of it, and oh my gosh. He scared the daylights out of those haole bunch, soldiers.

TI: So I'm curious, for you, was there a particular kind of task that you were good at, that you thought you were better than...

GS: I could crawl, but those little eight-foot, ten-foot-high walls, I could never climb up those. I went around 'em. [Laughs]

TI: Well, so let's talk about your height. Did that, I mean, technically, I thought you had to be five feet or taller to be in the, in the army. Did they ever, did your height ever come up as a factor?

GS: No. There was a guy shorter than me, he couldn't, we had to push him, throw him, push him over.

TI: So are you talking about, I interviewed, we interviewed Shorty.

GS: There's one guy, John Kusano, he was... I'm 5'4", he was about 5'2" or three. Twenty-five mile hike, I told him to drop out, and I'll drop out with him. He made the whole twenty-five mile, he made me march the whole twenty-five mile hike and back to camp. I had to cuss him out so much, he should have dropped out this...

TI: So you weren't that good of a marcher, either.

GS: No, I was no marcher either.

TI: See, Joe, you have to help me. I'm trying to find out what you were good at. I keep asking you --

GS: I was nothing, good at nothing. [Laughs]

TI: How about shooting, rifle range and things like that? Were you good at that?

GS: No, I was, rifle range, they had a big door out there about the size of a door, target, 200 yards, height and windage, bang. And they had this red dot on the end of a pole, ten-foot pole, and that was, the red dot would indicate target, part of the target to hit. Some, one guy hit it up there, another guy would hit over here. When it came to me, I got this waving thing called Maggie's drawer. I missed the target? I didn't hit the target? I didn't even hit the target, I didn't hit the target. Oh my god, I couldn't shoot that rifle. I didn't know, too much windy or too much elevation.

TI: So I'm curious, so I mean, you're training, and you're training next to all these men, and you're going to be fighting with them. Were they ever worried about you? You're a little smaller, you're not a very good shooter.

GS: We're all the same size, about, 5'4", 5'10".

TI: But I'm curious, were the men kind of sizing each other up thinking, oh, in battle, you don't want to be next to him or...

GS: Oh, Kurihara, he was five feet, 5'8" or so, so he's in the head of the line, and his legs are faster and he's walking like this. For each one of his steps, we had to take two. So we're on the tail end, me and John Kusano's the tail end, picking up, we had to double time to catch up with them. When it went the other way, we was ahead, our normal step, the guys in the back, Kurihara said, "Step it up, move it up." [Laughs] Hollering because they couldn't have, they had to take shorter steps. That's the only thing we, long as marching forward, we're fine, but marching behind 'em, could never win.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Okay. So from Camp Shelby, you were then moved to, I think, New Jersey to get ready.

GS: New Jersey, Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

TI: And so, and I think I read where you took a trip to New York City. Why don't you, why don't you talk about that?

GS: So me, Tanimachi, John Tanaka and Sho Tabara and another fellow, we all went to New York City, and we're looking up all these big high rises and stuff, and so we says, "Why don't we check the Waldorf Astoria to say that we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria?" So we each put ten bucks apiece, cost us forty dollars to go to this Waldorf Astoria, and we only stayed there for five, three or four hours looking out the windows and stuff like that.

TI: Oh, so you didn't even sleep there that night?

GS: Didn't even sleep there that night. [Laughs]

TI: You just wanted to say that you stayed at the Waldorf Astoria?

GS: Waldorf Astoria.

TI: And whose idea was this?

GS: I guess it was my idea. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] So that was a pretty expensive three or four hours.

GS: Ten dollars apiece, we're only making twenty-one dollars a month.

KP: I think we know what he's good at.

TI: Yeah. So what, what do you, what'd you think of when you went into this room? I mean, what was, what was the curiosity? Why did you, why would you guys want to go?

GS: Oh, well, we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, and that's the biggest, fanciest hotel in New York. And we could say that we stayed there, you know.

TI: Here I was going to ask you, so how did four men sleep in one room, but you guys didn't even sleep there.

GS: We didn't sleep there. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, that's, that's another good story.

GS: Had to catch the train to go back to Camp Kilmer.

TI: So any, any other impressions of New York City? I mean, how did people look at you as Japanese soldiers walking around...

GS: Well, they kind of wondering what we were doing, and they looked at us and, well, "These are soldiers, got the uniform on." So one time I went to, I knew a girl who was living on Fifty-Seventh Street in New York City, the west side. So I'm waiting for the subway to go, and I got there in time for people getting off work, wrong time to be there. I'm waiting for the train, and see this one train comes by and next thing you know, they shove me in and I was on the train, express train. So I told them, "I gotta get off at Fifty-Seventh." "Well, when we get up to 120th, you catch the train coming back," to take the local coming back. [Laughs] So that was my first experience riding the damn subways. I got forced in there and then turned around, had to catch the train coming back.

TI: Oh, that's good.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So Joe, I'm going to now really push forward, because I know from there you got Newport News, you went across Europe, you...

GS: Took us twenty-eight days to cross.

TI: Yeah, twenty-eight days you landed in Oran, then you went to Naples, did more training.

GS: I didn't tell you about the submarines.

TI: Tell me about the submarines.

GS: Okay. So I get on board ship, every time I was down below, I'm seasick, and I can't see, so I always had to stay on top of the deck. So we was always laying on top of the deck or doing something. When we were down on the deck, nights, we would look up and says, "Oh, we're going northeast." And the next night we look up, "Oh, now we're going southeast." Then we started off with five ships, next time we got fifty ships, next time we got a hundred ships. Well, it's kind of boring sitting up on deck, you have a fifty cent piece, so we stick it onto our part of the deck and got a tablespoon and hit the top edge of that fifty cents and flatten down, and keep turning it and flatten it down a little more. Then it got down to this size and we cut a hole, had a silver ring, so we made rings.

TI: From fifty cent pieces, you could do that? You could just, you have to kind of...

GS: Flatten the edges down, hit the edges down.

TI: And then you would kind of...

GS: Turn it, keep turning it down.

TI: ...drill a, drill a hole there.

GS: Then it's, the flat part is like this and then the rest of the coin is down here, and the flat part of the rim is like this, but the middle part is open. Then you cut the inside out, and then flatten out so it's the size of your ring finger. If you want it a little smaller, you tap it a little bit more and make a smaller finger. But this tapping noise, tap-tap-tap, pretty soon you're seeing the convoy ships going back and forth, and sirens going off, depth charges going boom. And the ships that were sitting low in the water indicating they had tanks, heavy equipment on that ship, transport ship, so three of those ships got sunk, torpedoed. Holy cow, our tapping, the sonar picked up our tapping noises, plus the engines, motors from the boats. But the submarines looked up and see what ship had all the heavy equipment, so they torpedoed those ships that had, low in the water.

TI: And you, and you think that tapping noise sort of...

GS: Sonar picked up, they have equipment that can hear the tap-tap-tap.

TI: And so did you guys get in trouble for that? Did anyone kind of tell you guys to stop doing that?

GS: We quit making 'em. [Laughs] No more rings. We learned, we used to cause all that, and oh my god. But the sonar picked up the engine plates, too, but they knew these tapping noise also attracted the submarines. So then we finally got to Oran and went to Italy.

TI: Yeah, Oran and then Naples.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: And then I thought I would pick it up when you landed in France, in Marseilles.

GS: From there, Naples, then the 100th pulled back, 'cause once they got to Rome, they couldn't go into Rome because General Mark Clark went in. So they pulled back, and that's when we joined them as first replacements.

TI: Oh, so you joined then in, you joined them in Italy?

GS: Joined them in Italy.

TI: Okay, for some reason I thought you joined them in Marseilles. Okay, so you...

GS: In Naples, Italy.

TI: Okay.

GS: So then we took some more basic trainings, marching and rifle firing in Mussolini's ranch.

TI: So the question, right, so the question I have is, so when you first joined the 442nd, how did they place the replacements? Did they, like, form separate platoons, or did they put you in already established platoons?

GS: A, B and C, F, G and I, go ahead. S's, Sakato went with E Company, 3rd Platoon.

TI: And so when you went in there, how many --

GS: Alphabetical, different units went to different places.

TI: And so how many replacements, like, joined you in, say, E Company? I mean, how many other replacements went with you?

GS: Oh, there was Futamatas and Kanatani, there must have been twelve, about twelve of us, I guess. Our unit went to the 3rd Platoon, E Company.

TI: And when you... so 3rd Platoon, E Company, okay.

GS: And then some went to 1st Platoon, others went to, like my brother went to the 100th Battalion, he was in Baker Company, 100th Battalion.

TI: So the question I have is, you're really this first wave of replacements for them. I was curious how, how the others accepted you as replacements. I mean, was there kind of the old guys versus the new guys, or how did that, how did that work?

GS: Well, they, for a while they were, by ourselves more or less, 'cause all the recruits were together, but we were in this platoon, this squad. And then each squad we had so many men, so we got to, we finally got to know the guys in different platoons, each squad. Since I knew a little pidgin English, then I was accepted, Buddhahead and not a kotonk.

TI: Okay. So the, so the replacement guys, you're saying, kind of, they were their own little group within the platoon initially, because that's, you were different. How did you guys feel? I mean, were you, because at this point, the 442 had gone through some heavy fighting.

GS: Oh, yeah.

TI: And they were pretty experienced. I mean, how were you feeling at this point?

GS: Well, I, myself, I got together, like Futamata from Pueblo, Colorado, he was kind of quiet. But even during basic training, he used to go out and he would take out notes, you know. So I'm half asleep in the lectures and so I would go back to camp, "What was the sergeant talking about today?" So he would bring out this, this and that. I was a goof off for the whole damn thing, but I, I must have been a good talker, I guess.

TI: Well, that's what I was going to say, because you said even in this case you were kind of the ambassador. I mean, you went out there and talked pidgin with these guys and got to know them, and probably helped integrate the replacements with the rest of the men. So I think that's your gift. So far -- I've been searching, Joe, but I think I found it. I think your gift is you're a good talker. You are able to put people at ease and make these connections, these friendships with people. And so what was your role in your platoon?

GS: I was just a private. The squad leaders was Kozu Nakata from Hawaii, and then other Hawaiians within, and then I was part of that group, and then 2nd Squad had another bunch of Hawaiians. And one of, couple of the other guys with them, but then that, when the whole platoon got together, usually the freshmen recruits, they didn't talk pidgin English. So they more or less just sat by themselves or sat with the other guy, another recruit, and they would talk together 'til I was able to tell them to come get together. So sometimes they would, they had a ukulele, Tachibana was a, he had a, always carried a ukulele in his pack, and he would strum songs and we would sing songs, and then it was Maui, Okumura from Maui, and he always used to sing Oklahoma Kid, he was from Oklahoma and he would sing that song, and somebody else would sing, and the Hawaiians, Hawaiian music and then he would, one of the guys would get up and do the hula and stuff like that. So we, we all got together real good. But like Futamata, they were kind of quiet, so they didn't quite join in much, but then they were still with us.

TI: But it sounds like you tried to include them, you tried to make them feel like part of the whole group.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Okay, so you're, you did this extra training or additional training with the replacements, and then what happened next?

GS: Then after that we had orders to go to France, so we, our group got together and we marched and we went into Marseilles, France, and we got on these damn barges. You had to climb off these rope ladders down to these little boats that, Humphrey boats that they called them, I don't know what they... but we had to go round and around for a whole hour before everybody got off the ship, before we landed, got together and landed. Patton had already come through and took most of the Germans out of there.

TI: Oh, so you thought initially that there might be some heavy fighting...

GS: There might be fighting.

TI: ...on the beach, but it was already cleared.

GS: So when we got there, there was nothing there.

TI: You're lucky.

GS: But we get on board, then after that we had to pitch tents out in the hills and do a little basic training, and got on trains to go to, up north.

TI: And while this is happening, while you're doing this basic training and traveling, did the more experienced guys ever give you advice? Did they kind of tell you, "When the fighting happens, this is what you have to do," or, "This is what it sounds like in battle," or anything like that? Did they explain anything like that?

GS: They says, "Well, there's incoming and outgoing, and then when it's something, hit the ground," hit it. So like I say, so the first day of battle is what I have to tell you about. And so we got out --

TI: And just to give you a sense, so this is about, what, October 1944?

GS: No, this is August.

TI: Still August, okay.

GS: And going up to Epinal, so we took these trains, they go up five miles and then they would back up two miles and wait, then they go to, one of the, five, six miles and they'd back up. So it was getting, so they finally put us on trucks and trucked us to, just this side of Epinal, and from there we had to start marching. So we marched towards the hills, raining, muddy, mud's up this deep, you're walking through mud, that's where the picture shows. But most of those were all in Camp Blanding, soldiers, all recruits, Tanimachi, me, Roy Machida, Kurihara, all these. Kurihara was the first draftee and somebody else was, Kasano, short guy, but all from Camp Blanding were on this page, marching.

TI: So this picture that is really kind of well-known, kind of double file, and you're marching.

GS: So that's, the Associated Press was with us, so they took these pictures from, as we were boarding the trucks and marching down. So we got to the area, and then we had to climb that hill. Climb the hills, but the damn thing's about a forty-five degree angle, and you're trying to pull yourself up, and I couldn't get up and I had my pack, George Kanatani takes my pack, somebody else took my shovel, all I had was a rifle. Pulling myself with the tree roots, I was the last one up the hill. The damn hills are sure dang, god, I couldn't climb 'em. I'd have to rest every feet I go, and then I get another ten feet. So when I finally got up there, everybody else was already up there. But I got...

TI: But they all helped you, though, Kanatani carried your pack, somebody else took your shovel...

GS: Somebody else took my shovel.

TI: And was that kind of the spirit of the unit, that everyone would try to help each other out?

GS: Oh yeah, helped each other out.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: Okay, so now you're on the top of the hill, you're kind of out of breath.

GS: So then first day of the battle, 1st Platoon and 2nd Platoon are ahead, but couple thousand yards ahead, and we're back in reserve, 3rd Platoon. But then we had a new "90-day wonder" lieutenant join us named Lieutenant Schmidt. So he was kind of worried, he's pacing back and forth, everything's quiet and he's nervous as all hell. So I stuck my two fingers under my nose and I, "Sieg Heil in case we lose." I thought he would laugh, he chewed me out. [Laughs] Then artillery shells started coming in.

TI: But before we go there, you did that because you wanted to loosen him up because you thought that...

GS: To relax him. He was nervous, he was back and, pacing back and forth.

TI: And you thought that was going to make everyone else nervous, and you thought it would be just good to...

GS: So I tried to humor things, make people laugh. And they all, other guys laughed but he didn't laugh; he chewed me out for that. So artillery shells, now I hear this one coming in, boom. That was incoming. I found out what incoming was. But when you hear it, little fluttering going on, that's outgoing, that was our guns going. But when you hear something go [makes sound effect], that's incoming. So when that came in, blew me up and I was over there, ten feet, and ached all over, and got up, sores all, looked, and I got a nick here. But I looked down, Yohei Sagami from Wenatchee, Washington, was talking, we were talking what are we going to do when we get out and this and that. He's laying down, facedown, I picked him up, turned him over, he got hit in the jugular vein, and the pulse, blood was coming out every time he'd, pulse beating. And I couldn't stop it without choking him. I tried to put a pad on there, but still, he couldn't breathe, and had relaxed, but blood was coming out. Medics came, but he died, he'd lost too much blood, he died. So that was my, one of my first buddy dying. Then when the artillery was gone, then we tried to dig in, and couldn't dig in. You go down six inches, hit tree roots and rocks. "What am I doing here?" Finally, the artillery shells stopped, and they were going to counterattack, so the German soldiers were going to starting coming to try to take the hill back. So then we had to dig in, try to dig in wherever we can, and then we finally chased them off.

So then we had to continue on taking the hill, so we go so far and we spread out, we're on top of the hill, I'm down on this end of the, left side, and others were up here, main bunch was up here, and a guy hit a landmine. Tripped a trigger, lost his leg, somebody else got hit in the sides, so now we had to probe for landmines. So we had to lay on our stomach and pull out the bayonet and dig in inch by inch. What if I hit a trigger? Sweating, you know, and oh god, what do you do when you hit the trigger? Gonna blow up in your face. Oh, I started praying, holy mackerel, I hope I don't hit the mine. But I'm on the left side, so it was clear and I didn't hit any mines. But three of 'em on top of the other side, on top of the ridge, hit the landmines.

TI: And the reason you're using your knife was you're supposed to hit the edge of it so that you...

GS: Edge of the mine.

TI: And then you would know, you could then identify...

GS: And you could dig around it.

TI: But if you, if you went too far --

GS: Hit it too far and hit the trigger part, it would blow up. So you were, you were probing down, hit something, then you don't want to, you want to back off, kind of probe around and see, and then dig the mine out. But so far I was lucky, my side was clear 'cause I was on the left side.

TI: So Joe, I want to ask you, at this point, so this was, one, you were near a blast and your body was thrown, you watch Yohei Sagami die right there, he was right next to you, you just had to deal with these mines and this counterattack and all these different things, and when you finally have a moment to just think a little bit, what were you thinking? I mean, what, this is all of a sudden, it's just inconceivable to me everything that just happened.

GS: Everybody was looking for the lieutenant, too.

TI: And looking for... so tell me about the lieutenant, what happened to the lieutenant?

GS: He disappeared.

TI: This is Lieutenant Schmidt, that you called the "90-day wonder." And I should mention, so "90-day wonder," you're talking about these men who get...

GS: OCS for ninety days.

TI: ...quick training to become an officer.

GS: Quick training, became a lieutenant.

TI: They were originally just a regular, kind of, infantry or something, and then they get, they get promoted or they go through this quick training. And so he's missing, so what happened to him?

GS: So Takamoto called down to headquarters and the captain says, "Okay, he's back here with us shellshocked." He didn't even get enough, actually, to hear it, explosions went off.

TI: So when that first artillery hit, he was shellshocked and made his way back to headquarters.

GS: Made it back to headquarters. We were looking, we thought he got wounded or he's laying somewhere and looking for him, couldn't find him.

TI: So now I'm thinking, so here your squad leader...

GS: And Takemoto says, he's called up and says, "He's back down at headquarters." So then...

TI: So what, so again, what are you thinking at this point? What's going through your mind? This is really your first real taste of all this, and it's just so concentrated. What were you thinking?

GS: Everything was happening so fast, you know, you didn't have time to think, "What's next?" My god, and when you had to probe for mines, I thought, "Oh my god, what am I doing here? What if I hit the trigger and it blows up in my face?"

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: And so when you have a chance to think, I mean, what are you thinking? What goes through your mind? Does it, do you play back all the things that happened?

GS: I had to think back, why, what am I doing here? I volunteered for this? So I went, kept on going, then we had, finally took the hill. I Company is down below, they had to go around and they went into the town of Bruyeres, hand to hand combat, house to house. 100th Battalion was on the other hill, and they went around the other side. So when we was on the end of this hill, we see a tank going out and, "Oh, Germans retreating." But he went out in the open field and, "That's funny, he's turning around," the barrel is kind of facing us. Then I looked again and I see a ring of smoke, pow, hit the tree behind me. He's shooting at us. Over the hill we go, tried to dig in, I'm digging in and they could only go about six inches, hit rocks and trees, roots, and crawled into my, and oh my god, I stuck my foot out to see if I get hit. Didn't get hit, it was the other guys hit.

TI: I'm sorry. So you're, so this is a German tank, he's firing at you almost point blank, you really can't dig in because it's (rocky), so you're essentially...

GS: Right, not gravel, it's rocky.

TI: So you're just exposed, pretty much exposed other than that.

GS: But we're on this side of the hill.

TI: But you said you stuck your leg out.

GS: Let out, well, my leg is still sticking out. After all, it's only six inches deep that I went. So I stuck the other feet out to see if I'd get hit, but it didn't happen, but somebody else got hit, somebody else got hit. But when the artillery hits, the German artillery, it explodes forward, and it hits treeburst, everything comes down. One shell could hit three or four guys, 'cause it sprays shrapnel down like this. And so when we were in certain areas where we could dig in and dig a foxhole, then we chopped down small trees, about an inch and a half across, then we would lay 'em on top of our foxholes and then put pine boughs on top of that, and then throw dirt on top of that. So if any shrapnel comes, hit, artillery hits the trees, treebursts would hit the, those longs before they would hit us, that way we would be underneath.

TI: And would that be enough to protect you? Usually those...

GS: Protection from shrapnel. We were only in there for a few hours and then you got to move. [Laughs] After we, nice hole I dug, and pine boughs in the bottom to keep the water from, 'cause it's raining and snowing and it's wet underneath, sleeping on top of pine boughs to keep off the ground, the water. But then had to move.

TI: But I'm guessing, even with those treebursts, a hot shrapnel, if it were directly overhead and it came down, that would probably penetrate that, too, wouldn't it?

GS: Yeah, some of them would. But it would deflect it a little bit maybe, so you wouldn't be injured as much.

TI: Because I'm thinking, even with the tree bursts, because they're coming from above, in some ways, foxholes aren't as, as protective as... because if the fire was coming horizontally towards you, then foxholes are good. But if it's coming from above...

GS: Above, coming right straight down on you.

TI:'re still exposed.

GS: Oh, yeah. Then when the artillery stops, counterattack, they're going to charge the hill again. So then we have to go down below, then dig another hole, foxhole, keep the Germans from coming and attacking. Then one tank come around the corner, I thought it was ours, Tiger tank. So I'm sitting here, digging, Friday was over, about twenty feet over on the other side, and fired one round and it went between us but went uphill, and all the shrapnel went up forward, so we were all right. Then the tank moved, moved out because somebody with a bazooka was coming down after.

TI: Now, they had tanks, did you ever have tank support on your side very much?

GS: One time I had a, one hill, and on this one hill, a tank was able to get up there, so I'm telling them there's a machine gun by the rock, hundred yards uphill, and shoot at that rock, pile of rocks. I'm in front of the barrel and talking to the sergeant, and before I can get back, he lets off the round, I'm in front of... the barrel's here, I'm right here. And he lets go, my ears are ringing, so I can't hear too much out of this ear.

TI: Amazing.

GS: But that's not even on the records.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: Okay, so we're now in the third, the third hour, Joe. And so the way we ended on tape two was we were at Bruyeres right after, you were talking about a tank, a Tiger tank that shot right between you and someone else, that...

GS: Me and Friday.

TI: ...that ended up right behind you. So why don't you pick up the story now?

GS: After the, the Tiger tank shot at us, between us, me and Friday, it went uphill so the shrapnel was, all went forward. So we were able to get out of there all right, but the Tiger tank turned around and started heading back because somebody was coming down with a bazooka, fired at it, so he, so we got out of that area. So we had to travel, next, we had, going towards Belmont area, they called, and they had won this one hill, following the ridge, on top of that was, since I had -- before, I have to tell you that I found a tank that had, was blown up, the tracks were blown up. And then I crawled into the tank and I pulled out the Thompson submachine gun, took all the ammunition I could find, and I, 'cause another fellow, Shigematsu, on the other squad, had a Thompson submachine gun and I said, "That's what I need."

TI: So let's, talk about this a little bit. So this is a, so you got this from a U.S. Sherman tank that was already blown up.

GS: Blown up.

TI: And so whenever you saw something like this, would you kind of, like, look around to see what kind of things you could find?

GS: We wondered what happened to that tank, so we went and found this Thompson's submachine gun and took ammunition and the Thompson submachine gun.

TI: Because, because previously, you were carrying, what, a M-1 or something?

GS: Grand M-1.

TI: And so why, why would a Thompson's submachine gun be a better weapon?

GS: 'Cause mostly of your fighting was within 50 yards. But my rifle, I couldn't, like I said, during basic training, I couldn't hit the target, 'cause I used too much windage or too much elevation. So I wasn't sure with the rifle. But Shigematsu had a Thompson's submachine and he was, close range, and that's what I need. So I was able to, when I found this, that's what I took, threw the rifle away. And I carried all the ammunition I could carry, two in each, one in each pocket, three in the backpack, took the clips out, two clips taped together, went out and reversed it, thirty rounds in this one, thirty rounds in this one, so I had enough firepower.

TI: So you had, for each clip, about sixty rounds that you could fire off rapidly?

GS: Thirty, thirty rounds, sixty rounds all together. So when I fired it, but then it would go up, up like this, and that wasn't very good either if I didn't hit the target right, so I reversed it sideways. And I, if the target was in front of me I would start to the left, and to the right, went fine.

TI: Okay, so let me make sure I understand this. So just the machine gun, the torque, if you held it straight up, it would go up, but if you held it sideways, you'd use that same torque, as long as you started on the left side, it would just bring you across, okay.

GS: So that way I fired it this way, from my hips and fired back, so I had enough firepower.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

GS: So in Belmont, since I had the automatic rifle, Thompson submachine, I was on the right flank, rest of the boys were on top of the hill and the rest were on the other side. So we're taking this hill, and it kind of turns to the right, so I was following the road, it was just below me about ten, fifteen yards, and I'm following this, and then machine gun opened up and pinned us down. I had an idea that's, where it was somewhere to my right, so I told one guy to cover me 'cause I'm going to go down across, and go downhill and climb up on the other side. The Germans are going to have to get out of his foxhole to shoot at me. So I crossed the road and went downhill, and I came up on the other side of the ridge. And I crossed the road, and I see this big tree trunk laying on the side of the road. I says, "Oh, I'll get behind that tree trunk for protection," and I seen two Germans running up the hill. I said, "Oh, those are the two machine gunners, they're running up the hill," so I fired up and over. On the other side of that tree trunk, a machine gun comes up, two hands come up, they scared me more than I scared them. There was machine gunners.

TI: So it was a German machine gun nest on the other side of that big log.

GS: Other side of the log.

TI: And after you shot, not shooting at them but someone else...

GS: Uphill where two Germans were running.

TI: But the ones that were on the other side of the log, they, they were so frightened they surrendered.

GS: They pulled up the machine gun and surrendered. And I didn't know what, I just motioned to drop their machine gun, told the lieutenant to give me his pistol. So I took his pistol from him and then I told them to go back to the left. I couldn't speak German, I didn't know how to say, I says, I just motioned to them and I says, "That way." So they all went, the rest of the platoon picked them up and took 'em as prisoners.

TI: Going back, so this machine gun nest, were they kind of lying and waiting for an ambush, for the other guys, if they came around? Is that kind of what...

GS: They were waiting for any trucks or cars coming up that road, they were gonna shoot at the trucks or cars coming up the road. That's why that protection of that tree, big tree like this. Behind that, that was the machine gun nest there.

TI: But if, but if they had kept their wits, I mean, you were pretty vulnerable because you were looking at the other men.

GS: Right.

TI: And they scared you as much as anything. And so why do you think they surrendered?

GS: 'Cause they saw the barrel of the gun right over their head. [Laughs] 'Cause I, now I was on top of the tree trunk, 'cause I was firing up, up at 'em, and they could see the firing, 'cause they were just on the other side of the tree trunk.

TI: Amazing.

GS: So they, I scared them and they scared me, but I told them to drop the gun and so I picked up the... that's where I got my first pistol, first machine gun, so the rest of the troops was able to go around and they chased the Germans off to the other side.

TI: Now you said, so the lieutenant, the German lieutenant you got his pistol, what's your thinking about getting a pistol? Was that more of a souvenir or is it a good weapon, or why, why the pistol?

GS: Souvenir. Pistol and the belt. So I had the belt on, I put the belt on, it's flexible so it has little ridges, holes that, there was an extra belt on the side, that has little prongs that would go into these little holes like this. So each one of those would hit whatever size you want to put it, had holes in it so I was able to clip it to my belt and stuff. So I had this machine gun, pistol on, so I put other ammunition on this side, canteen on this side, shovel on back, and the backpack on the back of that. So I was weighted down with all kinds of, doing, no wonder I couldn't climb those hills.

TI: You had a little arsenal that you're carrying around.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: Okay, so, so after the log incident, then what happened?

GS: Then we moved out and so we had, we took that finally, that hill, then we had to go to another hill to, only a couple squads of us were taken. So our unit was going, we took, we chased the Germans off the hill, and we were twenty-five, twenty feet apart. On my right flank was the automatic rifle, so I was shooting at the Germans and the rest of the troops were down there, so we chased the Germans off the hill. Then the sergeant's on top of the hill and he says, "Come back," so then the Germans were still shooting at me and I'm shooting back at him, but then I'm climbing the hill. But I go about ten feet and, whew, I gotta rest a minute. And I go up another ten feet, and I couldn't give my pack to the guy, he was twenty-five feet over that way. So I have to carry all this, and I'm going up the hill, and when I got to the top of the hill, "Where's our, what happened to our platoon, or our squad?" They left me; they thought I got shot down there. Holy cow, and here it's about four o'clock in the afternoon or five o'clock in the, and I said, "Where's our line? That way or that way or that way?" They had bushes that, about so high, lot of the bushes underneath these different trees, and openings, there was all... so I got to one big bush, got down, lay down on my back and I cut some of the branches off and put it on top of my face.

TI: Now were you trained to do that? I mean, what, what made you think to, to kind of do that depression and cover yourself?

GS: They told us how to cover, protection, behind trees and bushes or camouflage your, camouflage. We were told about that. I says, "Well, how am I going to camouflage," so I just, another, see my face, and my OD color was, give us away, guy, passed me up right next to me could see me. But the patrols were, I was away from the walking area in a bunch of trees, bushes here, and another area where people could walk. So it was still dusk and I could still see a little part. So I'm laying down there and I hear a twig snap. You listen for sound; your actual sight, you can't see, 'cause somebody's hiding behind a bush or somebody's talking, you can hear that. I could hear them talking and so I, so I thought, so the sound, a twig broke, so I kept still and I watched, and some Germans were saying something and went by and I saw the helmet like this. That's a German patrol. So then another couple hours went by and I hear another sound going. But I see the helmet, didn't have the flare on the outside, "Oh, that's our company." Said, "Hey, what company is this?" Guy turned, F Company come up. He's about ready to shoot me because then I didn't know the password. He says, "What password?" I don't know the password. "E Company, they left me here and I'm lost." So that finally got back to the company. In the meantime, the company's back, and Masaoka's writing a citation for that hill.

TI: But I'm curious, when you got back to E Company, 3rd Platoon, did they say anything to you when you got back?

GS: "Where were you?" "You guys left me," I told 'em, "you thought I got killed down there. God darn," I was chewing them out.

TI: So were you actually mad? Were you mad at those guys?

GS: Oh, yeah. I was madder than... they left me. Could have at least come down and see where the hell I'm at. Come back and so Ben Masaoka was writing up the citation for that hill, then the captain says we got to go see a colonel somebody on this other ridge over here.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: And when you say Masaoka, you're talking about Ben Masaoka.

GS: Ben Masaoka.

TI: So this is the brother of Mike Masaoka...

GS: Mike Masaoka's brother.

TI: ...who's well-known with the JACL.

GS: He was educated student, he knew how to write citations up, and he was writing up all this information, E Company, 3rd Platoon, how many this and that.

TI: And these were the citations that would then lead to medals later on?

GS: For somebody.

TI: For somebody, okay. And was that kind of his role in the unit, to kind of write up these citations? Is that what he focused on?

GS: Yeah. I guess, because he writes up the different citations.

TI: And would he be with more headquarters, like a headquarters staff?

GS: No, he was in our squad.

TI: Oh, he was in your squad, okay.

GS: Yeah, he was in our squad.

TI: Okay, so go ahead, so now, so Ben Masaoka's writing up the citation.

GS: Writing up the citation and the captain says, well, our platoon has got to go up and find this colonel and see where his men were. And we couldn't understand why we had to go up there, so we were in the resting area and we thought, well, we can, one guy was getting ready to cook a chicken, he's plucking the chicken, Yamada from Pearl City, he was plucking the chicken up and getting ready to put it on the stove to fry it, got to move out. [Laughs] He had the chicken plucked, ready to cook, and then, but we had to go on this patrol. So we get up on this hill and see this colonel, colonel says out here on this ridge is, I think his men are out here, could you go check and find out? Okay, so we go up two or three hundred yards, four hundred yards, and then we hear somebody chopping wood on this side and somebody chopping wood on this side of the ridge, and oh, they're chopping to cover the foxholes, you know. So then we get 200, 500 yards, and we see a group of men in their foxholes. And the lieutenant there says, "Could you go out and find out where the Germans are at?" Why telling us to go see? Why can't they go out?

TI: Now, was this a 442 unit that was telling you?

GS: No.

TI: This was a...

GS: Haole outfit.

TI: Okay.

GS: I don't know if it was part of the 36th Division, who they were. They're hakujin, haole.

TI: So why were they giving you guys orders to do that?

GS: That we couldn't understand. Why could we have to go follow, see where they're at?

TI: Okay. But you felt, still, that you should follow their orders and do this?

GS: Captain says for him to find them, and this colonel says, "Find where the men are at." So we go up and found, and then the lieutenant there says, "See where the Germans are at." So we go up another couple thousand, couple hundred, maybe about a thousand yards I guess, and we get pinned down machine gun fire. So I'm on the right side with the rest of the platoon, since I had the Thompson's, so I run and I hit the ground and I roll over, got behind the bush and the rock. George Futamata was on the other side, he hit the ground but he didn't roll over and get behind the bush. Ben Masaoka's on my right side, he hit the ground, but he didn't roll behind the bush. The guy named Friday was on the other side of him, I don't know why they called him Friday, I don't know what his real name was, but they called him Friday, nickname. And so first Futamata, he looked up, pow, a sniper with telescopic lens had us pinned down. And Masaoka was the next one to look up, went out the back of his helmet.

TI: Now, why would those guys look up if they knew that there was a sniper?

GS: They were trying to find where the Germans were at. So I was trying to look, look in between the things, but I couldn't see where the Germans were, where the sniper was. He either was in a tree and the machine gun was below him, and he had telescopic lens, so he could see. And so he opened, got our head up, so three of 'em got shot, and he's looking for me, but he couldn't see me because I was behind this bush. So I had to crawl backwards, got out of there, and I told the guy in the foxhole, "Why didn't you come up to help us? We were pinned down up there." They didn't have orders to do that. We had a forward observer with a radio called, and so we called headquarters, Captain Aikens said to come back, but we couldn't pick up these three guys. The next time that we went through there, we picked up Futamata and Friday, "Where's Masaoka's body?" It's not there. 'Til then, we never did hear where his body was. Years later, I hear that he was in Italy, found in Italy.

TI: His body was found in Italy, not...

GS: His body was found in Italy.

TI: Not alive, but...

GS: Not alive, but his body. That it could, how did it get to Italy? Unless he went through the south, Swiss border, went to "Lost Battalion" area and then crossed over into Italy, Monaco area, they can go into Italy there. But I don't know how he got over there. So we had to go back, and we lost those three guys. Just for...

TI: Yeah, I mean, so how do you feel about that? Because --

GS: Oh, we were mad. Takemoto, "Why they send us out on a patrol like that?"

TI: Right.

GS: Why can't their own men look for their own, see where the Germans were at? And why did the colonel have to tell us where his men were at?

TI: And so when, when the men, the 442 would talk like that? What would you, what would you think and what would you say to each other?

GS: "They're treating us like cannon fodder." We were just expendable. Why they send us through a thing like that, I don't know. So from there, we had to go to Biffontaine. So we get to Biffontaine area, I Company was in one unit, part of the Biffontaine, 100th Battalion was on the other side, and we were to take this one hill. G Company was with us, we're on the hill, this side of the hill, it's in that picture.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

TI: So we're talking, actually, this is, this is after Biffontaine, isn't it? Isn't this towards the rescue of the...

GS: This is Hill 617.

TI: 617, part of the rescue of the "Lost Battalion."

GS: Part of it.

TI: So let me see if I can set this up, and you correct me if I'm wrong, but, so we had this Texan unit, the 141st, two hundred plus men, they were surrounded, they had gone too far, they were surrounded, and they asked, or they ordered the 442 to go after them. And you had the 100th and the 3rd Battalion sort of making the main thrust, but the 2nd Battalion was asked to take Hill 617, which kind of overlooked the area where the "Lost Battalion" was.

GS: [Indicating a drawing]: The "Lost Battalion" is behind this hill on another, on these other mountains, range going this way. We're, G Company, we're looking and try to cross this open field, railroad track, this was the supply route from Strasburg to Paris, the train supply route. And this hill can look past here, troop movement's going towards "Lost Battalion" where artillery shells was, they would radio from here. The troop movements over here, to fire against the 100th Battalion and 3rd Battalion.

TI: So from a strategic standpoint, this was a critical hill to take.

GS: This is a critical hill to take.

TI: Because without that, the other two battalions would be vulnerable.

GS: Right.

TI: And so this was a critical thing that your, your battalion was asked to take.

GS: We couldn't take it from, this way. That's the way we crossed, mortar shells from here would fire down on us, machine guns from here would fire down on us, machine guns down here would fire across here. No way could we cross that hill, open space. So we got on trucks and went around several hills over here, and there were hills here. 7th Army was over here, we went behind 7th Army, now we were crossed over into enemy territory back here, but we was on the back end of this ridge. So at night, we started to march towards this hill.

TI: But you still left part of the unit --

GS: G Company's on this side.

TI: G Company there as kind of a decoy.

GS: Decoy, right.

TI: To fool the Germans into thinking that you're still down there.

GS: They were flanking here trying to come across, and they also tried to come across this other side.

TI: So E and F Company were...

GS: E and F went around.

TI: Went around, okay. So let's pick it up there.

GS: So we, we went behind the enemy lines and we had to march single file at night, ten o'clock at night, twelve o'clock at night, you can't see your hand right here. You had to look up here. There was a tree trunk coming out here, you bypass, oh, there's a tree trunk coming over here. Bypass that one, but we had to hold on the backpack of, each soldier's backpack strap, we'd hold onto, and we'd follow him. So we're single file, was marching, weaving back and forth through these hills areas back here. Then at dawn, we all spread apart, one unit went down below here, our unit, Sarge Takemoto was in there, and the others went above here to take the hill up here. So at dawn we started, Germans didn't know we were back here. If we had bumped into each other, we couldn't make a sound. You hit the guy in front, he stops, bang, bang, bang, domino action, we just, but don't make a sound. You just had to hold it and march, keep on. Then at dawn we spread apart. So our unit, we came, so Takemoto's 4th, 3rd Platoon was in here, 1st Platoon went on the other side, and then we came across and we, I took three machine guns out of here.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

TI: And so, so it's now dawn, you have this three-prong sort of attack, and so, and your unit is in the middle, kind of, going across.

GS: Caught the Germans by surprise, they didn't know we were behind 'em. So then we chased them off the hill. G Company, if they had stayed directly where they were, they would have caught the rest of the... but they moved them to the right side. So then we chased the Germans off, and then artillery shells started coming in. So then we had to jump into the German foxholes now, that was down in the bottom. So I'm on the bottom, we got, ran to one foxholes, and artillery shells are coming in. Another guy from F Company, he jumps in. I didn't know who was jumping in with me, pretty soon I recognized him. "Hey, you're Mas Ikeda from Mesa, Arizona." He said, "Yeah." "What'd you hear about home?" We talked about home and the artillery shells were... boom, bang, didn't bother us a bit. We were talking about home. It's good to hear somebody talk about home. Artillery's going off, somebody else is hollering for medics, somebody else was... but it didn't bother us.

Artillery shells stopped, counterattack, so Mas Ikeda had to jump out of his foxhole, go to F Company and regroup, and I was on the left side. Kelly Kuriyama was a medic from New York, he was attending one guy's knee when I was in this foxhole. Germans shot him, the bullet grazed his temple and spun around his helmet, dropped down. One inch more that way, he wouldn't be... but he survived that, he got a haircut. The bullet just spun around. I thought he picked it up, but he didn't. But then he had to move the guy he was working with back towards the center of the hill there.

'Cause I'm on the left flank, and since I had the Thompson submachine, I had a machine gun, so I was covering the left flank, rest of the group were on the other side of the hill. G Company was over by the others. And then they counterattacked, so anything that moves, I was shooting at. Wind must have blew, bush, guy must be down there hiding underneath it, so I'd fire down and shoot at it. Next thing you know, I was, ran out of ammunition, both clips were gone. One German wanted to come up, going to throw a grenade at me. So I took the pistol, I couldn't get the other clips out, so I got the pistol, and pow, pow, stopped him, and he stopped. Then no more troop movements, and so I got down in the hole and started filling my clips up. Pretty soon I look and I'm looking uphill this time because I'm in back of the hill, Germans would be down below. But they went around me while I was down in the hole, I didn't see 'em, and they started climbing that hill, they started taking the hill back. "Oh, my god," I started hollering at the guys, "watch out for the machine guns, they're taking the hill back." And Tanimachi, for some reason he got up and says, "Where?" and he got shot. So I crawled over to his hole and picked him up, "Why did you stand up?" And he's gurgling and he's trying to say something, blood is coming out of his... and he just, then he just went limp. Then he went, body went limp on me and then I knew he died. And I cried, hugged him, and, "God, why?" Laid him down and looked at all the blood in my hands and I said, "You son of a bitch." Picked up, threw the pack off, picked up the tommy gun and I got out of the hole and I zig-zagged back up, run this way and I'd run that way. I shot two or three guys, and then pretty soon the guys with white handkerchiefs were waving them, group of 'em coming out, and I made sure that nobody behind 'em had a gun, otherwise I would have had to shoot him. So the rest of the troop came up and took the hill.

TI: And so while you went up the hill first, the others started following you up the hill? And this was going all the way to the top? And was it because of the death of Tanimachi that just, that just put you into this rage?

GS: I was mad, right? I was mad and I just, all these SOB, I was gonna shoot him, no matter if die trying.

TI: This is the same Tanimachi that you went through basic training, and training, the Waldorf Astoria and all that?

GS: Yeah. He joined the army because his parents wanted him to marry some girl and he didn't like her, so he volunteered for the army. Says, "I don't know why you did that." Well, he didn't want to get married. But before we took that trip, he used to have a Browning automatic rifle, and sergeant took it away from him to give to another squad, 'cause they didn't have one, and gave him a grenade launcher. And he said he didn't feel good. So I told him, "Stay back, whatever you do. Don't go, don't go on this trip." He's gotta go. So he wasn't quite in his right sense when he stood up and he got shot.

TI: And so Joe, in doing my research, it showed that in that, that charge that you did up that hill, when you took the hill, you killed twelve enemy, wounded two.

GS: [Laughs] I didn't count.

TI: And took four, and captured four.

GS: I captured more, more than four.

TI: At least that's what the citation says.

GS: Yeah, citation said that, and the citation said the platoon leader got killed, but it wasn't the platoon leader, it was Tanimachi.

TI: Tanimachi. But it was this charge that led to the taking of this hill, which later on your unit received a, a unit citation.

GS: And I got the Distinguished Service Cross for that hill.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

TI: And so when you, when you got to the top of the hill, what did you see? What was the reason to take that hill when you got to the top?

GS: I was gonna kill the SOB that shot Tanimachi.

TI: No, but in terms of the strategic importance of the hill...

GS: Well, we needed to take the hill.

TI: And was it clear when you got to the top that it was important?

GS: We took the hill back, yeah. Well, the rest of the group went around and took the top of the hill. I just went as far as the ridge there where the machine guns were before, and I was able to clear the area, 'cause the Germans were starting to surrender. Even, we lost the prisoners that we captured taking the hill. F Company had a squad of men watching the prisoners, but every time we'd take a prisoner, we'd take all the ribbons and everything off of them. So when it got to the guys guarding the prisoners, they didn't have anything. So they were right behind us, actually.

TI: I don't quite follow. So when you took a prisoner --

GS: They were supposed to be two hundred yards behind with the prisoners.

TI: Okay, uh-huh. But they were, you were taking so many prisoners and it was getting so close?

GS: So close that when the counterattack started, the prisoners escaped.

TI: I see, okay.

GS: So F Company has to join us, jump in the foxholes, 'cause artillery's coming in, and then prisoners, they escaped.

TI: So you could actually even capture more, but then they would end up escaping in the chaos of...

GS: Chaos, we lost a lot of, lot of men and lot of, everything is going, you didn't know who was next, who was next, who was next with us. So we finally got to take the hill back, oh my gosh. But we took the hill and then orders were to go rescue the "Lost Battalion."

TI: Because now that the hill was taken, in that strategic sense.

GS: So we secured that hill.

TI: So before you took the, or the "Lost Battalion," did you have any chance to just, again, think about what had just happened? I mean, again, you had gone up the hill in this rage, at some point, when you just realized what you had just done, wasn't, didn't it dawn on you what you had just done?

GS: No. At that time I still wasn't in my, you know, right sense.

TI: Do you recall any of the other men saying anything to you, that they weren't surprised or anything, they didn't say anything?

GS: Somebody else would say, "What are you doing?" I just, I was gonna get the SOB that shot him or else die trying. So then after that, "Why? What'd I do?" If I was in my right mind, I don't think I would have done that. I'd have stayed in my hole and shoot, but then to go up and charge the hill was something else that I, I wasn't quite in my right sense of mind. But I was just mad, crying, I was crying.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

TI: So after the hill...

GS: We had orders to go after the "Lost Battalion." So then we went to the left side, we took the hill, and another part of this, back of this one hill, Hill 617, 100th was taking the back side, back end of that hill. 'Cause we had outskirted the Germans by going, without making any noise. There were still troops behind there where we were, where we had, but they were on the other side of the ridge, this side.

TI: So you had to clean all that up.

GS: And we were on the right side of it. And when we went out and crawled, walked at night without any noise, they were here but we were here. So then we took this hill here, and then 100th finally had to go back and come into the ridge, this ridge here. And then we followed towards. And the middle, I Company, 3rd Battalion was in the valley, 2nd Battalion went on this other, left side. So this was going through, and I Company was on the valley looking, they took the brunt of the thing because everybody, all the Germans were down, dug in, in the valley area, shooting at the "Lost Battalion." Plus the hill on here, shooting. So then when we went more, I heard the mortar shell goes and he hit this hill where the 100th Battalion was. Then I hit the ground, and I heard the mortar shell go off again, hit this hill. The third one went off and I says, "I have to fight around that hill." So I hit the deck twice over here and I thought, "That's the final round." So I didn't, I was halfway down and boom, picked me up, here to there. Then the artillery shells started really coming in, 'cause they knew our troop was moving here and the 100th was moving here, we were moving here, and I Company's down below.

So there were all kinds of artillery coming in, mortar shells coming, and so I had to dig in, and I threw my pack off and I tried to dig in. I could pick my elbow this way, but I couldn't move my elbow up here to pitch it, you know. "What the heck? I can't move this arm." Then I looked at my pack, and I had that overcoat and I packed it real tight. I was going to throw that overcoat away 'cause it was getting too damn heavy. But it was snowing, so I had to keep it, so I packed it four or five times in my pack, I saw a hole through there. And I, I ached all over, but I didn't feel no, nothing here. And I took off my jacket, and, "Oh, I've got a hole in my jacket." Then I felt the trickle of blood going down my spine, "Hey," I told the sergeant, "I'm hit." He looked and he didn't see no blood, he says, "You're not hit. Dig, dig." [Laughs] He tells me to dig, says, "I can't dig." Then he comes a little closer and he looks at me, "Oh, I guess you're hit. Gotta go back, back to the aid station." Artillery shells were coming in, booming, I got fifteen, twenty feet above that way, I'm blown up again and picked me up, but the concussion just threw me over. But I didn't hit anywhere else, I was all right, finally made it to the aid station, got to the aid station. I had more than nine lives.

TI: And so a piece of shrapnel had, had gone through your pack and your overcoat.

GS: Hit my spine.

TI: Hit your spine...

GS: Ricocheted, it's in my left lung here. It's about this size, still here.

TI: And the fact that you had that overcoat there kind of softened it or deadened it? 'Cause otherwise it might have gone right through your spine if it...

GS: Right, it would have penetrated, if I didn't have that overcoat, it would have penetrated, the momentum would have hit my spine and wouldn't be here. But the overcoat stopped most of the momentum from, force of going through, straight through, would have severed my spine, but it just, momentum stopped it enough to penetrate and bounce off of my spine and into my left lung.

TI: I mean, literally, you do have nine lives. I mean, in just hearing these last two hours from when Yohei was killed in terms of artillery was right to you, the tank shooting the artillery at you, the charge up the 617.

GS: But I didn't tell you about that other time when I was marching, and the sergeant said something to me, I was taking a step, and I turned around and said, "What?" Pow, hit the tree. If I had went forward, it would have hit me. But I stopped to turn to see what he's saying, hit, went past my left ear and it hit the tree I was standing next to. [Laughs] So that was another one.

TI: Do you ever think about why you lived?

GS: That's why I can't understand how I'm still alive. I had pneumonia, even when I got out of the hospital, I was in Long Beach, California, I had pneumonia, 105 degrees, and I survived that.

TI: Because I have to tell you, Joe, I mean, leading up to this, the battle scenes, I don't think I would have said you were a candidate to be a war hero. I mean, you're right, you were small, you were in some cases weaker in terms of climbing hills, you had this past of being sick, and yet what you did was extraordinary. I mean, what is it that, that made that happen.

GS: I don't know.

TI: I mean, part of it, I think, was the death of your friend Tanimachi that...

GS: That was most of it. Yohei dying.

TI: Yohei died.

GS: Futamata dying, then Masaoka.

TI: At some point, do you just sort of don't care anymore, or what is it that... because I was thinking at the very beginning, there was more of a tentativeness in terms of the battles, and perhaps more fear. But at the end, it looked like you were literally fearless, you didn't care.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

GS: There was another thing prior to 617, we went out on a patrol to see where the Germans were at, just twelve of us going out. So we, taken downhill and I listen, I can hear some German talking, and then pretty soon he, Norman Shibata was on the right side, and he got behind a log, laying on the ground. And then this German was talking, giving instructions, and pretty soon the machine guns went up and hit Norman Shibata's backpack. This German was giving instructions that, I found, saw him, so I shot him. Shot him in the legs and knocked him down. And he turned around and he saw me, he made a mistake of picking up his gun. So he picked up his gun, I shot him again, but I hit him down in the lower part, knocked him down. And he was hollering for help, so we says, "Well, we know where the Germans are, let's go back." So we were heading for our lines, I can hear the Germans hollering and screaming for help, nobody came. Pretty soon I was, got to top of our ridge, and boom, something went off, explosions down where he was, no more crying. So when I went back to see, we took that hill back, he had stuck a grenade under his head and blew his head off.

TI: So for him just to end the suffering, that he knew that he wasn't going to be saved, and so he, he killed himself.

GS: That's why I wear this medal for him, too. He'll never go home. I felt sorry for him, but just one of those things, yeah. We even captured one young kid was coming down, his overcoat was too big for him and everything, German soldier, and, "What's the matter?" I told him, "Halt," and he's surprised, he saw me, he ran down and got behind a big rock like this, and we was up here, and he got down behind here. So I threw a grenade down here, Sergeant Takemoto went around this side and I went around this side to shoot him. He was on his knees and shivering and scared, he was only a fifteen year old kid. He was lost, he didn't, and he didn't have any guns with him or anything, but he was scared.

TI: And so Joe --

GS: The shrapnel didn't even hit it.

TI: Yeah, I'm curious, as you talk about being, sort of, in this close contact with German soldiers, did you ever get a sense of the German soldiers and how they looked or thought about the 442 or the Japanese American soldiers? Did they, like, know that, who you were, or did they, did that register at all?

GS: I heard about it from another bunch. One, one group captured this one soldier, he spoke English and he was educated in the U.S. And he says, he was cussing us out, says, "You dumb Japs, you're supposed to be our allies," and this and that. But this guy's Hawaiian brother was killed, so he was supposed to take him as prisoner, and they took him over the hill and [imitates sound of machine gun fire]. That ended his life. They shot him because his brother got killed and he was mad, so he wasn't going to take him as prisoner, he was cussing us out, this and that, so he shot him.

TI: I just think about war and how, how horrible...

GS: It was bad.

TI: these things happen.

GS: It wasn't good. When people die and you shoot somebody, and I shot so many. And then after I shot 'em, you know, I didn't think of it, but only this one kid that I shot, he was screaming for help and didn't come, so he blew himself up. I felt sorry for him.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

TI: Yeah, sort of taking a step back, and we talked earlier about how there was that incident when, when the Caucasian units would order you in front, and we talked about being kind of used as cannon fodder. And I was thinking about the rescue of the "Lost Battalion" and how you, the 442 was ordered to go save them in a very, again, difficult situation. Did the men ever talk about, like, General Dahlquist and some of his decisions, and how he put you and the others at risk?

GS: Yeah, he's, in fact, one other platoon, oh, it was the 100th with Kim.

TI: Colonel Kim.

GS: Kim, so when he, he had to, Dahlquist come up and says, "Why don't you go forward?" he says, "There's no Germans in this area." But Kim told him, "Well, fifty feet over that way is, there are Germans there." "Oh, there's nothing out there." 'Til his aide got shot, Dahlquist was... but so everybody was always saying, "Dahlquist is using us as cannon fodder." No matter what the cost, we were to take the rescue of the "Lost Battalion." Look how many men got killed. I Company lost, what, only seven guys left standing, and K Company, only seventeen men standing out of forty men. Seventeen?

TI: Yeah, even some of the men of the "Lost Battalion," after their rescue, they found out how many casualties that the 442 took --

GS: For the Hill 617, eight hundred and some got killed or wounded, and to rescue the...

TI: Yeah, and they actually said that when they think about it, they said it probably wasn't worth it, even though it was them who was being rescued.

GS: Yeah.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

TI: So we, where we last left off, you were, you were injured, you made it back...

GS: Made it back to the hospital.

TI: the aid station, the hospital.

GS: So I was at Epinal for... I got wounded the 4th of November, and then Thanksgiving coming up, before Thanksgiving I was to get on a plane to go to England. I was able to walk, so ambulatory, so they put me on a pile of ropes and, with my records, plane's ready, then they got orders that the weather changed, so they bumped me off the plane, but my records went with that plane. So then Thanksgiving I was at Epinal, Christmas coming, I'm still in Epinal.

TI: So what happens is when you get separated from your records, it's almost like you become lost, I mean, they don't know what to do with you?

GS: They don't know where my records are. So I had to start new ones. After Christmas, then I finally went to England, flew to England, got to Birmingham hospital and then I hear this engine going "Brrr," pretty soon it stopped. And all the patients were ducking under beds and ducking under tables and the guy says, "Get under the table." What, I didn't know what's going on. Pretty soon I hear, "Boom." That's my first experience with the V-2 bombs, jet-propelled bombs. Soon as the engine stops, it's gonna drop. So went right over our hospital and went to the next town over, Coventry, and exploded. So then I get out, so I'm in the hospital at Birmingham and finally got to go to board ship and traveled to New York City in five days, I was in New York. The Statue of Liberty, that's the prettiest sight I ever seen. I was happy; I was home. But I still wasn't home, I had to get over to Camp Killmer, and they sent me to another hospital towards Central for a couple days and then I was transferred to Vancouver, Washington, hospital in Vancouver across from Portland, Oregon. Then my kid brother sends me a newspaper clipping, Redlands, California, newspaper says, "George Sakato received the Distinguished Service Cross." So he sent me this clipping, "Why didn't you tell me you got the medal?" "I didn't get no medal." So I get the newspaper clipping and I tell the chaplain at the Vancouver hospital, says, "How come the hometown paper knows about it but I don't know anything about it?" So he says, well, he'll look into it. In the meantime, they transferred me to Mitchell Convalescent Hospital (near) San Diego. So going around doing the exercise and going up and down, finger ladder up and down, finally I was discharged January 31, '45, I was discharged. So the colonel says, "Wait, a medal came. Our band is on furlough and they'll be back next week and we'll have a parade and you can get your medal." Then I says, "Well, they've got three boys getting discharged with me, and they're going to Phoenix and they're gonna fly back home to Hawaii. You're gonna have to change their flight schedule." "Oh." [Laughs] So we couldn't have, do that. So he pinned the medal on me in his office, so I got the Distinguished Service Cross. So I came home and my brother finally got discharged and came home.

TI: Well, when you first got home, what was that like for your, your parents and your sisters and all that?

GS: Oh yeah, they thought it was great. But I did come once on a furlough once, and I had a can of takuan, took it back to camp, to the hospital, and went to the PX and Hawaiian boys, cases of beer, cases of beer, opened the takuan bottle and the GIs on the other end of the PX drinking beer, and, "Who died?" [Laughs] "Who died?" Says, well, they opened all the windows and everything, takuan was smelling." Oh, the Hawaii boys, we were happy, we were just eating takuan. So that's... and after that, we got discharged and we came home, was able to meet the family and we got together. Henry, he got discharged, so he says, "Well, what are we gonna do?" "We gotta go on a vacation, we gotta go see the country." So he got a car and we drove to Indianapolis, Indiana, Chicago, then we went to Denver and Windy Yonehiro was in Denver, so we thought we'd go see an old friend from Denver. Then he introduced me to some girls, and well, we stayed there for a whole week, had to wire home for some money back home. But in the meantime, I communicated with my future wife.

TI: So that's when you met Bess.

GS: That's when I met Bess.

TI: And this was Bess Saito that you met?

GS: Uh-huh. So then I asked her to marry me and then finally got married. Then we were traveling to Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a bus, stopped at the bus station and ordered some coffee. We get, two Indian girls, they wouldn't even wait on us 'cause we were Japanese, the "Japs." Indian girls to not wait on us is something else.

TI: And so what did you think at this point?

GS: Discrimination.

TI: 'Cause here you were a decorated war hero, and you...

GS: They didn't know what to think. All they saw was "Japs." So then I went to National School, I was working, I was going to become a diesel mechanic, so I was learning diesel mechanic, and then in the meantime, nighttime, I was, worked at the post office, pick up mail and deliver to the airport.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

TI: Okay, so tape four, we're in the fourth hour with, interview with Joe Sakato. And so we're now, it's after the war, you've met Bess, and, and you've gone to school already. I think you just mentioned going to school.

GS: School for diesel mechanic.

TI: Okay, so why don't you continue the story here.

GS: So when we finally got to California, I entered National School in Los Angeles, and I'm learning to become a diesel mechanic. And then I was working nights at the post office, and so then I thought, well, then I got a job in Coolidge, Arizona, converting marine diesels into water pumps. So two of us went to, went there and helped a man, gentleman to sell diesel engines to the farmers for water pumps. But the farmer says, "Well, they stay in their house and they pull a switch and electric motor starts, pumps water." So the gentleman, he couldn't sell very many diesel engines, so then in the meantime, my (wife, sister) says she's gonna have a baby, so my wife would have to go to Denver to help her. So I, the mechanic says, "One of us is going to have to go," I says, "Well, I'll go since I have to go to Denver anyway," so we moved to Denver. I said, oh, I'll get a job at the railroad station, trucking companies and everything, I was able to get a job. So we got to Denver and we, I was, got a job for one trucking company extending truck beds a little longer, fishplate, so I was busting a few nickels, asked for the railroad station and they asked, "You got ten years' experience?" I says, "How am I gonna get ten years' experience? I just got out of the army." But they looked at me and he, a "Jap." They didn't want to hire me. Another trucking company looked at me, "I'm sorry, there are no jobs. We'll call you when we're ready." They never did call me, but this one company says, well, to extend the trucking beds a little longer, after busting a few knuckles on that. Then in the meantime, I was, part-time I was working in a grocery store, and then I says, "What am I doing this for? Think I'll go to the post office, there's no discrimination in the post office." So I applied for the post office and got in the post office. Thirty-two years in the post office, I retired.

TI: So I want to ask you, going back to your, your military service, how did that change you? When you think about Joe Sakato in Phoenix before the war, and Joe in now Denver after the war, how did that experience change you?

GS: It didn't change me too much, it's just a matter of, Distinguished Service Cross was nothing.

TI: Or I'm thinking about maybe the friends dying, maybe just your outlook on life. I mean, did that change because of, of seeing how quickly life can end or things like that?

GS: Well, that's why we had to take a trip to, me and my brother had to get away from this war by taking a trip to visit different places. So we had a friend that used to live in Colton, was living in Indianapolis, Indiana, so we went to see him and his family in Joliet, and so we talked to him and then came to Denver. So this kind of got our minds off the war. And as far, if I had to stay home and think about the war, I don't think, you know... I, to me, I have to talk about it. If I had to keep it in here, I think I would go crazy. That's why I thought in my mind I'd rather talk about it, so I'd get it out of my mind, get it out.

TI: And so in those decades after the war, who would you talk to about the war? Would it be Bess?

GS: Anybody. Anybody wanted to inquire about what happened, so I tell him how it was. I had to keep it... 'cause sometimes I had nightmares, I'd get up, I'd be laying on my back and I thought, "Oh, the Germans stabbed me in the back," you know. But, "Oh, I'm home." Or I get a pain somewhere else, got that, "Did I get hit, concussion?" When I look, "Oh, I'm home." That's, now and then I have a few nightmares, think about, horror, but after I realize where I'm at, then it passes. But if it was still dark or something, then I look, "Where am I?" and then I, I have another thought that I'm still at war. I usually talk about, that's... so when I finally got out and I got, retired from the post office, thirty-three years, "What am I gonna do now?" So we take trips here and there and I talk about it, and then, then somebody'd invite me somewhere and I talk to them about, different schools wanted me to talk with them.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

GS: Then fifty-five years later, I get this call from the Pentagon and says, "Why don't you come to the White House?" "What for?" (General Kirklighter) from the Pentagon calls and want us to come to Washington. So I says, "What for?" and he says, "Going to upgrade your medal, Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor." In the meantime, there was fifty-two recipients received the Distinguished Service Cross.

TI: Fifty-two within the 442?

GS: 442. But they only had records of fifty-one; they didn't know who fifty-two was. So all the years, 442 didn't have the record that I received the medal.

TI: Oh, interesting. So when, when you got separated from your records, do you think, in Europe...

GS: That's right.

TI: just got lost?

GS: Seven months before I knew about, that I got, got the Distinguished Service Cross, they didn't know about it. Nobody knew about it.

TI: And so you weren't really listed in the official records as, as being awarded the...

GS: They knew that fifty-two was issued to 442, but they didn't know who the fifty-second was. So the years went by, and my brother was telling the 442 in California that I had received the medal, I got the medal. But they didn't, they couldn't find the records, so then I guess San Francisco started investigating and they says, "Well, you have to go to St. Louis to check the records in St. Louis," so they finally found it and they finally knew who the fifty-second was.

TI: And of those fifty-two, twenty of them were upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

GS: To Medal of Honor.

TI: And so what, what did you think when you got that phone call?

GS: I, he talked to me and I couldn't say nothing, I was surprised. He says, "Well, you're gonna get the medal," but only ten in the family could go. I says, "Well, I got more than ten in the family want to go," so I told him, "Send me my medal." [Laughs] And he says, no, no, he can't do that. He says, "We'll make arrangements somewhere."

TI: [Laughs] Joe, that's good.

GS: So when we finally go there, it so happened that a Saudi prince had come to Washington, so they put up great big circus tent, clear plastic, chandeliers, air conditioned, trees growing inside the tent and everything, bushes on the side, flowers and everything. Five hundred people could get in that place. So guys from California, Washington, and southern California, E Company, Dan Inouye's E Company, they all came to Washington for this dedication. So we got everybody in, and as we went to the gate, then there's five guys from Washington sitting out by the gate, you know. They didn't get an invitation so they, they're waiting to get in. So I told Danny, I says -- he's a senator now -- says, "You have more clout than I have, you get those guys in." [Laughs] So he got 'em all in. So we all was able to go to the ceremony to get this medal. And I says, says, "I'm no hero, but I wear it for the guys that didn't come back." Like I say, I still wear it for the German that didn't make it home. But then when they were talking about giving me the Medal of Honor, the boys, Hawaii, Senator Akaka and Ichiyama, says that I was to get it. I was the only living kotonk that had the Distinguished Service Cross. There was no other living recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, living.

TI: I didn't know that.

GS: So they knew if all recipients from Hawaii got the medal, there would be nobody to talk about camp. So being in, I'm the living recipients, that's why Ichiyama says that I should get the medal. So that's why I go out and talk about camp, that we went to prison, we were discriminated, we were this, that I want to express that we were put in camp and how much we were discriminated against. If the boys from Hawaii had it, they couldn't talk about camp. So that's why I go on tour. Since I've got the medal, I've been to Washington, Oregon, Texas, New York, Florida, Chicago, I've been everywhere.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

TI: What has it meant to your, your family, like her daughter in terms of her education about what happened? Did she know about all this before?

GS: Uh-huh.

TI: So talk about that, what it meant in terms of your own family.

GS: Yeah, my family, well, she finally started learning to -- when she had to take me, my daughter finally had to... as I made speeches different places, different schools, she would drive me certain places. And we go to Washington, they made sure that she travels with me, 'cause I couldn't do it by myself. I could, I guess, but then I'm not in good health now since I've taken in oxygen, this and that. But she understands now, she knew what I went through. She, she wants me to talk about it. Like yesterday I was at a school and talked about it.

TI: And you're wearing your medal right now. Can you, can you describe the medal for us?

GS: This has, in the middle here it has thirteen stars, first one and then two, three, four across, and then two in the bottom, total of thirteen. We have, even I have a flag that has just thirteen stars, light blue background, indicating this is the medal. Below is the actual medal, is the, for the Army, then the Navy has one has an anchor that would hold the medal. And the Air Force has a burst, like a starburst, different, then the medal is underneath, holding. But that's, each unit has, the Navy and Marines are all the same, have the anchor and the medal. But to me, I just, I wanted to tell about the war, what we had to go through. So I was a "90-day wonder." After ninety days of battle, all I had the rest of the time was nine months in hospitals, basic training, and a total of eighteen months, total service. That's why I'm just a, still a recruit, I'm still a private. [Laughs]

TI: That's good.

GS: I'm going to stay a private.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 44>

TI: So I just want to end with a few questions about, you decided to settle in Denver. Why Denver?

GS: My wife was from Denver.

TI: Okay, so it was because your wife is from here.

GS: She's from Denver, she likes it.

TI: And you talked a little bit about meeting her when you were traveling with your brother.

GS: Brother.

TI: So what, what is it about Bess that attracted you to her?

GS: Just the cutest little thing I'd ever seen. [Laughs] I used to, I'd go with a Filipino girl, Filipino-Japanese girl in Arizona, but my parents, they didn't want that. They didn't, we, my brother-in-law, my brother, Ken, was meeting another girl, being that I'm descent of a samurai family, they go by the numbers now, you know that. And then if they're not the right family number, no, can't marry her. So somehow they talked to her and she sent me a "Dear John" letter when I was overseas. That kind of hurt for a while, but I come home and seems different girls, well, they didn't want me to marry her. So then I met Bess and I says, "I'm going to marry her anyway." So they finally met her, then they finally met the family, everything worked out all right.

TI: But interesting how, so your parents were really kind of strict in terms of...

GS: Oh, yes.

TI: ...of you and your siblings in terms of who they would marry.

GS: They wanted one of his boys to go to Japan because the other brother didn't have a, boys in the family, to keep the name Sakato, but neither one of us wanted to go. So we're the last of the Sakatos, no more, and my brother's...

TI: And your children, you have, I know, one daughter. Is that it, or do you have other...

GS: That's all. Then my other brothers had just daughters, too. They had one, Ken had one boy, but he got sick and he died, because diabetic, and he passed away. So, me and my two other brothers is the only siblings left for the Sakato family.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 45>

TI: Is there anything -- we're at the end of my questions, but is there anything else that you wanted to say or any reflections?

GS: My parents went back to Japan, and they brought back a sword, katana. They had sold the good ones, they couldn't get, but they had this one they were able to purchase from one of the families they sold the sword to. Right after the war, there's no money coming in, and so all the swords they had, they sold to various places. And Japan says you can't have swords, but my parents was able to bring back one. I have a sword that, six hundred years old, the straps that hold the sword together, I just got pieces of it now, it's falling apart. The sword is getting, the case is starting to crack, antique.

TI: So what do you want to happen to that sword?

GS: I'd like to send it back to them. I went back there in 1984, and they have the katana that my, he was killed in, and stained with blood, they still have his yukata, rather, yukata that he wore in battle and he was killed. Bloodstained, they still have that in a box. I was able to see that, and I would like to send the sword back to them, but then a yoshi is taking the name of Sakato. So, but how to get it, if they'd be able to hold it, keep a sword is something else. No swords can be kept in Japan. So I wanted to talk to the consulate-general and see, even with, even take it back and put it in a museum. But me and my Japanese don't quite make it. [Laughs]

TI: How about your Medal of Honor? What would you like to see happen to your Medal of Honor?

GS: I would probably give it to the museum, 'cause my, well, my daughter will have it 'til, but I'd like to have her give it to the museum or something. I gave 'em one of my Distinguished Service Crosses, to the museum Los Angeles. Original was stolen, and then so there was a duplicate made, so I gave it to the museum.

TI: Well, Joe, thank you so much. I mean, this was an incredible, incredible interview. I've done, as I said, lots of these, and this one will be a standout. So thank you so much.

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.