Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Henry Ueno Interview
Narrator: Henry Ueno
Interviewer: Stephan Gilchrist
Date: May 1, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-uhenry-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

SG: I had one more question about your life before you came to the United States. Did you have any contact with the American military or the occupation forces in Japan before you came over?

HU: Of course, my brother's working for the GHQ, and he has a lot of Nisei friends as well as American friends, so my contact was, it was always a Nisei people that worked for the GHQ. Oh yeah, I remember one incident. This is nothing related to your question. After the war, right after the war, occupational military forces start coming to the Osaka, and I was, I was, our mission over buying for the food in the black market. Only I could afford to buy with the money I had, I can buy rice, I can buy regular expensive vegetables. So I went over, I was dying, so what the heck. I bought that sweet potato vines, just bag full of the sweet potato vines. It was the cheapest one that I could get. People don't eat, they just throw it away. And it was kind of late at night. I selected late at night so that the police would not confiscate my precious food, and it was raining. I got off the station and the dock. Then I saw the headlights of the automobile, the far, far distance away, but that was my judgment. I didn't know the automobile traveled that fast, but I crossed the street with the package in my hands in the back, and that was, that would be the MP, the U.S. Army. They were scared too, I'm sure. They just screeched to a stop, and I just turned around, and they're saying something, and they already start drawing their guns. Oh, wait a minute and another lady was following behind me. She just kind of hid behind me to protecting herself, and they approached me with the gun drawn, and they say something. And I say, oh, they're going to shoot me, you know. And later occupation days, those things don't happen. But earlier, they were scared just as much as we were. So any incident like that, maybe I'm carrying for the bomb or something, then just innocent young man, right, and old lady behind me so that one motion, then got on the jeep and took off. That's the first contact, direct contact with the U.S. military force.

SG: How were your experience, did you have any other experiences after that with them?

HU: No, just a distance, no, not direct contact with the army, military forces, just, we just observe.

SG: What were people's feelings about the American occupational forces or your personal feelings?

HU: I don't think we have that much remorse. You know, they accept, law and order, so we were defeated even before the Emperor's made announcement through the radio. Of course, there is, they tried to disturb that airwaves, so it's scratchy, but they made announcement. And I think most citizens accepted we were defeated and a word from Emperor. Actually, that saved the country too. If it wasn't the Emperor, the announcement, you don't know what happens. I know, I remember the incident after the announcement, some of military units, they made announcement that, announcement was, what do you call it, phony. That wasn't the Emperor's voice, and some airplanes drop the leaflet, we would never surrender. We just, fight must go on, that type of, little early stage, and it disappears in a few days, and the people obeyed word of Emperor surrender, unconditional surrender. So it was a tense moment though. It just, we don't know what to do, and in my case, too, I'm just ready to report to the camp. [Laughs] So relief, yes, hungry, yes, the sadness, yes. We just went through the, all that, and most of the people were just numb. You know, we just, we cannot just bear anything like that, just totally numbness.

SG: Had you, by that time, had you heard about the atomic bombs being dropped?

HU: Yes. That was before the end, the date that we surrendered was the 15th. The announcement came the 15th of August. Then the bomb was dropped to Hiroshima, August 6, and Nagasaki is August 12th. And we know that was really big things, but we weren't really told the truth about devastation of the bomb, and they showed some pictures, but the government controlled the kind of papers. So we didn't know until the war ended, then we start seeing the pictures, true pictures, total just miles, miles, city is completely flattened. So otherwise, probably we didn't surrender that time, you know. Did you notice my saying "we"? I'm speaking of the Japanese because I just grew up there. Only thing is just a few years end of a war then I start noticing that I'm an American citizen. So otherwise, just, we didn't realize that the bomb's effect, just total, total devastation. And that in people's mind, convince the people no wonder we have to surrender.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.