Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Kay Sweeney Interview
Narrator: Kay Sweeney
Interviewer: Alison Walcott
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: February 26, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-skay-01-0002

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AW: So you were recruited into the Japanese army. Was this just after college?

KS: Yes, shortly after I graduate from nursing school.

AW: And what were your experiences during the war?

KS: Oh, there are so many experience I had. One incident I can't forget about it, Red Cross ship was attacked by American submarine at Cam Ranh Bay. It's near the Saigon. And we never thought we were going to be attacked anywhere because we were working under the International Committee, International Treaty, so we never thought about being attacked. But anyway, we approached to the Cam Ranh Bay. The ship's radio one night announced to us there is American submarine around, so everyone be still, quiet, and not to talk to, and stay where you're at, your positions. And then ship's radio, ship's light is turning off for dark, completely dark. So we just sit on the floor in the plane. And little while later, we heard a torpedo was coming at our ship, and that sound is so, so scary and like "hew," like the sound. And same time, vibrations, we felt in the ship. So we thought, my goodness, maybe our ship going to be sunk. Then we were kneeled down on the floor. We prayed and prayed and prayed so hard. Anyway, first torpedo was not quite near us. But second torpedo was so close to us, I thought, I believe I was hit like it, vibration I had it. And we are, this time where I really thought we are going to die here on the sea. And time went a little while, then third torpedo was kind of far away from us. And from there on, our ship was just by zigzag course taken to, away from the Southeast China Sea, and we got lost for two days after that. Anyway, our captain was a very experienced captain, and he took us to the, two and a half days later to Saigon headquarters. And at Saigon, they were so surprised to see us. They told us, "We wired Tokyo headquarters already days ago, a day ago, and your ship was sunk, and you must be the ghost ship." So we said, "No, we are not. We've been lost all over," I imagine, I said. And they were very glad to see us, very glad to see us. Then we stopped there. We had some, we had some work done for a couple days, then we left to Singapore. And at Singapore, our group was divided into two. Half of our group went to the north toward the India, and we were to go Jakarta. But, however, our trip will be next about three, four days to Jakarta from Singapore, so we had very much pressure how it's going to be. And when we arrived in Jakarta, we were so glad that was, everything was all right. The God is blessed us.

AW: And what was your life like in Jakarta?

KS: It was very nice. Living quarters are very beautiful, used to be the, one of the hotels. And the people in Jakarta is very friendly and welcomed us with both hand, both thumb, and, "You people are from our brother, from Northern Orient. We are welcome you so much," they said. We are more than blessed.


AW: What places were you stationed?

KS: Well, we stationed first in Singapore about a month. When I in the Singapore, our quarters was so large, and there was a English prisoner came to sweeping the floor every morning. So there I had a cigarette which is army license, but I don't smoke. Therefore, I give it to, I happened to give it to, one box to the English prisoner. My, the reaction was so I never forget. He was so thankful. And from there on, we are very friend-like situations. [Laughs] And after that, we moved to the Malaysia. Malaysia was a very beautiful part of the country and lot of plantations and beautiful beaches, and we went to the [inaudible] also. It was seventh, it had seven floors, and our hospital nearby there, so we helped them about couple months.

AW: What was your job like?

KS: Well, it was difficult from the, it was different from the typical hospital work. But in Jakarta, we did not have very many patients. We did not get, we did not fight. Therefore, time to time, we were sent to the, all over the island, central and Eastern Jakarta, Eastern Java. And there we were visiting the village treating native, native patients for the malaria or skin disease or, and sometime, we tour the native hospital, and it was very, very best experience I ever had as a nurse.

AW: Working with the natives was the best experience for you?

KS: Yes. We get along really well with the natives. Sometime in fact, we worked with Dutch Catholic nuns, Catholic hospital, and that experience different again. The nuns were very nice to us, and we never bothered them. We never tried to order them anything and the time being, and they were very close to us, familiar to us, and we had lots fun with them. In fact, one, when the war finished, one of the nun came to our quarters and, "Please stay in Java. Don't go back to Japan. We'll protect you as much we can, so don't go back to Japan." They begged us, and so the Indonesia native hospital people begged us too, but we had to come. We were in the army.

AW: And what were your experiences with Americans during the war?

KS: During the war, I did not see any American soldiers or any war scene or any, not a one airplane. It was very peaceful in Java as if we were avoided from the war and seems to, American forces went up to the north. Therefore, we were completely avoided.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.