Now that I have time to think back, it had been my desire to tell you in detail what your mother and I experienced in internment camp. I realize most of us in our generation had been reluctant to talk openly of this experience but it has been in the back of my mind these many years while all of you have been growing up. These are my personal thoughts and feelings.
Later perhaps you have heard that each of us who were interned will receive a windfall of $20,000.00 each, effective as of August 1988. Those who have died before this date would not qualify for the payment of reparations. Therefore Grandpa Manabe and Grandpa and Grandma Hayashi would not be eligible. So out of approximately 120,000 internees, those that were alive in August 1988 amounted to a little over 60,000 left. The government hopes to conclude this program by year 1993. The formula as presented is that oldest internees will get the money first so your Grandma Manabe has already received her check in October 1990. Both the Federal and California governments have agreed not to tax that money and not penalize the recipients in any way. Other states may differ but I haven’t kept tabs on the decision of other states.
I make the following experiences of my life because I realize that all of you only had a glimpse now and then, of events in your mother’s and my life that affects the way we conduct ourselves, we think and make our decisions. The event of Pearl Harbor and the following events put pressures on us much more than the average American.
I keep asking myself, why do I have this urge to put down on paper, the most devastating experiences of my life. Is it vanity, or is it something I can leave to my children with the hope that they will never ever be forced to face the same problems. I recall that right after Pearl Harbor, I made an attempt to record my feelings, concerns and experiences. As I reached my early fifty years of age, I wanted to ask my father how he felt and compare my feelings. I was the oldest of four boys and my sister. In the tradition of Japanese culture, I was closer to my father than the others. Before I could get around to asking my father, he passed away. The first painful lesson I learned.
We, the Japanese, were the largest ethnic group in Alameda. It was a White Man’s town with about three black families and a few Hispanic families. As I look back now, I realized we lived in an area in Alameda bounded by the estuary north, to Santa Clara to the south, and Broadway Ave. in the east, to Willow St. to the west. Both the Buddhist Church and the Methodist Church were located in the middle of this area. I don’t know if it was a matter of deliberate choice or whether we had no choice in the matter as far as real estate was concerned. Because we lived in a small area, whether by design or choice, we had our own Japan Town.
The majority of families lived in the small area. Most of the men in our community were gardeners, and we had five nurseries and two florists. Our community had our own grocery stores. Our next-door store made tofu and other Japanese goodies. We had an auto garage and gas station, shoe repair, barber, bathhouse, and our own doctor, Dr. Iriki. We also had a laundry across the street and two cleaning shops. Down the street was the Yokohama Cleaners and ours was called Tokyo Cleaners. Although my father had a Cleaners, I can still see him riding his bicycle every day to do housework. My father would then come home to press the clothes at night. My mother would watch the store throughout the day doing alterations and ironing of the laundry which we took in. This in essence was our own Japan Town.
Within our small community we had a Buddhist Temple and a Methodist Church. Both had a Japanese Language School. The Buddhist Language School was patterned after the schools in the old country. When the bell rang for the start of classes, the kids lined up by class, bowed together to the teachers, and then marched into class. At the Methodist Japanese School, when the bell rang for the start of classes, we would wander in from the basketball court because guys like me only went to Japanese Language classes because our mothers insisted we go to class. We went to Japanese Language School after regular school, between 4 pm – 6 pm, which cut into our playtime. The language schools included summer session of two or three weeks during our regular summer vacation. However, when I look back, I think that if I didn’t retain some of the painful era of Japanese School, I wouldn’t be alive today. I might have been shipped to the shooting war in Italy but because I had some knowledge of Japanese. I wouldn’t have lived through World War II.
As I was growing up the Buddhist Temple, which was less than a block away, had more exciting activities than our Methodist Church. For instance, they had Kendo classes and I used to go and watch the older guys bang each other with bamboo swords. Of course they wore protective armor. They had Judo classes for both boys and girls. They even had classes in Sumo and they had Sumo with other organizations. The Buddhist church sponsored Japanese movies. Evidently there was a man who brought the Japanese movies to many Japanese communities in California and he would travel from one community to another. The one draw back was he had only one projector so at the end of each reel, the lights in the hall would go out while the projectionist threaded the new reel into the projector. In the fall, the Buddhist Temple had the Moon Festival where they played Japanese records and the girls and some men would dance the Odori around the main temple garden. The Temple had formal observance of Emperor Hirohito’s birthday where two men generally former soldiers of Japan, would part gauze like curtains of a small gazebo like structure on the stage of the hall. We all would sing the Japanese National Anthem. Another veteran would read a proclamation, which was beyond comprehension as far as we Nisei were concerned. In all of these activities, I was merely an onlooker and not a participant. Twice a year the Buddhist Temple had a Graduation Dance to honor high school and college graduates. We all looked forward to these dances, as a growing teenager I could hold a girl in my arms. It was quite a thrill.
So you can see that even at just being an observer, the impression of the Japanese culture and background, has been implanted in my mind. I realize now that living in a large and close Japanese community gave me much of the values I have today. My mother used to lecture us, “DO NOT BRING SHAME to the Family and Community”. I rebelled a few times but on the whole, those lessons have had their effect. I remember my mother saying, “Japanese people don’t do this” or “Japanese people don’t do that”. However, once I was able to observe the people in camp, I realize that Japanese people were just as human as everybody else. In Tanforan a girl caught my eye because she had a lot of makeup on. The older people seemed to avoid her. It turns out she was a professional prostitute. I also found out many couples just lived together without the formality of marriage vows, etc., however some kids may be been bastards, they were shielded and protected. I never realized until later how our community tried to protect their kids by encouraging activities such as sports, Japanese Language Schools, graduation dances, picnics, etc., so us kids did not feel deprived but felt pride in ourselves in our accomplishments.
The earliest memories of my life are when we moved and lived in a commercial laundry on E. 14th St. and 41st Avenue. Mrs. Sera, whom all of us kids called “She Mom”, planned to go back to Japan to see her son. This trip would take over a year so my mother was to take over the responsibility of the household while She Mom was in Japan. Mrs. Sera was a very strong woman and I strongly suspect that she was the person who convinced my mother to send us to the Japanese Methodist Church in Alameda. All the people were originally from the Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan. I feel that this was one of the ways they encouraged people from the same area to learn to get accustomed to a new country. This fact didn’t occur to me until I learned that people that worked in Market Laundry in West Oakland were from another area and experienced the same thing. I guess we Japanese were great organizers for mutual protection.
When we moved into Merritt Laundry, I think I was in the second grade in school. Downstairs were three shops. The corner shop I don’t remember, but next was a shoe repair shop and then our laundry shop. We lived on the second floor of a building with two other families and two bachelors. One bachelor had a real samurai sword and I used to sneak into his room just to play with it. Also on the second floor was a kitchen with a stove for cooking and a large table with benches for our meals. The whole personnel of the laundry all had their meals together. My father worked in the front to wait on customers and package the individual customers’ bundles of laundry. I used to admire the way he used to package, very efficient, very neat, and very compact. In the back of the customer area was the ironing room. There were about five ironing boards. A brazier heated the irons and men and women used to iron the clothes by hand. Next door to the ironing room was what was known as the Marking Room. The Marking Room was in the back of the shoe shop. Here all the incoming laundry was listed and marked then sent to the next phase. The actual washing was done in a separate large building across a driveway. This building had a large rolling cylinder that ironed out bed sheets and two large revolving washers, a large compartment to dry curtains, and most important of all, the boiler to heat water. At first the fuel for the boilers was coal and I used to play in the coal bin, but later on a gas heater was installed which was more efficient. Living so close together was a wonderful experience. Especially when New Year’s rolled around, everybody took part in Mochi Tsuki and to watch as the men pounded the rice.
Living in this environment was great. There were two important incidents that were to affect the rest of my life. First of all I was sent to a regular school on E. 12th Street called the Dewey School. Most of the pupils were Caucasian with a large number of Portuguese kids. I was the only Asian there. Anyway, when I first attended, I took a beating regarding my name. They would say “Tadashi Hayashi, Ha Ha’. It was kind of tough to stand up to that ridicule so I went home and asked my father, ‘What is my English name?’. My father answered ‘Oscar’ but he could see by my expression that I didn’t care for that name so he immediately said ‘Arthur’. I have used it ever since though legally it wasn’t on my birth certificate.
The second important event was that my mother insisted I go to Japanese Language School. She enrolled me in a special school located near the Posey Tube that connects Oakland and Alameda. After regular school I would come home and wait on the corner for the school bus to pick me up. The school had two special buses, one for North Oakland and one for East Oakland. I was the first to be picked up on the East Oakland bus that went as far as Castlemont High and then headed towards the school picking up kids along the way. By the time we arrived at the school, the bus would be full. After a short break the bell would ring, we would line up according to class, bow to the teacher, then march into class. I don’t remember the time schedule but by the time I arrived home, it was generally dark. This went on five days a week during the regular school semester. There were also summer sessions. The Buddhist Temple was across the street and we could see that they also had regular Japanese School. After our family moved back to Alameda I still continued Japanese Language School.
Looking back I’m the luckiest guy in the world. It all started when I was five or six years old. In the old days my mother was preparing a bathtub for my brother Butch who was just a baby at that time. She had put a tub on the floor and had put in the hot water. She had gone into the kitchen for some cold water. My brother Paul and I were having an argument and as I was backing up, I tripped and sat down into the hot water. I remember my father grabbing me and having my mother pour cold water over me, not one but several buckets full of cold water. Mr. Hanamura, our next-door neighbor gave my father and me a lift to the doctor’s. Dr. Liem (likely Dr. Lum) was a Caucasian doctor who served the Japanese community those days. I was sent to the Alameda Hospital and I was badly burned on my buttocks and to a lesser extent, near my right shoulder blade. I had developed keloids or scar tissue on my buttocks that makes doctors in the future to show interest enough to ask questions. Maybe that is the main reason I hated gym period in high school because we had to strip to change our clothes so as an alternative I took ROTC.
While I was in the hospital I spoke only Japanese so when my mother came to visit me, I complained to my mother that I would be hungry so how can I get something to eat? My mother taught me to say one word, ‘hungry’ in English and that worked.
Before my mother passed away, she was bedridden for several years and she lived with my brother Muts. Grace, my sister was in charge of her care, but Paul and I took turns in sitting with my mother. Friday was my regular day. Also we were available whenever one of us was busy. Anyway, one Friday while I was sitting for my mother, she called me into her bedroom and of all things; she apologized and begged my forgiveness for leaving a hot bath water that resulted in my accident. Normally she would put the bathtub on the kitchen table but for some reason she left the bathtub on the floor where as I was backing up I tripped and sat in that tub. I hope she felt better after talking to me about that incident because she must have been reviewing her past life. As for me, it had happened fifty years and I had learned to live with that disfigurement.
The year 1941 has special significance for me, not only because of “Pearl Harbor” but the many things I experienced throughout the year. In January of 1941 I graduated Alameda High School. I had planned to attend San Francisco Junior College in the fall. But first I had to have some money to see me through the general plan. I planned to work for a gardener and if I got enough to get ahead, and then go to school in the fall or the spring of 1942.
In the spring of 1941 baseball season was soon to start. We had a league of Japanese ball teams and in our little world it was an activity everyone looked forward with great anticipation. I don’t recall the specific reason; I think it was something to do about an umpire for the coming game.
Yasuharu “Bombo” Yamasaki and I were out together one Saturday night when we saw the field lights on at Washington Park in Alameda. Bombo mentioned the championship girls’ softball team was playing that night so I turned to get to the park. This was the last thing I remember to this day.
The next thing I remember was waking up in Highland Hospital. I was in a two-bed room. My roommate had hit a pole with his auto, was thrown out, and skidded on the gravel on his back. His back was a mass of gouges and the poor guy groaned and moaned all day and night, not that I didn’t blame him. The only real constant pain I had was my fractured right shoulder blade. I had a concussion; some internal injuries, cuts and bruises that I could ignore once the pain went away. I asked my mother how Bombo was doing and she told me he was all right. After ten days I was released to go home. It was after another week at home when my mother told me that Bombo had died two hours after the accident. I saw the old Model A that was put in our old garage, the driver’s side, and my side, was smashed and I could see where the other auto had hit me broadside. Later I went to the scene of the accident. It was an intersection and I understand my car was rammed and had rolled up against the house on the corner. The Yamasaki family was going to bring suit against the other driver, however their lawyer advised them that because of the tension between Japan and U.S. it would be advisable to wait a while. As it turned out, no action was taken up about this matter.
Needless to say I didn’t play any baseball that year. I spent the summer of 1941 recuperating from my injuries, the main emphasis on my right shoulder. In September I went to visit Paul, my brother, who was working in an apple drying shed in Sebastopol. It was a simple job of inserting apples one at a time into a cup, which cut the core of the apple and peeled the skin off. The skin of the apple and core dropped on to a belt that dumped into a bin that was hauled away every night. The naked apple went down another chute on a belt to women who would clean the apples with paring knives. The apples were then washed and continued on to a slicer, which sliced the apples. The sliced pieces were dropped into wooden trays and they in turn went into the ovens. The sliced dried apples were then dropped into another bin and at night were boxed for shipping. So all Paul had to do was to feed apples one at a time into a cup all day long. For this he was paid $.35 an hour. At night Paul helped pack the dried apples for $.50 an hour but generally this took only a couple of hours.
When Paul had to quit to go back to school, I took his place. I lived alone until the apple season was over and I came home before Thanksgiving.
Then came Pearl Harbor. Like everybody, we were shocked about the news of Pearl Harbor. I suppose as an average teenager I assumed that our lives would go on smoothly with no problems on our horizon. At first I was carried away by patriotic fever and seriously thought of volunteering for the Army. I had three years of R.O.T.C. in high school so I felt I was well acquainted with the military. I’m glad I didn’t go ahead. In time we heard about people in San Pedro being evacuated and held in Santa Anita Race Track. We also heard of people in the state of Washington being given the same treatment. It didn’t help our sense of esteem when Lt. General DeWitt, Commanding General of the Western Defense made a flat statement that ‘A Jap is a Jap’ which then encouraged the Hearst papers to publicize their hate messages.
Pearl Harbor and the following events put pressures on us much more than the average American. California Attorney General Earl Warren before the Congressional Committee stated that the reason the Japanese on the West Coast were quiet was they were waiting for a signal to make an all out “Banzai” effort. With the public statements made by the Army General and the Attorney General of California, the hate groups really came out of the closet.
The Hearst Papers were especially strong in voicing hate for the Japanese in America. Organizations such as the Native Sons & Daughters of the Golden West, the California Grange, American Legion, all super patriots, were pushing for removal from our homes. When I was in elementary school, two Caucasian friends and I decided to cut school and go swimming at the pool in Neptune Beach because it was a very hot day. Neptune Beach in Alameda was a playground with a Merry-go-round, game concessions and above all, a swimming pool and a beach on San Francisco Bay. I went up to the booth to pay the pool fee when I was asked ‘Are you Chinese or a Jap?’ I was speechless and so one of my friends asked why. We were told if I was a Jap, I couldn’t swim in the pool. None of us went swimming that day. So when the hate groups came out after Pearl Harbor, it brought to mind my first experience with what our older members of the community tried to shield us from.
Our parents were denied citizenship by law in 1926. Those of us born in the United States had an average age of early or mid twenties, in other words hadn’t had a toe hold in the mainstream of American Life. The F.B.I. moved right in and removed the leaders of the Japanese community. I don’t know how they knew who was prominent, but Mr. Miki was picked up right away. He had a shop that sold Japanese goods, chinaware, cloths, lacquer wares, etc. I just remember cheaply made Japanese toys. What brought it home to me was our next-door neighbor Mr. Maruyama. Mr. Maruyama was a gardener and was picked up while he was working. Mr. Maruyama was taken to Angel Island and confined there with the rest of the Japanese leaders in the Bay Area. Mr. Maruyama’s wife packed a suitcase with his suit, clean clothes and toilet articles and asked Mr. Maruyama’s brother to take the suitcase to Angel Island. Mr. Maruyama’s brother was also held and never came back.
Attorney General Earl Warren of California told the Congressional Committee that we were not to be trusted. The pressures began to get heavier. We were ordered to turn in to the Police our weapons, short wave radios and our cameras. I still remember taking our box camera and two folding cameras to the police station. We didn’t have any weapons and we couldn’t afford a short wave radio. The surprising thing was that when my father went to claim the cameras three years later, he got all of them back.
The pressure mounted when all enemy aliens were ordered out of Alameda so we stored our few pieces of furniture at the church. My father asked a so-called friend to sell the cleaning equipment, assessed about $1200, take out his commission and send the money to my father. We never, ever heard from that man again.
My father belonged to a group that got together quite often to write traditional Japanese poetry. I guess he was quite an intellectual though he loved baseball. The first memories I have of him was when I got to play catch with him when I was about five or six years old. He often spoke publicly and I remember him when he put on a play and acted in the lead. Anyway a member of the poetry group told my father that our family could move into his house in the basement in West Oakland. This man, Mr. Shiozawa, was a tailor and had his shop in the basement with some extra rooms and a kitchen.
My parents. Butch, Muts, and Gracie, moved to West Oakland while Paul and I moved to the home of Sam Miki in Alameda. As Paul and I were not classified as aliens, we could stay in Alameda. We were informed that we were under curfew from 8pm to 6am. I remember going to a movie one night and coming home about 9pm and was scared as hell. Needless to say, I didn’t go to the movies anymore at night. Another restriction was that we were not to go beyond a five mile limit from out home. The poor guys that worked in San Francisco could not go to work. Naturally all Japanese banks were closed and all assets frozen.
I took over some of the gardening jobs that some of the Isseis have had for years. In fact when Mr. Ikezoe gave me the keys to the shed of a customer, he broke into tears. Paul also worked as a helper. We shared Sam Miki’s expenses. Mr. Gengo Ito sold me his beat up Model A truck and his gardening tools for $40.00 so I was in business. Mostly it was maintenance work and I had the luxury of being my own boss.
Sam decided to move out of Alameda and stay with his wife’s relatives. Sam tried to sell his furniture so I witnessed these characters, like vultures, come to strip the house of its fine furniture and whatever they could get their hands on. One time when I came home from work, I was informed the F.B.I. came to the house. I had found my personal papers tampered with. Eventually Sam Miki moved out so Paul and I moved to Oakland and rejoined the family. But, not for long. The Bay Area, section by section was ordered to be evacuated to Tanforan Race Track.
When we were ordered to leave for Tanforan Race Track, we assembled at 18th St. in Oakland next to the Fox Oakland Theater with our bundles of bedding and our suitcases of personal belongings. We were instructed to only bring what we could carry. We were then loaded on buses and taken to Tanforan where we were assigned our room in the tarpaper- covered barracks. Our room was located in the northwest corner of the racetrack and near a latrine and mess hall.
The best way I can describe Tanforan Race Track is to use Albany Race Track for a general model. As you gaze at Albany Race Track, the most outstanding building is the grandstand, of course the Tanforan grandstand was much smaller. Right behind the grandstand was a wire fence with barbed wire. Then a highway, I think it is Hwy 280 today. On the other side of the highway was a military cemetery with all the crosses, row on row. The irony as I see it is that two of my personal friends who died in Italy are buried in that cemetery today. The barracks were constructed perpendicular to the fence line. Half of the infield had tarpaper barracks and other half was a recreation area and also in the recreation area was a decorative pond. Quite a few men and boys made boats to sail in that pond. One man made a catamaran out of scrap lumber and used to give kids rides, so it was a good size pond. Where East Shore Freeway runs along Albany Race Track today would be the location of the Tanforan stables. Many of the early internees were quartered in the stables. Made me extremely glad that our family was in the tarpaper barracks. The stables were dark, no ceilings and you could still see traces of horse manure although they had white washed the walls and floors. When it rained, the lack of walks made the area very muddy.
When we opened the door of our 20’x 20′ barrack room, we could see grass growing up between the cracks in the floor. Exposed studs on the walls with thin sheets of plywood separated the rooms of our next-door neighbors. There was no ceiling so the top area was open. There was tarpaper on the outside and each barrack was divided into six compartments with smaller rooms on each end. Inside were seven steel folding cots with mattress covers. We were instructed to fill the mattress covers with hay and use our own bedding. In order to save space, we went to the scrap lumber pile and I constructed a crude double-decker bunk, table and two benches from salvaged lumber and nails. One corner was curtained off for the parents’ privacy. Gracie was included in that area. One we settled down we had to hike over to the grandstands where the central mess hall was located. Later our area mess hall was put in operation so things got easier.
We had bed check every night by out barrack captain, Tom Tanase, our next-door neighbor. By coincidence the Japanese School bus driver was our next-door neighbor. Tom Tanase had a new baby girl. Whenever the baby woke up in the middle of the night, we could hear everything going on through the thin plywood partition. We could hear them trying to keep the noise down. They often used to use their hot plate to heat the baby’s bottle, the only catch was when two or thee hot plates were being used, the fuses would blow out so we sat around in the dark until the blown out fuses were replaced.
After three weeks, Muts caught the mumps. The contagious ward was full so our barrack entrance was simply roped off. We could go out to the latrine only and Pop had to go to the mess hall for our food. All of us, Paul, Butch, Gracie, myself, and including my mother, caught the mumps one after another. During these two and a half months, Butch developed appendicitis and was shipped to San Mateo County Hospital for an operation. After Butch came home, mom also had appendicitis and she was also taken to San Mateo County Hospital for an operation. We were still under quarantine. One good thing about this incident was during the two months we were out of circulation, the camp was busy with starting many activities, Bridge, Baseball, Football, Dance classes, etc., so I, for one took part in most of them. While we were quarantined, we played many hours of solitaire, listened to our radio, played Honeymoon Bridge and soon learned to adjust to our prison.
After we were out, I had a very moving experience of witnessing of men coming back to their families after being released by the F.B.I. They came back in two busloads. These men were considered leaders of their communities and were detained right after Pearl Harbor and were put in prison camp. After being investigated, were released to join their families in Tanforan. Women & children of these men crowded the inner gates to see if their fathers had returned. There were many who were disappointed. However, two busloads of families had a happy reunion.
The problem of the mess halls was quite a headache. There were very few professional cooks so as new mess halls were opened; the whole mess hall area would have outbreaks of diarrhea. The first time this happened there was quite an alarm. As guard towers reported light being turned on in one area and people were seen running around. The M.P.s actually came in armed to the teeth only to find everyone, men, women, and children had diarrhea and were running to the latrine.
Before quarantine, our mess hall was opened and I met a girl who was to become my wife’. She was in the mess hall as a helper. When our area mess hall opened, we had to use our own utensils, knives, forks, plates, and cups, as instructed by the government. My mother made the comment that the girl that was helping to pour the liquids was a good friend of the Kanemasu family. That perked up my interest, as I couldn’t recall having seen her before. So I got to know her better. I still remember one day while sitting in the box seats of the grandstand when she told me today was her birthday (June 3rd). So I asked her how old was she on this beautiful day and she told me she was now sixteen years old. My first reaction was that I was robbing the cradle because I was all of nineteen. It was soon after that we were quarantined but Fumi would come around and we would talk. She would stand outside and I would open the window. It was my turn to have the mumps. I stuck my head out the window and when Fumi visited, she recoiled as if struck.
How does a couple find a place to be alone in camp? Whole families were in one barrack room and after all there were over 8,000 of us crammed in that racetrack. In the evenings we walked around the racetrack until curfew time, or we sat in the box seats in the grandstand. Sometimes we even noticed the P38 airplanes climbing into the sky from a nearby airfield. The infield of the track was quite large and full of tall grass. At night the back steps of the church was quite deserted. Outside of that, we joined the activities. By the time we had our quarantine lifted, the people had made an effort to keep busy. They organized classes for the kids. Without school supplies, camp school was mostly lectures as far as the high schools were concerned. Most of the teachers were volunteers and generally college students or graduates. So I went to some classes with Fumi and to the grandstand, which was crowded with what looked like discussion groups. Guys my age or older volunteered for camp maintenance, cleaning latrines, working in mess halls etc.; this was during the day. In the evening the recreation halls were open for bridge lessons or duplicate tournaments, dance lessons. We had a softball league and when it became too dark to play, we had movies once or twice. We even had singers, in fact every time I hear the song ‘A Sleepy Lagoon’ I will always thing of Eva Takahashi.
I would like to talk about Gore Suzuki. I first noticed him when he was a pitcher for our ATK Japanese baseball team. To me he had a beautiful knuckle ball, which seem to float in the air. He later became the M.C. in a Chinese nightclub in San Francisco and took the stage name of Jack Soo. When our family moved into the Shiozawa’s home in West Oakland, Goro used to come over to the Shiozawa house to rehearse his singing. Goro was related to the Shiozawa family. Yuki Shiozawa used to play the piano for him. Sometimes I would go up and listen to him. I thought he had a very nice voice. At Tanforan we had a talent show quite often in the evenings. Goro was usually the M.C. After all, we had a concert pianist, a violinist who came from Alameda and I know he had studied in Europe.
Goro left Topaz and I heard he was working in the Cleveland area in a nightclub. The next time I heard of him was when Goro played the lead in a movie about San Francisco Chinatown’. He wanted to use his real name, Goro Suzuki, and not Jack Soo, however there was a female singer named Pat Suzuki so he couldn’t use his own name. Goro ended his career on television as a regular on ‘Barney Miller’. He died of a heart attack while doing the series. In his way, Goro used his talent, know how, and expertise in helping us to avoid the monotony of being confined.
After about four months in Tanforan, we were moved to our permanent camp in Utah. By this time we knew where our permanent camp was to be located. We heard that it will be in the middle of the Utah Desert near the town of Delta about 150 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. It was finally our turn to leave Tanforan Race Track and board the train bound for a place called Topaz in Utah. In a way I was glad to be leaving Tanforan. This was the first train ride of my life. Poor Muts got sick and threw up. We boarded our train and my first impression was it was dirty. We had straight back seats with padding that was hard and stiff. We were instructed to pull down our shades and leave them down. Why, I don’t know to this day.
Periodically I would peek out and I saw the Vallejo shore. As we wound through the central valley of California it was rather monotonous. When we wound through the American River Canyon in California, we would peek through the shades and comment how beautiful it was. Some day I would like to take the trip again.
We had one break when we made a short top in Reno. For the first time I saw the fabled light of the various casinos. Just beyond Reno we were told that the train would stop and we would be allowed to get off and stretch our legs for a short break. When the train stopped, the soldiers, all armed, got off first and formed a skirmish line about 50 years from the train to form a human barrier. When I got off the train I saw miles of barren land and anyone planning to run away would be stupid indeed. We passed over the Great Salt Lake at night and reflection of the full moon on the lake is another beautiful sight I will never forget. We turned south at Salt Lake City and finally pulled into the small town called Delta, about 150 miles from Salt Lake City. After three days on a crowded railroad car I was glad to get off the train because we had to sit up on hard uncomfortable seats.
Waiting for us in Delta were trucks for our baggage and buses manned by internees who had come to camp earlier. We boarded the buses for the 15-mile journey to our final destination, Topaz. Though the road was graded, it was unpaved so it was very dusty. We tried to peer through the dust clouds, as we were curious as to what our new home would look like. The driver pointed to a range of mountains and told us the highest peak was call Topaz Mountain so at least we knew where the name for our camp came from.
The camp was a mile square surrounded by a barbed wire fence and guard towers. We had one tragic incident where an old man was shot and killed when a guard was either bored or wanted to try his rifle. At the court martial, fined him one carton of cigarettes and had him transferred. My first glimpse of camp was a bunch of low tarpaper barracks. I was nineteen years old at that time; I kept my eyes open for girls. I saw some girls running around and they seem to have on white stockings. I assumed that it was the style at that time. But on closer examination, the girls’ legs were coated with fine white powdery dust. I soon found out the fine alkaline white powered dust coated everything. The dust storms later caused a layer of find dust over everything in our barrack rooms as the dust shifted through the fine cracks in the windows and doorways.
As we went along the road, I noticed several substantial buildings inside the barbed wire fence. Later I learned the building with a tall chimney was the hospital. The building near the entrance of the camp was the administration building. Further on were the living quarters of the Caucasian personnel. Down the road were large one story tarpaper covered buildings, which were the warehouse, commissary, and motor pool. As we approached the main camp area, we noticed the same tar paper barracks we had in Tanforan Race Track. There were wide separations between each unit. Later we learned that each block was numbered so reading right to left, the blocks were numbered one to seven. The next row of blocks was numbered eight to fourteen and so on. There were forty-two blocks in all. Each block had 12 barracks for families, one mess hall, a separate building for bathroom & showers, though the women’s side had bathtubs, & laundry room. There was another separate building for a recreation hall. We were assigned two rooms because there were seven in our family. We were in Block 22, Barrack 8, Rooms C & D. Our address became 22-8-CD as we were allotted two rooms.
The largest structure in every block was the mess hall. It had picnic type tables with benches attached. In Tanforan we had to use our own tin plates, cups, and utensils. This mess hall had real plates, coffee mugs and utensils so some things were returning to normal. The rooms were more substantially built with Masonite floors, cots with real mattresses, stove, but we still lacked an inner wall, and still, no ceiling. We had a small closet otherwise it was a large empty room. The people in the block got together and later put up an inner room and ceiling. At that time I was a truck driver so we loaded the truck with sheet rock and Masonite to take to our block.
My first job in camp was in the gang that cleaned up around the Delta Train Station. The main reason the job was important to me was that I wanted to see if Fumi was coming to the same camp. But it was hard work and hot! I then got a job as a truck driver at the warehouse. I remember when the big heavy case iron stoves had to be delivered to each barrack room as the weather was beginning to get cool. Some sections of the camp were still under construction so some people had to move into unfinished rooms. The toilet seats had not arrived so we got scrap lumber and fashioned seats. You had to be careful of slivers when you sat down.
Through a friend of mine, Ralph Kanzaki, a former Alamedan I got a job as an assistant in the clothing warehouse. Each evacuee was given a clothing allowance, bout $3.50 a month which made it possible to draw clothing from our warehouse. We had a supply of World War I Navy P coats and army khaki breaches. Suddenly overnight everyone (adults) was wearing them as winter was here and none of the evacuees had clothes to combat the weather. The first winter was pretty bad as all of us were from the Bay Area. After the initial rush was over, we spent very boring and monotonous days.
In the summer of 1943 I left camp on a temporary pass to work as a farm worker. We went to Provo, Utah to a camp for farm workers. Farmers would come there and pick up whatever laborers they would require. It was mostly to pick fruit as most able-bodied workers were in the service or in war related industries. We were being paid $.60/hour. A group of us were permanently assigned to a farm in Orem, a town just outside of Provo so we moved into a house on that farm. There we picked cherries, peaches, pears, and strawberries. We took baths in a concrete irrigation ditch and was it cold. None of the guys wanted to cook so I was stuck with the job. Although I got off early to go shopping in Provo, I had to wrestle with prices and ration points. Certain items were rationed such as meat, sugar, etc., we could only get those items if you had enough ration points. As for my cooking, most the guys are still alive today. After the crops were picked, our final job was loading loose hay on a truck, then on to the barn. Unfortunately the alfalfa fields were located at the mouth of the pass. Strong winds usually hampered our efforts to load the loose hay on to the truck, which had very high sides. That was work. Loading into the barn was no problem at all.
After the fruit picking season was over and winter was just around the corner, Keiji Hitomi, Ted Yokoyama, and I got a live-in job at a packing shed in American Fork, Utah. Ted and I worked outside loading railroad cars with produce while Keiji worked in the shed itself. Ted and I would fill these bags of cabbage up to 100 lbs, tie them, and then stack them to the ceiling in railroad boxcars. Later we would pack the cars with 100 lbs sacks of potatoes or with 50 lbs sacks of onions. It was just pure labor, no brains. For this we were paid $.70/hr. There was also a turkey plucking plant in American Fork that had hired evacuees and they all lived in an old building about a block away. One evening when I went over for a visit, rocks were thrown through the windows, and several boys were standing in the street when we came out. It is hard to describe my feelings even today.
The work was hard and the hours were long. I didn’t last long there. After a month or so, I caught a cold and couldn’t work so I was fired. Another first, I had never been fired in my life. I had no choice but to go back to camp.
After going back to camp, I decided to go to Detroit. We all heard stories of how the war workers were making good money in war industries and that seemed like a good way to go. In November 1943, I left camp for Detroit. What did I do to support myself in Detroit? When I first arrived in Detroit I reported to the W.R.A. Office as per instruction, received $25.00 that all evacuees were given, and was told to go to work in a garage. The job in the garage turned out to be a flunky job of sweeping, picking up parts for cars being repaired and other odds and ends. My original intent was to enter ‘General Motors Institute’ to be trained by GM to become a permanent worker. However, my draft classification 4-C (Enemy Alien) prevented that intent as GM was involved in producing munitions. I lasted about a month. I spoke to the foreman and I found there was no chance to even become a mechanic’s helper, so I quit.
I was allowed a bed in a hostel sponsored by the Detroit Council of Churches. Rev. & Mrs. Tanabe who had a church in Sacramento before the war, managed the hostel. The hostel was an old mansion located near Bell, IL, the location of the infamous race riots of the summer of 1943. You could still feel the tension in the air even during that following winter. At the hostel I met Ned Tsuma from L.A. I knew him in Provo so we weren’t exactly strangers. The rules stated that evacuees could stay in the hostel for a maximum of 4 weeks and then we were supposed to move out. Ned and I made ourselves useful by cleaning the house and maintaining the yard so we managed to stay for three months before moving out. Ned worked in an ice cream plant while I worked in the garage.
It was very fortunate that I stayed at the hostel as long as I did because I was never lonely. Evacuees coming to Detroit would pass through and I made friends. There was a close-knit group of men from Seattle who worked in a machine shop rebuilding clutch pressure plates. They got me hired in their shop right after I quit the garage. I met one of the fellows in Basic Training in the same training company. I had forgotten his name but what stands out in my mind was this same fellow had a toothache so he went on sick call. We didn’t see him for three whole days. When he came back, we found out the dentist had yanked every tooth in his head. Needless to say, we stayed away from sick call. Another fellow in this group from Seattle was Tippy Yoda whom I met again when I was in Fort Snelling.
I was taught how to use a grinding machine. It wasn’t hard, pressure plates or flywheels would come in with grooves, I would clamp it on a revolving plate and set the machine to cut the grooves out then polish it. Generally I would have a stack of same model plates so once I had the clamps in place, then it was a simple job to repeat the process. The job was monotonous as hell so I used to sing all day. The shop was in the basement of an old, dirty building and the noise in the shop covered my singing. For this job I was paid $1.05/hr. There was one time I was on the street car going to work but for some reason I didn’t get off at the usual stop. I stayed on to the sixth or seventh street car stop, then got off and finally went back to work. I guess the job was getting to me.
When Ned and I moved, we moved to another room in the middle of the Black Belt where I witnessed a stabbing and | got out of there fast. We then moved in with a couple from Oxnard and the Nisei couple was very nice but the room was crowded. However, Ned worked at night and I worked during the day so we seldom saw each other.
We (Ned & I) moved to another location, a nice room located on E. Grand Ave. which was a couple of blocks off Woodward Ave. We were there when we heard about D-Day (June 6, 1944). When we went into Tanforan, all of us were reclassified, and in my case, my draft classification became 4C (Enemy Alien). Once I applied for a permanent pass out of Topaz and was cleared, the government machinery reclassified me 1A. This was the main reason some men stayed in camp.
What do you know, my draft classification was changed from 4-C (Enemy Alien) to J-A. I was told to report for my Army Physical. My pre-induction physical papers were stamped ‘For Immediate Service’ so I always ended up at the head of the Physical lines. Next day I was sworn in. To avoid immediate service, | went back to Topaz. This delayed my induction for two months. I decided to go back to camp, so with a train ticket and twenty dollars borrowed from Ned, I went home.
The induction notice finally caught up with me but I was not alone. A group of us were given a dinner the night before we were to go into active duty. We had steak that night. It was very unusual compared to our usual fare in camp. May Hayshed sang I’ll Be Seeing You’, a popular song of that day. The next day we showed our induction notices to the M.P. at the gate, loaded onto buses and were taken to Delta to take the train to Ft. Douglas, Salt Lake City. Our mothers were allowed to see us off in Delta.
We arrived at Fort Douglas rather late, were fed and taught how to make our beds. After ‘Lights Out’, as I was falling asleep, a bed near the end of the barracks started squeaking rhythmically. Some guy was masturbating, and after the squeaking died down, we all started laughing. That was my first night in the Army.
The next day we were issued our clothing. My pants were so large around the waist that when I loosened my belt, my pants would fall down. The next few days we pulled clean up details while groups from Minidoka, Idaho and Heart Mountain, reported in. During that period we went to an outdoor concert at night, which turned cold, and a dance.
Once we had a full complement, we boarded a train heading south. We stopped in Pueblo, Colorado for a meal and Amarillo, Texas for a steak dinner, but outside of that, it was a long, dreary train ride. We finally had a stopover in Memphis, Tennessee so a bunch of us decided to go to a YMCA to get cleaned up. We flagged a cab and we were told that this particular cab was for Black Folks only. This was the first time in our lives that we experienced the rules of the Deep South. We flagged another that took us to the acceptable YMCA (White) and washed off all of our travel dirt. We continued our travels; we saw Birmingham by night and finally arrived at our destination, Camp Blanding. Florida. Basic Training, what can I recall, it is many impressions only.
We were first moved into our company area at night and it was in the morning we found out we were part of two training battalions, 232 and 208 Battalions, all Nisei. When our platoon leader found out that I had three years of ROTC, I was made squad leader. At least I didn’t have to pull KP. I hated KP. I was a squad leader in the first platoon of D Company, 208 Battalion. It was hot in Camp Blanding and very muggy. As Squad Leader I didn’t pull KP so I stayed out of the kitchen.
One morning after several weeks of training the company commander stated to the assembled men, we could have RICE FOR DINNER, if we could find some volunteers as our cook didn’t know how to cook rice. We immediately had three or four volunteers and from then on we had rice, off and on. Our cook would go to the other mess halls in Camp Blanding and traded our potatoes for rice.
I still remember we had gas training one day where we listened to a lecture on various poison gases. We then went into a room to experience tea gas and putting on our gas masks. We were then marched back to our area for chow. Before marching back, we were ordered to put on our masks. Our company commander had a normal 36″ stride so we the short legged Buddha heads had to really step out in order to keep up with our C.O. Combined with our fast pace, heat, I found my gas mask filled with sweat. When we were allowed to remove our masks, the accumulated sweat just poured out.
We were on an exercise with live ammunition in a wooded area where we formed a skirmish line and we were to saturate a certain area with our firepower. The squad ahead of us was on the line, got their orders, and began firing. They were ordered to cease firing then we heard the bawling of cattle. Evidently a couple of cows had wandered into the firing area and were wounded. An officer picked up a rifle and put the cows out of their misery. This was quite a lesson for me. Don’t do any indiscriminate shooting.
On one exercise we advanced as a squad and at the sound of shots, we were to take cover. The area was a cow pasture. We soon learned that at the sound of shots, we carefully parted the grass, looked for cow shit before lying down and taking cover.
One memorable day we went to the bazooka range. We spent the afternoon becoming familiar with the bazooka and the rifle grenade. We even fired dummy rounds at an old tank and trucks. The important event occurred when we were marching back to our company area. We had to march near the main area of Camp Blanding and we felt many eyes were watching us. Being at the head of our company, I got the feeling that we were marching like soldiers. It seemed like suddenly we were a unit and proud of it. We were a unit and several other men felt the same feeling.
My first experience with a hurricane was the same night we pulled guard duty. We had a hurricane warning but we had no choice in the matter. Luckily, as squad leader I took the men out to their various posts, then stayed in the guard house for two hours until it was time for the men to be relieved. Then I would take out the next guard detail. It was raining in sheets. Some of the smart guys found shelter. It was hard to find them hidden in their cubbyholes. But others were contentiously patrolling their assigned areas and looked like drowned rats. The next day the whole company stayed in the recreation hall and stayed there the whole day, as it was too wet to continue our training. It rained hard all day and finally let up sometime that night.
One morning we had our training postponed. Each of us was interviewed by a First Sergeant from the Military Intelligence Language School. When my turn came, I walked into the Day Room and sat in front of the First Sergeant, who incidentally was Japanese. On the table, which separated us was a Japanese Language reader. He pointed to a kanji and asked me to read and translate the character. I managed to read and translate several kanji. Then he asked me if I would like to go to the Army Language School. I told him that I didn’t care one way or another.
With that statement my interview was over. A week or so later we found a bunch of us were to be transferred to the Army Language School in Ft. Snelling, Minnesota immediately. The training company was split approximately in half and while we packed because of the transfer, the rest continued their basic training.
Little did I realize that this move perhaps saved my life because the ones who completed Basic Training took part in the last campaign in Northern Italy. This was vividly brought home to me when I met one of the follows I trained with who was shipped home for further operations on his wounds he received in Italy. A mortar shell had exploded near him smashing his left elbow and scarred the left side of his face. He had lost so much weight that I hardly recognized him.
We arrived in Fort Snelling in November 1944, and here I saw snow like you often see on postcards, piled high and beautiful. It only took a couple of weeks before I was sick and tired of the snow. We were assigned as a Casual Company and quartered on the ‘Turkey Farm’. Turkey Farm was at the extreme edge of Fort Snelling. Our quarters consisted of tar papered five man huts with a coal burning stove in the middle of the huts. Our C.O. was first Looie Matsunaga, later to become Congressman from Hawaii. Our job while in the Casual Company was to do maintenance work around the Fort as laborers while other men went to Japanese Language classes. Tad Nomura and I tried to get transferred back to Basic Training. We went through channels and went as high as Major Aiso who was then in charge of academics. There we were informed we had no chance of going back, once we were there at the Language School. After the war Major Aiso became a Superior Court judge in the L.A. area.
After a while some friends got me into a carpenter shop making bookshelves. At least I was inside rather than raking leaves, cutting blocks of ice at a lake for the icehouse. We were free to go out of Fort Snelling on a pass to go out to the Twin Cities from Saturday afternoon until midnight Sunday. After a couple of weeks a large groups of Hawaiians from Camp Wolters, Texas, came in. Everyone was bundled up with practically all the clothes they could wear. One time they were hugging the stoves as usual when one guy said ‘Let’s play football’. Well, they all took off their shoes, socks and stripped down to their undershirts and ran out to play in the snow. It made me wonder what kind of crazies were we dealing with.
Compared to Camp Blanding our Basic Training Camp, Fort Snelling was Heaven. Beside pass privileges, we had shoyu and Japanese style menus. The Minneapolis YWCA had a dance every Saturday night and USO and we were free to roam around in the Big City.
I was fortunate, George Rokutani of Alameda had relocated his family to St. Paul and opened a garage there. I used to drop in periodically and saw the Kadonagas and the Yoshidas. It was like old times.
Christmas of 1944, half of the Casual Company was allowed leave on a three day pass and the other half had New Year’s on a three day pass. I chose New Year’s. So for Christmas, the company area was very quiet and all of us went to bed early. Suddenly a whistle blasted us awake. The First Sergeant’s voice ordered us to fall out. I grabbed my overshoes and overcoat and lined up shivering and shaking all the while. Suddenly I noticed the First Sergeant was drunk. He waited patiently until the company was formed, then he said, ‘Merry Christmas, Men. Dismissed’.
Finally in January of 1945 we were moved into our permanent company area, but instead of nice steam heated permanent barracks, we were moved across the way to another area of five man tar papered huts. Our official designation was D Company, School Battalion. Our school year started in February 1945, and I found myself in the lowest section of our class.
Our daily schedule was revelry at 6am, breakfast at 7am, march to class at 8am. Lunch was at 12 and back to class by 1pm. We concluded class at 4pm, marched back to our quarters and change into Class A uniforms to stand retreat. We then had compulsory study every night from 7pm to 9pm. On Wednesdays we had classes for half a day in the morning and in the afternoons we made like soldiers, close order drill etc., in a way it was good to get away from the classroom. Right after lunch for about two weeks we went to a Japanese movie to attune our ears to the various nuances of Japanese language. I loved these movies because like many of my buddies, I would take a daily nap. Every Saturday morning we had examinations from 8am until noon. The after lunch we could get passes and be free to go into the Twin Cities until midnight Sunday. Every three months we could get one week’s leave.
Every class was divided into two categories. Those who had a good grip of the Japanese language were in the 6-month group and they immediately began to study the Japanese Army terminology, order of battle, equipment, tactics, etc., while on the other hand, guys like me were in the 9-month group. We studied reading, writing, and basics. After three months of basics, my section was wiped out and transferred to Cooks and Bakers School except me and another guy from Seattle. In a sense we may have been promoted but we were still in the lowest section of our class.
Winter in Minnesota, all of us from the West Coast and Hawaii were sick and tired of the snow and the cold. First day of Spring was just around the corner and for some reason we were required to march to the Field House for some ceremony or another. Wouldn’t you know it, the First Day of Spring, we had a raging blizzard. As Squad leader I was right up in front and I couldn’t see two feet ahead of me. There was a streetcar that went through the main part of Fort Snelling to almost near our company area but it stopped running late at night. Many a time those of us in D Company had to trudge though the snow to our quarters.
Another amazing story is when it was getting close to June. Fumi’s birthday was June 3rd and she and her sister Kay were in St. Louis. I wanted to send her a present. We in the Army get paid on the first day of every month as everyone knows. The base pay of a PFC was $50.00 per month and after deductions I had $18.50. I had half of my pay sent to my folks in camp and I was sending a GI bond to my brother Butch who was going to college in Illinois. So I got a pass into Minneapolis to shop around. I finally decided on a gold washed bracelet. I went into the jewelry store to inquire about the price and I was told the price was $26.00. I started to walk out of the store when the salesman said, ‘How about eighteen dollars?’ But when I started again to walk out, he said ‘Because you’re a serviceman, I will sell it to you for sixteen dollars.’ How could I pass it up? I bought the bracelet then went to the USO and wrapped the package so they could mail it for me. Inside I put in a note: ‘Happy Birthday Fumi, please send me five bucks’. The story does not end here. Being nearly broke money wise; I went back to Fort Snelling. Because it was Pay Day, some of the men wanted to play poker so I borrowed ten dollars and stayed in the game. I couldn’t lose. By the time we broke up for evening chow, I had 80 – 85 dollars so I took the guys to the PX and had a beer bust. The next letter I got from Fumi had a $5.00 bill and it puzzled me at first until I remembered my birthday greeting.
After three months of continuous classes, we were give a one-week school break in the first week of May. Rather than go back to Topaz, I opted to go to Chicago and stay with the Kanemasu family for a few days then go on to St. Lois to see Fumi. The way I understand it, Grandma Manage firmly believed that girls in the family should have good training in some sort of career in order to have some stability and promise for their futures. When Fumi graduated Topaz High School, she decided to go to laboratory technician school in St. Louis, Gradwhol Technician School, to be specific. Grandpa Manabe took both Fumi and Kay to St. Louis to see that they were settled and to be satisfied that local help was available such as evacuees, and then he left. Poor Kay, she was just high school age. I think the parents felt better that the two of them were together. Kay went to a high school in the area called Webster Grove. Fumi and Kay both lived in different families as glorified baby sisters and housemaids. Fumi stayed in a home in Clayton. It must have been rough for the both of them, maybe that is one of the reasons they are so close today. I managed to see Fumi and see some of St. Louis. I was fortunate that the USO was near the lab technician school so I could bum around while waiting for Fumi.
Our next school break was scheduled for the end of July so I planned to visit the family in July. When I got to Topaz, it was a different camp. First of all, guys and girls my age, and many Issei had left. The guys my age were either in the Army or working on farms where the need for laborers was great. They even had one recreation hall set aside for the USO. There were many soldiers seen in camp. Those guys wounded in Italy with the 442 Regiment came home to Topaz on recuperation leave. It must have been a come down for the MPs around camp to observe military courtesy to guys that came back to camp as officers with their combat decorations. The majority of people left in camp this time were young kids or older parents. Some guys my age stayed in camp in order not to be drafted. It is not up to me to pass judgment because I can understand how they felt.
Wouldn’t you know it, as usual my timing in going to Topaz on leave turned out very depressing. A few days after getting settled in Topaz, the announcement was made about the atom bomb and Hiroshima. Topaz was like a ghost town as the Isseis mourned the surrender of Japan and all the activities were suspended except for the functions of living. My mother was from Hiroshima and later we found out her brother was killed in the blast.
While I was on duty in Japan I went to visit my mother’s sister in a small town in the mountains of Hiroshima Prefecture. There I met my cousin, a sixteen-year-old daughter of my uncle who lived in Hiroshima City. My cousin was moved out of the city prior to the bomb. After the explosion, being concerned about her father, she went into the city to find him. Because of the devastation and the fires, there were no recognizable landmarks so she wandered around for about three hours before she gave up the search. My cousin had other more serious problems because of her exposure to radiation. Later she was treated under the help of the Atomic Energy Commission. Also because she was now an orphan, the family decided to get her married off so that the family wouldn’t be responsible for her. When it became known she had been exposed to radiation, there were hardly any takers. Later I heard she was married to a truck driver. This meant to me that the family found a lower class person. Our family had certain prestige as government officials and my mother’s father was a country doctor. My father sent her some money because my cousin let it be known that she would like to open a restaurant. I understand that she had four kids and she did well with her business. My cousin had kept in touch with my mother so these are bits and pieces that my mother told me and because the Hayashi family had just come back from camp, our primary purpose was to try and re-establish our lives in our community.
It was a relief to end our leave and go back to get into the routine of the Army Language School. The atmosphere in camp during our leave was very depressing. As soon as we were back, the six-month sections of our class, those that were proficient in the Japanese language, were graduated, given a few extra stripes and shipped out. I make a point about a few stripes because as students, we were all PFCs and when they were graduated, this section’s promotions ranged from Tech Sergeants to Buck Sergeants. On the other hand, A Company was all Caucasians that had been studying Japanese in various colleges for the past two or three years, were all given commissions as Lieutenants when they graduated and were designated ‘Team Captains’ that generally consisted of ten men per team.
May, 1946 I was in the Army and in charge of the Interpretation and Translation section of the Osaka Military Government Team. I had a Hawaiian assistant, two typists, and half of a dozen Japanese civilian interpreters and translators. I mainly made assignments and checked the English translations. Well one fateful day another Hawaiian who took his army discharge in Japan and took a Civil Service job, asked me if I would like to go with him on a field trip. It was a quiet boring day so I was glad to go. The Hawaiian, Gilbert Suzuki, had arranged for a jeep and driver, Pearlie Powell originally from Kite, Georgia, to pick us up at our office. We first made a stop at the Osaka Prefecture office and picked up two men, then were on our way. We went, of all places, to the Suntory Whiskey Distillery, located between Osaka and Kyoto. Not being concerned with business Powell and I wandered around and checked the distillery that to my untrained eye wasn’t too impressive. At the conclusion of whatever business Gilbert and the Prefecture representatives was finished, we were invited to sample some whiskey and all of us took advantage of the invitation except our driver, Powell, he didn’t drink. With the conclusion of the amenities, we piled into the jeep, we left the distillery and headed to the two lane concrete highway between Osaka and Kyoto. In order to get to the highway we had to go up a rather steep slope and the highway was screened with some low growing shrubs so Powell went roaring up the slope and turned right and I remember bracing ourselves and met a 34 ton weapons carrier head on. The next thing I remember was sewing up my cut on my left eyebrow, cussing away. As a result of that accident was a scar on my left eyebrow and a scar on my right shin. The most serious injury was to my neck and lower back that bothers me even today. The most annoying thing about my stay in the Army hospital in Kyoto was that the three of us, Pearly Powell, Gilbert Suzuki, and I, were given penicillin shots every three hours so it was practically impossible to get any rest. It was easier when I was released from the hospital because my job was not active and strenuous, I had a chance to recover.
About three months later I landed in the Army hospital again because of my own stupidity. Here is how it developed. The last active Japanese aircraft carrier came into Osaka Bay to be surrendered to the American Occupation forces. The reason for the delay in surrender was because the aircraft carrier was being used in collecting overseas Japanese and ferrying not only the armed forces but civilians as well….
In August of 1991 I was asked to serve in a committee to establish a memorial plaque on the site of the baseball field that was the main recreation area for the Japanese that lived in Alameda. The field was not only a baseball field, but it was also used by the community for picnics for various Japanese organizations, and also for a football field. The baseball team was known as A.T.K. (Alameda Taiiku Kai or Alameda Recreation Ass.) Needless to say I was flattered, as I had never played on the A Team though I had played on the B Team for several years. I had hoped to be a member of the A Team in 1942, due to circumstances, we never played baseball in Alameda after Pearl Harbor. However, I agreed to serve on the committee mainly because my father was so involved in the ATK. My father loved baseball and as I understand, he was involved in forming and playing First Base on the team. Maybe I’ve mentioned it before but the earliest memory I have of my father was playing catch in the evenings before dinner. Also, being the oldest in my family, I had the privilege of going to the games to watch him play and even took trips with the team to places like Concord, Walnut Grove, Lodi, etc., so although we had to leave home early in order to make these trips, I had the opportunity of seeing much of the countryside. My father quit playing when he was in his late thirties or early forties and became a coach and manager of the team.
As for me, when I was ten or eleven years old, I played baseball on a Japanese team of boys my age. We played in a league sponsored by a “Remar Baking Company” and it was comparable to the Little League” of today. We played in the City of Alameda division made up of Caucasian teams except us. We called ourselves “Tokyo Giants” and won the championship of Alameda in the second or third year of playing in the league. We had no sponsor so in order to get equipment we saved stamps to get Gallencamp Shoes. With those stamps we got our bats and balls. In some cases we swiped the other wealthier teams’ equipment. For winning the championship of Alameda, we had a play off game with San Leandro Champs, which we lost. However we, each of us, received a gold baseball, which I lost many years ago. We didn’t have any elaborate signals but told each other to bunt, steal, etc., all in Japanese.
To continue my baseball career, I turned out for the Alameda High School baseball team and eventually made the Varsity earning my letter. I played on the Post 9 American Legion team and we won the East Bay Championship. A San Francisco team defeated us but we were presented with gold baseballs to hang on a chain. All this time I was playing on the ATK baseball team so during that period I was playing baseball every day of the week. I think I was a pretty good pitcher. After the war (World War II) we started a Japanese team and the Japanese in the area had a league. We generally played on Sundays. In fact, I played one Sunday and Fumi was in the stands watching me play. After the game, we both had to hurry home because we were to be married that evening.
We finally had the dedication ceremony on Feb. 9, 1992. It was well attended by many people I hadn’t seen for years. As Master of Ceremonies, I felt the program went very well and the program only took about forty minutes. Because of the weather, it was held in the nearby park clubhouse. After, we had refreshments and formal picture taking.
I guess because of the above-mentioned program, I was asked to speak at some classes at Alameda High School. The occasion was called “A Day of Remembrance”. On Feb. 19, 1942 was the day when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which gave the Army the power to move all Japanese from the west coast of the United States. I was asked to describe my feeling and experiences during that period. I also had slides of Professor Chiura Obata who had made sketches of that movement. I talked to three different classes and my general impression was I lost touch of how to talk to youngsters. In a way it was my fault because I hadn’t prepared adequately.
I mentioned this recent experience for the simple reason that as I went to the dedication meetings and talked to the former ball players and talked about the past and also when I talked to the school kids, many past memories came out of the dark corners.