page 5 of 11
April 6, 2006 - Part 5 of 6
Section below transcribed by Joseph Werhan (intern).
Can you talk some more about how it was like with Chizu and the issues of privacy at the camp?
There wasn't much. As I said we would around like at night we would walk around. Of course it's dark at night. There was no light in the camp. We just walk around. That's about all.
Later you were able to go to the movies because of a friend?
The head would take us out to different places, things of that sort.
Did you consider getting married while you were in the camp?
No, we decided to marry outside.
For one thing there wasn't any facilities inside and then the other thing was Chizu's mother didn't like the idea.
Was she living at the camp as well?
She was in the same camp.
Was that a problem?
In a way because Chizu had to live with her—they lived in the same room. They more or less controlled their kids while they were living with them. Chizu decided it would be better if we went out and got married. Chizu's sister went out—she was in Milwaukee—and she came into Chicago. She was one of the witnesses and one of the fellows I was staying with was a witness. We had two witnesses for marriage.
What year was the marriage?
'43. We've been married over sixty years.
You got married outside of the camp?
Oh yeah—in Chicago.
In 1943? When were you released from the camp?
It was '43. We came out around April into Chicago. I started to work at a place and Chizu worked at a place. I forgot what it was—a week or two—we went to the county courthouse and then we got married. We had these two people as witnesses. So it wasn't very much of a marriage.
Have you had interviews like this before?
Yeah—one or two of them. I had a fellow come—but he interviewed the two of us together. We would fill in each other’s [responses].
Do you have a lot of friends who were in the 442nd?
I had a lot but not very many are left now.
We noticed that you answer a lot of your questions not using I.
In most cases I'm thinking of other people that I worked with and that we did it together. That's why I say we instead of me. Like in the Nisei Young Democrats—I didn't do it alone. Those of us who either got people together or got a person to speak—we did it together. That's why I tend to talk like that. I didn't do it myself. I don't see it as I did this or I did that.
And you did it for the people.
Were you powerful?
I guess in a sense.
Not in a greedy or negative way—but in a positive way—were you powerful in the group?
In certain circles—yeah. But in other circles—no. Because after all there weren't very many progressives—so we were called names. Radicals and reds, finks, and so forth. We were called names and for a while I was ostracized from the JACL. At the beginning I was a leader but they kicked me out. They didn't kick me out because they didn't kick me out as a member. I stayed as a member but they kept me out of leadership positions. Until after the war—when fighting for our civil rights became important—then my position was right. Then people began coming to me and then we became more excepted—Chizu and I both. Until then we were both kind of ostracized as radicals.
What did Chizu's mother think about that?
Later she got to know me so I guess she knew me as a person. I guess even though people said something about me she didn't—that's why later on there wasn't any hard feelings about us at all.
Can you talk about the day that they announced you could all go?
When were you told you could leave?
Yeah, in 1943—after you volunteered for the Army—you could go out any time. You just tell them you want to go at a certain date and you can go. Chizu was allowed to go because she was going to go to a school and she was accepted. As long as you could get room and board as well as your tuition then you were allowed to go out. Those were the two groups that were able to get out.
What about you?
I got out because I volunteered. I volunteered for the army. Anytime if I say I wanted to go a week from today then they just arranged it so I could get out that day. In her case she would have to get an “okay” from the school. If the school said they would accept her—after a certain date or before a certain date—then she could get out by that time.
Can you talk more about when you volunteered for the army and what happened with that?
Well there isn't much to say, I just volunteered and I just waited you know.
After I went out to Chicago I was working for a while. I worked for a little while and I then had to come back because I would get bad feelings here and then there was pneumonia. They took care of me in the camp. I was in a camp hospital.
So you went back to a camp?
Yeah I was in the camp hospital until I recovered and then I went out and got married to Chizu.
Were you expecting to leave for Europe?
I still was expecting it but when they knew of my condition they said no. The guy that was recruiting said, "You'd die in training if you came out in your condition."
How did you feel about that?
I said. “Well, if I can't go, I can't go.”
Did you want to go?
Originally I wanted to go because a lot of my buddies were going too. I wanted to be with them. I was kind of sad in a way when they said I couldn't go. Afterwards we said well maybe it's not so bad because at least I'm back here.
What happened to your buddies?
Some of them didn't come back. One guy lost his leg. One guy lost an arm. One guy [was paralyzed in] both legs. Of course there were several of them that didn't come back at all. It is kind of sad when I think of them.
These were you friends from the camp, from Topaz?
I knew them from before because most of the ones that went into camp were people who lived in a community where I was and we went in together. I knew a lot of them from there.
They were in the Young Nisei Organization?
Were some of them your family?
No, none of them were my family. They both came back. One got into military intelligence and he came back alright. Ben was in the tank unit in the 442nd—but he made it back. And Harno—I don't know what happened to him, he came back. I don't know whether he came back to go to school or what because he went to Cal again. He may have been able to get out of the Army to come back to school—I don't know. I just remember he came back to school. I think he got a heart attack or something and he passed away after he came back here.
At what age?
At that time he must have been about twenty-five or so.
Can you talk about what you did after you got married?
After we got married we went to New York and they asked us to help them with the Japanese-American organization they had there—Japanese American Committee for Democracy they called it. That was a kind of a unique organization because you had first generation and second generation—together in the same organization. The Issei were progressive—they weren't conservative like ours’ were. They did things like— before the war when the training ships from Japan came with the sailors—they would go out with a tugboat and put a big banner up that says, "Down with the Japanese military!" We heard about these things—and that was unique for the Issei to do that—they didn't do it when we were back on the coast. None of them were that progressive.