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Do you remember any discrimination in your high school against the Japanese?
I was one of the fortunate ones, even after Pearl Harbor. Now, Pearl Happened on December 7th. I think it was the next day, Monday, Pearl Harbor was a Sunday, and we went back to school, got on the bus, went to school. The first thing we heard was that the principle wanted to gather us all into the auditorium and listen to president Roosevelt's declaration of war against Japan. That famous one where he said "December 7th will live in infamy." Alright, so that happened the following day, the Monday. After that the classes disperses to the classes and in my class nobody made a funny face at me or nobody said "you started the war" kind of a thing-nothing like that. They were very, very, I think, understanding. Then when we got word that we had to leave our homes and go into camp, these kids wanted to know, "where are you going?" Where are they going to send you?" We tried to find out, as much as possible, what our address might be. They said, "I want to write to you, so tell me your address!" and I gave whatever address that I could get, to my classmates. For sometime they kept writing, but then when you're in a situation like that you just forget to continue the correspondence. I feel that's kind of unfortunate. The thing is I had pen pals, even during the army days, pen pals. There was one girl that was a pen pal. She was, I think a university student, I think she was pretty well educated; it could be in high school. I kept writing to her, even through my days in the Philippines. When I came back, she wrote to me and said "Hey I got all your letters." She said "would you like to have them?" and I said, "No, forget the war." I feel I lost something there. I didn't realize that it might have meant quite a bit if I had kept these letters. But this girl was nice enough to keep the letters, all those letters that we sent back and forth.
That went by the boards. But the point is, the kids I went to school with, you know during the gym period? Harry Sans—he was my classmate and in gym—you pick sides and play football or whatever you play. Invariably Harry Sans would pick me first and I know why he wanted to do that. See I could throw pretty well, so I could throw the football pretty well, and he wanted to catch the football so he always wanted me on his team. It was like that; nobody gave me a bad time. Excepting the Placer Union High School is located in a town called Auburn and some of this stores carried "No Jap" signs and that was kind of discouraging. But my attitude was, "Alright! They want our business, they don't have to have my business!" I would go elsewhere. So they're loosing out. I didn't care but to answer your questions, these kids were all very nice and even gave me pictures and so on. But they're all gone. I lost most of them.
Could you describe the make up of the High School? How many were Japanese American vs. White-American?
I think they said anywhere from 25–30% but I'm not sure. They were a lot of us, our guys, and a lot of our guys played sports, played in sports programs. Basketball, Baseball, not so much football—we were too small for football. And we made friends and I don't want to jump ahead of my story but our farm, forty-acre farm, we didn't know what would happen in our absence. But my brother had made friends with this Ag. teacher. My brother took an agriculture course and the teachers, there were a couple of them. Mr. Richardson and Mr. Frank—I can't quite remember the name. They offered to take care of our ranch while were gone. We were one of the lucky ones because when we came back the farm and the house was there, so we were lucky ones. Some of our neighbors, for example, got the barn burned down or the shed burned down and stuff like that. But in our case the ranch was pretty well kept up. Not as well as if we were there, I guess, but well enough. What these teachers did was during the summer harvest season, hired these high school kids to do the harvesting and the heavy lifting kind of thing. It worked out real well.
So your family owned the farm?
Yes. Now the Farm was bought when my oldest brother reached maturity. I think it was twenty-one, he reached twenty-one and we could buy the farm under his name. He was a US citizen, therefore we could buy that farm and that's what happened.
Did you hear any rumors about Japanese Americans being sent off before you were sent away?
All kinds of rumors floated around. But I was still going to high school at Placer Union High School and we had this current events class and in that it described what was happening in the war and so on, so if we kept up with that, and we did, we knew about what was going to happen. But then we didn't know what the government had planned for us. That was up in the air. Some rumors went around saying that we're all going to be shipped back to Japan, wild rumors like that were floating around. But in our case, my brother, my older brother, that studied in Japan and knew the Japanese Language well, he was recruited to attend this secret Japanese language school. Military Intelligence Service Language School, which began in November one of 1941, about a month before Pearl Harbor. I was thinking, in 1942 now, in the spring of 1942 that, in as much as my brother was screened by the army and the FBI and cleared to participate in this secret school, the Military Intelligence Service School, that we, being apart of his family, would not have to leave the farm. But that was not to be. The order was a blanket order that all Japanese, with even 1/16th blood, were to be incarcerated.
Did you think your brother knew about Pearl Harbor before it happened?
No, he was just as much lost as anybody else because December 7th, that was a month after they started to study, but even then he wasn't sure what would happen. In his interviews with people like you he said, "We didn't know what our choices were going to be." Although he was in the army, he was in the secret Military Intelligence School; everything was up in the air. To begin with the intelligence school was here at the Presidio in San Francisco. Now when the so-called "evacuation" took place, the incarceration took place, they moved the school from the Presidio to a Camp Savage in Minnesota. The higher ups thought it would be better to move the school to the interior and so he was sent to Camp Savage. This is happening to my brother and the Military Intelligence Language School and in the mean time we're packed up and ready to go to camp in, I think it was, May of 1942.
Did you feel any anger towards the Japanese government because of what they had done at Pearl Harbor?
Like everybody else, "Why the hell did they do it?” But, later on when I studied the history, from way back, I see the war clouds just forming and Pearl Harbor was not a surprise. But that's a long story. My final conclusion, as far as the start of the war is concerned, I always relate to a family fight, that is husband and wife fighting and the child—which side do you go with, with your mother or your father? When Japan and America went to war, which side do you take? We're like the child in a divorce case—which way do we go? It was, in a way, a hard choice but then we always knew that, "hey this is our country, this is where we're born and this is our country so we're going to go along with what the government wants." That's what happened.
What were you doing the day of Pearl Harbor?
It was a Sunday. December 7th was a Sunday and I was outside playing, getting ready to go to church or something, I don't know exactly what I was outside for. I was outside and then all the commotion from the house and so we went to listen to the radio. At that time we could afford to buy a radio. A radio was a big thing, you think nothing of it now but to have a radio was a big thing. The news was all Pearl Harbor. Because that was a Sunday, so Monday was school. At school the principle gathered us and that's the way it went.
I should tell you the anguish that my parents must have felt. I didn't realize at that time. They had come over to this country in the early 1900's and tried to find a place in America to participate in what everyone calls "the American dream" right? Through all their labors they saved enough money to try to buy this land, this ranch, and they were able to do that on top of what they had, they had to borrow some money, as I understand. But they bought the ranch. That was about 1938 or so, a few years before Pearl Harbor. And in subsequent years, the fruit prices were pretty good, so they were able to pay off the debt in a couple years or so. We had the farm, debt free and we were looking forward in the spring to the new harvest. That was the best time of the year in the country, especially if you owned an orchard. That's when the flowers are blooming and everybody is thinking, "Gee, this year we make some money. Do we buy a new car or something nice, fix up the house or whatever." This is the time of optimism and this evacuation order comes through and it kind of shatters that dream. We lost out on the harvest, about three or four harvests our family lost out on. During those three or four years that we lost the harvest, we could have made some money because vegetables and fruits were in short supply because everybody went to war. When you think of that, you kind of fell a little bit of bitterness. Somebody told me along the way that "Hey you can't let bitterness hold you back." We try to overcome that bitter feeling and move on. We've got to move on.