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Interview with Jack Tashiro [2/22/2004]

Sumiye Okubo:

This is a oral history interview of Jack and Marie Tashiro of Bethesda, Maryland, on February 22, 2004. This interview is for the JAVA project, oral history project, being conducted with the Library of Congress project on oral history. Jack, would you like to begin talking about your life? And then we can turn over to Marie.

Jack Tashiro:

Sure. My -- starting with my parents, both of them came from Japan. My dad came when he was 18. He was the -- one of -- the last of the three sons. And they're from a small farming village. So his older sister told him that he shouldn't stay in Japan because you got no place to go. So why don't you go to this exotic country that we hear about, America, and see what you could find? So she had saved some money, and so she gave him the money to send him to the U.S. So he came here in 1898 and -- 18 years old, and he wanted to -- he was -- wanted to see all of the United States.

So he never had a permanent job. He worked in Oregon for a while. And then he got on the bus or a train and go to the next stop. And he traveled all over the U.S. And he never wrote home. So they had a funeral for him in Japan in absentia. And once he became 40, he said, "Gee, maybe I should get married." So he quietly went back to Japan. And they were so shocked and surprised, but he said, well, he wanted to -- "Please arrange a bride for me."

So as is the custom in Japan, they had a go-between, and so he met my mother-to-be. And so they got married. And they came to the U.S., and they settled in Oregon, Portland, Oregon, where I was born. And they were a small farmer until 1938 -- or '37, when my father got pneumonia. And so he went to the hospital. And he was in there for 30 days. And my mother slept in the same room with him for 30 days, taking care of him. And pneumonia, when you get pneumonia, you have a break in the illness in either seven or 11 days. So after about the 11th day, he seemed to come out of it, and they were very happy. And we had three nurses around the clock.

But that particular evening, this special nurse fell asleep. And my mother had finally gone to rest and sleep because they said he'll be ready to go home in a few days. And then when the nurse fell asleep, he threw his blanket apparently, and he caught cold again. And he got pneumonia the second time, and he just couldn't beat it the second time because he was so weak.

So he passed away, and I was there, and my mother was there of course. And so after we had the funeral, he was cremated. And we split his ashes into two. And my mother wanted to take his ashes back to Japan and explain to his relatives what had happened and how he had died. And so I went with her. I'm the only child. So I went with her to Japan when I was 13, and we spent a year in Japan. And this older sister of my dad had a daughter and a son. And this daughter was married to a teacher. And he was the principal of the grade school in a city called Yawata, which plays in my life many times after that so I'll explain it.

That's where they had this large iron and steel company, Yawata Iron and Steel, in the city of Yawata. And so the principal was -- my cousin's husband was the principal at this grade school which had about almost 3,000 students. So I enrolled as a first grader when I was 13. And I was there for one year. And I went from the first grade, progressing each grade to the sixth grade. And then by then, after about a year, I began to show signs of illness, and I had a lot of -- whatever you call it.

What would you call it? I had sores on my leg and my arm. So my mother got very upset and excited and says, "I've got to get you back to the United States." So we came back in 1939. And we settled back in Portland. At that time, my mother had -- just my mother and I, and we had really no place to go. So we had some very good friends in Portland. So she stayed with them, and I stayed with them. And I went to school there, and I went to high school in a place outside of Portland called (Gresham). And my freshman and sophomore years was a normal kind of a freshman.

I played basketball on the team, and I was the varsity catcher on the baseball team. And when Pearl Harbor happened, the team could not go over 50 miles. And I was the catcher, and the pitcher was another nisei. And so without us, they couldn't operate. So then they'd get permission to travel more than 50 miles to play baseball. And the names we were called by these other teams was something else, Hirohito and Tojo and various things. But that was okay. That was part of the game. And also we played basketball on the Japanese basketball league. And on Pearl Harbor Day -- every Sunday, we had a tournament. We played. And that's when Pearl Harbor happened. And we went into Portland, and we played basketball, but it was a very, very different kind of a day. And that's when all the problems started for us in terms of the war. So that's the beginning of my background. How about your background?

Marie Tashiro:

Well, mine isn't all that interesting. I'm the eldest of four children. My mother came to the United States as a young bride. I think she had just turned 18, married my father, who was 10 years -- 10 or 11 years older, but they managed to get along fine. Being the youngest of the family, I'm sure it must have been very, very traumatic on her part, having separated from her family, the very leisure and nice lifestyle. But she never once complained. I have never heard her ever having compared her life in Japan. We heard it from other friends. But I think that was quite remarkable and a wonderful lesson for all of us children. Having had some English lessons in Japan and having been interested in knowing the English language, she was at an advantage where very few issei, I guess, did not have because she could read. She could still write. But she was quite resentful of the fact that her parents had sent her to the United States. So I guess she didn't -- she didn't correspond for quite a few months, but all turned out well. She understood. We then moved into -- I was born in Sacramento, as were my other siblings, but my father moved us to a community where there were no Japanese. It was just -- just by accident, it turned out that way. But in a way, it helped me a lot because, as he said, in the household, when you speak -- start a sentence in Japanese, complete the sentence in Japanese. If you start it in English, complete it in English, so that you won't have this half Japanese/half English thing. And I think that was a very good lesson for us all. I don't know that I have anything really exciting. I went to a school where because I was the only Japanese American, I was able to meet and -- some nice classmates. To this day, I'm very, very close to them, and I'm so happy that the war did not affect our friendship. We then -- I went to Minneapolis. My family was still in Poston, Arizona. And I liked Minneapolis so much that I wrote to my parents, and I said, even if our parents want to go back to California, please at least come out to Minneapolis and see what it's like. And it's strange because both my father and my younger brother are both buried in Minneapolis, but they too found Minneapolis a very nice place. And we eventually all lived there. And I still have family there.

Sumiye Okubo:

This was after the war?

Marie Tashiro:

Yes. Uh-huh. And then I met Jack in Minneapolis. We married and then moved to Washington, DC -- that was 1951 -- where my two boys were born. Because of the nature of Jack's work, we were sent overseas. And being my first trip to Japan, I was really excited. And I found Japan to be extremely interesting, but I think it was because the people that we had met. And I have now very fond memories of it.

Sumiye Okubo:

And where were you in Japan?

Marie Tashiro:

In Kamakura, uh-huh. Both my parents came from southern Japan, Kyushu. And while we were there, I did have the chance of going to Kyushu, having met all the relatives. And I was perfectly at ease because they looked more like my brother than I looked like my brother, but it was -- it was very nice, meeting your relatives. Then we came back from Japan. And after a short respite, we went -- we had an assignment in San Francisco and three years in Germany. Germany, I enjoyed very, very much. While we were there, Mother, who had become a widow by then, spent a year with us, and she loved it too and met some nice German friends, as we did.

Jack Tashiro:

One of the questions in the outline was Japanese school, so in Portland, I did go to Japanese school on Saturdays for -- I forget -- two or three hours on a Saturday. And you go through the various grades. And you know, we were so tired, none of us really paid too much attention, but we did learn how to speak Japanese and read. And then I took --

Sumiye Okubo:

How long did you go to school?

Jack Tashiro:

Pardon me.

Sumiye Okubo:

How long did you go to Japanese school?

Jack Tashiro:

In Portland, maybe about five, six years. And then I also took kendo. And oddly enough, when I came back and retired, I wrote to the FBI, and I asked for my files. And I saw this note in my file, saying that when I was a youngster -- and this is when I was between five and 12. I got this from the FBI. And this said that I had -- I was a possible sub --

Sumiye Okubo:

Subversive?

Jack Tashiro:

-- terrorist because I took kendo. And they said that -- yes. And they said that because during -- this is for Fort Snelling, when I went to Fort Snelling. They said that since during that time, I didn't display any disloyalty to the U.S., I must be okay. I was only between five and 12, I guess I took kendo. And the one bad thing was that, you know, you did bow to the East when you started kendo. And it was a spiritual thing rather than a physical thing. And so they felt that whoever was a serious kendoist could be disloyal to the U.S., I guess.

But anyway, so I was shocked when I saw this. And it was labeled confidential at that time, and they had to downgrade it. This, I got -- when you go to the F -- write to the FBI, you can get your own file with the Freedom of Information Act, and they're supposed to send you whatever is in your file, if there's anything negative. And the other negative thing was the JACL. And that was on the subversive list for very many, many years.

And then so when I joined the CIA -- this is getting ahead of the story. I never joined JACL because it would, you know, create a lot of extra security matters. So anyway, then they later decided that JACL was not a subversive organization. In fact, with (inaudible), it was quite the opposite. So anyway, that was okay too. But getting back to the story, in Oregon, then I went to high school. And we mingled a lot with the Caucasians, and their question was did we feel a lot of discrimination. And before Pearl Harbor, I felt no discrimination. I was the sophomore vice president. And being on the varsity team, you mingle with everybody. And there was no problem until Pearl Harbor happened.

And then after Pearl Harbor, we were sent to this -- a few months later, we were sent to this livestock center in Portland, Oregon, which was where they kept the cattle. And so it was assembly center where they had to send everybody for a while. And again, like other people, we got the horse stalls. And when you went there, they gave you a big sack. And your job was to go to the pile of straw and fill the sack with straw, and that was going to be your mattress.

And like they say, when it rained and it leaked into the roof -- it was never well-maintained -- the smell was just horrible. But we were in this assembly center for some time until we were sent to Tule Lake, where we were the first group to go to Tule Lake to open that up. And I was in that camp probably nine months or so. And at that time, I had just finished the sophomore year at Portland, and so the junior year was supposed to be at this camp. And the classrooms were no books, no material, no nothing.

The teachers were a few professional teachers, but mostly nisei evacuees that had gone to Cal. or UCLA or whatever. And one of my physics and chemistry professor was this nisei here in Washington. And so you really didn't get a good education. The only thing is it was a lot of fun. There was lots of young people there that -- Tule Lake had I think 18,000 people in a square mile area. So that's an awful lot of people.

You had your basketball teams, your baseball teams. Nothing very enlightening. School was terrible. So when we had a chance to go out, I went out. Sugar beets -- like everybody else, went out to eastern Oregon and worked for this German family. And a bunch of us, single -- my mother was still there in camp -- went with the boys to the sugar beet farm. And I worked there all summer.

And then the senior year, I was going to go to finish senior year at this Idaho town of Nampa. And I had got a job with this Caucasian family called Hasbrooks. And I was a chauffeur, the gardener and do-everything kind of a guy for room and board. And so I lived with them for -- during my senior year in high school. That senior year was not very invigorating because of the discrimination, the funny looks we got in class. But we endured all that, and I finished my senior year there.

Sumiye Okubo:

Were you the only --

Jack Tashiro:

And -- go ahead.

Sumiye Okubo:

-- the only Japanese American in that school?

Jack Tashiro:

No. There were two others that lived there, but since the war started, it was not very pleasant. And then I should -- the next phase is getting into the military. So before I get into that, if you want to add anything about camp life --

Marie Tashiro:

You know, I just happened to recall that I overlooked my mother, who felt that because we were in a community where there was no Japanese, she felt that we should learn the language Japanese. She said, "If you look Asian and cannot speak, that's always a surprise, and you must learn and learn it properly." So studying or learning from a teacher who happens to be your mother isn't quite the same as going to school. And she assured me that up to a certain point, she wanted us to study at home. And then later on, she happened to know this school and the faculty members. She said, "Then you could go into Sacramento and enroll in the school." So every day after school for one hour only -- and I don't think I'll ever forget the alarm clock that she set on the table because some of my Caucasian classmates would come, and Mother would say, "You don't have to wait outside. It's only for an hour, but come inside and sit in the living room." So my close, close friends, they all know how I persevered, but only for an hour. And I'm glad that my mother had insisted because she felt the way she did. Then I went to a language school, and it was run by Buddhist priests. And if you've ever been to a Buddhist church, it sounds like they're chanting. So I would come home, and I said to Mother that "Reverend such and such is a good teacher, but let me show you how we read our text." And she said, "That doesn't matter. That's fine." And so that was it, but that was part of my Japanese language. And now that I look back on it, I'm so grateful that she insisted and why we were so terrible in our attitude that I had the attitude of "All right. I'll do it for an hour, if you want me to." But even that short hour has proven a little bit of benefit to me, now that I think back on it.

Sumiye Okubo:

Do you have any memories of or anything you'd like to talk about about camp, your time in camp?

Marie Tashiro:

Yes. Because we were put into a camp where my father knew the families, but we didn't, she felt that from day one, we should read. And she had bought a year's subscription to the Reader's Digest. And she said, "It's better than not reading at all." People were playing -- what is it?

Jack Tashiro:

Mahjong?

Marie Tashiro:

Men would play cards, and it sounded like fun. It looked like fun. They would be playing mahjong, but she sort of dissuaded us from taking those interests. She always felt "You'll have time for that later. Right now, you're away from school. At least do some reading." And she made us write a diary in Japanese. And she said, "Even if it's simple Japanese, it's an account of your feelings, and put them down." And I remember the first week, my diary wasn't very pleasant. I mean, we were in this very, very hot 110 degrees, Poston, Arizona. We were there not legal, as I felt. But she said those compositions were the best articles that we had written, even, you know, simplified Japanese. But I'm glad that she encouraged us. But we weren't too happy doing it. But now as I look back, I think it was good. Uh-huh.

Sumiye Okubo:

Have you kept those diaries?

Marie Tashiro:

No, I didn't, you know. I have some of her diaries. When she was here and when she was with us in Germany for a year, she kept a diary. And she said it's hard enough learning the English language, and she could read and write, but she said, "Now I'm in Germany, and I'll never learn to speak German." But it wasn't too long before she met some very nice German families. And she and this lady from Virginia who had never been out of this little town in Virginia, the two of them met the German couple. They had a wonderful time. And she did write a diary. But each Wednesday, they would go up to the Taunus Mountains. And she had a wonderful time. And she did have a good habit of writing, keeping. And I said, "See. You said that you would never learn to speak German." And she said, "Well, it's not very good. It's just 'how do you do?' And 'thank you.'" But she did have a nice time.

Sumiye Okubo:

So how old were you when you were in camp?

Marie Tashiro:

I had finished -- almost finished my junior college. Uh-huh. So --

Jack Tashiro:

I want to make a comment about my camp days. The thing that I thought was the worst for me was the fact that I had really wasted my whole junior year of high school because there were no facilities. There were no books. The teaching was subpar. And that actually turned out to be my junior year. And so when I went outside to Idaho, I started my senior year. So I feel like I lost a whole year of education, and that really hurt. Then my mother and I were in Tule Lake. And I left after eight or nine months, and she stayed there. And then Tule Lake was later designated to hold all those who were pro Japan types. On the questionnaire, they're the ones that signed no, no, to would you fight for the U.S. and so forth. So they moved all the more favorable people out of Tule Lake to make room for all these hardliners. And so my mother was sent to Minidoka in Idaho. And so she was there. And in the meantime, I finished my high school. And later, she came out to eastern Oregon where we could go to farm. And so she came to eastern Oregon, and I joined her there. And after a few summer months, a few months in the summer, then I got drafted into the Army. So I could start my Army career, whenever we get to that portion of --

Sumiye Okubo:

Okay.

Jack Tashiro:

Okay. Anyway, so I was drafted into the Army in November of 1944 and was sent to Camp Blanding in Florida. And it was an all-nisei group, and some of my JAVA members were also in my same group. And I was there for four months taking basic training. And Paul Tani from JAVA was in the same particular hut as I was. One of the interesting things was Alan Funt of that TV show, he was our lieutenant in charge of our group. And there were quite a few Caucasians who were interested in the niseis.

And so it made bonding a little bit easier. And then after I finished my basic training at Camp Blanding, they sent me to Fort Snelling to take -- to join the military intelligence language school at Fort Snelling. And I think Marie was talking about how she enjoyed Minneapolis. Well, as I understand it, the reason the language school was set up in Minnesota is because they surveyed a few of the military bases where they had room, and they found that the Scandinavians were the most lenient towards Japanese and Japanese Americans.

So they said they thought that that's the place to have this camp where we'll have several thousand niseis going through the program. So when they go into town, there'll be least amount of friction and fights. So that's why we went -- that's why we started in Savage and then Fort Snelling. So at Fort Snelling, I was a student for the first four months in '44. And then after finishing the coursework there, they picked a few of us, stay on to teach there.

So I was there as an instructor until July -- oh, August to May of '46. I was teaching Japanese there. And you teach the language, the geography, history, how to understand military language, order of battle and so forth. And then I was agitating to go overseas all the time, so I finally got to go overseas and went to Tokyo.

The war was already over. And I was assigned to Colonel Paul Rush's group. And we had used the Japanese foreign officer (?Salada's?) home to do our work, and what we did was we were translating the Harada memoirs, who was a secretary of the party there. And he had a lot of notes on what happened, starting the war. And so that was translated and used in the war crimes trial. So I was doing that.

Remember, earlier on, I mentioned that when I was in Japan and Fukuoka for one year, that I was in the city of Yawata with the Yawata Iron and Steel. Well, my cousin was relatively prominent in the -- that group, and so the president -- Yawata Iron and Steel then merged with Fuji Iron and Steel and became Japan Iron and Steel, which was -- is the largest corporation in Japan. And so the president of that corporation invited me over to dinner, and then we got to become interested in each other. And so he'd say, "Oh, just stay over here. Eat and stay here." So they made a bed for me there instead of sleeping on the floor. And occasionally to go to work in the morning, if I got a little later, then the chauffeur would run me over in his Cadillac. And it was funny because I was only a sergeant. Go to work in a Cadillac with chauffeur driven was --

Sumiye Okubo:

How did your coworkers --

Jack Tashiro:

Pardon me.

Sumiye Okubo:

How did your coworkers view that?

Jack Tashiro:

Well, they laughed. They laughed. They said "That Jack is wheeling and dealing again." But anyway, so while there -- and this is translate. We were on call to be an interpreter for Willoughby, MacArthur's intelligence chief. This was in the evening and weekends. We were on call. They had their regular interpreters for the daytime. Then the military and I never really got along too well. I think I always had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because once we graduated, then we still stayed as staff sergeant. When the Caucasian friends graduated, they became second (johns) and first (?johns?). And they'd go overseas, and then they have much better treatment than we ever got.

And so by the time we're ready to get discharged, which was really quick because I was only there six months, then they started offering all kinds of enticements. Be an officer. Do this, do that. And I just didn't want any part of that. And the second reason was this Mr. (Takashamiki), the president of Japan Iron and Steel, said that he thought that after the war, that Japan and the U.S. would become very close in business. And so he wanted me to come back to the U.S., go to college, get out quick as I can and take foreign trade and then come back to Japan and be on his staff because he says that's where we're going to make all kinds of things happen. And so that's what I did.

I came back in 1947, January. I got discharged. And that fall, I went to the University of Oregon. In those days, all the GIs were coming back, going to college. So you really had a hard time going out of state. I really wanted to go out of state, but I had no choice. You couldn't get in. So you all went to your own state universities, and so I went to the University of Oregon. And I had two years and two months in the military. And the rule was that if you -- they add one year to that. So I was going to get three years and two months of free education plus a monthly stipend. And so I said okay. I'll try to finish everything in the three years and two months.

So I went through Oregon in two years and one semester and one summer session, and I got my bachelor's. And then I went to University of Minnesota. And in nine months, I got my master's. So I was able to get everything paid for from my bachelor's to my master's in the three years and two months. So I thought that was pretty good. At Oregon, I did get a couple of honors. I did get Phi Beta Kappa, and I did get Beta Gamma Sigma, which is the business honorary national. So that was interesting.

Then in my junior year, during the summer, they had this international relief organization called (LIRA), and they were the group that donated cattle to the defeated nations to help them get started. And the Methodist churches in Oregon had gotten the money to get 280 goats to take -- deliver to Okinawa. Goats because Okinawa -- it's a lava country, and the water never stays very long. So it's hard to grow things well there, so then goats could get by on very meager grass and so forth.

So the Methodist church came down to school, and they said they got four Methodist ministers. They wanted one college student. And my parents were Buddhists. So I said, "I'm a Buddhist, but I'm willing to go. I speak the language. And we had a cow, and I know how to milk." And that -- none of the ministers knew how to milk. "So I'll go." I volunteered.

Oddly enough, being a Buddhist, they picked me, so I went. And we go onto this freighter. And you put 280 goats in cages on the top deck. And then every day, we -- in the morning, you got -- It was a freighter, so there's only eight or ten passengers plus us. And so every -- we'd get up, and we'd have breakfast with the captain in a suit. Go back, change. Go out there and take care of the goats. Go back, shower. Change, take care of the -- had lunch and so forth. Well, anyway, I got the priests to clean the pens and stuff because I had to milk all the goats that were milkable. They had to be milked. And we had no way to pasteurize or cleanse the milk, so actually what I did was just relieve the goats of this pressure of having all the milk. So milk it, and then we just threw the milk away.

And we took all these 280 goats to Okinawa. And we set up a plan to give a pair to each orphanage and each elementary school. And then the two kids that are born, the first two kids that are born, they have to put back into the pool so we have more goats to give to other groups in Okinawa. And so that went very well. And then they -- the priests had heard about geishas. "We want to see geishas."

The boat was going to go to Japan and then back to San Francisco. So I said, "Okay. I'll fly up to Tokyo, and I'll set it all up for you all." And so I went to see this president of this Japan Iron and Steel. And I says, you know, "I've got these four Methodist ministers coming. So can you set up a geisha party?" He says, "No problem." So they came much later with the boat. And then they got to Yokohama, and I met them. And I said, "Well, tomorrow night is the geisha party that you all wanted to see. And I'm telling you they're not prostitutes. They will -- it's kind of boring, but you know, they sing and they dance and do their thing. But if you want to see it, you could go back and tell your church that you saw this geisha party."

Then they backed out. And I was so mad. Here I got the president of Japan Iron and Steel to arrange this geisha party for them, and they backed out. They said, "Can't explain it to the people because they'll think they're prostitutes." I said, "They're not prostitutes. They're decent girls and so forth," but they said no. So anyway, that was part of my experience with the goats.

Now, many years later, we -- one of our assignments that she skipped was we had four -- three years in Okinawa. And we'd be driving, and they'd say, "Oh, there's one of Jack's kids." These little goats were all over the place. So anyway that was interesting. And then from the University of Oregon -- oh, and my master's thesis, my thesis was on CIA because -- Oh, before I proceed, Mr. (Miki), after I graduated Oregon, he was on a plane, Northwest Airlines, to Oshima, and the plane had crashed. And he was -- unfortunately he perished in the airline crash.

So my plans to go back to Japan -- of course, I was by then getting some second thoughts about living permanently in Japan anyway. So then he had this accident -- the plane had the accident, so he passed away. So I went to Minnesota to take up public administration and thought I'd like to join CIA. So I wrote my master's thesis on CIA. So after graduating from Minnesota, a bunch of us drove down in my old beat-up car. We applied in various places for jobs. And when I went to the CIA, I brought my master's thesis. And they said, "You're hired." So then that was why I joined CIA because I wanted to join anyway. So I could start -- the next section will be on my career in the government, unless you have something.

Marie Tashiro:

Oh.

Sumiye Okubo:

Can I just -- can we just backtrack? When did you-all meet, and what were you doing in Minneapolis?

Marie Tashiro:

I was going to school because I had a brother who had a serious illness. And that was my priority, to get him squared away in a proper hospital. And so I never did finish my university. But -- for which I'm not sorry. I did all that I can for -- for the purpose that I wanted. But I met you in 19 --

Jack Tashiro:

Just before I went to Japan.

Marie Tashiro:

Nineteen fifty --

Jack Tashiro:

No.

Marie Tashiro:

-- one?

Jack Tashiro:

'46.

Marie Tashiro:

Was it '46? Oh, that's right, because my parents had come to Minneapolis. And we were having dinner, and you happened to be with your friends. And he came to the table to say, "I'm going overseas tomorrow. Thought I'd just say hello and goodbye." So I then introduced my parents to Jack then. And it wasn't until you had come back that they got to know you, right?

Jack Tashiro:

Yeah. When I was a graduate student at Minnesota.

Marie Tashiro:

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Right.

Sumiye Okubo:

Is that when you-all got married? When you got married?

Marie Tashiro:

Shortly after.

Jack Tashiro:

Shortly after.

Marie Tashiro:

1951.

Sumiye Okubo:

Sorry.

Jack Tashiro:

Okay. So after being discharged from the military and after finishing Minnesota, I applied for a job, and I had a job offer from State, Quartermaster and CIA. And of course, I knew I was going to take the CIA job, but I went and listened to what they had to offer. And the Quartermaster Corps said, "Well, Jack, supposing there's a war and North Korea happens to fall. Then we have to know about how many kids they have and how much milk would have to be prepared to ship up there, canned milk and so forth to take care of the kids." And I said, "That's my job?" They said, "Yes." "Thank you."

Then I went to State Department, and they introduced me to a couple of niseis that were at the State Department. And on the desk, they had all these stacks of Japanese newspapers. And I says, "What would my job be?" They said, "Well, if you're going to be in the economic section, then you have to go through all the paper and pull out the interesting articles on economics and read that." And then I said, "Thank you." And so I went to the CIA. And as you know, the CIA has four major groups. One is administration. Like any other organization, you've got personnel. You've got security and logistics and that kind of thing. Then they have the intelligence group. And these are the analysts who take the raw data, and they -- from all over, and then they're supposed to analyze it, and they come up with their intelligence reports. And then they have the director of operations. And this is the people that run the operations in all these foreign countries.

There's the operational group. And then they have science and technology director. And that's the -- all the technical group that does the planes and the drones, the satellites, that kind of thing. And my office was called the office of technical service. And we were the ones that designed the equipment used by the people that operate overseas: cameras and secret writing, photography, audio, which would be listening devices, parapsychology, and the gamut of things that the agents or the case officers would have to use in doing their business. And so I was -- it's a fascinating group, and we have close to a thousand people. And we have bases overseas to support all the people that are operating in all these countries.

And so I was in a -- to me, a very fascinating group. Mostly scientists, area specialists, linguists, disguise people. People -- handwriting experts, not to see if it's -- I'm the one that signed it, but to see what your personality is like depending on looking at your handwriting. So for instance, in applications in Europe, you have to handwrite your application because they look at it. In addition to having you profiled, then they look at that, and they say, "Oh, this guy is aggressive or, you know, conservative," or what kind of person he is. And so whereas in the U.S., they say type it so that it's easy to read. That's stupid, you know. But anyway, that's the way we are. We're very funny, like.

And overseas, like the Russians, if we go there, then all the local employees -- local Russians are the employees cleaning the floor and all that. And they have access to your facilities. Over here in the Russian embassy, no American will get in that building. No way. Everything is done by Russians. And when they built that new embassy on Wisconsin Avenue, then do you know that they had people x-raying every brick that was brought into that building? And every sheet, sheetrock, and everything. That's how careful they are.

Whereas we let the Russians roam around, clean and sweep the floors. And like the U.S. embass -- the foreign -- State Department here. Remember they had that article where they had -- some Russians had planted that listening device in the piece of wood that was -- well, that's because we don't watch those being brought in. The Russians would never let you bring a piece of wood into their building without checking it.

But anyway, so that's where I worked for almost 30 years. The assignments overseas were fascinating. The first assignment was in Japan for four years. And my territory was Afghanistan, Pakistan east, and south to Australia and New Zealand. So that whole area, I had to cover. So I was gone from home more than half the time. So she's the one that had to raise the kids and make sure they're taken care of because I was on the road so much, working with -- or we had subunits, substations, in Taipei and in Bangkok and in Korea, which meant that I had to go check out and see how we're doing. Then I had -- the four years in Japan were just fascinating. And I did spend some time, live in Kyushu with my relatives. And I let them know that -- I had known them in '37, but I reestablished our contacts, and it was very interesting to see them.

And then after Japan -- the reason we got to leave Japan, the organization, is because in the 19 -- early '60s there was a lot of student riots, Japanese student riots, anti-U.S. riots. And you got caught in almost one of the those riots at the airport. And so the ruling was that any organization that is not in Japan to support Japan, you have to get out.

Well, again, as I told you, my job -- our group's job was to service that whole area, so we were not there just to support Japan. So they said you've got to get out. So then I spent several weeks looking for a place to move. And moving, that's a lot of people to move. And so I looked at Pearl Harbor, Guana and Okinawa. It has to be where the flights are frequent so that our guys could travel on a minute's notice to go and do their thing in each of -- any of these countries. So transportation is critical to -- for us. So -- and Okinawa is not ideal, but at least it was there and we had a big base there so we could just move right in.

So we moved to Okinawa. And -- but before moving to Okinawa, we decided to relocate some Japanese to the U.S. And what happened was the Japanese intelligence, during World War II in China, they had a technical shop much smaller than ours, but somewhat like ours, and they had developed some techniques that were unique to the Orient. So we said, "Gee. Let's" -- they were working for us in Japan anyway. So we said, "Let's bring some of them back to the U.S." Well, the -- we have -- we have a number of slots, if you want to call them that, to bring foreigners to this country. For instance, if you have a defector and he -- his government catches on, then you've got to bring him and their family quickly over here, but you've got to have an immigration slot to put them in.

So the agency has a bunch of slots, and I had tried to get a hundred of them, and they wouldn't give you a hundred. So they said, "Take half." And I said, "I need a hundred." They said, "No. You can only have half because we've got to have room for other people." So anyway, I went to Japan, and I picked people that I wanted to come over here. And then we had some equipment built in Japan. And so they said, "Where do you want to set them up?" And I says, "The West Coast," because the Japanese -- there would be lots of other Japanese in the area so they'd feel much more at home. So we picked San Francisco. So after we got back from Japan in 1960, in 1962, when the people and the equipment was ready to come, they said, "Jack, you go to -- we talked to your wife while you were on TDY, and she agreed to move to San Francisco for two years to take care of all these people coming in."

So I had 55 people coming in. Every four days, I had a family come in. And in San Francisco, apartments don't have -- usually they don't have refrigerators or stoves. So they didn't have much money, so that meant I had to go to the used furniture places to pick out the stove and the refrigerator. Get their kids in school. She would take them shopping, get them started. And they don't speak English so then she had to help them shop. And I'd get their kids in school and decide whether we'll put them -- which grade you want to put each of these kids that are various ages. And so every four days, I got a family. And during that period, I think I lost 15 pounds or something.

I was working around the clock every day. And then we had 50, 250 tons of equipment coming. So I had to get a base and get a place to install that equipment, which these guys were going to do. So it was a hectic two years that we had in San Francisco, but it's a lovely city, and we enjoyed that very much. And then the funny part is of all the 55 people that I brought, I think there are three left here.

They all went back to Japan, you know, because they have their ancestral cemeteries to take care of. They have lots of obligations to do. And I knew they weren't going to stay. So I said, "We're not going to block those positions permanent -- slots permanently, so let me use a hundred." And they said, "No." But anyway, so I was right. As of today, now there's three left. That's all out of 55. Then after San Francisco, then we went to Okinawa. And we had -- three years? Four years?

Marie Tashiro:

Mm-hmm. Three years.

Jack Tashiro:

Three years in Okinawa. And I had that same territory, so I was doing the same thing except I spent a lot of time in Vietnam. And that was -- the war is not fascinating, but the work we did was fascinating. One of the things we had to try to help them do is how do you identify a Vietcong when they come back? You can't tell whether they're the friendly Vietnamese or the Vietcong. So they came up with putting a dye when they're giving them a physical. And then you have a special reader to read that. Then you could tell whether they're VC or not.

And then the legal office said, "Wait a minute. You can't do that. That's like what Hitler did, you know, putting the numbers and stuff in there. So you can't do that." Well, before that happened, we had to run some tests. And so went down to Panama, where the U.S. troops were, Special Forces. And we ran some tests on them and to see what the sweat would do to all that stuff we were doing. And we got 90 percent, 95 percent positive results. So we said it's a go. So they went to Vietnam, and then they tried it, tested it, and they only got maybe 40 percent accuracy. So we said, "What's wrong?" And they said, well -- it turned out -- they said there's different sweat glands. And the Caucasians, the Asians and the blacks all have different sweat glands.

The Asians have four, the Caucasians have five, and the blacks have six different sweat glands. And so the reason that the Asians have less body odor is because they only have four sweat glands, so I'm told. So they say that's why we ran all these tests on Caucasians and you got a particular result. Well, when you use it on Asians, you got a -- Well, in Okinawa, in my office shop, I had this one Okinawan kid that was a janitor, like a janitor. And then we'd get all these VIPs to visit, and we'd have these briefings. And I'd tell the kid, "Get out of here." "Don't let him in the house -- building today," because he had bad BO.

I'm talking about the Asians have very little BO, and this guy, you could smell him all the way across the hall. So I says, "Keep him out of here." But anyway, so Dave (Buto)'s dad was in Vietnam at that time, so he came up there for briefings. And another friend of ours here, he was a navigator on the B2 bomber, and they got shot down in Vietnam. So they sent to our base so we could give him rest and recuperation. So he came to our base.

But in Vietnam, it was fascinating, only in the sense we had to try so many different things. Audio, they used these bugs that they were using to see if you could be alerted that there's some Vietcong snipers hiding. How do you make these runways in a hurry so that the planes could pick up our downed GI soldiers? And so they had to design and develop many, many things. I spent -- the Pathet Lao in Laos were fighting with us. And their monks that are now in Minnesota, the monk community in Minnesota is huge. Well, they were fighting with us. And so we used do fly up there and drop food to them and weapons and ammunition. And so we had all kinds of problems to face up there. But it was enjoyable. So that was my Okinawa tenure. And then my mother came and lived with us the last year of her life. And she was here until she passed away in '68.

Marie Tashiro:

Mm-hmm.

Jack Tashiro:

And her dad died in 1968. And so after my mother passed away, I told the boss I can't go anyplace for a while because my mother is with us. And then after she died, he said, "Okay. I hate to say this" -- but he came to the funeral, says, "but you're shortly better go to Germany. I want that region (elevated)." So I said, "Okay." So we went to Germany for four --

Marie Tashiro:

Three years.

Jack Tashiro:

Three years. Yeah. At Frankfurt. And my territory there was all of Europe, all the Near East and all of Africa. So again, I was on the road an awful lot, hitting all of these countries and making sure that the operating people there were supported properly. There was a lot of travel I did. And so again, she had -- her mother was with us. So she -- she got to do some sightseeing with Marie. They had these American express buses to various cities from Frankfurt. And it was --

Marie Tashiro:

She really enjoyed it. Right.

Jack Tashiro:

Yeah. And then so my tour in Frankfurt was interesting, but it was kind of exhausting. And then I came back. And since I had worked in the whole world except South America -- and there was not much going on in South America anyway, so most of our big targets were in Europe and the Far East. So I eventually became the deputy director of this office of technical service with all its people. And the boss was a scientist who didn't know any of our people and didn't know operations. So I'm the one that ran the place every day, and he's the one that negotiated for money and positions and stuff. So it was a fascinating job. I did make -- I did get the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, which is the highest medal that the agency gives out. And while we were in Germany, it was funny. They had -- even at Okinawa, you could spot a colonel because his license plate would have two zeros and two numbers. So when they parked, the colonels get to park in a certain place. And then in -- when you became a general, you got three zeros and one number. So it would be 0001 or 002. And so when I made the general rank in Germany, then they came and -- what? They took out all the furniture, the Germans, and put in all new furniture.

Marie Tashiro:

Not that it mattered. It was perfectly fine.

Jack Tashiro:

But her mother was impressed because got to travel in the general's railroad car or the general's suite at the resorts and stuff. So she enjoyed it. She had a good time, and we had a good time. So then after I retired from the agency, a couple years of rest, and then I did my own roof. I went to her brother in Chicago, and I said, "I'll fix your roof for you." I went upstairs. I went on the roof and put on a new roof. And I did that kind of thing for a couple of years. And then two of us started a security company, a closed-circuit television, card access system, hand and voice recognition systems. And we did -- it was interesting. We did Air Force One, which is the President's plane. So we did the whole perimeter, underground cables. And then when the VIPs come, they come into Andrews Air Base into that place, and they wanted to make sure the terrorists wouldn't get in, so we had -- all the fence around was alarmed. So we did that. We did Blair House. We did -- at the navy hospital here, the President has one wing. So he wanted that secured, so we did the security there. I did all the camera work for NSA and all of the card access system for the State Department. And there was a article about Oliver North some time ago with Iran-Contra deal where they said somebody installed a security system, and they had an investigation to see who paid for it. Well, my company is the one that installed it because we knew Oliver North. And his wife and kids were getting these threats from the Iranians in their mailbox. They put all these threatening notes in there. So they got -- Oliver North got worried. So they said, "Can you help us?" So we said, "Sure. We'll alarm your place, all the perimeter and everything." And so then I had to go before the Congressional staff. They were questioning how did I get paid, who gave me the money because they were trying to say that Oliver North had some deals where he was sneaking money out of the government. So we took -- but anyway, we did that.

Sumiye Okubo:

So Jack, when did you retire from --

Jack Tashiro:

Pardon me.

Sumiye Okubo:

When did you retire from the agency?

Jack Tashiro:

1980.

Sumiye Okubo:

1980.

Jack Tashiro:

'79, '79. Yeah (End of video part 1; beginning of video part 2.)

Sumiye Okubo:

So Jack, you were telling us about your -- your security company. Do you -- what other stories do you have to tell us about your company?

Jack Tashiro:

Well, I just had a couple of observations I'd like to make.

Sumiye Okubo:

Okay.

Jack Tashiro:

The first one is that while -- while in Japan, I did learn an awful lot about the Japanese culture and what it means in life and what it means to us as we were growing up. And for instance, in my mother's case, she lost her husband way back in 1937. And I being the only child, she said that she had -- there were a couple of bachelors that had never married, and they were saying, "How about getting married?" And she would say, "No, no. I have a son, and I don't want any loyalty or anything changing in case it does."

It really wouldn't have because I would not have objected to that, but anyway, that was her feeling. She also, all the time I was in the military and all the time I was away from home, she had to give up something in her prayer to make it meaningful, so she gave up the thing she liked the most, which happened to be tea. So she didn't drink tea for all the time I was gone. And so when you learn all these things and you feel all these things, I used to write to her once a week, no matter where I was, in Japanese.

There was not that much news I could tell her except pretty much form, but nonetheless, she felt better getting some kind of a note from me once a week. And so these are the things that I learned from my mother. And then in Japan, I learned an awful lot about giri and (ong), which is obligation and (inaudible). And so when you consider all these things and then you look at what's happening today in Iraq, you say how come they -- after the war in Japan, there was so little turmoil other than the lack of food and so forth, but the turmoil about policy and establishing a government compared to what's happening in Iraq?

And I have to think that one of the reasons is the -- of course the different culture between the Japanese and Iraqis. In Iraq, you have all these various religious groups fighting -- fighting against each other. In Japan, it was a much more homogeneous kind of state. But more than that, I think that we had approximately 6,000 linguists graduate from military intelligence language school. And many of the niseis were very familiar with the Japanese culture. So when they went to Japan as an occupation force, they didn't treat them -- we did not act like conquerors.

We tried to make sure that we helped them get established. And we understood their culture, and I think that's what made the transition so smoother in Japan compared to what's happening in Iraq. And in today's paper, I notice that the new commanding general that's going to Iraq is in Texas, in Austin, Texas, and they're getting a briefing set for his staff on how do you set up -- how do you set up educational system, how do you take care of sewage problems, how do you take care of water problems, electrical problems.

And I just wonder, well, in our case, the military government that we set up in each of the provinces in there helped the local government understand what we were trying to do, what democracy was, and we did not treat them as -- as the enemy. The war was over, and we tried to help. And that's what I think made this difference and the smooth transition between Japan and Iraq today.

The other comment is -- has to do with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We all respected him very much. And more and more information is now coming out which really shows that that was misguided on our part, that -- I don't have a lot of proof yet, but I'm looking into it. There's quite a few books and reports that he felt that the United States should go to war in Europe to help the Brits and our Allies. He couldn't because the U.S. population was so antiwar, that he thought that if he had to get us into war in that fashion, that he would not be very successful.

So in his mind, he thought that what he had to do to get the people agitated is to get Japan to strike first. And so he did -- and tried to do. First, he was so anti- Japanese. He hated Japan. He hated the Japanese, and he hated the nisei. And so all that keeps coming out in the reports that are beginning to surface. And it says, some of the reports now say that he knew that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor. And he knew and his staff -- certain staff members knew when they were coming and the route they were taking, but he didn't want the U.S. Navy to stop them because he wanted them to strike first.

And the bad part of all that is because he did that and because he would not let the admiral and the general in Honolulu aware of what they knew, that's why so many of the sailors and soldiers got killed. And over 2,000. I still say -- I blame the FBI's -- FDR -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt's policy, that was his policy, to let it be a surprise attack and get the Americans so upset at Japan, it would get the war going the way he wanted it.

And if that's true, then I think that was really a terrible thing he did. I'm beginning to research some material, but then the trouble with doing research is that it makes it look like you're trying to justify what Japan did in Pearl Harbor. And that's not the case. We're not trying to justify what Japan did at Pearl Harbor. We're trying to say that the White House and their staff could have prevented a large number of deaths at Pearl Harbor if they had warned them and if they had the ships out of there and the plane, that he would not let them move things. And there were many, many facts that are beginning to come out that I think lay blame squarely on FDR for what happened, the way it happened. Not -- Japan was going to attack anyway, I believe. So nobody's trying to justify what Japan did. It's only that we should have done much better in protecting our troops. So that's my feeling.

Sumiye Okubo:

Thank you. Marie, would you like to add anything?

Marie Tashiro:

No. I don't think so. I would have felt much better having done all the research and then coming out with this feeling, but I guess you feel so --

Jack Tashiro:

Takes a long time. It's just coming out now. Look how many years it's been since Pearl Harbor.

Marie Tashiro:

If you feel very strong, then it's hard to wait.

Jack Tashiro:

Oh, there is lots of written material. It's just it was suppressed.

Marie Tashiro:

Mm-hmm. Right.

Sumiye Okubo:

This is Sue Okubo, and I want to thank interviewing -- and Marie Tashiro. And I want to thank them for taking the time to do this. And also I want to thank Grant Hirabayashi for his excellent work -- help and work in videotaping this interview. Thank you.

Marie Tashiro:

Thank you both.

Jack Tashiro:

Thank you, Sue. Thank you, Grant.

Marie Tashiro:

Yes. (Conclusion of interview.)

 
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