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Interview with Sam Ozaki [9/19/2009]

Rebecca Ito:

Today is September 19, 2009. I am Rebecca Ito with Lauren Sinatra, Evie Brosius and Grace Barlow. I am intenJiewing Sam Ozaki by phone at Park Tudor School. Mr. Ozaki is afriend of thefamily. Mr. Ozaki is 84 years old and was born on November 2, 1924. Mr. Ozaki served in World War II. Mr. Ozaki was in the 442nd iInfantry and held the following rank as a private first class. Where were you before Pearl Harbor happened?

Sam Ozaki:

I was, after living in a place called Keystone, California, just south of Long Beach, California. I was a senior in high school when Pearl Harbor occurred.

Rebecca Ito:

Where were you at the time when you got the word that Pearl Harbor had been bombed?

Sam Ozaki:

As I said, I was a senior in high school. It was a Sunday afternoon-Sunday morning, I guess and I was just outside playing and when I heard about Pearl Harbor and I rushed into the house telling everyone in our family that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by Japan. And, of course, like so many other Americans, we didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was!

Rebecca Ito:

So, which camp were you interned in after Pearl Harbor was bombed?

Sam Ozaki:

Our family was sent to the Santa Anita Racetrack, first. And they moved the horses out, and they moved us into the horse stables. As I always tell students, they treated the horses, animals, better than they treated us. After about six months, when the government had time to build the more permanent type concentration camps, our family was sent to Jerome, Arkansas. And that's where we were.

Rebecca Ito:

Any initial thoughts? When they moved you-any just thoughts that you remember?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, I still remember-I said a big disappointment, as a senior in high school, we knew about American history, about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. We all knew it was wrong to put us into a concentration camp without any charge, without any due process. And I also knew that, as Americans, we were good, loyal Americans.

Rebecca Ito:

Do you remember the time where you were writing down the questionnaire? Do you remember a questionnaire with-?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh yes, yes, I recall the questionnaire. I know that a great deal to do about the questionnaire came up. But for myself, I had no problem answering because I knew I was a good, loyal American citizen, despite the fact that our government did not trust us.

Rebecca Ito:

So, did you enlist or were you drafted into the 442nd?

Sam Ozaki:

Let me just give you a little history of military history of Japanese-Americans. Prior to Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American young men were drafted like all other American young mennwith one major difference, that the only branch of the service that would take us was the United States Army. The navy, the Coast Guard, the Marines, they would not take Japanese-Americans. And in fact, on the day of Pearl Harbor, a number of the young men already in the United States Army were discharged summarily, simply because of their Japanese ancestry. And then shortly after that, we were re-classified 4-C enemy alien and they stopped drafting us. And when they finally put us into camp, after some months, our government changed their minds and decided to form a segregated infantry unit composed entirely of Japanese-Americans. And they sent recruiting teams to the territory of Hawaii and to the ten concentration camps. In Hawaii, they were overwhelmed with volunteers, but understandably when they came into the ten concentration camps, they didn't get the same positive response. But a good-around 1,200 young men like myself and my four good friends, despite the fact that we were placed in concentration camps, we decided to volunteer for this segregated unit.

Rebecca Ito:

So, you joined to prove that you were a loyal American or were there ulterior motives?

Sam Ozaki:

No, we decided that many of our white friends who were already in the army were serving and that we had a duty too, for our family, for the Japanese-American community to prove that we were good, loyal American citizens. And so that's one of the reasons why we volunteered.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay, obviously you went through some training before you were official (part of the) 442nd Infantry, correct?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh yes, we had many months of training. In fact, I always tell students that our first battle really took place when we went to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. All of a sudden, when you have a large group of young Japanese-American men descending on Camp Shelby, some of our fellow soldiers-white fellow soldiers~had things to say to us and slurs to aim at us and so forth and so we taught them very quickly that we would not take any of that nonsense-that we were good American soldiers. We were there for a purpose. So, we, as I tell students, our first battle was overcoming the prejudice of our fellow American soldiers.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay.

Evie Brosius:

Hi, this is Evie Brosius.

Sam Ozaki:

Yes.

Evie Brosius:

Now I'm going to ask you about your experience in the war.

Sam Ozaki:

Yes.

Evie Brosius:

So, where exactly did you go during WWII?

Sam Ozaki:

We served in Italy and in France.

Evie Brosius:

Do you remember arriving in Italy and France?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. We arrived in Italy, that's where we first served.

Evie Brosius:

And what was that like?

Sam Ozaki:

Do you mean on the front lines?

Evie Brosius:

Yes.

Sam Ozaki:

It was-it was very, very scary. And, you know many people talk about it, but to all of us as just citizen soldiers that first day of battle is a very well, any day of battle is a very frightening expenence.

Evie Brosius:

So, what was your specific assignment after you arrived in Italy?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, I was what they call a B-A-R man. It's a Browning Automatic Rifle. It's not just an ordinary rifle, like my fellow soldiers'. It was almost like a machine gun, and it has twenty rounds that you can fire in very quick fashion. So I was what they call a B-A-R man. A Browning Automatic Rifle man.

Evie Brosius:

So, from your specific assignment as a B-A-R man, did you see a lot of combat?

Sam Ozaki:

I saw enough. [pauses] And one day is too much.

Evie Brosius:

So who was your platoon commander?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, one of my small claims to fame-a senator from Hawaii, Daniel K. Inouye. He was my platoon lieutenant, platoon leader, and he lost his right arm. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and he has been serving in the United States Senate for probably the second longest tenn, right now.

Evie Brosius:

What was your experience with him like?

Sam Ozaki:

What was my experience with him like? He was an outstanding, outstanding platoon leader. And I still remember the day when we were ambushed and he almost single handedly knocked out two or three German machine gun nests, and in the process, of course, he lost his right arm. But he was, he was just an outstanding platoon leader. BI: Do you recall the special mission saving the first Texas Battalion?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, that was what we referred to as the rescue of the Lost Battalion. And it just happened that we had been on the front lines for a number of weeks. We were very tired, but nonetheless they ordered us to break through and rescue the Lost Battalion. They had tried on several occasions and had failed, and so they told our outfit, the 442, to break through the enemy lines and rescue the Lost Battalion. And of course, our motto is "Go for broke, shoot the works," and so we broke through and rescued the Lost Battalion. And we rescued two hundred and eleven white Texas 36th Division members. At the same time, we suffered over 800 casualties, including 187 killed in action.

Evie Brosius:

Tell me some of your most memorable experiences.

Sam Ozaki:

In the war?

Evie Brosius:

Yes.

Sam Ozaki:

I think probably the most memorable one was when our platoon leader, Senator Dan Inouye, was leading us and we were ambushed. And as I mentioned before, almost single handedly Dan Inouye, Lieutenant Dan Inouye, charged and knocked out three machine gun nests and in the process lost his right ann. I still remember that day very clearly.

Evie Brosius:

Are you still in contact with Senator Dan Inouye?

Sam Ozaki:

On occasion I have seen him at meetings, but you know, he's a very busy man and he lives in Washington D.C., so no, I have not been in touch with him. Although I might add that my son, they happened to have a program in Washington D.C. yesterday, and my son happens to be a singer, so he performed and Senator Inouye and Senator Akaka of Hawaii were both there because they were honoring veterans of not only WWII, but other Japanese-Americans who served in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and even today's war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Evie Brosius:

Were you awarded any medals or citations?

Sam Ozaki:

I have the Purple Heart, and the Good Conduct Medal, and other European Theater and so forth.

Grace Barlow:

After the war was over was your group awarded any medals or citations?

Sam Ozaki:

After the war we were awarded as a unit, I think, either seven or eight Presidential Unit Citations by President Truman and President Roosevelt.

Grace Barlow:

Were any of those for something specific?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, they were for specific actions like the rescue of the Lost Battalion and other outstanding battles that we participated in.

Grace Barlow:

Do you remember any of them specifically, other than the rescue of the battalion?

Sam Ozaki:

Not really. Not really. I remember, I think, our last battle really. We had to make the night climb up a very steep mountain almost 3000 feet high, and we were able to surprise the enemy and that opened the gates for the final push up into Italy, so we were awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for that. Lauren Sinatra: Hi, this is Lauren.

Sam Ozaki:

Yes.

Lauren Sinatra:

And we are now going to ask you some questions about your life in the war.

Sam Ozaki:

Okay, fine.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay. How did you stay in touch with your family?

Sam Ozaki:

How did I what?

Lauren Sinatra:

Stay in touch with your family?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh. We had what we called-we wrote letters but they also had v-mail and that was a special little form that soldiers could use to quickly jot down information and then send back to their family and so forth. So we were able to keep in touch by mail.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay. And what was the food like?

Sam Ozaki:

What was what?

Lauren Sinatra:

The food like-

Sam Ozaki:

The food.

Lauren Sinatra:

Yes.

Sam Ozaki:

Well, you know, we were always hungry. And especially on front lines they have what we called different kinds of rations like k-rations, c-rations, these are little cans or boxes that you carry and they aren't very tasty, but at least they gave you enough calories so that you could keep on gomg.

Lauren Sinatra:

So did you have plenty of supplies?

Sam Ozaki:

For the most part yes, we had good supplies.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay. Did you feel any pressure or stress during the war?

Sam Ozaki:

Did I feel any pressure or what?

Lauren Sinatra:

Or stress during the war?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, absolutely, [laughing] absolutely, everyday that you were in battle, you never knew whether you were going to come out alive, so yeah, there was a lot of pressure.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay. Was there anything special that you did for good luck?

Sam Ozaki:

Not really. But I don't think, as they say, I don't think that you will ever find an atheist in a foxhole. You just kind of pray that you don't want these artillery shells and the mortar shells are coming over, you just hope that was not meant for you.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay.

Sam Ozaki:

And you kind of hope and pray. [Brief pause]

Lauren Sinatra:

Were there any people that you can recall that did anything for good luck?

Sam Ozaki:

Would you repeat that again?

Lauren Sinatra:

Did you know of anybody that did certain things for good luck?

Sam Ozaki:

That did what?

Lauren Sinatra:

That did certain things for good luck?

Sam Ozaki:

I can't recall anything in particular, no.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay. How did people entertain themselves?

Sam Ozaki:

That's a good question. Whenever we were given a rest time, they would send us back and if at all possible we would go into a town or a city, whatever it may be, and just relax and take a good shower, get some fresh new uniforms, clean uniforms and, of course, a lot of the guys used to gamble and I was not one of them, but we in many cases we used to sit around the fire, or bonfire, and sing and talk stories and things like that.

Lauren Sinatra:

Were there any specific entertainers that you can remember?

Sam Ozaki:

Any what?

Lauren Sinatra:

Entertainers?

Sam Ozaki:

Not really, not really. It was just a pleasure to always go back into a town or a city. In fact, one of the real rest areas that we had was the French Rivera; we were in a defensive position, so every once and a while they allow us to into Nice and Cannes on the French Rivera so that was great.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay. And where did you travel while you were in the service?

Sam Ozaki:

Where did I travel? Well number one of course we traveled around in France and in Italy and here in the States we were at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Later on, I returned and went to Fort Snelling, Minnesota to train as an interpreter ofthe Japanese language.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay. Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events?

Sam Ozaki:

Any kind of what events?

Lauren Sinatra:

Unusual or Humorous?

Sam Ozaki:

Unusual or humorous? [Long pause] Not really. Not really.

Lauren Sinatra:

Okay.

Sam Ozaki:

You're welcome.

Evie Brosius:

Alright, this is Evie. Can you tell me about the GI Bill?

Sam Ozaki:

The GI Bill. That was one of the best things that happened to returning service men who were discharged. The GI Bill provided for GI's to attend universities, colleges, and other kinds of schools to get an education after the service, and that really helped many of us. And I used the GI Bill to go to college, and to become a teacher and a school principal.

Evie Brosius:

Which college did you attend?

Sam Ozaki:

I attended Roosevelt University and Loyola University.

Evie Brosius:

Did any of the people that you knew go with you?

Sam Ozaki:

There were some friends that also went to Roosevelt and Loyola. My brother, in fact, also attended Roosevelt University.

Evie Brosius:

So you had a brother in the 442nd as well?

Sam Ozaki:

That's correct. Yes.

Evie Brosius:

What was your brother's name?

Sam Ozaki:

Yoji [spells name). Y-O-J-I.

Evie Brosius:

Did having your brother with you help you at all?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, he was in a different company, so we would not see each other very often, but it was nice knowing that you had a brother there.

Evie Brosius:

Just to go back, what high school did you go to?

Sam Ozaki:

I went to Phineas Banning High School in Wilmington, California.

Evie Brosius:

Were many of your friends from high school also in the 442nd?

Sam Ozaki:

In fact, one of my friends who volunteered-there were five of us who volunteered togetherrand one happened to be Susumu "Babe" Okura, who was a senior at Banning High School. We did not have too many Japanese Americans at Banning High School, but it just happens that I had one good friend and he, along with three other friends, volunteered with me. By the way, I might just mention that he was killed in action rescuing the Lost Battalion.

Evie Brosius:

Do you recall the day that your service ended?

Sam Ozaki:

It was in sometime in I think about April, 1946, and since we did not have any house or any property in California, I had a sister who had been working here in Chicago, so when I was ready to be discharged, I felt that, "Well, I'll just get discharged here in Chicago and live in Chicago," so that's how I came to live in Chicago.

Rebecca Ito:

We're almost done, Mr. Ozaki.

Sam Ozaki:

Okay.

Rebecca Ito:

This is Becca again, by the way. What .... 1 think you said that you were a teacher after war the war for a career. Is that correct?

Sam Ozaki:

Yes, I was a teacher and in time, became a school principal and high school principal.

Rebecca Ito:

For which schools?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, I had a number of schools.

Rebecca Ito:

Oh, okay. When you were a teacher, just back up a little, what did you teach?

Sam Ozaki:

I taught seventh and eighth grade.

Rebecca Ito:

Subjects?

Sam Ozaki:

All subjects.

Rebecca Ito:

All subjects, okay. Did the military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general? [Question repeated.]

Sam Ozaki:

Well, you know, I've talked to many student groups about the Japanese-American experience. It's very impOliant that Americans know what happened during World War II, especially in tem1S of the Japanese-Americans for placed under suspicion and simply rounded up and put into America's concentration camps, in violation of so many articles of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and our so called democratic way of life. It's an important subject that needs to be taught to all Americans.

Rebecca Ito:

Very true. Do you attend any reunions with your 4421\d battalion? [Question repeated.]

Sam Ozaki:

Not very often, no.

Rebecca Ito:

But you have?

Sam Ozaki:

Yes, on occasion.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. [Long pause] On the-I'm sorry-on those reunions, have you ever gotten together with the Lost Battalion as well as your battalion-?

Sam Ozaki:

No, I have not, but I understand that there have been individuals and groups that have met together-members of the 36th Division who were rescued and also the men of the 442.

Rebecca Ito:

How did your service and experience affect your life?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, I guess it really, you know, it does something that you're never going to forget. And I would like to think that it's made me a deeper thinker in terms of civil rights especially. The rights of all people regardless of what color, what religion they might belong to.

Rebecca Ito:

How has the 4421\d influenced the view of Japanese-American history?

Sam Ozaki:

They playa very, very important role. For example, in many cases, the rights that we now enjoy certainly may not have happened, if it were not for the exploits of the 442.

Rebecca Ito:

[Background talk] Could you expand on that last one, because I think it's a really great point and-

Sam Ozaki:

I think it's a very good and very important part of American history, especially with regards to civil rights of all Americans and it's such a great thing to have a African-American as our president for the first time in American history and it's a result, in many cases of not only the 442, but also the black soldiers who fought, not only during the Civil War, the Korean War, World War II ~ they have been fighting and dying for this country and finally, they are reaching the point where, in fact, they can even be elected president of these United States. It was a great victory for all of us.

Rebecca Ito:

Thank you very much.

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, you're absolutely welcome!

Rebecca Ito:

[Background talk] Before we let you go, is there anything else you would like to add that we just haven't cover - just any other-?

Sam Ozaki:

I think it's great that you're doing a project like this and that all your fellow classmates willleam something very important from this. I think you're doing a great job. I just sorry I had to ask you to repeat so many times [background laughs], but I'm getting older.

Rebecca Ito:

It's okay! That's great. Thank you so much for your time!

Sam Ozaki:

You're welcome!

Grace Barlow:

So, the next step in the process for us is to transcribe this interview.

Sam Ozaki:

Yes, okay.

Grace Barlow:

And we'll have a print copy of everything we've said, all of your answers.

Sam Ozaki:

Okay!

Grace Barlow:

And we will send it to you in the mail.

Sam Ozaki:

Thank you.

Grace Barlow:

And you can go through it, make any corrections if we heard something wrong, or it can be anything from spelling to something that just didn't make sense and you wanted to clarify, or add on to it.

Sam Ozaki:

Okay!

Grace Barlow:

At the same time, we're also going to send you a form that is just going to be basic information with your address and, yeah-

Sam Ozaki:

Okay, fine.

Grace Barlow:

[Background talk] Alright, so could we have your address?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, yes. 2135 Touhy, that's T-O-U-H-Y, Chicago, 60645.

Grace Barlow:

Alright, thank you very much.

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, you're absolutely welcome. All Background: Bye!

Sam Ozaki:

Okay, bye-bye. [Hangs up]

Rebecca Ito:

[Begin second recording] Today is October 17, 2009. I am Rebecca Ito and I am interviewing Mr. Sam Ozaki by phone at 1560 East 10Ft Street, my house. Mr. Ozaki is a friend o.fthe.family. He is 84 years old and was born on November 2. 1924. Mr. Ozaki served in World War lI. He was in the 44211d infantry and held the fallowing rank as a privatefirst class. In your observation, how did the Caucasian Americans react to Pearl Harbor in relations to you, your family, and other Japanese-Americans?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, fortunately, as I mentioned before, at my elementary school and high school, the kids were just great and the teachers likewise. So we had no problem whatever shortly after Pearl Harbor. They all understood that we were Americans, just like all Americans. And so they treated us just as they would have even before.

Rebecca Ito:

That's great-do you remember having to sell your possessions at a fraction of the price, taking only what you could carry by yourself?

Sam Ozaki:

Yeah, I remember. We could only take-in fact, they spelled it out-you could only take clothes that you could carry in two hands. You had to sure bring extra clothing, you know, sheets and blankets, kitchen utensils, things like that. And then if you had anymore room, each individual could bring those things that were most important to him or her. And in my case, I was sure to bring my baseball glove and my yearbooks. But we, we didn't have many things that young people have today like laptops and cell phones and things like that.

Rebecca Ito:

Wow. So do you remember personally having to sell your possessions that you just couldn't bring along in your two hands?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, we buried some things, we were not a-we were in fact a very poor family so we didn't have a lot of fumiture, refrigerators, things like that. But we did have an electric stove and things like that and we simply have to leave it. And in many cases, those people who did have more, you know, the people were well aware that we had to sell these things right away and so they became vultures and they bid next to nothing for different things and in fact, they stole things and just took things. So we were never really able to sell things at a good price.

Rebecca Ito:

Wow! Anything that you just couldn't bear to leave or just couldn't give away or anything?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, I remember, we had a sword, a Japanese samurai sword and we buried that and then my brother had a bow-and-arrow set-it was very precious and he asked a white friend to hold it for him until the war ended. And, unfortunately, after the war ended, when he came back to retrieve it and she apparently either sold it or gave it away, so he was never able to get it back.

Rebecca Ito:

Oh.

Sam Ozaki:

And in many cases, things like that happened to people all over.

Rebecca Ito:

They just forgot about it? Whoever gave it to them, so they just gave it away then, right?

Sam Ozaki:

Yeah.

Rebecca Ito:

Well, moving forward into, you know, into the interview, we talked about your post career, I guess, after the war-

Sam Ozaki:

Oh yes.

Rebecca Ito:

Well, you said that you were a teacher. So, did you ever have to teach on the subject of the Japanese-American internment and-?

Sam Ozaki:

We never had to, but I would talk about my experiences to my classes and shortly after the war, even as the school principal, I would get invited to many other schools to talk about my experiences, so I was more than happy to share my experiences with other students.

Rebecca Ito:

Interesting.

Sam Ozaki:

And in many cases, of course, there were very few people who were willing to talk about their experiences, but I had no problem with that.

Rebecca Ito:

Right. Do you think, in your opinion, you taught it, the subject, with a lot more enthusiasm or energy?

Sam Ozaki:

Yeah, yeah, I think so.

Rebecca Ito:

Yeah. You said that your family was moved to the Santa Anita racetrack and that they treated, or, I mean, the government treated the horses better than they treated you guys. Could you elaborate on that?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, you know, race horses are worth a lot of money. In fact, a horse that wins the Kentucky Derby not too long ago sold for something like forty million dollars.

Rebecca Ito:

Wow!

Sam Ozaki:

And, you know, some of that was because horses are very important, very valuable and as far as our government went and in terms of some white people, you know, we were not worth two cents. We had the face of the enemy. So you can be sure that they treated these very valuable horses better than they treated us.

Rebecca Ito:

Yeah. Well, you also said that one ofthe reasons why you volunteered was to prove that you were a good loyal American citizen. Were there other reasons?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, I think I mentioned to you that my father had been picked up by the FBI very early on and he was separated from the family and was taken to a different camp. So he was separated from the family and I thought that just maybe, if I volunteered for the army, that the government would take this into consideration and allow my father to rejoin the family. And, of course in time, he was allowed to rejoin the family. Now whether my volunteering had anything to do with it, I don't know.

Rebecca Ito:

Do you know where you father went?

Sam Ozaki:

He was sent to the Santa Fe, Mexico camp.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. And you guys were reunited and maybe-?

Sam Ozaki:

In time, in time, he was able to rejoin his family, yes.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay, a very joyous occasion I would expect? [Question repeated.]

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, yes, yes, absolutely!

Rebecca Ito:

Yeah, well, ah, let's see, I don't know, anything else I missed?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, I think I mentioned to you that on the twenty first of February, we will be having our, what we call, our Day of Remembrance program. We always have a program so we can once again remember, reeducated the American public. And this year, the program is going to be on the twenty-first of F ebruary-

Rebecca Ito:

Right.

Sam Ozaki:

At the Chicago History Museum and we will have an actor who will be putting on a oneeman performance and I think you'd enjoy that so ....

Rebecca Ito:

Yeah!

Sam Ozaki:

So if you happen to talk your family into coming up here, you're welcome to come. It's tree. It starts at two pm. It's at the Chicago History Museum on February the twenty-first.

Rebecca Ito:

And you'll be there, right?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, yes, I'm always there.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay!

Sam Ozaki:

And if you happen to come, be sure to come up and introduce yourself to me.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay, I'll try to scope you out there.

Sam Ozaki:

Okay!

Rebecca Ito:

Just a couple more questions.

Sam Ozaki:

Sure.

Rebecca Ito:

Your father was taken away by the FBI approximately how many months after Pearl Harbor? And how long was he away from you-?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, I would say about a month, month and a half after Pearl Harbor that they came to our house and they searched the house, questioned all of us and took my father away. And he was gone, I would guess, for maybe just a good year before he was moved to rejoin the family.

Rebecca Ito:

Do you know what went on during that year with him? Was he just questioned-?

Sam Ozaki:

I really don't know. He, um, thjs was a very special camp where they had picked up the first generation Japanese-Amerjcans. They suspected - they what they called an ABC list and even prior to Pearl Harbor ten years before, they were always watching and examining people of interest.

Rebecca Ito:

What exactly did the ABC list stand for?

Sam Ozaki:

Hmm, that was just a list. A were very jmportant people and B were the second and the C they just categorized people.

Sam Ozaki:

And the most important people were in the A list and the not so important ones, B and so forth down the line.

Rebecca Ito:

Do you know in which category your father was in?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, I would guess my dad was probably in the C list because right on the day of Pearl Harbor, they immediately picked up the outstanding leaders of the Japanese-American community.

Sam Ozaki:

They picked up on that day, so about a good month and a halflater.

Rebecca Ito:

Wow. Well, thank you very much.

Sam Ozaki:

You're welcome!

Rebecca Ito:

I just hope that it just doesn't delete this time.

Sam Ozaki:

Yeah. I hope that you can make it up to Chicago.

Rebecca Ito:

Yeah, I really do hope so too.

Sam Ozaki:

Okay.

Rebecca Ito:

Thank you very much!

Sam Ozaki:

You're welcome.

Rebecca Ito:

Bye-bye.

Sam Ozaki:

Bye.

Rebecca Ito:

[Begin third recording] Today is December 21,2009. I am Rebecca Ito and I am interviewing Mr. Sam Ozaki by phone at J 560 East 10th Street, my house. Mr. Ozaki is a friend ofthefamily. He is 84 years old and was born on November 2, 1924. Mr. Ozaki served in World War II. He was in the 442nd Infantry and held thefallowing rank as a private first class. Where were you born?

Sam Ozaki:

I was born Los Angeles, California.

Rebecca Ito:

Were your parents Japanese immigrants/Issei, where did they come from?

Sam Ozaki:

They came from Wakayama prefecture.

Rebecca Ito:

What is Wakama prefecture-?

Sam Ozaki:

Wakayama. W-A-K-A-Y-A-M-A. Wakayama.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. Why did they come?

Sam Ozaki:

That's a good question. Probably, like so many immigrants, they were looking for a possibility of creativity and I suppose you could say that they were looking to make their life better. Life was tough in Japan at that time. And for the first time, Japan allowed some of its citizens to leave Japan and go to places like Hawaii and the United States of America and some of the South American countries.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. How were you and your family treated by the mainstream culture in the 1930s?

Sam Ozaki:

I would have to say my experiences in school, especially elementary and high school, were very positive. The kids treated us fine and the teachers especially thought we were great. And as a fonner classroom teacher, I can appreciate why teachers appreciated us. We were regular in attendance. We worked very hard. We never caused any problems and we were good students. So I can appreciate why teachers especially liked the Japanese kids. That's not to say that this was true of all the places. I've read many stories where the community, the teachers and the schools did not treat some of the Japanese and Chinese students very well. But in our case, we happened to be fortunate, and as I said the elementary school and high school that we attended, they really appreciated us.

Rebecca Ito:

So you were never discriminated against because you were Japanese-American?

Sam Ozaki:

No, no. Although you might say this, we knew that there were certain places that would not allow us in that. For example, I never experienced it, but I knew we heard that certain swimming pools that they would not allow, you know, Japanese into the swimming pool. But again we did not go there, so I can't really say that it happened to me.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. So what were your aspirations prior to Pearl Harbor? What were like, your life goals?

Sam Ozaki:

You know, we did not have any specific goals. But my mother was a very devout Seventhhday Adventist. And she always encouraged us to go into service, service to our fellow man - for example, becoming a doctor, teacher, nurse, things like that. For example, my oldest brother, he's a doctor. And one of the reasons why he became a doctor because my mother always encouraged her kids to go into fields like becoming a doctor, a nurse, a teacher and things like that.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay, so in high school, were you in ROTC ever?

Sam Ozaki:

No. We did not have ROTC.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. What were you doing when you initially heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, that was on a Sunday. And my sister tells me, although I can't remember it. Apparently, I had heard from a neighbor that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. And she says I came running into the house, saying that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. But like so many other Americans, we didn't know where Pearl Harbor was. [

Rebecca Ito:

Okay.] It came as a very definite shock. And we just instinctively knew that this meant bad news for us because we were of Japanese ancestry.

Rebecca Ito:

Wow. So what initial repercussions do you recall happening against the JapaneseeAmerican community?

Sam Ozaki:

Not really anything. For example, as I said when I went to school the following Monday, you know the kids and the teachers treated us well - in fact, our principal held an all-school assembly. And at that time he said the Japanese-Americans students were Americans like everybody else and were to be treated accordingly, you know, like with respect and dignity. So that was good. 1 continued to play, I was on the baseball team, I continued to play on the baseball team even though at one time they had a travel restriction - you couldn't go over four/five miles or something like that. I just totally ignored it and went with the baseball team to whatever place we had to go to play baseball.

Rebecca Ito:

What was your high school's name and where was it located?

Sam Ozaki:

The name of the high school is Phinneas Banning High School in Wilmington, California.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. In the immediate months that followed the Pearl Harbor attack, what changed your life the most when the United States waged war with Imperial Japan? [Question repeated.]

Sam Ozaki:

Well, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Feb. 19, 1942, our good president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signed what we call Executive Order 9066, and that was an order ordering all persons of Japanese ancestry to report to America's concentration camps. So that was quite a blow to us.

Rebecca Ito:

How were you and your family affected by the enactment of that Executive Order 9066?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, first of all, let me tell you that just before President Roosevelt signed that, three FBI agents came to our house. And my father at one time had been the owner of a dry goods store in downtown Los Angeles and he of course belonged to the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and so forth. And the FBI and naval intelligence had been tracking and looking and investigating the Japanese community even ten or fifteen years before Pearl Harbor. So they, right after Pearl Harbor, on that day, in fact, they immediately rounded up all the Japanese-American leaders of the Japanese-American community. So they picked up my father. He was sent to Santa Fe, New Mexico. So we would not see our father for a good year before he was able to rejoin the family in Jerome, Arkansas, concentration camp. Then shortly after that we were told to report to, in our case, it was the Santa Anita Racetrack. And we just drove our family to the Santa Anita Racetrack.

Rebecca Ito:

Could you describe your evacuation journey briefly to your assigned internment camp? Did you say, Jerome?

Sam Ozaki:

Yes, that was our second camp. First of all, we were sent to the Santa Anita Racetrack, spent oh perhaps a good six months there. That gave time for our government to build a more permanent concentration camps. And in our case, we were sent to Jerome, Arkansas.

Rebecca Ito:

What was daily life in the camp like? [Question repeated.]

Sam Ozaki:

Well, it depended on your age and gender. In my case, I was a 17-year-old senior in high school. And I was always interested in sporting activities. So they decided to form a recreation department. And so I worked in what we called the recreation department, coaching softball teams and volleyball teams. So that was my job in the relocation centers.

Rebecca Ito:

So how long were you interned, you know like, from what year to what year?

Sam Ozaki:

I would guess, I'm just guessing now, we spent I would guess a good year, a little more than a year in the camps. In my case, the way I got out of the camps, they decided to form a segregated infantry unit composed entirely of Japanese-Americans. And along with four good friends, I volunteered for this regimental combat team. So that was how I got out of camp.

Rebecca Ito:

How did your family get out of camp?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, in time, like my older brother and sisters, in my oldest brother case, he was let out very early to continue his pre-medical studies in Lincoln, Nebraska. And my oldest sister, they left camp to come to Chicago to work. In all cases, they spent a little time in the concentration camp before they were finally allowed to leave to come to places like Chicago and work.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. How did you respond to the U.S. government offering you to enlist to defend America? This is sort of embedded in that questionnaire.

Sam Ozaki:

Yeah. You know. I have always - this is, this is the only home I know. I'm of~ I'm of Japanese ancestry. But the only home that I really knew was the United States of America, California, Los Angeles, and so forth. So my _ [allegiance?] has always been for the United States of America, even though they put us in concentration camps. We felt at that time that we had to prove that we were good, loyal American citizens. And a number of my white friends in class had already joined the Army, the Navy and so forth. So I felt that it was my duty also, to volunteer even though it was a segregated infantry unit, and to prove that we were good, loyal American citizens.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay, in your training to go through, to become a 442nd infantryman, where did you go through some training before you were officially an infantryman?

Sam Ozaki:

We first trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. And I always tell students when I talk to them that our first battle occurred at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. All of a sudden when you have about five or six thousand young men with faces of the enemy descending on Camp Shelby, Mississippi, you'll always find some guys are going to make some comments and so forth. So we had to show these guys that we were there for a purpose, that we were American citizens, and that we were not going to take any nonsense from them. So as I said, we had our first battle. And they learned to respect us very quickly. Then of course after Camp Shelby, we went to Italy and France, finally, to fight in the European Theater.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. Just going back, just a little bit, to the training, what was the quality of the military training that you received at Camp Shelby?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh. I would say we probably received the best. And of course the important thing is that we had determination. We were going to show America that we were the best. And we were the best. In fact, we went on to become the most highly decorated unit in U.S. Army history for its size and length of service.

Rebecca Ito:

Going into the European Theater, if you could, could you please describe your first military campaign?

Sam Ozaki:

Well. It's, it's a strange, strange feeling when you really, you, you go through training, and so forth, they try to make it as realistic as possible. But when you get right down to it, the first time you're in a battle and you see shells bursting around you and tracers flying all around, you see some of your friends get shot, and killed and wounded, it's a strange, strange experience. But we managed to survive it.

Rebecca Ito:

Wow. What was your specific role as a 442nd infantryman?

Sam Ozaki:

1 was what they called a BAR man. That's short for Browning Automatic Rifle. It's almost like a machine gun. It shoots twenty rounds in a very short time. So it's almost like a submachine gun. But it's a little bigger and a little heavier. That was my role.

Rebecca Ito:

Wow. Why did the 442nd infantry battalion become so famous for being such courageous fighters against Nazi Germany? [Question repeated.]

Sam Ozaki:

Well, I think, number one, we were good combat soldiers. And we-our motto was "Go for Broke." We shot the works. We did not give up. And we stayed even though we were being shot at and mortared and artillery shells. We did not surrender. And we did not give up. As I said we were not just fighting for our country. We were fighting for ourselves, our family and for the Japanese-American community. So we had a lot of pride. And we were determined to be the best.

Rebecca Ito:

Going to the Lost Battalion, why was the 1st Texas Battalion later known as the Lost Battalion?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, sometimes, I guess, the generals get over ambitious. And sometimes they make poor decisions. And I can't think of the general's name but he sent a battalion way in the front. And eventually they were surrounded by the German soldiers. And they tried to break through and get in touch with the Lost Battalion because they were running low on everything. They were running low on food, on water and ammunition, medical supplies, and they tried to drop these things from the air, but then it would hit the hillside and just roll down into German hands. So they finally decided they had to break through the German lines and try to rescue the Lost Battalion. And they did send out different groups to try to break through the German lines but they all failed. So tInally they called on the 442 to break through the German lines. And we of course, "Go for broke, shoot the works!"~we were determined to achieve that goal even though it meant our lives. So we finally broke through the German lines and we rescued 211 Texas, 36th Division, members, but in the meantime, we suffered over 800 casualties, including maybe 180 some odd killed in action. So nonetheless, we achieved the goal of rescuing the Lost Battalion.

Rebecca Ito:

Where in the European Theater did the battle take place, and what year was it?

Sam Ozaki:

That was~I'm trying to think, now, I think it was October and November of 1944. And this took place in the Vosges Mountains-V-O-S-G-E-S~the Vosges Mountains, in southern France.

Rebecca Ito:

What were the primary reasons the 442 Infantry were ordered to rescue the Lost Battalion?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, as I mentioned before they were running low on everything. They were running low on food, water, ammunition, everything. So they had to either rescue them or they would have to surrender. They had tried to break through the German lines, but they had failed. So finally they called on us, the 442, to break through the Gennan lines, regardless of cost and to rescue the Lost Battalion. And we of course did exactly that.

Rebecca Ito:

What most impacted your life in being a survivor of the rescuing the 1st Texas Battalion?

Sam Ozaki:

Well, it was the accomplishment that we had rescued our fellow American soldiers. So that was gratifying. But at the same we lost so many of our own guys that it was really made us feel very, very badly.

Rebecca Ito:

Did you have any involvement in the liberation of Nazi concentration camps? [Question repeated.]

Sam Ozaki:

That's a good question. Part of our unit, the 522nd field artillery, they were one of the first American forces to liberate parts of the Dachau German concentration camps. At the same time we were told, they were told by on high, that they were not to talk about their experience in liberating parts of the Dachau concentration camps. And the reason for that, I think, is that the headlines would read: Survivors of American concentration camps helped liberate people from the German Dachau concentration camp. And that would be a horrible headline. So that's one of the reasons why they told the boys not to even talk about the fact that they helped liberate the German concentration camps. But I have to tell you, about twenty years ago, some ofthe survivors of the Dachau camp remembered the young Japanese boys who help liberate them. So they held a big a reunion in San Francisco. And so for the first time, it became public knowledge that we were one of the first troops, American troops, to help liberate some of the survivors of Germany's concentration camps.

Rebecca Ito:

So you weren't part of the liberation or-?

Sam Ozaki:

No, I was not part ofthat. That was the fIeld artillery of the 442. They were part of the group that helped liberate the survivors of Germany's concentration camps. But they were part of our unit.

Rebecca Ito:

Were some of your colleagues that went to liberate those concentration camps, were the Europeans confused upon seeing Asian faces- [in American uniforms]?

Sam Ozaki:

[chuckles] That's a good question. Actually not only the Europeans, but even the Germans thought that the maybe Japan had turned around and become their enemy.

Rebecca Ito:

Oh, wow.

Sam Ozaki:

They were surprised to see young Japanese-Americans fIghting for the United States of America. So it was confusing to everybody.

Rebecca Ito:

So going into post-war, what military medals were you awarded personally?

Sam Ozaki:

I have the Purple Heart. That's for being wounded in action. I have the different theaters of operation. And I also have to tell you that I earned the Good Conduct Medal, that's if you don't get into trouble they give you a Good Conduct Medal-and also the Combat Infantryman's Badge.

Rebecca Ito:

Wow! And how about your battalion? What military medals did your battalion receive on a whole?

Sam Ozaki:

I don't know about the battalion. But the regiment as whole received, I think, seven or eight presidential unit citations. In fact, after the war, President Harry Truman gave us the honor of marching down Pennsylvania A venue and on the White House grounds presented us with our seventh or eighth presidential unit citation, and said at that time: "You have fought the enemy and you have won. You have fought prejudice here in America and you have won." And I have to disagree with President Truman because we still, even in 2009, face prejudice and discrimination, but it has improved, of course.

Rebecca Ito:

What personal relationships, if any, continue today between you and any fellow soldiers in the 1st Texas battalion?

Sam Ozaki:

I have none personally. But every so often I read in the Pac~fic Citizen and other vernacular newspapers, that they have reunions and that there are many people, especially young children whose parents were rescued by us, and they recognize the fact that we saved their fathers and so forth and that's the reason they're living. And they have had reunions in southern France.

Rebecca Ito:

Okay. What was the GI Bill and how did it benefit your post-war life?

Sam Ozaki:

The GI Bill, as you know, I'm sure, provided for payment of college costs, whether it's books, tuition and so forth, and that was one of the good things that came out of World War II. Many Gis were able to go to college because of the GI Bill where it paid for your tuition, books and so forth. So, many of the former GIs were able to get a college education because of the G I Bill. And of course I did go to college and became a teacher and a principal through the GI Bill.

Rebecca Ito:

Where did you go to college?

Sam Ozaki:

I went to Roosevelt College, Roosevelt University, here in Chicago and Lyola University here in Chicago.

Rebecca Ito:

What did you do as a career after the war? [Question repeated.]

Sam Ozaki:

I became a teacher, an elementary school principal and a high school principal.

Rebecca Ito:

How has your World War II veteran experience transformed your life today?

Sam Ozaki:

Oh, that's good question. That would take an hour or two to try to explain it. I think Number One it certainly matured all of us, and of course it provided for the Gl Bill where we were able to go on to college and universities. And I think through that, it served the Japanese-American community well-the fact that we served so well in the Army. And that, in time, in 1988, finally our government, President Ronald Reagan, signed what we call the Civil Liberties Act, where the president of the United States signed a letter of apology for those living and also a payment of $20,000 per individual for the wrong that was done to them so that they apologize and recognized that it was totally wrong what our government had done to us.

Rebecca Ito:

How has the 442nd's legacy influenced Americans' perception of ultimate justice and sacrifice?

Sam Ozaki:

I think that the 442, if it were not for the exploits of the 442, and the military intelligence, that I doubt very much that the country would have apologized to us and made a payment of $20,000 per individual, although no amount of money would ever right the wrong that was done to us.

Rebecca Ito:

Are there any more answers to questions that I have just not asked? Or anything else you want to add?

Sam Ozaki:

I think you've done a very good job. I might just add that every year we have what we call a day of remembrance so that we can make the public more aware of what happened to JapaneseeAmericans during World War II so that we will not repeat the same mistake ever again. [End of interview]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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