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Interview with Warren Michio Tsuneishi [n.d.]

Lee Woodman:

And now we are recording. I'll introduce myself. Lee Woodman, producer for the American Folklife Center and the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. And I would like to welcome you as my guest and --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Thank you.

Lee Woodman:

-- ask you to introduce yourself and tell me what your country of origin is and what your nationality is.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

My name is Warren Tsuneishi. I was born on July 4, 1921, in Monrovia, California. I'm -- when I was born, at that time both Japan and the United States claimed me as a citizen because of different nationality principles. According to the Japanese way of thinking, anyone born of Japanese parents is automatically a Japanese citizen. According to U.S. principle, if you're born -- principles if you are born in the United States you are automatically an American citizen. This is 1921. I came into the world with a bang, and I have always had this self-image of myself as a Yankee Doodle Dandy born on the 4th of July. But one of the points I'm trying to make here is that as war between Japan and the United States came near or nearer -- and I'm talking about the 1930s now when I was a teenager -- it became apparent that the Japanese community in California and the West Coast and Hawaii was accused of being pro-Japan, of holding dual citizenship, couldn't be trusted. If war ever came, we would go over to the Japanese side. So most of us renounced our Japanese citizenship or had our parents do that for us. So I am strictly an American citizen, have been as far as I'm concerned all my life.

Lee Woodman:

Tell me a little bit about your family and where they were born and what they did in California.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

My parents are from Japan, immigrants. My father came to this country as a teenager out of kind of a lark. He came off of a farm in southern Japan. He and his friend decided that they'd -- not to come to this country just to see what it was like. This was 1907 they came. They were on their way to a rice-growing plantation in Texas which had been developed by a Japanese farmer from their part of Japan. They got as far as California and never went beyond. My father went to put himself through high school here. His English became quite adequate to the point where he could -- he was a farmer. He came off of a farm. He is working as a farm laborer here, and he was a truck farmer eventually growing strawberries and boysenberries and raspberries and that kind of thing as a living. In between, he was also a chicken farmer, a real estate salesman and so forth. My mother was a schoolteacher in Japan. At the turn of the century, Japan is just coming out of hundreds of years of feudalism where women did not have much status. But for her to be selected by the government as she was to be sent to a normal school, to receive teacher training was quite a distinction, I think. So she was trained as a schoolteacher, normal school. That meant 12 years of education. We would call that a high school education but specialized courses in education. Teaching is a highly respected and well-paid profession in Japan, was at the turn of the 20th century and is still. And so she could have had a very comfortable life in Japan, and her parents wanted her to have that kind of life. But my father after he had been here for -- gone through school in here went back to Japan possibly looking for a wife but telling his story about this wonderful country, land of liberty and all this kind of thing. My mother was in the audience. She was captivated. She fell in love with the guy and told her parents that she was going to follow this man. By that time, my father had been converted to Christianity, and he had his ambitions -- he was intent on going back to California, attend divinity school to become a Christian minister. Her parents, my mother's parents, are absolutely against this. They saw Christian ministers as being impoverished people with not much income. They were pretty well off on the farm. And so her father forbade her from taking such a drastic step. In those days, a father's word meant everything. In a traditional Japanese family, what the father says goes. And, especially, girls don't say no to father. Boys don't either, but especially girls don't. But my mother had something in her; and she said, no, she's going to -- she had put in her three years of obligatory service as a schoolteacher, and after that she was going to go follow my father to California. There was a big family fight. And Father finally said, "If you are going to do this, you are no longer a member of our family." And he disowned her. That was a kind of a mother I had, and that was a kind of a father I had.

Lee Woodman:

How many children in your family?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Ten altogether. From 1916 to 1931, my mother must have been giving birth just about every year and a half or so. '32, I guess it was, the last one. The last one was a sickly child, died in infancy. Nine survived, six boys and three girls.

Lee Woodman:

We will jump now to December 7th, 1941. Your family life and the world changed completely. What happened to your family?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

As I said, my father by that time was a truck farmer in California trying to scrape out a living. These are the Depression years. I graduated at the top of my class in Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School, a community about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. There are 225 students in that class. And I and two twin neighbors of ours, the Densmoors, we three graduated at the top of our class. And in 19 -- that was in 1939. In 1939 you could go to the University of California without paying a penny of tuition as a state non-grant college. And all you had to do is come up with 27 dollars in school student fees. And, of course, you had to have room and -- all your room and board so -- pay for your room and board. I worked for my room and board as a house boy. I worked in the summer of 1939 at a food stand to save some money so I would have some pocket money and paid my 27 dollars and started my education. Fast-forward a little bit to December -- or September of 1941. I was a major -- my major was political science. My minor was English. I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to focus on Asian studies. UCLA at that time did not have much of a program. Berkeley did. So I transferred to Berkeley. And I was hitting the books on December 7 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and I was so upset. I was so angry that the Japanese had the temerity to attack us. But I was deeply distressed and depressed because I knew what was coming -- going to happen to us. California, after all, has had a long history of anti-Asian discrimination, prejudice, first against the Chinese. The Chinese were excluded in 1882 as one consequence. There was still a need for labor, so the Japanese started coming in. And there was this generation between about around 19 -- 1885 and 1905, about a 20-year period, when the U.S. migration of Japanese to this country occurred. It was that very first generation. And because they were all in about the same age bracket they formed a kind of a cohort, the first generation in Japanese, the Issei. And then we are born here; and we formed a second cohort, a second generation, and we are called a Nisei which means simply first generation, second generation. And we grew up in this country, went to schools. I was a Boy Scout. The Boy Scout motto is, "On my honor, I will do my best, do my duty to God and my country. Honor, duty, God, country." That's a West Point motto almost -- honor, duty, country. This is a kind of atmosphere in which I grew up. I went to, of course, schools in California; and they are very good in inculcating patriotism in one and in Americanizing you even though there are people who had these stereotype notions of the Japanese and Asians basically as unassimilable, not able to be integrated into American society. But for the most part, these are European Americans, in other words, Americans of European descent. And I don't think that many -- I may be wrong about it. I don't think many white Americans in this country even to this day really believe that persons of color, persons who are not white can be integrated fully into American society; but they don't understand what the dream of America does to immigrants coming to this country.

Lee Woodman:

Let's say that again, but you hit your microphone.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Immigrants coming to this country --

Lee Woodman:

Start back again --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes.

Lee Woodman:

-- and if you wouldn't mind repeating because this is so eloquent.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Thank you.

Lee Woodman:

It's very, very eloquent. But if you could start with saying, you know, that it was ironic because you were highly Americanized but people didn't think that you would be assimilated and integrated. And then go on to say --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes.

Lee Woodman:

Okay.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

As I said -- as I said earlier, I thought of myself as a Yankee Doodle Dandy born on the 4th of July. It's Americans, apple pie and everything of that type. That was the kind of education I received. That was the kind of friends I developed in elementary school, in high school. Mostly, we are a small Japanese community in the Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte area, maybe 20 families altogether. We are in terms of education fully integrated into that community, treated as Americans. My best friends in Boy Scouts were Ted Smith and his older brother, Ian Smith. We were best friends through my teenage years. And so that was a kind of atmosphere that I was born and brought up in. But there is still -- there was still -- there are still a large number of Americans at that point in American history, and it's probably a substantial number today, who really do not believe that non-Europeans, those of color, can be fully integrated into American society. And that blows my mind because these people really do not understand what the American dream does to immigrants coming to this country. The American dream turns these immigrants, regardless of where they come from, what country, what their ethnic origin is, what language they speak, what their religion is, it turns them into Americans in a very short period of time in one generation. That's what -- I suppose some people believe that you have to have come -- be descended from the Mayflower people in order to be true Americans, to be true Yankee Doodle Dandys. Now, you look at my face. You can see immediately I'm not a Yankee. I don't have white skin. I don't have -- I have a Japanese face, an Asian face. How can I be a Yankee Doodle Dandy? But that's the way -- nevertheless, that's the way I felt inside. And I guess what I'm trying to say is that a lot of Americans don't understand the powerful mythology in America that converts immigrants and their offspring into 100 percent Americans. I think of this right now in terms of what is happening to the Arab and Muslim communities in this country and what they must be going through, and I think that they are going through today what we Japanese Americans did after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor because we were a despised people at the time. Even before that we were not treated by many Americans except in a discriminatory fashion in terms of racial prejudice. That is especially the older generation. I always said to myself, and I argued with my colleagues especially after the evacuation after Pearl Harbor -- as you know, we were all evacuated from the West Coast states into these so-called relocation centers. And I always argued that if my generation, the kids that I had grown up with in school, the kids that I had been in Boy Scouts together with, if they were in positions of political power this never would have happened because the race discrimination would -- was virtually non-existence -- existent among my colleagues at school. At least I think it was. But that was the way I felt. And I would -- when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, I was outraged that Japan would have the temerity to attack us. I was a major in political science; and I knew about the relative strengths of the two countries industrially, economically, politically, militarily. There's no way Japan could succeed in such a war. But I was also angry because of what it did to me personally. I must say I was a little self-centered that way. I was -- that I would think of myself in terms of what this war meant to me. I could see exactly what was going to come down the road, that there would -- because of the long history of racial discrimination in California, the West Coast states, that nothing good could come out of this attack.

Lee Woodman:

Your family was moved to a relocation center. Can you describe that? Do you remember the day it happened?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, we were not moved directly into the relocation centers. There were ten of them scattered through the desert areas of eastern California -- not all of California was cut off; Manzanar and Tulelake which are both in California, but they are in the desert areas -- Arizona, Arkansas, Wyoming. But these are the prominent relocation centers. But before that I was in my junior year of college at the University of California Berkeley. That area was put under military control under the command of General -- Lieutenant General John DeWitt who was commanding officer of the Fourth Army headquartered at the Presidio of San Francisco and also concurrently the commanding general of the western defense command. He -- it was he who issued a series of military proclamations putting us under curfew, denoting a zone of exclusion -- it was the western part of the States -- and then ordering the evacuation of all Japanese and Japanese Americans from those areas, about 120,000 altogether. In order to round us up, we were ordered or postings put up saying that all people in this area will report to this place. I was living in a student dormitory at the time. Excuse me. And we were -- our group was ordered to report to the Methodist church about two blocks away. We were -- we could take with us what we could carry in a suitcase or two. I could have returned to southern California where my parents lived, but I wanted to stay as long as possible in Berkeley so I'd get my junior year credits. Before I did not take final exams in my junior year because we were gone by that time. We reported to the -- to this Methodist church, were loaded aboard buses. And our contingent part of the Berkeley contingent was sent to this what they call an assembly center. It was the Tanforan racetrack just north of Palo Alto, California, that had been converted to a holding center. It was already surrounded by barbed wire, and they converted the horse stalls to living quarters for families. And there was an enormous grandstand; and underneath the grandstand was this huge, cavernous room; and that's where they put bachelors like me. And that's where I went. As I say, I was outraged at Japan for having the temerity to attack us; but I could see nothing but bad coming out of what they did because I could gauge the popular mood at that time. We were called potential saboteurs, a fifth column or spies, hidden agents of the imperial Japanese government, all that kind of stuff. I had my self-image of myself as a Yankee Doodle Dandy, and it's devastating to be thought of that way and to be --

Lee Woodman:

Let me ask you to repeat that because we got a little bit of your -- in your passion you hit your microphone. So --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

What was I saying? That --

Lee Woodman:

You were saying that you were outraged, but you knew nothing good was going to --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes, I knew nothing good --

Lee Woodman:

-- come of it.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

-- was going to come out of this because of a long history of racial prejudice and especially in California. And the Hearst press in San Francisco and Los Angeles and the McClatchy press in Sacramento, they had been very strongly anti-immigration Japanese. You know, the Japanese immigration to this country was closed off with a -- through a series of gentlemen's agreements engineered by President Theodore Roosevelt following the Sen -- I mean, the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905. The agitation against the Japanese grew in bitterness and in intensity to the point where Japanese immigration could no longer be permitted, and the gentlemen's agreement in effect prohibited further immigration to this country. And there were land laws and so forth so that Japanese could not own land. My father had bought a piece of residential property in Monrovia before that law was passed. But, nevertheless, that was the whole atmosphere of that period. And so while I could -- I had friends. I was a Boy Scout in the Presbyterian church, and my best friends were white American boys my age. And so I always believed that if my friends had been mature enough to wield any kind of political power in California the evacuation of all Japanese Americans and Japanese from the three West Coast states never would have happened, and I believe that to this day. There were an equal number of Japanese and Japanese Americans in the state of Hawaii. They were never evacuated because the racial tolerance was much greater than it was but not in California which had for -- since the Chinese exclusion of the 1880s, there had always been this virulent anti-Chinese, anti-Japanese feeling in California especially and also in Oregon and Washington. But --

Lee Woodman:

Let's jump forward now --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Sure.

Lee Woodman:

-- because I want to get to your war experience. You volunteered.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well --

Lee Woodman:

Now, how in the world would you want to do that?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, let me put it this way. After I had been in the Tanf- -- did I tell you that from Berkeley they put us in the Tanforan racetrack which had been converted to a holding center, converted the horse stalls and converted the grand -- underneath the grandstand was where I was put where all the bachelors were put? There must have been about a thousand of us underneath the grandstand. There were -- Tanforan had -- assembly center they called it -- had a population of about 13,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans from the San Francisco Bay area. And from there it got to a point where I could no longer stand it. And about a month after we had been in prison there the sugar beet farmers in Idaho came recruiting for stoop laborers to work in the sugar beet fields. This is in the spring of 1942. The sugar beets needed thinning, then after that they needed to be harvested. In between, there was hay to be put up and so forth. And so they came into the camps recruiting stoop laborers. And I volunteered for that because I felt the loss of liberty so much, my freedom, my own personal freedom so much that I could no longer stand it. Also, to be realistic, I was out of money at that time. And so I volunteered to go out, work in the sugar beet fields and in the alfalfa fields in the summer and early fall of 1942. By that time, my parents had been moved inland to one of the ten relocation centers they called them at the Heart Mountain -- they were in the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming which is right next to Idaho or close to Idaho where I was. And when the snow came and there was no more work, then we were still under the control. They had -- the government had organized something called the War Relocation Authority. We were still under War Relocation Authority control. And I went back to join my family at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. But it was from there that the Quakers, the American Friends Service Society, had a program to resettle students like myself in the Midwest and the East, East -- colleges of the Midwest and East. And that's how I got out of that. So I was in the reloca- -- in the Tanforan Racetrack Assembly Center for one month and the Heart Mountain Relocation Center where my parents were and the rest of my family was except an older brother who had already been drafted in the U.S. Army, and I was there for two months. So that experience lasted only three months altogether. Then I was free to go out to complete my college education at Syracuse University which accepted me. Syracuse had an enlightened chancellor who was of Irish descent, second generation like me. I'm second-generation Japanese. He was second-generation Irish. And he thought that Japanese Americans had been given a raw deal and he accepted us, a small contingent of us. And that's where I finished my schooling, college education.

Lee Woodman:

Let's go to your -- if you just -- okay. Tell me about your entry into the military.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes. My older brother had been drafted before Pearl Harbor. He was in the Army. What the Army did -- had started in November 1 of 1941 before Pearl Harbor, there were some people in the intelligence service of the Army who were very farsighted. They could see war coming and -- against Japan. In order to prosecute that war successfully, they had to have Japanese linguists. And so they established in the Fourth Army headquarters, same one that General DeWitt commanded, in the Presidio of San Francisco they established a Japanese language training program. The first class was 60 students, two Caucasians and 58 Nisei or second-generation Japanese Americans. The faculty, six of them, were all Japanese Americans. And the idea was to train these people in intelligence activity duties to -- so that when war came as it would seem to be inevitable in coming that at least there would be a cadre of Japanese language specialists in the U.S. Army. Ironically enough, it was General DeWitt who was responsible for carrying out the evacuation; and it was he who testified in Congress in 1943 why he was forced to take that action. And from his testimony, it would appear that he feared that there would be so many -- the Japanese and Japanese American population of the three West Coast states would be -- were full of potential saboteurs, spies and so forth, fourth column, fifth column, so that the only recourse was to clamp us all into concentration camps is what these so-called relocation centers were. They were concentration camps -- not of the German variety but, nevertheless, concentration camps. How did I get on this subject?

Lee Woodman:

You were going to tell me how you enlisted.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, yeah, okay. And, now, my older brother had been in the Army, drafted into the Army before. When this Japanese language training program began at the Presidio San Francisco, the first class graduated around June of 1942. But by that time, the commanding general was in charge also of relocating, removing all Japanese and Japanese Americans from the three West Coast states, General DeWitt. And he instituted this program of moving us all out. But he also had to move the school out; and that school was relocated to Minnesota at a former CCC camp outside the Minneapolis, Civilian Conservation Corps Camp of the depression years. And that became the military -- U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service Language School at -- any Nisei or second-generation Japanese American who had any knowledge of Japanese then in the Army or those who would volunteer could go to that school to serve as intelligence specialists and --

Lee Woodman:

Why did you go?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, I wanted -- I was a little selfish. I wanted to finish my -- get my degree first. During 1942 those of us of draft age Japanese Americans were classified as 4 -- 4C. I believe that's enemy aliens. And that's -- but they changed that policy to accept volunteers in early 1943. And I was selfish enough to want to spend another half year getting my B.A. at Syracuse University. But the moment it was possible for me to do so I volunteered for the Military Intelligence Service Language School that had been set up in Camp Savage at the urging of my brother who had been in the Army, drafted into the Army. And that's how I got into that Intelligence Service Language School.

Lee Woodman:

After your training, where were you actually during the war and what was your special function?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Excuse me. What was my?

Lee Woodman:

Special function.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Oh. We were trained as Japanese language specialists. And we studied Japanese war manuals, military Japanese, learned how to read maps in Japanese military tactics, strategy and so forth, in addition to the language. And this is an intensive from reveille to taps program from 6:00 to 10:00, separate breaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was an intensive course in Japanese language training. This went on for six months, after which they sent us to -- since they were going to send us overseas to the Pacific area, we had to undergo infantry basic training. And so there was eight months of training so that by the middle of 1943 I was eligible to be sent overseas, '44 I guess it was, yeah. Yeah.

Lee Woodman:

What memories do you have that really stick out in your mind about specific events? Were there any particularly dangerous missions that you had to do?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Our counterparts, at the same time the war department organized something called -- well, let's back up a bit. There was a -- there was a hundred infantry battalion based on National Guard sounders from Hawaii. They were sent to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin for training as infantry soldiers, and they were -- that's a battalion. There's about a thousand men. And they eventually raised a regiment of about three, four thousand men and incorporated the 100th into the 442nd Regiment combat team for warfare in Europe. Then but those of us who had any kind of Japanese language training, I had gone, attended Japanese language school during my grammar school and high school years. Many immigrant -- immigrant families in this country do the same thing. As a matter of fact, the American Folklife Center had a program here on ethnic schools about 15 years ago, Korean schools, German schools, Italian schools and so forth. So the -- it's a common experience for immigrants to this country to establish national language schools, and that's -- so I went to -- I was not a very good student. I was so puffed up with my being American that I didn't want to have anything to do with Japan. Japan at that time in the 1930s -- I'm growing up in the 1930s when Japan is rampaging all over China, invading China, doing -- engaging in all kinds of atrocities. I didn't want to be associated with those people at all. So, but you are caught up in this whole atmosphere. I guess I was -- must have been a pacifist at that time. I remember at UCLA when I first started in 1939 I was a Tolstoyan pacifist, didn't believe in war, didn't believe in anything of that type. But when war comes, you have to defend your country, things -- the picture changes. You do different things. I wanted to volunteer. But in the meantime, the evacuation of all Japanese and Japanese Americans in the three West Coast states occurred. I suppose if I had really believed in my constitutional rights I would have protested and said, no, you can't do this to me, I'm an American citizen, you can't detain me, put me into a concentration camp without due process of law, without charging me with something, without trying me and so forth. Now, there were some people, some Nisei, Japanese Americans, who did do exactly that in the war relocation centers, about 350 altogether. And they went to prison for their beliefs. And I didn't want to do that. And --

Lee Woodman:

Did you have any feelings about being Japanese and needing to go to the Pacific and perhaps face someone who looked just like you?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Not really. Not -- I don't remember having that kind of a feeling. I knew that I had an obligation. I had some competence in the Japanese language. And the Army needed Japanese language specialists, only the Army, not the Marines, not the Navy because those are lily-white organizations. In the field, however, it turned out to be something different, but we could get to that later. But I started by talking about my -- well, I forgot. I have gotten off the track now.

Lee Woodman:

That's all right. I will get you right back on. I wanted to know when you went overseas to the Pacific --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes.

Lee Woodman:

-- what your specific duties were.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

My MOS, military occupation specialist, was that of translator, translator of Japanese documents to English. There were others whose MOS was different. There were interrogators, prisoners of war and -- but my MOS was that of translator. And --

Lee Woodman:

What was your daily -- what was your daily work like?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

It was -- the Japanese Imperial Army was very careless about its documents. We captured tons of documents, some of them classified, some of them classified top secret. I believe -- I think it's a general feeling -- that the Japanese really didn't think that anyone could read these documents. Japanese is a very difficult language as you know that's written in Chinese and in Japanese letters, and it normally takes years and years of learning to learn how to read and write the language. I never got to a point of competence where I could really write Japanese; but I could read Japanese with the aid of a dictionary, Chinese character dictionary. And so that was how -- what I was trained to do. And our first operation was in the Leyte operation. When MacArthur, General MacArthur, was, of course, commanding general of force -- American forces in the Philippines and when Corregidor, the great base in Manila Bay, fell, he had to escape to Australia to set up his headquarters there in Brisbane -- Brisbane. And it was from there that he mounted this series of counterattacks. By that time, the Japanese had spread all the way down to the islands north of Australia, New Guinea, for example, and out of the islands of the Pacific, Philippines, of course, Southeast Asia. And it was to counter that that the forces are marshaled to attack the Japanese forces.

Lee Woodman:

Do you remember any particular incident where you felt very proud of being able to do a piece of work that made a difference in the outcome of a battle or of a war -- of the war in general?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Every GI thinks that he is -- did something that turned the tide of battle. I never -- I never had such grandiose expectations or I don't think there are any grandiose experiences of that time, but there were cases. When MacArthur was finally able to return to the Philippines, he vowed to return and liberate the Philippines, he did that by landings on Leyte Island which is in the southeastern part of the Philippines archipelago. Leyte, October 20, 1944, I was with the corps headquarters. That corps, Army corps, consists of 40,000 men, 45,000 men, something like that. So you are way in the rear lines. Most of us were. Some of us were -- as Japanese Americans we are language specialists. We were posted mostly at division headquarters or at corps headquarters. And we were way in the back lines, rear lines so that we wouldn't be captured or we were captured -- well, we didn't know what would be in store for us. But that's the way things were at that time. Now, I remember the -- this is getting towards late in the war, 1944, the fall of -- fall of '44 and the winter of '45. The war ends in 1945. They sent -- the Japanese sent a raiding party onto Leyte, three airplanes full of commando-type fighters. One of the planes ditched in the ocean right near our corps -- our headquarters. Two of them got through. Their mission was to destroy the airfields being built by American engineers. You know, this whole business of moving from the South Pacific, Australia, New Guinea, right up the chain of islands to establish airfields so that air power would be -- air power was recognized as one of the most important aspects of the war on the Pacific. And in Leyte one of the CBs started immediately to create -- create these airfields that could be used for this purpose. And the Japanese raiding party was to come down there and try to destroy them and join up with their main forces on the island. And one of my jobs, we got -- the Japanese are very careless with their security. They travel -- that raiding party traveled with their orders if you can imagine marked top secret and all that. And they were rushed to us, and we stayed up all night translating them. So we knew exactly what their mission was, what their objective was, what they were up to and so forth so that I think that we were -- we were there in such overwhelming force that the three planeloads of Japanese troops, a hundred twenty or fifty men simply could not do anything against us. Nevertheless, we were able to translate that document and to tell exactly what this mission was and what their intent was and so forth.

Lee Woodman:

Was that work difficult?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

The work itself? No. We had gotten pretty good training, language training in the military Japanese so that even though -- that was when I first began regretting that I had not been a better student when my parents practically forced me to attend Japanese language school at the grammar school age, you know. I should have been a better student. I could have been a better translator of documents. I could have been a better interrogator of prisoners of war who were captured. We captured some, not many, but we captured some. So...

Lee Woodman:

Tell me about the leaving the service. You actually did several different stints. Can you talk about those?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, after -- after Leyte I volunteered for a -- the Filipinos were being massacred on a little island, three little islands. You got the Camotes Islands between Leyte and the neighboring island Cebu. And they sent a call to MacArthur for assistance. And a reinforced battalion -- that's about 1,200 men -- was sent to liberate the islands. Another Nisei, second-generation Japanese, and I volunteered for that mission. And then Japanese mounted a desperate banzai attack, and they were killed almost 100 percent on that battlefield. But next was the Battle of Okinawa -- what was your question?

Lee Woodman:

Your different stages of being in the military.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, the next one was the final battle but more in the Battle of Okinawa.

Lee Woodman:

Start again.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

The next -- yes. The next battle I was involved in was the Okinawa battle or Okinawa operation on April 1, 1945, 'til the surrender of Japan in August of -- mid-August of 19 -- the same year.

Lee Woodman:

What did you do there?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

I had the same functions. Again, the Japanese were very careless with their confidential material. And one of the documents I remember translating was their whole battle plan for the defense of the islands, if you can imagine, top-secret document. And it fell into our hands. We stayed up a couple of nights translating that whole document. And the idea was that they would -- normally a Japanese military document calls for defense, what they call the water's edge. If you have a landing force as there was German -- German -- as they did in Europe in the European theater in the German defense of France, they resisted our landings at the water's edge. The idea is to attack and destroy your enemy at their weakest point, their weakest point when you are trying to land ships -- or land troops from ships standing offshore onto a battleground, and they didn't do that. And the top-secret orders that we -- that were captured and that we translated showed why. They were going to set up their landing defense along the waist of a -- Okinawa is a slender island. At the waist they would set up a landing dug-in position; and then they would suck us ashore, let us land. We had a force of perhaps 80, 90 thousand, Tenth Army. And then after we were ashore, then the kamikazes would come over from the mainland of Japan. Okinawa, of course, is the southernmost series of islands in the Japanese archipelago. The kamikaze would come over -- come out and destroy our shipping; and we would be marooned, stranded there on Okinawa. And that document spelling out this strategy we stayed up all night translating and so the commanding general could know what the Japanese defense strategy was for the defense of Okinawa, and it was that kind of thing that we were involved in. I think that we had some -- we had some -- we were able to provide some assistance in the overall strategy of the -- on the Battle of Okinawa because of this kind -- that wasn't the only document that we translated that was of importance. Artillery positions, dug-in artillery positions, we captured a map that showed all of the artillery positions there and what -- and because we were under artillery fire after we landed on Okinawa there was no fighting at the water's edge. That's basic Japanese doctrine. But they abandoned that, and they let us move inland where they thought that they would destroy us with their artillery fire. And after the kamikaze destroyed our shipping, then they would pick us off and destroy us at their leisure. It didn't happen that way because we were there in such overwhelming strength. But that was -- so that we were able to know almost immediately what their battle plan was.

Lee Woodman:

Did you ever come face to face with a Japanese enemy?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes. One of my --

Lee Woodman:

Say it so --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes. You asked if I came to face to face with Japanese soldiers. My MO was -- MOS, military occupation specialty, was that of translator. But I did interrogate prisoners of war from time to time. And the first one was in the Philippines, and the second was on Okinawa. But that wasn't my regular job to do that. And the Japanese had been indoctrinated, Japanese soldiers had been indoctrinated to believe that death in battle in -- for the emperor of Japan was the greatest glory that could befall any human being, any military man in the Japanese services. It's ancient tradition in Japan, not always adhered to, but that was the indoctrination. That was -- but one consequence is the Japanese did not surrender in large numbers. But they did. And you could interrogate them and tell them what their plans were, find out their plans. And because they weren't supposed to surrender, they were not trained in the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention says that if you are captured all you have to do is give your name, rank and serial number. That's it. You are -- the army that captures you is prohibited from interrogating you further. But Japanese weren't even trained to do that. Soldiers weren't even trained to do that. So they would tell us willingly -- just about willingly anything about -- answer any question that we put to them. So that was a great advantage for us on the battlefield.

Lee Woodman:

Okay. We're back, September 30th, Lee Woodman with Dr. Tsuneishi. And we were talking about your specific duties during your service. You mainly were involved in translating documents. However, you did do some interviews with Japanese POWs.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes.

Lee Woodman:

Could you tell me if you have any feelings of irony that there you as a Japanese countryman in a sense were interviewing the enemy?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

No. What I had was great pity for these people. They had been brainwashed to believe that they were -- that they could not be defeated. They -- they truly believed that they were superior to other soldiers, any other army in the world. But they were defeated. And when they are captured, the whole world is shattered and they kind of go to pieces. And you ask them just about anything you want, any question, and they for the most part respond without hesitation. Even though the Geneva Convention says that all you have to do is give your name, rank and serial number, they were not even trained because that would have been against their basic philosophy that no Japanese soldier is ever captured. So if they are not captured, if either they are killed in action or they commit suicide because suicide is to be preferred to dishonor of being taken captive, then there's no need, right, to train -- the logic is there's no need to train them in anything else. But they were indeed captured, and they would spill their guts because without our -- there were no third-degree methods or anything at that time used. As a matter of fact, kindness seemed to work better than any kind of real pressure in getting them to respond to tell us where they came from, what their unit was, what strength they were, what their objective was, what their tactics were. They would tell us anything that we asked them. It was truly surprising what they would tell us, whereas we had always been trained give only name, rank and serial number, and that's it.

Lee Woodman:

Tell me about the end of the war.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

End of the war came as a complete surprise to me because the Battle of Okinawa which is the single bloodiest engagement in the Pacific theater war the Japanese had a garrison there of about 90,000 men. They lost about 70,000 of them killed in action. We had an attacking force of about the same number, little bit more. Our casualties were much lower. We had much greater firepower, ship-borne artillery and all these kinds of bombs. Our casualties are about 45,000, about one-third killed in action. But the civilian casualties were devastating. The civilians, there were more civilians, Okinawan civilians, who are killed, over a hundred thousand, some estimates up to 150,000 civilians killed. That is horrifying. No matter how hardened you are as a soldier that's something that is hard to take. It's -- and you put it out of your mind. If you think about it, you go crazy taking that much -- taking so many human lives. These are human beings. They're not ciphers or they're not stereotypes. They're human beings just like -- that's -- that may have been one difference between me as a Japanese American soldier and your ordinary American GI that I didn't have these stereotypes. These are just plain, ordinary human beings. They may have been trained in such a way, they may have been brainwashed in such a way that they behaved in ways that seemed inhuman or seemed -- I could not understand why the Japanese soldiers preferred suicide to capture, for example, any more than I can understand the Arab hijackers who were involved in the attacks on the World Trade Tower in New York City. I can't understand that kind of psychology. I truly don't. Even though I have studied it, I understand intellectually, but emotionally I cannot understand how human beings can kill themselves. And for the greater glory of what? I went to Yale University, the statue of Nathan Hale standing at the Navy -- in the yard there, his hands tied behind his back, his quotation, "I regret that I have but one life to give to my country." That was the credo of the Japanese soldier. They'd rather die than be captured or be taken prisoner. I find that hard to believe either in Nathan Hale or in the Japanese soldiers that I encountered in the field.

Lee Woodman:

How did the war end for you personally?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

I said that it was completely unexpected. The atom bombing, had no glimmer of that possibly. We were training after the bloodiest of all engagements in the Pacific war in Okinawa where the Japanese forces are literally decimated and our casualties were not small. We were planning for the invasion of Japan proper. That was going to be even worse, even bloodier. Casualties on both sides would have been even greater. That's what we were planning for. We were about to go into the southern island of Kyushu. All of a sudden, quite completely unexpectedly, the atom bombs, two atom bombs are dropped and it's clear to me that the war's over. No human beings no matter how indoctrinated can stand up to that kind of force, and that's exactly how it turned out. We were planning for the invasion of Japan at the four main islands of Japan. That would have resulted in untold casualties, I would assume millions of Japanese civilians, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of American troops. That's what we were confronting and when all of a sudden the war ends because of these two atomic bombs. Now, I must say that there's -- I have a certain feeling of guilt about this because to exterminate -- I don't know how many people died in Hiroshima, a hundred thousand throughout Nagasaki and other -- to exterminate that many -- and exterminate is a correct verb to use, not kill, not murder -- exterminate that many people in one blow, that's got to do something to your own conscience no matter what the justification is. But along with that there's this feeling of relief that it's all over now and those two are at war with each other, you know. Because, on the one hand, you are planning to go into battle. You don't know whether you are -- because the Japanese enemy has been extremely tenacious, literally preferring death to dishonor in a large number of cases, not always, not all. There was a prisoner that we interrogated who ditched -- he was a kamikaze pilot. He was supposed to dive his plane into one of the warships off of Okinawa. Instead, he ditched his plane, was fished out, was sent to our headquarters and we interrogated him. I interrogated him. Turned out to be a 35-year-old civilian, married, children. He didn't want to die for honor of his emperor and his country. There's a certain psychology there. These people are not all fanatic, but a lot of them were but not all of them. So that's the kind of thing that you faced. But I must say that it was a great relief the war's end came because I was not looking forward -- after Okinawa I was not looking forward to landing on the main islands of Japan where the resistance would have been much greater one assumes -- I assumed.

Lee Woodman:

Do you remember the day of your discharge?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Day of -- day of my discharge. I remember the date, but I don't remember the details for some funny reason. We were -- we went into the occupation of Korea. I was with the 24th Corps. And that's about 30, 35 thousand men. And, yes, by that time Japanese had officially surrendered in September 2, 1945. There was talk about having served your time, get back to the States, get back home, pick up your lives again. And that happened early January of 1946, but I don't have any memory of the details of that in a curious way. I don't even remember how I got back from Seoul to the Los Angeles area. My parents, my family had -- by that time the relocation centers had been closed down. And they were back in Monrovia, California, at this piece of property that my father had bought before the anti-alien land laws and wrong side of the tracks and all that -- nevertheless, a home. They had returned there. I don't even remember how I got from Seoul, Korea, to Los Angeles or San Pedro. It must have been by troop ship, although it could have been by airplane because -- but I don't remember. That part of my memory has gone completely blank. But it must have been by plane because I got back in time if I was -- if I was permitted to leave Korea, the occupation of Korea in early January, I was in New York City and enrolling for classes at Columbia University by late January. So I must have -- I must have gone by airplane to San Pedro, California, visited with my family for a couple of days, took a train to New York to enter Columbia. I wanted to go to the school of journalism. I never did get in. I stayed in the Department of Chinese and Japanese and increased my skills in the Japanese language which the Army had trained me pretty -- if I tell you that it was _____+ I did six months intensive training.

Lee Woodman:

Do you remember where your parents were when you came back and how you greeted them?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

By that time, they had been freed from the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming and had been returned to their home. My father -- under the alien land laws Japanese could not purchase land after 1924, I believe. My father had bought a small building and put up a house in Monrovia on the wrong side of the tracks, by the way. And so he was -- he and my mother and the smaller children were able to go back to that house and pick up the piece -- pick up the pieces there.

Lee Woodman:

Do you remember returning to that house in particular when you came back from Korea?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes, I did. But I stayed only overnight. And then I was on my way. I, of course, knew about the house. But we had occupied another house in an adjoining area called Duarte, California. I went to the Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School. Okay? I went to the Duarte Grammar School that was closest to my home, Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High School. And from there I went to UCLA in my freshman year in 1939 so that there was a home there for my parents to go back to. A lot of people, a lot of the first generation who owned land in that way there were not that many could do that. But many could not go back to rented homes that they lived in before the war.

Lee Woodman:

Do you remember your family's reaction to your coming home?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

My mother was -- was so overjoyed. I was not a very filial son I'm afraid because I had a Red Cross chaplain visit me on Leyte Island in December of 1944. By that time, the Leyte operation was over. This Red Cross chaplain said that he had received a letter from my mother. She was worried sick because I had not written home to assure her that I was -- I was not a very filial son. So he got after me to write, and I did. Years later I came across a haiku my mother had written, and it goes something like this. Let me see. In English translation it goes -- even in English translation I can't remember it now. But it has to do -- Christmas. Can you turn that off while I try to think of it?

Lee Woodman:

I think I can help you because you wrote a nice piece about it here.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

I did?

Lee Woodman:

Yes.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Oh. Oh.

Lee Woodman:

Uh-huh.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

What did --

Lee Woodman:

Here you go. Second paragraph.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

I can't read it.

Lee Woodman:

Okay. I will read it to you: "I was not a dutiful son sending letters of reassurance to my parents."

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Oh, I see.

Lee Woodman:

"My mother had an international Red Cross representative look me up in December 1944. He urged me to write home. A few years later I found in a collection of haiku edited and published by my father a small group of haiku composed by my mother. One read" -- and here's where you are going to have to help me -- "Senchi yori/ Haha e no tayori/ Kurisumasu."

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes. Senchi yori tayori --

Lee Woodman:

Now, wait. Let me start you again. Start the story again and then go into it.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Okay. Start the story again about how -- where did I start the story?

Lee Woodman:

You're writing to your -- well, what I am getting at is you said your mother was overjoyed when you came home.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes, that's right. My mother was overjoyed before when I came home because she had in effect given me up for dead when she learned I had been sent to the Pacific, although she knew that was what I had been trained to do. And one of her haiku appears later, yes, in a collection of haiku that my father compiled. It goes something like this: "Senchi yori/ Haha e no tayori/ Kurisumasu." From the battlefield comes a letter, Merry Christmas. And that could only have happened in Christmas of 19 -- it's undated. She could only have written this in 1940 -- 1944, yes, in December, Christmas of 1944 when I was in the Leyte operation. And the rumors in the relocation center were that we were -- the United States troops were being massacred because the Japanese had enormous forces in the Philippines. And that's why she had the International Red Cross contact me and tell me to write home because your mother is worried sick. I was a very unfilial son. And so this haiku says from the battlefield, Christmas. And it really means Merry Christmas from the battlefield, a letter from my son. It's hard to read. And it's loaded with emotion. But why did I begin to tell this story to begin with?

Lee Woodman:

I was asking you about your homecoming, and I asked you if your parents --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes, yes.

Lee Woodman:

-- were very emotional about your homecoming.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes. Emotional, but they never showed. The Japanese -- in Japanese society you don't show your emotions. You don't hug people. When my mother sent me off, she didn't hug me. I went to visit her in camp. After I finished training at the Japanese language training at the Army camp --

Lee Woodman:

Let me ask you to start again because --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

-- in Minnesota she never hugged me. She never kissed me. That's something that mothers don't do to their children and fathers don't either. You don't embrace. You don't touch each other. That's a learned behavior. But my mother didn't hug me when I came home. My father didn't hug me when -- but they were deeply moved, but they didn't -- you are not supposed to show it. That's part of the Japanese upbringing that you don't show your -- wear your heart on your sleeves. But I know that they were relieved that I had come home safely. They were -- I had three brothers in the service, two of us during wartime, two after the war, and the occupation of Japan. But my older brother, he and I were the only ones were both named after presidents. Warren G. Harding I was named after. Hughes was supposed to be the president in 1916, and he was beat out last minute by Charles Evans Hughes. Woodrow Wilson won -- I mean, Charles Evans Hughes was supposed to win. He was beat out by Wilson, Woodrow Wilson. Well, anyway, Hughes and I were the only ones that were overseas. But my mother was worried sick. And so here we come back safely, and she is immensely relieved, but she doesn't even give me a hug because that is not in the way -- as a way -- not the way Japanese mothers are trained after you are no longer an infant. You don't hug. You don't do that kind of thing. So, but they were immensely pleased that I had come back safely, of course, and that my two younger brothers who were by that time in Japan were no longer under any kind of danger. So...

Lee Woodman:

What were your own feelings upon reaching home?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, I was anxious to get going. I had missed out -- I had missed a couple years. I wanted to go. Actually, I was wanting to be a journalist; and that's why I went out to New York. I thought I could -- in the Columbia School of Journalism which is one of the two top journalism schools they weren't taking any students at mid-semester. I got there in January of 1946. They weren't taking any students at mid -- at -- in the spring semester. So I had to wait. But the Department of Chinese and Japanese was. I had the GI Bill of Rights, so I enlisted into courses in the Department of Japanese and Chinese. I never did apply for the School of Journalism. By that time I had -- I had gone to University of California to be -- for training. My major was political science, and my minor was English with the intention of becoming a journalist. But by that time I knew enough about myself to know that I would never be a good journalist, so I opted for the academic career. And since I had had by that time a fairly good grounding in Japanese, I decided I'd major in Japanese language and literature; and that's what happened. And then I got married. Children start coming. I needed a job. And the Columbia School of Psychology said that -- gave me a battery of tests and said that, you know, you are cut out to be among other things a librarian. And I had haunted libraries all my life. It was so obvious a selection that I didn't know why I didn't come to that conclusion myself. But there you go, you know. That's how your career is cast. So I went to Columbia Library School, got my degree there. My first job was in the Yale University Library as a Japanese librarian.

Lee Woodman:

And you have had a very distinguished career afterwards --

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Thank you.

Lee Woodman:

-- at the Library of Congress. Would you just like to say something about that?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, of course, I was at Yale for seven years, was very active in the American Library Association, got to know Sumner Spalding who was then chief of the Descriptive Cataloging Division. In the summer of 1957, I came down here with my professor Yanaga with Department of Political Science. I had been taking courses in political science with the intention of getting a doctorate at Yale while I was working in the library. Yanaga had gotten a commission to come down to Washington, D.C., to go through a vast quantity of captured Japanese documents stored in their warehouse in northern Virginia and go through these documents for the -- whatever they are worth, strategic, intelligence, economic or military information. He -- Professor Yanaga recruited me and two others, students of Japanese. We came down here to work in the National Archives that summer. And as we went through these, selecting those documents to be microfilmed, those documents are sent to the Library of Congress here for -- so that they could be photographed by the photo duplication service. And it was in that context that Sumner Spalding was chief of the Descriptive Catalog Division, approached me and asked me if I was interested in a job. They were going to establish a new Far Eastern Languages section to catalog Chinese, Japanese and Korean language publications. You could do that in those days. Nowadays you can't. But you could in those days. And I said, Oh, I'll give it a thought. And I didn't really want to leave Yale, but when I went back to Yale which was not paying much first thing my wife asked me was how much are they paying. It was a pretty handsome sum. So that's how I came to the Library of Congress as the chief of the -- or head of the Far Eastern Languages Cataloging Section and the Descriptive Cataloging Division under Sumner Spalding.

Lee Woodman:

And you have written so many articles and books?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Excuse me?

Lee Woodman:

You have written many articles and books?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, in my spare time, yes. But that's what -- I was permitted -- Yale University Library expected me to write books, and I wrote a book on Japanese political style there. Then when I was here at the Library of Congress I was expected to engage in research in my own field which is Asian studies and to publish as well as to administer first a section and then the Orientalia division of the Library of Congress which later became the Asian division.

Lee Woodman:

There were a few things that I wanted to ask you again about your earlier experience and then some more philosophical questions on the nature of human beings in general. I forgot to ask you about the phrase enemy alien.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yes.

Lee Woodman:

What -- how was that used?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, I guess enemy alien is a legal term. For purposes of the draft, we were -- you're 1A. That's physically capable of serving in the Armed Forces, very loosely defined. I was, for example, wearing glasses by that time. I had flat feet, still do. Both of these physical -- not ailments. Well, I'm not a perfect human specimen -- could have permitted me to plead that I was incapable of military service. I could have been asked to be classified as 4F, eligible but physically incapable. I waived that so that I could get into the service. And that's how -- that's how things worked in those days. What was your question?

Lee Woodman:

I was asking you what the term enemy alien meant.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, that's it. Okay. I was eligible for the draft, but in 1942 after Pearl Harbor all Japanese Americans otherwise eligible for the draft were classified as 4C which is an enemy alien category. Some Nisei who had been drafted before that time were let go for the good of the service. Some others were not, were kept like my brother was kept. A friend of mine who later got into the service was in the former category. He was let go so that -- but by 1943 it became evident at least to the older Office of War Information that there was propaganda value in recruiting Japanese Americans to serve as a unit, segregated unit in the battlefields of Europe. And that's the beginning of the very famous 442nd Regiment or combat team made up of Nisei soldiers from Hawaii and the West Coast states. Some of them recruited from the war relocation centers. At the same time, the Army was recruiting for Japanese language specialists. Those of us who had any kind of competence -- I told you I had gone to Japanese language school. I was an indifferent student there. I was a straight-A student otherwise, but in Japanese language school I was a C student. Nevertheless, they needed anybody with any kind of competence in the Japanese language. And that's how the Army got me into the military intelligence language school and gave me the six months of intensive language training that I told you about earlier.

Lee Woodman:

Very good. You also started to tell me before we had our tape recorder hooked up about visiting Germany and comparing the concentration camps you saw there to the internment camps here in the United States.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Uh-huh.

Lee Woodman:

Would you describe that and comment on it.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

There was a fundamental -- that's why I refused to call the relocation centers -- I use them by the pretty name of relocation center. I refused -- I called them internment centers but not concentration camps because the term concentration camp goes back to the Boer Wars of the early part of the 20th century. But concentration camps as used by the Nazis were in effect death camps as you know. And I told you that I was invited by the German government to visit libraries in Germany, and on the very last day of our trip I asked to visit the Dachau memorial which is the memorial to those people who had died in the -- in that concentration camp. It's -- it's a devastating place for any human being to go to. I have been to the -- the museum in downtown Jared (ph) for the Holocaust Memorial Museum. That also is a place where when you go in you start crying without even knowing, and you can't understand how human beings can do this kind of thing to other human beings. That's why I refused to call the relocation center -- I use the euphemistic term rather than concentration camp because the relocation centers in which 110,000 of us were put were not death camps. They were imprisonment camps to be sure, but they were not death camps. If you had a good reason to get out such as I did when I wanted to go out and finish my schooling, I could go out with the help of the Quakers. But they were not death camps. They were not concentration camps in that sense you see. So I refuse to use that term when describing the war relocation centers. I'd rather use their euphemism. Maybe I'll call them detention centers but not beyond that.

Lee Woodman:

Now that you have had many years to reflect on all of this experience, what are your feelings about the Japanese? What are your feelings about the American people?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

The Japanese in Japan and the Americans in this country are you talking about? The Japan -- in my opinion, I -- for my doctoral dissertation at Yale I wrote a study of constitutional and political changes in Japan following the surrender. In my opinion, there is -- there was a fundamental shift, change not only in the Japanese political system but maybe even in the psyche of the Japanese people because of the ruinous defeat, the atom bombing, and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the complete -- almost complete devastation of Tokyo and Osaka where hundreds of thousands -- I don't know the figure for the number of civilians who were killed in that war. Because of that, Japan adopted a constitution, a so-called peace constitution, where they renounced war altogether. It was, of course, written by MacArthur's staff. But, nevertheless, Japan has refused to change any -- not even a syllable of that constitution. There was a sea change in their attitude. Japan for centuries has been regarded as a militaristic entity, country. And for them to make such a drastic change in the basic outlook on life and their psychology way of life, fundamental values is a tremendous difference in what happened to that country. What was your second question?

Lee Woodman:

My second question was to you as a young American boy, as an American soldier and now as a venerable American veteran how do you -- how do you view your life as an American?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

I view my life much more realistically now than when I was subjected to this evacuation denial of my basic constitutional rights. I was mad, but what could I do? It's the funny thing about growing up a Japanese American. Part of your mentality is still Japanese. I like to think that the greater part of my mentality, my emotional life, my inner being is American. But I have to recognize the fact that part of my mental and emotional makeup is Japanese. There's no getting away from that. I can't deny that reality. And I have tried to understand intellectually how it came about that American democracy failed me so much -- so profoundly in casting me as an enemy and in depriving me of all of my constitutional rights without trial or without charged trial. And I've tried to understand that. And I find that from the very beginning of the republic this kind of thing has happened. The Alien and Sedition Acts under John -- President John Adams is a -- Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator, imprisoned members of the Maryland legislature or legislative assembly without trial in Fort McHenry because they were -- they threatened to go secessionists, vote secessionists. If Maryland had seceded, Virginia had already, there would be the capitol of the United States in a vice grip. Lincoln couldn't permit that, so he jailed members of the legislative assembly without trial despite their constitutional rights. That's what happened to me. So I look at that or study that, and I understand why these things happen. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. That's Thomas Jefferson, the owner of slaves, who's writing that. You have to understand that there are words and then there's a reality, but the reality you have -- I have eventually conclude -- came to this conclusion that one must try to live up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and espoused in the Bill of Rights. One must try greatly to live up to those ideals. If the reality -- if the political reality is different, then one must understand why we are all struggling to attain -- achieve the greatest ideals. But that doesn't mean that this republic, this country has reached those ideals. Martin Luther King, his dream, why is he talking about a dream that should have been realized with the Declaration of Independence for not only the black people of this country but for untold millions of this country who do not have, enjoy equal rights to this day? So I think over the years -- excuse me -- I have made an accommodation --

Lee Woodman:

Start again. Say I think over the years.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Over the years as I have thought about this, as I have tried to deal with this personally, I have made certain accommodations. I still believe in the Constitution. I still believe in the Bill of Rights. I still believe in Thomas Jefferson's statements concerning things that he holds self-evident. But I also see with a clear eye that the American dream is yet to be fully realized; and that makes me even more desirous of working so that the dream will be realized, Martin Luther King's dream. That's something that you find in the Declaration of Independence, the basic ideas. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all mean are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. It's that dream that sustains me as an individual despite the realities of what happened to me personally. But it's -- but one must dream. Otherwise -- otherwise, I think one dies spiritually, intellectually, physically if one does not have dreams. And that's the greatness of Martin Luther King and his dream. That's the greatness of Thomas Jefferson and his dream despite the fact that he kept slaves and despite the fact that he knew what he was doing was wrong according to his notes on the -- on the book he published and notes to the Virginia legislature. He knew what he was doing. He knew that he was made a hypocrite, but he didn't call himself a hypocrite. I don't call him a hypocrite. I call him a human being with all of his faults and all of his greatness. We are not gods. We human beings are not gods. Martin Luther King is not a god. Thomas Jefferson is not a god. Abraham Lincoln is not a god. We are all human beings with all of our frailties. But we can strive toward a better life, strive to attain those ideals that we find in the Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence and the Bible. We can strive for those ideals. But we have to be, I think, realistic and understand we cannot become so embittered because our country has failed to live up to its professed ideals and dreams. We cannot be so bitter that we attempt to tear it down or destroy it. No, no. I think we have a greater civic responsibility. We have a responsibility, I think, to build up our country so that it lives up to the dreams that we find in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and in Lincoln's Gettysburg address and all of these great statements of America. I think it is our obligation as American citizens to see clearly that we still have a way to go before we attain these great ideals if we can because we -- after all we are all flawed human beings. We are not God.

Lee Woodman:

What do you consider a patriot?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Funny thing you ask that. There is a memorial on the -- near the -- there's a memorial in Louisiana Avenue near the hotel there. What's that big hotel there just off of Capitol Hill? It's a memorial to -- Japanese American memorial. It was dedicated three years ago. It's a memorial to patriotism. I remember reading -- when it was dedicated three years ago, I remember reading in the Washington Post that it's a beautiful piece of architecture and all that, but he found -- the writer who is the architectural critic for the Washington Post found it disconcerting to find that it was a memorial to patriotism. You know, a year later when the Trade Towers were bombed on 9/11 we created a new department of -- what is it -- patriotism or whatever it is or a new act. And patriotism is very much -- very much in vogue right now. I don't think I've ever lost my patriotism. If you -- call me narrow-minded if you will, but I still consider myself an American patriot. That's a title of our book that we published, "American Patriots." I don't think that's corny. I don't think that's misleading. I think it's a high duty for Americans to be patriotic, to love their country, to serve it when attacked. I don't think that's -- I don't know why patriotism became a dirty word. It's never been a dirty word as far as I'm -- perhaps because I was born on the 4th of July. But quite apart from that, it is to me a good word, and it's a word that makes you live up to certain ideals of the United States of America. And it's not only patriots that love our country, but it's love of the fundamental values of American society that I think an American, true American patriot also sustains, supports. And that is my credo. That is my belief in this country. No matter what it may have done to me in terms of racial discrimination I always -- I never lost my hopes for this country. I never lost the dream of an America that in the long run would live up to its ideals as you find, the ideals that you find in Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Ind -- what is that called? He wrote that document.

Lee Woodman:

Declaration?

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Yeah. And in the Bill of Rights. These are things that I have not strayed one word from those basic principles even though some of my own countrymen may have forgotten or overlooked or downplayed because that is my life blood. If I did not live in a country that promised that kind of high ideal, I don't think I could live in this country. So despite all the shortcomings and all the problems that afflict American democracy from time to time in times of stress -- and right now we are living through a similar kind of experience -- in the long run I believe that we will come out on the side of the angels, if you will. That is my belief as an American patriot. And I say that without apologies.

Lee Woodman:

Thank you, Dr. Tsuneishi. I really, really appreciate your thoughts.

Warren Michio Tsuneishi:

Well, thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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