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Interview with David H. Masuo [n.d.]

Terry Shima:

This is an oral history on the life of David Masuo of Anchorage, Alaska. It is being done for the Japanese-American Veterans Association which is a partner of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. The interview is being conducted at the residence of Terry Shima, who is the interviewer, and by Grant Hirabayashi, the cameraman. David, let's begin with you, if you would state your name and your date and place of birth.

David H. Masuo:

Okay. My name is David Henryk Masuo. I was born on July the 22nd, 1947 in Munchen, or Munich as some people call it, Germany.

Terry Shima:

Let's go way back.

David H. Masuo:

Okay.

Terry Shima:

Tell us about your -- your grandfather and your grandmother if you remember their history.

David H. Masuo:

Well, I do a little.

Terry Shima:

When did they come to Hawaii, et cetera.

David H. Masuo:

Okay. I do know a little bit about my grandparents. My grandfather and grandmother came from Yamaguchi, Japan. They left Japan on September the 22nd, 1902 and arrived in Honolulu on September the 30th, 1902. And I know this information because I was part of a family reunion that I researched. And my grandparents came to Hawaii not as a laborer for the sugar plain -- sugar plantation as many Japanese were but just as a merchant, a person who wanted to make his money and then return to Japan. That being said, my grandfather and grandmother left two of my uncles, my first and second uncles, in Japan as a promise to return, but they never did. My grandfather was a merchant, a fish merchant, who had a horse and a wagon and sold fish to the people in the Lahaina area, Lahaina, Maui. That's where they settled. And my grandmother was a housewife I guess you would call her. But that's a little bit about my grandparents. Now, a little story about my grandfather. My grandfather was a very kind and gentle person, and people owed him money for the fish because what he did lots of times was he'd go and sell fish, and they wouldn't have money for them, but my grandfather said, Well, you know, you pay me when you can. And what he would not do is he would not accept their land as payment. He said, No, when you have the money, you can pay me. I don't want to take your land because your land is yours. And so, therefore, my family or my father's family, I should say, my grandparents, they were not well-to-do. In fact, they were fairly poor. But my grandfather was a good man, and that's what I think is important in life, that he -- that he was a good person. He died suddenly, and when he died some people came forward and said, We owe your family some money, and they paid my grandmother the money that my grandfather was owed. And some people refused to do that. They didn't come at all. And my father tells me that they wouldn't even look at my grandmother. She'd be walking down the street, and they would come towards her, and they would recognize her, and they would cross the street so that they wouldn't have to look at her. But that's okay because my grandfather was a good person, and that was important. He was strict with my father and my -- my other uncles and aunties, but as far as people was concerned, he was a good man.

Terry Shima:

You mentioned about the reunion of your family.

David H. Masuo:

Yes.

Terry Shima:

How did that come about?

David H. Masuo:

Well, in 1998 I was discussing with my cousin, Robert Masuo, the opportunity to have a family reunion in 2000 because 2000 was a -- it's the turn of the century, so to speak. And Robert said to me, David, you know, why don't you have it in 2002, 100 years after your grandparents arrived. And I said, Well, that sounds reasonable. So the wheels started working, and I made a trip back to Hawaii fairly recently after that, and I decided to do a little research. I went to the library in Honolulu. I actually started off with Immigration and Naturalization Service, and they basically told me it would take six months to find it if they could find it, but that possibly I could go down to the library where they archived the information and look it up. So I did that. And using some information that I had from one of my cousins that the delousing date was September the 22nd, that was the date that they were delousing Yokohama. I used that date as a start date and researched from that date forward or back towards I tried to figure, well, you know, it couldn't have been any longer than a month or so to travel from Japan to Hawaii. So I started looking into the microfiche, and the librarian came up to me after I had been there for about an hour, and she said, We're going to be closing in about another half hour, 45 minutes, so you'll need to end your session pretty soon. I said -- I says, I'm almost done. Let me keep looking. And it was not even a minute or two after she had left that I was scrolling through, and you have to see these names are constantly seeing Japanese names, and all of a sudden I saw my last name, Masuo, and then I saw my grandfather's name, Kosoburo (ph), and I stopped, and then I looked and it was my grandmother's name, Tanai (ph) Masuo, and right there and then everything stopped for me. I had, as we call in Hawaii, chicken skin, and I had tears in my eyes, to see this document that showed that my grandparents had arrived on September the 30th, 1902 at the harbor of Honolulu, and that's -- that was the arrival of my grandparents. And using that date we had a family gathering. We held it starting September the 27th we started it, but the final day was on September the 30th we had it at the Hale Koa Hotel in Fort DeRussy, Honolulu, Hawaii. And we had over 80 family members from all over the United States and from Japan attend this gathering. And that was -- that was about my grandparents and how wonderful it was to have them come to the United States.

Terry Shima:

And that -- that is remarkable, and what a tribute for a grandchild to do that for the grandfather and grandmother. What about your -- your parents, how many siblings did your father have?

David H. Masuo:

Well, my father was a son -- the son of 13 children. Of the 13, 12 lived. Two were left in -- in Japan. One finally came to the United States, but the rest of them were born in Lahaina, Maui. And my father was the second to the last of the -- of the Masuos. My Uncle Tom who is the last one but my father, whose real name is Kinzo, not Jack, but because they couldn't pronounce his name called him Jack. My father was born in October of 1923.

Terry Shima:

And what did your father do -- tell us about his growing up.

David H. Masuo:

Okay. My father grew up in Lahaina, Maui, and one of his favorite things that he enjoyed doing was to fish. He enjoyed fishing there at Lahaina Wharf, and he attended Lahainaluna High School, graduated from Lahainaluna High School in 1939. In 1941, December the 7th, right in that time frame, my father was a carpenter assistant working at Pearl Harbor, and he remarked to me that it was funny that every day they worked, they worked on Saturdays and Sundays, but the weekend of the 7th my father told me that they were told to take that Sunday off, and that was the day that the Japanese Naval Imperial Air Force attacked Pearl Harbor. So that's my father and his growing up and what happened to him.

Terry Shima:

Do you remember what your father's reactions were to the Pearl Harbor attack?

David H. Masuo:

Well, I know that my father was -- was very surprised that this happened, but I don't think my father realized that he was Japanese. I think my father was, as all Americans, we're Americans, and for some nation to attack the United States was uncon -- you know, just inconceivable that it would happen. He was very upset about it. And when the President of the United States authorized the enlistment of Japanese Americans, my father went down to enlist, and he tells me a funny story about he was going to beat everybody, so he said he got up real early that morning to go down to Fort DeRussy to do the induction or, you know, take the physical and everything, and as he turned the corner he said to the induction center, he said he could see this line going just blocks down the road, and he said, Well, I guess I'm not going to be the first in line. And so he got towards the end of the line.

Terry Shima:

This was to volunteer for the 442nd?

David H. Masuo:

To volunteer for the 442nd, right.

Terry Shima:

And what happened, did he make it?

David H. Masuo:

Well, he was found not fit for service because of a loss of hearing, and because of that loss of hearing he was placed in what they called the Reserves. In 19 -- August of 1945 he was called up to active duty, and it would have been for replacement of the 442nd. However, the 442nd had already returned. So he was selected as part of the occupational forces, 1st Division, and went over with a bunch of Hawaii guys to a place called Regensburg, Germany.

Terry Shima:

And that's where you were born?

David H. Masuo:

Well, Regensburg is not very far from Munchen or Munich, and that's where the 98th General Hospital was located at. And so my father being assigned to the Signal Battalion there or Signal Corps, or whatever the group was, had the run of the -- of the area because he was the driver for the commander. And my -- he met my mother there. My mother is a displaced person from Poland. And there's an interesting story about that, and I'd like to tell you about that.

Terry Shima:

Please.

David H. Masuo:

My mother was around the age of 14 or 15, I'm not quite sure, a teenager when it happened, when the Germans entered her village, and they gave my mother a choice, the choice was either to get in the truck to be a slave laborer or get shot. And my mother, being the smart person that she was, got in the truck, and she became a slave laborer for the German farmers, and she worked in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary for German farmers. And there's another story that she tells me about the time when -- I think it was about 1943, '44, where she found a hand grenade and picked it up and took it to the farmer, and they immediately called the SS, and the SS was going to have her shot because they weren't allowed to have weapons, and she had found this hand grenade. She said, No, no, no, I'll show you where I found it. And so she took them back to where she found it, and the hand grenade had been there long enough so that the grass had wilted and it had turned yellow. So she was able to prove to them that she wasn't a Freedom Fighter or whatever, you know, but just found that hand grenade and brought it in like she was supposed to, so she lived.

Terry Shima:

How did they meet, your father and your mother?

David H. Masuo:

Well, after the war ended my mother went back to Poland, back to her village. When she got there though, the Russians had overrun the village and were now in the village, and they were having their way basically, raping all the women and having, you know, stealing and everything. So my mother and her friend at the time decided that this wasn't the right thing to do, so they went back to Germany. They walked all the way back to Germany and ended up in Regensburg where there was a displaced person camp for Polish people, and she was there. My father being the driver for the commander of the unit could go anywhere he wanted to, and that's how he met her at the camp, and they subsequently married. And this is kind of -- kind of an odd thing because you have to understand that Japanese normally don't marry caucasian or gaijin (ph) as we call them. So it was unusual that my father would have married, as we say in Hawaii, a haole girl. And nine months later I arrived.

Terry Shima:

And then after Germany then did your father settle in Hawaii?

David H. Masuo:

Well, what happened was around 1948, '49, right shortly after I was born my father was reassigned or maybe discharged I guess in Hawaii, was sent back to Hawaii, and he was discharged. And that's where I got to meet my grandmother for the first time. And the story goes, and I'm sure it's being embellished, but my father was very concerned about meeting -- going home because he had married a gaijin (ph) or a haole girl. And my father said that what they did was they drove up, and they opened the door and allowed me out of the vehicle, and I got out of the vehicle, and my grandmother was waiting. She saw me and there was no thought about being married to a haole girl. It was I have a grandchild. And I sort of opened the door to bring my mom as part of the family. And my mother went to my grandmother and asked her how to cook Japanese food. So whenever we have a gathering at the time, you know, when I was younger, my mom would make sushi and, you know, all the Japanese food, tempura and all that stuff, and it was just like my grandmother would make because my grandmother showed her exactly how to make it. And even my aunts couldn't make the food just like my grandmother because, of course, when they were growing up my grandmother made everything. They weren't involved in the making of the food. So my mom learned how to cook from my grandmother, and in our household we normally ate rice. We didn't eat potatoes that much.

Terry Shima:

What lessons have you learned from your father and your mother?

David H. Masuo:

I think the main thing that I have learned from my parents is try to do good. Try to understand people. My father explained to me a long time ago about race. We had come back from Germany, I got an assignment -- my father had gotten an assignment to Germany, and his assignment -- follow-on assignment was to Cameron Station here in Virginia. And he said to me one day as I remarked, Dad, you know, there are no colored kids in my class. Back in those days that's what we said, colored kids. Because I was in Germany and, you know, we had colored kids in our class. We had everybody. But we didn't have any colored kids in our class in Virginia. My father said, This is something that you'll have to understand that there is something called prejudice, which I had no idea what it was. And he says, Because they're not caucasian, they don't have the same privileges. And you're fortunate because you have caucasian blood in you and Japanese, so they don't look at you as they would a person of color, of being black or colored at the time. So that was my taste of prejudice, and my father and mother basically ensured that I didn't do that. Now, one other thing that my father did for me, my father was very strict, you know, and if I deserved a spanking or as we call in Hawaii a good licken, I got it. There was none of this I'm going to spoil the rod -- I mean spare the rod and spoil the child. And I appreciate that because, you know, I was a boy. I was a kolohe at the time from Hawaii, kolohe being a rascal, and I had -- I got into a lot of little mischievous things as kids do. But my father -- how do I say this -- my father and I had an understanding that I would -- if I was good, I wouldn't get a licken; and if I was bad, I was going to get it. And he taught me that value. But the thing that really -- I really remember was we would have a movie, it was called Go For Broke, about the 442nd, and whenever that show would come on in Hawaii, and we had a television, I remember having a small round television, and my father would make myself and my brother sit down and watch this movie about the 442. And that was my early recollection about the 442nd and the 100 Battalion and later on about the MIS and, quite frankly, these are my heroes. As I've said to other people, because of the 442nd, the MIS, the 522nd, the 100 Battalion, my ethnic forefathers, however you want to call them, the people before me, without them doing what they did, I would not have been able to serve my country and be a military member.

Terry Shima:

Although -- although your father must have been very disappointed not to have been accepted into the 442nd because of his hearing disability, he has made his contribution to the country by serving in the military when he did. But where are they living now?

David H. Masuo:

Well, my parents -- my father retired from the Army in about 1966 and moved to the mainland or to California as they would call it, and then after that moved up to Oregon, and they currently reside right outside of Gresham, Oregon. Both of them are still living and doing well. I mean, they're -- they're older but they're doing well.

Terry Shima:

That's fine. David, tell me about yourself, your early childhood.

David H. Masuo:

Well, most of my -- things that I remember about my childhood is that I grew up in Hawaii. I remember Red Hill where I would play, and I went to Pearl City. We moved to Pearl City, my father purchased a home in Pearl City, and I went to school at Pearl City Kai, and I remember going to school because we never had to wear shoes and we always wore shorts and T-shirt and that was considered proper wear, but we never wore shoes. In fact, I don't remember ever having a pair of shoes when I was a kid. I thought that slippers was the only way to go. My mother worked in the cafeteria so, you know, I had it made. My mom was in the school cafeteria, so I was kind of like a -- kind of an important kid. But the one thing I remember was my uncle, he's a hanai uncle or in Hawaii that means adopted uncle, hanai means adopted. My hanai uncle who I knew when I was born was stationed with my father, Machuo Endo (ph), had a poi factory called the Haleiwa Poi Factory and in Haleiwa, Hawaii which was not too far from where we lived, you know, maybe about 20 miles or so. And my father would let me stay at my uncle's house every once in a while for a couple, three or four days. And my uncle would take me, wake me up at 1 o'clock in the morning, we would go make poi. We'd steam the taro. We would -- he would teach me how to clean the taro, and would grind it and would package the poi. And then after all that was done, my grandfather would -- I'm sorry, not my grandfather -- my uncle, my uncle would take me fishing. And he would take me to Haleiwa by the waterside, and we would fish until it got light, and then we would go home, have breakfast, and take a nap, and then I would go swimming again. And I would always go back to my favorite spot in Haleiwa Beach, right next to the Haleiwa Beach and the Soto Mission, the Japanese Soto Mission, there was a little spot there. And to this day I go there every time I go home, I go to this one spot, and I visit my uncle, he's still alive, and talk stories with him because that's how we do it in Hawaii. I love my uncle dearly. He's such a wonderful man. As far as school is concerned, in the third grade I moved to New York City for about four months living with some friends of my mother's because my father was assigned to Germany, but I couldn't get there until my father had a -- had a place to stay. So we stayed there in New York in the Bronx for four months. I attended P.S. 65, I remember that, and then after that I went to Germany, caught a boat. We were on a boat, went to Bremerhaven. Took a train from Bremerhaven to a place called Leipheim, and we actually ended up in a little town called Gunzburg right next to Leipheim, or actually it was Gunzburg and then the smaller place that we stayed at was called Kleinkurtz (ph). And how I remember this, I don't know.

Terry Shima:

How old were you then?

David H. Masuo:

I was in the 4th grade, 3rd and 4th grade. And that's where I actually learned how to speak German. I was able to, you know, when you're young you pick up the language fairly easy. So I was able to learn to speak German. I speak German now but probably not very well, but I can get in trouble with the German that I speak. I speak no Japanese which is -- which is sad, because when I was growing up the time that I should have been going to Japanese school, I was away on the mainland or in Europe. So when we came back from Europe, from Germany, we stayed three -- about three years in Cameron Station, Virginia with my father, and I went to school here. And then we got an assignment -- my father got an assignment back to Hawaii, and we went back to Hawaii, and I started school at Highlands Intermediate. I was in the 7th grade. Went to Highlands Intermediate through the 9th grade, and then from there went to Waipahu High School. I was there for a few months and then during that period of time my father had taken an assignment to Fairbanks and was up there until he came back in 1960, about '62.

Terry Shima:

You did not accompany your parents to Fairbanks?

David H. Masuo:

No. Just my father. My father took an assignment on his own to Fairbanks and left us in Hawaii. And quite frankly, I'm glad he did. My formative years I was able to -- when I say formative, my teenage years, I lived in Hawaii. When he came back, he didn't want to make this long drive from Pearl City to Schofield. So what he did was he sold our house in Pearl City, and we moved to Wahiawa where I lived in military housing right off post next to Pemu Farms (ph). And it's still there. I drive by every once in a while and I see that the buildings that we were in were destroyed and they put new apartments up there or whatever, but it's still there, it still belongs to the military. And I went to Leilehua High School. I graduated in 1965 from Leilehua High School.

Terry Shima:

So at what -- at what point did you make a break from your family?

David H. Masuo:

Well, you know, in 1965 there was two choices that you had. You either went in the military or you went to school. My parents didn't have a lot of money, and I just didn't feel ready for college, and I knew that I would have to go in the service. So my father told me that if I joined the Army, he would never talk to me again.

Terry Shima:

But he was in the Army?

David H. Masuo:

He was in the Army. It was a way to keep me from going into the Army and, you know, I probably would have joined the Army, but he convinced me that I should join the Air Force or kind of leaned me towards the Air Force. So at the time I was working in the pineapple fields. This was my second year working in the pineapple fields, and I was enjoying it, but I knew that I would have to enter the service. So I had taken the test in school, you know, the written examination, and I had done fairly well. So I took my physical. I had to get permission from my father and my mother to take the physical because I was still 17, and I was selected -- because I was physically fit to enter the military, I was basically selected but was told, you know, as soon as there was an opening they would call me. Well, right after my 18th birthday, in fact I hadn't even really turned 18 yet, I got notification that the assignment was available if I wanted to do it. So I said yes, I would accept an assignment. On August the 3rd, 1965 I entered the United States Air Force. I didn't even have a draft card, hadn't even been able to register for the draft because I was already in the service, and that's when I entered the Air Force.

Terry Shima:

What do you -- at that point, of course, you were no longer a child, but what do you remember most, what were your most memorable moments growing up as a child?

David H. Masuo:

I think the most memorable moment that I had was with my uncle working at the poi factory.

Terry Shima:

Why?

David H. Masuo:

Because my uncle was another kind person. He was strict to me too as he should be, he's my uncle, but he always encouraged me to -- to do things and always made sure that I was busy working at the poi factory or as I grew up into my teenage years, he had a little gas station, so I would work at the gas station too, you know, filling gas and putting oil in the big glass things with the funnel attached to it, I would fill up the oil. And when people came up, I would put gas in their car and cleaned the -- cleaned the windows and checked the oil and those type of things, and that was my uncle. And he always, always had room for me. I remember -- I remember when I was a little kid going to his wedding, and I said to my uncle because my auntie, you have to understand that my auntie was the most gorgeous woman in the world, and I even told her that in my older age. But I told my uncle, I said, you know, you're really lucky to be marrying my auntie, so you better take good care of her. And there's a picture of me that the photographer had taken, and here's this little scrawny hapa haole kid looking at this absolutely gorgeous woman in the full wedding dress, and I'm looking at her like this, you know, and boy, she is such a gorgeous woman. And that's, you know, my uncle, and those are the things I remember.

Terry Shima:

Very fascinating. David, you've spent -- you've spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force?

David H. Masuo:

23 years actually.

Terry Shima:

Tell us about it.

David H. Masuo:

Okay. I entered the Air Force again in August of 1965 with the idea of becoming a photographer. That was my true wish. I wanted to be a photographer for the Air Force. However, when I entered the Air Force there was no guarantee that I would be a photographer, and when I took the exam that they had, I didn't do well, and I attribute it to the fact that they were talking military stuff, and I had no clue what a piece of equipment was. They call it a BI PAST test. So with the BI PAST test I didn't do as well as they would have liked me to so they said, you know, you have some other options. You can be a cook, security policeman, or a medical person. I said, Well, I didn't want to be a cook, and I don't know about being law enforcement, you know, security police. What's a medic? You know, and the guy explained to me and I said, Okay, why don't you put that down. Well, that's the job that I became, I became a medical technician. Graduated from basic training, went to technical school at Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama, and graduated from their technical training class there, both the introduction of basic medic and the follow-on medical technician class. So at that point I was ready to be released to the medical field. My first assignment was McChord Air Force Base which was a clinic, and it was really good because I learned to be an ER tech because that's basically what we were. Just emergency clinic. If they were really seriously ill, they would go over to Fort Lewis, but we would do the suturing and those types of things. So I learned how to suture. I learned how to take blood and those type of things from the clinic. I gave shots. In fact, I was even an examiner of people coming back from Vietnam. I would go as the medical person to review their shot records to ensure that they had shot records or if they were civilians, that they had the x-rays for tuberculosis, had to make sure that they maintained those records. So that was part of the job that I did at McChord. I put in my paperwork, and I had promised my mother that I would not volunteer to go to Vietnam because Vietnam at that time was really big, 1967, and I promised my mother, and I wasn't going to not keep my promise. So I said I would not volunteer to go to Vietnam. I did volunteer to go to Germany.

Terry Shima:

Subsequently?

David H. Masuo:

Subsequently. That was my next follow-on assignment was to Germany. And I was selected to go to the 2nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Rhein-Main, Germany. And there I learned how to be an aeromedical evacuation technician. Most of the people went to school, but I didn't. I learned on-the-job, and that will later on I'll tell you about what happened with that. But I learned to be an aeromedical technician and learned on three aircraft: C-131s, C-118s, and C-141s. I was eligible to fly those three types of aircraft. And I flew from Germany all over Europe, Spain, England, down to Algeria or Libya, I should say, to Libya, and then over to Pakistan and to -- I went to Tehran, Iran, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Those are some of the countries that I got to go to. Greece. I spent a lot of time in Greece and Turkey. And our job was to provide transportation for those patients who were ill and moving them from one hospital to another or up to Germany to be sent back to United States CONUS as we call it, continental United States. And I even learned on the 141, so I was eligible to fly back to CONUS, again continental United States, and take patients there. So that was what I learned being an air evac tech or aeromedical evacuation technician.

Terry Shima:

Do these trips allow you time to sightsee?

David H. Masuo:

I did some sightseeing. In Greece I did that. In London, I enjoyed seeing London. Did a lot of traveling throughout Europe. I did -- I did catch the train to Yugoslavia and had a good time there. Did skiing, learned how to ski in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and, of course, continued my abilities to speak German. Did very well. The more beer that I drank, the better I was able to speak German for some reason, and I don't know what it was.

Terry Shima:

I have heard that before. But you did go to Vietnam?

David H. Masuo:

Yes.

Terry Shima:

How did that come about?

David H. Masuo:

Well, we had a visit from the chief nurse of Military Airlift Command, MAC, she was on our flight and she said -- she asked me questions about how I was doing and everything, and I said I was doing well. However, I really would have liked to have gone to Vietnam, and I explained to her that I had promised my mother that I wouldn't volunteer, but I would go if they sent me. And a few months later I get an assignment. Actually I got two assignments. The first assignment that I got was an assignment for discharge because I had served my tour, and I had four years in the service. So I had paperwork to go back to Fort DeRussy, Honolulu, Hawaii. At the very same time, a day or so later I got another -- I got an assignment to the 903rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Cam Ranh Bay, Republic of Vietnam. And I had these two orders in my hands, and I said, What am I going to do? I sought out a friend from Hawaii, Fred Tanita (ph), and I said Fred, what am I going to do? And he said, David, do what your heart tells you.

Terry Shima:

But they were conflicting orders.

David H. Masuo:

Oh, sure. One was going to let me go to Vietnam and one was going to let me out of the service.

Terry Shima:

Yeah.

David H. Masuo:

So I'm sitting there, you know, and I felt that I needed to go to Vietnam. So I turned down my assignment or my discharge paperwork and held onto my assignment, and I let my parents know that I had gotten an assignment to Vietnam. And I didn't lie to my mom. I didn't volunteer. I didn't put anything on paperwork, but it was because of the chief nurse that I know I got my assignment to Vietnam. I returned to the -- to the United States, and I remember this so well.

Terry Shima:

This is after Vietnam?

David H. Masuo:

No, no, no, no. This is before Vietnam. I remember going from Germany, and what I did was -- normally you'd catch a regular flight, you'd get sent out of your unit on a regular flight, and you fly back to the United States. I just said I'm going to go back as a crew member. I'm going to work my way back. And so I worked my way back to Andrews Air Force Base, got off the airplane at Andrews Air Force Base, and then went and caught a flight from Dulles to Chicago, from Chicago to San Francisco. And in Chicago the gentleman that was taking my ticket said, Where are you heading for, soldier? And I said, Well, I'm going to Vietnam. And he looked at me, and he put on some piece of paper and said, Here you are, sir, you're in first class. And he upgraded my ticket to first class. I mean, I never sat in first class in my life. And so I got on the airplane. I sat in first class. And the airline attendants at that time were so nice to me, that gentleman was -- I mean, I didn't know who this guy was, but he gave me this upgrade, and I flew first class to San Francisco, and I swear I was still at 19,000 by the time we landed because --

Terry Shima:

You didn't -- you didn't tell the ticket attendant that you were a general, did you?

David H. Masuo:

Oh, no, no. I was a nobody. I was a staff sergeant. Was I a staff sergeant? No. I was a buck sergeant actually. I had three stripes when I got on the airplane. In uniform.

Terry Shima:

Those three stripes are pretty influential.

David H. Masuo:

I just -- just the fact that I said I was going to Vietnam, I think that this guy --

Terry Shima:

That's commendable.

David H. Masuo:

-- did that to me. I was ever so grateful to be able to fly first class because I went from Chicago to San Francisco. Got off the airplane, met my father, took me home. My mom said, I'll hide you. I said, No, mom, I've been assigned to Vietnam. I'm going. And at that point August the 15th I arrived in Cam Ranh Air Force Base -- Cam Ranh Air Force Base, Republic of Vietnam, and was assigned to the 903rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, part of the 9th Aeromedical group out of Clark, but I was stationed in country, and was trained on two different types of aircraft: C-130s and C-7s. And for 19 months I did that, I flew from Cam Ranh Bay to either north to Da Nang, Phu Bai, those places or south to places such as Biên Hòa, Con Son Island, those places, and we picked up battle casualties.

Terry Shima:

Con Son Island, wasn't that the prison camp?

David H. Masuo:

That was a prison -- that was a prison island, yeah. And we used to fly -- we flew captured POWs, Viet Cong and NDA that were wounded, we flew them to Con Son Island.

Terry Shima:

You, David, you mentioned the different types of aircraft.

David H. Masuo:

Aha.

Terry Shima:

Were there different requirements for each of the different aircrafts?

David H. Masuo:

Well, there were a little bit of, you know, how to -- how to escape from the aircraft. You had to know the different things about the aircraft, how to get in and get out, you know, just those type of things.

Terry Shima:

Was there different aircrafts used for different purposes?

David H. Masuo:

Certainly. The C-130s were used as the mainstay for Vietnam and mostly in the improved landing strips, strips that were fairly long. The C-7 was an aircraft that was used for really small strips, and we would -- we would get on these flights and a normal trip from let's say -- I'm trying to think of this little place -- Cam Ranh Bay to a place that was like five minutes away by a C-130 would take us 20 minutes on a C-7. And one day I got on the -- on the phone or the headset with the AC, aircraft commander, and I said, You know, there's a bird following right next to us and he's giving us an obscene gesture, and the pilot said, Get off the phone, medic. The plane was really, really slow. We landed -- I remember landing at some of these places, the pilot would take the aircraft and throw it in reverse before we were even on the ground. It would just stop the airplane in flight, and it would just hit real hard, and then just go forward. Well, we're here. Hence, we learned the old saying: Any landing that you can walk away from was a good landing. One of the things that we were not allowed to do, the Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, because we had lost some of our people, was to catch a helicopter from the Army. And so they said if you ever got caught in a helicopter, you'd be in trouble. So I never told them that I did that, and I flew in helicopters a few times when I was there but I never, never said anything to anybody. And whenever I flew because at one period of my time I was a liaison for the Army, and I stayed at Long Binh which is near Biên Hòa Air Base, and there was two evacuations, the 24th and the 93rd hospital. And we would stay there and prepare troops for movement back to the land of the big BX, the mainland or United States, and I -- I used to as a liaison provide support and keep the numbers of how many patients were being moved. And if there were air evacs late at night after everybody was shut down, then I would go over and accompany the casualty back to Long Binh. And it was at that point where I said, this is nuts, you know, we have to worry about the VC or Charlie attacking us, and there was a couple of occasions where it was kind of a doubtful ride, so to speak. I would put it in 4th gear and I would never come off the brakes. I would not touch the brakes until I hit the next -- until I hit from Long Binh until I hit Biên Hòa, and I had to go through a little town called Tiên Hiêp, and I remember there were many a time when people would be scurrying, you know, and I knew there was something going on, and I wouldn't even slow down. So I went to the Air Force and I said, you know, this is not right. We shouldn't be putting these guys in harm's way again. So I set it up with the Army to air evac, to send a chopper over from Long Binh at night, it was at nighttime, it would go from Long Binh over to Biên Hòa, pick up the patient and fly him back over to Biên Hòa -- I mean to Long Binh which is, it was like a three or four-minute flight, but it was about a 10 or 15-minute drive by ambulance, you know, and you draw fire, and I didn't want that to happen. So that was one of the things that I was able to do. And then every time we had an air evac from Biên Hòa, I would go along with the convoy to Biên Hòa to drop the patients off. So that --

Terry Shima:

Have you -- have you, David, have you had any hairy moments where your life was at great risk?

David H. Masuo:

Well, there's a couple of times when Charlie decided that they wanted to send rockets into us, and I've been under rocket attack before, and that's -- that will scare -- scare the heck out of you. I was on a chopper mission -- I mean, I wasn't supposed to be on the mission but a friend said, Hey, we're going to go to Vung Tau, you want to take a flight? No, it wasn't Vung Tau. We were just going to go take a quick ride somewhere, and you want to go with us. And I said, well, you know, I'm not supposed to fly on helicopters but we're just going to go in the area, so that will be no problem. Well, I got on the chopper, and no sooner we get up in the air then they called us to go to Vung Tau to pick up a casualty there, a burn victim, and I'm going, Oh, no, I am in deep, deep trouble. So the chopper flew from Long Binh over to Vung Tau, treetops mind you, nothing of this high 4,000 or 5,000 feet but right on the treetops, just scared the heck out of me. We flew into Vung Tau, picked up this patient, and flew him over to Saigon to the 3rd Army Hospital there in Saigon. And then we flew back to Long Binh and Biên Hòa area, and I was going I hope I never ever do that again. But yeah, that was -- that was the thing. Then I got an assignment one time, we got on the airplane and we flew down to Tan Son Nhut in Saigon. Got there and they said, Okay, everybody off the airplane except for you, you, and you. And myself and one nurse and bare crew were left, and they said, We'll tell you your assignment as soon as the doors are closed. Everybody was off the airplane, the doors close, and they said, Well, you get to go to Cambodia and off we went. They issued us a weapon, and medics aren't allowed to have weapons except to protect their patients. And they sent us to pick up a patient in Cambodia, which we did, brought the patient back to Tan Son Nhut.

Terry Shima:

This was by aircraft?

David H. Masuo:

By C-130.

Terry Shima:

Oh.

David H. Masuo:

By C-130.

Terry Shima:

And you said you were not -- you were not allowed to ride a helicopter. Why?

David H. Masuo:

Well, because of the fact that they had lost some of our people when they climbed on the helicopter just for a ride and the helicopter was diverted into a pickup and, you know, got subsequently shot down. So our commander said, You don't even do it. And I was able to do it every once in a while, I would ask permission from our commander because I would fly in from Long Binh or Biên Hòa, actually from the airfield, into Saigon as a crew member. I would fly in just for that 20-minute flight, but there was no way for me to get back. So I would have permission from the commander to go catch a helicopter flight. That was the only way for me to get back from Tan Son Nhut to Long Binh, and that's how I did that. But I had to have permission from my commander in order to do that.

Terry Shima:

Come back to Cambodia, your flight to Cambodia. Of course, the U.S. forces were in Cambodia.

David H. Masuo:

No, we weren't. They weren't there. That's a figment of everybody's imagination. Our forces would never have gone over there.

Terry Shima:

But you flew into Cambodia?

David H. Masuo:

We flew into Cambodia.

Terry Shima:

What they said was Cambodia?

David H. Masuo:

Yes, we flew into Cambodia.

Terry Shima:

So --

David H. Masuo:

We had no forces in Cambodia, that's the political statement.

Terry Shima:

What -- what was the Viet Cong strength in Cambodia at that time, do you know how active were they?

David H. Masuo:

Well, they were very active. They were very, very active. In fact, I remember when we landed at the base that we landed at, I looked around and all I saw were these buildings that all they had were holes in them. The ventilation system there was unbelievable. Mortar rounds and rocket rounds and bullet holes all over the place and I'm going, This is not a place for me. They're trying to kill people here.

Terry Shima:

Well, you mentioned Cambodia. I've got to tell you a little story. I was stationed in Manila at that time when my son was in Vietnam, and he came to visit us in Manila, and on his way back to Vietnam he left first his album telling his sister to keep it, then something else, then he then left his suitcase, and all he had was his toothbrush in his pocket. So I said, Why on earth are you doing that? He said, Well, I just felt that I want to leave everything here at home. And the next time I met him was in Vietnam, and so I said, What gave with this thing about you when you left Manila that you went away only with your toothbrush in your pocket? He said, Well, I'll tell you now, I went to Cambodia. So I said, Why couldn't you have told me then? He said, Military secret.

David H. Masuo:

That's one of those NOYBs, none of your business.

Terry Shima:

Well, so what memories did you come away from Vietnam? What were your most memorable moments?

David H. Masuo:

Well, you know, there are -- there are many things that happened in Vietnam, but I think the most memorable time that I had in Vietnam was probably when I was assigned in the liaison position.

Terry Shima:

Liaison position. [Pause]

Terry Shima:

We just had a tape break. David, we were talking about your most memorable moments in Vietnam. If you would pick up from where we left off.

David H. Masuo:

Well, it's very memorable. During that period of time that I was assigned to Long Binh as a liaison, I had the opportunity to meet the civilian counterparts for the hospital in the little town of Biên Hòa, and they were from Australia. So I had Australian doctors and nurses that I spent some time with. When I was off, I would go over to see them and try to help them in any way I could. And the one thing that I was able to do was I was able to get them equipment and medical supplies that were outdated because what they would do is, you know, the military would destroy these things. Well, I would go down there to the supply people and say, Hey, look, if you've got anything that you're going to destroy, shelf life can't last very long but it was still good, you know, penicillin, those type medication, milk for babies and those type of things. And there was an orphanage. They took care of an orphanage there. So I would load up the truck and go on down there. And I remember one time they were closing down the 24th evac hospital, and everything was going to go over to the 93rd. And they said, Hey, you know, we've got a whole bunch of medical supplies that we're going to have to destroy. So I said, Wait, and I jumped in the truck, ran over to the hospital, grabbed the nurse and the doctor, and I said, You've got to come back with me, they're getting rid of a whole bunch of stuff and we can have these. So we ran -- we drove back and went into the hospital, and they had all the supplies that they were going to destroy, and we loaded up the truck, just packed the truck up with disposable pumps, medication, you know, penicillin, and all the different types of baby foods and stuff like that because, you know, battle casualties they couldn't eat regular food, lots of times they would have to have things like baby food, so they had lots of baby food there, and they were going to go out of date anyway. So they gave that all to us and we took it back. I remember that. I still have pictures about my time that I spent in the orphanage helping these little kids. A lot of them were mixed breed. You could see that they had a lot of caucasian in them. I remember one kid that you would have sworn this kid was haole, he had no Asian look whatsoever, blue eyes, blond hair, fat little kid, and he was an orphan.

Terry Shima:

The Australians must have been very pleased with what you had done for them.

David H. Masuo:

Oh, I think so. You know, it was more to help the people, the Vietnamese people. Most of the Vietnamese people are good people, you know, it was just the horrible thing, the war was just horrible.

Terry Shima:

David, the Vietnam War was very controversial at that time, less so today, but as a U.S. airman, what -- what were your views at that time about the U.S. military action in Vietnam?

David H. Masuo:

Well, I went as a volunteer. I volunteered to go to Vietnam. I believed in what my country was doing. The Vietnamese, South Vietnam, was a member of the Southeast -- SEATO, Southeast Asia Organization Treaty.

Terry Shima:

Group.

David H. Masuo:

SATO or SEATO. And because they were part of it, our country had an agreement to provide them assistance. I was going over to fight for democracy because our country had a treaty with this country. Therefore, what I was doing was right. I -- I still feel that way. I mean, the war was horrible, we lost a lot of men, and I remember when I came back how I was treated. But as a military member, we don't have the niceties to say, well, no, we don't want to fight that war because it's not just. We are military members, we accept assignment because that's our job and we do our job, you know. When we retire, maybe we can think maybe that wasn't a good idea. But that's how I feel, and I feel it today, that maybe it was an unjust war, but I went as a military member.

Terry Shima:

Your view today has not changed from your views at that time?

David H. Masuo:

Well, you know, the loss of life, I just had my chance to finally go to the Wall, the Vietnam Memorial Wall, and that was hard. But I truly feel that even though the war was an unjust war and whatever, I went as a military member, and I went because I was assigned there, my government sent me.

Terry Shima:

In a way I'm very pleased to hear you say that because I mentioned earlier I think, you know, that my son also served in Vietnam, and the reason for his volunteering to go was exactly the same reason that you have just mentioned. And what we -- what I'd like to do now is maybe to shift the subject slightly by saying that in terms of your Vietnam assignment, do you feel that your service there was -- was a net plus or do you feel that it was a net minus?

David H. Masuo:

It was a plus. My job was to provide medical care for troops, whether they be American, Australian, Korean, and I flew Korean battle casualties, and even the Viet Cong, North Vietnamese. I was a medical person, and that was my job. We cared for people. That was what I did.

Terry Shima:

Do you -- do you feel that the United States should have remained and fought the war or do you agree with the U.S. policy to have cut the losses at that time and leave?

David H. Masuo:

Well, understanding that I don't believe war is an answer but a result, I think that if we are -- the military is given the order to fight, to go to war, then the military should be the ones who determine how the war is fought. We had a lot of problems with the politicians deciding how the war was to be fought in Vietnam and, you know, I don't see too many of them grabbing guns and standing in the foxholes firing back at the enemy. They made political decisions in Washington, D.C. that affected us in Vietnam.

Terry Shima:

You mentioned that you have visited the Wall.

David H. Masuo:

Yes.

Terry Shima:

Standing before the Wall, what impressions come back to you?

David H. Masuo:

Well, you know, it's an emotional thing for me. Over 50,000 of my fellow members were killed in Vietnam, and it's very difficult to accept death the way it is. But it was an opportunity for me to maybe do a little bit of closure. I do remember one gentleman from Hawaii when I was stationed there -- I'm sorry, I'm regressing a little bit, but I need to tell you this story.

Terry Shima:

Please, please.

David H. Masuo:

He was from Hawaii and had been -- had been hurt, a battle casualty, from a land mine and had both of his legs were blown off. And I was at Long Binh and they called me up and said, David, we have this gentleman from Hawaii, and he's really badly hurt. Would you like to see him? And I said, Absolutely. You know, he's from Hawaii, so he had to be just from Hawaii. Boys from Hawaii take care of boys from Hawaii.

Terry Shima:

He had to be a brother.

David H. Masuo:

That's right. He's my brother. So I went to see him, and he laid in the bed, and he didn't know that his legs were gone, and I explained to him what had happened. And he asked me if I would write a letter home to his girl friend and to his parents to explain to them what happened, and I did. I wrote the letter for him, and I sent it for him to his father and his girl friend explaining and told them that he had lost both legs. And I would sneak out -- there was a Chinese restaurant there at Long Binh, and I would sneak out, and he was only allowed to eat certain foods. Well, you know, he's from Hawaii so, you know, he needed to have rice and, you know, good food, good kaukau. So I would sneak over there and I would buy the food and bring it back, and when nobody was looking I'd slip him the food and he would eat that and, you know, that was good. His name was Clarence, Clarence Kamei (ph). And I saw him in 1987 -- no, I'm sorry -- 1996, 1995, '96 I saw him on the Island of Maui. I heard where he was at. I went to visit him. And he was walking on, you know, prosthetics, but he was walking. And I hugged him, and we sat and we talked, and it was so nice to see him, and he was doing well, you know, as well as could be expected. I remember telling him don't put your -- put your legs there by the windows because the termites are going to get in there and hurt your legs. But yeah, he was a good man, good man.

Terry Shima:

What happened -- what has happened to him since he left the service, I mean since he was discharged?

David H. Masuo:

Well --

Terry Shima:

Did he go to school?

David H. Masuo:

He got married and was doing okay, you know. We didn't really get into a lot of his thing. But just the chance, and I have pictures of it, I was able to hold him and hug him. It was nice.

Terry Shima:

That was -- that was very nice. So after your Vietnam service, what did you do?

David H. Masuo:

Well, I came back -- I came back on April the 6th, and I landed at McChord Air Force Base. Flew up to Da Nang, went over to McChord, got off the plane, it was about 7:00 at night. No band, no thank you, no nothing, just get in line, go through the process, and get the hell out. A friend of mine picked me up and took me down to Portland. I stayed there for a few days, and then made my way back to my new assignment which was Pope Air Force Base, and I was assigned to the 1st Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. I had tried to go back to Hawaii, and I had even wrote to my congressman, Daniel Inouye, but they said to me that they really needed me at Pope Air Force Base and, therefore, that's where I was assigned.

Terry Shima:

Which state is Pope?

David H. Masuo:

North Carolina. So that's why I was able to come up to Washington, D.C., to visit here. But I wanted to go back to the west coast or at least to Hawaii, I wanted to go to Hawaii but the west coast at least, and they'd say, Well, you know, if you reenlist we'll let you do that. And I go, you know, if it's not on a piece of paper, I'm not going to sign up for another tour because I didn't want to be flying anymore. I had enough of flying, you know. I had flown for seven years, and I just needed to be away from flying.

Terry Shima:

So after Pope?

David H. Masuo:

I got out, went to Portland to live for a few months, reenlisted in the Air Force there as a, what do you call, a retread or prior service enlistee, got assigned back to McChord Air Force Base, my first military assignment. I was there for six months, and then got an assignment to recruiting service.

Terry Shima:

And McChord is?

David H. Masuo:

McChord is in Tacoma, Washington. And then I got an assignment to Portland, Oregon, as a recruiter because while I was there waiting to go on, they noted that they felt that I would be a good recruiter, and I went to recruiting school. And at the same time just before I went to recruiting school, I got married, and was a recruiter for five years in Portland, Oregon. And after that, I got an assignment to headquarters, SAC, in Offutt Air Force Base. A friend of mine got an assignment --

Terry Shima:

Come back to your recruiting school.

David H. Masuo:

Recruiting school, okay.

Terry Shima:

At the recruiting -- I mean in your recruiting effort, what was your pitch?

David H. Masuo:

What was my pitch? I used to use the old: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Terry Shima:

Was that effective?

David H. Masuo:

It was effective. I showed them pictures of that B-52 taking off, you know, the wings kind of coming up, and I always told the truth. I never sugarcoated anything. And my -- my departure speech went from 15 minutes when I first started to about two hours when I finally ended because I wanted to make sure that they were well prepared. I was -- it was important for me to ensure that the Air Force got quality people. And I tried my best to maintain a good quality of members to the Air Force.

Terry Shima:

Do you have a moment that you considered to be the most memorable in your recruiting efforts? Did you -- did you recruit someone that you thought was who later turned out to be exceptionally able officers?

David H. Masuo:

They're all exceptional. They're all exceptional. I put in so many people. I put in a young lady who eventually became an officer, a few people that I put in they became officers. But the one thing I remember the most I think was a young lady who had come home on -- they were on leave, and she came up to me and she said, I want to thank you. And I said, For what? She says, Well, you put my husband in a couple years ago. He's an aircraft maintenance crew chief, and he takes care of the C-130s. We got an assignment to Okinawa. He had an assignment to Okinawa. I remember this distinctly. She said, I want to thank you because before that he was a nobody. He had no future at all. Today he is responsible for a million-plus-dollar airplane, that's his airplane, it's got his name on the side of that airplane, and I'm so very proud of him, and our children are so very proud of their father. And I said, Well, you know, you're welcome but it's him who's making that road. She said, Yeah, but it was you that showed him the road. So, yeah.

Terry Shima:

That is -- that is really the point I was getting at. That is, there must be somebody out there that you have made and you have made this person, and that is great to hear.

David H. Masuo:

I remember one time I was at Shemya further on down in my career, some guy got off the airplane and I got a phone call and said, Hey, there's a guy here to see you. Turns out to be one of the guys that I had put in the Air Force, I don't know, about eight or nine years earlier, and he was a crew member, found out that I was at Shemya and changed flights with another load master to fly out to Shemya to say hello to me. So it was like, Wow, these guys find out about where I'm hiding I guess.

Terry Shima:

Has -- has anyone turned out to be a lemon?

David H. Masuo:

No.

Terry Shima:

That's good.

David H. Masuo:

I want to say that because I think we all have potential. I don't know of anybody that I had put in the Air Force that was discharged for any problems at all.

Terry Shima:

So after your recruiting service, what did you do?

David H. Masuo:

I got assigned to headquarters, SAC, I was at Ehrling Bergquist Hospital, and my first assignment there they sent me as the independent or I guess the station medic in headquarters SAC. And my main responsibility was to take care of the chief of the SAC headquarters, the commander, chief, General Ellis. That was my number one patient. And then if I wasn't caring for him, I would hold sick call mornings and afternoons and take care of patients then, but I would receive phone calls from the doctor saying I want you to go upstairs and take the general's blood or I want you to go and take his blood pressure or I need you to do such and such with the general, and I would do all these things because that was my job. But then I also did things like the sick call part, you know, real minor things, nothing big. But I do remember one time when I was up there with the general, I took his blood pressure and it was really, really low. In fact, it was dangerously low, and I said to him, Sir, you have to go to the hospital and you have to go now, and you have two choices: I will call an ambulance for you or you can go over in your staff car immediately. And he elected to go in his staff car. And we -- it was a time that they wanted to keep things kind of quiet, so I told them to take an ambulance out of the ambulance bay, and the general would be coming in, they would back the vehicle in, shut the garage down, and then the general would go ahead and get in, so the people wouldn't see him. And actually I don't want to say I saved his life, but had the general not gone in, he probably would not have survived, so...

Terry Shima:

Where is that general today?

David H. Masuo:

General Ellis, I think he has passed away but not on my watch. General Ellis, he was such a great general. I remember him so much.

Terry Shima:

Did he live many years after that?

David H. Masuo:

Yes, he did. Yes, he did.

Terry Shima:

And what was your assignment after that?

David H. Masuo:

Well, I had this desire to go to Alaska, and because I was working at headquarters SAC the personnel people --

Terry Shima:

And SAC is?

David H. Masuo:

SAC is Strategic Air Command. I'm sorry.

Terry Shima:

And located where?

David H. Masuo:

Located at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

Terry Shima:

So you went to Alaska?

David H. Masuo:

I got an assignment because of the personnel people in headquarters SAC, they went ahead and contacted Military Personnel Center and said that they had a guy that wanted to go to Alaska. And because of my background, they sent me to what we call an independent duty medical technician -- IDMT -- school, and I learned to be independent duty. And I went to Shemya Air Force Base, Alaska, on the very end of the Aleutian chain, and I was the senior IDMT or independent medical technician there. I spent a year there.

Terry Shima:

And after Alaska?

David H. Masuo:

Well, I'll tell you a little story. I think we have a little bit of time. I can tell you a little story about Shemya. I got to Shemya and I noted that there was a Coast Guard Station located at Attu which was about a 5-minute flight from Shemya, and I noted there was only one medical person there, and there was no cross-service agreement in case he became ill or hurt. So I spoke to my commander and said we needed to go over there and do a cross-service agreement to provide medical care as long as there wasn't any charge to either service. And he said he agreed with me, and I went over there on a C-130, Coast Guard C-130, and spoke with the commander in regards to having this cross-service agreement. And the next -- well, that afternoon the airplane was supposed to come pick us up. Well, the aircraft couldn't land because of weather, so they kept us overnight, and the next morning the aircraft was supposed to pick us up. The aircraft crashed on landing at Attu. In fact, it didn't crash at the end of the runway, it crashed about 5 miles away from the runway. And there were survivors on the aircraft. The first group of survivors was located -- After we noted the aircraft was down, we contacted the Coast Guard. When I say we, I'm saying the commander at the LORAN Station contacted a boat not too far from our position and notified Shemya also that the aircraft had not arrived. They started picking up an emergency signal shortly thereafter, and a helicopter was launched from that ship, found the first group of survivors on the beach and brought them to the LORAN Station. Now, there was only two medics, I was one and the other was the Coast Guard medic. The commander ordered the Coast Guard medic to the crash site and ordered me to take care of the patients there, to which I did. The pilot and the co-pilot was the first group, and because of my Air Force background, knew that one of the first things they were going to do was they were going to investigate this thing. So I made sure that I took -- sampled urine and the blood samples and secured those so that the investigators could verify that the pilots were physically fit to fly. And I took care of the patients. And then the helicopter went back to the aircraft, picked up those survivors who weren't as in good shape as the first group, and it was determined at that point to send them directly to Shemya via picking up some fuel from the Coast Guard boat and then flying the patients to Shemya. At Shemya, I was in contact with them by phone, and because I was the senior med tech, I told them that we wanted to contact Elmendorf, make sure that we had some medical help. And Elmendorf went ahead and launched an aircraft from Fairbanks actually, from Eielson Air Force Base, to pick up patients at Shemya. At the same time the helicopter returned, picked up what was left over, and I stayed on the island because there was no way to get back. At the time there was a thought that there was a missing crew member -- missing passenger, so the commander asked me if I would go on a search in some areas. And I said, yeah, there was no problem because I was a medical person. The other medic couldn't go. He was too exhausted from trying to get to the airplane. We didn't find the guy, so the next morning the commander asked me to go to the aircraft to recover the body that was there. And subsequently I took my camera, took the only pictures of the crash site, and they were taken by the Coast Guard and aircraft accident team. And we were there, I recovered the crew member who was killed, the radioman, flight crew, and at the same time we found the missing passenger who was still on the aircraft, and I brought both bodies back. And that was the big thing that happened to me in Shemya. That was the most memorable thing that happened to me in Shemya. I received an award from the Coast Guard, and I to this day tell everybody I was a Coastie for a day.

Terry Shima:

Well, the fact that you -- the fact that you served in Alaska, I guess influenced your decision to reside there?

David H. Masuo:

Absolutely.

Terry Shima:

And why?

David H. Masuo:

It's a beautiful place, and my favorite saying is: So many fish, so little time. I truly love to fish, and I think it goes back to my grandparents and my father and being ethnically Japanese.

Terry Shima:

Three -- three generations of fishermen.

David H. Masuo:

And very much so.

Terry Shima:

Time is running out.

David H. Masuo:

Yes.

Terry Shima:

But I'd like to ask one more substantive question, and that is looking back at the older generation, that is the generation of World War II, do you feel that their activities in the war has -- let me say -- leveled the playing field for your generation?

David H. Masuo:

Absolutely. Without a doubt. As I say, those of you who came before me, you're my heroes. Had you not done what you did, gone through the pain and the suffering and the indignation that you received, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be a member of the Armed Forces. I would not have had the opportunity to serve my country. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Terry Shima:

Looking -- looking back at your 23 -- 23?

David H. Masuo:

23 years.

Terry Shima:

23 years of service, do you consider it to have been a net plus?

David H. Masuo:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I don't regret entering the service. I don't regret the time that I spent, the times that I went to places that I probably wouldn't want to go back again, but it was all in good. As a remote site IDMT, as a flying medic, as a medic in the emergency rooms, I did my job. As a recruiter, I did my job.

Terry Shima:

David, because time is running out, I think we need to close here, but before we do, is there anything that you can think of that we have not covered in this interview? Giving you one last chance.

David H. Masuo:

No. You know, I'm eternally grateful for just the opportunity to say what I have said. I didn't realize it was going to be this -- I would talk this much. But in everything that I have done, I can't think of anything that I would want to undo. The opportunities that was provided to me, again because of my foremembers, the members of the 442, the MIS, the 522nd, and all those men and women in the service prior to me allowed me to do what I can do.

Terry Shima:

I think that -- I think that if I were 18 years old today, I think you would have recruited me to the Air Force Medical Service. But having said that, David, I'd like to thank you very much for participating in the JAVA, that is the Japanese-Americans Veterans Association, oral history program, and your videotape as well as the package will be submitted to the Library of Congress where it will be preserved. It will be preserved in perpetuity. And your oral history will be available for historians, for international and national historians, researchers, academicians, scholars, filmmakers, and for your family. And we would like to thank you very much for the extensive preparations that you have done as well as for participating in our program.

David H. Masuo:

Well, it's my honor to do this. [Interview concluded]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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