Yoshiaki Fujitani
Military Intelligence Service

Father's Incarceration

Considered a "potentially dangerous enemy alien," Rev. Kodo Fujitani is arrested on April 28, 1942. He is held at Sand Island until May 23, 1942.

Rev. Fujitani is sent to Lordsburg, New Mexico (June 18, 1942 - June 14, 1943), where he refuses repatriation to Japan.

He is then imprisoned in a Department of Justice Camp in Santa Fe (June 14, 1943 - November 14, 1945).

December 1941

I think there was a period of uncertainty. We knew that [my father] has to go because of the other examples, the other Buddhist priests, and Shinto priests, and teachers, people going. Why not Dad?

April 1942

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So we expected him to go. But, I think in Dad's case, he went a little later. He went in April, I think, of [19]42. And I feel that was because a friend, a person who grew up in Moiliili, was in the FBI with the police department as well and working with G2, the military intelligence. And that was Kanemi Kanazawa. And Kanemi Kanazawa, I feel, vouched for Dad, and said, oh, yeah, I've known Dad for many years, and so he's okay. But I guess that couldn't last forever.

I had occasion to talk to Kanemi and ask him, "Did you do that?" And he wouldn't answer. So his not answering, to me, was an affirmation that that's exactly what he had done. And, so, it was kind of strange, too, that I was stationed in Camp Ritchie in Maryland. And while I was there, Kanemi was injured, wounded in battle. He had a big scar on the back of his head. Anyway, he came back to Camp Ritchie for R-and-R, and so I saw him.

Couple of months [after joining the VVV], my dad was hauled in. And when that happened, I sort of blew my top and said, "Here, I thought I've been a pretty good American, why should they take my dad?" Although I had suspicions that that would happen. But when it happened, then I decided, well, I am not going to cooperate anymore.

And so I declared that I was going to quit Triple V. And Hung Wai Ching came running up and tried to stop me. And he asked Shigeo Yoshida, also. But I was adamant and so I just left. That was not very good, I suppose, for the morale of the others.

Shigeo Yoshida and Hung Wai Ching

But I sort of lost my feeling for America. I was thinking mostly of my dad, I suppose. You know, all these poor guys, so helpless.

January 1944

Dad [was interned] because he was a potentially dangerous enemy alien. And he was incarcerated at Santa Fe, [when I enlisted]. And when I was in - I think it was at [Fort] Snelling. We went to [Camp] Savage and a few months later we moved up to Snelling. And I was there when I decided to go visit Dad.

The way I look at it, his life was his life and mine was mine. There was no connection at all. But I understand the government did make that connection. There were some guys in the American army whose parents were detained and they tried to get these detainees out because of their son's participation in the army.

And so we heard that Dad was asked whether he'd like to be released to a camp or not or whether he wanted to go to Japan or not. You know, to be repatriated. And he wrote us a letter and the family had a powwow and they decided, well, no, we don't want to be repatriated with him, nor be transferred to a relocation center. So Dad had to stay in camp by himself.

I think it was his choice to stay because the authorities were saying you can be released if you want to. But he had no place to go. He didn't want to go to a relocation camp, so he remained. But he couldn't come back to Hawaii. I guess it was still under martial law or whatever.

Summer 1944

[I]t was a very brief visit [to the detention camp in Santa Fe], so I don't remember too much. But there was a bunch of people from Hawaii who were considered potentially dangerous enemy aliens - I think that was the name that they all had. But a bunch of them were sent to camps - department of justice camps. And they went to Lordsburg, New Mexico, or Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

But most of them ended up in Santa Fe, in New Mexico. And my dad was there. And in 1944, I think it was in the summer - I was at Fort Snelling then - I decided to go to visit him. And so I went down to Santa Fe.

And what I remember is, meeting first - it seemed a person from Hawaii, who was kind of a community relations person, and his name was - his nickname - was "Pistol" Uetake. And his name was "Pistol" because he had his fingers shot off in some kind of accident when he was a kid, and so it looked like this. You know (chuckles), no fingers here. And so that was his nickname. But he lived off the campsite and he invited me to have lunch with him. And he prepared a dish of rainbow trout, which he said he caught in a stream nearby.

But then I visited Dad and he was behind barbed wire, stockade-like place. And we took a picture together but we had a very quiet visit. And we talked about our experiences, the kind of breakfast we got to have in camp. And I thought it was interesting that we were having the same kind of food, like powdered eggs and luncheon meat - I guess that was the forerunner of the Spam thing. And so in a way, we were complaining to each other. That's about all I remember.

[Dad] had grown a beard, a goatee, or whatever you call it. And he looked very relaxed. So he wasn't under stress or anything. I guess they must have had a pretty relaxing kind of existence there. He talked about going out of the camp to collect petrified wood, for instance, and other kinds of woods and pieces of very hard wood, which they brought back to camp and made bookends. And I guess some, more skillful people, would carve into something nicer, and so on. And so they had a quiet kind of life, I think.

I remember standing outside because we had our picture taken by an official photographer. And that's the only souvenir I have of that encounter. I remember also, that in the town of Santa Fe, at that time, there was an exhibit by an artist. I think the name was Best. A woman artist. And I remember going through that art museum.

Yoshiaki Fujitani and Reverend Kodo Fujitani

I wasn't very close to my dad to begin with. And so there were all kinds of thoughts that went through my mind. We hardly talked as we were growing up. It was easy for us to talk with Mother, who was bilingual. Dad spoke only Japanese, mostly. He knew a few English words. So it wasn't as though I was meeting a person that I had known very well. But, after all, he was Dad, and so there was a kind of emotional feeling, I am pretty sure that he must be suffering. But it turned out that he was all right.

I think [his housing] was something like the camps in the relocation center, that type of barracks.

[I]t wasn't hard [to visit Dad]. My remembering Mr. Uetake would suggest that he was the contact person. So when we wrote to Santa Fe, I guess he was the one who knew that I'd be visiting. So he was the one who enabled me to visit the camp. And so the meeting place might have been outside the enclosure. There might have been an administration building or something. I think I waited for him to be called and he came out.

Yeah, I think the feeling was, well, Dad has grown old, older, that kind of feeling, as he came out.

I'm not sure whether I mentioned the reason I left Triple V, for instance. I left because my dad was hauled in and I was very unhappy, very angry, that I would be treated that way.

After all, I volunteered, I'm a loyal American, that kind of feeling, and they're taking my dad in.

So I remember Hung Wai Ching approaching me and trying to get me to change my mind and all that. But I was pretty adamant, and so I left.

So I think, the feeling of my dad, as a family member, being treated this way, was pretty offensive to me. But, as I mentioned, after a while, that anger subsided, overcome more by loneliness and so I decided to volunteer for the army, then. So by that time, when I met Dad, I think I was pretty - had sort of solved this problem that I had. So I don't remember talking too much about Dad being in camp with my army buddies.

Yoshiaki Fujitani's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Yoshiaki Fujitani, Japanese American National Museum, and U.S. Army Signal Corps.

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