Military Intelligence Service
Yoshiaki arrives at Camp Savage, Minnesota in February 1944. He is assigned to Company D.
Classroom training involves learning heigo (military terms) and kanji. Yoshiaki learns to translate but is not confident about his interrogation skills.
In a football match, he injures his knee. Due to the injury, Yoshiaki misses basic training; he is assigned to Camp Ritchie in Maryland.
[Camp Savage is] in Minnesota, just about middle, little bit east, within the state of Minnesota. And south, south of Minneapolis-St. Paul. And Fort Snelling was very close to St. Paul.
What I remember is, Camp Savage was covered with snow, was all white. Very beautiful and it's still vivid in my mind. Later on, I remember we tried making snowballs and stuff but it wouldn't hold. In other words, the ice, snow, is so cold that it just won't stick. It was very cold.
A few months later, the place was all muddy and ugly. And at that time, a friend of mine wrote home, saying that darn thing is still around. Earlier, it's just a beautiful sight but a few months later, it's not wanted anymore.
Camp Savage was a kind of rustic, country place. Fort Snelling, they have barracks, like Schofield, permanent buildings like that. Camp Savage was just like cabins all over the place.
At Savage, I was in Company D. One person I remember there was Sergeant Phillip Hirano, who was master sergeant. I don't know where he came, he's from Hawaii, I suppose. But anyway, he was the one who took us to class from our barracks. And we marched to class and marched back.
Well, one of [the guys in my group] who died in that August 13, 1945 crash in Okinawa. You know, there were ten guys from our group who died in that. But there are people like Masaru Sogi, Francis Sogi's brother. There was an Inouye - I wish I had these names. There was a Ben Hirano. There's an Ishida fellow. Ishida, Inouye, Hirano are from Kauai, so I used to hang around with the Kauai guys. Yeah, a lot of names I can't recall already.
Heigo heta deshita ne. [My military language was not good.]
I feel that, in our translation team, the main person was the kibei [nisei who had spent youth in Japan]. The kibei knew the language well and his English was not as strong, and so the nisei sort of added a little bit. So we were sort of, maybe - you can't say extraneous - but we weren't the central team. The central persons were the kibei, who knew the language.
[W]e learned, sort of goaded to learn kanjis [Chinese characters used in Japanese writing], the military language, and stuff. And that's all it was. Heigo, we would learn heigo.
And so we might have been able to translate certain things because we've been learning these words but we certainly would have made very poor interpreters, to be conversing, say, with the enemy or others. Of course the kibei could do that.
I don't know what [incentives there were], just pride, I suppose.
We had to learn so many words a day and so it was kind of an intensive sort of thing. And, of course, we forgot many, many words. We failed, in other words.
So we were half prepared when we went out to the front.
I went to Camp Ritchie because in the summer of 44, I busted my kneecap playing football and that laid me up for a whole month, a month and a half, actually. And then when our class graduated, they all went to basic training in Alabama or someplace. And they told me if I wanted to go, they'd send me, but I said, no, I didn't want to go.
I was told that basic training will be hard on the body. I guess you have to run. And so the assigning officer just gave me a break, you might say. "If you want to go, you can go, but you don't have to." And so I thought, well, with my tender kneecap that way, I'd assume I'd be assigned. And so that was it.
So they sent me to Camp Ritchie in Maryland.
Yoshiaki Fujitani's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Yoshiaki Fujitani and U.S. Army Signal Corps.