Sue Isonaga
A Different View

Reflections and Observations

“[The Shivers’ family is very important in my life]. I lost two fathers. And then he came along and he showed a lot of interest in my life, and I could always go to him to talk to him. I was very fortunate to have had them.

I think if it weren’t for [Robert Shivers] and his plan and everything, probably we [Japanese in Hawaii] would all have been [relocated].

I think we owe him a lot as to why we weren’t all taken up. Lock, stock, and barrel.”

The Shivers’ Family

[The Shivers’ family is very important in my life]. Because, I lost two fathers. And then he came along and he showed a lot of interest in my life, and I could always go to him to talk to him. So I was very fortunate, I think, that in spite of the fact that I had early sorrow. I was very happy with what happened. I was very fortunate to have had them.

Robert Shivers' Birthday
Robert Shivers' Birthday

I think if it weren’t for [Robert Shivers] and his plan and everything, probably we would all have been [relocated]. I don’t know where they going to send us, but you know. Because I read a book, Hawai‘i, 49th State. When he first came here, he went to the military.

“You have any plans?”
“Yup, take ’em all, they going be all shipped out.”

Went to the Navy, it was even worse. So he said, something must be wrong here because it seems like a place where everybody’s working together and doing a good job and everything. So then, he got Mr. [Charles] Hemenway to send him some boys. So, with them, I think they branched out in different areas. They did a lot of groundwork, too.

So when the war started, everything was set, they had the names, ready for them to check and all that. So, he did. I think we owe him a lot as to why we weren’t all taken up, you know. Lock, stock, and barrel.

Thoughts on the Nisei

I think [the nisei] were waiting for that opportunity to serve. Like, you know Herbert’s group, the Triple-V [Varsity Victory Volunteers], they went. I think that really opened the path, too.

I had two brothers who volunteered when they first called. My younger brother was going but my older brother signed up and he went to see Mr. Shivers about knocking him off. He said, “I’ll go for the family, he has to stay back.” So they knocked him off. And Mr. Shivers always said, “You know, if anything happened to your brother, Sharkey, I’ll feel very responsible for him.” So he would always ask me, “Did you hear from Sharkey?” and “How is he coming along?”

SI and Sharkey Kobatake
Sue Isonaga and Sharkey Kobatake

But then later, my [younger] brother went and then he went to the MIS [Military Intelligence Service] and he was sent to Japan. I have another younger brother who was in service, too. He was in Iwo Jima and they went to Japan when they were clearing up their business there. So I had three brothers who served. Four. Another one was, he volunteered, and then he went to UH [University of Hawai‘i] on that [GI] Bill of Rights, then he’s out.

I was worried for him, my oldest brother. But the youngest went to the university on the [GI Bill]. The war was all over. And then, my brother just below me, he’s gone now, but he was sent to MIS, too, but then the war was more or less [over] . . . So he went to, just sent to Japan. So was my other brother.

Kobatake Family
Kobatake Family

Sharkey was the only one that really saw active duty. He was, I think, one of the first ones who went into Dachau. I remember he wrote to me that, “Sue, there’s something happened today that I can’t write about but it was for a whole week, I couldn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t eat or sleep because of what I saw.” [He was with the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.] So he had a lot of bad experience.

Reflections

One thing I’ll say that, we’re very happy and very proud of our children. The thing that makes me happy is when we get together, all three of them are in the kitchen, cooking and having the best time. They watch the TV and they get recipes from the TV and they’re sharing thoughts.

In fact, once, my dentist said, “Gee, you have unusual children. I never heard of sisters and brothers going on a vacation together.” They go to Kauai, visit Herbert’s family. So they can all go, they did that.

When I see them working together, helping each other out and having the best time, I have a deep satisfaction here that we both did the best we could and I think it’s paying off. They really help each other and they have the best time.

Isonagas with granddaughter
Herbert and Sue Isonaga with their granddaughter

To me, that’s the most important thing. That they will take care of each other, even after I’m gone.

Sue Isonaga's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Herbert and Sue Isonaga.

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