Katsugo Miho
522nd Field Artillery, 442nd RCT

Home Front

The Hawaii Territorial Guard patrols selected areas of Oahu.

While on duty, Katsugo talks with a Maui acquaintance who tells him that Katsuichi has been taken into custody by government authorities. Later, the FBI questions him about this conversation and about his sister, Fumiye, still in Japan.

On January 19, 1942, all men of Japanese ancestry in the Hawaii Territorial Guard are discharged.

Father Taken Into Custody

I remember, one day, must have been the second or third week. When I was standing guard, I saw an old acquaintance of mine from Maui. His name was Mr. Shigenaga. He came right up to me and he spoke basically Japanese. I could barely converse. He told me, “You know, your father was picked up.”

I said, “What do you mean?” He told me about my father being picked up [taken into custody by U.S. government authorities]. He’s the one that I got the word from. I said, “What you doing here? Aren’t you in Maui?”

“Yeah, I was on Maui, but I just happened to be in Honolulu when the war broke out.” So he was still in Honolulu. We exchanged pleasantries, and then that was it. I didn’t think anything about it.

Impact on Family

My mother was basically in charge of the hotel to begin with. So, it didn’t drastically affect what was happening at the hotel. At that point, there were already some people, workers from Honolulu, who were already staying at the hotel as defense workers.

Remember, I said December 7 was not a surprise, at least to me and my family. So learning that [my father] was picked up was no big deal. We expected my father to be one of those who would be under what was termed, dangerous enemy alien. It was a known expectation. In all of the decision-making that my brother and I, it was a given fact that my dad’s role, he had his own role, he played his role. We were different, we were completely different from him.

What I heard was, that very early during that day, people came, and then they just took him away.

Questioned by the FBI

About a month later, before we got discharged [from the HTG], our squad was sent out to [the rifle range at] Koko Head to learn how to shoot the rifle. Finally they were going to teach us how to shoot the rifle, see. So we had to go to Koko Head. They took different company, so they were gradually teaching the different people how to fire. The first day we went to Koko Head, I’m standing in line and then we see this Chevrolet car come in into the place. Then I saw a familiar face from Maui, who was a couple of years older than I was, but I knew him because he [John Denison Jenkins] was my brother’s [Paul Katsuso’s] classmate. The father [Albert Edward Jenkins] was a district judge in Maui. So I knew who he was.

Before I know it, he’s talking to my captain, Captain Aiwohi. My company commander was Francis Aiwohi, who was a football star from University of Hawaii. And so Captain Aiwohi, “Miho!” He called me away from the chow line. He said, “Come on. Jenkins wants you to go to town with him.” I said, “Oh, okay.”

So I got into the car, it was late afternoon already, and we drove all the way back into town. I didn’t know what building it was. Later on I found this was the Dillingham Building. Then we get out and he takes me up there, we go up, then I sat down a little while, all creepy, spooky. I’m thinking, “What the hell’s going on?” Soon enough, this officer comes in. I distinctly remember his telling me his name was Robert Louis Stevenson. He was a lieutenant colonel. Local boy. He says that he has a few questions he wants to ask me.

He started to ask me if I had heard from my father on Maui. I said, “No, I haven’t heard anything from my father.” At that point, I had forgotten about this Shigenaga. So, he was talking on, and then what he wanted to find out was, “Have you heard any rumors about your sister [Fumiye] in Japan?” I said, “Oh, what kinds of rumors?” They had a tape [of a radio broadcast from Japan]. So they let me listen to the tape to see if I could recognize that voice. I said, “No, I don’t think that’s my sister’s voice.”

I thought that was the extent of it, but then after that, he says, “Oh, by the way, is there anything you want to talk to me about?” I said, “Chee, not that I know.”
“Have you been in recent discussions with anybody about the war,” or this and that.
“I don’t recall.”
“Oh, how about this man from Maui?”
And then I, “What do you mean from Maui?”
“Didn’t you talk recently to a man from Maui, who you knew from Maui? What kind of discussion did you have?”
“Oh,” I said, “oh, he’s the one that told me about my father,” my father having been picked up the first night in December 7, [1941] and all that.
“Is that the extent of the conversation?”
“Yeah, that's the extent of it.”

That was the extent of my interview. Then I went back all the way to Koko Head. But evidently Mr. Shigenaga was being followed by the FBI because his older brother was nicknamed “Emperor Shigenaga.” He was so strong pro-Japan.

[Shigenaga’s older brother] was [later] the owner of Kaimana Beach Hotel, until he sold out. But Mr. Shigenaga was a well-known pro-Japan, he didn’t hold back the fact that he was pro-Japan from even before the war. That’s why he was nicknamed Emperor or Tenno. He was a well-known figure. And the brother happened to be, I suppose, pro-Japan, too, but. My stay with the Hawaii Territorial Guard was highlighted by that experience.

You know, Fumiye tells me that she did appear on Japanese radio. More like a newscaster because she was, dual, both languages. So she tells me that she recalls having come on the radio, but not like in the role of Tokyo Rose, more like a newscaster. This was when she was already evacuated to Hiroshima. And so, this is towards the end of the war. She got involved with the radio in Hiroshima.

The Issue of Dual Citizenship

In 1938, I think, there was a big movement within the Japanese-American community to expatriate. Until [1924], all children of Japanese ancestry born in Hawaii automatically became American citizens by virtue of birth. By treaty between Japan and the United States, the Japanese government was also allowed to recognize these children of Japanese ancestry as Japanese citizens, automatically, by virtue of the parents being Japanese citizens. So all children born of Japanese citizens outside of Japan, like Hawaii, automatically was endowed with the Japanese citizenship.

When diplomatic relationships between Japan and the U.S. worsened, on around [1930, 1931], during the Manchurian Incident, questions were raised [about] the loyalty of the Japanese Americans. At that time, they were referring to [AJA as] the Japanese Americans. I believe there was objections to referring to Japanese [Americans] because the emphasis was on the Japanese aspect, and not the emphasis on the being American. I think, the community gravitated to referring to themselves as Americans of Japanese Ancestry. Even though, prior to that, that was the phraseology. But it became a subject of discussion because there was some people who wanted to keep on referring to themselves as Japanese Americans.

But it’s contradictory because you cannot be American and be Japanese. The terminology is very contradictory. You cannot be Japanese American because Americans are not known for one ethnic background. Everybody can be an American, regardless of what your ethnic background. Who do you want to emphasize, what do you want to emphasize? The fact that you are an American. Of what? So in America, you have Americans of English ancestry, of African ancestry, of Swedish ancestry, and they’re all Americans. Primary emphasis is the fact that you are American first, and especially in 1938, you wanted to emphasize the fact that you are American first and not of the ethnic background.

So during this period of expatriation, it became one of the subject matters as to who you are. Now, if you ask who you are, first of all, you’re an American. That’s the primary emphasis. And so, in 1938, 30,000 niseis of Japanese descent, Americans of Japanese Ancestry, expatriated, cut off their lawful, legal citizenship to Japan. It required a voluntary action on the part of the person to expatriate.

My brother, Katsuaki, immediately above me, was one of the activists at the University of Hawaii. He was a student at the University of Hawaii during this period. In fact, he and my sister, Fumiye, was also active in this regard, at the University of Hawaii.

Katsuaki Miho. 1939.
Katsuaki Miho. 1939.

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But being on Maui, it wasn’t much of a big deal on Maui. So, I never got involved in this movement to expatriate on Maui. How this came about was — after the war started, the question came up between my brother and I, it was in a discussion shortly before the war. My brother was living in Oahu, but then, he would come back every so often.

At one point, we did have a lengthy discussion between he and I as to whether I would expatriate or not. My argument with him, was that — at that point, the government between Japan and the United States, long ago, had felt that there was nothing wrong in a person being Japanese citizen and an American citizen. I told my brother that as long as the American government refused to allow my father and mother to become American citizens — you see, at that time, no matter how long they lived in Hawaii, my parents could never become American citizens, by law. So my argument with him was, that as long as the laws refuses to have Mother and Father become American citizens, I see nothing wrong in me being dual citizen because I’m the child of my father and mother. By virtue of law, I’m a dual citizen.

So I turned down his request that I consider expatriation.

I’ve been reflecting, thinking back on [the dual citizenship] question. There was not much public sentiment on the question of dual citizenship on [Maui]. It was on Oahu, mainly, that the activity of expatriation movement had begun and much publicity. But back on Maui, and even after I registered at the University of Hawaii in September [19]41, by that time, there was never too much ado about dual citizenship. The fact that thirty thousand niseis expatriated prior to 1940, I think had kind of settled that question.

When we volunteered, there was no question raised about: Are you a dual citizen? This is unlike our American counterpart [AJAs] that lived on the Mainland. Because they were relocated and forcibly taken to camps. But in Hawaii, I don’t recall that ever having become an issue when we volunteered for Hawaii Territorial Guard, when I went to work at the defense work in Puunene, under the USED (United States Engineering Department), or even when the naval constructors took over the project on Maui.

Katsugo Miho as defense worker. Maui. 1942.
Katsugo Miho as defense worker. Maui. 1942.

Even when I was already in the 442nd and a group of us were all interviewed to determine whether any of us would volunteer for the military interpreters [MIS, Military Intelligence Service]. It was during basic training that first group of 442nd members were taken out of the 442nd and shipped out to Minnesota for the interpreters’ language school. Even at that interview, I don’t recall the question of dual citizenship ever being an issue.

The point I’m trying to make is that almost all the questionnaires didn’t ask, “Are you a dual citizen?” It’s always, “What citizen are you?” or “Are you a citizen?” That’s all. Not dual. Why should any of these national forms refer to dual citizenship? Because dual citizen was a basically unique category for the [AJA] Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Hawaii and on the West Coast. So if anything, the regular forms used by the military, used by the government, would have no reference to dual citizen. It would be, “Are you a citizen?” Yes. “Are you a U.S. citizen?” Yes. So today, when we are asked the question of dual citizen, I don’t recall that being raised in that manner.

Those two questions, [known as] “no-no questions,” was specifically referring to the internees in the relocation camps. [The questions asked: “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered? Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or to any other foreign government, power, or organization?”] You know, those two questions basically were asked of the internees. But in Hawaii, I don’t remember being asked that.

During the interview for Military Intelligence [Service], in my case, the fact that my father was interned, was raised. “Would it interfere in your duties?” I think orally, I was asked. And my point, I said, “It doesn’t make any difference because he’s been there and I volunteered. Isn’t my volunteering being the proof enough of where my allegiance lay?”

Whatever form that we signed to join that Hawaii Territorial Guard, there would be no reference of duals, because that is not a normal question to ask of any ordinary American citizen. The question would be, “Are you a foreign national or an American U.S. citizen.” That’s all.

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Not one question was raised about our loyalty, the fact that we were dual citizens. It did not stop any of us from becoming members of the Hawaiian Territorial Guard. Going out that December 7 evening, going out to the waterfront to guard the waterfront station, nobody raised any questions about our loyalty. We were left alone that first night — the university, in my case, we were dumped off in the waterfront Iwilei area where we were — at the time, it was very barren, few oil tanks, and whatnot. But our group of University of Hawaii students were dropped off as guards over an area, in the dark, on four-hour shifts. For two, three nights in a row, we were serving as — I don’t know what we would have done because we were given a loaded rifle, and we were given a loaded rifle with five rounds of ammunition. We didn’t even know how to fire the gun. But we were given these rifles, we were told, “You load it this way, this the way how you lock it, in case anything happens.” To this day, I wonder, what was “if anything happens,” was. What they were referring to because — not that nothing happened, but what if anything had happened? What were we supposed to do? Because we were not given any kind of orders. We were dropped off individually in an area maybe fifty yards apart from each other. We spent three nights doing that, and I don’t know for what.

Hawaii Territorial Guard members, University of Hawaii.
Hawaii Territorial Guard members, University of Hawaii.

But nobody questioned our loyalty.

Discharge

A month and a half later, early in the morning, we got called up and say, “Hey, we got to report down to Lanakila School.” We woke up at about two o’clock in the morning. Then finally, about five thirty [A.M.], a truck came by to pick us up. We all fully packed and everything, they drop us off at Lanakila, we wondered what was going on. Then, we found out that the whole battalion was assembled at Lanakila.

Then Major [Charles “Rusty”] Frazier, who was the adjutant, commander of the battalion, came up and told us point-blank, right straight in our faces, he said, “The reason why you are here this morning is because you — all you Americans of Japanese Ancestry,” I’m pretty sure he referred to us as Americans of Japanese Ancestry, “because of your ethnic background, you are being discharged herein,” right off the bat, “right as of now, you have been discharged from the Hawaiian Territorial [Guard].” Only the AJAs.

We’re completely in a state of shock, you know. But there’s nothing we could do. It was just a pronouncement. We were peremptorily, without notice, discharged.

[Our thoughts were] basically, why, why, why?

Katsugo Miho's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Katsugo Miho.

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