Grant H. Ichikawa was born in April 1919. His father had come to the United States from Japan. People from Japan were forbidden from buying farms in California so his father leased land to set up and work a small 40 acre fruit farm. Ichikawa grew up being a farmer’s son on a fruit farm. When he was in his mid-high school years he told his father that he wanted to go to college which was something most farmer’s sons did not do. They usually stayed on the farm to help their father. His father had to think about it but said ok. Ichikawa was father was poor so he had to pay for his own way through college. He graduated from the University of California in 1941. In college he studied commerce. Ichikawa had just finished college and was looking for a job when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After the attack he had a very hard time finding a job because people would not hire Japanese Americans. In California there was discrimination against Japanese Americans. After the attack on Pearl Harbor things got even worse so Ichikawa stopped looking for a job. He had specialized in accounting and felt that nobody wanted to hire a Japanese accountant. Ichikawa became a fruit farmer since he could not find work. In early 1941 he rented an 80 acre farm. He got a good deal on the place because there was no equipment and he had to buy everything himself. He was very happy with his situation before the war started. He did not worry about things because he was an American citizen. When he was rounded up with the rest of his family he felt that what was happening to them was wrong and illegal because he had not done anything wrong.
Grant Ichikawa was first taken to an assembly center located on a horse racing track near Turlock, California. His family shared a horse stall with another stall. That really destroyed him. When that assembly center was closed down he and his family were sent to the Gila River Relocation Camp. Everybody of Japanese ancestry who had been held at Turlock and other camps were sent to Gila River. While in the camp, Ichikawa had a lot of time to think. He thought that the American Government did not know them and that they were loyal Americans and wanted to prove that he was. He thought that joining the army was the way to do it but he could not do that from the camp. A recruiting team from the military intelligence service visited the camp and Ichikawa volunteered. He was sent to language school at Camp Savage, Minnesota. Camp Savage was a small camp which was closed after Ichikawa’s class completed its course. The language school was moved to Camp Snelling. Language school was worse than going to college. They were taught Japanese and other military courses. Ichikawa does not remember anyone ever being dropped from the course. After language school Ichikawa was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for basic training. He trained with the 442 [Annotators Note: 442nd Regimental Combat Team] which was getting ready to go over to Europe. After basic training they were sent back to Minnesota and from there were sent to the Pacific. Ichikawa believes that the Japanese Americans wanted to do their best and to prove that they were loyal Americans. Ichikawa was recalled to duty during the Korean War. He had to go back through a modified basic training. The people in that training had all been recalled against their will and acted completely different than they had acted during World War II. The men had been recalled from the inactive reserve and were all pissed off. A lot of them died in Korea. The first place Ichikawa was sent was ATIS [Annotators Note: Allied Translator and Interpreter Service] in Brisbane, Australia. He was already integrated into the military intelligence service and worked as an allied interpreter. Every combat unit had a linguist. Ichikawa was assigned to headquarters so he never had to go on combat missions. From Australia his group was sent to Manila in the Philippines where they set up at the Santa Ana race track. From there linguists were sent out to combat units.
Grant Ichikawa was assigned to headquarters [Annotators Note: Headquarters, Allied Translator and Interpreter Service]. His job was to help train people to prepare them to go overseas. They taught them how to talk to prisoners, taught them about Japan, and helped them learn about the Japanese military structure. While in the Philippines Ichikawa was sent into the field and attached to the 25th Division [Annotators Note: 25th Infantry Division] to help pick up and interrogate Japanese prisoners. He would ask the prisoners where in Japan they had come from and where they worked. Prisoners were in a position to pin point targets for them because they knew what was being built in which factories and what is in the area they came from for possible B-29 targets. Ichikawa also asked what unit the prisoners were from and what other units were in the same area. Japanese prisoners were usually picked up because they were too weak to resist or commit suicide. The Japanese had been taught to never give up and to commit suicide before they surrendered. Later on that system broke down but at first only the men who were wounded became prisoners. The allied doctors treated them well. Most of the prisoners cooperated. The Japanese do not recognize prisoners. Enemy prisoners gave up a lot of information. It was the fault of the Japanese military to treat their men the way they did. The American troops were taught to give only their name, rank, and serial number. The Japanese were not taught that and would usually answer any questions that were asked. The unit Ichikawa was with had taken over the Santa Ana race track in Manila. Many of the men assigned there were housed in horse stalls. Back in Australia Ichikawa and the other NCOs [Annotators Note: noncommissioner officers] had a nice club. When they moved up to the Philippines they used their own money to set up a new NCO club which opened before the officers club did. In the Philippines Ichikawa and several other NCOs were given field commissions after which they were no longer allowed in the NCO club they had put so much time and money into building.
Grant Ichikawa helped coerce a large number of Japanese soldiers to surrender in the jungles of the Philippines. The group of enemy soldiers was led by a lieutenant colonel. The enemy soldiers had been told that the war was over but they were not sure if it was true and were still ready to fight. Somehow contact was made with them and Ichikawa was the interpreter. Two Japanese soldiers walked out of the jungle. The rest of the enemy troops stayed hidden in the jungle. One of the Japanese soldiers was the commanding officer. Ichikawa walked up to him and told him that the war was over and that there was no shame in surrendering. The Japanese commander agreed so Ichikawa told him where they were to put their weapons. The Japanese soldiers put down their weapons and walked out of the jungle. The first thing Ichikawa and the other American soldiers did was to try to feed the enemy prisoners. Generally there was no discipline in large groups of Japanese soldiers when the Americans fed them. They would just dive right in and start eating. This group was different. Rations were passed out but none of the prisoners ate. When Ichikawa asked them why they were not eating they replied that they were waiting for their commanding officer to begin eating first. Ichikawa realized that this group was a tight and disciplined unit. Ichikawa realized that convincing these soldiers to surrender was something because these men were fighters and could have slaughtered the American group if they had wanted to. Ichikawa is glad he was there because if there had not been a linguist present the Japanese would have fought and would have decimated the American group. At the time Ichikawa was the second in command of the linguists. The commander was a captain and he was a first lieutenant. Ichikawa was in the Philippines when the war ended. He went back to his own unit which was ATIS, Allied Translator and Interpreter Service. From there he was sent to Japan for occupation duty. ATIS took over the NYK building [Annotators Note: Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha Company] in Tokyo as their new headquarters. Ichikawa stayed in Japan for a year or two. Ichikawa returned to the United States in late 1946 or early 1947. He was discharged and was ready to get started again. He wanted to start leasing fruit farms again. He was going to be a college educated fruit farmer but that did not last long because he was recalled to active duty for the Korean War.
Grant Ichikawa does not feel that he did anything special being a linguist. He had a job to do and he did it. Ichikawa left the service in late 1946 or early 1947. His family was happy to see him especially since he had been in Japan. His parents had both been born in Japan and always wanted to go back for a visit but were never able to. Now their son was home after being in Japan and visiting relatives there. The first day Ichikawa was in Japan his unit was sent to Tokyo aboard a metro train. He asked the man sitting next to him where he was from. The man replied that he was from a village that was close to the village Ichikawa’s relatives were from. Ichikawa told the man that he would like to visit the village and look up his father’s relatives. Ichikawa was surprised when a relative of his father visited him a few days later. Ichikawa got in touch with his relatives right away and was able to visit them at their home. It was nice to see them. Ichikawa was in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. It was sad to see the situation as it was. All of the Americans had all assembled at the American embassy. The embassy compound was walled around but the fences were not high enough and people were jumping over them. The first helicopters were landing on the embassy roof and on the ground. There was a police station right next to the embassy and whenever a helicopter would land the police would jump the fence and pile in the helicopter which kept the people that the military was trying to evacuate from getting aboard. To keep that from happening, the military had the incoming helicopters land on the roof so they could better control who they were loading onto them. Ichikawa left Saigon on a helicopter that night. It had been quite a day. Ichikawa believes that it is important for school children learn about what happened during World War 2. He feels that the war changed him in some way. To people who watch this video years from now Ichikawa would like to tell them not to take their American citizenship for granted. At some time you may be asked to do something for your country that might involve risking your life. Be a good American and take that risk.
All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at email@example.com if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.
Your browser is out of date!
To get the best possible experience using our website, we recommend that you upgrade or download an alternative web browser. Downloading a new browser will make internet browsing safer as well as more enjoyable.