Discover Nikkei

https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/1069/

Reaction to the Emperor’s surrender

Oh tearing…in Japan, yes. I believe for Emperor to accept the defeat, then for him to come and tell the people…you see, Emperor is way high and common people cannot reach him. He’s a god, we were told. And for him to say and then to surrender, would disbelief…well it’s very, very…it was a very difficult moment for I think all of us. They want anybody that was in the army at that time…I don’t think there was any other way we could express ourselves at that time.

Because……looking back and if he says, “Hey, you’re an American citizen.” Well it wasn’t that simple as that. You’re in the Japanese army to protect Japanese land. That’s your main reason you’re in there. To take a defeat is…well, you…until you accept it, it was…it did take a few days to…in my true opinion, yes. I know it’s hard to…even it’s hard for me to explain it right now. But the true feeling was…it was true. I just haven’t been brought up that way.


Imperial Japanese Army Japanese

Date: June 17, 2008

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Janice Tanaka

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Henry Eiichi Suto was born on February 5, 1928 in Minot, North Dakota to Issei parents. After the death of his father and younger sister, his mother returned to Japan with Henry and his brother. Henry was 7 years old and since he knew little Japanese, he worked hard to learn and try to fit in with his classmates. When he was approached by his teacher to sign up for the Japanese Army at the age of 17, he accepted—knowing he wouldn’t be able to afford to go to college. After basic training, he was 1 of 34 selected to train under a special unit, which he later found out was a “suicide” unit to man a one-man torpedo boat. He was in this unit when Hiroshima was bombed and was one of the first soldiers to arrive with aid, thirty-six hours after the bombing.

When the war ended, he returned to the United States and lived with an uncle after his mother passed away. He enrolled in Belmont High School, but 3 months later was drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in the Korean War. He was trained to become an interpreter and was taught the Korean language at Camp Palmer. He was to go to the front lines in Korea to interrogate, but while on their stopover in Japan, he was asked to stay to serve as an interpreter there instead.

He returned to the U.S. after being discharged from the army and went to Los Angeles City College where he majored in foreign trade. He found a job at the Otagiri Company and worked there till his retirement in 1993.

He passed away on October 17, 2008 at the age of 80. (January 30, 2009)

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