Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Masao Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Masao Watanabe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmasao-01-0039

<Begin Segment 39>

TI: How about the other side? Because you were from the 442, were people more interested in you because of the publicity the 442 received?

MW: I don't know if they were more interested, but right when the war ended, we ended up with, oh, a multitude of prisoners. And they set up a prison camp at a airfield up north, right near the border, in this Po Valley plains. It was a Ghedi, G-H-E-D-I, Ghedi Airport. It's close to the border of Switzerland. We, they established prison camps at Ghedi, and then Via Reggio, which is a pretty well-known resort area. And just like camps in Minidoka, they set up these wire fences and guard towers. And what do you know? We were the guards. [Laughs]

TI: And it looked just like, almost just like Minidoka, the way it was structured?

MW: Yes, a miniature Minidoka.

TI: And did you find that ironic? Did you...

MW: Oh, God, I couldn't stop laughing. I thought, "What the heck is this? What a change." And another funny part of it is that those enterprising soldiers like me, we had the German soldiers, prisoners, come up to watch guard. And they would just warn us if the officers are coming. [Laughs]

TI: So you would have the prisoners watch for you?

MW: Yeah, they were in the towers with us.

TI: Okay. And then, when an officer would come by, they would...

MW: They would get the hell out and just tell us, "Hey, they're coming."

TI: So things were pretty relaxed at that time.

MW: Oh, it was awfully relaxed. But by the same token, I learned German, and we traded magazines. It was educational.

TI: Did you, so did you have any, can you recall any interesting conversations, with, say a German soldier?

MW: No, not really. The one that I used to relieve me was an older, I think he was from Hamburg. But, I don't know, I'd have a hard time picturing him as a soldier. Real mild-mannered guy, like me. He was a very nice gentleman. And we used to trade photos and books and... well, we weren't prison guards very long. Very short time. And then I went to the army school.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.