Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bill Nishimura Interview
Narrator: Bill Nishimura
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 2, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-nbill-01-0007

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AI: And was there then some activities happening here at Tule Lake, as I understand, there were some incidents...

BN: Yes.

AI: ...that affected people.

BN: Uh-huh. I actually didn't see this, but I was there when it happened, and...

AI: And what was that?

BN: Oh, this construction materials is, is at the, the outer gate of the whole camp, as such. And whenever you wished to get the construction material, you had to go through the main gate, and there's a guard there. And when he was coming back with this crew and the material and he got into the camp, the guard ordered him to get off the truck. So he did. And then he was, with a bayonet pointed at his stomach, shoved him back toward the outer gate. He didn't want to leave the outer gate because once he stepped out of the gate, he would be, he could be suspected of trying to escape. So he resisted at that point. And this guard just shot him just point-blank into his stomach.

AI: Who was that who got shot?

BN: That was Mr. Okamoto, I believe it was, yes. And then I attended his funeral, and oh, it was such a huge funeral. And it was held in the open theater area. Yes.

AI: What were your feelings then and your feelings of your friends at that funeral?

BN: Well, we thought, we were really upset that the guard would do such a thing. And later on, we heard that this guard was fresh from the, fresh from the fighting in South Pacific. So what we did was we asked the administration to, administrator to never put a guard who has fought in the South Pacific.

AI: And that was because...?

BN: Because, that he was really, he fought against the Japanese, Japanese soldiers, so he naturally didn't like the Japanese, whether American Japanese or not. He didn't like the Japanese, period. So that was the danger of having a guard from the, soldier who fought at, in the Pacific, South Pacific.

AI: Now, then what happened then after that?

BN: Oh, after that? There was another incident. There's a canteen man, there was a rumor that the canteen manager was embezzling the funds. So, one time they had a carnival in Tule Lake, and he, he was there. And apparently, one man was really aft-, I don't know how many, but they, somebody was after him. And when he left the carnival and went to his block and he entered the latrine -- this is all supposition because nobody saw -- but they have declared that this person was a lefty because his, in the way the throat was slashed. But he was, the suspect was never caught.

AI: And what was the impact on the camp of that incident?

BN: Well, what I heard was that was coming to him.

AI: So there were some very negative feelings.

BN: Yes, right.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.