Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Paul Bannai Interview I
Narrator: Paul Bannai
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 28, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-bpaul-01-0020

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AI: Well now, also before you did get out of camp, you mentioned that you had a job. And now can you tell a little bit about what that job was, what your duties were? Was it in property management at the camp?

PB: When?

AI: When you were first in camp...

PB: Oh yeah.

AI: ...that you were given the job.

PB: What I did was, in camp there were three grades. You get paid $19, $16, and $13, I think.

AI: Dollars?

PB: Huh?

AI: Dollars.

PB: Dollars a month, yeah. And it was more prestige than anything else. When I went in, I said, "Well, if that's the case I'd like to be in the category of making $19 a month," 'cause after all, that's the top pay. So I was put into a position of the property management department and head of that, and that was all property. Everything in camp was brought in by the government, whatever little furniture there was, personal items, things of that nature, everything in the offices that run. So we handled all the property. We had to take an inventory, everything came in, knew where all the property was, whether it's property that was used by the evacuees or used by the military or used by the camp director and his staff. So that was my job. And it wasn't a hard job, but nevertheless, as I say, given the top classification of $19 and a professional status, I figured, "Well, what the heck? That's pretty good." [Laughs] Made a lot of difference, $6.

And I remember that even though I was in camp, I had a lot of people that were friends outside. When I left the bank and went up there, one of the accounts was a company that had a lot of audio and visual equipment, and they sent me -- because they heard that I, I didn't have a radio. Couldn't take a radio. They sent me a radio by mail. Well, unfortunately the camp director said he'd have to turn it down. But I had friends like that that would try to help in every way possible to make my life in camp a lot easier because they didn't know what the situation was. They were never allowed to come to Manzanar. They couldn't visit. They couldn't come in. In fact I remember one time that the gate at Manzanar -- they were very strict, nobody was allowed in. And any time that the so-called non-Japanese came to visit, they were not ever allowed into the camp. When I was in the military, I had a hard time getting in even with an American uniform on.

AI: So Manzanar was, the official title was a "relocation center."

PB: Right.

AI: But in actuality it sounds like it was more than just a relocation center.

PB: Oh, yeah. Well, you know there's controversy and different people saying "concentration camp" and "relocation center." Either way it's correct because it was a camp where we were concentrated. It's a concentration camp. You could not go out. So if they say, "Well, I was in a concentration camp," what's wrong with that? Depending on where I'm speaking or who I'm talking to, I would use the word "concentration camp" over "relocation center" because that's exactly what it was. The problem is a lot of people try to compare our concentration camp with that which was in Europe, Germany. Well, sure. Because there were a lot of people killed in Europe in the concentration camp, they say, "You can't call American relocation center a concentration camp." But that's exactly what it is. They were a concentration of Japanese Americans illegally, which was proven later -- we'll talk about that. But they were relocation. We were relocated there, but we were concentrated there. We couldn't get out, no way.

AI: So the main point is you were not free to go...

PB: Right.

AI: were stuck there.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.