Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Minoru "Min" Tsubota Interview
Narrator: Minoru "Min" Tsubota
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Tetsuden Kashima (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 18, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-tminoru-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

TK: What was your reception like in Fort Bliss, Texas, when 185 Niseis came on the train?

MT: Yeah, the, when we were with the 40th Division, our division (patel), it was a bursting sun which looked like a Chinese flag... to me it did. And, I don't know whether anybody else thought about it, but we, we stopped at the railroad station at El Paso, which is about mile and a half from downtown to the Fort Bliss complex. But we were assigned to the reception center there. But we got there and about, oh, ten-thirty, eleven o'clock in the morning, but we waited 'til afternoon, and no trucks or anybody came to pick us up. So I had an opportunity to call back to the 160th and tell the commander there that we were stranded there. And he contacted the Fort Bliss Headquarters and told me not to worry, that they'll send trucks down there. So, sure enough, about four-thirty in the afternoon, the trucks showed up to the railhead and all of us, 185 of us lined up four abreast and got on, were loaded onto trucks. And before, about a half a mile before the, the entrance to the reception center, we unloaded and we, again, lined up four abreast and we marched into the compound there. And it was quite amusing to see 185 of us Oriental-looking GIs come in there. They didn't know who we were and they, some, immediately the rumor came up that the Japanese Army had come through Mexico and we, El Paso is right across the, from Juarez and that they'd come in with American uniforms. But within a couple hours they, all the people that had scattered all come back there, especially people that were in a barbershop, they had their white sheets on and... but they scattered, they were all gone. But that was our initiation to Fort Bliss, Texas.

TK: Did things get better or worse after that first initiation?

MT: Well, after that we weren't very too happy because actually, we were in the United States Army, we were in uniform, American uniform, but actually, I don't think they really knew what to do with us. We were assigned from the reception center to the warehouses where, this being a reception center, to the warehouses where we were unloading all the uniforms, shoes, socks, underwear and piling them up into shelves there. The reception center, all those drafted Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans that are drafted came through the reception center there and were assigned their, the stations where they were going. But we gave 'em clothing and everything we can. But we worked with the Italian prisoners and the German prisoners that were from, from Europe, and they're prisoners but they were working the warehouses. So we were next to, I guess, prisoner-type of work that we were doing, unloading boxcars and doing menial work, not army work.

But, the same time, we had to go on guard duty at night and so we were issued carbines to go on guard duty at night, but, you can just picture the draftees that came in from civilian life and were issued uniforms and next two days they would say that, "We're fighting the Japs and, but here we're being guarded by Japs and we can't sleep." And some of these people were pretty well, their parents were high Texas officials in politics. And so, when they telephone them and tell them that they couldn't sleep, well then, immediately they would take us off guard duty. And then, but, it's hard to, for the regular GIs to on guard duty all the time so they'd put us back on guard duty, but they'd put us on with a, with a police sticks and we'd have to go guard duty again. But it was, I think a lot of us Niseis, both Niseis and the Kibeis, were disappointed at the situation there. Discrimination was there and then all these new people coming through have never seen Japanese before and so they just picture us as people from Japan on the same "enemy alien" basis. And so it made it a little tough and they were beginning to treat us as "Japs," and so we tried to live the best we could under the circumstances.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.