Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Arthur Ogami Interview
Narrator: Arthur Ogami
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 10, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-oarthur-01-0026

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: Well, tell me, now, the camp at Fort Lincoln was different from the Manzanar or the other WRA War Relocation (Authority) camps because Fort Lincoln was part of the system of camps that were for "alien enemies."

AO: Yes.

AI: So, they first held Issei, the Japanese immigrants, and some Germans.

AO: Yes.

AI: And some of them had Italians, also, and other citizens of other countries. But when you were arrived with this large group of other young men, it sounds like most of you had been U.S. citizens but then had renounced citizenship or were in the process of renouncing. So, so it was a different kind of a camp and as I understand it, a different system.

AO: Yes.

AI: When you got there, what kinds of differences did you notice, if any, between Fort Lincoln and the other camps?

AO: I didn't see any difference as far as the camp was concerned. Now, Manzanar and Tule Lake, they're under WRA, War Relocation Authority's... Fort Lincoln, Bismarck, North Dakota was under jurisdiction of the Justice Department, and that's the difference. And when we arrived, there were already Romanians, prisoners. And they were actually prisoners. Most of 'em were in the air force of the Romanian country. And by conversation with the Romanians there, that they were captured and transferred to South America. And then from South America they were transferred up and ended in Bismarck, North Dakota. And they were good to us. We got along well, although they were separated in a separate section of the camp. And there were musician among them and doctors. And they were very talented in music, so we had the privilege of listening to their music playing, violin especially. They were string instruments.

AI: It sounds quite interesting to be in a camp now that wasn't all Japanese Americans.

AO: Yes. And they also conducted, they wanted to make sure that we didn't have athlete's feet to go swimming. And so among them was a doctor that would check your feet before you went in. And I had slight case of athlete's feet, so before I went in I showered and scrubbed my feet and I would put lotion or jelly type of cream on my feet so it wouldn't show, vaguely. It wouldn't show exactly what I, what my feet was athlete's feet or not. And so I passed and I was able to swim. [Laughs] I wasn't a very good swimmer 'cause I never learned to swim well, but I enjoyed getting in the water.

AI: Well --

AO: It was a heated pool, too.

AI: So it sounds like in some ways, the conditions at Fort Lincoln were a little bit better, that you had the pool and you had a different kind of a living quarters arrangement. What else do you recall about the conditions there at Fort Lincoln?

AO: They had steel cots. And they have a lower and upper cots. And I slept on the bottom and my brother slept on top. And so all the others in the, in that room, someone had to choose to sleep on top.

AI: And during the time that you and your brother were there, were you able to correspond with your parents at all?

AO: Yes.

AI: And what did you hear from them, or how...

AO: Well, we were able to write letters and mail them out, but they were all censored going out. And incoming mail was also censored. And some of the mail, letters that were received, they couldn't distinguish what the message was all about because they cut it out. They didn't block it out, but simply cut out. And there was a translator and we would see him walking towards his office. And he was the one that would read the letter and remove what they thought that was the, important to remove.

AI: So, were you worried at all about what might be happening to your parents and sister while you were separated?

AO: No, no. We weren't worried because we knew that the outcome will be to go to Japan.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.