Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Roy Ebihara Interview
Narrator: Roy Ebihara
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-eroy-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

RE: And then, on the night of January 19th, sure enough, the sheriff and state patrol came in their sedans, there must have been about eight, nine of those sedans. And they came in and said, "Get going, the vigilante group is forming, they're coming down through the tunnel, and they're coming out to kill you." So they said, "Grab what you can, throw 'em in a pillowcase and throw 'em in the trunk of the car, whatever you can, and make sure it's important valuables that you can do." And so we were all herded into these little state patrol sedans, and they moved out us out. I don't recall any lights, headlights, and they just moved us out.

TI: And, I guess, did you ever see the crowd coming?

RE: Uh-huh.

TI: So you actually saw them coming?

RE: Yeah, as they come out of the tunnel, you could see way down there with oil torches, oil torches, and apparently shotguns, I don't know what kind of guns.

TI: And the, and one of the state policemen or troopers said they were, "They're coming to kill you," is what he said?

RE: That probably was about, in the darkness, it must have been about nine, nine o'clock at night. And I recall just crying and crying, just living in fear, and so then we all cried and cried, us kids.

TI: And so they were able to round up all the, the Japanese there, put 'em in these cars, and then you just...

RE: We took off.

TI: And where did you go?

RE: Well, I remember going down dusty roads, it was just horrible. Hours and hours passed, and I didn't know where we were going. And most of the time, except for the lead car, everybody, I guess they had those little parking lights, so you couldn't see hardly the car ahead, you know, as I remember. They wanted to be as less conspicuous as possible. We heard days later that these people looted everything that they can get their hands on. But they didn't burn everything down 'til later. They came with bulldozers and bulldozed everything down.

But, but we traveled on and on and we came to a, looked like a prison camp. And in the early morning hours, you can barely see daylight. And we came to Fort Stanton, New Mexico, and that's where they were housing the German POW sailors, they captured them around the Gulf of Mexico. They also had other, other people in there. I think they were merchant marines, German merchant marines who were captured in the '40s off the Carolina coast, I understood. The British ships chased them across the Atlantic Ocean, and they didn't know what to do with these couple hundred German people. At that point in time, they were not POWs, America was not at war with Germany at that time. But eventually when we did go to war with Germany and Italy, they stuck 'em in with all the POWs.

But we ended up there, and they were intending, the immigration authority was going to stick us in, in two of the barracks inside that compound, two or three barracks. And my sister said, high school kid, said, "Hey, wait a minute. You're violating our rights. We haven't committed any crime. And they'll kill us sure as hell. Those people would molest us, kill us." Remember, they're men over there, and we have families. So they thought about it, and I remember gradually daylight was coming, and the hours ensued, and they said, "Okay, how about seventeen miles down the road, put 'em in an old abandoned CCC camp," and that's where we went.

TI: So that's interesting. So it was really your [sister] who was educated --

RE: Interceded.

TI: And she was kind of the spokesperson for the whole group, saying...

RE: Pretty much.

TI: ...that, that you have rights as U.S. citizens, the children in particular, that they could be put into this place. So I'm, so I'm trying to understand this. So I get the, the police coming, taking you out because, to protect you at that point. I mean, you had a mob coming. But once you got away from that, it sounds like they, they wanted to keep you under guard?

RE: Surveillance, yes. So the state patrol was now responsible to keep us together, that I don't know, the circumstances are peculiar. We're being protected at the same time we were held in suspicion, I think.

TI: Because what's interesting to me, this is January 19th, so this is before President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

RE: Oh, yeah, long before that.

TI: Before there was any action on the West Coast.

RE: A month earlier.

TI: And so this is -- but I understand them protecting you, but keeping you under surveillance or under guard doesn't make as much sense to me, why they would have done that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.