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Title: Eugene Tatsuru Kimura Interview
Narrator: Eugene Tatsuru Kimura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-keugene-01-0012

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TI: I'm curious, in your writings, you mentioned the summer of '41, when you returned, that the U.S. government officials acted differently when you returned to Seattle.

EK: Yes.

TI: Can you describe that?

EK: Yeah. This is on the return home from the, the season's work, the fishing, after working in the fisheries. Our ship docked at Sitka, Alaska, which was near the coast there. And the idea being that they would supply, bring the supplies to the local areas there, the canneries, and then take on canned salmon and so forth. And there was a two-hour layover at that time in August of 1941. So a group of us left the boat, got off the boat temporarily and were looking around Sitka. Then what surprised us was that in the distance were armed soldiers patrolling an area there, and they were building army barracks. So we said, "Hey, what's going on there? Whom are they expecting?" Are they expecting the Chinese? Obviously not. The only person they were, people they were expecting, possibly expecting, might be the Japanese. Anyway, we didn't think much of it. Maybe they just were building some barracks just because they needed it. However, when we got to Seattle, the, half of the workers who were Filipinos were told by government agents -- they looked like government agents -- then they were told to, "Hey, get off the boat." Other half, the Niseis, were segregated into a unit there, near the boat there, and subjected to questioning. Like, for instance, "Why, what are you doing here?" "What, is this your main job? What else are you doing?" So I would say that, "Well, many of us are students," and so forth. "Do you have any birth certificates?" "We don't normally carry birth certificates with us." "What other identification do you have?" "Well, I have my University of Washington card." So that seemed to put, satisfy him. So I asked one of my questioners, "Why are you questioning us?" He said, "Just routine, just routine. Move along, move along, next." So then that stuck -- it was more important, or rather, penetrating, seemingly, in my eyes. So I said that, "I think something's gonna happen." So this was August of 1941. But then I had forgotten that, most of it because of the fact that we were more concerned with the, going to school and studying and so forth. But then this, this thing just came to a head on December the 7th. So then I said to myself, "Hey, maybe I wasn't wrong. Evidently, they were planning to get rid of us." And this is, this very faintly substantiated Kashima's statement that the U.S. government was thinking in terms of evacuating, getting rid of the Japanese since 1920, two decades ago. And that thought stuck in my mind when I read Kashima's book, you know.

TI: So let me, let me see if I can summarize. So months before December 7th, so this was summer 1941, up in Sitka, you saw the army building barracks for soldiers probably. And then when you came into Seattle, they were questioning the Japanese American students, trying to, just checking them out, putting them under surveillance. So you're, you're surmising that, perhaps, the government knew something was going to happen.

EK: Yes.

TI: And that work that's coming now, like by Professor Kashima and other, indicate that the government had plans for things like internment camps and things like that, in preparation for possible war with Japan.

EK: You described it.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.