Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Eugene Tatsuru Kimura Interview
Narrator: Eugene Tatsuru Kimura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 5, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-keugene-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: In your writings, you mentioned there was a moment when they came through and they confiscated things like axes and hatches you used to chop wood.

EK: Yeah.

TI: Can you tell me about that?

EK: Yeah. I think the Japanese naval forces attacked, or occupied the Aleutian Islands, certainly the eastern, western Aleutian Islands there. So this must have caused much consternation and fear in the officials of the War Relocation Authority. Prior to that time, each household or unit was assigned axes to, axes and hatchets to cut the wood in suitable sizes to be put into the stove and so forth. When that happened, they confiscated all the axes except one for the unit, your block, to cut, what shall I say, wood and so forth. It seems to me that this is sort of a stupid thing to do. What did they expect us to do, come out charging out of the barracks, of the concentration camp wielding axes and hatches and meeting the invading force two thousand miles away? But then when the person or government agencies are afraid, they'll do stupid things.

TI: And in general, how were the military guards or the other guards at Puyallup in how they treated you and the other Japanese Americans?

EK: Most of them were uncommunicative, but they did not smile or anything, or gave us gum or anything of that nature. In fact, we had to keep so many feet away from the fence. And then most, because of the fact that they were probably given orders, they didn't speak to us at all. But the people, government employees who were probably local farmers and so forth, acted as "guards," quote/unquote, as we went from one area to another to shower or something. And they were the most disgusting ones because I remember very clearly one day one of them, as we were being marched from one barracks to another, said, "Come on, Japs, make a break for it," and so forth. So that at that moment, we preferred the quiet guards to this individual, anyway. But here again, what could you do?

TI: So this one guard was taunting you, just saying, "Make a run for it."

EK: He was not an army guy, he was a civilian guard. He looked like a, probably blue collar, older farmer or something, of that neighborhood, who was hired by the War Relocation Authority or the army post to guard us from one area to another, within the large compound.

TI: When you look back, I'm thinking, and at some point maybe one of your kids asked you this question. Here you were, a Nisei, a U.S. citizen, in your early twenties. Do you ever look back and wonder, could the Niseis have done anything to prevent this? Do you ever think about that, and could anything have been done differently?

EK: No. In terms of politics and so forth, we had no representative or senators or mayors or anything who could speak up for us. So there, we were helpless. And the average age of the Niseis was late twenties, early thirties, so they had not been established either financially or politically to wield any power and so forth. So that in essence, we were left alone, with the exception of the Quakers. They voiced sympathy, but they themselves didn't have any political clout, so they couldn't do anything. But at least we had the emotional sympathy of the Quakers anyway.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.