Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jim M. Tanimoto Interview
Narrator: Jim M. Tanimoto
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Barbara Takei (secondary)
Location: Gridley, California
Date: December 10, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-tjim-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So then how long were you in the CCC camp before you left?

JT: Well, I think we were there a couple of weeks anyhow. And then, after a couple of weeks, they started having informal hearings. They asked me, when my turn came, they asked me, "Will you sign the papers now?" And I says, "No, I'm not signing no paper." They're referring to the loyalty paper. And I says, "My answer is the same. Send me back to Gridley, and then I'll sign. But I'm not signing anything until... I'm a prisoner here. Unless you release me, I'm not signing." And there was more than one person asking the question, and they sort of got together after they finished their question, and they says, "Okay, you can go back to your block now." Says, "You were probably brainwashed by some of the older people." I was nineteen years old. But that's what he said, "You were told to answer, or not to sign, and you followed their, what they were telling you to do. You didn't do this on your own." So they said, "You can go back to camp." Well, after we got back to camp, it was sometime in February...

TI: And before you go there, so did they, did everyone get released at that point, or did they hold some people?

JT: No, everybody didn't get released. There was at least six or seven people from our group, Block 42, that was shipped to, picked on and shipped to another camp. They were shipped to Moab, Utah, and my brother was one of those, my oldest brother, Mike. And there was five or six other people that went with him from the group that was in the jail, Klamath Falls jail or the Alturas jail. And they, I think it was the time when we had that informal hearing, where I was told I could return. They were held back and shipped out to Moab.

TI: So six or seven were sent to Moab, you didn't sign. Do you know if any of the other men actually signed during these informal hearings?

JT: I don't think so. I think everybody stayed the way they did when they got put in jail.

TI: So somehow, the administration, it sounds like everyone pretty much answered the same thing, they weren't gonna sign, including the six or seven. But they, the administration decided that these six or seven were the ringleaders or the ones who were influencing the others and sent them to Moab? Is that how you would you see what happened?

JT: Well...

TI: And I guess the follow-up question is, and if they were able to do that, how would they know? I guess maybe I'm wondering, or if you guys suspected that perhaps within your group there might have been an informant, or someone that might have maybe targeted some of the leaders in the group?

JT: Well, if you look at the picture, you find out most of the people are older than I am. And like that person that was questioning me said, "You were convinced by some people older than you not to sign." And I think that's what they did, they picked on people that was older. Not because somebody says, "Yeah, this guy's a ringleader," or anything. We had no ringleader. We more or less did things on our own. I don't think we had a meeting to say, "Hey, let's not sign." I don't think we had anything like that.

BT: Well, what's interesting is that there is that group picture of people from Block 42 who all refused to answer the questionnaire, which suggests that there was maybe a group feeling.

JT: What?

BT: That group picture suggests that maybe there was a sense of being a group of resisters.

JT: Well, as far as I'm concerned, the reason I didn't sign was because I thought I was right and the government was wrong. They couldn't force me to do what I didn't want to do. I don't know what the other people thought, but to me, that keeps on staying in my mind, that I was right and they were wrong. And I don't know if that group picture, how many people thought that way, but we all ended up in the same place. The six or seven ended up in a different place, but eventually they all came back to Tule Lake, to their own apartments in Tule Lake.

TI: And I think what you said is a reason that maybe those six or seven were the older ones. Like the oldest one in the group, and that's maybe how they identified them. Is that what you... so I guess what I'm trying to get a sense is, how did they choose those, that smaller group to Moab, the six or seven? Was it their age, or were they somehow targeted as being leaders?

JT: Well, we had, we had this informal hearing, and I don't know. Like in my particular case, after they finished questioning me, two or three of the people that was questioning me, they got together and says, "This guy doesn't know anything. He was convinced not to sign by somebody else." So they sent me back. But as far as those other people, the older people, I don't know, other than the fact that they were older. I think that was the only reason.

TI: And you mentioned that one of them was your other brother Masashi. Did you ever ask him or did he ever have a conversation with you about why maybe he was selected to Moab? Did you ever ask him?

JT: No, he never said. I never asked, but he never said why he was sent to Moab. Other than the fact that he was, I think in that picture he might have been the oldest of that group of the six or seven.

BT: And there was nothing, perhaps, that he did while he was in the CCC camp that might have identified him as a leader?

JT: No. Like I say, we never got together and had a meeting saying, "Hey, don't step out of line," or, "We're going to do this all together as a group." No, we didn't have any kind of meeting like that. I don't even remember, we had a meeting before we got, after the mess hall thing, I think everybody did this on their own. At least I know I did it on my own.

TI: And earlier I asked, and I was just curious, because I don't have any other information, but I'm just curious. Were you careful at the CCC because, perhaps, you may have suspected there might have been a plant or spy within your midst that might have informed? Did you ever think or suspect that might have happened?

JT: I don't think so. Because the time that we were in jail 'til the time that we were in the CCC camp, we opened the CCC camp, this was the same group. We didn't have anybody that came from another block or another area. This was all the people that was in Block 42. If somebody, you know, was brought in from a different camp for the same reason, they didn't sigh, maybe we would have suspected something. But since this was the whole group, we never had a meeting before, we never had a meeting during, or we never had a meeting after. So I don't think we even thought about somebody that was in there that was spying on us or being an inu or stool pigeon. I don't think so.

BT: How did they, what did you do? I think you were there about three weeks. What did they have you doing to occupy the days?

JT: Well, you know, my brother Mori, one day, some Fish and Game people come by, and they wanted to know if they can get some labor. They wanted to dig a trench and put a cement floor on their garage. They came and asked, and they says, "Yeah." So they took those guys and they did that. That was one thing. But like me, I was working in the motor pool, and we were having a good time fooling around with engines. I don't know if we played baseball or anything, I don't think so. I don't think we had any physical activity.

BT: Did anybody ever tell you what you were doing there or how long you were gonna be there?

JT: No. All I know is after that two or three weeks that we were there, they started this informal hearing. And they started processing us. They sent most of us back to where we started, to our address, and they kept the five, six or seven people and they sent them to Moab. We just did routine stuff. We had things to do like cleaning up the mess hall, cooking, playing cards, stuff like that. We never really had to really... you know, it's a small place, and we had little things to do, but they were done within an hour or two, and the rest of the day you didn't do anything. You did what you wanted to do, you wanted to sleep or you wanted to play cards or whatever.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.