Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Charles Oihe Hamasaki Interview
Narrator: Charles Oihe Hamasaki
Interviewers: Martha Nakagawa (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Culver City, California
Date: February 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-hcharles-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: So they took you to Union Station.

CH: You know where Union Station is, Alameda.

MN: From there, where did they take you?

CH: From there, we got on the train, all shades down, shades down, two MPs on each side with a bayonet, and we go to, we stop at Fresno, Fresno, pick up maybe hundred. And then we went to Lodi, Lodi-Stockton area, we pick up so much, they was all farmers. Then Sacramento, few, they went when we went to Marysville, we pick up a few, and then we went to Eugene, Oregon, pick up a few. Then we went to Portland, we pick up a few, then we went to Tacoma, few, and again we went to Seattle, pick up a few, and that was the last place. 'Cause... what do you call that? Other side of, other side of Washington state? Not Yakima, but... Spokane. Spokane, we didn't pick up nothing. 'Cause that was, you know, unrestricted area, that's why. So we went to Butte, Montana. Yeah, we went to Butte, Montana, and they cut the train in half. Half stay at Fort Missoula, and half end up in Fort Lincoln, Bismarck, North Dakota. There was about five thousand people, forty-five hundred apiece, around there someplace.

MN: How did you know that you were stopping at these places?

CH: Huh?

MN: How did you know you were stopping at these places?

CH: I'm the only guy who was peeking outside.

MN: Didn't you get in trouble?

CH: No. If they come here, "You can't peek," I said, "What do you mean? I want to know what." I'm the only one talking English. I want to know where I'm going. "You know where?" "Of course, I grew up over here. You guys making a big mistake picking me up, but you did." "Well, too late, too bad." I argued with 'em. So, "You got to go to latrine, huh?" Got a bayonet and go, go, go like that. [Laughs] So I know, that's why I would tell all the Issei people, this, this, all the place. So my leg got swollen, three day, four nights, you know. My ankle got swollen. You don't move, you sit down for four days like that, yeah, then serve us good food. The food was, we never ate such a good food. We never ate American food like that, meat and hamburger and that kind of thing, potato, and French fries. I didn't know French fries and mashed potatoes looked like. So he said, "Hey, this is the end for us." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "They feed us good food because we're gonna get killed and everything." That's what they were, "Korosareru kara." You understand Japanese little bit?

TI: No.

CH: Okay, then I don't talk Japanese.

MN: Go ahead.

TI: But there are rumors about maybe...

CH: Yeah, shot to death. Like an oven in Germany, they were figuring that kind of thing. So I thought, "No, this is a democratic country, that's why they won't do that kind of thing. They're more humane," I tell 'em. One old man said, "Democracy, shit." He said, "Democrat, shit." Instead of "democracy," he put, "Democrat shit." He told me, hey, I laughed about it. "Hey, you're pretty smart," I told that guy. So we landed at Bismarck. L.A., over here wasn't that cold, but it was not like over there. Ten degree. Ten degree all the way down to minus twenty-five it goes. That's... you know where Bismarck is located? You know North America and the northern hemisphere? Bismarck is right in the middle. You look at the map, this half and that half, it's right in the middle, Bismarck. It's cold. Like us guys... that's why the FBI's smart. "Be sure to wear a coat." But I had a shoe, I had a moccasin. Terminal Island, at Terminal Island, we used to have a dance. We skipped that, I was mentioning about Terminal Island, see. We'd gather all the different area people from Compton and from Dominguez and Lomita, Torrance, that kind of place, high school. High school time, we used to invite 'em and we used to have dancing. I used to, we used to go to the dance. And big dance, once in maybe three month, all, all Los Angeles, different place, all different people gather and dance. There's a lot of people. Civic Auditorium in Torrance, maybe they still got it. We used to go dance over there before. That's when we start getting interested in women. "Hey." But in Terminal Island, we didn't have no girlfriend. There was a lot of nice-looking women, you know, of course, there gotta be some. Not everyone's ugly, you know. There were good ones. So it was good.

But going back to North Dakota, get off the train, shivering. "All you guys line up." Four row, like in the army, like a platoon, platoon was how many? Ten guys this way and four guys this way, I think, army. In fact, I remember. A platoon, all that playground all line up. Every morning you got to do that, and you're shivering, 'cause we didn't have nothing. Cold. That's why third day they gave us shot, flu shot or some kind of shot they gave us. It wasn't flu, it was some kind of shot, and all these old people, older people, they got sick, you know. So since I was the youngest one, youngest one, I did all the errands for these, and I did lot of things. So I got to know the officers. That's why they all treated us good. But first two months, there was three or four guards entering that barrack. And there was, barrack was, consists of fifty people. One, one aisle got twenty-five, and other side got twenty-five, so fifty, we had twenty-five barrack all line up, and there's a fence in between, maybe say twelve this side, or fifteen this side, and fifteen this side, all barrack. From all different part of California and West Coast, anyway. And they had a big regular fort. Long time ago, they didn't have a barrack. They had a big fort like a hotel. They were, all rest of the people was in there. And the other half, there was German prisoner over there, all fenced in.

TI: So you're talking about, like, over a thousand maybe?

CH: Yeah, yeah, right, right. There was that much people living there. Yeah, of course, during the winter months, one thing, like North Dakota, they got natural gas. So we didn't have coal, so we had a gas heater. That kept us warm, gas heater. That was a good gas heater, it kept us warm. It was during the war, you can't even get out from the front door in the snow. Snow piled up in the front door, you can't get out. That's how cold it was.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.