Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Atsumi Ozawa Interview
Narrator: Atsumi Ozawa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 17, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-oatsumi-01-0010

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TI: Now, what did you think? I mean, you were in Huancayo just a few days before, and you had this tragedy, but now you're on an American warship with American soldiers. Did that make sense to you what was happening?

AO: We really don't know what is gonna happen to us. We didn't know what was gonna happen. We were so scared and all that.

TI: And how was your mother doing? Because she must have been weak during this time.

AO: Yes, she was weak. And oh, when we went in the ship, we were so seasick. Constantly we were running to the rail and vomiting, we were so sick. My sister, she even fell down from the upper bunk where she was sleeping because the ocean was so rough.

TI: So it sounds like a very hard, difficult trip.

AO: It was.

TI: Because you're seasick, your mother was probably sick.

AO: Yeah, and every time we go to someplace maybe they didn't want us to see, they used to say, "Go to your room and close all the curtains." They used to order us, the American soldier. Said, "Everybody go to the room and close the curtains."

TI: And were the American soldiers stern, were they angry or mean, or were they nice? How would you describe the American soldiers?

AO: I've never seen them smiling. And we were afraid, too, you know.

TI: But even though you were just like children, they were still...

AO: We were afraid, yeah.

TI: Now, were the American soldiers, did any of them speak Spanish?

AO: Some I think they did, yeah. Some they did, I remember.

TI: Okay. And your younger brother, was he staying with you or was he...

AO: At the bottom of the ship.

TI: He was at the bottom of the ship, so he was with your father.

AO: Yes.

TI: And did you have any, were you able to talk with your brother or father on the trip very much? Or were you just able to see them, or could you talk?

AO: Just see, I think. We didn't talk much. It was such a short time, I think, to... I don't know if it was thirty minutes or fifteen. Thirty minutes probably to get the fresh air.

TI: And then maybe just enough to tell him that everybody's okay or what's going on, things like that. So what happened next?

AO: Next, okay, we got to New Orleans, and it took twenty-two days in the ship, we were in the ship for twenty-two days.

TI: So how did you go? Did you have to go all the way around?

AO: I know. I don't know how, but I know we passed Panama.

TI: Okay, through the Panama Canal?

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: I see, okay.

AO: Yeah, it took us twenty-two days to get to New Orleans. We got to New Orleans, and then we get off there, and funny experience there. They had to put a DDT, it was a spray, to all of us.

TI: So when they do that, do they make you take your clothes off?

AO: Yes.

TI: And then they just spray you?

AO: Yes.

TI: That must have been a terrible experience.

AO: Yeah, first time. That never happened, those things, but gee, we don't know what is gonna happen to us really. And then, at that time, our destination was to camp, to Crystal City, Texas, camp.

TI: Now, when they took you off the ship, again, were they, how did they handle you? Were they gentle, or were they pretty rough in terms of orders and things?

AO: Just orders. But it wasn't rough, I don't think. Just the order where to go and get in line or things like that.

TI: Now how about things like papers? Like probably your mother and father probably had Japanese passports or kind of documentation that showed where they were from? Did you have any of those papers?

AO: I think they took away the passport.

TI: So they took it away.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And then, so then they spray you when you come off, then how long were you in New Orleans before you took a train?

AO: I don't know. Just a few hours, I think.

TI: Okay, so very short. So not even overnight.

AO: No, I don't think we'd stay overnight.

TI: And so they had a train waiting for you.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And how many people were with you? How many people?

AO: Oh, gee, I don't know. Maybe... I'm just guessing this, but maybe hundred, more than hundred, probably.

TI: And they come from all over Peru, or more from Lima and Huancayo, or just... where did all these people come from?

AO: I think it was only from Peru. But when we stopped in Panama, there were some Japanese that they previously, they sent there already, the single, some of the single men. So when we got there, they got in our ship. I heard that they gave very hard jobs in there.

TI: Now during this journey, did you ever talk to other people to get their story? Do you remember any stories or anything?

AO: No, no. We just were so scared. We just didn't know what is gonna happen.

TI: In the ship, what kind of quarters did you have? Was it like a room, or for you and your sisters and mother and grandmother, where did you live?

AO: I think it was a small room and the bunkbeds. And I don't even remember now, who, if it's just one room. Because we were four, and my mom and my grandmother.

TI: So it'd be six.

AO: Yeah. I don't remember, though. How was the room, I don't remember.

TI: Then what about the train? What was the train like?

AO: Oh, the train was very nice. We stayed, I think we stayed one night. It was very nice, the train was really, it was the real good food they serve us, it was nice.

TI: And so did you have sleeper cars? Did you sleep?

AO: Yes, uh-huh. It was something new for us. We never had that experience sleeping in the train.

TI: And when you're on the train, did you know where you were going?

AO: The only thing I know, they say we're going to the camp, so it was just follow whatever they told us.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.