Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ben Takeshita Interview
Narrator: Ben Takeshita
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 11, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-467-8

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Then all of a sudden comes the summer of 1943, the U.S. government said, okay, all those people who answered "no-no" or "no-yes," "yes-no" or didn't answer at all, or had conditions when they answered it saying, "I'll answer 'yes' if you put my parents out of camp," and so on, or, "Have them go back to their own home or whatever," they had conditions. They would be free, but all those who answered in the negative, "yes-no" or "no-yes" or with conditions or no answer, they are considered disloyal. And they will all be moved out of their current camps and moved to Tule Lake in northern California. So that's when, and during the summer months of 1943 there were a lot of movement of people moving to Tule Lake, being sent to Tule Lake, and my parents, they felt that they... well, for one, if they answered it "yes," they would be without a country. But also their purpose for answering no was to, during wartime, to keep the family together as long as possible. So that was the only reason that they answered "no-no," not because they're disloyal, but to keep the family together. So it meant that all of them, since my two older brothers, my sister was too young, she wasn't seventeen yet so she didn't have to answer, my two parents had to answer and so on, they answered to keep the family together.

And so it was in September of 1944 or '43 rather, we were all sent to Tule Lake. Now, there were a lot of rumors as to what was going to happen in Tule Lake once we got there, but one of the rumors was that we would all be sent to Japan as an exchange for prisoners of war that Japan had of U.S. soldiers. So then my brother was bilingual, felt that, well, gee, then we better teach us kids how to speak Japanese so that they can survive when we get to Japan. So they started a Japanese language school as soon as possible. We got there in September, and almost right away, started the Japanese language. And he told us that those who were attending the school, the language school that he started, he and some of his friends started, but he told them that, "Since you know enough English, why don't you just concentrate on learning Japanese in the short time that it's going to be, and concentrate on learning Japanese and not go to English classes?" So although English classes did start in December of 1944, '43 rather, we were, in a way, my brother forced us to attend Japanese language school without any choice, so ended up going to Japanese language school all day, five days a week, and learned Japanese history, Japanese geography, Japanese language, Japanese, how to write characters and so on, very intensive training. And I spent my time, during the rest of my time that we were in camp. So that was the kind of life that we started to get involved in in Tule Lake.

In 1944, it was one year after the school started, so our school decided to have a track meet event as the anniversary of the school starting. And so we formed tracks and so on, and we started to have this track field event. All of a sudden, we were surrounded by jeeps with MPs, with rifles, and they quickly took away my brother who was one of the instructors and one of the students took him away. And the student was released that same day, so there was no problem there. But my brother, they kept him for almost a month, we had no idea where he was or what happened to him, but they didn't tell us. And then about a month later, he finally did come back. But I could see that he was subdued and not quite the gung-ho type person that he was before. But because I was a student and he was the instructor, there was that relationship, not brothers relationship, so I couldn't ask him what had happened to him. So many years later, after the war ended and so on, I finally did find out what had happened to him.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.