Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yae Wada Interview
Narrator: Yae Wada
Interviewer: Patricia Wakida
Location: Berkeley, California
Date: April 12, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-476-7

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 7>

PW: How long were you at Tanforan?

YW: You know, I'm not sure, we kind of lost track. There was no calendars, there was, you know, we had way of knowing, no radios, no newspapers, so I kind of lost track of exactly... I know that there's records of dates that I was supposed to go in, there's a record of when I was supposed to leave, but a lot of that is not accurate. Because things happened at the last minute and dates changed and I don't know what the dates were. I don't know how long, I think I was in Tanforan about, I thought I was there about seven months, but I think the records show I was there maybe about six months, I don't know. So I don't know exactly how many, the date I left, but I think it was close to about seven months that I was in Tanforan.

I must say, when we first got to Tanforan and I found out that we were going to be staying in this horse stall, which was a big shock, there was a lot of commotion. It was very quiet, and I think that's because Japanese don't go in very much for things like protesting. We didn't have to worry about people setting fires or breaking windows, nothing like that. They tried to be law-abiding, but it's a shock when you're put into someplace like that for not doing, being guilty of anything. I remember after we kind of settled down, we looked for the bathroom, there was two shacks about a block away. One said "black," one said, "white." It was the toilets, but we didn't know which one to use. Then somebody changed it to "men" and "women." And then we saw a drinking fountain, this is in Tanforan. And we saw drinking fountains, and one said "black" and one said "white." And that's when I realized we're not the only ones that were being discriminated. I had heard of those things happening back east or someplace, but California is so close to home that it was a shock. And I was sick all the time. I was sick from the beginning, and I thought it was because I was pregnant, but there was no hospital in Tanforan. If you thought you needed a surgery or something, they tried to tell you, "Well, wait 'til you get to Topaz because Topaz is supposed to have a hospital," but Tanforan did not have a hospital. There was a doctor, but he was so busy that it was hard to see him. You had to go to, I don't know, she was a nurse, you had to go through other people to try to get up to see the doctor, he was too busy to see you. And they decided that what I had, the nurse or whatever she was, decided that it was due to stress. But everybody has stress, so it was hard to see a doctor when I was pregnant. So I did lose the baby.

PW: In Tanforan?

YW: In Tanforan, yes. Well, I finally got the nurse to look, and then I don't know what happened except that when she was examining me, the nurse was examining me because I couldn't ever get up to the doctor. The nurse or whatever she was examining me, and all I can remember was she said, "Oh, and I just changed my uniform this morning." So I must have dirtied her somehow. But it was very hard. Tanforan was actually harder than Topaz. Actually, when we got to Topaz, there was a hospital there and there was a doctor. Again, it was harder to see the doctors because they were so busy that they didn't have time unless there was really an emergency, or unless you had a serious illness that was obvious that somebody needed some kind of surgery or something.

PW: So from what you're describing, you basically had to just stay in your barrack and just get through it, is that true?

YW: I think so. And it was hard because if you're sick, it's hard to get to help. When I was in Topaz, my barrack, between my barrack and the hospital, there was a big open field. You had to cross that field, you had to get into line because there's always lines for everything. If you're sick, you don't want to walk the distance. You don't want to sit and wait for hours to see even a doctor. Yeah, life was really hard for mothers, pregnant people, or if you just have stress, so they call it. Anything was called stress. But whatever it is you had, it was very hard.

PW: Were there people, either friends or friends of family that were able to help care for you?

YW: Well, like I said, everybody thought that it was stress, and so there was nothing much they could do. They said, "Well, you should eat this," or, "You shouldn't eat that," well, you had no choice when you were in camp to be on a good diet. You didn't have the choice, it was eat or don't eat. And if you're sick, you don't feel like eating much, and whatever food you got, it wasn't very good. They said a lot of the food that you received was just like the servicemen got. Institution food, which would have been okay, but I think because... well, while we were in Topaz, I was sick in Topaz, I think the food that was supposed to be delivered to us might have been the same food that they got, the servicemen got, but I think the person who delivered it must have gotten lost in the desert or something. You know, Topaz at that time, and it was in the middle of the desert, there was no road, there was no streets, there was no maps, and I think the only person who knew where Topaz was were the people that were building that place. We were told once, because the food was getting so bad and the food was spoiled, we were told by the person that delivered it that when they were delivering it, "They made us stop at a town that was closest to Topaz," I forgot how many miles away that was. But they made a stop there to try to find the camp, they made the stops at this little town. And while they made their stops, the trucks were always, somebody had gotten to their trucks and stole (the food), especially the things that were rationed at that time, like sugar. There was a lot of food that, during wartime, everybody had a hard time getting, like oils and butter, sugar, and those were the kind of things that were taken. But the people that did deliver the food, did say that when they made their stop in Delta, that little town, that the truck was broken into. So the cooks were complaining that they didn't get their regular supply that they were supposed to get.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.