Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sue K. Embrey Interview
Narrator: Sue K. Embrey
Interviewer: Glen Kitayama
Location: University of California, Los Angeles
Date: September 11, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-esue-01-0004

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GK: How long did you stay in camp?

SE: I was there -- let's see, I figured it out one day -- seventeen months and twenty-six days, so about a year and a half...

GK: So you left...

SE: I left in October of 1943. By that time, I guess by the beginning of '43, the WRA decided they really needed to get us all out of camp, because it was, first of all, costing the government too much money to feed us and to keep us there. And they were running ten different camps, so... they were encouraging people to go out -- women wanted to get married to soldiers, they would get their clearance and let them go out. And then students were going out to colleges back east, and with this temporary furlough thing going on with the farms, they thought might as well do it on a more permanent basis. So they set up this permanent relocation policy, so I applied to leave, and I got a job offer -- not a job offer -- an offer from the YWCA in Madison, Wisconsin to come and live there, and they would help me find a job. And I had already gotten letters from several friends who had moved to Madison, they were working, they were nurses working at the hospitals. And they said, "Oh, you know, it's so much nicer out here. Please come out." So I thought I'd do that. My brother, who had volunteered to come to Manzanar, was the first one of our family to leave also, he went to Chicago and he got a job there. So he kept writing to us and telling us, "So much better out here. There are plenty of jobs," so we should all come out. But we couldn't get my mother to leave, so I went out.

And in December '42 there was a riot in Manzanar, and most people didn't really, most of the people that lived in Manzanar didn't know that it was happening. It was just a group, a small group of maybe about 200 people, and it was over the lack of sugar, the disappearance of the sugar in the mess halls, and the mess hall (...) workers wanting to know what was going on. And then a JACL member had gotten beaten up because he had received permission to go out to a National JACL meeting, and everyone felt that the administration was playing favorites to JACLers because they were pro-administration. And so after he was beaten up, Harry Ueno was arrested on charges of being a suspect, the person who did it. And so they put him in prison in Independence, and the negotiating committee met to try to get him back to Manzanar and have some kind of hearing there. The crowd got unruly and went to the front entrance and (...) the MPs (were called out). And evidently, from what I've heard, they said somebody released a truck brake, and the truck headed toward the stone building, and the MPs got panicky and they shot at the crowd and two young boys were killed and several people were wounded. So after that things got really kind of uneasy for people, and I guess the government decided they needed to do something. So they started separating people and what they called troublemakers, people who wanted to go to Tule Lake and either go to Japan or just sit out the war, and people who had signed "no-no" to the loyalty oath.

I was -- they suspended the paper because it happened on December 6th, which was sort of an anniversary date for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and of course the newspapers made a big thing of it. But we decided to put out a Christmas edition and... so I was taking the copy, it had to be printed in Lone Pine or Bishop, because the printing presses were up there. So I was taking the packet to the Project Director's office, when I almost bumped into him, in fact, he threw open the door and I almost bumped into this military officer, and I looked up and he was my former high school teacher. He was now a captain of the MP, (the) group that they had sent in from Las Vegas after the riot. And so while we were talking, he said, "Have you made any arrangements to leave camp?" And I said, "Oh, they won't let us out now after the riot. They don't trust us anymore." "Oh, no," he said, "I've just been talking to Washington and I've talked to the Project Director. I told him 'I know these Nisei kids, and I've had them in my school, in classes. You must get them out of here.'" And he said he talked to Dillon Myer, and he said, "They're gonna go through with this project of getting everybody out," so he said, "I want you to make your application and try to get out of here. This is no place for you." So then he asked about some of the other people. I said, "Well, they're, most of them are in Heart Mountain," you know, because we got separated. But that was encouraging for me to hear that, so I decided I'm gonna apply and I got my clearance. But I didn't apply for a while because things were kind of uneasy, and so it was October of '43 before I actually left Manzanar, and there were about, I think, six of us were driven to Reno, and we caught the train at Reno, and went to Chicago.

GK: Did you have a choice to go anywhere you wanted?

SE: Yeah, uh-huh. Anywhere except back to California, or back to the military... I'm not sure that people were able to go to New York, I think a lot of them went to Chicago and maybe New Jersey and then they ended up, you know, after they'd been out a while go to New York. Because I think New York was also a military area. But I went to Madison, Wisconsin, first, and then I ended up in Chicago, 'cause my brothers were there. And then I was there until '48 when they, yeah, '48. Although the restrictions were lifted in '45, so you could back to California.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.