Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shosuke Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Shosuke Sasaki
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary), Stephen Fugita (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-sshosuke-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

FA: You tell a story about some people approaching you regarding...

FA: Oh, yes. That was sometime, sometime in, I guess it was in May. One Issei friend of mine came up to me one day and said, "Do you realize that there is a group of people in camp who have already selected a headstone for Sakamoto's grave?" And I said, "No, I didn't know that." "Well, these people are fed up with the mismanagement of this place and if Sakamoto continues to run it, they are determined to kill him." And they asked me what I thought of that. And I said, "Well, I couldn't blame them if they did, but whether that would really do us any good or not, would be another thing." And then this friend said, "These people want your help." And I said, "Me? What can I do?" "Well, they need somebody like you who they could really trust to speak up in their defense after we have murdered Sakamoto." And I said, "Well, wait a minute here. If you want me to join your group, but I'm in Area A, Sakamoto is in Area C, how can I be of any help to kill him?" And they told me, "Well, we don't expect you to participate in the actual killing. No, what we want is to have somebody we trust like you, to speak on our behalf to explain to the court why we had to kill Sakamoto." Well, I wasn't about to give them a glib answer that time. Lives of people were involved. So I told him, "Well, I can't answer you right now. Give me a night to think it over." So that night I went home and I did not mention that discussion to anybody, not even my sister or my mother because any leak would have meant trouble for a lot of people involved and the failure of what these men were really planning to do.


FA: Lives were at stake, and you didn't want to tell, you didn't want to tell anyone.

SS: I didn't want to tell anyone. I couldn't take a risk of having that leak out. It was tremendous amount of trouble. So the next morning this man showed up and said, "Well, what's your decision?"


FA: So the next morning...

SS: So the next morning the man came to me and I told him, "Well, I am certainly not against your attacking Sakamoto, but I would rather approach the problem a little more differently." I said, "As you know, the WCCA has already announced that we will be moved from here to an interior part of the West. That they were going to build permanent camps for us that would be more comfortable and would be permanent for the duration of the war." And I said, "Apparently, that something will happen within another two or three months at the longest. So my suggestion would be that we hold off taking any action until we get to the other camp. And when we get there, the first thing that we'll call is a meeting of representatives from each block and have them decide on selecting five or six or maybe seven, seven people who would form a committee to negotiate with the heads of the new place." And I said, "We should call that meeting just as soon as we get over there." And they agreed to that. And so when we got over to Minidoka -- I guess they moved us in one day -- and within two or three days we had that meeting in camp. All the blocks in the camp. And two men. And there it was decided that we should make our protests known to the leaders of the, the heads of the camp over in Minidoka, and that after we -- and all our other complaints that we have, and after we have presented our position to them, give them a little time if they ask for it before any action is done, taken place. So then they agreed to that. And I guess we... they moved us in one day. And within three days of our move we had a meeting and anyone, and we decided that anyone could be chosen to be a member of that group who chose to come to these discussions and so we got... I think it was the next Monday or maybe the next Tuesday after we had been moved to Minidoka. That... oh yes. And before then when we had these meetings, they had selected a committee to represent to people of Minidoka and that we would go up and try to talk with them and present our complaints. And that's what we did. We had two men from each block show up that morning. And they chose a committee of six or seven -- I've forgotten how many -- to be members of this committee and we went up, walked up to the offices and we said we wanted to talk to the three heads of the camp. That was Stafford, Schafer and Townshend. And we told them who we were and they never, this was brand-new to them. They didn't know about our having met, more or less secretly. And they, at first they hesitated. They said, "We need to have a meeting of our own. So if you'll excuse us, we're going into the next room and decide whether it would be proper for us to speak to you as representing the people of the camp." And they took a few minutes there and then they came out. They weren't there too long and they said, "All right. We'll accept you as representing the people of this camp as of now. So you can tell us whatever it was you..." So, oh yes, one thing, they made that decision and we had chosen the oldest man in our group to be our spokesman and he was an Issei who spoke English very well. In fact, he had a hakujin wife, I understand. And so when we went in there and they said they would accept us as representing the camp, we turned the thing over to this old man and told him, "You can tell them." Well, this idiot. First thing he did for all practical purposes was get down on his hands and knees on the floor and go around licking the boots and shoes of each of those white officers that were in there. Disgusting. And he started that pitch and then I broke in, I said, "Look, this isn't what we came here for. We have complaints to make." And so, in effect, I just took over the speaker's job. And I told them bluntly that, "We were here today for just, for two primary reasons. One, we don't have any fuel. And people are cold in the mornings when they get up and if fuel continues to be denied to us, there is going to be people getting seriously ill. And number two, we said, "We want you to stop listening to advice from JACL." I said, "If neither of these things that we request are corrected, there will be very serious trouble in this camp." And that's all I said.

FA: And Stafford's reaction was?

SS: They didn't answer. They didn't answer. They said, "Well, you presented your statements to us. We listened to you and we'll decide what we do next."

FA: And what did the camp administration do?

SS: Well, we got, we got coal within about four or five days and I didn't know that, how we got that coal. Then Stafford told us that they had, he had done everything he could trying to locate coal, but the government had made no provisions for supplying fuel for that camp. So then later, oh yes. This I discovered when Frank Chin and Henry Miyatake and I went to see Townshend. We found he was living in Sequim so we went over there and had a meeting with Townshend. Townshend was one of the more decent guys in the camp. I thought basically his heart was in the right place. It was a hell of a job.

FA: And what did you learn?

SS: Well, we learned there that, learned how we got the coal there so fast. Stafford realized that there would be trouble if something wasn't done on either, both accounts. So he went around calling for, trying to find a loose coal car somewhere that had, that he could get, and he couldn't get any money out of the government so he decided to pay for it out of his own pocket. Now that's something I didn't know then. And for that I will raise Stafford's rating up a few points.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.