Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Sam H. Ono Interview
Narrator: Sam H. Ono
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 28, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-osam_2-01-0017

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: Let me ask you a little bit about the Manzanar riot, which happened in December of 1942. Where were you when that happened?

SO: Well, as I recall, I was with a group standing in front of the police department when these soldiers lined up, and one guy was set up on the machine gun, but nothing really happened so I went to watch a baseball game, so it was shortly after that that the shooting started.

MN: So when you were at the police station, was there a huge crowd already outside?

SO: Oh yeah, there were a lot of people just mingling around.

MN: Now, later that evening, I think you said there was a commotion at your block. What happened?

SO: Well, my next door neighbor, like I said, was Kango Takamura, and he was the father-in-law of Togo Tanaka. And the people who caused the riots came looking for him. That's the only incident of the riot that I recall.

MN: Do you know why they were looking for Togo?

SO: Well, apparently Togo Tanaka was pretty high up in the JACL and they blamed the JACL for, or the dissidents, anyway, blamed the JACL for having us put in camp, or cooperating with the government to have them put us in camp, so that's why they were looking for Togo Tanaka. But apparently he had been spirited out earlier.

MN: By who?

SO: By whoever ran the camp.

MN: For his own protection.

SO: Yeah.

MN: So the riots happened a few weeks before Christmas. What memories do you have of that first Christmas in Manzanar?

SO: I don't even remember Christmas because we really never celebrated Christmas in our family, so I guess it was just another regular Christmas as far as I was, I was concerned.

MN: What about Oshogatsu?

SO: Didn't have any meaning.

MN: Did your block do any mochitsuki?

SO: Yeah, they had mochitsuki in our camp, in our block. We used, they used to pound mochi in the laundry room. But I remember mochitsuki after the war.

MN: Now, you mentioned the "loyalty questionnaire" earlier, so when the actual "loyalty questionnaire" came out, I'm assuming that your father answered "yes-yes" 'cause he did not go to Tule Lake.

SO: I don't know what he answered. Both my brother and I answered "yes-yes."

MN: Was this ever an issue with you?

SO: You know, come to think of it, one of the questions, "Would you forbear allegiance to the Emperor of Japan," well, that was sort of a silly question because we never said that we were allied to Japan. And naturally, though, the other question was, "Would you defend the United States in case of attack?" Well naturally, we were, we considered ourselves being American, right? We didn't know any other life.

MN: Let me ask you some random questions. Like judo and kendo, were there, did you take judo or kendo at Manzanar?

SO: No.

MN: Were, were there classes?

SO: Yeah, there was a judo hall that the Japanese put up, and there was also, it was more like an area with little storage cabinets for equipment, and a platform for kendo people, but other than that I never got involved. I just know about the facilities.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.