Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Film Preservation Project Collection
Title: Eiichi Edward Sakauye Interview I
Narrator: Eiichi Edward Sakauye
Interviewer: Wendy Hanamura
Location: San Jose, California
Date: May 14, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-seiichi-02-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

ES: I believe this is 'Welcome to Heart Mountain' from Jerome. See, Jerome was the last camp, and they closed up first, and as they closed, they sent the people to other relocation center, and group of 'em came to Heart Mountain.

WH: So it would be 1945?

ES: '44. Camp closed in '45, so it's '44. Here comes the train.

WH: What was the mood like in 1944?

ES: Well, the general feeling or mood in camp in 1944 was that with our men in service, some returned, some were not able to return, there was a mixed feeling, what is going to become of this. Because we were not yet able to express my rights, our rights as American citizen, except those who have left the camp for employment or relocation east of the Rocky Mountains. But we were not permitted to return to California, except very few that were able to. This is Tule Lake, excuse me, because I know some of the people in the picture.

So, they were next in line, 'cause they were getting up in age, and no employment, no place to return in case the coast was open. It was very difficult to plan anything. Of course, my dad wanted to always come home, so I always wrote letter to my friends. My friends on the Pacific coast said, "You'll be all right, you'll be returning pretty soon, because your boys are doing a wonderful job showing the patriotism in the theater of war." So I was just hoping, and finally I got my permission to return, fifteen days before the coast was announced open. And that was, coast was announced open January 2, 1945, and here I was here December 15, 1944. This shows a picture of segregation, Tule Lake people just coming in and the Heart Mountainers are going back to Tule Lake. They wanted to go back to Japan, or they were "no-no" boys, undecided what to do. They gathered at the high school, and here they are leaving to board the train to head back to Tule Lake. It was sad to depart under those circumstances.

WH: Did some of your friends leave?

ES: Oh, yes, good many of 'em, and I made a good many more friends there, too, and they left. But they were not repatriates, they wanted to keep their families together. Some in the family did not serve in the army because of, the rights of American citizen and privilege were denied. If the rights and privileges were given to them, they would serve in the United States Army, and would not permit themselves to go to Tule Lake. So Tule Lake was thought of as a "segregation camp." Of course, Tule Lake was one of the largest camps, about 20,000, I understand.

WH: Do you remember what year this was?

ES: It was the year 1944.

WH: This was when the feelings were running highest.

ES: Well, I think that's because the United States government's questionnaire.

WH: What did that do?

ES: Well, that made them decide whether they were going to serve in the United States Army or not, or they're going to be loyal to the Japanese government or not. And those questions came in to us as a surprise. 'Cause if we were given the rights of any other citizen, we would have thought differently. But we were denied these rights and privileges that everyone else of different descent had enjoyed. And just because we're Japanese descent and lived on the Pacific coast, that we were not able to return to our homes on the Pacific coast, so we were denied the rights to return on the Pacific coast, but we were, had the rights to move or travel east of the Rocky Mountains.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Film Preservation Project. All Rights Reserved.