Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Minoru Yasui Interview
Narrator: Minoru Yasui
Location: Hood River, Oregon
Date: October 23, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-yminoru-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

Q: How were the Japanese Americans from Portland evacuated?

MY: The orders were issued towards the end of April. It's my recollection that the date was April 29th. The notices were posted, of course, in all the places where Japanese Americans gathered for restaurants, hotels, on the telephone poles. We were ordered to report to a specific WCCA, Wartime Civilian Control Agency station, and thereafter, of course, they were instructed within the five days to report to North Portland, which is a livestock barn out on the Columbia Slough. Again, because I had already violated the curfew order, I felt that an additional violation of the evacuation order would add but very little as far as I was concerned as far as penalties were concerned. So I decided upon notifying the military, that I'd come on back to the Hood River Valley and I did. I left on the 29th of April, came to Hood River. However, a week later, we got a telephone call and we were notified that a detachment of military police would be here to pick me up. So I waited for them to appear and sure enough, within the week, here comes a second lieutenant with a jeep full of soldiers and they're all armed. Came down to our home, 712 Twelfth Street, and said, "Yasui, let's go." Because I knew that they were coming, I had arranged with Molly then Kageyama, who wanted to be married to Milton Mayeda, in the North Portland Assembly Center. So we told Molly to get her stuff ready, and between myself and she, we went down to Portland, Oregon, escorted by the second lieutenant in some sedan in front of us with a jeep behind us, and we had a cavalcade from Hood River down to Portland. And the two of us, Molly and I, entered the North Portland Assembly Center.

Q: What were the conditions like?

MY: The conditions were terrible. The livestock barn, of course, is a place not fit for human habitation. They did calcimine the stalls and the walls, they did lay down a layer of asphalt. It wasn't so much the physical interior that was so depressing, but the exterior, the livestock barn itself was surrounded completely by man-proof barbed wire fences. And on each corner they had watchtowers. On the watchtowers, they had mounted not only searchlights, but machine gun nests that were sandbagged. It was literally a concentration camp, and to crowd 3,600 people into a big ramshackle leaky building, particularly in the summer months, was a horrible place. It was hot and stuffy, and obviously if you have a livestock pavilion, you're going to attract flies. And the flies were just horrendous. I could remember seeing the rolls of sticky tape, and they'd have contests to see how many flies they could catch. And one kid would say, "I killed 10,468," and someone would say, "That's nothing. I killed 15,000," and so on. But I remember particularly the congestion, the heat, the stuffiness, the impossibility to have any privacy.

Within the barn itself, they erected stalls as it were with plyboard. These extended probably eight feet high. But since the pavilion itself soars twenty, thirty feet above you, the tops were open so you could hear everything that went on in the next cubicle, whether it were a family, perhaps a child which was crying or an old man who was sick. So you had this whole feeling of constantly being hemmed in by humanity, and no ability to go out and be by yourself. I think, too, the food was another aspect that was really terrible because obviously they were trying to feed us cheaply as possible. They had equipment, there was tin plates and tin cups. We had no coffee, they used chicory. But on the plate, a tin plate, it was hot, they'd throw on the rice, the fish and some vegetables and jell-o. And the whole thing would swim around together.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.