Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Yoshimi Matsuura Interview
Narrator: Yoshimi Matsuura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 17, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-myoshimi-01-0020

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TI: And so you did this, and what other memories do you have of Gila River?

YM: Gila River? Well, eventually... well, at one point, my brother from Fort Leonard Wood came over to visit us. That's the first time he came over to visit us in U.S. uniform. And he went over to the PX where the soldiers were stationed, and he went over to the PX and, of course, being a soldier, he can go to the PX and buy whatever he feels like. So he came back with stuff that he bought at PX, which was candy bars and stuff like that. It was kind of an odd situation here. We couldn't go to a certain place, but he can just walk in. Couldn't keep him out. Hard to figure out.

TI: And how did that make you feel when you saw that?

YM: I don't know, it's crazy. I don't know, we just felt that something is wrong. I decided at the first chance, that I didn't enroll in any school, but that's why when this NYA deal come along, I was so quick to sign up, chance to get out. So when I heard about that NYA person coming in, representative coming over signing up people for NYA training, I signed up. I didn't know what I was getting into.

TI: So this NYA is the National Youth Administration.

YM: National Youth Authority.

TI: Authority.

YM: Authority, I believe. And they were to train, take you, send you to a place and train you for war work of some kind and find you a job.

TI: So this was a federal program to train youth to help the war effort.

YM: That's right.

TI: Federally funded, and then gets you into these needed positions to help the war effort. And so they came to the camp to recruit young men.

YM: That's right.

TI: And so --

YM: The age limit was twenty three. I was twenty-four, but I signed up. I asked him and he said, "Okay," he said, "Yeah, sure," so I signed up. So I was the daddy of the bunch. [Laughs]

TI: And what was it about the NYA that was so appealing to you?

YM: Getting out of the camp. That was the sole reason I wanted to go. So I signed up, I went back and told my wife that I signed up to go to NYA training center in Shakopee, Minnesota. And she said, "Where's that?" I said, "I don't know." [Laughs]

TI: But it's out of the camp, so that was...

YM: It was out of the camp. And when I came out here, I found out it was just a little, little burg outside of Minneapolis, or the Twin Cities. It was a regular, like a CCC camp, that little tiny barracks, bunkbeds, and classrooms. So that was it.

TI: And how many other youth were there when you showed up?

YM: Well, there were between sixty and seventy of us Japanese Americans from different camps. Not strictly one camp, all the other camps. And then I think we outnumbered, outnumbered the other kids over there. And they all tried to enroll in different area, machine shop, drafting, whatever they wanted to do, foundry work, pattern making. But everything had to do with the factory, so it was quite limited. But we came in, my group came in from Gila, we come in on a Saturday. We got bumped, we got bumped in Santa Fe, I believe it was. We spent eight hours until the next train or next ride. So we got into St. Paul, and there was a van that they sent out to pick us up. Went over to Shakopee, that was a Saturday. Sunday we settled, Monday we went to class to register, and Monday noon they called us, all the Niseis in and told us outright that, "As of noon today, your enrollment here is terminated." Period, that's it.

TI: Do you recall who gave you that message?

YM: The director, that was his order.

TI: And when he said that, do you recall his mood when he said it? Was he...

YM: Well, he just kind of, he had a written memo, and he mentioned that. And he said, "You're terminated. And we will provide rides for you into Minneapolis or St. Paul, find a place to live." And not a sound. Nobody spoke up, not a sound. Everybody was just silent. And they said, "If you can't find a place, Baptist Mission has a lodging over at Medicine Lake, Minnesota, would put you up temporarily, give you lodging." If you can't find a place, that was it.

TI: So when the director was up there and he made this announcement...

YM: He resigned the next, next day from what I understood. He resigned the next day, and there was a different person there when we got our transportation in to the city. He quit, he just quit. So it was hard for him. He felt that it was not right. But another person that came over, he took over.

TI: Going back to that moment when the director first announced it, do you recall what you were thinking or feeling when that happened?

YM: No, he didn't really, didn't give himself away at all.

TI: Or, I'm sorry. The question was how you felt when you...

YM: How I felt? We couldn't believe it. We just got there. We were recruited and we just got there, and now they're saying we're terminated. Where do we go? We're in a strange place, what do we do?

TI: Do you recall any, like, physical sensations like a pit in your stomach or anything?

YM: Oh, I'm sure everybody had the same feeling, they were just numb. They didn't know what to say. It was dead silent, dead silent. Nobody spoke up. I think I was the only one, I really don't recall what I said. I said, "I think this is a bummer," or something, I don't remember what it was. Nobody else spoke up.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.