Title: "Jap and Italian Internees Refuse to Mingle at Camp," Seattle Times, 8/3/1942, (ddr-densho-56-829)
Densho ID: ddr-densho-56-829

Jap and Italian Internees Refuse to Mingle at Camp

By Sigrid Arne

MISSOULA, Mont., Aug. 3.--(Wide World Service)--It seems to be quite a problem out here to keep the hundreds of Italians and Japanese happy at the Fort Missoula concentration camp.

They're living in a place that looks like an expensive summer resort. They get "three squares" a day. They have practically no work to do.

But they still glower at each other. The camp guards ever have seen an Italian say so much as "good morning" to a Japanese. The internees just don't seem to grasp the kernel of the Axis philosophy -- you know, that the Japanese and Italians have a lot in common and therefore should be happy a bugs-in-a-rug when they're together.

So there had to be special arrangements at the Missoula camp.

Of course, no one at all gets into the camp. The guards even arrest people who try to take pictures through the fence. But the stories circulate anyway through the pretty college town of Missoula.

Japs Have Hobby

The Japanese have picked on a curious pastime. They make gadgets from pebbles. Vases, bowls, what-nots. They'll sit alone for hours picking small pebbles from the gravel on the camp roads. Then they trot silently back to their quarters and stick them together into some sort of gadget. They all seem to have the fever. They work as intently as though they are digging a tunnel to Tokyo.

The happy-go-lucky Italians vary. Some make ships models, very beautiful ones. Some get together and yodel opera arias. They are a few gifted painters. The rest just walk, or "set."

A few weeks ago the camp authorities felt they should recognize the prisoners' artistic urges. So they arranged a downtown exhibit of their work. Some of the pieces were sold.

Axis Brothers Aloof

The camp is an old military fort. It's a handsome group of white buildings set at the edge of a really beautiful valley surrounded on all sides by really beautiful mountains. The air is sweet with clover. The days are warm and the night cool enough for good sleeping.

The Italians and Japanese are housed in separate buildings. It was soon found they wouldn't even eat together, so there are two dining rooms and two kitchens. Now the camp is planning movies for the men. They'll have to run each show, twice, so the Axis brothers won't have to sit together. The men have to take [care] of themselves -- clean their rooms, make their meals, do their own laundry. They rotate the duties.

The authorities are splitting hairs to observe the Geneva Convention on the treatment of war prisoners. That says, among other things, that prisoners should eat as well as soldiers.

Get Special Foods

So the Missoula camp can spend each day for each prisoner the same amount of money spent to feed an American soldier.

They've even decided to make the prisoners happy by given them the food they're accustomed to. It takes quite a bit of bookkeeping to split the orders: Spaghetti, olive oil and garlic for the Italians, and rice, soybeans and fish for the Japanese.

There is a small cooking problem with the Italians. They're so casual about housekeeping that guards have to ramble through their kitchen periodically to point out spots that need a touch of soap.

The Japanese are immaculate. Silent, you might almost say sullen -- but immaculate.

There's another little difficulty with the Italians. They all want what the next man has. The camp buys clothes for the prisoners. And when one Italian gets a new pair of shoes, there's a flood of requests from the other Italians for shoes. Not just shoes, but that exact tan oxford the first man got.

Miraculous Cures

This characteristic stirred up a little flurry when the Italians found out that some of their group, on special diets for diabetics, were getting special food. The camp suddenly had a big list of diabetics. Then the camp doctor noised it around that there are unpleasant phases to treating the disease, and pronto, the new diabetic case made miraculous recoveries.

The prisoners may see visitors any time. But they must either talk in English or in the presence of an interpreter. They can write and receive letters.

Most of the day there's little to do. That's slightly irritating right now to Montana's sugar beet growers. They'd like to use some of the prisoners to harvest crops which may have to be sacrificed because of the shortage of labor here. But the rules say "no."

There are no Germans in the camp. They're in another camp, with more Japanese. It seems the Japanese just snub both the Italians and the Germans, and receive snubs in return. But things happen when the Italians and Germans are housed together.

The only group which hasn't caused trouble seems to be the Italian bakers. They were ships' bakers, and they really like turning out good bread. They bustle about happily at their jobs.