Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Eiichi Sakauye Interview
Narrator: Eiichi Sakauye
Interviewer: Jiro Saito
Location: San Jose, California
Date: February 8, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-seiichi-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

JS: Tell me something about the trip to Heart Mountain, anyway. What, how was that?

ES: Well, when we had to leave Santa Anita, we had no idea where they'd take us. The shades were pulled again, guards on both ends of coach, and for three nights and four days we were on the train. And we stopped at various places and let the regular train go through, and we couldn't pull our shades because the military police is watching us. Finally, in the evening, fourth day, we landed in God-forsaken country, and let us out. We couldn't see any barracks or anything, it was on the higher plateau. Then we board the truck and took us to our unit. Our unit just had a potbelly stove in the corner and one light bulb, and no beds or cots or anything. So, "What are we going to do tonight?" So it was getting cold, so all our family got together like cats and dogs and huddled together for the night. Next morning we got up and looked out the windows, covered with snow. That's how cold it was. Then we got our blankets and our cots and so forth, got our coal. Then again, they recruiting help to run the camp, and they gave me a job as a timekeeper for the canal crew. But after one day, I said, "This is not for me." So I said, "Well, you got another job coming, work in the postal department." I said, "That's fine," and I drove truck to pick up the mail to the outer gate, and brought the mail to the post office and help them sort the mail, then after mail sorted, take it to each sub-post office in the camp. I did that, then I got to be postmaster of one of those little sub-stations.

Then during that time, the camp was getting vegetables and so forth of very inferior quality. And people got to wondering, "Can, how can we get better stuff?" Anyway, the ag. commissioner, they had an ag. department in there, and they wanted to grow some crops in that hillbilly country. Nothing but sagebrush and anthills, and no homes and anything around, all we can see. So I went to those meetings 'cause I knew a little bit farming, I like farming. I don't like the post office job, or another job, so I finally got to be a statistician in that department. Kept all the records of produce the first year, and the first year, James Ito was assistant farm superintendent. James Ito is that, his boy was a judge in that famous case.

ES: Lance Ito.

JS: Yeah, same. And so when he left for outside employment, I came in his place. Then I began to work harder because in that area, you only have 109 growing days.


JS: I believe you were talking about your involvement in the agricultural project at Heart Mountain, and you became agricultural superintendent, you replaced Mr. Ito.

ES: Yes.

JS: Would you continue from there?

ES: Well, then it was very difficult for me, because Ito left so suddenly, and I had, not aware of being, to take his place. So I had, did a little research, and I found out that we have all sorts of talent behind the barbed wire fence, and these talents are the Isseis because all the Sanseis or the Niseis who are able to work have left the camp for work or in the United States Army. And all that's left is the Issei, or the aliens. And we had to convince them that it was very necessary for them to help us to grow and harvest crops.

JS: So they weren't exactly sold on the idea at the beginning, as far as...?

ES: No, because they said, "They put us in here. Why should we work? It's their responsibility, not ours. They got to support us." But we had to convince them that the type of produce or type of produce or vegetables, whatever it is, that we would like to eat, we have to grow. Because they'll tell us what they can ship us, but we cannot ask them to ship certain things.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.