Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Dennis Bambauer Interview I
Narrator: Dennis Bambauer
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 6, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-bdennis-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

[Ed. note: Due to problems with taping, the first part of this interview was not captured on the video.]

DB: When was Pearl Harbor?

JA: '41.

DB: '34 or...

JA: All right. Yeah, I mean, do you remember how old were you in 1941?

DB: Six or seven.

JA: Do you remember anything to your life prior to the war?

DB: Oh, yes. I have very good memories.

JA: Talk to me about that.

DB: Well, I was an orphan, and my mother took me from her family to an orphanage, and I remember my days in the Children's Home Society in Los Angeles as a small child growing up in an orphanage. I was the only Japanese American in the orphanage, so I really didn't know that I was different than the other children. It wasn't until we got evacuated that I suddenly discovered that lo and behold, for some reason, I was different, and I can relay the bus ride from the Children's Home Village to the koshin, which was a Japanese orphanage, and sitting outside waiting in the morning to board the buses to ultimately drive to Manzanar.

JA: What was that bus drive like? What do you remember about the details?

DB: Well, it was hot. It was long. And none of us were tall enough to see out the windows so we were just enclosed in an old, what seemed like an old bus, it probably wasn't, like a school bus and I was the tallest one, so occasionally I could raise up and look out. But during the bus trip, because it was such a long bus trip, the actual time I don't recall, but it was a long bus trip, and it was hot and the counselors tried to keep us all happy by singing and playing, you know, games with little kids, because we ranged from high school age to small children on the bus.

JA: So what feelings did you have about this experience?

DB: Well that, do you want to know what feelings I had at the time or do you want to know what feelings I had afterwards, many years later?

JA: Let's do them both, but let's start with what you felt at the time, if you recall that?

DB: I can recall being scared and frightened because I was with a large group of people that I had no acquaintance with. I can remember sitting on the bus but feeling quite lonely, in fact alone. Because at this point I had been brought, I had been deposited on a grassy area where we sat and waited for the bus to take us. And then we got on board the bus, and I knew nobody. And I remember just hearing the kids all ask, "When are we going to be there?" and it was always just a little while and so it was a long time, and it was hot, and they couldn't keep us entertained. But we finally made it. And I remember driving up to the gates and seeing the guard tower and the barbed wire fence, and this -- this blew my mind so to speak to think that we were going to be behind those wires, and I just figured that's what was going to happen to us.

[Ed. note: Taping begins here.]

JA: Did you have any sense of why you were being taken to this place?

DB: None whatsoever. I didn't learn that until later when we, as small kids, were faced with the American patriotism, which we were brought up, you know, in camp we were taught the Pledge of Allegiance. It was about that time, shortly after arriving there, that I realized that I was there because I was part Japanese.

JA: What percentage of Japanese blood did you have? Do you know that?

DB: Yes, my mother was, was full-blooded Japanese; my father was French-Irish. So 50 percent. [Laughs]

JA: What percentage, how much Japanese blood did one have to have to be ordered to go to camp?

DB: I recall something that the director of the relocation, his name I believe was Meredith, said if you had a drop of blood, you got interned. So any kind of Japanese heritage, you were interned if you were living on the West Coast. Even if you're only six years old.

JA: That's something.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.