Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Masahiro Nakajo Interview
Narrator: Masahiro Nakajo
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: April 4, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-nmasahiro-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Yeah, did you guys sneak any sugar?

MN: No. See, that's one of the item that was real rationed and there's a lot of, I guess, black market that was in Manzanar. And that's where the riots started.

RP: It was about, yeah, it was about the sugar shortages.

MN: Right, and this guy, I guess the Caucasian guy that was in charge of the thing, he was selling sugar on the black market, things like that. But see, the Japanese guy that was in charge, he got scapegoat, he got, he got thrown in jail.

RP: Yeah, Harry Ueno.

MN: Yeah, right. Yeah, there was an article about him. Yeah, about how he got landed in jail and all that.

RP: So you heard about these sugar shortages in, in camp?

MN: I don't know. I didn't, I didn't hear about that. Well, all I know is there was a black market goin' on and that he got thrown in jail and then they tried to get him out.

RP: And you had a very, very powerful story about being down --

MN: Yeah.

RP: -- where the incident or riot occurred. Can you share with us, the events of that night?

MN: That night?

RP: Yeah.

MN: Yeah we heard that there was gonna be a gathering at the police station where this person was in jail. So we say well, let's see what's gonna happen or what's gonna, is he gonna be released or what. So anyway, we went down, about four of us I think, went down and everybody was already gathered in front of the police station there. And they were waiting, waiting. Well anyway, it was January I think. It was cold. And so we decided to... well, we saw the MP with a machine gun placement. And so we said, let's go have a cup of coffee in Mess Hall Two, Mess Hall Three there. So we went to the mess hall and one of the guys know the cook there, night cook, so we got in and was having a coffee and we ain't hear no noise or anything. But all of a sudden we just heard the banging on the door and this person came in. He says, "I got shot. I got shot." And I looked at it, we looked at it and he's bleeding but the bullet just went through his leg and came out. It didn't hit his bone or anything, flesh wound. So, we rushed out there and see what's going... and at time I, at that time already the tear gas was already gone. Then all of a sudden I heard, we heard the noise of the machine gun going. So what we understand, once they threw the tear gas, everybody scattered. And while they were scattering they opened up with the machine gun and that's when I think two people got shot and died right at the scene. And one of the fellow, he was seventeen years old, lived in our block, next barrack over, James Ito. And he got shot. Talk about... he's a seventeen year old, still in high school. But he was a quiet studious, always had a book to read. And I guess curiosity got his cat. He went out that night and then he got shot. Well anyway, two people passed, got shot. And about six, five or six people got wounded. So that was it.

RP: So where did you go after you saw this person come into the barrack who had been shot?

MN: Well, I guess they, some of the people there, they had transportation or something so they took him to the hospital. But after that it was so cold that we left.

RP: You went back to your block?

MN: Yeah, went to our block, yeah.

RP: So when you were down there milling around with the crowd, what was going on? There was...

MN: Oh yeah, I guess the tension was really building. And why, what I understand later that there was some pebble or rock was thrown from the crowd. And more or less they say these agitators. Could be Kibeis, agitator, but they agitated, start throwing rocks and things so MPs, they got kind of paranoid. And that's when I guess things erupted.

Off Camera: When you were down there, were people shouting?

MN: Oh you mean...

Off Camera: When, when you were there.

MN: Over there.

Off Camera; Yeah, when you were down there with those folks, were there people shouting and things like that?

MN: Yeah, yeah.

Off Camera: Do you remember what they were saying?

MN: No. I guess what they were saying, I don't know if Japanese... hollering, "Let him out," or something. I don't... yeah. But...

RP: Did you hear Japanese songs being sung or anything else?

MN: No, no, no. That stuff, they went to Tule Lake.

RP: Yeah.

MN: Yeah.

RP: So what, before the riot or the incident occurred, do you recall the tensions in the camp building? That there were strong divisions between sort of the anti-administration sort of Kibei group...

MN: No, no.

RP: How about the Japanese Americans Citizens League?

MN: Oh yeah, JACL group? Yeah, there was dissention there. The people that was a few leaders with that JACL, they got beat up. Yeah, beat up with, from the people that was anti, and they blamed them, the JACL, for being put in the camp. Things like that. Yeah, that, that, the movie that was out, Come and See My Paradise or something, it shows the area where the JACL people met and later on they'd leave the meeting and they'd get beat up.

RP: They were looked upon as inu?

MN: Yeah, inu, yeah, that's right. Yeah.

RP: Yeah, collaborators.

MN: Yeah, right, yeah.

RP: So your, could you, so you, you had a sense of the anger and hatred towards the JACL in the camp?

MN: That, I was too young, so I didn't notice it, but I heard that any person that was affiliated JACL, they get hunted and get beat up. That's all I know.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.