Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Taira Fukushima Interview
Narrator: Taira Fukushima
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: August 9, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ftaira-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

KP: So the day you left, do you know what day that was?

TF: Oh, yeah. Well, see, I say Friday night at eight, the guy comes over and says, "Monday morning at eight," well, Monday morning is April 1st, that's April Fool's Day. I'm not sure whatever that means, but it was a good trip. Because we get in there, and everybody's polite to you. You know, there's sentries and all that, they kind of make it look like the sentries are keeping you from running away or something, but there was nothing like that. My only regret is that when we're in there, they were bringing milk and stuff around, and as usual, by instruction, I refused. Because my parents always said you don't accept things for free, you either pay for it or you don't... and therefore, even though I could have used it, no. So that's about the only thing I remember about the trip.

But once we get there, we were, get shifted into buses, and then we go to Manzanar, and it's getting real dark. And I remember we were getting help going to our building. I remember falling into this great big hole, because it's dark and you can't see, and they're still building the place. These were holes where they were putting the water line. And so that's the kind of stuff it was. And then I find out that the Bainbridge people from Washington came early that day, and then they occupied Block 3. And our people occupied 4, 5 and 6. But to tell you the truth, I think 5 and 6 were the best of them because that first morning, I woke up, April 2nd, I go outside, and I see this, the most beautiful thing I ever saw. A white apple tree in full bloom. I never saw anything like that. That was the first time I saw something so beautiful like that. And then when you look around, Manzanar is flat, and then the firebreak between 4 and 5 starts rising a little bit, and then 5 and 6 goes out. And so we had apple and pear trees in our area, where everything below that didn't have. And so it was really a nice sight. I thought everything was kind of nice.

In fact, as long as you didn't look at the fact that there was a couple with a child that we were in the same room with, so that there would be eight of us in this room. But then they were able to get them their own place later on. And it seemed like they had a collection of wood that had knotholes in it, because every piece had a knothole. and you look around, and I kind of thought, "Oh, times are tough right now." So people made comments about those things, but there was, it didn't mean that much, a little more difficult. It's just that when the wind blew, the dust would come through the hole. Without plasterboard in the ceiling, it was hotter than hot during the day, and cold in the evening. But they took care of all that.

And one of the things I enjoyed more than anything is that since we didn't know anybody before the war, they're all part of the families that related to someone who volunteered. Because when they volunteered at ninety dollars a month or so, when they got there, they told 'em the GIs were only making twenty-one dollars a month, so they're going to only make eight dollars a month, take it or leave it. If you don't want to work, you don't have to, but you can't leave. And so most of them didn't work. And the word I heard later on is that it wasn't possible for them to work because the white guys working didn't want anybody who didn't know what they were doing helping them out anyway. So I don't think anybody talked about that, other than the fact that that was the reason we went there. And since we didn't know each other, being kids, you all get to know each other. And during the first two weeks, we were the only ones there, and they had the porta-potties and the...

KP: How did those work?

TF: Those are the portable latrines, and they had it at the end of each building. And for some reason, when we were out there, the guard that was coming by there, they weren't afraid of us. We weren't afraid of them, we didn't know anything about it. And I don't know if I should mention this, but we got so we were talking to each other. In fact, we spent a good part of the evening, after it gets a little dark, where he sits down and we're shooting the breeze, with the idea that, to make sure we're keeping an eye on both ends of the road. If you see a white light or a car coming, you got to let him know so he could get up and walk, you know. And so it worked out pretty good. We used to hear different stories about the sentries and all that, but they were no different than us, other than the fact that the one that was there most of the time said he was from the Alaskan campaign, and, you know, they were there. So it was pretty good. They had guard towers there, but we didn't really notice anything about it. We had a good relationship.

KP: So when you first showed up, what was the food like?

TF: Oh. well, for the first two weeks, it was all canned food. And I don't touch Vienna sausage, apple butter, and a few things like that, ever. Because that's all you had. And, of course, when you're prisoners, you have no choice. And they had army mess kits for utensils. And I remember even when they opened up with fresh food, we used to have diarrhea outbreaks. Well, it's not really outbreak, because lot of times you're trying to leave the mess hall, you had to run because the diarrhea was a problem, until they found out the kitchen staff has to rinse the thing better. And so after that, it wasn't a problem.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.