Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Saburo Masada Interview
Narrator: Saburo Masada
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Fresno, California
Date: September 11, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-msaburo-01-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

KL: Is there anything else about your time in Caruthers that you, before the U.S. entered the war, before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, that you think is important to include?

SM: No, other than, we just enjoyed, life was wonderful. And of course, our parents brought us up to be two hundred percent Americans, so we were proud to be Americans, and so when Pearl Harbor happened that was just a real shock.

KL: What do you recall about that news?

SM: Well, I remember vividly, we were one year working on this new farm, and we were working on the west side of our house and when we came back to the house we took a break, Sunday morning -- we weren't Christians, so we didn't go to church or anything -- we came back and we turned on the radio, just to take a break, and the program we were listening to, there was a news flash, "Japan is bombing Pearl Harbor." I remember saying, "What a stupid thing Japan is doing. Who do they think they are, bombing our country?" Course, Japan was like the other side of the moon as far as I was concerned. And then within a week or two we began to hear rumors that we were more loyal to Japan and so we were dangerous, and of course, my understanding is that that's all the anti-Japanese factions that once and for all wanted to get rid of the Japanese on the West Coast, which they'd been trying for forty years to do but weren't succeeding, and so a lot of fear spread among the Japanese community. So we start to burn anything that was Japanese-y, magazines, pictures with Japanese clothing, and of course we were also told we would be a threat to the United States, which was pretty stupid. But, so we had a .22 rifle that we used for hunting jackrabbits when jackrabbit season came around, so I remember we dismantled that and buried it. And so we burned records, Japanese songs, and magazines and anything with Japanese writing on it, because we were afraid that the FBI would come and say, "Why is that Japanese magazine in your home?" and things like that. Which was stupid, but -- and I understood why we did all that, but I understand why we had to do it, because we were Americans and we were loyal and we loved our country. But I remember that happening.

KL: Who actually did that in your family, who burned things?

SM: We all pitched in, yeah. And this is common in most families, and I don't know if some families hid some things or what, but we all were aware that we don't want to be stuck with something that might incriminate us, saying we're loyal to Japan.

KL: Were there things that you particularly mourned seeing go? Or was, did that have a lot of meaning to you?

SM: All I remember is that we burned and buried things. We should've put a little stake and figured out where we might've buried, but we weren't even thinking of maybe even coming back to be able to retrieve what we had. So we just tried to get rid of everything.

KL: What are your recollections of the adults who you were, who were important to you, and their response to the news on the radio and also to these rumors and the destruction?

SM: Well, I was in the sixth grade, but I think I was pretty naive. Maybe our whole family was, because I don't recall our discussing it as something that, that's wrong and shouldn't happen, but we didn't think it would happen because we're Americans. But we felt we were pretty helpless, and our culture taught us to obey authority and don't rock the boat and don't create a scene and things like that. And so that was the general sense of our Japanese community, to just comply to all the regulations that were being dumped on us, register and...

KL: There wasn't a lot of emotional, visible emotional response from your parents or your aunt or uncle?

SM: No, no. Of course, I think we were worried about our parents because they were not allowed to become naturalized citizens. As far as we were concerned, we're Americans so there was no question that they would, anything like that would ever happen.

KL: And your dad had already had one stroke at least.

SM: Yeah.

KL: Was he still very able to communicate and move around?

SM: Not verbally, but he was able to get around, but limited with his stroke. I forgot how paralyzed he might've been, but it was a stroke, so he was partially paralyzed. He couldn't work.

KL: What happened next in those couple of months between going into the assembly center and...

SM: Well, like one was my going to school and picking up my stuff. And just waiting, and then listening to all the propaganda, that we were dangerous and that FBI were, had picked up people, teachers and martial arts people, Buddhist priests. And we knew that it had nothing to do with being dangerous. It was a lot of ignorance, just because, they thought Japanese, that somehow implied that they were loyal to Japanese, which was ridiculous. So it was just preparing. And unknown to most of us in the family, my brother had talked to the tractor man, who did the disking of our farm in, the two farms that we were in, and some, I don't know if they, the Sorensons, instigated it or whether my brother instigated, but in their conversation they, the Sorenson brothers said that they would take care of our farm, and so that arrangement was made, which -- and then the Nielsons, Teddy and Nellie Nielson, they were childless, but they were good friends to the Japanese people there, and they offered to take care of the books. And because my brother died, not even Miyo knows what the arrangements was made. All we know is that they were involved.

KL: That was Tosh?

SM: Tosh, uh huh. So I thought Miyo would know, but she might've blocked it all out. But she doesn't remember anything about what the arrangements were or what happened.

KL: Did you learn that later, or did you know that --

SM: Later. Later. I remember, I'm sure it was Nellie and Ted Nielson, they came when the army truck came into our front yard. See, I remember this army truck and our getting onto it and taken to the Fresno Fairgrounds. My sister doesn't remember that. Even my brother doesn't remember that. They thought that we were taken somewhere to Selma or Fowler and then rode a train or something, but I remembered riding a truck and -- see, that was the May 16, and I can't forget the date because that was the West Coast relays hosted by Fresno State, one of the big track meets in our state. And Cornelius Warmerdam was the world record holder in the pole vault, from Hanford, a student at Fresno State, and I loved sports so I was hoping that he would break his own record at the West Coast relays. Well, I never found out because that army truck came to our front yard, and I remember Ted and Nellie, they were shedding tears with Miyo and Lily. I don't know if, I forgot to ask Miyo if she remembers that, but I remember they were bidding farewell and they were tearing. And I remember we all got onto this army truck, and I remember going through Fresno and seeing the banners across the street, West Coast relays, West Coast relays, and then we were taken to the fairgrounds, where I saw guard towers, barbed wire fences, and other things that I remember after we got in the camp. And it puzzles me -- well, I think I understand, but it puzzles me that they don't remember that. I know I wasn't on a train and watching the banners across the street, 'cause trains don't go down the main street.

KL: It was an army truck, you said?

SM: Uh-huh.

KL: Did you have, what was your interaction, or was there any, with the soldiers?

SM: No, no, nothing. We just quietly obeyed.

KL: They just said get on and you got on, and there was no conversation.

SM: Yeah.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.