Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Narrator: Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 6, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-esue-02-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

JA: What are your first memories of seeing Manzanar?

SE: Well, it was dark when we got to Lone Pine Station. They told us to get off and wait for the buses to take us to Manzanar. We didn't know where, how far it was. It was very dark by the time we got on the buses, and they told us that the suitcases would not be unloaded until the next day so we didn't have anything to change into when we got to Manzanar. My older brother had volunteered in March to go and help build the camp, so he met us at the entrance to the camp and we were put through one of the barracks and we had to register. They gave us some shots, then we were assigned a unit in the barrack. We were all sent to Block 20, which was newly built, and my brother was able to lead us there. We did not have any flashlights, he was the only one that carried a flashlight. And we stumbled through the camp. It was very dark and we didn't... all the barracks looked alike because they had black tarpaper on them. Then we finally got to Block 20, and our unit was, I think, Building 5, Apartment 1, which had double doors that faced the north, and the room was about 20 x 25 feet, had one oil stove in the corner and one light bulb in the center of the room. My brother had stuffed all the mattresses with hay, where all the other people had to go out in the dark and fill their own mattress with the ticking and bring them back to their room before they could go to sleep, but ours was all done. We had eight cots, canvas cots, and no partitions of any kind; we all slept in one big room. When my mother got into the room, she sat down on one of the mattresses and she said, "My, what a place," and she never talked about that for many, many years afterwards.

JA: So you didn't really see the environment you were in until the next morning.

SE: Not 'til the next morning.

JA: But what did you see and what were your impressions?

SE: We went out. It was a very clear day, beautiful. We saw the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And somebody said something about is that where the, that pioneer family coming across in the covered wagon had to go over that, the Sierras? And we said, yeah, we thought that was it. And someone said, "How long do we have to stay here?" and somebody quoted from the order, "to the end of the war and six months thereafter." But most of us were ready -- you know, were beginning to get ready to leave within a year after we were there. We waited until after they rang they bell for the kitchen, or what we called a mess hall, so we could go and eat breakfast. I can't remember what we had, but I was told that they had dried eggs for breakfast, toast, and coffee which had saltpeter in there. And I think that's about it, I can't remember the rest.

JA: So what kind of feelings did you have at this time about this whole relocation, and at your age?

SE: I was very disillusioned at the time because, you know, I kept thinking we're American citizens and they're doing this to us and we have no rights, nobody to speak up for us? I had studied high school history and memorized a lot of the speeches by Patrick Henry and read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and I just, I couldn't understand why it was happening to us and wasn't sure what our future was going to be.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.