Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Victor Ikeda Interview
Narrator: Victor Ikeda
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 6, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-ivictor-01-0044

<Begin Segment 44>

RP: So you mentioned you got called.

VI: So I came back to Spokane because my family was there.

RP: Oh, they had...

VI: Yeah. My sister had left in about '43. And after I had left, a few months or six months later, she called my parents to Spokane so they were there. So I went to Spokane 'cause I had my draft paper, and then once I got there I spent a couple of weeks there. And then I was drafted and told to report to Fort Lewis. And I think I was the first Japanese American to be inducted at Fort Lewis because most the people were inducted at Fort Douglas, Utah, because they couldn't go to the restricted area. So then I got inducted at Fort Lewis, and this was in July, I think it was '45. By that time, the war in Europe was over but they were still fighting the Pacific War. So as soon as I got inducted at Fort Lewis, Washington, being up north, they outfitted me with winter clothing. Then they told me that I'd have to report to Fort Wolters, Camp Wolters, in Texas, so Fort Worth, Texas. So they gave me a train ticket from Seattle through Denver all the way down to Fort Worth to Camp Wolters. I remember it was kind of a long trip. I looked like, a little stupid because I had my winter uniform on, wool, and I'm going, "This is the middle of summer." It's kind of interesting, though.

But when I got to Forth Worth, I got off at the train station, I went into the train station, and I was going to the bathroom. I looked up, and I saw "colored" and "white." And I stopped and figured, "Now, where do I go?" So I looked at that, and I said, "Well, one way or the other they'll kick me out." I looked at the drinking fountain, they had "colored" and "white." So I went into the "white" bathroom, and nobody seems to object. So I went to the "white" drinking fountain, and I drank out of the "white" drinking fountain. So then I had this bus to go to Camp Wolters. I got on the bus, and there was "white" in the front and "blacks" in the back. The "white" area was full so I just sauntered and went to the back, and nobody seems to complain. So I sat in the back because they had seats back there until I got to Camp Wolters. So at that point I didn't know what I was supposed to do. [Laughs] But once I got into Camp Wolters, of course, we were with the white group. Now, there was a training camp for black soldiers at the camp, too, but we trained, this was with the infantry so we had infantry training of eight weeks at Camp Wolters.

And the interesting thing was by the time that we were there, the 442 had rescued the "Lost Battalion," but we didn't really know about that. So I remember one time -- we used to go on weekends into Forth Worth. And one time I went in there, and I went into this drugstore type to buy candy or something. A lady spotted me, and she came right over, and she asked me if I was Japanese American. I said, "Yes," -- sorry -- I had a button that was coming off. And she came over, she said, "Come on over." She took me and sewed the button up for me. Excuse me. And then she took me home for dinner. Then I found out that one of her sons were up there, and he had been saved, yeah. It kind of gets to me because I remember that. It was the first time it hit me like this, usually it doesn't bother me. But when I remember that, it was kind of touching.

So when we were in Texas, we were treated pretty good. In fact, a friend of ours that used to be a flying, where they taught airplane flying, so he thought me being such small stature -- he was a Caucasian friend -- he was taking flying lessons. He says, "Come on." He says, "We'll learn, we'll teach you how to fly." So I used to go with him, and we'd take lessons in flying the Piper Cubs. We'd get up there, and you got no instruments, you fly by the horizon, if the wing is straight you're okay, if your nose you can see. Then he says, "Well, why don't you join the Air Force 'cause they're looking for fighter pilots on your size?" Of course, they weren't accepting us at that time so that was beside the point. But that was another interesting experience while I was there.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.