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-01-0045

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RP: So you actually trained in an integrated group of soldiers?

VI: Right, integrated soldiers.

RP: Were there other Japanese Americans?

VI: Yeah, there were about three of us in our... and they were all from the Northwest so I knew a lot of 'em. And a lot of 'em, 'cause some of them were from Seattle. When we got through our training, we were supposed to go to Fort Meade to be shipped off to Europe, but then by that time the European theater was slowing down so they didn't need a replacement. So all the Niseis that were in, we were sent up to Fort Snelling to the language school.

RP: You went back to Minneapolis.

VI: Went back to Minneapolis. I felt like coming back home. I knew all the friends back there so it didn't bother me a bit going back up there.

RP: So what was language school like for you?

VI: Well, we went there and usually, when people come in before they start to school, they put you in what they call the "turkey farm." And this was a paper shack building with a pot stove in the middle with five beds along this pot belly stove. And they kept you there until you took a test and school started, and then they'll move you up to the barracks, and you lived up in the barracks up on top of the hill. Meanwhile, you lived on the "turkey farm." Well, at that time I decided, and I think a couple of my friends, that we didn't want to go through school again. We didn't want to go through the Japanese school experience. Of course, we had six years of it so it's kind of hard to say that you don't know Japanese. But anyway, they gave us a test. And we took the test, and we kind of made sure that we didn't quite make the grade on it so we didn't have to go. So they brought us back to the "turkey farm." Sometimes I regretted it because it was the middle of winter, and if you ever spent a winter in Minneapolis in a paper shack, it's not very fun. You get snow, and then you have the pot belly stove right in the middle of the shack, and you had people coming to fill the coal, the coal crew filling the pot belly stove. The soldiers being lazy, they won't come all night. They'll come, and then they'll fill the stove with coal 'til it got red hot. So you're so hot that you're kicking off your thing, but they'd never come back so that by the time you got halfway through, the fire went out, and you're freezing. [Laughs] So that was quite an experience. About that time, they came to us with a proposition because the war in Japan had ended, and they were needing people to do interrogation of people coming back from China or Russia. So they gave us a choice: we could go to school or I can go to the CID, which was a class starting up in Helgenberger, Maryland. And this -- I don't know if you ever heard of them.

RP: That was a counterintelligence organization?

VI: Kind of like. It's... and what they were going to do with them was they're going back to Japan. And they were the ones that were kind of... it wasn't counterintelligence as much as... I forgot the actual synonym of that. But they're back to Japan to make sure that the GIs weren't black marketing things, and watching the soldiers as well as the Japanese. So I had a choice. I can go there to go to school, and that was the first class they were going to have, or, "If you volunteer for one year we'll guarantee that we'll let you out in a year." So he said, "Well, take your choice." So I says, "Well, if I volunteer, they'll give me a furlough to go home. Otherwise, I'd have to go there and go back to school, I guess." I said, "Well, I'll volunteer, and I'll take the furlough." So instead of going... I think I should have went because the people that were in the class really had a ball when they went back to Japan because they weren't doing interrogation, but they were just kind of freelancing up and down seeing that the GIs weren't doing wrong.

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.