Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Bob Fuchigami Interview
Narrator: Bob Fuchigami
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 14, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-fbob-01-0029

<Begin Segment 29>

RP: Bob, you were about ready to share a story about the controversy over the Amache high school.

BF: Yeah, they... oh, the Congressman Johnson and some of the others, or Senator Johnson and some others were saying, "Why do they need a high school? Why educate them? It's a waste of taxpayer's money to educate these so-called Japs." And it became so controversial, I guess they, they even discussed in, in Congress about the amount of money it was going to take to build a high school and elementary school for these kids. And so they were able to, to create so much controversy that they dropped the, the amount for the elementary school and so they, they just built the high school. And the elementary school kids ended up remaining in the barracks for their schooling. The high school was, I don't know whether it was state of the art at that time, but it was, it was certainly spacious and they had, they had their classrooms and a library area. They built a gym and, and...

RP: You would have started going there your last year at Amache?

BF: Yeah, I, I spent my eighth, seventh... I guess eighth, eighth grade there. 'Cause my seventh grade was in, was in the barracks. Eighth grade... maybe it was, maybe it was the seventh and eighth in the barracks and ninth grade in the, in the new high school. Unfortunate thing about, about that elementary school, the company that was going to build it had excavated the grounds. But when the funding didn't come through for building the, the elementary school, they didn't bother to safeguard the, the grounds and because it was on a sandy area, kids got in there and there was a cave-in and one boy was killed. And there are still people who were in the camp who, who blamed the government for, for not safe guarding that. They knew this, this young man. I didn't, but Min, Min Tonai said he still blames the, the government for that. He has never forgotten that. And certainly the, at a reunion I met the, the brother of one the, the kids. He was one of those trapped. They, they, I think, there're three boys in there and they dug out two of the boys and wasn't able to save the, the third. But that, that brother who had, who was one of those dug out, is still, is still alive and still bitter about the fact that he'd lost his brother. And rightly so. He, that was the only, only death... there were a bunch of other people who died, but this was one where --

RP: It could have been avoided.

BF: -- it was governmental negligence. And in some other camps people got shot.

RP: Right. That was a tragedy that reverberated throughout, throughout the camp and continues to reverberate with, with folks.

BF: Yeah, there, there... I've heard stories of, of people who had been warned by guards to stay away from the camps, guards, when they got near the fence, essentially saying, "Get away from the fence," type of thing.

RP: At Amache?

BF: Yeah. And, and the military, the soldiers were not top of the line. They were, some of them were...

RP: Scraping the barrel?

BF: Yeah. They were, they were either misfits or rejects or...

RP: "Limited service" I think is what the army called them.

BF: Yeah.

RP: They, they might have had a, some small handicap that prevented them from serving in the war.

BF: Yeah, I ... yeah. I don't know enough about that, about the makeup of that personnel group. But they, they weren't, they weren't trusted by, by the people in the camps. When they said something, you, you didn't --

RP: Question them.

BF: -- you didn't object.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.