Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Bo T. Sakaguchi Interview
Narrator: Bo T. Sakaguchi
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 6, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-sbo-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

JA: Just for the record, to have it on tape, tell me your name and where you're from.

BS: My name is Bo Sakaguchi. Where we lived before the war?

JA: Or where you live now.

BS: I live in Northridge, California, and before the war we lived in North Hollywood, California.

JA: Tell me about your family. Where they came from, what they did.

BS: Oh, well, my parents were from the Nagano-ken, Nagano-ken, and there were seven living just before the war. My oldest brother had just finished dental school in 1941, and my second brother was in his junior year in dental school at USC, and my third brother was in medical school at Marquette University in Milwaukee. And then I had my sister, my oldest sister had just graduated UCLA, an English major, and was working for the local newspaper, Japanese newspaper.

JA: What kind of work did your father do?

BS: My father was a farmer. They worked six-and-a-half days a week, and because of that they were able to earn enough money to send the kids to college because my mother believed in education.

JA: And when did your father come to this country?

BS: I can't tell you, I don't know. All I know is... let's see, I am seventy-seven, so my oldest brother would have been eighty-eight. So somewhere...


BS: My father was a, was a gardener first, but the children, he knew that if he put them to work on a farm, it would be more successful, so he became a farmer. That was in about 1931 or 1930.

JA: So he did achieve some success, then?

BS: Yeah, well, they achieved success in that they were able to send kids to college, and we even were able to buy a piece of property when the kids were old enough.

JA: Was your father able to buy property?

BS: No, my father could not buy property. It was bought under my oldest brother's name, because you had to be a citizen to own property. But my father believed in property, it's a good investment, is what he used to always tell his friends, and he encouraged friends to buy property and they did. It was lucky for them because they had something to come back to in North Hollywood after the war ended, they'd have a home, yeah, so we were lucky.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

JA: What do you... how old were you in 1941?

BS: I was sixteen.

JA: What do you remember about December 7th?

BS: Well, December 7th, we were farming in North Hollywood and one morning, that morning, Sunday morning, a neighbor -- no, not a neighbor, he was the seed salesman for my father. He came around to sell seeds and he says, "Did you know war, Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor?" We were just shocked. We were just shocked. It was a devastating day for all of us because it... well, it was just a devastating day for all of us. Something it's hard to forget; we will never forget. Other than that, we went farming as usual. Continued with the farming.

JA: Were there reactions towards you as people of Japanese blood after Pearl Harbor?

BS: Well, you know, not against us per se, and I remember the first day back to school after Pearl Harbor. The man that we used to call Warden Thompson, he was the study hall master and he was a, became a good... he liked me. He was a good teacher and he liked me. He put his arm around me as I was walking in the hallway and says, "If anybody gives you a hard time, just let me know." But nothing ever happened to me. Nothing ever happened to me.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JA: How did your family react when the order came to relocate?

BS: We just felt, well, it was something we had to do. There was nothing we could do. I guess we considered it part of our, our part for the war effort. Because we farmed to the very, very end, the last day we left, or until the day that... yeah, the day we left we farmed. And the government had arranged a program where people who wanted to farm would come to this agency and they would be put together with people who had farms to sell. And so we sold our farm to a man who was in the construction business, but because of the war they were no longer building houses, so he became a farmer and he bought our crops, our equipment, and I guess he farmed for about a year.


JA: Now, just repeat the last bit about how the farm was sold.

BS: The government set up an agency where persons who wanted to farm -- that they would avoid the draft, you know, becoming a farmer -- would come and we farmers would sign up with that agency saying that we had a farm with so many acres to farm, and they would bring us together. And so we came together with a man who was in the construction business and so we showed him everything on how to farm, how to plant crops, how to take care of the crops, so that he could continue with the farming, because we planted our crops to full capacity of the property on the day that we left, the day he took over. But, you know, farming is a very labor-intensive hard work, and that's probably the reason why the guy didn't continue. But he eventually quit and I don't know what ever happened to him after that.

JA: Tell me about personal effects and personal property, stuff that you weren't able to take with you. How did you deal with that?

BS: Some of the big items, the government said there was a warehouse, so we had stored a sofa, the only sofa we had, a piece of carpeting that it was lucky we had, and maybe a refrigerator and a washer, and those were stored in a government property. But we also owned our home and it was a ranch home, with ranch buildings, and so we stored our old mattresses and old beds and whatever furniture we had that we didn't feel was worth storing, we stored this in the shed and we just locked it and left it. And, when we returned, somebody had broken in, but our stuff was so old and so -- we were poor farmers -- so they didn't steal much or anything. But we were lucky in that we had our own home, we had our own home, that we were able to come back to if we wanted to. But my parents, my father had died by then in camp, and my mother decided she would go back to Philadelphia, where my sister was a medical student, and she was just having a baby so my mother went there to live and help take care of the baby. So we didn't return to North Hollywood. And in the meantime, I got drafted and I was stationed at Fort MacArthur, typing discharges.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JA: You never had any visit from the FBI, did you?

BS: Yes, we did.

JA: Tell me about that.

BS: We were living in North Hollywood, not too far away from this Burbank Airport. My father was an officer of the Farmer's Association and maybe of the Japanese school, too, but... so on December 7th or December 8th, yeah, it was December 8th, the FBI came looking for my sister because the local newspaper publisher suggested to the Japanese organizations to put the officers into Nisei names. Why, I don't know, but there was a man in the neighborhood who read that and said it's a good suggestion and encouraged our group, the North Hollywood Farmer's Association, or the Japanese school, the judo group, to put officers into the children's name of the men who were officers of the group. So, my father was an officer, vice president or something, and so my sister was the oldest one and she was living at home, so it was in her name. So the FBI came looking for her, they searched our house and they left because they were U.S. citizen names. And so the officers of Farmer's Association and Japanese school, the North Hollywood group never got taken away and arrested by the FBI, compared to the families in Burbank and Glendale and San Fernando, or other areas. So we were very lucky that Mr. Higashida, who was a farmer in North Hollywood, who was an astute man and suggested they change the names into second-generation names, so that saved, saved us from being separated.

JA: When the FBI came in, did they confiscate anything?

BS: No, there was nothing to confiscate. We had a bookcase, so they looked through the books of what we had, and one of my brothers had bought Mein Kampf, but they just looked at it and they left. [Laughs]

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JA: What do you remember about the process of getting to Manzanar, the trip there?

BS: Well, we had to register at an office in Burbank. And living at home at that time was myself, my mother and my father, my sister, oldest sister, and my younger sister who was going to UCLA, and I had a sister who was going to medical school at Berkley, UC Berkley, so she registered, my sister registered the whole family including my sisters from Berkley, but she also registered my brother who was going to SC dental school but was living in Los Angeles. So, when the day came for us to leave, to be taken to Manzanar, they took roll call and they said, "Where is your brother?" And my sister says, "Well, he wanted to stay in school as long as he can, and since he's living in Los Angeles, he didn't come." So the FBI went to the SC Dental School and arrested my brother a couple of days later and took him away to Santa Anita. And then finally, my brother was allowed to return to SC dental school to check out, check out his books and things. And as he's walking in the hallway, a fellow student says, "Did you know they arrested a Jap spy at our school?" And my brother was so embarrassed he didn't have the nerve to say, "I'm not the Jap spy, they just arrested me because of a mix-up." But he has resented that for over these sixty years. So he doesn't speak very highly of President Roosevelt. [Laughs] He uses that four-letter word.

JA: I can guess. What do you remember about the trip itself?

BS: The trip itself, I remember the morning we left, it was sprinkling, and as we boarded the bus my sister had overheard this lady say, "Look at, even the sky or heavens are crying for us because it's raining." So we rode on these little red buses to Manzanar. It was a quiet, quiet bus ride. I don't remember how long it took. And no one said much, no one said much. I remember my parents discussing, they wondered how we would be treated. But they said, "Well, this country is a fair, fair country, so they shouldn't treat us too harshly," so we just went to camp.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JA: What was the first thing you saw when you got off the bus there?

BS: I... gee, I think I remember just seeing the rows of barracks, dirt all over, no plants or greenery. And it was later in the afternoon or late evening, so they, they had groups who took you to where you unloaded from the bus and they took you to the assigned apartment. That's all I remember. I don't remember... all I remember is at the time we were put in a barrack, there were six of us, and since housing was tight they put in an older couple to share this small room with us, which I felt very sorry for because here they were a reverend and his wife, and they had to share a room with our family. And so the only thing they had was, they put a little sheet across to separate their beds from our beds.

JA: Would you say that -- at least in the early days, weeks -- you sensed a real lack of privacy of this nature?

BS: Oh, there was definitely no lack -- there was definitely a lack of privacy. You'd go to the bathroom and the commodes are all lined in a row. And, of course, we had a common urinal for the men, and a common shower for the men and a common shower for the, for the women. The showering didn't bother me, but it was the non-private commodes that bothered me the most. And then, as far as privacy in the rooms, it didn't affect me at all. I was with my family, that's all that... but I felt sorry for the older couple who had to share this room with us. But it lasted for a few months until they built enough rooms, and then this older couple, reverend, was able to share a room with their daughter and son-in-law in another barrack later on, which, which made it so that there were only six of us in that room with just the beds.

JA: Talk to me about the mess halls and the meals.

BS: The mess halls, well, it was a new experience lining up to go to eat. Families were all separated now because you went to the mess hall with your friends, your school friends. So, but because we were already teenagers, it wasn't so bad. I felt sorry for the younger kids who had, who also did the same thing, so they weren't having their meals with their parents. But for us, we were adult -- well, we were young, seventeen, sixteen, seventeen, it didn't matter that much. And I remember the food wasn't the best in the world. One thing I will never eat today is Vienna sausage, which they gave us in our early arrival. I had never seen a Vienna sausage before in my life. And apple butter, I will never eat an apple butter today because that was the only jam they gave us. It was something I just didn't enjoy. Other than that, I guess we had pancakes and toast, I'm sure they had mush, but I don't remember other things. I know we -- I don't think we had bacons and sausage or things like that. Occasionally we had fried eggs or boiled eggs, but I didn't, I don't recall that. The worst part I hated was we were all required to take... was it typhoid shots or whatever shots were that made us sick. Gave us the diarrhea and you'd have to go to the bathroom out in the open without no privacy. That wasn't enjoyable. But I guess it protected us from future illnesses, I don't know.

JA: Did this separation of families relative to meals and things, was that upsetting to the parents in families?

BS: I, I don't know. I don't know, because my parents certainly didn't say too much about it. By then, I was the youngest and I was sixteen, seventeen, but I felt sorry for those families, say, with seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. They needed the parent guidance; they were no longer eating together. Those with little babies ate together because they were fed a separate, in a separate section of the kitchen. I'm sure it didn't help the family unit per se over the long term, though I don't believe they caused problems while we were in camp themselves, maybe postwar.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JA: Tell me about school. You were in high school?

BS: I was in the eleventh grade. It was, it was very devastating and very painful to leave the camp -- to leave the school to go to camp. Because there you were, you know, you were a Japanese extraction, so therefore... and General DeWitt, the nitwit, said, "A Jap is always a Jap," so what chance did we have? And so, whenever you go through stress you have a lot of anger, guilt, fear, bargaining, depression, we went through all that, I'm sure. But it was hard leaving the school because these were kids that I grew up say from the third grade on, kids I had known through, up to the tenth grade and I sure hated to leave the school. Plus I just got into the Service Club and that was something I was looking forward to at school, had to leave that. And then we go to camp and, of course, we went to camp in April but they had no schools for us. Schools didn't start until September. I think by then they had gotten the board of education set up and so we had schools and classes. Of course, they weren't the best in the world, but we had a few teachers who were very kind and caring and generous who encouraged us to study, to continue on, because I remember several of my high school classmates used to say, oh, lose fight, lose fight, this is so... I guess so depressing, lose fight, but she, this teacher said no, you gotta continue, you gotta study. She was a very nice teacher. I wish I would have kept up with her. Her name was Janet Olinsi Goldberg, a nice lady, nice lady.

JA: We have a picture of her.

BS: You do?

JA: From then, yeah.

BS: She was a very nice lady, she encouraged us. She was our senior advisor, I think, at the time.

JA: Was, were there any difficulties in terms of books or equipment? Did the school have everything they needed to --

BS: Well, I'm sure we had texts. I remember having textbooks. Whether we lugged them home or not I don't remember. And as far as our science classes were, my chemistry teacher was a, probably a junior or senior at UCLA majoring in chemistry, so he was our chemistry teacher. And our physics teacher might have had some experience in teaching, but he, he didn't have a teaching credential. And so our equipment was very limited. Nothing that you have in, in your regular high school or regular universities, but they tried, they tried. But it was hard to study in those days.

JA: What about extracurricular activities? What did you do?

BS: Extracurricular activities was nothing too much, you just hung around with your classmates, and you just hung around and talked. You couldn't go anywhere, except maybe walk around the block or walk around the perimeter of the camp. So we didn't get into trouble. In the evening, they had the radios, you know, the radios would play. During the day there was so much static you couldn't play a radio, but in the evenings you'd play radios. So I used to stay home and listen to, they used to have the Weekly Hit Parade, they used to have other radio shows that were interesting so I'd stay home and stay in my apartment, and I would knit. I'd learned to knit from my mother, so I knit several shirt, sweaters back then.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

JA: Were there school dances or things?

BS: Well, we had school dances, and they were held in the mess halls. When I first got to camp I didn't know how to dance, and Ms. Goldberg was the one -- Miss Goldberg was the one who encouraged us to learn how to dance. So at least we were able to dance at our senior prom. And they would have dances at school, I don't remember how often, it wasn't that often, but they were interesting dances. And that was our recreation. Of course, they had movies, too, outdoors, but I never went to the movies. I didn't enjoy the movies sitting outdoors in the cold, so I didn't go to the movies. I can't remember seeing a decent movie at all.


JA: Were there bands that played at these?

BS: They formed a band, and I think there was a high school band, several members that were in the class of '44. Bruce Kaji, Yoshito Shibuya, Gordon Sato, are names I remember, and they played in the school band and they also had a dance band. I think they were called the Jive Bombers, I don't remember exactly, but they played at the dances. Most of the dances were records, the Harry James, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey records.

JA: What were some of the popular songs in those days?

BS: "All or Nothing at All" with Frank Sinatra and Harry James, "Boogie-Woogie" Tommy Dorsey. The Glenn Miller hits... oh boy, I used to know the names, "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and Ray Eberle singing... Ray Eberle singing... gee, I can't remember them all now. Oh, the Modernaires, and later on when I became a dentist, Paula Kelley came in as a patient, which was quite an exciting thing for me, because one of the girls, a classmate, high school classmate, or girls in the school, had named their social club the Modernaires. [Laughs] And then to think, fifteen years later, I was able to meet the lady who owned the Modernaires. Because by then, her husband had passed away and she owned the Modernaires, that was an exciting thing for me.

JA: Somebody told me they remembered hearing the song "Don't Fence Me In."

BS: Oh yeah, yeah, that was a very popular song that they used to...


JA: Tell me that song again.

BS: Oh, "Don't Fence Me In," yeah. I guess it was very popular, more popular in the class of '44. [Laughs] I remember singing it and I know members of the class of '44, when they used to have the Manzanar reunions, would make it a point to sing that song, "Don't Fence Me In."

JA: Sing me a couple lines.

BS: Oh, I can't remember the words.

JA: [Laughs] Oh, okay. Do you -- tell me about Mary Nomura, do you remember her?

BS: Oh, yeah. Mary was the "Songbird of Manzanar," she was a gorgeous girl, very talented, in the wrong generation. She would have been a, she could have been a recording star. But I remember hearing Mary first back in about 1941 when the Little Tokyo used to have the talent shows, and I remember Mary got up and sang and I heard her sing and I thought, "Wow, what a singer," and how pretty she was. And then to find her at Manzanar, and she used to sing. She was a great singer. She still has a classy-type of singing. She's got the phrasing and the nuances, she's still terrific, still terrific, beautiful lady.

JA: She's going to visit us tomorrow.

BS: Oh, yeah, she's great.

JA: What about sports? Were there sports in...

BS: There was a lot of sports. We played football. I remember my friends in the North Hollywood area, from the North Hollywood area, got together and formed a team. We were the North Hollywood Huskies, and the people from the Venice area had a team and other areas had a team, and so they had sort of a league in the summer and we played touch football in the firebreaks. Not the cleanest or the healthiest place, but it was fun, and we had a lot of fun. And then there were many baseball teams, and the outstanding ones were the San Pedro Yogores and the San Fernando Aces, so different areas had their teams. And the Manzanites were a very good team. Then they had basketball, too. They formed a little, they had little basketball courts in the blocks that they put up a, the rim and things for them to play. I wasn't much in basketball or baseball. I was a lousy athlete, but I loved to play football, so I did play on the football team. That was fun.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JA: Were you aware at your age of tensions developing within the camp between different groups?

BS: Well, we -- well, there was tension... I guess they would be like the gangs of today, territory gangs. The San Pedro people, they were treated very poorly and so they were very angry. They had their own group. And then the Manzanites were the Boyle Heights and downtown L.A. people, and they had their own group. You used to think -- and then they'd compete in sports and there would be some competition, but I don't remember there being an --


BS: Okay, the San Pedro people -- I should have, I should have mentioned it was Terminal Island -- there was a large colony of Japanese living on Terminal Island. They were in the fishing industry and they worked in the fishing industry, and that's where the Navy was. And the Navy says, "You are all going to have to leave," and they gave them twenty-four hours, or less -- twenty-four hours. And so by then, the FBI had arrested most of the adults because since they were in the fishing industry, they were considered spies, and so they were all taken away. And so the families were left with the children and the mother, and given twenty-four hours to move, move all of your, your things out of your home. Many families were invited by churches to move into their, into the church, or some families went to relatives' homes. But I had a few friends from Terminal Island and they were very angry because on the day that they had to move -- here they had brand-new refrigerators and household appliances, and they couldn't move them because where can they take it, where can they store it? And so the people who buy used furniture came in droves into the area and would offer them five dollars for a brand-new refrigerator or a new stove and things like that. So my friend who was in Terminal Island, whose father was taken away, was very angry because he says, "Oh, these people," they categorized them all under one religion, which wasn't fair because they weren't. But he always used to say very bad things about these people, because here they came in their carts and offered them nothing for their, for their furniture, so they were very angry. They were always angry and accused of the wrong religion, because I'm sure there were people of many religions who were there taking advantage of these people who had to move in such short notice.

JA: And that anger carried over into camp?

BS: Oh, it carried over into camp, he always used -- and he was my buddy and he'd always tell me, oh these people, they would come and offer us nothing for our furniture and things, and there we had to move and we didn't know where to go. And so they had a very tough time and they were very angry. I don't blame them.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

JA: What do you know about the so-called "riot"?

BS: The riot I don't really remember too much of. I remember seeing -- hearing the commotion, but my few friends that I hung around with, we heard of the riot but we decided, well, we won't go down there and bother it and fool around... what for? It was lucky because if we were down there, we would have been shot at. In fact, I was talking to a friend right now -- a couple of months ago, who said that he had gone down there and he was in the front row in front of the soldiers, but he was smart enough to move away and so he wasn't shot at and killed. He had moved out of the area and he was safe. And because of that, many people who I guess are considered really pro-, pro-U.S. were escorted out of the camp for their protection. And there was a friend of ours who was a friend of my sister, he was the editor, he was a second-generation man who was educated in Japan, but he hated Japan, and so -- and he was the, he was the writer or the... I don't know if he was the editor of the Japanese section of the paper. So when the riot occurred, they removed the family out into safekeeping, and at that time the family couldn't take much with them. And so since my sister was a good friend, they contacted my sister and asked my brother -- I mean, asked my father to pack their things for them. I remember we went to their apartment and packed all their things that they had left and, to have it shipped to wherever they were.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JA: Do you have any memories of holidays? Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving?

BS: Well, I think I... Thanksgiving, I'm sure we had turkey. At Christmas I'm sure we had a special meal. And then New Year's we had a special meal, and then for New Year's, the Japanese do mochitsuki, the pounding of the sweet rice and forming little balls of what they call mochi, and they use that as a, for celebration of New Year's. So they used to do that in every, every block. I remember that being a ritual. But other than that, we weren't really very religious, so we celebrated Christmas as well as we could.

JA: What's your best memory of Manzanar?

BS: My best memory? My best memory I guess is that I got to meet a lot of young kids my age. I got to play with them, because when you farm, you work six days a week, and after you get out of high school, I mean, schools at the end of the day, I had to rush back and work on the farm. And the only time I ever got to meet -- and then North Hollywood, not having a large Japanese population, we had very, I had just a few Japanese friends. So I kind of looked forward to Saturday when we had a Japanese school, because then we got to get together with my Japanese friends and got to play. So, when we got to camp, hey, this was everyday, I got to play with Japanese kids, and so it was fun for me. I got to meet a lot of people and became friends with over the years. So that's the only happy experience I have at Manzanar.

JA: What is your least happy?

BS: The least happy? Well, the worst things were the windstorms, you know, the ground being freshly worked to clear the brush away for, to build the apartments and things. Whenever the wind blew in Manzanar, we'd have these horrendous whirlwind dust storms and you walked to school, you walked to your place of work, and you were just covered with dust and dirt where you'd just see the outline of your face if you wore glasses. And your hair would just be full of dirt because in the old days we used to use the real heavy wax, heavy wax, hair wax and we'd put it on the side and when the wind blew we had nothing but sand in our hair and we'd comb out just big gobs of dirt. That's the worst part of Manzanar. And then I lost, my father died in camp, and so we had a funeral. My sister died in Philadelphia, so we had the funeral in camp. My brother died in, well, he died at the county hospital because he had cancer, but we had his funeral in camp. So there were three sad days all within a six-month period in 194-,1945. That's the worst. Other than that, for kids it wasn't as bad as I think it was for young adults who were just starting to make a, earn a living. Of course, that's the same with anybody, they got drafted into the war and things.

JA: To lose family members in that kind of environment, that must have compounded it.

BS: Well, yeah, it wasn't easy. The only good thing was that we didn't have the money to pay for funerals, so the government paid for the funerals, which it wasn't easy on my mother to lose a sister first, the oldest daughter, then her husband, my oldest brother. He had just gotten married in November of the year before and died in August. He had cancer. He was a dentist, unfortunately. I felt sorry for the widow, the young widow that he had to leave.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

JA: Tell me about those who went into the service. You were too young?

BS: No, I, I turned eighteen in camp, so we got our registration papers, you know, a card, registration card, and you're listed as 4-C "enemy alien," which is really great for your ego, because here you are, a U.S. citizen, and they mark you "enemy alien." But we had a neighbor who volunteered for the service, and at the time I thought, "The guy's crazy." Here his father was locked up in a remote camp and he volunteers for the service. But I'm grateful that these people did, because with the war record that they created, that helped all of us after the war, even though many bigots won't acknowledge it.

JA: Tell me about that group, the 442nd.

BS: I don't know too much about it because I wasn't a member, but I'm grateful that they, that they sacrificed their lives. My goodness, they were, they were cannon fodder. They had to go rescue in such an area where the casualties were so much greater than the people they saved, the number of people they saved. But I guess that was the general, whoever the general was in charge, did that.

JA: Do you know the name Sadao Munemori?

BS: Yes, Sadao Munemori, he lived in Glendale, and his sister, his kid sister was a high school classmate. And we knew some of the people from Glendale so I remembered knowing the name. And then his older brother was an orderly at the hospital at the time when my father was in the hospital having treatment, and I had to work as an orderly at night, midnight shift, to aspirate -- my father had had a tracheotomy done, and so to aspirate the phlegm I had to work the graveyard shift, and so I met the older brother. And at that time you didn't think much about it, but you know, you think, my gosh, here was a guy who gets the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the mother is behind barbed wire. I thought, "Wow, that's justice. That's justice." I felt sorry for those, those parents who got Gold Stars because their sons volunteered out of the camp and were killed, and here they were fighting for our democracy, for the civil rights and things, and there they were denied these rights. And here they were, parents who were very loyal to this country, but who were never allowed the privilege to become citizens of this country because of the laws. Fortunately, it changed, the law changed, but that was about ten years later.

JA: What was Munemori's story that won him the Congressional Medal of Honor?

BS: From what I understand -- I'm not versed in it -- but I understand he threw himself over a grenade to protect the other men in his company, and of course the grenade exploded and killed him.

JA: That's the ultimate irony.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

JA: At what point were you allowed to leave the camp?

BS: Well, you know, the war, the tide had turned and so I don't remember the timeframe. But I know they encouraged people to go work on the farms, do a work furlough to go work on the farms in Idaho and Utah, and then, and they were by then in late '42, they were encouraging people to leave the camp to relocate into the Midwest or cities east of the Rockies. And my brother, who by then had gone to a camp in Jerome, left the camp and went to Chicago to work, hoping to get into a dental school to continue his education, but because they had these military programs, it was hard for an Asian to get into dental school, plus you weren't allowed to be in those programs. So he waited until after the war and he finally finished his schooling at Minnesota.

JA: And you went on to college after camp?

BS: I went to college in the summer of 1945, I got accepted to UCLA, so I went to -- started summer school during the summer term at UCLA. And by then the war ended, and my draft changed from 4-F to 1-A and I got drafted one week after V-J Day, and I served in Fort MacArthur for six months typing discharges. I left, I left Manzanar in 1943 -- no 1944, to go help my dad as a translator in case I was needed, because my dad had developed cancer of the throat and they couldn't treat him in the Manzanar hospital, and they knew, they suggested that he go to Salt Lake City where he could get x-ray treatments. So my father went to Salt Lake City and I accompanied him in 1944. I had finished school so I had free time, and from there I returned to Manzanar and my parents encouraged us to get a college education, so they suggested I go join my brother in Chicago, maybe hoping to get into a school someplace. And that's when I got my 1-A and I took a physical in Chicago, and I passed the physical in Chicago and I decided I'd return to Manzanar and see my mother and father before I went to, into the service.

On the way from Manzanar to Salt Lake City, I broke my glasses. And these glasses were the type where there was just a little screw holding the lens, and I broke my lens in a funny accident. And then when I got to Salt Lake City, having lived there before, I just put my glasses in my suitcase, and I put my suitcase in one of those five- or ten-cent lockers at the bus terminal. And I decided, "I don't want to carry my suitcase on the bus to go to Fort Douglas." So I go to Fort Douglas, and I don't have my glasses. So when they took my physical and checked my eyes, I couldn't read the board, the chart, so they made me 4-F. [Laughs] And the embarrassing thing was, my friend threw a party for me in Manzanar, thinking that I was getting drafted, and here I am 4-F. I couldn't return to camp right away, so I stayed in, in Salt Lake City working as a dishwasher, busboy. Until one day, my friend told me, "Let's go to the pool hall." I'd never been in a pool hall before, never even held a cue stick or whatever. He says, "Let's go to the pool hall," so I accompanied him. Lo and behold, it was my dad's day off, working in Salt Lake City, and he had gone to the pool hall to read the newspaper. And there were two doors to this pool hall, and I finally realized, oh, my gosh, that's my dad over there, over there. So I snuck out the other door, and out comes rushing my dad, saying, "What are you doing in the pool hall?" I said, "I've never been in one before, but my friend talked me into going." And so my father wrote to my mother saying, "We'd better send him back to camp and make him, get him into some university." So I had to go back to camp. [Laughs] That was an embarrassing situation.


JA: Did any of your brothers or sisters work in the medical field at camp?

BS: Yeah, my brother was a dentist and he had taken over a practice of a dentist in Gardena who had developed TB, and so my brother took over his practice for about six months. Then evacuation came, and he decided at the time -- the Fresno area was still an open area -- and he decided he'd go to the Fresno area to open an office. So he opened an office there for a couple of months and then the Fresno area got closed and he went to a camp called Gila, Gila River. And he was single and my mother wanted him married, so she had him transferred to Manzanar. So he was a dentist in Manzanar for a year. And my sister was a medical student, she was just a freshman at Cal Berkley. So she did work at the hospital -- I don't know what she did, but she did work at the hospital. And then she finally got into medical school, the Women's Medical in Philadelphia, so she left camp to go there.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

JA: What did you learn from your experience in camp? What did you come away knowing or feeling?

BS: What did I learn in camp? Well, in camp you had to get along, otherwise there'd be constant fights among all your neighbors. Other than that, I don't think I learned anything in camp. More anger as I think about it.

JA: Talk to me about that.

BS: Oh, the anger that I feel now? Well, we found out that, later on, that we could have... they could have prevented us from going to camps, but that, I think, the President -- I may be wrong -- but the President decided to go ahead and do it. My feeling was that Mr. Roosevelt was a racist because I remember when he refused the entry of that boatload of Jewish refugees into the United States, and those poor refugees were refused entrance into South America, and I'm sure they all had to return to Europe and they were probably all killed. But... and then another thing, too, I have a friend I play golf with who is a Pearl Harbor veteran. He was stationed in Pearl Harbor the day of the attack, and he said later, while we were playing golf, that, "You know, we were on alert for several months, and about three months before Pearl Harbor, the alert was cancelled." I don't know if anyone has said anything about that, but it, it was such that I know the President wanted us entered into the war because we had to protect England and to save Europe, because he was trying, he was doing everything he can to send supplies to Europe, to England, so that they could be able to fight the Germans. So he wanted this war and he got it. He'd go to the Japanese -- they were stupid -- Japanese military was stupid. I asked my cousin when he came here, my wife's cousin when he came here to visit, "What did the Japanese military think that they had a chance of beating this large country with all its resources? How could they be so stupid to attack the, attack the United States?" But he said, "I guess they were just stupid."

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

JA: How did you feel when there was some redress in the form of a check and an apology?

BS: Well, up to that point, up to the point I always felt like a second-class citizen, you know, having, being listed as 4-C "enemy alien" and being treated the way we were treated during the war, even in Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake City, while I was working and after dinner, my friend and I would be standing on the street corner and young kids would drive by and say, "Go home, Japs." And I'm thinking, "Oh boy, would I ever love to go home," but you couldn't. California was still closed at the time. That's the way they treated us.

JA: And then when there was some redress, did that change?

BS: So when I got the apology, something was lifted off my head, that I felt like a, hey, a decent citizen, and it was not until then that I felt like meeting my old high school friends, some grammar school friends. I never attended, you know, I felt that North Hollywood High School was my, was my school, even though I didn't graduate there, but I felt they were my, it was my school of choice. But I never tried to go to any of the class reunions that they might have had or any reunions that the school had sponsored, because it was difficult for me to meet my, meet and talk to my friends. I remember when I, we opened a dental office and the picture of the dental office was in the local newspaper, and one of my classmates wrote me a little note congratulating me. And I didn't have the courtesy to send him a note back because I felt so odd about it that I just couldn't face him, face the guy, that I just had a hard time. But then once we got the redress, I felt so much better that I participated in the North Hollywood High School reunion, I helped on the committee and my friends welcomed me, and in fact, the committee still meets every year and I see my old friends that I used to know back in the '30s and '40's.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

JA: Do you think America has learned from this experience?

BS: I hope they have. I hope they have. You know, at least this president, when 9/11 happened, spoke up for the Muslims. We weren't that lucky with Roosevelt, you know, he didn't... and that DeWitt certainly didn't help our cause at all. And Governor Warren certainly didn't, Attorney General Warren certainly didn't help us. Nobody helped us. The newspapers certainly didn't help us. There were very few columnists who ever wrote anything favorable about the Japanese Americans. And then even my dental school classmate, who I sat next to, one day not too long ago, said, "You know, the evacuation was for your protection." Oh, that got me so mad. I never spoke to him after that.

JA: So what do you see as the main constitutional issues raised by all this?

BS: Main constitutional issues?

JA: If you were teaching a civics class, what would you...

BS: Well, the one thing is that you can't judge a person just because he has the color of the enemy. That we were just as loyal to this country as, as anyone else. I remember thinking about my Italian friends who never got taken away, and my German friends who never got taken away. And I remember one classmate in particular who when we were on duty at something at school, he was mentioning about how great Hitler was, and I often wondered whatever happened to him after I lost track of him. And I remember we used to go buy eggs in North Hollywood at this egg farmer who was of German descent, and I remember the father talking so much about how great Hitler was, and he never got taken away. So, let's hope that in the future, just because you have the face and the character of the enemy, that that person might be just as loyal to this country as you or I, that we have to trust them, because there are only a few who are out there to try to destroy us, not the whole group. Like, we could have farmed in North Hollywood and contributed to the war effort. My father was a good farmer, and he was loyal to this country, and their decision was to stay in this country because this is where the kids were, this is where we all grew up, this is where they were educated. We had no future in going back to Japan. So when the time came that people were deciding whether to go to Tule Lake to be segregated or to stay in camp, my parents, I remember discussing that, and my mother said, "No, we're not going there." And my father says, "Well, gee, a lot of our friends in North Hollywood are all going there." But of course they realized, those people realized they made a mistake and they finally returned to North Hollywood.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.