Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Art Okuno Interview
Narrator: Art Okuno
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: September 1, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-oart-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

KP: So from, when you were evacuated, where did your family go first? And where did you meet the day that you had to leave?

AO: At the local YMCA building, in front with all our, what we could take. And the --

KP: What was going through your mind at that time? Do you remember?

AO: You know, I was so busy getting everything, selling everything or getting rid of things and then deciding what to take because all you could take was what you could carry that I didn't think about, psychologically, I guess. In fact, I didn't think about it for a long time. It really came to me, because after the war, my wife and I used to, still do, go around to schools talking about it, about our evacuation experience, and this was in San Jose Junior High School, one -- see, it was a question and answer thing and one sort of fellow stood up. He was a black, he had a dark face, anyway, he said, "Were you ever angry about what happened?" And that really hit me. I said, "Wow, that's a great question." Up 'til then I didn't even think of being angry, but I had to admit I was really angry about the whole affair.

Off camera: Art, who was, you said you were really busy getting ready to go, who was making decisions for your family? Were they relying on you because you spoke English, or was your dad still with the family?

AO: Yes, but, yeah, I guess they were relying on me, as far as English goes. Yeah. But we, we sort of talk about what we should be getting rid of and things like that, like the Japanese textbooks, just burned 'em up.

Off camera: But your father was not investigated by the FBI or anything like that?

AO: No. He was, no. The whole family went intact to camp.

[Interruption]

KP: So you're in front of the YMCA. Did you know where you were going at that time?

AO: No. We had no idea. That's the one thing that really gets to me, they never told us where we were going. They just says, "Well, get on. Get on the bus, the truck. Get on the train." And the trains are all, of course, at the entrances there were guards with bayonets standing there. Yeah.

KP: So you got on buses first from the YMCA?

AO: Yeah, to Third and Townsend, the train station in San Francisco, and from there we took a train to Pomona Assembly Center.

KP: That's all the way south.

AO: Yes.

KP: And it was a special train?

AO: Well, I won't call it special. [Laughs] It was one of the older trains. Yeah, coaches.

KP: And there were guards? There were guards with bayonets?

AO: Oh, sure. Yeah.

KP: What else do you remember about that train trip?

AO: Well, that was short compared to going from assembly center to...

KP: But you did not know where you were going?

AO: No, I had no idea, except that we're going south.

KP: So when you got to Pomona, what was that like?

AO: What was it like?

KP: What do you remember? What first, what was your first impression?

AO: Gee, what was my first impression when I got off? I don't remember.

KP: What do you remember about Pomona when you got down there?

AO: I remember the barbed wire. It was enclosed and there were, some people stayed in horse stalls and the others were, they hastily put up barracks inside camp, not camp, but county, Pomona Fairgrounds.

KP: What do you remember about the guards, guard towers? What do you remember?

AO: They didn't have guard towers around the assembly center. That's, far as I know. No.

KP: Soldiers? Were there soldiers there?

AO: Oh yeah, on the outside. I'm sure.

KP: And where did your family end up in, a barracks, a horse stall?

AO: Yeah, we, we ended up in one of the horse stalls. Yeah, I remember that because my mother got sick, from the stench, because this is, because we were there through August.

KP: What was it, what was it like, being there?

AO: Well, I was reading my diary. It says, "Well, I signed up for work," to keep busy, I guess.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.