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-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

KP: So did things change for you, after Pearl Harbor? Did you notice any change? You were still commuting, going to school?

AO: Yeah, well, of course. Yes. I was able to finish my sophomore year. Well, of course, we had rationing and blackouts, but that affected everyone. What changed was when they put up these posters on telephone poles saying that by a certain-certain date everyone in this district have to move out and assemble at the local YMCA on a certain-certain date, with just what you could carry. And that's what happened.

KP: Did that come as a surprise to you when you saw those posters, or did you hear rumors about it first?

AO: Yeah, it was a surprise, because there weren't too many instant communications those days. Yeah. And of course, maybe it wasn't, because I was called, I was classified by a draft board as 1-A.

KP: And when was that?

AO: Maybe like three, four months after the war, December 7th. And then in about three months they changed my classification to 4-C, which was an "enemy alien." That, that sort of got to me.

KP: And so were you thinking about military service at that time?

AO: No, no.

KP: I mean, did you think it might be an inevitability now that the U.S. was in the war that you would go into the army?

AO: No, I didn't even think about that. No. I was intent on just finishing school then.

KP: So what, you said it really got to you. In what way?

AO: Well here I'm a United States citizen and I was classified as an "enemy alien."

KP: So do you remember leaving San Francisco? Where were you at that time?

AO: San Francisco.

KP: You were still living at home with your parents?

AO: Yes. Yeah, we, I left with my father, mother, and my brother.

KP: What did you do with your things?

AO: Oh, we were renting, so most of the things that we had, like tables and chairs and, we just gave them away because peddlers would come by and say, "You have anything you want to, us to carry away?" Say, "Well, take it." And then we stored some things in the local church, the Buddhist and reform church, but turned out that the things in the reform church are vandalized. I went to get them and some things were missing when I went there.

KP: Did your family have, we hear stories about people who, right after Pearl Harbor, got rid of photographs and other things that they felt connected them with Japan, do you remember your family doing that at all?

AO: Photographs?

KP: Well, sometimes people had photographs of the emperor and stuff like that, and then after Pearl Harbor a lot of people destroyed things they thought might link them unduly to Japan. Did your family...

AO: Oh, no. We didn't have any pictures of the emperor on the wall or anything, but we got rid of our BB guns and even our Japanese textbooks that we used in school. We burned 'em. Yeah.

KP: And why'd you do that?

AO: Well, we heard someone might be coming around investigating, that's why.

KP: Did someone come around to investigate?

AO: Not really.

KP: Did you hear about, did you have any friends in the neighborhood that, or friends of the family that were investigated?

AO: Well, not friends, but I knew people were investigated, especially men. They were taken, if they were prominent in the community, they were taken away to camp, separate camp.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.