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

<Begin Segment 1>

KP: Alright, today is Tuesday, the 1st of September, 2009. We are at Main Street Station Hotel Casino in Las Vegas for the Heart Mountain Reunion, and today we are interviewing Art Okuno and this interview will be archived at the Manzanar National Historic Site as part of our oral history collection. And do we have your permission to do an interview with you today?

AO: Yes.

KP: Thank you very much. And is it okay if I call you Art?

AO: Yes. [Laughs]

KP: Okay. Good place to start. Well, let's start by starting with you. That's weird, I guess, hope it was the door across the aisle and not mine. When and where were you born? What year?

AO: September 15, 1921, in San Francisco, California.

KP: Okay. Were you born at home or in a hospital? Do you know?

AO: We had a midwife. Yeah. Next door, in fact.

KP: What were your parents doing at that time? What kind of work were, was your father doing?

AO: Well, my mother didn't work. My father, at that time he was like, used to go to homes and clean.

KP: So you folks were living in the town of San Francisco itself?

AO: Yes, I was living in Webster, 1530 Webster Street in San Francisco. Between Geary and Post.

KP: What do you know about your father? What, first of all, what was his name?

AO: His name was Tojiro Okuno.

KP: And do you know where he came from in Japan?

AO: Yeah. It's Osaka-fu. It's the southern part of Osaka, near Wakayama.

KP: And do you know what the family business was there?

AO: It was, they were farmers, they had a small plot of land.

KP: And where was your dad in the number, or the number of kids?

AO: I believe he was the second one. The first brother came over to United States and he had a shop in Chinatown, so he called his two other brothers over to the United States. And that was my father and uncle, my uncle.

KP: Do you remember the name of your uncles?

AO: Let's see, Naozo.

KP: Was that the one with the shop or was that the brother who came?

AO: No, that's his name.

KP: Okay. And what year did, approximately, did your father come over to the United States?

AO: Let's see, I was born in '21, so I think he came over about early 2000 or late 1900s, in that period, because he came here and then he went back to Japan to get married. Then they both came over.

KP: Do you know what year approximately your father was born?

AO: [Laughs] Gee.

KP: Gosh, that's the hard stuff.

AO: I don't remember.

KP: Alright, well, we don't need to know that. So he came to this country to work in your uncle's shop.

AO: Yes.

KP: What did, what did your uncle sell? What kind of shop was that in Chinatown?

AO: I think it was, I don't know exactly, but I think it was, like, oriental goods. He imported it and then sold them. That's my understanding, anyway.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KP: So you said your father then returned to Japan.

AO: Yeah, to marry.

KP: Was this an arranged marriage, or did he go looking?

AO: Let's see, now, was it... yeah, could've been arranged marriage, because that was the second marriage for my mother, and she divorced him because he was kind of mean to my mother.

KP: Did she have any children by that marriage?

AO: Yes, but he's, he died... oh, he's dead now.

KP: And what was your mother's name?

AO: Tei. T-E-I.

KP: And her last name?

AO: Okuno. Well, Enokiya, her maiden name. Enokiya.

KP: So your father went back, married your mother, and then came back to the United States?

AO: That's my understanding, yeah.

KP: And what, what was your father doing at this time?

AO: I think he was helping out in the pantry at one of the big hotels. He used to make beautiful salads and he was a good cook, too, as far as American food goes. Yeah.

KP: So that was in San Francisco?

AO: Yes.

KP: So are you the oldest of the children?

AO: Yes.

KP: And you were born in 1921 in San Francisco.

AO: Yes.

KP: Who came next?

AO: I had a sister, but she died in her infancy, and then I have a brother, who's living in San Francisco.

KP: What was his name, or what is his name?

AO: Roy. Roy Sadao.

KP: What's, did you have a Japanese name as well?

AO: Pardon me?

KP: Did you have a Japanese name as well as...

AO: Yes. I was Fujio. By the way, I, my mother told me I named myself Arthur because I was reading, I was very interested in the King Arthur at that time, so I said, "That's my first name." [Laughs]

KP: Nice.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

KP: So what are your first memories of San Francisco, and what part of San Francisco, you said you were living on Webster Street?

AO: Yes. It was so called Japantown. The Post Street was the main street in Japantown. All the shops are there, around there. Barber shop...

KP: What were your first memories of that part of San Francisco?

AO: First memories, well, it was just around the corner, so we used to go shopping in the grocery stores, and I liked to go to bookstores. They had two bookstores and you could go in there and just browse through the magazines and books. That was one of my favorite pastimes. And the other memory I have is of my Boy Scout activities. I joined a troop, Troop 12, which is now one of the oldest troops in San Francisco, in 1960, '62, I think, was... and then I received my Eagle badge in Troop 12. We had a drum and bugle corps and, and we participated in the International Festival they had at Treasure Island. We were part of the parade. And we went traveling, too, to perform, like Turlock. And my most fond memory is the week we took off to go camping, the troop. We go to Russian River and there was a farmer there that let us camp there, by the river, so we pitch up our tents and, and had our activities. And the older members of the troop were the cooks. So we had to do everything, put in the pump for water and pitch our tents and slept on cots. So each patrol had a tent and we had around five tents, and by that time I was a patrol leader of a tent.

KP: And we'll, we'll get back to your work with the Scouts when we get into Heart Mountain.

AO: Okay.

KP: But right, right now let's go back and focus a little bit on Japantown, and where did you go to school?

AO: The grammar school was San Raphael. Well, actually, when I first started, the elementary school was further away from Japantown, but then this new school was built right close, couple blocks away, which was Raphael, and it's still there. And I finished my elementary school there then went to John Swift Junior High School, which is on Golden Gate, and that's still there. And then I went to Lowell High School when it was in the Haight-Ashbury district. Then I went to UC Berkeley, before evacuation.

KP: What, growing up, what sort of activities did you participate in, in that community? Did you attend a church? Did your family go to a church?

AO: My family were Buddhist and the only time they attended was when there were special events, like funerals. That was it. They were not regular attendees, but my church was a reformed church on Post Street, and it was just around the corner, so I used to attend, pretty faithful attending.

KP: What about, what sort of holidays did you celebrate? Did you celebrate any of the Japanese holidays, boys, girls, Boy's Day, Girl's Day, things like that? Do remember any of that?

AO: Yeah. Special event was New Year's and it coincides with the Western New Year's, but I remember that my father would take me around to their friends and we'd go there, eat, talk and then go to another place, eat, talk. And each family had a spread, for the, I remember that.

Off camera: Did you have any decorations for New Year's?

AO: Nothing in particular, except the, the emphasis was on food and drinking.

KP: Do you remember any special foods that you only got that time of year?

AO: Yeah. They used to make trays full of different foods, about five trays. That was a treat. Then they have a special fish they use. [To someone off camera] What was that fish, New Year's?

Off camera: Tai.

AO: Kai. No, not kai.

Off camera: Tai.

AO: Tai. Yeah, tai.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KP: Did you attend Japanese language school?

AO: Yes. This was after regular school, about three-thirty, I think. Went there for a couple hours every week, every day. Every weekday. And most of us, most of the Niseis, second generation, hated Japanese school. [Laughs] But I was the exception. I enjoyed learning Japanese. Yeah, I was really into it.

KP: How far did you get, do you remember which book you got to?

AO: Yeah. I was up to, like the, I was reading some of the... you know, girls, they have a girls' book, too, and, which was like high school level, and I was starting to read that and able to understand what was written. Yeah. And another thing is when I go to the bookstores I would see all these Japanese books and they had various levels, elementary and advanced, so I could go in there and read and see the comics and that's, that aroused my interest. And in those books they, those days, they used to have construction things. You could build the scenery of one of famous areas in Japan or a castle, out of paper. Just cut it out and assemble it. Yeah, I enjoyed doing that, too.

Off camera: Do you have any memory of the celebration of Tanabata or Shichi-go-san?

AO: No, not too much. No, or even Bon Odori. No, I wasn't involved.

KP: So in your, your family, at home you spoke what language?

AO: Let's see, well, half, I guess a quarter, well half-half, I guess, Japanese and English.

KP: Were your parents able to converse in English?

AO: Yeah, they understood what I was saying, and if they didn't I would try to explain in Japanese, if I could.

KP: So you grew up in a Japantown.

AO: Yes.

KP: Were there other ethnicities around that you interacted with, other languages aside from English?

AO: Yeah, there were, across the street there were, like, Caucasians, but, and a few black families, but I never interacted with them. We sort of kept to our own.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

Off camera: Art, you said that your, your mother had been married before and had a child. Did that child come and live with your family in the United States, or did he or she stay in Japan?

AO: No, he was a, from what I understand, he was a very sickly child and so they put him into an institution, and he died in Japan.

Off camera: Okay, so he was not part of your family?

AO: No.

Off camera: Okay. Just you and your brother, then?

AO: Yeah.

Off camera: Okay, thank you.

AO: In fact, when my... let's see, what happened? Yeah, my family had some land in Japan, and so I inherited the land.

KP: Being the eldest son?

AO: Yeah.

KP: When did you hear about this? When were you aware of that? How old were you when you were aware that you inherited land in Japan?

AO: Gee. Well, about the end of, after the war, World War II. Yeah.

KP: Well, we'll get back.

AO: Okay.

KP: Do you remember what, whatever became of that land?

AO: I hired a Japanese lawyer to take care of the case and sold most of the land. Fortunately, the Japanese government at that time was investing in roads and buildings there, and so I was able to sell sort of a useless -- in fact, I asked one of the American fellows, Nisei fellow who's going to Japan to look into this, he was sort of into real estate, and he came back and said, "Oh, it's worthless." But it turned out that the Japanese government wanted to put a road right through my property, so the value of the property went real high. [Laughs] There were, like, small pieces.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

KP: So aside from, when did you get involved, first get involved with Scouts? What grade were you in? Do you remember?

AO: I was twelve years old. When I was twelve.

KP: What other, any other activities at school or in the community you participated in?

AO: Let's see, activities...

KP: Sports or things like that?

AO: No. I wasn't... [laughs]. Lowell High School coach asked me to come in one day and do some high jumping, and I guess he was, I didn't pass.

KP: Did you ever get involved in any of the Japanese sports like judo or kendo or anything like that?

AO: Oh yeah. Sure, I did take judo. Yeah.

KP: For how long did you do that?

AO: Maybe a couple of years.

KP: What'd you think of that?

AO: I enjoyed that. The reason why I started it was there was a friend of mine and one day he, we were fooling around and he, he was taking judo then, and he threw me over, so I decided, wow, I got to take that, too. And that's how I started jujitsu. Yeah.

KP: What were your favorite subjects in school?

AO: Sort of tended to go into math, and they had a drafting class. I enjoyed that, at Lowell High School. And they had a crafts group, too. You had woodshop, sheet metal shop, and machine shop, and I enjoyed those.

KP: So what did, did your father spend most of that time period you were growing up working in, at a restaurant, or did his job change?

AO: No, no, he started to work for homes, washing windows and doing some cooking, things like that.

KP: And it sounds like education was part of your family upbringing. Who encouraged you to go on to the university?

AO: I don't know. I just wanted to go. Oh, you mean who encouraged me?

KP: Yeah.

AO: I don't know. I guess it was -- oh, there was one teacher in junior high school that really was good as far as I'm concerned. He was a math teacher, and I remember the quadratic equation that he presented to us. I was impressed with that. Yeah, Mr., what was his name? Gee, until just recently I remembered his name. Mr. ... that's okay.

KP: So anything else stand out about those prewar days in Japantown in San Francisco? People?

AO: We used, Fourth of July, we used to, fireworks was not, was discouraged, but there used to be a couple of Chinese restaurants in Japantown and a fellow'd sit outside and I'd go up to him, says, "How's about some firecrackers?" [Laughs] And we had, like, parades when, I think it was, let's see, one of the emperor's family came over and we sort of celebrated that. He rode in a wagon up and down Post Street. We had all kinds of shops, too, like sweet shops where they made those cookies almost like... yeah, I remember it was a machine that poured batter and then formed the cookies. And barber shops, of course, and dry goods stores, bookstores, and on Geary Street there was a tackle shop. And I could see from my backyard when he was out there practicing casting.

KP: So aside from your trip up to the Russian River with the Scouts, did you ever travel much outside of the area where you grew up? Did your family ever go on vacations or anything?

AO: No. No, we didn't go on vacations, extended vacations. Yeah, we didn't travel much in those days. My father had a car, but we didn't go very far.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

KP: So you went to college. Where did you go to college?

AO: UC Berkeley. Majored in engineering, and I finished my first two years before evacuation. So I went back after three, four years and graduated.

KP: So what was Berkeley like compared to high school and what was different?

AO: Oh, it was entirely different. I mean, it was, it took a lot of adjustment on my part.

KP: In what way?

AO: Well, everyone there was good. They were sort of outstanding scholars and, wow, I had to compete with them. It was really tough.

KP: So how would you describe yourself as a student? Before, before college.

AO: Before college? I was above average, I think.

KP: And then when you got into college?

AO: Oh, about average. [Laughs]

KP: So what did you like about Berkeley?

AO: I liked to go to the football teams, games. I'd look forward to that.

KP: Did you participate in any other kind of social activities while you were in...

AO: No, I was commuting from San Francisco, so I wasn't able to be involved in activities there very much.

KP: How did you commute?

AO: Pardon me?

KP: How did you commute?

AO: How did I do?

KP: How did you commute back and forth?

AO: Oh, they had the key system then. I'll take a street car down to the terminal on Third Street and then there's a key system that goes from San Francisco to Berkeley.

KP: What's a key system? I'm not familiar with that.

AO: It's electric cars. You just hop on and then you can study while the train is going. And it stops right at Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, but then you have to walk from there to campus.

KP: Did you make new friends at Berkeley?

AO: Let's see, yeah. Not too many because I was off campus, but we met them during class. I did.

KP: So in your grammar school, junior high school and into high school, you had a lot of fellow Japanese Americans in those schools? Or did you?

AO: Yeah. Well, I wouldn't say a lot, but I had friends there, too.

KP: Did you kind of stick together with, as a group?

AO: Yeah, I guess so. Well, no, you sort of stick in class because you know the... yeah.

KP: So with Berkeley, what was the makeup of Berkeley? What sort of, what was the ethnic makeup of Berkeley when you got there? Were there other Japanese students, other groups?

AO: Yeah. There were quite a few commuting every day. I used to bump into them all the time. And they had a Japanese students' club where you could stay.

KP: Did you belong to that club?

AO: No, I didn't. I was too busy. Gosh, engineering took everything out of me.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KP: So do you remember December 7, 1941?

AO: I sure do.

KP: Okay, what were you doing? Can you kind of --

AO: I was studying for my finals and listening to my radio. There's no TV then. And then this broadcast comes over the radio saying the Imperial Japanese forces have attacked Pearl Harbor. And I said, wow. I was shocked, I guess, and I didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was then, except it was somewhere in Hawaii, but... I guess my initial reaction was shock. Although, this is a, we used to have a summer Japanese school, and in one of my classes there was a Caucasian fellow there and we got to know each other, and we were talking and he said, "You know, if there's a war between Japan and United States," which was unthinkable to me, he said, "You are all gonna be put into a camp." His father was a colonel in the army. I said, "Oh, you're kidding." And it came about.

KP: And this was Japanese language school?

AO: Summer school. Yeah, he was in there studying Japanese. It turned out his father was a colonel and he knew what was going on.

KP: It's interesting, I don't think I've heard of, this was a Japanese language school in the summertime?

AO: Yes. They had, like, three, four weeks, about a month. Yeah.

KP: I don't think I've ever heard of a Caucasian being in the Japanese school.

AO: Oh, yeah. Well, I remember, remember this one fellow because I was conversing with him. Yeah, that was shocking to me.

KP: You don't happen to remember his name, do you?

AO: Boy. It was unbelievable what he said, you know, but...

Off camera: Can I ask a question?

KP: Sure.

Off camera: You said that war between the United States and the Empire of Japan was unthinkable.

AO: Right.

Off camera: So there was no sense of --

AO: Well, I didn't even -- pardon?

Off camera: You had no sense of any kind of leading up to war?

AO: No. No. I said, "You must be kidding." Yeah.

KP: Do you remember what, what year that was, like '40 or something? Two years before the war, three years before the war?

AO: Jeez. Yeah, it must've been, like, '38, '39 or something like that. Yeah.

KP: So --

Off camera: One other question, was there any awareness amongst your family or friends of the news that was going on, like with the war between Japan and China?

AO: No. There was war, Japan was invading China, but before then we heard about what's going on, but we never expected that it would affect us, American citizens of Japanese ancestry.

KP: So after you heard this radio broadcast, what did you do? Did you go tell the rest of your family, or did they know or -- you were at home?

AO: Yes. Oh yeah, I told them and, I don't know, I guess they were surprised, too, because it was a surprise attack.

Off camera: Art, had your family ever visited Japan before the war? Had you ever gone there?

AO: No. No, I've never gone. My parents never went. My mother was corresponding with her father, I remember that, and her father said, when I was born, that he was kind of pleased with that. That's about all I remember.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<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.


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.

<Begin Segment 11>

KP: So were you the only one in your family that worked, or did your father work as well?

AO: Yeah, I think I was the only one then.

KP: What did you do?

AO: I was a timekeeper for the police department, and what we did was we'd meet the police at a certain station, spot at a certain time and they have to be there and check the names off, and that's all I did, went around the camp checking on the police, make sure they're there. [Laughs]

Off camera: Art, who were, who were the police?

AO: They were people from outside. Oh, no, I mean internees. Internees, yeah.

Off camera: And did they volunteer to be policemen or were they assigned to be policemen?

AO: I think they volunteered.

Off camera: All men?

AO: Yeah, all men.

Off camera: Did they have uniforms?

AO: No, no uniforms.

Off camera: Then how were they identified?

AO: Oh, they had tags, police. So I had to, my job was to just make sure that they were on the, they were doing their work.

Off camera: Do you know what kind of cases they were dealing with?

AO: I have no idea what they were doing. All I had to do was check their names off they're still there.

KP: Making sure they were patrolling or whatever --

AO: Yes, whatever they're supposed to be doing.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

KP: So how long were you in Pomona?

AO: Until August. Then, then again we didn't know where we were going, from Pomona to wherever.

KP: So you said your mother got sick from being in the horse stall. Did she go to the hospital or did she just...

AO: No, she eventually got well. But no, she didn't have to go to, as far as I know, she didn't have to go to dispensary. Yeah.

KP: So in August, what happened?

AO: Well, we were told, "Pack your baggage, we're moving." We didn't know where, but eventually rumors get around that we're going to Wyoming.

KP: What did you think about going to, what did you think about Wyoming at that time?

AO: Well, all I knew, there's Yellowstone National Park, part of it, anyway, and it was like a cowboy country.

KP: So you, how did you leave Poston, or I mean how did you leave Pomona?

AO: The same way came to Pomona. We had to pack, get on a train, but this time we traveled for like three days to get to Heart Mountain.

KP: What was that like?

AO: Well, we survived. It was a long trip, because the military trains had the right of way and every time they came we had to go on the side tracks, stop for a while. So it was very slow movement.

KP: Was it hot in the train?

AO: Oh, yeah. There was no air conditioning. And when we went through urban areas we had to pull our window shades down.

KP: Who told you to do that?

AO: The guards.

KP: How would they, how would they do that?

AO: They'd come around and, "Lower your shades."

KP: How did you eat on the train? What was...

AO: We had boxed lunches.

KP: For three days?

AO: Yeah. And then, then the train would, in isolated areas they would stop so we could get off and do our duty, you know.

KP: So were you assigned a train car or a seat?

AO: We all had seats, yeah.

KP: But did you get a, were you allowed to move around the train?

AO: Well, no, we didn't move around. We sort of, I guess we were assigned, because it, they took head count every time. Oh yeah.

KP: Three days to Heart Mountain.

AO: Three full days.

KP: Anything else you remember about that trip?

AO: Let's see, we didn't have much water, I don't think.

KP: How would you get water? I mean, today I think about a bottle of water, but...

AO: I think they had, like, tanks of water that they came around and, I don't, I don't know the details.

KP: You just know you did not have enough.

AO: Yeah, right.

Off camera: Art, when they took breaks on the train, you said you'd get off the train to do your duty, did they separate, like men on one side, women on the other?

AO: I imagine they did. I don't remember. I just ran into the bushes.

Off camera: And that was the only place to go?

AO: Yeah.

KP: There were no toilets on the train?

AO: Oh no, no. Oh, yeah, they had, I think, one for each coach, but it wasn't adequate.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

KP: So did you, when, what time of day did you arrive at Heart Mountain?

AO: I think I arrived about noontime.

KP: Do you remember what you thought or what you saw when you, the train finally did stop?

AO: It was a desolate place. I looked out, there's nothing around. Just sagebrush and sand. It was very discouraging, let's put it that way.

KP: No Yellowstone Park?

AO: Oh no, no. [Laughs]

KP: And no cowboys.

AO: No trees. Just the big mountain, Heart Mountain.

KP: What about the camp itself? What did that look like?

AO: We're one of the first, I was one of the first trains to arrive there and we helped all the other evacuees who came later with their baggage, and I worked in information office for a while and helped them if they had any questions, where to go and what to do and all that business.

KP: So when you got there, was the camp completely built or were they still working on it?

AO: I think it was, like, yeah, I think it was completely built. But later on they had to add additional barracks, because I remember working on the surveying for the additional barracks. Yeah.

KP: So how was --

AO: They raised a barrack in, like, thirty minutes, housed one, two, about six families. So you could tell how adequate they were.

KP: How did Heart Mountain differ from Pomona? What was the difference between the two?

AO: Oh, yeah, weather especially.

KP: Even in August?

AO: Yeah. Well, I think it was hotter in Heart Mountain, for some reason. I think, yeah.

KP: At least it felt that way.

AO: Yeah. And of course during the winter it got much colder than, yeah.

KP: So did you find work there once you got to Heart Mountain?

AO: Well, when I first got there, I guess there was need, so I worked for the information office and helped the other evacuees come, coming in with their baggage. And I remember one lady wanted a ramp built for her husband who was in a wheelchair and I made arrangements for that, had the carpenters come out and build a ramp. Things like that.

KP: How was it like for you? Did you have someone to give you information when your family showed up?

AO: No, no. We just, they just showed us, dumped us off at the barracks. And so we had to fend for ourselves, like stuffing our, a bag for a mattress with straw. They gave us the bags and cots, and we had four of us in a room about twenty feet square with a pot, one potbellied stove and one light in the ceiling, four windows. That was it.

KP: So what did you do, did your father work when he got into camp?

AO: Yes. He was sort of like a janitor, shoveled the coal and things like that. And that, after information office I applied for the engineering department. They had a separate engineering department. I got a job there, doing mostly survey work. 'Cause --

KP: So you said you surveyed for the, the new barracks extension that they...

AO: Yes, we did that and plus bringing water down into the camp from a canal that was at the base of Heart, Heart Mountain. I guess it's the Bureau of Reclamation. They had a canal of water, so we had to survey it so the water doesn't just pour out, so they had to go back and forth, zigzagging.

KP: And was that for water for the water supply for the camp or for the fields?

AO: No, it was for the field, mostly for agriculture and raising hogs and pigs and chickens. And that's when the food started to improve, because until then they were all brought in by rail and it was old, it wasn't fresh fruit at all, fresh things, mostly preserved things, like salt pork and other things.

KP: Any fruits and vegetables coming in early on? Was that stuff...

AO: Not that I remember. Had rice, sausage, and salt pork, mostly that I remember.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

KP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Art Okuna, Okuno.

AO: Yeah, Okuno.

KP: Okay, and we are at Main Street Station. And you were telling us about kind of the early days at Heart Mountain and what you were doing there, and while we were changing tapes you reminded me that you kept a diary while you were at the assembly center in 1942 and then moved on to Heart Mountain, and you said that you just read that today, first time you've reread it in a very long time. Anything surprise you about what you wrote down in that diary, that you were surprised to read today when you were looking at it?

AO: Yeah. Because the first time, quite a while ago, I looked into my diary to see about the fencing around the camp --

KP: This is, you were part of the surveying party that --

AO: Yeah, when we first got there, there were only the nine guard towers around the perimeter of the camp. There were no barbed wires, and when I, when I started working for the engineering department, that was, we put in pegs, stakes along the perimeter of camp with the guard towers, close to the guard towers with the guard towers being outside. And it turned out that that was stakes for the barbed wire fence, and in my diaries, I complained to the director of camp about doing this, putting up barbed, barbed wire fence, but I got no answer. The barbed wire fence eventually went up and it was put up by the construction group in our camp. Everything in camp was run by the evacuees, hospital, police department, fire department, engineering department, everything. And, but outsiders used to come in as nurses, teachers, and heads of the departments were all Caucasian.

KP: So the internees built their own fence?

AO: Yes. Enclosed ourselves.

KP: And you wrote, how did you communicate with the camp director on this matter? You said you contacted the --

AO: I objected. I forgot what the wording was -- anyway, I wrote a letter that I didn't think it was, I forgot what the wording was, but I objected to this.

KP: Did you know at the time you were putting the stakes out that you were staking a fence?

AO: Well, yeah, I guess, I guess we knew what we were doing. Yeah, have to admit that. I wasn't that naive.

KP: So you worked in the engineering division. Were there any major engineering problems that you were aware of in the camp? Systems that didn't work or things like that? I know that in Manzanar a lot of times water systems failed, sewage system failed. Did you have any failures like that that you knew of?

AO: As far as I know, we didn't have any problems like that. Yeah. The initial installation must've been pretty good, because fresh water was brought in from the Shoshone River, which was real close, and we had a tank up there to store the water for the camp. And I don't think the lights ever went out. We didn't have blackouts or anything like that.

KP: Were you involved at all, I know there was a swimming pool that was made and a skating rink, was that anything the engineering department made, or did that appear by itself?

AO: [Laughs] Yeah, the swimming hole was, I think the construction department just dug a hole, big hole and filled it with water. And we had one diving board. It was a great big pit with muddy water. And then during the winter they filled the football field at the high school with water and let it freeze, and people went skating over the rough ice. I remember skating over, boom.

KP: Where'd you get your skates?

AO: Oh, we ordered from the catalog mainly. We had a community store, but they only handled, what do you call, like toothpaste, toothbrush, and just incidentals, not skates or... in fact, they didn't have much clothing in there either.

KP: So as a, as a surveyor, what were you getting paid?

AO: I think at that... see, there were three levels, nineteen dollars for professional, sixteen for intermediate, and twelve for lowest rank, and yeah, in fact, I sent for my payroll and most of the time I was being paid nineteen dollars a month. At times I was being paid sixteen. I forgot what, but I sent for my records and got all that information.

KP: So you surveyed the canal, you surveyed the fence, you surveyed the new barracks extensions. What else, what else did you do with the surveying department?

AO: We had a industrial basketball team and we had a baseball team, and this competed with the other departments. So we had our recreation, let's put it that way.

KP: Were you involved in surveying any of the agricultural fields, getting the water out to the fields and leveling fields at all?

AO: No. I don't know who did that. Well, water was just coming up from Shoshone, so they must've just siphoned some off, for the fields. I imagine that's the way it worked. 'Cause all of that was external from the camp.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

KP: Did you ever leave camp, once you got there?

AO: The only time I left was, they let us go -- oh, yeah, I went as a, to help out in the war effort. They took, they asked volunteers to go out to the local farms and I went with a group to, let's see, Montana -- no, where Minidoka, yeah, that's Montana, isn't it? Yeah, near there, to pick potatoes.

KP: What time of year was that?

AO: It must've been like summertime. In fact, the owner of the potato farm was a Japanese American.

KP: What was that like, getting out of camp, even just to go work?

AO: Well, it was great getting out of camp, but the work was, like, ten hours a day and it was hard work, back breaking, back breaking job, because you picked these potatoes in your bucket, then you had to put it into bags. Yeah.

KP: How long were you doing that?

AO: About a month. This was sort of called a war effort. And the other time we were able to leave was, we got a pass to go to Cody, which was about twenty-five miles west of our camp, and at that time the Codyans or whatever you call the people were very antagonistic towards us, the camp. They figured people in the barbed wire, they must be criminals, done something wrong, so they didn't want anything to do with us. So there were signs at some stores saying, "No Japs allowed here." And day I went, we saw a movies, two of us went, and then coming out we thought we'd stop in the local fountain, have refreshments. We sat down at the, around the table, counter, and we just sat there. People were coming in on either side of us, ordering and getting their order and leaving. We were just there, so we got the message and we just left. We were not welcome.

KP: And that was in Cody?

AO: Yeah.

KP: Did you ever go to the other town?

AO: I went to Powell for my Boy Scout troop to buy some chicken and no problems there as far as I remember. I was kind of hesitant because this was after the Cody incident. In fact, there were Japanese American farmers in Wyoming, and professionals, too.

KP: Where were they?

AO: Around the camp, like Powell. Powell and beyond. I was surprised. I found out later.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

KP: Another question just kind of comes up is, what age were you when you went to, when you went into Heart Mountain? How old were you, twenty?

AO: Well, when the war broke out I was twenty, and then about twenty-one, twenty-two. Yeah.

KP: You would've been eligible to vote as a U.S. citizen. Did that ever come up? Did you ever think about that?

AO: No. No. The other thing that came up was the questionnaire. Did you hear about that?

KP: If you'd like to talk about it now this'd be a good time. Tell me about it.

AO: That was one of our major conflicts in the camp. The government sent out a questionnaire on volunteering for the army and it started with information, where you were born, what's your name, date, but the two questions that were, really hit us was twenty-seven and twenty-eight. That's the last two questions. And the twenty-seventh question was, will you be able to serve, will you... "Would you served in the Armed Forces of the United States in a combat team?" And the second question, number twenty-eight was, "Would you forswear all allegiance to the emperor of Japan and serve in the United States Armed Forces?" And I was never involved in the group movement of the No-No Boys. Have you heard of No-No Boys? They answered "no-no" to those questions. 'Cause I found later in my records that I answered "yes" to the first question, twenty-seven, and I answered "no" to the second one, with a provision saying, "No, but if you let myself and my family leave camp, I will say yes." But they didn't like my answer, so they never let me out for quite a while. In fact, they were ready to ship me to Tule Lake, which was the internment camp for No-No Boys -- well, those who wanted to go back to Japan or... and a major interviewed me, and I think they were ready to send me to Tule Lake, too, but it was a young fellow and I talked to him and explained the reason why I answered this way and I was not shipped to Tule Lake.

KP: But you said that kept you from going out of camp?

AO: Yes.

KP: How did that work? I mean, what was, what was...

AO: Well, I tried to go back to school, Midwest somewheres. Nope. They won't give me permission. Until towards the end of the war when the Allies were sure of victory, then they allowed me to leave camp and I went back East to New York.

KP: So it was kind of in retaliation for answering "no" about the loyalty?

AO: I'm pretty sure, yeah.

KP: Another question comes up is question twenty-seven, "will you be willing to fight in the U.S. military," and earlier --

AO: Combat team, yeah.

KP: Combat team. Earlier you said you were outraged when they changed your classification from 1-A, or from 1-A to 4-C. How did you reconcile that answer?

AO: You know, I didn't even think about that, yeah, when I answered. But I couldn't say "no-no" to both because I didn't feel that was right either.

KP: What about your parents? Do you know how they answered the questionnaire?

AO: I don't, I'm not sure whether my parents were, had to answer those questions or not? I'm not sure.

KP: So there was no discussion in your family?

AO: Well, my father wanted me to go to Japan. I mean, he didn't push me or anything, but, I think...

KP: Why do you think he wanted you to go to Japan?

AO: Because we were so discriminated here in United States. Yeah. As it turned out, they were, those, they were, prewar they were, some Japanese Americans were, went to Japan to study and they were discriminated in Japan when the war broke out.

KP: So you said you, when you had to answer those questionnaires there was no discussion. These were decisions you made primarily on your own?

AO: Yeah. What got me on twenty-eight was, "Do you forswear all allegiance to the emperor of Japan?" You know, I've never been to Japan. I don't know the emperor. [Laughs] Why should I forswear allegiance? I'm a, I'm a United States citizen. In other words, they were segregating us, sort of like. Yeah.

KP: So you did answer "yes" on twenty-seven, but there were a lot of people in Heart Mountain that answered "no." What did you think about that?

AO: I wouldn't say a lot, but I think there were like sixty. Yeah.

KP: What did you think about that?

AO: Well, that's their privilege. I don't know. I don't know how to respond to a group like that.

KP: Did you understand maybe why they were saying that?

AO: Yeah, I think so. Why would they want to draft us right now when they refused to draft us before? I think that was their reasoning, sort of. I mean, that was my feeling, too.

KP: But you answered "yes."

AO: Yeah.

KP: So --

AO: I thought I answered "no-no," but upon reviewing my paper I said "yes-no."

KP: Probably saved you from Tule Lake.

AO: Huh?

KP: Probably saved you from Tule Lake.

AO: No, I think the major saved me. Yeah. He was a young fellow and I think he understood where I was coming from.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

KP: So back in San Francisco you became an Eagle Scout.

AO: No, that was before.

KP: Yeah, when you, before the war, in San Francisco you were an Eagle Scout.

AO: Oh, yeah.

KP: How... Scouting played a role in your life again in camp, how did that come about?

AO: Well, when people got into camp there were no organized, organizations to, for the kids, and there's no school for, like, six, almost a year, so the parents, group of parents in San Jose were worried about their kids running wild, maybe out of control, so, I don't know how they picked me out since I was in San Francisco, but, but some message must've gone out saying I was an Eagle Scout in Troop 12, San Francisco. It was a prestigious troop. So they came to see me and ask whether I would be a scoutmaster for Troop 343, and I told 'em, well, I'll think it over. And eventually I said yes, I will.

KP: What was your decision making process? Do you remember why you said you would?

AO: Yeah, I guess sort of a loyalty to what I got out of Scouting myself, how it helped me.

KP: So you took over the troop, you became the scoutmaster.

AO: Yeah.

KP: And what, what sort of things did you work with the kids with?

AO: Well, we tried to do as much as we can in camp. We're restricted because, no one in our troop made Eagle Scout because they couldn't go hiking on long, long hikes and camping and all that, so we were limited to what we could do. Until towards the end of the war, then the barbed wire fences came down and we were able to go hiking, things like that. But the interesting thing is, I guess I told Richard, we had a Camporee in camp and a troop from Cody came, came to the, inside the camp to participate with the boys in camp, and they had an overnighter, sleeping in tents. And one of the scouts of the, Alan Simpson from Cody, he was a senator, and he happened to stay with Norm Mineta and they got to be good friends, and so Alan Simpson really helped Mineta when he became a member of the Congress. And until this day they still had that relationship.

KP: So this was a Scout trip, troop from Cody?

AO: Yeah.

KP: Which was the town where you experienced some discrimination. How do you think that that visit...

AO: They must've had a good scoutmaster. Yeah. And I imagine Alan Simpson probably had a voice in it, too. Well, he was young then, though.

KP: You think it changed the opinions of some of the folks in Cody, by having the kids visit the camp?

AO: I don't know. I have no idea. But Norm Mineta was in my troop, by the way. I didn't hear about this until later. I didn't know it was going on at that time.

KP: So how many, how many did you, how many scouts did you have in your troop?

AO: about twenty.

KP: What ages?

AO: Oh, from twelve through, like, fifteen or so. Fifteen, sixteen.

KP: Boys?

AO: Yeah, all boys.

KP: Were there Girl Scouts in...

AO: Oh yeah, they, they had Girl Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Cub Scouts. Yeah.

KP: So you decided to take your troop to Yellowstone. How did that come about?

AO: I don't know how it came about, but one day we got the news that we're gonna have, we're going to Yellowstone, the troops. And it wasn't for a vacation. We had to build a bridge across that, the stream, and that's what we did. We were there for, I think the troop was there for, our troop was there for, like, couple of weeks.

KP: How was that?

AO: Oh, that was great. I mean, freedom, you know?

KP: Did you work with the park's staff building that bridge?

AO: No. I didn't, well he must've been around because there was a headquarters. They had a cabin up there. But I never personally saw him.

KP: What other activities did you do in Yellowstone?

AO: We went hiking, and the main object was to build this bridge and until recently it was still there. When I went about five years ago it was completely gone. I guess the stream just washed it away.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

KP: Any particular stories you remember about being up in Yellowstone with the Scouts?

AO: A particular story... well, I could show you some pictures. [Laughs]

KP: We can look at those later. Did you do any other projects besides the bridge? Did you get involved in any other work projects in the park that you know of?

AO: No, that was about it. They took all the time to build the bridge. We had to build a center support and then bridge it with logs.

KP: So did you get to visit the, to be a park visitor? You said you did some hiking, did you get to go visit other sites and...

AO: Yeah. Like the Girl Scouts, they would hike to the nearest, I think it was the Paint Pot. It was close enough. Then we'd get on trucks and take a tour of the eight, the figure eight, the Yellowstone Park, so we went up north and down to Yellowstone Lake.

Off camera: Art, were there any other Boy Scouts working on that, or was it just the Boy Scouts from Heart Mountain?

AO: Yeah, it was, it was all Boy Scouts from Heart Mountain.

Off camera: So none of the boys from Cody went on that trip?

AO: No, not that I know, no.

Off camera: Did you have any sort of a guard, or was this after the war had ended?

AO: It was towards the end of the war, yeah. So no, there were no guards.

Off camera: No chaperone?

AO: Yeah, we had chaperones, adults.

Off camera: Japanese American chaperones?

AO: Yeah, right. Like the father that came to ask me about becoming a scoutmaster, he was there. And others.

KP: And the Girl Scouts were up there as well, you said?

AO: Yeah. Camp Fire Girls.

KP: How many, rough estimate of the number of scouts that were up there from Heart Mountain, do you have any idea all told?

AO: All told, gee, there were like twelve, fourteen, twenty... I would say like three hundred. They weren't all there at once. We sort of rotated.

KP: What do you think those experiences meant to the scouts, being up there in Yellowstone?

AO: Oh, they enjoyed it. Yeah, I'm pretty sure. That was a good experience.

Off camera: How did you know how to build a bridge? Did you have directions from the park staff or did you have a Boy Scout manual?

AO: There was one adult, or two adults that, they must've talked to the ranger, because they, we built this support right in the middle first with logs and then filled it with boulders. And then we laid down logs to the, both banks. Yeah.

KP: Heard a story a while ago about the Boy Scouts being involved in helping, at least, there was a big fire in Yellowstone and the Boy Scout troop was called in to help the firefighters' camp. Do you remember anything about that at all?

AO: No.

KP: Might've been, you weren't up there the whole time, were you, with your troop?

AO: Yeah, I was there most of the time. I was there when our troop went up and then I was there when the Girl Scouts were there, so it must've been, like, over a month, because they wanted me to stay behind and sort of supervise.

KP: You don't remember a big forest fire up there?

AO: No. I don't think there was a forest fire, as far as I know.

Off camera: With the scouts in, in the camp at Heart Mountain who were, what kind of merit badge program were you able to, did you have merit badges and advancements?

AO: Yeah. Well, we were mostly concentrated on the, the first three. I don't think we did very many merit badges, because we didn't have the facilities.

Off camera: Did you have support, like from the national Boy Scouts of America?

AO: Yes, we were officially in the Wyoming Council, Boy Scout Council. Yeah, they have a record of us.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

KP: So who in your family left camp first?

AO: I guess I was the first one.

KP: And where did you go?

AO: New York City.

KP: And what year was that? Do you remember?

AO: about '45.

KP: And why did you choose New York?

AO: Why'd I choose New York, well, I knew there was a hostel there, a place where you could stay in Brooklyn. I don't know, never been to New York maybe. [Laughs]

KP: So did you have a job lined up for New York before you left?

AO: No, but when I got to the hostel they, they gave us some leads, so we went job hunting and I got a job with the contractors. And I remember, I was in the drafting and they were working on air conditioning for the Princeton University, so some of those I drew up. Yeah. But I was only there for about a year, then I went back to school.

KP: Where'd you go to school?

AO: Back to Berkeley.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

KP: Couple of questions back on camp. I kind of jumped out of there before I finished up.

AO: Sure.

KP: What were the winters like up there?

AO: It was terrible. In the first winter there it was like below, thirty below zero, and we're not used to that winter. They gave us World War I peacoats and gloves, and we had to buy our earmuffs and cap, but it was hard. We had to go around and flush all the fire hydrants 'cause otherwise they'll freeze. Never wanted to do that again.

KP: How many, how often did you have to do that?

AO: We, about twice a winter. Yeah, just to keep the water going.

KP: So you're spraying water all over the place when it's twenty below.

AO: Yeah. Can you imagine? When you hit something with an axe it'd just ring.

KP: What about, how did you stay warm? You had the coal stoves, right, in the barracks?

AO: Oh, yes, in the barracks, yes, we had a stove, potbellied stove. Filled it with coal or wood.

KP: Was there enough coal and wood?

AO: Yeah, I think so. I don't remember running out of coal. There used to be a big stack of coal in each area, barracks.

KP: Now, you had to go to the communal latrines from your barracks to shower.

AO: Yeah, that's the hard part.

KP: How so?

AO: Well, it's cold and you just, I think it was harder on the, like my parents. We just ran down, that was it. And there was a stove in the latrine and, but it wasn't always warm. Someone had to take care of it.

KP: But then after you bathed you had to go back home.

AO: Oh, sure. Right.

KP: And freeze on the way again.

AO: Oh, yeah. But I don't remember that as being a hardship.

KP: Some people talk about their hair freezing 'cause they didn't get it completely dry and things like that.

AO: Sure. No.

Off camera: Did you feel the conditions in the camp got better over time or got worse?

AO: The food got better. Yeah, because we were raising most of our own food.

KP: But you also had a very short growing season up there, so how did that work?

AO: It was good enough for vegetables. We got, like, corn and other vegetables.

KP: And you stored it at the camp?

AO: Yeah, we had a, what'd they call the, underground storage place. I forgot the name of it now.

KP: Like a root cellar?

AO: Yeah, root cellar. That's it. Exactly. Right by the railroad station, I mean, the line. Yeah, I remember helping build it.

KP: You helped build that one?

AO: Yeah.

KP: What, what did you do? What kind of job did you do in building it?

AO: I don't know, I guess like laying logs across, things like that. Manual labor.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

Off camera: Was there, was there anything else that people did in camp to make life a little bit better?

AO: Well, we have entertainment. We had a, like a jazz band, Japanese, Japanese musicals, dances in the mess halls.

KP: Did you go to those?

AO: I went to see performances. I never went to the dances.

KP: Why not?

AO: I couldn't dance. [Laughs]

KP: Sounds like me.

AO: I tried to get one of the girls to teach me, but she was reluctant.

KP: Did you do any other, any other kind of social activities in camp, aside from working and doing the Scout stuff?

AO: Yeah, I enjoyed walking with my pal. He was here today. It's the first time I've seen him since almost, gee, must be a long time, just about when I left camp.

KP: What's his name?

AO: Suto.

KP: Did you write about what you talked about with your, in your diary?

AO: Yeah.

KP: Anything you want to share?

AO: Yeah, we went for our two mile walk, according to the diary, and we talked about girls and evacuation. And my comment was, "He's a very knowledgeable and interesting person to talk to."

KP: Anything else stand out about those camp days? Any stories that just come to the top that you want to talk about?

AO: I climbed Heart Mountain. Couple of my friends and I went up and the top the snow was knee deep, and I have pictures.

KP: What was, what was that like, getting up to the top of Heart Mountain and seeing the world from up there versus from down in the camp?

AO: Yeah, you got a bird's eye view of camp. It's huge. It's a mile square, ten thousand people. It was the third largest population in Wyoming at that time.

KP: And when did you climb that, must've been '45, after the barbed wire opened?

AO: What's that?

KP: When did you climb, at the, toward the end of the camp?

AO: Yeah, I think so. I don't remember the exact date. Well, yeah, that's when barbed wire fences went down.

KP: Did they literally take the barbed wire fences down?

AO: Yeah, towards the end.

KP: Do you remember that, were you involved in that at all since you were a part of the...

AO: [Laughs] No.

KP: Well, you put 'em up. Should've had you take 'em down. Maybe that was the answer to the letter that you'd sent. Came late.

AO: Could be.

KP: So what did you think when those barbed wires came down? Do you remember that, when they came down?

AO: No, I don't remember. Maybe I felt, "Well, it's about time."

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

KP: So you went to New York and you spent, you said about a year there maybe, and then where did your, when did your parents and brother leave camp?

AO: Oh, they left and went to San Francisco, back to San Francisco. They first went to the Buddhist church where they had a hostel, stayed there. Then they eventually moved into the housing that they had at Hunter's Point for the ship workers. They had, like, like barracks there, too, but better furnished than our camp.

KP: Wouldn't take much to make it better furnishing.

AO: Right. That's true.

KP: What did your father do when he went back to San Francisco? What kind of work did he...

AO: I think he was doing housework. Go to individual homes and do whatever they wanted. Yeah.

KP: And did you return and stay with your folks when you went back to San Francisco?

AO: Yeah. Stayed for a while, then I was drafted. No, no, I, before, I went back to school to finish my BS, and then I got drafted, so after the war ended they stopped the draft so I was discharged. So I got a GI bill, went back and got my Master's in mechanical engineering.

KP: So you went back and went to Berkeley again to get your Bachelor's degree, and you were drafted out of Berkeley?

AO: Yeah. Well, yeah, Berkeley. San Francisco, Berkeley? Oh, I was working in San Francisco after graduating from school, so I was in San Francisco.

KP: And that was after the war?

AO: During the war. It wasn't ended yet. I was discharged because the draft stopped. That was when the war was over.

KP: Did you ever, were you in the military for any length of time?

AO: Yeah.

KP: How long?

AO: About a year. I was in the Army Air Force.

KP: What were you doing?

AO: I was stationed at Dayton, Ohio. It's Wright-Patterson, it was called Wright-Patterson Field.

KP: Did you have any specific duties there?

AO: Yeah, I worked with some German scientists. My major was like air conditioning and one of the problems was the transport fogged over when they were flying, so I had to find a solution for that.

KP: And that was before the war ended?

AO: Yeah, oh, yeah. I was still in the army. I had an incident there, too. When we were at Wright-Patterson a group of us, there were other engineers in our basic training, and so we went out to Dayton, Ohio because he had, one of his parents had a relative there and we went there and a lady opened the door and she saw me and she said, "You can't come in." And he, my friend said, "He's in the United States Air Force. Army Air Force. He's our friend." She said, "Nope." Says, "My relatives were in the Bataan March," you know, from the Corregidor to prison, and I guess one of her relatives was involved in that and she just couldn't accept me. So we just left.

KP: So then you went back to school after discharged?

AO: Yes, because I got free tuition.

KP: And you went on to get a Master's degree?

AO: Yeah.

KP: Where did you go?

AO: Berkeley.

KP: And what was your Master's degree in?

AO: Mechanical engineering. Then I worked for NASA.

KP: What did you do for NASA?

AO: I was an aerospace engineer. My branch was called the fluid dynamics. Flow of air or airfoil type of thing.

KP: Any projects you worked on that stand out?

AO: Yeah, worked on some of the pre shuttle heating. I was a heating and air conditioning major, so the wing tips get very hot when they're entering or even leaving and I worked on that project, just to get the data so they could pad it, put the tiles on.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

KP: So when and where did you meet your wife?

AO: Oh, we met in church, San Francisco.

KP: And when was that?

AO: [To wife] When was that, '50? Church.

Off camera: '52? Yeah.

AO: She was a Buddhist, attending the Buddhist church, but she couldn't quite understand because the sermons were in Japanese, so she decided to come to this church, Methodist church in San Francisco. It's mostly Japanese American or others, and that's after the, my friend and I said, we were going to church and I said, "You know, I hear that Pine Church," that's the name, "serving lunch, Japanese food after service, so let's go." That's how we started going. Then eventually I met her. We were both sort of involved in the church.

KP: And when did you get married?

AO: Fifty-six years ago. [Asks wife] Is that right?

KP: Uh-oh, you're in trouble now. [Laughs]

AO: Fifty-five? Okay. Pretty close.

KP: And did you live in, when you worked for NASA, where did you work, what company?

AO: I worked for the government.

KP: Okay, where did you live at that time?

AO: Well, I was commuting for, like, two years, from San Francisco. I was living in San Francisco after we got married. We used to meet downtown and there were, like, three others who were commuting down to Moffett Field, so I got into the carpool. Then eventually we started building a home in Saratoga. We're still there.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

KP: So did you, did you get involved in the redress movement at all?

AO: Yeah. I was a member of the West Valley JACL. And some of the groups made excuses, said, "Oh, it'll never come about," because economics, it wasn't a good time to push for money, you know, but National said, well, let's go ahead and do it anyway. And we had congressmen in Congress that really helped us. I think that was it. In fact, President Reagan really signed the bill and what caused him to do that was someone reminded him that, he went to the cemetery to honor one of the boys that fought in Europe and Reagan remembered that and he, he signed the bill.

KP: What was your, what kind of role did you take in the redress movement? Did you speak, talk to people?

AO: There were two of us that really pushed it. He lives in Reno now, but, and myself, because there were some members in our club that sort of said, "No, we shouldn't do this. Times aren't right." And the JACL, of course, pushed it. In fact, before that there was a fellow in Chicago that was tryin' to get redress, too, but he wasn't having too much success. But when the national organization took over and had the support of Congress it really, it was a difficult job, but we did do it. So we asked for pledges from each individual chapters to support the movement.

KP: How'd that finally feel when Reagan signed that bill and sent out the apology letters?

AO: Yeah, from the beginning I felt letter is fine, but there should be something behind it, and I felt vindicated. I still have the letter. It's filed away.

KP: What'd you do with the money, if you don't mind me asking?

AO: It's in the bank, but then it was spent, I think. [Laughs]

KP: And you've continued, you mentioned earlier that you've talked to school kids about the camp experience?

AO: Yes. My wife and I, we both go around to, at their request, and we just recently joined the Japanese American Museum in San Jose, so we're, with their, I should say we work with them. They sort of inform us where we could go. We mainly go to the elementary up -- well, actually we've spoken to college and, college groups, high school groups, but recently it's more elementary, like sixth grade.

KP: So personally, who do you think's more responsible with, what do you think's more important to talk to, the sixth graders or the college kids?

AO: Well, both. The younger people, we try to encourage them to remember this and remember that things like this should not happen to anyone and, because eventually they will be voters. And same with the college kids, too, or junior high school, high school. Yeah.

KP: So have you ever been back to Heart Mountain?

AO: Yes.

KP: When did you, how many times and when did you go?

AO: Just once. Yeah, it's kind of out of reach. It's out of the way for us, but when they dedicated -- there's a monument there right now and they dedicated sort of like a walking path pointing out the highlights of the camp, where the camp was -- that's when we went. And Norm Mineta and Alan Simpson were there also, and Bill Hosokawa, who was the editor of our paper and the Denver newspaper editor also.

KP: We talked about this a little bit when we were changing tapes, but a question that came up when I was talking to someone last night was, he was wondering how is this story gonna be told in the future, how are people gonna remember this, the removal and incarceration of Japanese American people? If you could put a word foward in the future, or a sentence or a paragraph, what would you want people to know about this and how it affected you?

AO: Well, we're sharing our thoughts with the people because, like I said before, please be on alert when things like this come up again and hold to your conscience type of thing.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

KP: Anything else you'd like to say?

AO: No.

KP: Yeah, we're getting ready to wrap up here. [To off camera] Any other questions come up?

Off camera: Did your parents ever become citizens?

AO: Yeah, my father did.

Off camera: Do you know why? Or what his, what his emotions were at the time?

AO: You know, I never did ask him why, but he did. My mother refused. I mean, she didn't do it, for...

Off camera: When did they pass away?

AO: Gee...

Off camera: I mean, did they live to see the redress movement, or they were gone by then?

AO: Oh, they were gone. Yeah. And so I was the only one that received -- well, my brother and I received reparations, but neither of our parents did 'cause they were, they passed away.

KP: Any more questions for you, Ted?

Off camera: Do you know anything about the Japanese gardens in Saratoga?

AO: You mean Hakone Gardens?

Off camera: Yeah.

AO: Yeah.

Off camera: Were they, were they there before?

AO: Yeah, gee, I don't know when they started, but anyway, see, I'm a member of the Saratoga Sister City and through that organization and Mukoshi -- that's our sister city in Kyoto -- there's a Mr. Yasui that got interested in the garden. He's a, he's a contractor for the imperial household. Yeah, so he's pretty famous. Anyway, he, he looked at Hakone Gardens and he was willing to help us out. And one of the buildings, the tea house was built by them, his (grandson), who's an architect, and he came and it's the original replica of a tea house. And he supervised putting the thing up, so it's an authentic Japanese tea house with a meeting place and place for tea ceremony.

Off camera: Art, do you, do you have children, and if so, what are their names and about when they were born?

AO: [To wife] You want to answer that? [Laughs]

Off camera: Our oldest was born May 15, 1959. The next one was April 30, 1962, then May 20 -- no, that's, yeah, May 24, 1964, and September 21, 1966.

Off camera: And what are their names?

Off camera: (Kenichi) is the oldest, and Satoshi Paul, and then Tadashi Robert, and Akemi Jan, which is the three boys and then a daughter.

Off camera: And I don't think we actually got your name on the tape.

Off camera: My full name is Akiko, and I'm mostly known by Aki because "ko," it means, it really means child. And I just have a Japanese name.

Off camera: Did you, did you talk to your children about these experiences? I mean, have you always been open in sharing your experience, or is this something that just came to you later in life about going out and speaking?

AO: I myself was never afraid to talk about it. I know that there are many people, older people, who didn't want to talk, have anything to do with it, but I thought it's part of my makeup, I guess. I just want to inform people what's going on, or happened. And so she joined me and we go together.

Off camera: (Akiko), I've been speaking to classes many years before that, too, because the early, I think it's in the fourth grade that they have a, used to have a unit on Japan, so I would speak, giving them a little bit about the history of the language, Japanese language, and I would write the students' names in Japanese and then also bring in a little bit about the evacuation story. So I've been, what, nineteen...

AO: Yeah, she's not reluctant either about talking about it.

Off camera: Since about the late '60s I've been speaking in schools.

Off camera: We need to get an interview with you also. Not today. [Laughs]

AO: Yeah, lot of my age people said their parents never talked about it. Well, I could understand because after the war they're so busy trying to get established you can't, you just can't say, "Well, take a few minutes, I'll tell you about the camp." I think that's one of the reasons.

Off camera: Don't you think there was, amongst some, a feeling of shame?

AO: I guess so. I'm not sure. I didn't feel that way, but I guess.

Off camera: Especially among the Issei.

AO: Yeah. I felt more resentment than anything else.

KP: I think that just shows you're American.

AO: Yeah, I guess so. Typical. [Laughs]

KP: Well, on behalf of the Park Service and myself and Alisa and Ted, thank you very much for your interview.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.