Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Russell Demo
Narrator: Russell Demo
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Corning, California
Date: December 18, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-drussell-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. And this morning we're talking with Russell Demo. The interview is taking place at his daughter Sharon's residence at 4620 Oren (Avenue) in Corning, California. The date of our interview is December 18, 2009. The interviewer is Richard Potashin, our videographer is Kirk Peterson, and we'll be talking with Russell today about his experience as a military policeman at Camp Manzanar during World War II. The interview will be archived in the Park's library. And Russell, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

RD: Sure.

RP: Thank you so much. It's a real special honor to be chatting with you today. We've been trying to get together for almost a year.

RD: Yeah.

RP: Let's start getting a little bit of background about you and your family. Can you tell us where and when you were born?

RD: Yeah, I was born in San Francisco at the County Hospital, July the 2nd, 1924. And my mother... well, my brother, he was born a couple years before I was, September 5th. I don't know, sometime when I was about two years old or so, I guess my dad took off and my mother raised us all that time through the Depression and everything. So most of the time during the day I was pretty much on my own. When I got a little older, I ran around San Francisco, different parts and stuff. Went to school, and both my brother and I quit, quit high school when we were sixteen and went to work to help my mother out. And then...

RP: Let's backtrack just a little bit. Can you tell us both your father's and mother's names?

RD: Yeah, my father's name was Silvio Demo, and my mother was Ella Demo.

RP: And where did they come from originally?

RD: Well, my mother came from North Dakota, she was born in North Dakota, and they were raised in Idaho, Troy, Idaho.

RP: What was your mother's ethnicity or ancestry?

RD: Pardon?

RP: Your mother's ancestry?

RD: She's Swedish and Norwegian. Her father, my grandfather was born in Sweden, my grandmother was born in Norway, and she died before I ever got to see her. There was eleven kids, there was twelve, one died and eleven kids survived. My grandfather used to come down there in the summertime until it got too hot up here. Spent the summer with us down there and then come back up here in the wintertime.

RP: And your father was from Italy?

RD: Yeah, he was born in Italy. He was three years old when he, when he came here, so that would be about, he was born in '98, so it'd be 1901 when he got here.

RP: And where was he raised?

RD: They were out there in North Beach right on Greenwood Street. And he traveled all around, I guess he worked on fishing boats, he did the cooking in different places. He traveled all over to California, different places, he worked as a chauffeur. In San Francisco he used to pick us kids up once in a while and take us for rides in the limousine. We used to see him once in a while. My mother's brothers all came, migrated out here and they all stayed at our house off and on 'til they got jobs or they got married or something.

RP: How did your parents meet, do you know?

RD: Yeah. Evidently they met in Idaho, I think, as far as I can remember. My father was in the cavalry at that time. And I think it was in Idaho, I'm not too sure, but it ended up where two sisters married two brothers. It was true, my father and my mother, they moved out here to San Francisco. His brother Frank and my Aunt Alice, my mother's sister, they got married, too. So we were pretty close there. But I had a, you know, my childhood was pretty much running around by myself and everything.

RP: You said that your father left the home when you were around two years old?

RD: Yeah.

RP: So you don't have very many memories of him at all except when he'd come back.

RD: Yeah, he came by, because my mother raised us all through the Depression and everything else. It was pretty tough at the time.

RP: How many other siblings did you have?

RD: Well, I got, my brother, he passed away here quite a few years ago. I got two half-brothers live up in Oregon by my father's second or third wife, I can't remember which.

RP: What was your, your brother's name?

RD: (Narr. note: My real brother Raymond served in the army in the Pacific during the war.) (I have two half-brothers:) Walter is the oldest and then Kenny is the other one. Walter lives in Milwaukee, Oregon, and Kenneth, I'm not too sure where he's at. He travels around quite a bit. In fact, I haven't had any communication with Kenny for quite a few years. I'd see Walter once in a while, once in a great while, he'd come down this way.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: What area of San Francisco did you grow up in?

RD: On the Mission district. That was kind of a banana belt. The sun would be shining there when it wasn't anyplace else. Pretty nice area out there. It's changed quite a bit now. It's not the same as it used to be, but it was a real nice place when I was a kid, though.

RP: Right, tell us about that a little bit. You said you spent a lot of time on your own, kind of wandering around?

RD: Yeah, the summertime I went down on Seventh and Harris Street. That's, I don't know, six, seven miles, eight miles from my mother's house where we lived, and played ball there all day long, and turn around and come back home. I never had a glove or anything, I always played bare-handed. Then later on, I got acquainted with some friends and we used to do a lot of roller skating. Go down to the roller rink there at Levinson off of Mission Street there, between Mission and Market. 'Til I went into the service, I was working in the shipyards. My mother worked there, my father and my brother worked there, and my Uncle Archie worked there. My father was, had a fantail, which I was working with him. My brother was foreman of the afterpeak.

RP: By "fantail," what do you mean by "fantail"?

RD: That's the back end of the boat, you know, where the round part comes out like that, then the afterpeak fits onto that end there someplace in there. I don't know exactly how it is, but something like that.

RP: Where did you attend grammar school, Russell?

RD: I went to the Junipero Serra up there at Holly Park Circle. We lived off of Buchanan Street off of Cortland Avenue on Buchanan Street, and about a couple blocks up the hill there, a big old park there, Holly Park Circle. I went to Junipero Serra until the sixth grade, then I went down to Horace Mann junior high school which was around Twenty-second and Mission, someplace in there. And then I transferred from there, we moved on to Woodward Avenue and went one year to... oh, shoot. I can't name the school there, but another junior high school, and then I went to Mission High from there, went one year there and then I quit.

RP: Tell us a little bit about, San Francisco was such a "melting pot" of different ethnic groups and little communities. What was the Mission district like in terms of different groups of people?

RD: Well, later on it, down there it was just ordinary people, I don't know what, just to say regular white people and everything else. And later on when I was, I went down to visit my mother, it was all Hispanics and stuff there, had moved into the district. Then, but there was, it was a pretty nice little neighborhood, and wasn't too much going on there. There was no gangs or anything. Our excitement was going around ringing doorbells and then running, taking off running, and that was about it. I can remember we used to hike out to Daly City, which was a couple, three miles, and get fireworks, firecrackers and stuff. Things were pretty cheap then, we didn't, so for about fifteen cents we could probably come back with a whole bagful.

RP: Did you have any contact with Japanese American children in your classes at all?

RD: Yeah, I'm sure we had. I can't remember any offhand right now. There might have been, but I'm not too sure. I can't think of anybody offhand. I got my yearbook at home, didn't think about it. If you're gonna ask me questions there I'd have probably brought that along and we could have gone through there. But I'm sure there were some Japanese kids there, some type.

RP: How were you as a student?

RD: All D's and F's. When I went to Horace Mann junior high school, I didn't like the teachers there and we didn't get along very well. And then I transferred to Everett junior high school and I went one year there and I had all A's and B's there. I had a different school system. And then I went to high school, I got an A in gym, you know, and woodshop I got a B, I got a C in English because they had a spelling test every day, twenty words. And I got a hundred percent on that, outside of that, that's what gave me my grade there. And as far as the rest of 'em, were all D's and F's. 'Cause I didn't like Biology, so I'd skip class all the time. And I can't remember the others, the other grades were. So when I got to sixteen, I quit. I worked with the continuation school for four hours on Monday, and worked down in the workroom. Mother worked in the laundry, went down and worked for her out in Drosera Avenue.

RP: Was religion much of a force in your life early on?

RD: Pardon?

RP: Was religion an important part of your life?

RD: No, not really. I was Baptized Catholic, and really never went to church much or anything. But, I mean, Mother was always, believed in God and everything else, but we didn't go to church or anything. There was a little neighborhood church around there on Buchanan Street there I went to once in a while, and that's about it. I don't know what it was, or one of those... it wasn't Baptist, in that it was some little off-brand, some guy started something up there, I guess, I don't know what you'd call it. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: Tell us about your mother, what you remember most about her and what did you...

RD: Well, my mother, she was a very loving person and she always worked hard all her life. She gave us kids whatever she could. And she never had much, but I know what saved our butt is when Roosevelt got elected President and they come out with the WPA. And then my mother had a steady job from then on, and that saved a lot of people's lives back then back in '32 when he got elected.

RP: What did she do?

RD: She worked, she worked in a laundry for quite a few years and then she worked in a butter factory there. But when she retired, she retired from a laundry, working in a laundry.

RP: What was the WPA job that she got?

RD: Well, she worked around the houses doing housework and stuff like that. It kept her busy doing things, cleaning houses, stuff like that. Part of my childhood, I don't know, it's pretty hard to remember it, I just remember, like my brother and I, we never seemed to get along too good. He was always running around with his group, and he was, when he was sixteen, he was coming up to Corning here, driving. He got mixed, got friends with Goldbergs out there on Fillmore Street when they had a lot of chicken... well, what do you call 'em, where they brought down there and butchered 'em and everything else, you know. He used to drive up here to Corning and pick up chickens and stuff. My mother always kept me on a tight leash.

RP: So was sports a big part of your life growing up?

RD: Pardon?

RP: Sports?

RD: I don't understand the question.

RP: Was sports a big part of your life? Sports. Baseball...

RD: Oh, yeah, yeah, sports. Oh, sports, yeah. Yeah, I played, I didn't get to do much in high school because I got off, I got out of high school about two-thirty and went to work at three o'clock. I didn't play any sports in high school, but I used to play softball whenever I got a chance, and in school I played basketball and softball. I did pretty good at that.

RP: You were kind of a, pretty tall guy at that time, weren't you?

RD: Yeah, I was... well, I was, at that time, like I said, when I went in the service, I was 6'1-1/2". And I was over 6'3" when I got out. See, I had, I was inducted on... did you want that part?

RP: We're gonna get there. Tell us a little bit more about this job that you got at the shipyard working in the, working on ships.

RD: Yeah.

RP: Age sixteen, how did you get the job?

RD: Well, I just, they needed workers. And then we're out there and I worked, I worked for my dad. And don't ask me what I did because I didn't have nothing to do. [Laughs] I slept most of the time, I guess, 'cause they sent me, I didn't have much to do. I'd haul nuts and bolts around to different people or something, run over to my brother's place, screw around there a little bit, and come back here and take a nap someplace. There wasn't very much for me to do, and I don't know how long I worked there, probably six weeks, a couple months or so, my mother and I worked the night shift. We used to take the ferry over to Richmond and worked the shipyards.

RP: That's where you worked?

RD: Yeah, uh-huh. I usually had, what... Saturdays, Fridays and Saturdays, went back to work on Sunday night, I guess, something like that. Fridays and Saturdays off. So as far as my job there, I didn't have very much to do. I can remember I went in there and told 'em I was quitting at that time as far as the job, and they told me I couldn't quit, so I showed 'em my draft notice and they changed their mind there. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Do you recall December 7, 1941?

RD: Yeah. It seemed like, what I can remember, we were living up there on Chattanooga Street, and about a half a block down, across the street, there was a little grocery store. I was over there in the morning when the news came over, over the radio about the bombing. Of course, being, being a young kid then, I didn't, didn't hit me too much there 'til afterwards. Then I tried to enlist in the Marines and they turned me down. And then I got drafted in the army, and as far as you could stand up, see lightning, hear thunder, you were in, you know.

RP: Why did the Marines turn you down?

RD: I was underweight. I was tall and skinny. Like I said, I didn't find out until afterwards they put in limited service. I'd gone through the draft center there, I wanted to get in the Air Force, the mechanic part of it there, you know. And they put me, sent me to the infantry, I mean, to the MPs, and I joined up with them in Arizona.

RP: So can you, can you tell us, after Pearl Harbor, tell us, what was the atmosphere like in San Francisco after the war had begun?

RD: You know, it's hard to say. I really don't remember too much. I know gas and everything was restricted and everything, gasoline, and things were hard to get. I was working at a, at a grocery store, so I was able to get coffee. It was getting the shortage, I was able to get some coffee and stuff like that and bring it home. That was, oh, that was in, when I was working there, about sixteen or seventeen.

RP: Do you remember any blackouts in the city?

RD: You know, really, I don't. There probably was some, but I don't remember any. And I can't think of anything else, I mean, a few earthquakes and a little shaking here and there. It was a while, but I don't remember too much about them either, so we didn't have that many that I know of or remember.

RP: So life kind of went on for you.

RD: Pardon?

RP: Life kind of went on for you.

RD: Yeah, sure, yeah. Yeah, you know, at the time, I didn't think too much about it until I went into the service, and that's when I really, when it really hit me there, you know.

RP: So you got your draft notice when you were eighteen?

RD: Yeah. I was, I was inducted on the eighteenth of March, '43, and then they gave us seven-day furlough and I reported to Monterey on the 25th, Presidio Monterey. And I don't know, I was there, I don't know, four or five days a week, maybe. That's when they sent me to Arizona.

RP: One more question before we move to Arizona. Were... just about the time that you were leaving to go to Arizona, Japanese Americans were beginning to be removed from areas on the West Coast, "evacuated" was the euphemism that was used.

RD: Yeah, I don't remember too much about that, though. I never thought much about it at the time, I guess, 'til after I got to the camp and then I -- [coughs] excuse me -- realized the difference then.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: How did you travel down to Camp Florence? By train?

RD: Yeah. We went, we landed, stopped at a little town of Coolidge, and it was a mile, and we walked from there to where the train station was to Florence, Arizona. I remember while I was there, we got some of the first Italian prisoners of war came there.

RP: Italian.

RD: And they, they were doing, working in the laundry and different things around there, I don't know what all we did. We never had any contact with them, we never had to do much of that. All I know is that the outfit I got was 319th MPG Company was that everybody in there had at least three years or more in service and at least one court martial. There were a bunch of 8-balls in the service. They organized this one outfit, and naturally I got stuck in it. So it was quite a wild group there, and they always went to town and got advice from the other MPs and everything else.

RP: Were you part of that, too?

RD: Oh, no, not really. Not there in Arizona.

RP: You were waiting for Manzanar to come along.

RD: [Laughs] Well, outside of taking off and doing what I wasn't supposed to do, I mean, I didn't get in too many fights or anything. Well, maybe one or two, I guess.

RP: So when you were inducted in Fort Ord, is that where you met up with Bobby Villa and Johnny?

RD: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. When we got, when I got to Camp Manzanar, yeah.

RP: So you went, you went to camp Florence with them?

RD: I don't think, no, I don't remember them being in Florence with me. I just remember catching up with them at Manzanar there, at Manzanar. Where they came from, I don't remember.

RP: You had these aspirations to be in the Air Force, but you ended up in the Army. You said you were put into the limited service unit because of your weight.

RD: Yeah.

RP: How much did you weigh at that time?

RD: I weighed, like I said, I weighed... when I went in the service I stood 6'1-1/2" and I weighed 135 pounds.

RP: What was the...

RD: Well, I didn't find out until afterward, but about six months later I put on ten pounds and got to 145 pounds, and they told me I was in general service then. And then after they broke up the outfit there in, what is it, May, I think, of '44, and they shipped part of down to the medical unit, and about sixty-nine of us were sent down to Camp Haan. And we were there about a week or two, and there was a stockade there, we were guarding prisoners there for a while.

RP: Before you went to Camp Florence to get your basic training, had you had any experience at all with guns?

RD: No, not really.

RP: Never handled one?

RD: Nope, there was nobody in my family that did any hunting or anything. I did a little fishing on my own, I went, walked down to the pier or something like that. Little old rod of some type. But outside of that...

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

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: So what was basic training like for you?

RD: [Laughs] It was quite an experience. Seemed like I had to keep taking it over. When I was in Florence, Arizona, we took basic training there. And we had a sergeant there that was of German descent, and he would say, "When I say, 'Fall out, I mean, A-O-U-T, fall out.'" And then they get there one these times and, "All you guys with college educations, step forward, high school educations one step forward," and so, and I'm back there and he says, "All right, you smart guys go around here and show these poor dumb guys how to pick up stuff so they can learn." So it was kind of funny that way. But it was, it wasn't too much. Then I, well, I went to Manzanar there and I think I got to take basic training again. And somehow or other my records kept getting lost, and when I got to the infantry, I had to take basic training again. But it was a shorter course, it only lasted a couple weeks or so, I guess.

RP: I know you didn't have much choice, but how did you take to the authority of the military organization? You said that you were a kid who kind of was --

RD: Well, I was in the... like I was one of the MPs, I was around with all these other guys that I didn't get along with the sergeant too well. And we always had what they called a... see, we always got a six-hour pass, so it was not very much, we could go anyplace or anything. But we had what we called a class-B uniform, which was, instead of a blouse, we had a jacket -- I mean, not a jacket but a blazer-like deal. And that's a class-B uniform. And the captain told me that I couldn't go to town because I didn't have my class-A uniform. So I said, "Okay," but I went to town anyway. And usually we used to take off, go down to Independence, and the captain stayed down there and the CQ stayed down there. He always came before the captain, we hitched a ride back with him. But that morning, the CQ was late and the captain picked me up. So we were driving along there, we were talking, and he said, "You're a little late, aren't you?" And I said, "Yes, sir. Got fooling around down there, we fell asleep down there," of course, that wasn't true. And then he got to remember, he forgot, says, "I told you you couldn't go to town." So then I had a summary court martial. They fined me... they gave me seven days hard labor and seven days restriction for being AWOL, and then twenty days hard labor, twenty days restriction and a twenty-five dollar fine for refusing a strict order from the company commander. He had me out digging a ditch there, straightening the ditch out in the snow in January, February.

RP: We'll talk a little bit more about that when we get to Manzanar.

RD: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: To go back to Camp Florence, what specific training did you receive as an MP there?

RD: Well, I don't think we were there that long. And that's all I did was take basic training there for about three or four weeks, however long we were there, learning to shoot different rifles and stuff and crawling through the, whatever they call it, they had barbed wire and stuff and you had to crawl underneath it and they had overhead fire there. Practice throwing hand grenades and stuff like that, learning to march.

RP: Any other stories you can share with us about your time there?

RD: In Florence?

RP: Yeah.

RD: No, not too much. We used to take off...

RP: Get around the desert at all?

RD: Get around the different towns in there and have a few drinks and come back. There wasn't too much to do around there. It was just like a bunch of us get together and go to town and drink, and that was about all there was to do, and come back home. I don't remember too much about Florence at all. Like I said, there wasn't very much going on there.

RP: And then you were given orders to go to Manzanar. And did your, did the officers or anybody explain to you what the situation was like and who you would be guarding?

RD: No. Actually, we were the MPEG, which was the Military Police Escort Guard, like you work on trains and stuff like that, but we never did any of that. And then we, of course, whatever outfit that was there, they transferred them out of there and we took over for them.

RP: How did you travel up to the camp?

RD: Pardon?

RP: How did you travel to the camp?

RD: Well, I think we... I'm not too sure. I remember we came from Florence, I think we came by train to a certain place, I don't remember where, and then we traveled by truck up to someplace in California, I don't remember that much about it.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: What were your first impressions of the camp itself when you arrived?

RD: I tell you, it was quite a shock there, you know, to see the camp there and everything else. And I didn't really know why they were there, 'cause the Germans weren't there, they didn't put the Germans in the concentration camp, but they did the Japanese. Maybe they thought they were more of a threat, I don't know. But of all the people that I met in there, they're going out through the gates, and the young people in there, they all seemed real nice. I know one time, they'd usually go in, I don't know how many times a year, go in and inspect all the barracks, all the rooms and stuff with Japanese, look around for contraband and stuff like that, go through everything they had. And they were all little small places, you know. I didn't think too much of that, I wasn't sure about that at all. And I only worked on the main gate once or twice.

RP: Can you tell us about the MP camp? Describe how it was laid out to your best memories.

RD: Well, I don't know, it's pretty hard to say. As we come in, they had like little, little building there where they, where a guy was on duty to check people coming in and out. And on your right-hand side was a line of barracks, I mean, there were seven or eight or nine, I don't remember, that was our barracks. And then on the other side was the headquarters and then the latrine was there and then the little guardhouse behind that and then we had a grenade range behind that, and then all around out there was the fields and stuff where they grew watermelon, cantaloupe, and different vegetables and stuff. We took turns on guard duty, we were four hours on and four hours off.

RP: Let's talk about that. You spent a lot of time in the towers, didn't you?

RD: Yes. Like I said, we were four hours on, four hours off.

RP: Tell us, maybe kind of describe a typical day from the time you woke up and what, what happened during that day.

RP: That I don't know. I don't know what we did during the day, I guess we did some marching and stuff and did some type of training. We went out to the rifle range and like I said, we had those Enfields where we were trying to fire for, to see what marksmanship. There wasn't too many of us that passed shooting the Enfield, but we took care of it, we made sure everybody passed, you know. Instead of putting the drawers up there, the red one up there, we'd put it up there and put it so most of us passed that way. I could hit the target, but they weren't that good. And I can't remember, I guess I didn't get the [inaudible] until I got to the infantry.

RP: Did you, do you recall Thompson submachine guns? Thompson, Thompson automatic weapons?

RD: No. We didn't get into too much of that until I got to the infantry. All we had was, I remember rifles and I guess they, I don't remember seeing any machine guns or any automatic weapons of that type.

RP: Did you get any type of an orientation to your duties before you actually started at the towers?

RD: If we did, I don't remember.

RP: How did you get over to the towers from the military camp?

RD: Oh, they hauled you around in a jeep. They had the CQ, the guy who was on duty, had a corporal of the guard and sergeant of the guard, different shifts, and then we had a few days off and then you'd be back on again. And when we were on duty, it was four on and four off.

RP: Was there, did you work in every one of those towers, or were there particular towers that were assigned to you?

RD: Well, no. I don't know whether I hit 'em all, but I hit most of 'em, I think, different times. I was mostly on the back end around there. They had towers up front, on this side and that side, then they went all the way around. And I'm usually on the side there, in the back towers, mostly.

RP: You worked both day and night shifts?

RD: Yeah. Like I said to you, I forgot how many days we do that, couple, three days in a row, I guess. You'd be on four hours and off four hours, then on four hours then off, around the clock, twenty-four hours.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Do you recall, Russell, ever seeing anybody trying to sneak out?

RD: Yeah, one time, I'd seen a shadow going out of the, one of the towers on the back end back there, and like I said, we didn't have any ammunition and everything else, so I said, "What the heck? Let him go and we'll catch up with him anyway." I think it happened once or twice. And they eventually caught him anyway. We had phones in the tower, but I didn't bother with it.

RP: So you were pretty lenient about...

RD: Oh, yeah. I wasn't very happy about the situation there anyway, the people that were in there, they were all real, seemed real nice. Maybe some of the older ones were a problem, but the young people who was in there, they were all very nice. Got along with them very good.

RP: And, you know, Robert talked about that a little bit when we interviewed him, and he said that there were some different attitudes between folks like yourself who had grown up on the West Coast and knew what the situation was as opposed to the guys from back east, who he characterized their attitudes as, "These are just dirty Japs."

RD: Well, yeah, they were, they come there, and they had that Boston accent or New England accent back there and everything else, they were kind of cocky when they first got there and everything else. But they kind of calmed down after a while.

RP: So you, did you, would that be... would you characterize them as having that attitude towards Japanese Americans?

RD: No, I don't remember them having any kind of attitude like that. Like I said, most of us, as far as I can remember, seemed to get along pretty good with 'em. There might have been some guys in there expressed some opinions about it, but whether they did or not, I don't remember.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: Did you man some of the gates where Japanese were allowed to go out to the farm fields?

RD: Yeah, the "bat cave" back there, I was on that several times. I enjoyed that, I got to see a lot of the people and talk to them a little bit, especially the younger ones. And, of course, I've seen a lot of redheads and blondes and everything else coming out there, and the Japanese are really all black-haired, you know. And they fixed their hair up, they were all easy to get along with. Never had any problems with them at all.

RP: So you got to a chance to get to know them a little bit.

RD: Oh yeah, yeah. I talked to 'em all the time, asked how they were doing. They seemed to be, most of 'em seemed to be in pretty good spirits at the time.

RP: Tell us what, in terms of arms, what did you have up in the tower with you?

RD: We had a rifle, no ammunition, and a telephone.

RP: And what type of rifle was it?

RD: Enfield. English Enfield.

RP: And no ammunition. Why was that?

RD: Well, I guess in, what was it, the year '42, December the 7th, they had an outbreak in the camp there, Japanese started... way I got it, rioting a little bit. So they opened fire with machine guns, and there were some civilian workers in there, working there, teaching and stuff like that, several of them were killed. I forget how many were killed altogether, but there were thirty or forty, I guess, I don't know. It's hard to remember. So then after that they took the ammunition away.

RP: So the only time you had live ammunition was when you were practicing on the range?

RD: Well, I think, as far as I can remember, when I was on gate duty, the main gate coming in, I, we wore a revolver. I think I had ammunition there, but why, I don't know.

RP: But not in the tower?

RD: Not in the tower. And I could have been wrong there, too, but it seemed like I had ammunition.

RP: Were you operating the searchlights that were located up on the top of the tower during the time you worked there?

RD: No.

RP: You never did?

RD: Not that I can remember. I guess there were searchlights up there, I don't remember too much about it.

RP: You mentioned there was a field phone in the, in the tower.

RD: Yeah, there were a phone in there, we could call, call into the sergeant of the guard, corporal of the guard, report anything going on or anything. And they'd come around about every hour or so, checking on us, every two hours, something like that.

RP: Well, I guess the next question is, how did you stay awake up there or did you stay awake? Did you ever fall asleep in the tower?

RD: [Laughs] Oh, yeah. The main... well, I don't know whether I should be saying this or not, but we had, you come up to the tower and have a trapdoor. And we'd lay over that, and they can't catch you for sleeping unless they actually see it. And they have to push that up in order to get to you. And, of course, most of the time we were awake, once in a while I'd get a little drowsy and stuff, lay down and go to sleep. I don't know whether they can do anything about that now or not.

RP: So they never caught you napping.

RD: No. Like I said, there wasn't much reason for us being up there anyway, we couldn't do anything, couldn't stop anybody.

RP: Were you aware that people were sneaking out to go fishing quite a bit?

RD: To go fishing?

RP: Yeah. People were leaving the camp on the west side.

RD: I don't know whether...

RP: You never saw anybody with a fishing pole or anything like that?

RD: No, no, not that I know of, no. I can't remember. And I don't know where right up there in that area where they would go to fish. I can't remember anyplace close by that they'd go fishing, either.

RP: How did... what was... you're up forty feet off the ground in these towers, you're looking down at the camp, did you have any feelings or thoughts about, you know, as you looked and you saw that expanse and the barracks and ten thousand people?

RD: I probably did. I can't recall anything, I know this, it's kind of discouraging to see all of that down there, you know, the way they were put in the barracks there, cramped in there and everything else. But as a whole, I guess they got along pretty good. They had some civilians, like I said, they got along good with the civilians, they treated them real nice. They had their school there and what have you, I assumed.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: You said earlier that you, that once a year, the barracks, the rooms would be searched for contraband?

RD: Well, more than that. I don't know how many times they did that. But I know one time that I was there, I was, I only went on it once. But they were going through the camps, probably, well, they did it every month, every couple of months or so, I can't remember.

RP: And was it mostly military police who conducted the search?

RD: Oh, yeah, all of us that went in there and went around, and we didn't carry any firearms or anything.

RP: So you were actually, you would go into the room and you'd --

RD: Yeah, look all around looking for something.

RP: You never found anything?

RD: Nope.

RP: What did... did you have any feelings about searching people's rooms?

RD: Yeah. I didn't like it at all. And then I was hoping I'd never have to go in there and do it again. It's just kind of... I don't know how you express it, but the way you see they're living and everything else, and have people come in there and tell 'em what to do and what they can't do and then going through all their stuff and everything else.

KP: One of the guard towers was right above the baseball field. Did you ever watch baseball games while you were up there?

RD: I don't remember any baseball field. Did Bob say anything about a baseball field?

RP: I don't know if we actually asked him or not.

RD: I don't remember any baseball field. I know we went to Independence, and where we played there, I don't know, some grounds, there was a little ballfield, whether it was attached to the high school or something, it's just dirt and everything else out there. Not much grass, I can remember.

KP: There were a lot of sports in the camps that the internees played. Did you ever see any of those games from your guard position?

RD: Oh, you're talking about the schools and stuff?

RP: In the camp.

RD: No, we would horse around, I don't know whether we... I can't remember whether we had anything there to do anything or not. I noticed they furnished some equipment, gloves and stuff, and the bats, maybe we played a little ball around there, but I know we went to town and played ball a little bit. We played basketball with some of the townspeople down there. In fact, we had, one night I think we had some of the people from the preflight school come there and play basketball.

RP: Flight school?

RD: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: There was a... let's talk a little bit about recreation and what you did on your off time at Manzanar. You said there was a club in Independence that you used to frequent?

RD: Yeah, I would call it most of a hospitality house, more or less. They come there, they'd always have tables and chairs and stuff in there, and a little place to meet in there, and people get together. We got to know some girls down there, and there was a restaurant across the street, we'd go in there and have coffee and stuff. And we'd meet down there and horse around all night long, maybe have a few drinks, something like that. Then we went to town, usually liquor was rationed at that time, and then payday, we'd go to, into Lone Pine, the one liquor store there. And the whiskey was the one that was really rationed, and we'd buy them out the first day. And then the only thing you'd get after that was your rum, vodka, or gin. And usually I suppose most of our paycheck went that way, 'cause we got, what, forty-six, fifty a month. And besides, playing cards and losing a little bit here and there and going to town, there was always a shortage of cash there. We played a lot of jawbone poker. You know what jawbone poker is? You put this, mark it down what you owe, and this payday, you pay it off. Played a lot of pinochle, played that for money, too.

RP: The club that you mentioned in Independence, you said at the time you were there, that they were shooting a movie. You met a few people from the...

RD: Well, that would, that would be on the other end, not down in Independence.

RP: Lone Pine?

RD: They were in the Alabama Mountains, which was between camp Manzanar and Lone Pine. And I understand those were the oldest mountains in the United States, I guess. And a lot of the Westerns were there. I'm sure, I can't remember whether... I remember Hopalong Cassidy, Big Boy Williams was there, and I think one time Roy Rogers might have been up there, but I don't remember for sure. I know they had made several movies up there, and we always come out, like I told you, we always come out pretty good. We'd go into town, all the actors and stuff would be in there and they'd buy us drinks all night long. So we had a pretty good time. As far as meeting any of the stars or anything, I don't, didn't see any.

RP: Now, when we talked last time, you mentioned that you used to hitchhike to Bishop. And, but Bishop was off-limits to you?

RD: Yeah. And I can't remember why, but I started going on it, but we used to take off, and we went down to Keough's hot springs down there, and we'd go down there on a night and spend a couple hours, hitchhike down there and come back. And sometimes when we had some leave, we stayed overnight. A bunch of us got together and stayed in one little cabin there. And then they had an indoor pool there with warm water, and regular cold water, we'd fool around there a little bit. We only went into the town of Bishop, California, a few times. Most of the time, the reason we went down there is Johnny's wife was living there and they had a baby. And then we'd sneak down there and see her and the baby. And, but I can't remember why we were restricted there. We weren't restricted from anyplace else. Why it was, I don't know.

RP: Tell us about, a little bit about Johnny.

RD: Well, I don't know what to say. Him and I got along real... we were real close. And he was Norwegian or Swedish or something like that, and he was a tall, light-skinned guy. And him and Bob and I ran around most of the time and did crazy things. Oh, Johnny did, he went to the infantry with me, and he was in the 264th and I was in the 263rd. We tried to get together, so we'd try and visit each other, but we couldn't make it, couldn't make it too often. We were supposed to, at the time, hiking and training and everything.

RP: The other gentleman that you palled around with was a guy named Bob Soames?

RD: Yeah, Bob Soames ran around with us quite a bit, too, yeah. And he was from Des Moines, Iowa, and, that's right, Bobby and John and Bob Soames, there was one red-headed kid there that we got along fairly well with. The was a little bit... I can't remember his name, that I pointed out on the one jeep, on the jeep that one part back there, I thought that was him, but I can't remember his name. Like I said, if Bob was here, he probably would remember. And I remember... I can't remember... now, where I lived, in San Francisco, was on Chattanooga Street, and I don't what direction, where we're going, but going up over the hill, about six, seven blocks away was Castro Street, and that's where Bobby lived. And I remember seeing him, but I can't remember, it had to be after I got out of the service. I don't remember just exactly when I went and talked to Bob about that. And then, I don't know, I guess we kind of lost touch then after that, I don't know why.

RP: While you were at Manzanar, did you have any type of physical training? Did you go out on hikes or marches and things like that?

RD: Oh, yeah, we went out on some marches, we went out and I remember we'd take off in the trucks. Why we were going up to Whitney Portal, I have no idea what we were supposed to be doing going up there, but I can remember we stopped and picked up a six-pack or two and drank it on the way up there and had some fun. I can't remember what we were going up there for. But I know we traveled around. And we had to go to Muroc Air Base for our, see a doctor or get teeth taken care of. And that's where most of our laundry and everything went. If you sent it out, it used to take about a week to get back, and that was about 120 mile trip down there. Just out of Mojave there, about 20 miles out of Mojave was Muroc Air Base.

RP: Now called Edwards Air Base.

RD: Pardon?

RP: Now it's Edwards Air Force Base.

RD: Oh, Edwards, okay. I remember in the summertime it was really... in the afternoon, coming back in that truck was just like a sweatshop. I only made a couple trips down there to the dentist.

RP: Yeah, how did you take to the desert, Russell? Because, you know, you'd grown up in San Francisco, a totally different environment.

RD: Yeah, I really don't know. I know in Arizona it cooled down at nighttime, and also there at Manzanar, because you had the mountains up there, and there was snow, and it cooled down at nighttime. It was a little cool in the morning, got hot during the day, I don't remember it getting that hot, but like I said, I don't remember too much about it. And we used to do calisthenics and stuff like that, you know, we had to do that in the morning sometimes. But most of the time we would go on the towers, we go out four hours, then we had four hours of our own time. Lay down and nap, do whatever we wanted, and back on duty.

RP: Now, did you ever talk about the fact that you were in the 319th Military Police Escort Guard?

RD: Yeah.

RP: Did you do any type of escort duty at Manzanar taking Japanese Americans somewhere else?

RD: No, never did any of that. Never hauled anybody anyplace. And then, like I said, when we, when they broke up the outfit, I don't know who came and relieved us, but we traveled by truck all the way down to Riverside I guess it was. Yeah, Riverside, I guess it was.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: You were talking about what MPs did for recreation. There was a tragic event that you heard about between several MPs?

RD: Well, they were, yeah, there was two guys in the motorpool, they were good friends, they were horsing around, I guess, and they had their revolvers and practicing the quick draw and everything else. Evidently they had ammunition in the gun, and the one time it went off, it killed the one guy. I understand they give you a court martial and fine you one dollar and then they give you back a carton of cigarettes. That's the way I understood what it was, in order to protect you from civilian authorities. So they just give you a court martial and fine you a dollar, and then they give you back a carton of cigarettes. That's the way I understood it now, whether it's true or not, I don't know, but that's what I heard.

RP: So that man who accidently shot the other man might have just continued on duty there?

RD: Yeah. The one guy was from the motorpool, and I don't know how they happened to have the revolver there or not, I don't know. But evidently must have been somebody coming off duty or was going on duty or something. That I don't remember.

RP: Tell us about some of your, the noncoms that you worked with. There was a Sergeant Cross?

RD: I don't remember him. And like I said, I remember Corporal DeRamey, he was a little, I guess he was part Indian and Hispanic, he was real nice. And then there was Sergeant Rodriguez, which I didn't get along with too well. Why we conflicted, I'm not too sure. He had me doing company punishment quite a bit.

RP: For what?

RD: Disobeying orders or smartmouth him or something, walk out in the field pack all day in the sun.

RP: That was your... how about Captain Nail? How did you get along with, or did you get along with Captain Nail?

RD: Well, you know, it's pretty hard to say. It seemed like we always came and called him Spike, Captain Spike, and he was a West Point man, he was pretty strict and everything else. But as far as how he was, I can't remember too much about him. I remember Lieutenant Hash, he was, he came there after we got there, and he was fresh out of school, I guess. He was a pretty nice guy. The other, the First Lieutenant, he wasn't too bad of a guy either. As far as the officers went, they weren't too bad.

RP: How was Lieutenant Singer?

RD: I guess, yeah, he's the one that gave me the court martial, presided over the court martial.

RP: Oh, Lieutenant Singer? What, can you lead us through that, that procedure, how...

RD: Well, I don't remember too much about it, but I went along, like I said, I got seven days hard labor and seven days restriction for being AWOL, 'cause we were supposed to be back by midnight, and this was six o'clock in the morning. And then twenty days hard labor and twenty days restriction with twenty-five dollar fine for refusing an order from a company commander. And the funniest thing about that, I don't know, after about a week or so, maybe it was a couple weeks or so, I snuck into town, I was walking down the street, me and Johnny, I guess it was were. And there in the window looking out was Lieutenant, the First Lieutenant and his wife. He looks at me, and I remember his wife grabbing and saying something to him, and so he just looked the other way I kept on going. He never did say anything about it, I don't know why, but sort of got my butt nailed there, too.

RD: You were working on this ditch?

RD: Pardon?

RP: You said you were working on this ditch?

RD: Yeah, there was a ditch alongside there, a little, never did hardly ever see any water in it, 'cause I was out there in the wintertime in the snow, moving from one bank to the other side, I had about over a block straightened out, all leveled along here, flat on the bottom. I remember one time, the company commander said something about I wasn't working fast enough because I had an overcoat on. He said, "Well, it's cold out here, so make him take the coat off, he'll work faster and warm up." So one of the captain guards take my coat off, and soon as he left, put it back on.

RP: Also, the military police camp was right up against the agricultural fields, right behind you?

RD: Yeah, it was all around us off to the... well, like the camp's situated here, whether that would be west, I would think. And then on the south side over there and the back side around there.

RP: So you mentioned that on occasion you'd go over there and sneak a little something?

RD: Yeah, once in a while, I guess.

RP: What did you grab out of there?

RD: Is this gonna get me in trouble? [Laughs]

RP: Well, you're already in a lot of trouble. A little more won't matter. We're gonna report you to Lieutenant Singer.

RD: Oh, okay. Well, we got a watermelon now and then, and they said it was government property and everything else, and they said it was a federal offense.

RP: To steal a watermelon?

RD: I don't know what they did with 'em. They never used, never sold them, I don't know whatever they did with them. A lot of 'em went rotten out there, so we used to sneak out once in a while and grab one, they had some cantaloupe out there.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: Can you, can you describe the mess hall where, where the men ate?

RD: You know...

RP: Do you remember that?

RD: I draw a complete blank there. I remember doing KP duty, it seemed like it was down at... you know, like I was saying, showing how the barracks were all lined up east and west there and clear down to, probably, I think the last building down was probably the mess hall, if I remember right.

RP: Do you remember if it was twice as wide as the barracks that you lived in?

RD: It probably was. I don't remember offhand, but I think it was wider. 'Cause in the back part where all the stations where the cooking and everything went on and then the front part where the tables and stuff were. And I was trying to think of what Captain Nail had 'em put in our coffee, I can't remember what it was, to kind of calm us down. And if I could think of the name of it, you would know what it is.

KP: Saltpeter?

RD: Yeah, saltpeter, that's it. [Laughs] Put it in our coffee or our tea. That didn't seem to work to well, though.

RP: No, it didn't.

RD: But I remember one guy, I remember Corporal Cashroot was the corporal I remember in the kitchen there, and he was one of the cooks, and he's the one that made the Raisinjack.

RP: What was that he made? Raisinjack?

RD: Yeah. He would let it ferment in alcohol and everything else, he'd get some alcohol content out of it.

RP: Oh, so it was little bit of a, like a moonshine type of thing?

RD: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Russell Demo. And Russell, we were talking a little bit about your time at Manzanar and the MP camp. And you mentioned that there was a PX in the MP camp?

RD: A what?


RD: Yes.

RP: Can you tell us about that?

RD: Well, I don't remember too much about it like I said, I was just talking a little while ago and got to thinking about it. But it was just a little dayroom over there, more or less, it had, we had a little bar in there where we got to [inaudible] certain times during the day. We'd buy cigarettes there, and I imagine they had candy bars or something there, it was a little day room. And you asked me whether there was a pool table in there and I can't remember. I don't remember too much about it.

RP: There was a piano in there.

RD: Yeah, there was a piano there, it had tables in there where you could play cards or do whatever, you know. As far as anything else in there, I can't remember too much about it.

RP: And who played the piano?

RD: Pardon?

RP: Who played the piano?

RD: Well, there was some old guy that was in the service there that, he was an old honky tonk piano player from down in Los Angeles out there, skid row, he was playing the bars there all the time down there in the panhandle section or wherever you want to call it down there. A pretty nice little guy, though. He'd play anything we want, "Beer Barrel Polka" and all those songs, he knew 'em all.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: Now, you, you entered the military as a raw recruit. You never had any military service before. Was there anybody at Manzanar that kind of took you under your wing like a mentor type of guy?

RD: Well, not exactly, but there was a... I can't think of his name now. Big fellow, he was, he was mostly Indian, and I've been trying to think of his name. And he kind of, he had about three, four years in the service, he kind of hung around with us, talked to him quite a bit, and kind of looked out for you a little bit, I know he did me. And, but I can't remember his name. I've been trying to think of his name off and on, and I'll be darned if I can think of it. Because I used to talk to him all the time. In fact, there was this one time, came back after payday and I picked up some liquor on the base, and I had a pint of rum. And I was, I was all liquored up, and I got up the next morning, they wanted me to fall out for duty, I told 'em to go to hell, I wasn't going to do any duty or anything like that. So they sent me over to the guard house. Well, I took the bottle with me, I had it over in the guardhouse there, and then they started putting me out there in full field pack and my punishment was walking out there in the sun all day long. In the meantime, this one guy got in contact with me. He gave me a couple bucks, and I told him where it was, and him trying to get into the guardhouse, he got thrown in there. [Laughs] He ended up getting his, getting the little bottle of rum, but that was kind of a funny story to think of that. But I can't remember his name. I liked him real well, and he'd been around quite a bit. And you think you always, with somebody like that, you'd remember their name, but it just, it just don't ring a bell at all.

RP: You were talking about Johnny Pavole, and Johnny had a wife who lived in Bishop.

RD: Well, she was at the time. Now, where'd he say... I guess he was from Folsom and she had moved out there. And while she was there, she had her baby.

RP: In Bishop.

RD: Yeah. Now whether her folks or somebody lived down there or were down there with her, if I can remember right, I don't know whether she lived there and that's why she came there or if she just, her folks never came out there. But I assume that she had some relatives there, and that's why she was there, and he was stationed there, so she had the baby out there. He was allowed to go down and visit her, but like Bob and I would sneak along with him and go down, hitchhike down there with him. There was one time we took off on a Friday night, and I can't remember who it was, it was me and two other guys. On a six-hour pass, we went all the way to Los Angeles and back, we got back at six o'clock Monday morning, hitchhiked all the way down and all the way back. We had one heck of a time, I can't remember who went with me, and that was on a six-hour pass because the CQ, they'd always march, we'd call up on the roll call and everything else, everybody would cover for you and you'd get away with something like that. So we were kind of, pretty close-knit unit as far as that went. And there was quite a few times and then they had a bus that ran to Mojave, but it only ran every twelve hours. Like when I went home on leave, I hitchhiked down 'cause I got off at six o'clock, I'd have to wait 'til midnight or something like that, I was down there before eight o'clock or so, or nine o'clock until some guy picked me up, and I went by, what was it? San Joaquin special or something. Took me to Oakland, I got on the ferry, crossed the ferry over to San Francisco, got on the streetcar and got home.

RP: How many, how much of a furlough would you get? Three or four days?

RD: I had five days. And somehow I must have miscounted because I took seven or eight days. It was over Christmastime, my uncle just got back from being over on a ship there, and come back, him and I were celebrating a little bit. Kind of lost track of time.

RP: In talking with Bobby, he characterized his time at Manzanar as being very dull and boring.

RD: Pardon?

RP: He characterized his time --

RD: Oh, yeah, there wasn't really that much for us to do, not like being in the big city, you know. Like we went to Lone Pine, there wasn't nothing there outside of a couple bars, I guess. We went to the ones on the far side of town there, and I can't remember what the name of it was. But every month I'd have my watch hocked for ten dollars and my ring for five dollars, then I'd get paid, the first thing I'd do is get that out of hock, and then pay off my debts and go get my liquor and stuff. 'Cause, actually, there wasn't too much, nothing you could do to spend your money on, really, unless you went down and hang out in the bar all the time. That's why most of us went down -- well, not most of us, but a few of us went down there and hung out. In Independence, we met a few girls down there and we traveled around and had some fun.

RP: Was there a, did you go on dates with these girls?

RD: Oh, yeah, we just went down there, and there was some kind of a dance that went on one time and we went to 'em there. They were seventeen, eighteen years old, I guess, somewhere around there. They came to that place there, that's how we happened to meet 'em. It was a meeting place for kids and stuff like that, I guess. Of course, we weren't much older, we were only eighteen or nineteen ourselves.

RP: Did you do any, you mentioned that before you joined the military that you had done some fishing in San Francisco. Did you do any fishing or hunting while you were at the camp at Manzanar?

RD: No, no, no. Nope, never did, never did any hunting 'til after I got up here and got out of the service, you know. Come up here, but never around any guns or anything. There was never any guns in the family. And my uncles that hung out there, they all worked or something, or retired themselves. So they didn't have any guns or anything.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: Do you recall any other men being court martialed for any other offenses?

RD: No, the first seven days I was out there I had company. They were AWOL with me. I can't remember... I had a couple, three guys out there with me for seven days, then the other twenty days I was there by myself.

RP: Oh, at the, your court martial?

RD: Yeah.

RP: So there were other guys --

RD: But no, there was no other court martials going on there. But everyone in there in the outfit had, as far as I could tell, thought almost every one of 'em had at least one court martial. I think there was one guy in there that had three, but of course, they were all minor. A supplemental court martial was what mine was called.

RP: A summary court martial?

RD: Yeah, a supplementary court martial, which was a minor offense. Nothing serious. Most of the time we did company punishment like dig a ditch or walk up in the hot sun with a full field pack all day long for several days or so. We'd do some other kind of work, work the KP or whatever.

RP: Do you, in the year that you were there, Russ, do you recall any inspections? Was the camp inspected or was the unit inspected?

RD: You mean by General...

RP: Generals or colonels?

RD: ...somebody coming by? Offhand, no, I can't think of anybody coming there to inspect us there. We were there... how long was I there? I figured I was there fourteen months, but I don't think I was there that long. I went into the service in March, went to Monterey, I was there for four or five days, and went to, I guess I was only there at Florence for a couple, three weeks, I guess. And I got to Manzanar in May, I think. April, May... March, April, May... or the last part of April, I can't remember which. And then maybe I was figuring fourteen months, but I guess maybe it was just about eleven months or so. We were there at Manzanar fourteen months altogether before I went to the infantry, I guess, is what I was thinking. So I guess it must have been about eleven or twelve months we were there at Manzanar. But it seemed like we got there in May, I guess, we left in May or June the following year.

RP: That's pretty close.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: Tell us as best you can about the barracks that you lived in. Can you describe the inside, how they were set up?

RD: It was just like, just some buildings, you see big buildings with walls and everything else, and all the bunks lined up down there, and you got your foot locker there, foot locker. And I can't remember, I think at the end of the building was a, separate rooms for the sergeant and corporal, I think, that had their... like you see on TV, they got the, they got separate quarters there as far as I remember, and the rest were just, just all it was was just bunks there and nothing else, our foot locker. I always remember kind of telling the story myself that I would come home at nighttime, I'd always get sick and I'd heave up on my shoes. So I got so, I don't know how it happened, but I'd come home and I'd take my shoes and I'd throw the darn things someplace, and I'd wake up the next day and there they were, and I'd heaved in 'em. How they ever got back... one of the guys knew it and brought 'em back there or something just to make sure I get it or not, I can't remember. And we went to, I guess we did that in MPs, too, maybe I was in the infantry when we did that gas test, different types of gas, gas mask. We didn't have a building to do that training in, I don't think we did that at Manzanar.

RP: Did you do any, did you do any patrols around the perimeter of the camp at all by jeep or by foot?

RD: No, offhand I can't think of, of doing any patrolling around there. Outside of the guards, one on the gate and somebody on the tower all the time, twenty-four hours a day. That's about the only... and like I say, it's about every hour or two hours when you're on ship, the corporal of the guard or sergeant of the guard would come along and, checking everybody and make sure they're there and paying attention and all that stuff, you know. See if we need anything. They would bring us a gift or two.

RP: A gift or two? Oh, would that be...

RD: I'm not gonna say. [Laughs]

RP: We won't hold it against you.

RD: Huh?

RP: We won't hold it against you.

RD: Well, they used to bring us some cantaloupe and watermelon and stuff like that.

RP: [Laughs] Another federal offense.

RD: Not all of 'em did that, but we had a few, couple guards or sergeant of the guards were pretty good there. They'd bring us some fruit or something during the nighttime.

RP: It got awful cold in those towers some nights, didn't it?

RD: [Laughs] I guess. I don't remember too much about it, I just remember being up there, I can't remember whether... but I'm sure it got cold at nighttime, I know that, 'cause there was always snow on the mountains up there, Mt. Whitney and all that. Then the wind came down off that way, I'm pretty sure, blowing from the west there. I imagine it's, you remember sometimes tramping your feet up and down, wiggling a little bit, got all our clothes on, your heavy overcoat and everything. It wasn't very comfortable in there, there was no place hardly -- I can't remember whether we had, I don't think we had a chair to sit down on.

RP: Standing?

RD: There might have been something in there, I don't remember anything being in there.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Were there other men in the unit that... you know, you were in this, initially grouped into the limited service unit. Were there other men there that had other issues, other discipline or other, maybe they had to wear eyeglasses or things like that that would have qualified them for limited service?

RD: Now, that I don't know. Like I said, most of the outfit that was in there, and those replacements that came from, I don't know how many came from back east, there was about six or seven or those, where they came from, what camp they came from, I forget. And why they were sent there, whether they were limited service or not, I couldn't tell you. But I know one of the, the guys that came there, he ended up marrying the daughter of the president of the bank there in Lone Pine. He's the one that, he's one of the bunch that I didn't care too much for. We didn't kind of get along with him, he's kind of, I don't know how you'd describe him. But otherwise, they were all there for some reason or other, I would imagine. I don't even know why Bobby was in there, or Johnny or anything. Of course, like Johnny went with me. He went in the general service, so evidently he had to be on limited service, too. He was always thin like I was, and blond hair, I had blond hair there, light blond hair. Most of the time, people would think we were brothers. We almost looked that much alike, tall and slim. That's what we tried to tell 'em, the MPs there, I mean, in the infantry there, that we were half brothers. And tried to get to, if we can't get to see each other, but they wouldn't go for it.


RD: It, you know, like I told you, we went down to Camp Haan for a week or so before we, part before they sent us to the infantry, and we worked on the towers there. They had some of the pretty hard prisoners in there, and we had ammunition up there, we had the little carbines. And then they had the little outhouses out there, kind of sweathouses for the real ones that... what would they call 'em? Oh, what do you call it? You call when you get into trouble but they're, like they put you down in the cell, darkness and everything else?

RP: Like solitary confinement?

RD: Yeah, yeah, solitary confinement.

RP: The hole?

RD: They had a little, those little buildings like that. And I see guys come out at nighttime, sneaking some food to 'em, or water or something. Pay no attention to it. And I think we, I kind of remember going to, in there, going to the barracks there, going around and checking in there, some pretty rough-looking characters in there.

RP: Were those Italian or German POWs?

RD: No, they were just Americans.

RP: Oh, they're Americans?

RD: Yeah.

RP: At Camp Haan?

RD: Yeah. Yeah, these are guys that... I don't know what the hell they were in there for, maybe shooting somebody or some goddarn thing, or stealing or whatever, if they screwed up in the service or some way. Had a hard, had a bunch of hardcores there.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

KP: I do have one more question about Manzanar, and that is, in the winter of '43 and '44, right there, I think that was while you were there...

RD: Yeah.

RP: A bunch of people shipped out to Tule Lake. Do you remember that at all?

RD: Yeah. I remember something like that. I think they sent, I guess what they considered more the hardcore, sent up to Tule Lake, 'cause it was a tougher camp up there, I think. And how many went, I don't know, but I think it was probably some of the older people anyway. 'Cause the younger generation there, they weren't causing any problems, 'cause they weren't raised like the parents were. And there was, I remember something like that, but I don't know how many went there when it happened.

KP: Bob said that he was actually involved in the inspections of people going out.

RD: Oh, he was? Maybe he was, yeah.

KP: But you weren't involved in that?

RD: No, not that I can recall.

RP: Another question similar to that one, there was, this might have been early on before you got there, but there was always an MP stationed at the post office, and they would go through the parcels, you know, that were delivered to the internees.

RD: Oh, yeah, I imagine so, yeah. I don't remember, I was never involved in any of that, but I'm sure they inspected everything that came into camp there.

RP: And you said on occasion you were stationed at the gate, the front gate of the camp?

RD: Yeah. And that was kind of an honor, 'cause it was an easy job. You got to meet a lot of people, so we'd always had a "simon says," and I went out a couple times, they'd get a bunch of us there, last one standing, so I got to be guard duty the next day, and then you get a six-hour pass that night. So I've done that a couple times. Thought that was a big deal to get to wear that revolver and everything else and stand on the gate there checking people in and out.

RP: You felt kind of in charge of things.

RD: Yeah, yeah. Feel like you're kind of special or something, kind of honored or something like that at that time. As far as I can remember.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: So you were reclassified for regular service while you were at Manzanar or afterwards?

RD: Yeah, yeah. I was notified then that I had been upgraded to general service.

RP: You passed the weight?

RD: Yeah, like I weighed 145 pounds, then I'd grown a little bit. And anyway, like I said, I don't know when that happened, but that'd be in '43, and then after the first year is when... May or June, I guess, when they broke up the outfit and shipped us out. Like half of 'em went to... no, I don't know how many of us was there. There was a hundred, maybe two hundred was there. I'm not too sure how many was there, but I know sixty-nine of us were shipped to the Camp Haan and then went to Alabama, the infantry. And Bobby and the rest of 'em were all sent to the medical department. So evidently, they were on restricted duty, I imagine, for some reason or other.

RP: So Camp Haan and then you say you went to Alabama?

RD: Uh-huh.

RP: For what type of training?

RD: Mostly infantry there.

RP: Okay, and that was 263rd?

RD: Uh-huh. We traveled by train all the way from Camp Haan to... I forgot how many days it took. There were sixty-nine of us that left, and less than thirty of us made it. The rest, we dumped the first bunch we lost in Arizona, Douglas, Arizona, then we lost some more in Texas. And lost the biggest bunch in New Orleans. And I was about ready to stay there myself because I was pretty well liquored up. And Johnny was the one that drug me back to the, to the train, we had a little layover there.

KP: These guys just got off the train and never got back on?

RD: Yeah, they just took off.

RP: They took off?

RD: The train stopped for some reason or other, they'd take off. Like most of the, that's what the old-timers, most of those guys was always going AWOL all the time. We had one guy who said he was gonna head for the hills, I forgot where it was, up in the mountains there, he said he'd get lost up there, they'd never find him. [Laughs]

RP: So you had a few thoughts about doing that, too.

RD: Yeah. I got all liquored up, and I thought I was in love and everything else, I wasn't gonna go. But Johnny got me back to the train and everything was fine.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

RP: So how long did you stay in Alabama before you shipped out?

RD: Well, I got there in June or July and we shipped out in November, went to Camp Shanks. And I had a furlough, and I was supposed to get fifteen days to go home on leave, and they decided I was missing a tooth, so I had to allot a couple, three days of my furlough because of that tooth. So I said, okay, when I went home, I'll just take those three days. [Laughs] So what happened to me was, lucky again, I got back to camp, and here I was on POR, Port of Replacement, supposed to ship out two days before I got back. And they canceled that order and decided to send the whole, whole division over. Otherwise I'd probably still be in the guard house. I lucked out on that. Made me so doggone mad, all that time for one lousy tooth, when I was on the boat on Atlantic Ocean, that's where the teeth are. Threw 'em overboard.

RP: So from... where did you actually disembark when you got to Europe? Where did you end up?

RD: Well, we landed, we went to England, and we were stationed at the little town of Henstridge. We were only about five or six blocks from the town entrance and then Stalbridge was down the road about a mile. And we were on some barren land there or some doggone thing, it was leased out to the government, and we stayed there and did our marching and training. We were there, what, well, from middle of November, we went up to Camp Shanks, and I don't know how long we were there, a week or so or something, I forget, or maybe two weeks. And then we shipped out, and we were on, I was fortunate I was on the flagship where all the generals and stuff were on there. And we had a pretty good convoy around us, and I signed up for KP for the night. The ones that worked got three meals a day, the ones that didn't work got two meals a day. So we get in there, we'd go to work at eight o'clock at night and get off about six in the morning. And heck, by the time we got off, we were so, we got in the fresh milk first eight to ten days out there, fresh milk. And they had that down there and I went to the officers' stuff, we found the ice cream, we got into that. We had these crates that the produce came in, and they had these steel decks down there and we'd get on those things and whenever the boat rocked, we'd sit on 'em and race to see who could get to the other end the fastest. And we had, we had a good crew there. We had this, this guy that was a navy guy that was in charge of the cooking crew, he showed us where the ice cream was and he says, pretended he didn't see us taking stuff. And then, of course, they only ate about one or two meals anyway, so it didn't make a difference. 'Cause I was always, well, I was going to get ready to go to bed when it got daylight and get on there, go down there and get in my bunk and sleep 'til it gets evening time, and have a meal and go to work. It took us fifteen days to cross the Atlantic Ocean. And we landed in... I don't know what port we landed in, anyway. But, then they took us to these camps, like I said, we were back in this one little area. And we first got off the boat and I got my new BAR and I had to clean off the carbines. It comes in...

KP: Cosmoline.

RD: Yeah. And Cosmoline or whatever you wanted to call it, and we'd clean that all off with alcohol and stuff. And then we got, we were placed with the, I said the 92nd, I guess it was the 94th. In fact, Corporal Arthur that I was telling you about, his brother was in that outfit that we relieved. And he got to see him, and then they went up to the outskirts of Liage and ran into a crack Panzer division there, and they had, I don't know, no more than sixty or better casualties up there. They had a heck of a time up there. And like we stayed there, we had a little, it was a hundred yards or so between each little dugout where we stayed in, laid there on the cold ground and had little, what they call "mummybags." And there was two, three, two, three, or four of us in a little dugout, I think, I can't remember. Took turns being on guard duty at nighttime, being awake. And then when we sailed out, we sailed out of Southampton, I think, landed in Cherbourg, France.

RP: And from there, where did you go?

RD: That's where we went to, I went to Lorient side, taking us there to Lorient, and that was Brittany, what they called Brittany, you know when they had the invasion on June? They had the Normandy beach and the Brittany beach. We were on the Brittany beach there where they had a pocket of 55,000 Germans in the pocket there, trapped in there. And that's where the two submarine bases were in there, the submarine bases were in there. And they were held in that parker until the war was over with. And how that happened or why it stayed like that, I have no idea why they wouldn't surrender and they didn't want to force the issue or what, but the deal was, I don't know. But they didn't try to get out.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

RP: Tell us the story about how you got wounded.

RD: Well, we were out on, we went out on patrol several times, it was whenever there was a patrol going out, maybe it'll be [inaudible], of course they call it voluntary. Went out and... the first time I went out, we got on there, we got attacked by artillery and some mortar shells. And we got back, and you had to be in service, under fire, combat zone twenty-four hours, so at that time there was only six of us that had the combat infantry badge. And then this one night on the 28th of February, there was something going on out in front of us out there. So the sergeant, and me and my BAR man went out, we walked down through the ditch there and everything else. And then they went off, everything's in hedgerows down there, you know, big bushes. And they went off and they were someplace, and I was left out there by myself to stand guard. The next thing I know, I hear these hand grenades and the fire and everything else and spotted us, and they came through there. I said, "Let's get out of here," and we took off. I was packing more weight, but I passed 'em all up. So everybody always said, they said, "How come all your wounds were in the back?" I said, "Not running toward the enemy." And they come back and I tripped off the booby trap. Lay there for a while, and well, the rest of it I'll forget about.

RP: So you were shipped back?

RD: Pardon?

RP: You were shipped back to the United States?

RD: Yeah. I didn't get back... they went to the battalion aid station. Now, I don't remember, I remember a sergeant, medical sergeant picking me up, picked me up last, make sure the sergeant, he was laying in the ditch. And I wanted my BAR, didn't want to leave it there for the Germans. He said, "Leave it there," I said, "No, I want it." He wouldn't let me get it. So he took me back and I remember him taking me back, I don't remember too much, and I remember waking up in the battalion station, battalion aid station. Then I come to find out that, well, Corporal Arthur's daughter-in-law got in touch with my son there on e-mail, he found out, here it was about three or four years ago, and they were understanding that I lost my foot because the bone was sticking out of my show on my right foot there. And I told them no, and they said, they said, well, Corporal Arthur said he had to laugh about it because I sat there and I said, "I feel sorry for you SOBs. I get to go home and you guys got to stay here." And I don't remember that at all. Probably some morphine shots that I had to... I don't remember a lot of that stuff. And then they sent me to a... I don't know, field hospital in Rennes, France, and I was there through March, and then April they sent me to another place, Oxford, the hospital there. And in May they shipped me back to the, to the States. And I landed here in... well, you read that name on there, whatever it was. Staten Island? Yeah, Staten Island, yeah. And I was there from about May 'til the 26th of July. Oh, no. From there they shipped me to -- we traveled all across the United States, all the way from there to Vancouver, Washington, where Barnes General Hospital was, and we had a hospital train there. And we had these big, wide windows there, and we lay there and we look out the windows and see all, everything there. And usually some of the towns we stopped, people would be there waiting, and they'd give us ice cream and different things like that, we were treated all the way. Then we came all the way down along the Columbia River, and then come down into Barnes General Hospital there. And I was there until... and then they split us, so us guys that were ambulatory would get up and walk around. We went, their own rooms and cleaned up, did our own latrines and stuff like that, you know. Cleaned up and went to town, we got to go to town every night if we wanted to.

KP: Can I ask a couple questions? So you were in Brittany most of the, all the time you were in France?

RD: Yeah, yeah, I was on the line there, yeah.

KP: And where did you get training for your BAR?

RD: Pardon?

KP: Where did you get the training for the BAR?

RD: Oh, we, before I went overseas, I was BAR man there. We trained on everything. We had submachine guns, automatic 45s, and every kind of piece for artillery and mortars or anything like that, but we trained all of that and then...

KP: You told an interesting story to me and --

RD: Oh, I said that... yeah, when I got that gun, we cleaned the Cosmoline and everything off it, and after we got back to an area, we came back to an area, and it was out in this hayfield where they got big round mounds of hay out there, and in the center they got a hole cut in there. And the lieutenant and I went out there to zero the gun in and try it out a little bit. I think I got two clips of shells through there before artillery fire come in. And we were just back there, way back off the line and everything, way back there. And we pinned down in that haystack for over half an hour. And I was just in there zeroing out a BAR. Well, they always said the life of a BAR man overseas, on the line, was fifteen minutes. As soon as you fired, you drew artillery fire. That convinced me right there.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

KP: One of the questions I want to ask is while you were over in Europe did you hear anything... you weren't where the 442nd was, but did you hear any stories about the 442nd at all?

RD: The Four what?

KP: The 442nd, the Japanese American troop?

RD: No. You know, the first I ever heard of that was when we got back here and they made that one movie where Van Johnson played there, played the lieutenant or something about Japanese Americans. What did they have, ninety percent casualties in that outfit?

KP: I think they ended up with three hundred percent casualties.

RD: Yeah, somewhere between ninety and a hundred percent casualties, yeah. And I imagine some of those kids from Manzanar were... I think there were some kids that, when they became eighteen, was able to enlist in the service, I think. Some went from there, I think, I'm not too sure.

RP: Actually, that raises another question, Russell. Did you, whenever you were on duty, even at the gate, at the front gate, do you remember seeing any Japanese Americans in uniform who came back to the camp to visit?

RD: No, no. I don't think they would have been allowed to come there anyway. Even if their parents were there... they might have, but I never did see any. I know I've seen a documentary, they had some movie on one of the programs there. I guess it was Cold Case. You ever watch that program on TV? They went clear back, and it was camp Manzanar, about there, in the service, some were in the service. But I kind of remember some things there, and I can't remember whether his son was able to come there and visit him or not. I don't, I don't remember. So I was thinking about that.

RP: He was allowed to come.

RD: But I never, I never did see anybody, that might have been after I left there, too.

RP: '43/'44, yeah.

RD: We left there in May of '44.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

RP: So you came back to, eventually came back to California after you recovered from all your wounds?

RD: Yeah, well, I got discharged the 26th. I stayed there for a couple, three days, friend of mine and I stayed there. We had a couple gals, we hung around there for a couple, three days. First thing I did was bought my ticket to get home. Then we celebrated for three days and then I got home on a Sunday. And my train in Oakland, and I got on the ferry boat and came over to San Francisco. I remember my mother saying that they were having some big dinner at my grandmother's house. So I got in the, took a taxi up there and the whole family was there. My father was even there, and all my uncles, and my grandfather was talking to me about my cousin Albert, the big hero he was, said he played the saxophone or the clarinet up in Alaska someplace.

RP: He was a big hero?

RD: He was only kidding. I was surprised, my mother was there and everybody was there. 'Cause, I mean, my grandmother and grandfather were still associated with my mother and everything else, they didn't blame her for anything, you know. And they were still, she was invited to a lot of things there. That was quite a reunion. Everybody cried. Then we were there, my mother got married and she moved to Yuba City. So I stayed in San Francisco for a while with some friends that had taken over the house that we stayed in on Chattanooga Street there, and then I moved up to Yuba City. And then my aunt and uncle owned a bar here in Corning, and I come up in August, I guess, to visit with them. I spent a couple weeks up here, and I worked behind the bar and helped 'em out a little bit, then I went back to Yuba City. And they called me up, wanted to know if I wanted to come up there in olive season and work from two o'clock 'til about eight o'clock in the afternoon when they guys got off work and they needed an extra guy working, helping in there. And the night bartender got fired, and I've been here ever since. That's the best thing that ever happened to me, I raised all my kids up here in a small town.

RP: Did you, did you share your, your experiences at Manzanar with your kids?

RD: Well, Manzanar, talked maybe a little bit about Manzanar. I didn't talk too much about anything, I don't think.

RP: [Addressing RD's daughter] So you didn't know anything about his service then?

S: Very little about it until the last few years, he started talking a little bit more about it. And in fact, he went up to my granddaughter's seventh grade classroom and shared some of his experiences and took his medals up there and shared it with the class. They were really excited. But he never really talked too much about being in the war. I guess too painful to him.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

RP: Joining Russell is his daughter, Sharon. And Sharon, perhaps you and Russell could share the story of how you ended up visiting Manzanar a couple of years ago?

S: Yes. Before that, my husband and I had made a trip to Las Vegas and we had driven down 395. And I called my dad to check on him, see how he was doing, and I told him where we were and he said, oh, he'd been stationed there at camp Manzanar. And so then a couple years ago we planned a trip with two of my daughters and some of my grandkids to go to the Grand Canyon, and we asked my dad if he wanted to go with us and he said, "Yeah." And so during the trip, we took everybody and went down to camp Manzanar so he could, and Lone Pine so he could see where he had been at the time. And it was a shock to him because it was so different.

RD: I didn't recognize hardly anything. Everything was gone. They took all the barracks, and everything else was all down. And like she said, I remember the ballfield, but I still, right now, just thinking about it, I don't remember it.

S: Yeah, as we drove through in there, he would tell us where, "This was here, the garden was here, and the ballfield was here." We sat in and watched the movie that was, that they show in there, which was very sad.

RP: And you met, you met a person in the interpretive center who actually had been in the camp?

S: Yes, she said when she was young, she'd been in the camp, 'cause we just got talking, and I said, "Oh, my dad was a guard here at the camp, but he didn't agree what was going on and didn't like it, and he would let 'em kind of come and go as they wanted." But as soon as I said my dad was a guard at the camp, she dropped all conversation and walked away. She wanted nothing more to do with the conversation or anything. It was a really sad thing. It must have been really hard.

RD: I imagine it was.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

RD: They had all those gardens and stuff down there, you know. 'Cause I know I went down after the war, went down with my father-in-law, and he was showing me the areas where they used to, there's all kinds of buildings and stuff where all the gardens, Japanese gardens and everything used to be. They took all that away from them, lost all that land and everything. Took everything away from 'em, lost all their rights and everything.

RP: A few more questions about, just going back to Manzanar, Russell. We talked about a few of the guys, your buddies, and some of the other folks in the unit. Were there any other men that you would kind of term "characters" or, you know, had certain eccentricities about them, colorful people in the unit?

RD: Outside of the piano player. You know, the honky tonk piano player, he was quite a character. And that one guy that I was telling you about that I can't remember... you know, kind of became pretty friendly with him. In fact, he would, couldn't get any alcohol, he'd drink Aqua Velva, you know, shaving lotion, those guys would drink that. [Laughs] And, but he was quite a character too, and I still can't remember his name, but he was a nice guy. He was one of the guys that probably had about three court martials, I guess.

RP: Was he the Indian guy that you mentioned?

RD: Yeah, he was, I'm pretty sure he was mostly Indian. And where he was from, I can't remember any of that, but I liked him real well. I just can't recall his name. Bob probably would.

RP: Bob might have mentioned him in his interview with us. How did you feel about leaving the camp when you got the orders to, the unit --

RD: Well, I was happy about it. I didn't know what was going on. I wasn't happy when I was down there at Camp Haan on the guard duty, guarding Americans in there and everything else. But then I was glad I was getting shipped to the infantry, finally gonna get into the war a little bit there.

RP: Right. There was...

RD: There was some excitement there about that. And got in there, fit in real good and got acquainted with everybody like I said. Those guys in there, like [inaudible] in their company, those guys have been together for a year or two, see, and I'd only been there about five or six months with 'em. So like I said, I remember some of 'em, but not too well. And so I remember all of my [inaudible].

RP: And who, who have you seen from the 319th after, since you've left Manzanar? Have you run into anybody?

RD: Yeah, I was up here probably in the early '50s, I worked for my father-in-law, they had the laundry here, and I used to deliver stuff to the restaurants and the hotels and motels and stuff there. And one day this United Grocer truck was pulled in there, and this guy Bob Soames, he was from Des Moines, Iowa, you know. And I asked him, I said, "What the heck you doing out here?" He said, well, he's the one that went to the other, went to the medical group, and Arnie said he got discharged out when he was in California and decided to stay here. He got married and he's working out of Redding. I ran into him a few times, we had planned on getting together a few times, and it never did work out. And then I guess he was gone after that, I didn't hear more about it. And then I was talking about this one character, the piano player, from down there in L.A., and then in the afternoons there, father-in-law, we'd take a turn, take a break, we'd go down and have a beer for about fifteen minutes or so, you know, cool off. The weather's a hundred degrees or better up here, and lo and behold, there was that guy, just two guys from our outfit from Manzanar, you'd never expect to meet in a lifetime, you know. And especially that guy, honky tonk player, he would be, I imagine he was up in his thirties when I was in there. So he was one of the older guys, most of 'em were all up there probably in their thirties, in the service for quite a while. They all had three, four, five, ten years in. But outside of that, that's the only two I ran into.

RP: Have you ever seen Johnny or Robert since that time?

RD: Oh, well, like I said, I tried to tell you, I guess it was after I got discharged and came home, I think I looked Bob up and I went and visited him once, I think. And I think it was probably after I got out of the service. But like I said, I didn't stay in San Francisco very long, only a week or two. And I left, and then we kind of lost contact there.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

RP: You were just talking about visiting Lone Pine and Independence a few years ago and how they, those communities had changed. What were your, I'm curious to know what your impressions were of those two towns when you were at camp Manzanar?

RD: To me, I would have never recognized it because, like I remember this time, part of town, there was a bar there, and didn't seem like there was much in that town, you know, and they were in the middle of, on the other side, on the right-hand side going through down there was a liquor store down there. And I can remember that and I couldn't recognize anything there. And even in Independence, I didn't recognize nothing, that one little place that we used to meet, that wasn't there, and the town had grown up, pretty good-sized town there. And I didn't recognize anything except for, like I said, we went to camp Manzanar, and after we got to driving around in there, I kind of recalled some of the places and stuff. But there was actually nothing left there.

RP: What were your impressions of the people in those towns? Did you get to meet a lot of folks?

RD: Oh, yeah. The ones I met were the ones in the bar there, you know, but they were all pretty nice. They all treated us real nice, especially down there, town of Independence, we never ran into too many other people there except the one guy that took care of that social house or whatever it was. Met some people there, and we went to the restaurant across the street there, a little, small restaurant there, we visited there and had something to eat once in a while. But outside of Independence, we didn't meet too many people there, neither. But heck, I'd venture to say that there wasn't... I wouldn't think there'd be five hundred people or so in that town, it seemed like to me, you know, at that time, or a thousand people. And I don't remember what the population in... Lone Pine was. It was a lot bigger, it was ten times bigger than what, what Independence was.

RP: Russell, from your conversations at the bar or everywhere else in town there, did you get any ideas of what local people's attitude was towards the camp Japanese Americans?

RD: Not really. I mean, they were all glad to see us, they knew, you know, that, what was going on and everything. And like I said, when they were there making a movie or something there, the extras came to town and we got a free ride in there. But we got along with the people real well, and they were all friendly in there. The only problem I had, like I said, when we snuck down to Bishop, California, I went in the bar there and ordered a beer. He says, "How old are you?" I said, "I'm old enough." He says, "You've got to be twenty-one to drink in here." "Hey," I said, "if I'm old enough to go fight for your war, I'm old enough to come in here and get a beer." We got in a hell of an argument so I finally had to leave. He wouldn't serve me.

RP: That was the only time that happened?

RD: Yeah. Only time I ever went into a bar and got turned down, some guy down there in Bishop. I know we had a, when I was at Barnes General Hospital, we were there at Vancouver, and just across the bay was Portland. Well, in Vancouver, you went in a bar there, unless there was a seat, you couldn't get served unless you'd sit down. So we got a liquor license in Vancouver and went over to Lone Pine and filed for one over there, and they wanted proof of my age. So he called the hospital and he talked to the major. He says, "Anybody that comes in this hospital is twenty-one years or older. If they come in, if they want a liquor license, you give it to 'em." I just wanted to buy a bottle. It was rationed once a month. There was some little old lady in Vancouver there, us guys were from the hospital, she'd give us an extra bottle or two every month, punch our same hole in the card, you had a punch card. It was all together over in Portland. You could lay on the floor and drink over there. But as far as the bars went, you had to bring your own bottle and check it in and buy it back. They furnished the mix and the ice, and we had to pay fifty cents or a dollar for your drink. And everybody had to... all liquor was rationed up there, so it wasn't like you're down here in California, you could buy it anyplace you wanted to.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

RP: A number of, looking over some of the history associated with the military police in Manzanar, there were some local, locals and also military officers that characterized the MPs as, sometimes calling them "misfits" or just... and it might have been related or directed to some of the earlier units that served there. Did you get that impression from... it doesn't sound like you got that impression.

RD: No. I never did hear any reaction or anything about being an MP or anything else. That's all that we were, we're soldiers and everything else. That's the only reaction I got. Some of the guys got to town, went to town and got drunk, got in a little trouble, got beef sometimes. We had a couple guys in there that everytime they went someplace, always ended up getting in a fight or someplace, you know. But outside of that...

RP: You weren't involved in any fights?

RD: No, not there.

RP: Not there? [Laughs] You were nineteen years old, and you were sort of at that falling in love stage. Did you, did you fall in love with any of these girls in Independence at all?

RD: Well, no, we just ran around, we got along real good. We were all real young, we just socialized real good and got along. And it's just something, you know, people talked to you. Like I said, they had a dance down there, and it's just company, you know, and people talk to you. Like I said, they had a dance down there every once in a while, I think, if I remember right, and had something going on, or some celebration of some type, we'd go to that. But we didn't go to town every night, so I mean, just maybe one or two nights a week, something like that.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

RP: One other story that Robert shared with us was about a bomber, I think it was a B-24 Liberator that had to make a forced landing at the Manzanar airport. And he was sent out with several other guys to guard the plane. Do you, do you remember that?

RD: I remember something about that, I think we were on guard duty, and they landed at that airfield there. And, 'cause they had that, I forget what they called it, bomb site on there, for the bombardiers and stuff, and it had to be guarded. Norton bomb site, yeah. And I'm sure I stood duty down there, I kind of remember something about that now, yeah. I forgot how long it was there, but remember we had to do some duties, go down, stayed guard duty down there.

RP: Yeah, he was, he was telling us that, you know, he went by the book in terms of not allowing even the lieutenant near the plane without seeing ID.

RD: Oh, yeah, to challenge anybody that come up here, yeah. He had to be recognized, you know, and they had a password, and if they didn't know the password, you shoot 'em. No. [Laughs] No, they didn't get in. They always had a password and everything else, and he challenged everybody. I don't remember whether I had to challenge anybody or not. Don't seem like it that I can recall.

RP: Did you have to guard anybody at the jail at the military police camp?

RD: No.

RP: Anybody, again, anybody who was too drunk or insubordinate or anything like that?

RD: That I had to guard?

RP: Yeah.

RD: No.

RP: No?

RD: All we'd do is restricted to our barracks on our own, like I said, at nighttime, we could sneak out.

RP: Like being grounded by your parents?

RD: Yeah, there was nobody guarding us or anything else, we all kind of stuck together. The CQ would always check us in and out. You had to be on duty on the guard, at the gate in the morning, checking guys going out or coming in or whatever.

RP: You mentioned, you mentioned the mess hall, maybe refresh my memory. Did we talk about the food at all? Do you remember anything about your meals there? How were you fed?

RD: What the, I was trying to remember what we called, called that one meal, Spam, or what it was, but what do you call it? Oh, I can't remember, we had a name for it.


RD: Yeah. SOS, yeah, that's what it was. Most of the time the meals weren't that bad, and especially if you were on KP duty. And they served steaks once in a while. But that Spam, that crap they put on toast and everything in the morning, that wasn't very good.

RP: How were you served in the mess hall? Was it a cafeteria operation where you picked up a plate and you moved along?

RD: Went through the line, yeah.

RP: Plop, plop, plop?

RD: Somebody served, yeah, as far as I can remember. But nobody served you on the table or anything. You had to go get your own food. As I can remember, in, it was in Arizona, the winds would come up there so bad you have to, all the time your food would taste sandy and the water, add Kool-Aid quite a bit, it tastes kind of sandy, there's no way to keep the sand out of there. It always had that sandy taste to everything.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

RP: This is tape three of a continuing interview with Russell Demo. Russell, let's just backtrack to, I want to ask you about the medals that you received for your action overseas. Can you tell us what medals you were given for your service?

RD: Yeah, I had the Bronze Star medal and the Purple Heart.

RP: And the Bronze Star medal was for what specific action?

RD: Well, the night I was on patrol, and I don't know. Huh? Oh, there was a victory medal and one I couldn't understand why I got it, and I said, "You guys made a mistake." They gave me the good conduct medal. But you don't realize, you've been in the hospital for over six months or so, and your time over in France, 'cause I got in trouble in France, that didn't count against me. So I'd been good for a year, I guess.

RP: Did you receive any kind of commendation for your military police service at Manzanar?

RD: Not that I know of.

KP: Can you tell us the circumstances under which you got, finally got the Bronze Star? Richard?

RD: Oh, I don't know why they delivered me the Purple Heart while I was laying in the hospital there. The chaplain brought the Purple Heart to me, and then I was, I was fighting with the VA trying to get my pension upgraded, and I've been fighting with them for years and I was always taking my discharge papers up there, and I got the, it was, I don't know, back in '98, I guess it was. And I was looking at my discharge paper, I read it a lot of times and it said Bronze Star medal on there. So I asked, I took it up to the service officer up there and I said, "Does that mean what I think it means?" And she said, "Yes." So she sent a query to it, so in the mail they sent me the Bronze Star medal and a copy of everything else. I talked to the sergeant and they said, "Yeah, him and Wells were presented theirs." And to me, I don't know where I got lost in the shuffle there someplace. 'Cause I read in the VFW magazine where they discovered some guys later on in years, fifty years or so, had a medal coming and they had generals and everybody else presented it to him, I got mine in the mail.

RP: Russell, if you can hold up a couple of these pictures of us so Kirk can kind of zoom in on 'em. These are photographs of you in the camp.

RD: [Describing photographs] Well, we were just joking around, I think that was Bob Soames, and I think Bob Havilla sitting in the jeep, and I'm standing there pretending he's arresting me, you know. He's got the MP sign on his shirt there. We were just joking around, and the gun wasn't loaded. That's me and all my muscles. This is me on a horse pretending I'm a cowboy, I guess, I don't know. I never was a horseback rider. What I was doing on a horse, I still don't remember.

RP: Wasn't that your mounted patrol duty?

RD: [Laughs] I don't know. I assume this was taken there in Manzanar someplace. Probably in town there, somebody had...

RP: Had some horses?

RD: Had some horses, we took it.

RP: Maybe you went out and took that picture.

RD: This is a picture of the 319th MPEG company that I think they took just before we left and everything else. And I'm in there someplace. I think that's me right about there. And on the back, I have the names of most of the guys who were in the outfit on the background of our barracks.

RP: And the mountains in the back.

RD: Hmm?

RP: The mountains, you can just barely see the mountains.

RD: Oh, yeah.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

RP: Speaking of the mountains, how did that, how did the landscape around Manzanar, did it have any effect on you? The Sierras in the background...

RD: I don't know what kind of thing could happen, 'cause all we knew, there was mountains up there, there was Mt. Whitney and then Whitney Portal, on the other side was Owens Valley. And that had that lake there, I guess it almost dried up. I forget what they called that lake there and everything else. We never did get over in that area, but it was all kind of flat in our area right there, we could look out that way. And then it looked like it was probably about, couple blocks away, but it took several miles before you got to the mountains back there. Everything looked so close when you're looking at it. Might look half a mile away and it's really five or ten miles away. But most of the area around where we were was all level. Probably pretty flat.

RP: Do you have any recollections of wind at Manzanar?

RD: No, but I imagine the wind did come up. We did have some wind there, and maybe when I was out there digging a ditch or something in the snow and got a little cold out there, or windy. But, and up in the towers, I'm sure it got cold up there. I don't remember too much, 'cause we didn't have no heaters or anything up there.

RP: Had you ever been in snow before, before you came to Manzanar?

RD: We never had any snow in Manzanar. Oh, yeah, we did, too. That's right, we did that one winter there. [Laughs] There wasn't that much, though. I think it was just, it might have been more frost than anything, but there was just maybe an inch or so on the ground there, and I think that was unusual for there anyway. 'Cause that's the only time I ever did see, I remember that one that was in January, that was out there, I guess it was, January or February. Yeah, I forgot about that part. But otherwise, I don't remember hardly any snow ever being on the ground at all except for that one time I was out there.

RP: Did the experience that you had in Manzanar as a military policeman change any of your attitudes or did you have a clear understanding of what had happened to Japanese Americans, what was going on?

RD: No, I really didn't understand it. I could maybe see how they were gonna, some of the old people were probably dedicated to their country and maybe keeping guard on them or something like that, but moving the family, the young people were born and raised here. I didn't think that was right to lock them up. And that just tore 'em from their homes and everything else, they lost everything they had down there. I guess they finally reciprocated some of the people later on, but they didn't get nearly what they had coming. I don't know when that happened, a couple years ago or something that they awarded them some money? But like I said, they were just probably, same way with probably some Germans. They were probably loyal to their old country too, you know, over there, came from the old country. But as a general, the biggest percentage of 'em were all born and raised here, there was no reason to lock 'em up as far as I'm concerned.

RP: Russell, on behalf of the National Park Service and myself and Kirk, we thank you so much for the opportunity to hear your stories.

RD: Well, I'm happy to be able to help you out as much as I can. I appreciate you coming up here and visiting with me.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.