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Mitzi Asai Loftus Oral History Interview, April 14, 2007

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´╗┐SH: My name is Susan Hirata, and today is Tuesday, October 24, 2006, and I am here interviewing Mitzi Loftus. Mitzi, can you tell me a little bit about where you were born, when you were born, and sort of where you grew up and your family life?

ML: Okay, I was born in 1932 in Hood River, Oregon, and I was the last, the eighth child in the family, of which I think my father delivered seven of those babies at home. I went to school there until the fourth grade, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and I was very startled. That was a Sunday, and on Monday when I went back to school, a boy called me a Jap and spit on me, and I was very 00:01:00bewildered. It was a boy I'd known all my life, gone through school with since the first grade. That was my first big message of some things that were going to be happening to us in the next many years.

Well then, the government said that they were going to ship us out of our homes and put us in camps, and to get prepared. And then, that actually happened on May 13 of 1942. All the people in Hood River were put on a train and sent off to Fresno, California, to the assembly center, Pinedale assembly center, which is where we were first sent. At that time there were seven in our family. My brother Min, my brother Jin [Gene?] and Dick, my sister Mika and I -- that would 00:02:00be five. And my parents -- seven -- ???. and we were given one room in the barrack where we were housed. From there we were sent to more permanent camps that were developed for us, any of which held 10,000 people or more, and we went then to Tule Lake, in California, Northern California, not too far from the Oregon border, south of Klamath Falls. We were there for a year, a little over a year, and then Tule Lake was made into a segregation, kind of detention center, and at that point our family was moved and sent to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, which is where I spent the last year, a little more than a year, of our camp experience. And then we were allowed to go back, leave the camps and go back to our homes if we wanted to, or to leave the camps and go someplace. This was 00:03:00before the war had ended.

So in April of 1945, what was left of our family, just four then -- Dick and me and my mother and father -- went back to Hood River. And I was in the seventh grade by then, and I went to an eighth grade [eight-grade?] elementary school. So I graduated ?? from that school, went to high school in Hood River, in town, and when I graduated from there I went to the University of Oregon for four years and became a teacher, and I taught school off and on for about 47 years. That's pretty much my life. I've been a native Oregonian, lived in Oregon for just about every year of my life I was allowed to.

SH: Let me go back to the time when your family heard that they had to pack up 00:04:00and go to these camps. I've always wondered what that time was like. How did the government let people know that this was going to happen, and at that time was your family afraid or worried? Did you actually even know what was going to happen, or were you sort of stepping into this unknown?

ML: I know that there were these flyers that were tacked onto telephone poles all over town in every town that had Japanese people. I don't know if we were sent an individual letter. I think maybe we were. But who knows how they could have found everybody, so maybe everybody didn't get one.

SH: I guess that's what I wonder. How did they find everyone?

ML: It was in the newspapers, local newspapers, and you know, as I've learned over the years, it was a very well-kept secret to people it didn't concern, so I 00:05:00have met Americans . . . every time I speak someone comes forward and says, "You know, I had this very good friend in school who was Japanese, and suddenly they disappeared and we didn't know where they went." I don't know how many times I've heard that from different people, which means that there was a concerted effort to keep it a secret because the government, ?or? some people in places of power, knew it wasn't the right thing to do, and they were doing something that was probably constitutionally not --

SH: So I would assume that these people would have also seen these ads but they were such that they didn't pay attention to . . .

ML: They lived in communities where there were Japanese people, and only some people . . . It's just like any news. Why is it that some people aren't aware of 00:06:00what's going on when it's there? I remember hoping and wondering if any of my classmates were going to come to say goodbye to me at the train station and nobody came. Maybe because they didn't know I was leaving, but probably because it was during the school day and they had to be in school. So nobody came, and I remember how empty I felt but in later years I thought, well that wasn't their fault. Maybe they wanted to come and say goodbye but they didn't know.

SH: So, how many Japanese families were in your community?

ML: I'm not sure of the number but my guess would be about fifty [Wow!] in Hood River.

SH: And you had to take a train from Hood River? A train took you to . . .?

ML: Yes, and they didn't tell us where we were going. We had no idea where we were going, and I was thinking, Oh, goodie! A train ride, my first train ride! 00:07:00And the first thing they did, they had MPs on each car, and we were told we had to pull the blinds on the windows, so we had that whole long train trip [and] we couldn't look out the windows, which kind of spoiled my first train ride.

SH: So did that make it scary? How did . . . Or for you, being younger, maybe it seemed like a fun train ride, but how were your parents feeling? Were they scared?

ML: Well, you know how little kids are. They're so curious. Even if the blinds are pulled they're trying to peek out if nobody's watching, or doing things, and so it was a real effort for the older folks to keep the kids in line. I don't know what was going on in my parents' minds, but surely they must have thought how ridiculous this all was. But Japanese people in their culture are always told to accept what's handed out to you, and just say nothing, be resigned. And 00:08:00I suppose pretty much that's what happened.

SH: So do you think that it happened particularly well or easily because this was a Japanese population?

ML: I think so, yes. Although I don't think the government and people in charge knew that much about the Japanese culture. It just, it was lucky. They were lucky in that that's the way we were. Otherwise they might have had something on their hands they couldn't deal with very well. But the Japanese, on the most part, are very pliable and compliant, do what they're supposed to do, and so they did that. They found that, at the assembly centers, there was very high security, with high fences with electrified barbed wire around the tops and things, but after we'd been kept in those places for three months or so they realized they weren't going to have any trouble with us. We weren't going to try 00:09:00to run away or cause trouble, so when we went to the relocation centers the security measures were just almost completely dropped. In the assembly center we had a searchlight which played over the camp at night, after dark, all night long. And as I slept I could feel that searchlight go past my face in a kind of a cycle. And you know even with your eyes closed, if you have a bright light come past your face, you can feel it or see it sort of. And that was so embedded in my brain that when I went to Tule Lake to the relocation center I would see that light when I'd go to bed at night, and there wasn't a light. And it took quite a while for me to get rid of that.

SH: Did people have a sense of what this was going to be, that you were actually going to be living in a camp somewhere else? Did your parents understand that 00:10:00that is exactly what was happening, or were they unsure of what was happening?

ML: They didn't know what the conditions would be, but they knew that they were going to be put in a camp. We had no idea what kind of buildings or anything until we got there, and they were basically tar paper, black tar paper barracks like army camps were, ??? soldiers were in, and many of these camps were originally army camps, abandoned army camps. Some of them were built from scratch, I guess. The assembly centers were existing places like fairgrounds, and racetracks, and housing projects for migrants, or something. They were all . . . Because how are going to immediately house and feed a hundred ?? thousand 00:11:00people? I mean, it's a logistical nightmare.

SH: How immediately was this? How long did the government plan to do this?

ML: Well, Pearl Harbor was December 7, 1941. We were shipped out on May 13, and we weren't the first ones. The people in Bainbridge Island in Washington, and then the people in Los Angeles who were sent to Manzanar -- those were before we . . . So less than six months, less than five months after Pearl Harbor the movement began.. So they moved very fast, and I think the early stage of this whole relocation was administered by the U.S. Army and the military. So we lived under very typical military regulations and rules, including how much a person got paid for working, whether you peeled potatoes and washed dishes in the mess hall like my mother did, or whether you hauled, shoveled coal from the train car 00:12:00load the cars into the dump trucks like my dad did, they all got paid sixteen dollars a month early on. My father was in the upper income bracket because nobody wanted to shovel coal so he got nineteen dollars a month [chuckles], which is as much as the doctors and dentists and so on got for being forced to work in the camp clinics.

SH: Being doctors and dentists

ML: Yes, and the only people who could not work in the area in which they were trained or educated were teachers. They could be teachers' aides, but they could not be the main teachers, so they brought Caucasian teachers from outside the camp to teach us and then maybe a Japanese-American woman who was really a teacher would be her aide. Aid?

SH: What was your parents' livelihood at the time, and how were they able to leave that and your house?


ML: My father was a farmer. He was the son of a rice farmer in Japan and that's what he wanted to be when he first came to this country as a bachelor, so he worked for nine or ten years. No, I guess six or seven years till he was able to save enough money, and found a place he thought he wanted to settle. And he bought this piece of marginal property in Hood River, up on a hillside way up in the boondocks. And he didn't know anything about apple orcharding, but that's what Hood River valley was known for, so he became a fruit orchardist. And he started that farm up on that first piece of property. He eventually owned two more properties, and that third propery is the one where I was born, since I'm the youngest in the family. And that's where we were living when we were sent away. We were . . . In that period of time between December and May he had to 00:14:00hurriedly make arrangements for storing some of our household goods with people, because we were told, when you go you can take only as much as you can carry. And so he found people to lease the home orchard where we lived, and a second orchard which was not too far from there, but the original homesteaded property that he bought, he couldn't find anybody to lease it because it was too remote and nobody wanted to do it. So that ranch really went to pot because you cannot leave a fruit orchard for three years untended. It just goes to pot. And that was one of my father's heartbreaks.

The other one was the man, the neighbor of the man who leased the second property was not very kind and he kept threatening my father that something was 00:15:00not . . . that the ranch was not being taken care of properly, and he really wanted to buy the property and that was his way of doing it. And when we went, none of the Japanese knew where we were going, how long we would be there, would we ever be allowed to come home, all that uncertainty which must have been just terrible for my parents and all the older generation. So we were in Heart Mountain when this neighbor started agitating about our property, and my dad didn't know what to do. He couldn't leave the camp. He couldn't hire an attorney. We had no income, so he finally relented and sold that property to the neighbor, and he never really recovered from the pain of that situation.


And for many years he could not drive past that property. That property was across from the country club in Hood River, and ?? out in the country, and when we'd go for a Sunday drive he would never go with us because he wanted to know where we were driving. And my brother, who was the driver, would say, "Well, we're just going for a Sunday drive. We don't know where we're going." So my dad would say, "Well, I don't think I'll go." And it wasn't till years later I realized he was afraid we were going to drive past that orchard, and he couldn't bear it because he had cut down all the old trees that were not very productive and planted, replanted that orchard with new young trees. And in those days we didn't have dwarf, semi-dwarf trees which tend to bear very soon. You had to wait seven years for them to bear. And so when Pearl Harbor came along it was just about the time that orchard was beginning to bear fruit. So my dad never 00:17:00enjoyed the fruits of his labor, and that was very painful for him, to see that beautiful orchard that he had created himself and never could . . . So that was a hard one for him.

SH: And he sold it at a huge loss? Or just the fact that he had to sell it at all?

ML: I have no idea what he sold it for but his hands were tied. He was in camp, he couldn't come back and negotiate, and the man was just pressuring him over and over, and my dad was pretty sure he was just greedy and wanted to buy the property, but he thought he had no choice.

SH: I would imagine there were a lot of stories like that within the camp, that it was happening to many people in the camp.

ML: If there were such cases, and if they talked about it, since I was only in 00:18:00the fourth to seventh grade I didn't hear them or I wasn't aware of them. But I used to be a really good eavesdropper. All my life I was. I think if those conversations took place in my home with visitors I would have heard them. I have an idea that if that happened to other people they may have mentioned it to one or two of their closest friends but they didn't broadcast it and complain about it because Japanese people don't do that.

SH: It might have also been shameful, perhaps?

ML: Well, for whatever reason. "Don't cry over spilt milk" is pretty much a Japanese cultural value, so . . .

SH: Tell me about your siblings and how did they go through this situation.

ML: My one brother volunteered in the army in June of 1941. We're talking about 00:19:00almost six months before Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was very precocious and so he had been skipped in school two years, and he graduated from high school when he was fifteen. So he went to work on the railroad. He'd go down to the railroad house and live there during the week, and on weekends he'd come home and visit the family. And he waited until he was eighteen or nineteen -- and that was in 1941 -- and he came home one weekend with some papers for my father to sign. And my father said, "Well, what is this?" And he said, "I'm volunteering for the army," because he was too young to volunteer. He was . . . you had to be a certain age to be drafted and another age to volunteer. I think it was different -- between eighteen and nineteen or something. And he wasn't 00:20:00quite old enough to be a volunteer. So he had to get his parents' permission to do it. He said, "I'm volunteering in the army," and my father said, "Well, I don't know if I want to sign this or not." And he said, "Well, if you don't sign it I will forge your signature." So my father signed it, and he went in the army, and then my oldest brother was drafted and he went in the army on December 4, 1941, just three days before Pearl Harbor.

So what's happening? Why is there an army? Why are they drafting people? I had two brothers in the army already when Pearl Harbor was attacked, so they were well past basic training, getting ready to be shipped someplace, by the time we left our homes. And as it turned out, when my oldest brother was sent overseas 00:21:00first, he was in the intelligence service, and both of them served in the Pacific Theater, against the Japanese. And many many Americans are always shocked to find that out because all they hear about is the 442nd and the 100th -- the famed Japanese-American, all Japanese-American unit that was highly decorated and made a big record for themselves. But many Japanese-American boys did go to the Pacific Theater. And that story is finally beginning to be told now. There is even a book . . . Well, several books have been written about that.

SH: So this wasn't a segregated unit? They were . . .

ML: No. However, the Japanese-American boys were not allowed to be in anything but the infantry. They could not join the air force or the navy or the marines. Somehow or other there was a man named Ben Kuroki who was an ace pilot in the 00:22:00air force. How he got in the air force I don't know but he was a hero, and he came to speak in the camps to raise money for U.S savings bonds. You know they had bond drives, and they came into the camps and tried to tell Japanese people, "Buy American government bonds for the war effort." And I remember hearing Sgt Ben Kuroki coming in. He was an air force pilot. There was a point at which the government decided, well maybe these guys are not loyal enough. So they quit the draft, quit drafting them for a period of time. Quit drafting Japanese- American boys. Then they started coming in . . . when they saw how compliant we were and how we were going to be easy to take care of in the camps they said, Well, maybe 00:23:00they are loyal enough. And they came into the camps and had drives, not only to sell bonds but to try to talk the Japanese-Americans in the camps to volunteer. And some of them said, "The hell I will! I can tell you where to put that!" And others said, "Sure I'll volunteer. Anything to get out of this rathole!" And some of them volunteered and left, and eventually they started drafting boys again into the army.

SH: Did it also work, I mean, we were also in a war with Germany, and Italy, so did that work the same with Germans and Italian-Americans -- that they were also . . .

ML: No, Germans and Italians as far as I know could be in any branch of the service.

SH: I wonder why that was. Was it because they were harder to distinguish? The Japanese were easier to distinguish?

ML: Well certainly there was that. I don't know what the thinking was. I don't know how the military thinks. In fact my brother ?Haff?, when he was to have his 00:24:00furlough after basic training, which in those days was three months -- you had to do basic training. And he was supposed to have his furlough because he was in in June. June, July, August, and in September he was supposed to have a furlough, and he wrote home and said, "All furloughs have been postponed, for no reasons given." And he was under the command of General DeWitt, who was in charge of the defense of the West Coast, the Pacific coastline. And he was the one who really pushed to have the Japanese people moved out, sent away. In October my brother writes again. He said, "Our furloughs have been postponed another month. No reasons given and in November we get a letter from him saying, "I don't get a furlough. We're being shipped to the coast of California to guard 00:25:00the coast. What was that about? Anybody who tells me we had a surprise attack, I can't, I don't believe. I don't know that they knew where it was going to be, but they were expecting it, maybe they were even. . . there are stories that Roosevelt was kind of encouraging this to happen , with the diplomatic relations that were taking place.

So then when my oldest brother got a month's furlough before he was sent overseas, because he was sent overseas first. He could not visit us, because at that time we were in Tule Lake, which is in California, and there were army regulations, or some kind of regulations that no GI's could visit the families if they were in this war zone, Washington, Oregon, and California basically. So my brother had to go to Idaho, where there were Japanese people from Hood River in camps. He visited them. My sister by this time had left the camp to go to LDS 00:26:00Business College in Salt Lake City, so he went to visit her and some of . . . friends, other girls, one of whom was Bessie, who became my sister-in-law was also there, and so he visited people like that. He couldn't visit us. Then he went overseas, and they my brother Haff got his furlough before he was going to be sent overseas. He came to visit us, because we were in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, then. But he was so disgusted with the whole situation, he left after a few days without saying anything. We didn't know what happened to him. My mother cried and wondered what was happening. And he wrote a letter to us later and said, "I just couldn't take it anymore, seeing my parents and my brother and sister locked up, while I'm fighting in the army, going overseas. So I had to leave."

SH: So it was only the Japanese-Americans on the West Coast that got put in 00:27:00camps. I know you're been asked before. Why didn't your family just go live in another state, and then you wouldn't have to live in the camp.

ML: We were allowed and encouraged to do that. But Japanese people aren't people who just pick up and move to a strange place, especially if they're the only family in town, and there were all, mostly farmers. And they didn't have an education, and the older generation like my mother and father couldn't read or write much English or speak very well. It was a scary thing and unless they could round up ten families--say hey, let's all go to Utah or something -- then they might consider it, but everything was such uncertainty . . . There was so much uncertainty about everything. Japanese people aren't ones who take risks 00:28:00and do things. They save their money until they have enough to buy something and then they buy it and pay cash. And that's the way they are so very few people did that. I can remember the Sumidas deciding they were going to do it. They filled their big truck full of their household belongings. I remember they came by our house to say goodbye and we all wept and thought, we'll never see them again. And they moved out to Montana, I think. It was Montana or Wyoming. There were just scattered families who did that, but for the most part they just sat and waited to see what the government was going to do. And I've spoken with Ed Miyakawa, who wrote the novel "Tule Lake." I just talked to him last month, in 2006, and he said, "Why didn't your family, why were you in Tule Lake so long? 00:29:00And were you there when it became a segregation center?"

I said no, because we had to fill out those so-called loyalty oaths, and my father answered yes, yes, so we were tagged as being loyal, so we were shipped out of there when it became a segregation center. And I said, "Why was your family gone?" He said, "Well, we left before those loyalty oaths came out. And he said, "Why didn't your father go out?" I said, "Ed, your father was an educated man. He had a college degree. My father was a farmer. What is he going to do, going out to this strange world where he can't speak the language, he doesn't have an education, he has no skills, professional skills or anything." And Ed looked a little surprised and thought, well, yeah, I understand now. But right up until now, in 2006, he didn't understand and I wasn't able to tell him what I thought he knew. So it was very interesting that way.

So his father left the camp quite soon. They were in Tule Lake a very short 00:30:00time, and then they went out, they found a sponsor in Colorado, I think it is . . .

SH: Did you have to find a sponsor?

ML : . . . who took them under their wing. Well, . . .

SH: Or could you just go and drive out there and pick a sponsor?

ML: It's just like after the Vietnam War, how are you going to go, come from Vietnam and come to the United States and make a living for yourself when you can't speak the language, you don't know your way around. You need to have somebody who's going to kind of be there to support you and help you and tell you what to do, and how to get help. And it was the same kind of situation. And the American Field Service Committee, Quakers, and churches were the ones who came forward at that point, and tried to help some Japanese people who wanted to leave the camps and resettle. And this was true for East Coat folks, some of them, who were shocked to find out that we were in camps. And some very devout 00:31:00Christian folks stepped forward and said this is terrible, we need to help some of these people.

SH: It's interesting that the government didn't take that on a bit. It seems like it may have more, at least, efficient with funds to find, to help families sort of find a different place to live rather than house them in a . . .

ML: You have to remember we were at war and the whole, all efforts and everything were for the war, and that's the only thing the government was . . . It's like right now, in Iraq. What are we doing for our own people? We're not only not doing for our own people, we're doing everything for them to lose what they have, their opportunities and health care and education -- everything is being cut for the war effort, so . .


SH: Mitzi, I'm wondering if you could tell me a little bit about was life was in camp. I know as a young person, I've heard that a lot of the young people there thought it was actually kind of fun. How was it in relation to what you had known to be your regular life?

ML: It was fun for me. I was in the fourth grade, and I lived on a farm and my closest neighbor was Margaret Takagi, and I had to walk up the road about a quarter of a mile to play with her. Now we were in a camp with kids everywhere, as you would have in like a housing project, so it was great. We'd go out the door and we had immediate friends to play with, every day, and we didn't have 00:33:00anything to do because we weren't on the farm anymore. And they had a recreational hall where they had pingpong tables and the Japanese people themselves created things for the kids to do. So that it was a picnic for us whereas before it was drudgery on the farm. So for us kids, for the most part, it was a fun time, with a lot of friends.

Just every so often I could sense my father in particular would get into kind of a serious, contemplative state, following the news of the war on the . . . and wondering what's going to happen to his property, if we're going to ever get to go home, and he'd say something or other that would stop me short and think, gee I'm having a lot of fun and there's something serious going on here, but not 00:34:00knowing really or understanding what. So that was pretty much the situation. And we were not allowed to have radios but there was some contraband radio somewhere in the camp because the old isseis, the older generation men would go to a place, and it was always kind of hush-hush, where they were going, what they doing. And they were listening to the news on the radio. And as the battles in the Pacific theater were being fought and lost and won, my dad would come home from those broadcasts and either be worried . . . generally worried in either case. If the Americans were losing, he'd say the war is going badly, and if the Japanese were winning he's thinking maybe my sons are going to get killed in this war so it was a lose either way, no matter what the news was


SH: So they, you weren't allowed to have radio. Were they bringing in news for you regularly in the form of newspaper? Or how were the people in the camp supposed to be informed about the situation?

ML: They weren't.

SH: So that was the idea -- they didn't want them to know anything.

ML: I don't know what the idea was, but as far as I'm concerned I don't ever remember seeing any newspapers around. We had a canteen like all army camps had, where you could buy gum and soap and stuff like that but nothing really else, or reading material. And I suppose it would be possible for a person to subscribe to a magazine or newspaper but I don't know anybody who did that. If they did I wasn't aware of it. We had no regular newspaper or magazine in our house in those three years.


SH: That must have been incredibly hard for those parents particularly with sons fighting in . . .

ML: Well, we would hear some news. We had a camp newspaper. I can't remember if it was a daily or a weekly or what.

SH: Produced within the camp.

ML: Produced within the camp by the Japanese-Americans. And there would be some news in there, but not enough to know what was going on day to day, you know, and stuff that was really important. They tried to keep it kind of light-hearted to keep people's spirits up. I have a picture of myself dressed as an angel for a program in camp in Heart Mountain, and on the back side of that clipping, I was just rereading it this week, and one of them is called "On the Outside," and there's a note from Des Moines, Iowa, of the pictures in Life Magazine that 00:37:00Hansel Meith and Otto Hegel [spelling of names confirmed on Internet] had something to do with. And it says, You remember Hansel and Otto, the picture-taking couple that Life Magazine sent to Heart Mountain, all the way from their Santa Rosa, California, home. They spent almost a week of frigid January chasing around the project. They took a bunch of pictures of the camp and they took them back, but Life never published them.

And that's the article that's there. [chuckling] And then the other one's called Moe's Scratch Pad, and says . . . telling something about New York City, news of the "colossal anniversary edition which still bind me to Heart Mountain, singing with pride and anticipation," and it's talking about somebody who left, and it's talking about what they remember about Heart Mountain. So the papers didn't really keep us up on what was going on. It was more expressing what people felt 00:38:00or remembered, or that kind of stuff.

SH: So you went to school, Monday through Friday, sort of maintained that ritual that you had left?

ML: Yes. Let's see, what else about camp? Of course the facilities, we had communal showers and lavatories, washrooms. We had to go brush our teeth in a community place. We didn't have any plumbing in our buildings. So, if you had to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you tried to hold it or something, because especially in Heart Mountain the winters were terribly cold. We had blizzards, snow blizzards, and you didn't want to get out of your warm bed and walk through that cold to the lavatory. So those are real strong memories I have. And showers you had to take in view of many other people. The toilets were side by side with no partitions so you'd be sitting on the toilet 00:39:00seat with six to eight other people at a time. It wasn't a place for people who were modest.

The food was okay. We ate in a mess hall with all the people in our block, which consisted of about twelve barracks and each barrack was divided into four or five family units, so you're talking about sixty families would eat together around a table that would house, seat maybe eight people, eight or ten people. And it was institutional food and it was kind of first come, first served so if they had carrot sticks and celery on the tables before you sat down and if you came late you didn't get any. And we had a lot of . . . And we had this expression, when the older folks would say, I wonder how long we're going to be 00:40:00here, I wonder if we'll be allowed to go home, and the government would say, "You will be there for the duration." We used to make jokes about that. "Well, we're here for the duration. How long you going to be here?" "Well, we're going to be here for the duration." [Laughter]

SH: I've heard people say that it was really hard on the family units because of how the camps were set up.

ML: The families, Japanese families, being farm families, were used to always sitting around the table and eating as a family every day, and now here are the kids with all their friends, not wanting to sit with Mom and Dad, and brothers and sister. They want to sit with their friends. And at first the parents were fighting that and saying, "You have to sit here with me." But that just disintegrated because sometimes the kids would be off playing. It would be lunch time or dinner time and they'd go directly to the mess hall, and maybe their 00:41:00parents weren't there yet. They'd eat. Or maybe their parents came later or earlier, so that the timing was such that the parents didn't have control. Because you had to stand in line to get your plate like in a cafeteria and you got sixty families standing in line. You don't want to give up your place in line if you were up ahead, so it was impossible for the families to keep their children with them.

SH: Was that . . . did that affect your family in that way?

ML: I can't remember. My father was a very progressive, liberal-minded, freedom-loving kind of guy and so he didn't force us to do things, like many of the old isseis just put their thumb down and that was it. So I don't even remember any pressure put on us to have to sit with them. But I was a little 00:42:00girl so I tended to sit with my parents until I was maybe in the third camp. I was in the seventh grade. You know you're getting into your teen years and you begin to think you're some adult person and you can do whatever you want. And I think probably I sort of wandered away from the family but my parents didn't say anything or do anything to try to prevent me from that. I know that in Pinedale and in Tule Lake, most of the time I think I sat and ate with my parents. But then when I got to Heart Mountain I think I sat with my friends.

SH: Did the . . . I assume it was surrounded by barbed wire, with the watchtowers around. Did that have an impact on you? Did you feel like you were being watched, or a prisoner, or that sort of feeling?

ML: Yes, in the assembly center, where we were first sent, we were, because the 00:43:00fences were right up close to the barracks, so that when you looked out the window you were having to stare at this eight-foot high fence. It was a fine mesh kind of fence with three rows of barbed wire that were electrified around the top. Well you're inside a camp like that with a fence that you had to look at and it does something to you. And then they had this searchlight that went around every night after dark, and then at the corners of the camp were the four huge watchtowers for an MP. He was there twenty-four hours a day with his rifle showing, on his shoulder, and of course we were scared. And my mother would say, "Now don't go anywhere near the fence," cause we figured even if you got close to the fence they were going to shoot us.

Well us kids would play ball sometimes and the ball would go right through, over the fence. And there was a little road, and across the road were fig orchards, 00:44:00and I had never seen a fresh fig growing, I'd never touched or picked or eaten one, and I was really curious about those figs. And the first time we lost the ball, I was always a verbose person who talked a lot and so I was elected to ask the MP in the tower to retrieve our ball. So I went over near the tower and shouted up to him, and said, "We lost our ball across the fence. Could you get it for us?" And he smiled. He came down the stairs off the tower and got, went, walked down the road and got the ball and threw it over the fence to us. And I can still remember that first experience and thinking, those guys aren't mean guys. They're not going to shoot us. They're just human beings with a job to do. And he just happens to be stuck up there, trying to guard us. And so, we would 00:45:00make a kind of a game of it, sometimes we'd sort of throw the ball over the fence. [Laughter] And especially if the guy was a good-looking soldier. So we did a lot, you know, we were just kids, and we had normal kind of reactions to situations. We tried to make fun out of anything that we could. So that's, that was Pinedale.

Then when we went to Tule Lake they had already realized we were not going to be difficult to keep locked up. So the fences were far away from the camp. If you kind of strained your eyes you could see a barbed wire fence, maybe two or three rows of barbed wire like you'd have to keep a cow in a pasture. So if you were real careful or if you were a high jumper, you could jump over or you could, like if you were small like me you could lie on your stomach and just ease out through the lower barbed wire. But they were electrified so you didn't want to 00:46:00touch it [chuckles]. But we didn't have to look at it, so it wasn't so bad. You could not leave the camp unless you went through the official gate, entrance to the camp, and there there were MPs guarding the gate and they needed to know where you were going and what you were going for. And of course you had no business going unless you were my father, who was a foreman for the victory gardens that he . . . supervised young boys to work in the gardens out there and they would go out in the morning and come back at night. And like my sister who was of age, and American citizens, she . . . they eventually would allow you to go shopping in Klamath Falls if you wanted to go. And so you'd get on the bus and go to Klamath Falls. She did that once and it was so unfriendly in Klamath Falls she said, No more.


SH: Shopping just for her own use . . .

ML: Just go shopping in the stores and just to get out of the camp, and just walk around you know, just the idea of it, but it was so unpleasant she never did it again. And so there was no, I can't, I don't think I ever went through that gate from the time I went in it to be in the camp until I left the camp, permanently.

SH: And that didn't just drive some people crazy? Just because there was a fence there that . . . wanting to just go through it?

ML: Well I suppose it bothered some people, and I know that I went outside the fence, outside the boundaries of the camp to hike across a field and kind of to the foot of the hill of this Castle Rock, which was the geography . . . geologic landmark for our camp, just for a short hike or walk, you know, when nobody else was around. Or maybe we'd see an interesting insect or a lizard or something 00:48:00that we were curious about. But we were very careful to look around to see if the sentries were looking our way or whatever because we had heard of a person got shot just walking by the fence.

SH: Mitzi, then can you tell me a little bit about what was it like at the end of the duration, what was that feeling like in the camp, that then you were going to get to leave, and how did that happen?

ML: Well you remember that when we went to camp there were seven of us, and when we were allowed to go home there were four of us left. Because my brother Min had gone out to Utah to work in the sugar beets, eventually ended up in Chicago 00:49:00working there, and then eventually he also was drafted because, at that point, because he decided with his two friends to go to Hood River and check it out because Hood River had become known for the American Legion Post organizing to try to keep us from coming home. They put these full-page paid advertisements in the paper every week and had people sign this petition saying, don't come home, we don't want you, we're going to make life miserable for you.

So we were reading this every week and not feeling very encouraged. And Min said, Min and his two buddies [who] were both in Chicago decided they would go home and kind of check things out, to see if it's going to be safe. So they got to Hood River and there was an unwelcoming committee there, to try to keep them from staying. And then my brother wrote to my Dad and said, if you want to come 00:50:00home and bring the kids home -- meaning my brother and me -- you better do it mighty fast because the Selective Service is going to change our classification from being deferred to 1-A so they can draft us and get us out of here. And that's exactly what they did. My brother passed his physical and he was drafted and went in the army at that point. The other two boys were rejected because they didn't pass their physicals. So my dad then took a vote in our family, to see if we all wanted to go home, and my mother was the only one who voted no because she'd been reading these ads and she was frightened.

SH: So had you seen a lot of people already leaving then? How long had it been since . . .

ML: No, no, we were one of the very earliest ones to leave, and we came home to Hood River in April of 1945, and I think that some of the camps were left open into 1946 because the Japanese were not willing to leave. Many of them didn't 00:51:00have a place to go. They didn't own their properties; they leased it before they left and some of them had their properties taken over because they couldn't pay the mortgage or couldn't pay the taxes, or for whatever reason. We were very lucky because my father worked very hard and had these eight children, paid off all the mortgages, and had money in the bank and owned three properties. We were, we were the rich people, in a way to speak, of the population so we decided to go home. And my brother was the first one to go back to the high school and I was the first one to go back to an ??? elementary school. I was in the seventh grade, and he was actually four grades ahead of me because he was also skipped and would ordinarily have been just three years ahead of me. So he would have been eight, nine, ten, in the eleventh grade.

And the first day of school the principal called him in and asked him not to 00:52:00participate in interscholastic athletics. And my bother is kind of a in-your-face, say-whatever-he-feels-like kind of a guy, and an imp, so he said, Well, why not? And the principal said, Well it might be a little embarrassing, and my brother said, oh, he wouldn't be embarrassed. But then he was forcing the principal to say in words why he was not being, why he was being asked not to participate, and so he said, That's okay, I won't. I'll just do intramural. And that's what he did. And he had two buddies that he could hang out with all the time. But I was walking to school, a little over a mile, every day, one way, and all the kids I had grown up with and played with and known would not associate with me. So from April of 1945 to pretty much April of 1946 I was totally 00:53:00socially isolated. Nobody spoke to me, played with me, called me up. I mean, we didn't have a telephone till I was a senior in high school actually, so I guess they couldn't call me. And so I was terribly, terribly lonely. I was just entering adolescence, I was just thirteen or so. And I walked to and from school every day, nobody played with me before or after school or during recess. /and I had a really hard time those first years.

SH: There were no other Japanese-American girls your age?

ML: Not in my school, my eight-grade elementary school. I was the only one there at school. Pretty soon some families came back and Margaret . . . Margaret didn't come back. Her friend Mary Sumogi came back but she went to Oak Grove School which was maybe three miles up the road from our orchard, and I went a 00:54:00mile the other way. So I was the only one in my elementary school the whole time I was there, through the seventh grade and the eighth grade. Then I went downtown to the junior high school. We had a seven-eight-nine junior high school, so I went to junior high school in town, and then a three-grade high school, a senior high school in Hood River, which is where I went and graduated. And even in high school, I had associations with groups but I never had a date, because everyone was afraid to ask me. And so I'd go on group dates, we'd all go out for a coke, you know, after a game or something like that, but that was the extent of my social life. And it wasn't until almost the end of my eighth grade that a girl walked home from school with me, which I write about in my book. And this discrimination then went kind of underground as the years went by. This is, 00:55:00would be nineteen . . . I graduated from high school in 1950 and then in 1954, I was a senior at the University of Oregon when I . . . some of this underground prejudice came up to the surface when I was being considered for a fellowship to study abroad. And the judge, one of the judges in that competition was a friend of my neighbor and he told her that he voted for me and that I should have gotten that fellowship but I didn't get it because the other members of the, the other judges would not vote for me for two reasons which were unspoken, and one was that I was a girl and the other was that I was Japanese. And this was 1954, that's five years after the war was all over. So there were remnants of 00:56:00prejudice still there and they're still here today.

SH: So tell me a little about Hood River when you got back and doing business there . . .

ML: Well, eventually the family . . . we came home in April. No other families came home until September. That's how long they sat and waited. We became like a test family, to see what was going to happen to us, was the house going to be burned down, would we be harmed or whatever. Then in September some families started coming back. And eventually there were two Japanese boys in the high school. In my whole high school career the only other Japanese people were these two Japanese boys and I think Mary Sumogi. No, I guess there were some other girls. But anyway, there were only two boys and everybody expected since I didn't have any dates that I would go with them, and I didn't have anything in common with them, so I didn't have any dates. So I went off to college and . . .


SH: So there wasn't a commonality just being in the same ostracized population, or did you not want to call attention to that?

ML: Yeah, we didn't want to acknowledge the fact and we didn't want to talk about it, and by that time I was beginning to develop a very severe reverse prejudice. I didn't want to have anything to do with anything or anyone Japanese. So when I was a freshman, in my ninth grade, is when I changed my name from Mitsuko to Mitzi. I just did it on my own. I just said, I'm going to be 200 percent American and zero percent Japanese from now. So I changed my name and that's my official name now. I never went through to the courts. I never consulted my parents or anything. I just changed my name to Mitzi.


SH: Do you think that was a common feeling?

ML: I don't think so. I don't think too many people went through that one year of social isolation experience that I did. They went places where there were other families or other friends they could associate with so they weren't totally alone. I don't, I think my experience was kind of unique in that way, because we didn't have a huge Japanese population in Hood River, especially after the war, the fifty families didn't come back. Maybe only twenty of them or twenty-five of them came back. And they're back up to fifty or more now because the younger generation, you know, have settled there. That reverse prejudice was a monkey on my back for a good . . . till I was twenty-six . . . so that would be over ten years, maybe thirteen years, I had that reverse prejudice thing that 00:59:00was crippling me. And quite by accident, when I applied to be a Fulbright [spelling confirmed] teacher I was sent to Japan, which was not my real choice although I put Japan as the first choice I did that because I thought I had a better chance of being accepted. And I thought, well if they don't accept me, maybe they'll . . . or if they accept me maybe they'll send me to my second or third choice which were French-speaking countries, which is what I really wanted to do. And I got sent to Japan, and it was a very fortunate thing because that experience rid me of that monkey I had been carrying on my back.

SH: I've seen a statistic a while back saying that Japanese-Americans actually, more than any other ethnic group, marry outside of their race. And I wonder 01:00:00sometimes if that whole camp experience and that, you know, being singled out like that has, plays into that at all, you know that . . .

ML: It may very well have, and you know my brother who is six years older than I married outside of the Japanese-American community and he did not tell our family for a whole year after he was married. And I think part of it was that if he had told my parents that he was planning to marry, my parents would probably have said, "We don't think you should." And then he would have married anyway and then he'd have to deal with that. And so I think perhaps he married her first, told them a year later, and then they had to get used to the idea. I don't know what he was thinking, and I actually saw him this week, and someday I'll ask him, but that's what happened with my brother. And of course I did not 01:01:00marry a Japanese person. Of the eight members of my family, my one brother did not marry, and the rest of them, aside from my brother Gene [Jin?] and I, married Japanese-Americans.

SH: So, tell me a little bit then about how, now looking back at this camp experience that you had and your life during wartime, how do you think that affects your life today? In politics, your values, things like that.

ML: My father was a Zen Buddhist. He was also a very progressive, liberal-minded person, and that had to influence me and pretty much my whole family. I think, 01:02:00as I've said many times when I give talks about my experience, that I'm glad I had the experiences I had, as miserable as they were, and God forbid that I would ever wish that kind of experience on anybody else, but I'm glad I had it because it made me a stronger person, a strong person. And I think, I speak out and I act when I see something that needs to be addressed. Because we all know what is right and what is the right thing to do but we don't often have the courage to do anything about it, most of all to speak out or stand out. Because the Japanese adage is, don't be a nail or you'll get hammered down, and that's what was hammered into us. And I've found that that's probably not a good thing 01:03:00a lot of times and that's what causes people pain, caused misery to me because, not because people didn't like me or hated me or were prejudiced even, but they were afraid and didn't have the courage to come out and say, "I don't care what everyone else says, I know this is what's right and this is what I'm going to act on."

And I think the experience I had has enabled me to be a stronger person and also to try to help other people understand and realize what they're doing to other people by not speaking out and standing up when they need to stand up.

SH: What do you say when people say, "Well, you know the camps were necessary. We were in wartime, we had an enemy. It was unfortunate but a necessary part of 01:04:00war." And in fact today, in this day and age, that is still what people say.

ML: I always say, first of all, my father and mother came in 1904 and 1911, and when Pearl Harbor came they had lived in this country for over thirty years. They came here intending to stay here the rest of their lives, raise their families, and have their life here, and they were aliens because the naturalization laws discriminated against Japanese, Chinese, and maybe Filipinos. They were not allowed to become American citizens. They wanted to be American citizens from the start but they never could. It wasn't until the Walter-McCarren Act [spelling confirmed] was passed in, I think, 1951 that my parents could finally apply to become a naturalized citizen. That's first of all. Second, I am a native-born American citizen. And you, as an American 01:05:00citizen, would you feel okay about being rounded up and put in a camp when you didn't do anything? And your original question touched on something else and I've lost the train of thought there. When people ask you, they say . . . I said, so it was, and they often say, "It was to protect you. It was for your own protection." And I said, " Well, nobody asked us what we wanted." We didn't ask to be protected. We would have taken our chances by staying home and having possibly something happen to us. We would choose that over being locked up for three years. Would you?

SH: And you see that, I mean despite now, in this country, having done this to a 01:06:00group of people and even passed reparations since then to this group of people, so recognizing that that was a wrong thing to do, you can see in this current history how it can immediately happen again on any group of people that you suddenly feel are enemies. It's shocking.

ML: Fear is a terrible thing. Fear destroys all your brain cells. And most of that is motivated either by fear or greed. And there was a lot of greed in World War II. Everybody can admit that anybody who was in business or any occupation made money during World War II, and sometimes that's the motivation, rather than hate or prejudice or discrimination. And I think even today, as much publicity 01:07:00as has been given to the World War II experience of the Japanese-Americans, there are so many people who still have no clue, have no idea about what happened. And even when you tell them they're incredulous and you have a sense that they still don't believe it. "That couldn't have happened in our country. This is America. We don't do things like that." So there's a lot of denial.

SH: Tell me a little bit about how this experience affected the Japanese community, amongst themselves.

ML: Well first of all there was a huge breach that grew between the older issei, 01:08:00the first generation folks, and their kids, the nisei, because the niseis were fiercely American and almost blind to looking at things objectively, and they would argue with their parents. And in the Japanese culture, you don't do that. You respect your elders. You don't argue or fight with your parents. So that created some conflict. Then, over everything that has happened, for years in the Japanese-American community it gets split. Those who say, "It's important, and every Japanese-American guy should go in the military and fight for their country," and the others who say, "Hah! The way they treated us, we don't owe them anything!" So that's, there's been a split there, between the veterans of 01:09:00World War II and the ones who said, "No, I won't go." Then, when reparations was being discussed in Congress, some were saying, "It's undignified to expect the government to pay us money for what they did to us. There's no amount of money can correct the wrongs they did to us."

And the others were saying, "The only way they're ever going to get the message is if we make them pay, so just make them pay." And then there were those who renounced their citizenship and were kept in the segregation center in Tule Lake, some of whom were sent back to Japan and fought to get back to this country and get their citizenship back, and those who said, "Well, they deserve all that. They said no to the questions, the loyalty questions. They should have known better and said yes . . . yes, yes." Sure, if they did that, they'd be separating themselves from their families. Their parents would be gone off to Japan and they would be left here in the United States, so loyalty to family, 01:10:00which was, is one of the strongest values taught in our community, was fighting with loyalty to country, and it was a terrible thing to ask of anybody. So those loyalty questionnaires were a terrible thing to bring out and ask of these people. And you're asking my father, who was well beyond military age, to swear that he would serve in the armed forces of the United States at any time he's called upon to do so by a government who took him out of his home and locked him up. And he's supposed to say, "Yes, I love this country." He did. He said yes, yes, but think of how ridiculous it was.

SH: And it still plays out to this day, that divide.

ML: Yes. In the recent times when Lt. Watada, a young man from Hawaii who 01:11:00refused to deploy to Iraq with his unit, because he felt it was a wrong, immoral war, is now in the process of going to a court-martial trial, and the Japanese-American community is split over supporting him and his cause, or saying, "He's a coward, he doesn't want to fight. He's a shame to our ethnic group." There's one more case of splitting our ethnic minority group for a ridiculous cause or subject which . . . Because people's emotions carry them away and they can't see clearly.

SH: I just thought about this now, wondering if that split also happened along sort of political leanings. You know, when you look at those who wanted to stand 01:12:00up for their civil rights and sort of saying, "No, even in wartime we have a constitution and we can't let that get stepped on just because we're in wartime," and then you have the other side saying, "We need to fight, and we need to go out there and defend our country." I mean that happened within the Japanese community, those two different ways of looking at how you fight a war or how you . . .

ML: . . . defend your liberties.

SH: Yeah, and what the purpose is of a war, maybe. And it's still, now, as I think about it, it's sort of a political divide that we see even today.

ML: Yes, the problem of war is that you have to have soldiers. And with soldiers you have to have discipline, and you have to have superior officers that give you orders, and then you have to follow them or decide not to follow them. So that's where the divide comes, as those who say, "Well, you're in the army. You 01:13:00chose to go in there. Your commanding officer tells you this, you do it, without question." And then, so we have things like My Lai [spelling confirmed] massacres. In every war there've been My Lais. And there are . . . in the Iraq war we have the same thing. My brother had a situation where a man in his unit shot and killed ten enemy prisoners that he had collected and let them fall into a ditch because he was frightened, understandably frightened, by ten unarmed people, and he was the only one with a gun, trying to march them back to camp. That's what war is, and you say, he didn't follow orders, so he should be court-martialed. But men in his unit did not report him because they knew that what he did was a very human, natural thing that any person might do in the situation he was in. And somehow people get mixed up. I mean, I think it's a 01:14:00matter of people who honor authority and honor . . . I forgot the word I want to say . . . that people who think vertically rather than horizontally, and it has to . . . yeah, hierarchies . . . In fact there's a book written by some friends here in Eugene that's called . . . It's based on this idea that everything is in hierarchies.

And the top don't get it. The top can't see anywhere down there. I think it's very directly related to people's politics, and it shows itself in parent-child 01:15:00relations. Parents who think that they can force their children to do or to believe, or not do, by force, and so they are not willing to give, let their children grow in freedom and to think for themselves.

Don and I value a book called The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran, [spelling confirmed] and our favorite passage is on children, which says: Your children are not your own. They come from you but they are not of you. You cannot . . . You can tell them your dreams but you cannot give them, and you cannot visit them even in your dreams because they live in the world of tomorrow. And that's how I feel, about whether it's your children, or your peers, or even your 01:16:00superiors. Each person has to think for himself and make decisions for himself, trying not to let these other outside influences of peers, parents, whoever, tell you what you need to think and what you need to do. And that's the hardest thing. It's not an easy thing and most people are lazy; they don't want to do it. We are intellectually lazy, human beings. It's a given. [chuckles]

SH: Yeah. Tell me about your pilgrimage to Tule Lake and what that was like.

ML: Well, I'd been wanting to go to it for quite a while. There have been informal pilgrimages since the seventies, but they started officially having one every other year on the even years, so the last three or four have been quite 01:17:00organized. And I went this year to the 2006, and I had some wonderful experiences, some very shocking ones. There's very little of the remnants of the camp there but the one that made the greatest impression on me was the stockade. After we left Tule Lake it became a detention/segregation center and they built two stockade buildings in which they housed the "baddies," the people who were not behaving properly or who were fighting the authorities. And the stockades were built to house a hundred men. They had as many as three hundred men in those over the time, and I actually went into the stockade and saw dried blood stains on the wall, and the reports were that they actually found baseball bats with blood on them and I thought when I looked at that, I thought, this is like 01:18:00Guantanamo Bay, and it was 1942, 1943. It was a real shock to me. Because I knew that things were bad in Tule Lake after we left there but I had no idea.

The wonderful thing I experienced there was that a Caucasian boy who was in my fifth grade class, because his father was superintendant of schools, was there. I was on my way to Tule Lake and I started thinking about him and wondering where he was, and how he felt as a fifth grade boy with all these Japanese kids in the class. And when I got there I found that he was there. And he had come all the way from Madison, Wisconsin, where he had retired as the head of the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. So I got to see him for the first time. We were both seventy-four years old, and we had last seen each other when we were in the fifth grade. So that was a wonderful meeting. I . . .


SH: What did he think about it? Was he aware of what had happened?

ML: Well, we didn't talk much about that, and we didn't talk about his attitudes or anything. I just was interested in what he did in his life, and I found that he had married a Japanese-American woman, and then after he became a doctor and he'd become head of the department of medicine and he retired, they received a grant to go to Hiroshima to live for two years to do some medical research. And I just, we just had a fun conversation telling each other about our families and our lives since that time. And I don't know . . . He was interested enough to fly from Madison, Wisconsin, and had his brother come from Mexico to join him, and had his nephew drive them from Los Angeles to Tule Lake. They wanted to see 01:20:00the house that they had lived in. When he was in the fifth grade, his family lived in government housing that was attached to the camp. And it was within the camp fences because my mother used to clean house for those people, those administrative people. She'd go down to that area, clean house for them. But when Tule Lake became a segregation center those boys were not allowed to go to school in the camp with the Japanese kids because they considered it was too dangerous. Because these were the people who were locked up who were really bad. They were disloyal no-no's, and they were . . . I found out at this pilgrimage that instead of the four watchtowers in the corners of the camp they had twenty-eight watchtowers. Eight army tanks were brought in to control the population. Three hundred more MPs were brought in to guard the camp and its residents.


SH: For how long?

ML: For the rest of the period of camp. And the camp was left open until nineteen forty, late forty-six I think it is. So from 1943 or so, '43, '44 until 1946 that was a hotbed of a lot of conflict, and that's the basis on which Ed Miyakawa wrote his book Tule Lake, is when Tule Lake became a really bad place.

SH: But were you all that were in the other camps, were you aware that Tule Lake had become . . .

ML: We knew they were a detention center because only the people who said no, no were kept there, and people who said no, no in the other camps were shipped there. So we knew . . . we heard about riots and we heard about just little things but no details. I had no idea about the stockade. That one really shocked me. I would have to suppose they had a kind of a jail for people who misbehaved 01:22:00to put in, but a stockade for a hundred people with three hundred people in it? And no plumbing, no windows.

SH: . . .So it was mostly men, then, ending up at Tule Lake? No families?

ML: I think it was entirely men As far as I know, I mean I need to research it some more, but I don't think any women or children or anything like that were put in there. It was just all men who fought the authorities. I mean they were incensed at all the watchtowers and the army tanks and the MPs, as you can imagine. And so they started putting on Japanese accoutrements like hachimakis, they'd tie around their foreheads like Japanese people do when they're on strike or opposing something. And starting to chant in Japanese and things like that, which of course inflamed the authorities.


SH: Do you think this was . . . I'm guessing this was probably less about any allegiance to Japan, certainly, than just anger at having their civil liberties taken away.

ML: Well, the American citizens, the second-generation folks, had said no, no because they had to make that decision of whether to say yes,yes, loyal to the United States, and their parents who said no, no would be kept there and deported to Japan after the war. So they were in fact making a statement to separate themselves from their families forever. Or express loyalty to their family and say no, no, which is not what they felt, but they had to stick with their families to stay together. So you had this mishmash.

SH: Did they know at the time to answer no, no was to separate themselves from their families? Was that . . .


ML: I don't know if they knew that or not.

SH: I could imagine people would do that just for whatever reason because the questions were so ambiguous anyway, and find themselves at a place like Tule Lake and . . .

ML: The one question was very ambiguous. You lost no matter what you said. Because it said, I forswear allegiance to a foreign power, or to the emperor, or something like that. If you said yes, that means I once had allegiance to a foreign power, and if you said no, you're disloyal. And so the wording of the question was unfortunate and it trapped people, and then on top of that they had to decide whether they're going to be loyal to their family and stick together or loyal to their country and separate themselves from their families. And you're asking this of people of eighteen years of age, who were born here, grew up here, couldn't even speak Japanese. To say that, thinking maybe someday 01:25:00they'd end up going to Japan with their parents. So there's a period of time there, when the camps were going to close, I think, that those folks were allowed -- who were citizens, the children -- were allowed to say they wanted to renounce their American citizenship. And some of them did that, and some of them didn't. And that determined a little bit whether they were sent to Japan or not. And many were sent to Japan, and they fought their way back to the United States and to getting back their citizenship, saying they were forced to renounce their citizenship, or whatever. And there was an ACLU attorney, and I can't give you his name -- I've forgotten it. He's well known among the Japanese-American people. Because he spent all of those years entirely helping Japanese-Americans either get back in the country or get their citizenship, or not allowing them to 01:26:00be deported so they could stay here after the war was over and after the camps were closed. And he just died this year, I think . . . this attorney. In fact I think he and his father both worked on it, and they both have spent their whole career doing that. And many people at the Tule Lake pilgrimage were helped by him and talked about that.

SH: So you've written a book. And tell me what prompted you to write this book, and . . .

ML: This book was written for my children and their cousins, my parents' grandchildren, and it was just going to be a story of our family. Because I suffered from that reverse prejudice, I didn't want that to happen with that generation. I wanted them to be proud of the Japanese part of their heritage and many of them were too young to know or remember my parents. And the older I got, 01:27:00the more I realized how very special my parents were, and particularly my father, who was a very . . . He was a leader in the community, he was a thinking person, he was a practicing Zen Buddhist. And all of the positive values that I hope my children and their cousins get, they will understand came somewhat from my parents. So I started out writing the story of my family, and every time I would speak to high school groups particularly, which was every year when World War II came up in U.S. history, I'd be invited to speak. And they would say, "You should write a book about this. There's nothing in history books about this." Then I said, "Well, I'm writing a book but I'm not writing about this." And they said, "Well, you should." So the more I thought about it, the more I kept going. I just kept writing until I got into World War II and I had to tell 01:28:00my World War II experiences, and so that became a part of the story which, in a way, the book has created more interest in that World War II history and the details of it, so that it's known, I mean, people are reading it more for that than for the story of my family.