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Togoro Mizutani Family

In his aforementioned report prepared for the WCCA in April 1942 Milton Silverman reported that experiences of the Togoro Mizutani family that was evacuated from Los Angeles to Manzanar on April 2. He observed that it was "a typical Japanese group whose experiences mirrored those of many thousands of others throughout the early days of evacuation and relocation." In his report, Silverman included portions of interviews with family members, and he accompanied them during the first 24 hours they were in camp, recording their experiences and impressions.

In 1900 Togoro had emigrated from Japan to the United States, settling in the Fresno, California, area where he would work in vineyards and orchards for 20 years. With the aid of the Japanese consulate, Togoro brought Kaneo from Japan in 1917 to become his "picture bride." After the family, which had grown to include three children, spent a year in Japan in 1924, the Mizutanis returned to the Fresno area. In 1929, with the onset of the Great Depression, the family moved to Inglewood, near Los Angeles, where Togoro became a nurseryman. In 1940 the family moved to Sawtelle in West Los Angeles.

For three months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Mizutanis "continued life almost without change." War affected them as it affected "every Japanese and non-Japanese family in West Los Angeles," but there were "few 'incidents' to tell the Mizutanis they were no longer part of the American people."

On March 18 Tatsumi, the Mizutani's 21-year-old son was fired from his job at a grocery store in Santa Monica. According to Silverman, Tatsumi stated:

All the Japanese were being fired all over town. Didn't seem to make any difference, aliens or citizens, we were all canned. So there I was — no job, no money. We heard about Manzanar, of course, and when I found out they were taking volunteers, and that there was work up there, well, volunteered.

Leaving his second-hand car at home, he drove with a friend in the automobile caravan to Manzanar on March 23. There was little work to do at Manzanar during his first few days at camp. Tatsumi stated:

Only a couple of the fellows got assignments. Nobody was being paid anything, but we wanted to work anyhow. If you didn't have something to do, you got thinking and worrying and losing your temper over the dust. We just loafed around all day, and watched the card games at night. Then I got a job as sanitary inspector — I know the fellow who's personnel manager here — and at least I could keep busy. Well, a little busy I looked at the mess halls, and checked the cooks and the waiters, and tried to get things cleaned up — nobody paid much attention, and some of those guys offered to swing on me — but I had something to do.

Finally, when it looked like it wasn't going to be too bad, I wrote to the family, told them what it was like, and asked them to come up as soon as they could.

Fusako, Tatsumi's younger sister who was studying business administration at the University of California, Los Angeles, informed Silverman that the family decided to volunteer to go to Manzanar after receiving her brother's letter. She observed:

We knew we'd have to go somewhere eventually, and my father and mother were getting pretty worried about somebody — well, doing something to us — and so we decided to move.

We'd been hearing about other Japanese being stabbed or killed up at Stockton, and we found out some Japanese had their trucks burned — with all their furniture on it. So this way, with the Army sort of protecting us and Tat already started up there, it looked like the best thing to do.

After volunteering to go to Manzanar, the Mizutanis had one week to sell their furniture. Fusako noted that many people in Los Angeles

would just go down the telephone book, call up every number under a Japanese name, and ask if they had anything to sell. Then they'd come over right away and look at it and make an offer. Most of the offers were really terrible, and if we wouldn't accept it, they would get insulting and tell us we were lucky to get anything. Some people were pretty nice, but most of them — ugh!

Most of the Mizutani furniture was less than a year old, but they received only "about one-third of what they expected.

Thus, Togoro and Kaneo Mizutani and their daughter Fusako boarded the "special 'family' train" at Los Angeles on the morning of April 2. After a 10-hour trip, the train arrived at the Lone Pine railroad station. Silverman related:

There was no welcoming committee to greet them, just a half dozen townspeople and local reporters, drivers of the waiting busses that would take them to Manzanar, and the soldiers — a dozen military police armed with rifles and sub machine guns.

While the passengers in the train "packed the windows to stare at the towering, snow-covered mountains to the west, and while a nurse, a doctor and ambulance driver went through the train to find one baby with German measles," the "long process of unloading started." Helped down the car stairs by soldiers, the "evacuees came out of one car at a time, each carrying his own baggage roll and suitcase," "each stopping for a face-to-face meeting with the breathtaking mountains, and then on to the waiting busses." The busses headed north "up the highway to Manzanar, to the guarded entrance, over the dusty, rutted new road and up the street skirting the camp to the induction station."

As the passengers disembarked from the busses at Manzanar, they were met by "a long line of earlier arrivals, a line leading into the building set aside for induction and registration." "Watching from an outer ring, and kept there by a few soldiers carrying bayoneted guns, were scores of others — men whose families hadn't shown up yet, men and women and children who had come in the day or the week before."

After standing in line for 20 minutes the Mizutanis reached the first desk inside the induction center, and "then — with Tat's capable assistance — they moved rapidly." A

Japanese girl registered the family on a card, listing their names and former address, taking the registration tag they had brought from Los Angeles (an FBI card, equipped with fingerprints and various information) and giving them instead new registration tag (without fingerprints), assigning them family quarters (Block 6, building 3, room 3), and sending them on to the second desk. Here a crew of Japanese boys counted noses, hauled three sets of brown army blankets from a huge stack, and dumped them on a counter.

Registration, at least for the time being, was completed. All the Mizutanis had to do was pick up three heavy loads of blankets, find their luggage which had been dumped somewhere outside, and then find block 6, building 3, room 3.

Tatsumi helped his family find their quarters, and several Japanese boys picked up the blankets and joined the procession. The group "slowly climbed the steep. dusty slope, jumping across little excavation ditches, walking boards across big ones, ploughing through mounds ot dust, passing building after building." The new Mizutani address was more than half a mile from the induction center.

Inside their new quarters, the Mizutanis sized up their future home. It was

a room 20 feet wide, 25 feet long, constructed of bare boards. There was no ceiling to cover the rafters. There were four sliding windows and one door. Inside were ten metal cots, a brand new Coleman oil heater, two light sockets and one light bulb in place.

As the Mizutanis looked at their quarters, Fusako looked at her brother in hopeless despair. Tatsumi told his family:

See, these ten beds — well, if there're only three in a family this kind of room is for two families. But if there are four or more — like us — we can have it all to ourselves. I'll get six of these beds taken out of here.

Tatsumi and the two other Japanese young men brought "puffy straw-filled tick" mattresses and placed them on the cots.

Then the Mizutanis went to dinner in a nearby mess hall. Served "in semi-cafeteria style," dinner consisted of "baked fish with tomatoes, white sauce, carrots, potatoes and sizzling hot coffee." On each table were "bowls of cole slaw and lettuce, bread, jelly, canned cream, sugar and a pitcher of Water with slight but unmistakable traces of Manzanar dust suspended on it."

After dinner, the elder Mizutanis returned to their room while Tatsumi and Fusako "with borrowed flashlight, went back to the induction building to find their luggage." The evacuees "were still coming in, lined up and waiting, old folks, women and children. They stayed patiently, even though the last ones — including mothers with babies in their arms, cold and tired, without food since the box lunches [on the train] at noon — waited until after 10 o'clock."

Among those still being processed were old family friends — the Charles Miyaji family from Venice. The children of Charles and his wife were daughter Tatsuko, a graduate of Santa Monica Junior College, and son Masanobu, a senior in chemical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. Both young people were volunteers who had come to Manzanar earlier and were working in the administration building. The young Mizutanis and the young Miyajis arranged for the two families to share the same quarters, and the Miyaji family moved into block 6, building 3, room 3. The problem of privacy was solved temporarily with "a rope and a blanket."

Besides being a sanitary inspector, Tatsumi was also a member of the camp entertainment committee. The night his family arrived at Manzanar, a camp dance was scheduled in the recreation building. The general idea, he said, was "to have a get-together between the Japanese from Los Angeles and the Japanese from Bainbridge Island." The social occasion, however, was largely a failure. Silverman noted that the

Bainbridge younger set did not attend. Only a few of the Los Angeles crowd appeared, for most were still helping the new arrivals get settled, but a dozen couples — with the inevitable stag line — came to the recreation building to dance to the special collection of phonograph records. It was jive, jive, and jive. Rhumbas, tangoes and even the Sweet waltzes were jeered off the program.

By order of the camp management, the dance ended at 10 o'clock. At 10:30 the Miyajis and the Mizutanis and most of the camp residents were in bed.

Soon after midnight, a "south wind" began howling, and the next morning the sun "came up through a dirty haze of dust." The Mizutanis awoke to a "grimy world." Dust and dirt were "on their beds, on the floor, in their hair, crunchy between their teeth The latrines closest to their quarters had not yet been connected with water pipes. Thus, they braved the wind and went to the south border of the camp "where a big water pipe (serving also as the official boundary) had been tapped every few blocks with faucets."

They washed the grime off their hands and faces, but "new dust was plastered on before they could dry themselves." Giving up, the family — "eyes squinted, handkerchiefs or hands over their mouths" — made their way to their mess hall.

According to Silverman, there were

no windows in the mess hall, only fine wire screens, but fortunately the screens were on the east and west sides of the building, and the south wind blew the dust clouds right past them. Breakfast — prunes, hash, coffee, jam and bread — brought a general upswing in spirits. Hundreds of family groups, eating together around the big tables, were gathered there; they were all wind-buffeted, all grimy, all hungry.

Young Japanese girls stood at the serving tables, passing out small bottles of milk to the children as they passed by, and offering fruit juice to mothers carrying small babies.

In his role as sanitary inspector, Tatsumi Mizutani observed that the dishwashers were dirty. The plates came "through their hands still covered with bits of grease and collected coatings of dust." They were "passed out in that condition, still half-wet, to late diners just getting into line."

After breakfast, the young Mizutanis walked to the new post office that had been established on April 1. For reasons of speed and efficiency, the Manzanar post office had been established as a branch of the Los Angeles post office, "making possible an oddity — a two-cent rate for a 223 mile trip, whereas a letter from Manzanar to Lone Pine, only 9 miles away, would cost three-cents." Two of the clerks at the post office were Japanese, both regular postal employees from Los Angeles and San Francisco "with civil service ratings, both "on leave." Officials had received requests to open a postal savings bank service, because many of the evacuees had "brought hundreds or even thousands of dollars in currency with them." Many others had defense stamps and bonds.

In back of the post office, the desert, according to Silverman, stretched off to the south — "miles and miles of mesquite and rabbit brush, some of it higher than a man." Off to one side were the new barracks being constructed for the military police. To the other, "marked by dense clouds of dust near the ground, were nearly a hundred Japanese workmen clearing out the desert brush with hoes, rakes and axes."

The young Mizutanis walked to the "temporary little hospital only a few buildings away" to receive their compulsory smallpox and typhoid vaccinations. Working in two teams, the four doctors and four nurses, all Japanese, administered the vaccinations under the guidance of Dr. James Goto, who had been a surgeon at the Los Angeles General Hospital prior to the evacuation.

Tatsumi and Fusako Mizutani next walked to the canteen stocked with soft drinks, candy, cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smoking tobacco, gum, stationery, soap, toiletries, baby foods, and "standard" medicines. While there, one army clerk reportedly exclaimed:

Everything will be O.K. if we can just keep up on pipes and cokes. . . . We've gone through dozens of pipes, and 120 cases of soft drinks in two days. Getting lots of special orders, too. The Japs want wash basins and boots and sweatshirts and especially dust goggles. We'll try to get 'em in town.

The young Mizutanis returned to their family quarters to find that their parents had "started to make a home out of the bare room." Wood picked up from the scrap pile "had become needed shelves." Nails were turned "into clothes hooks." A mirror "was fastened to the wall, surrounded by an array of brushes, combs, cosmetics and similar paraphernalia." On top of the oil stove were "a battered teapot and a package of tea."

According to Silverman, evacuees throughout the camp were making similar interior improvements. Few families had brought curtains, but many "prepared substitutes out of colorful dish towels." Woodworkers, "at least one amateur or professional in a family, turned out tables, stools, chairs, benches, shelves, necktie racks, cupboards, and 'geta' — simple 'shoes on stilts' each made from three pieces of wood and a few inches of cord, ideal for elevated transportation over dusty ground between room and showers."

Many windows, according to Silverman, had a decoration "slightly surprising to spot in an an evacuation camp for suspected aliens." These included "red, white and blue service flags with one, two or even three stars to signify sons serving in the United States Army" In many rooms were photographs of "a son in army uniform."

Other rooms, especially the men's barracks, indicated that "college freshmen lived there." Walls were plastered with "college pennants — California, Stanford, U.C.L.A., Southern California, Washington, Oregon and a dozen different junior colleges." There were "clipped pages from Esquire, sketches by Petty, photographs that would scandalize any American or Japanese mother, rooters' caps, football trophies, an examination paper with a heavily-circled A-plus, a few tattered textbooks brought along 'just in case,' new issues of Life, the sporting section of the Los Angeles Times." Outside, collegiate residents nailed placards to building walls with "titles of their own choosing — 'Penthouse #4,' 'The Island Club,' 'Pesthouse,' 'Love Nest,' 'Waldorf Astoria, Jr." Only a few of the signs were written in Japanese. Tatsumi told Silverman that while most "of our crowd can speak at least a little Japanese" few "can read or write it."

For lunch on their first full day at camp, the Mizutanis had chili, potatoes, turnips, salad, bread, pickles, and tea. The wind let up around noon, and the evacuees "began breathing again without benefit of handkerchief filters."

Tatsumi told Silverman that one of the most pressing problems facing Manzanar was what should be done with "the Japanese from Terminal Island." "They don't want to mix with the Los Angeles Japanese. And if we get some from San Francisco and San Diego and Sacramento, we're going to have still more trouble." Eventually "we'll have to realize there are a lot of 'grass widows' and 'temporary orphans' here — wives and children of men who've been picked up by the FBI and sent to concentration camps." If we have any trouble here, they will "probably be the ones to start it."

Even a "casual once-over at Manzanar, according to Silverman "revealed a startling absence of men between the ages of 20 and 50, a situation that emphasized the staggering number of children." Children were everywhere, playing in the streets and around the barracks, falling into excavations, and standing "along the big water pipe that ran down the southern boundary of the camp.

On the other side of the pipe line, workmen were "throwing houses into place" for the military police "with fascinating speed." Many of the workmen were friendly, bantering and joking with their audience. Some, however, "talked loudly in an accent which they fondly believed was "pidgin-Japanese." Other workmen — "many more than a small minority" — had "filthy, obscene barbs in their talk." They "hooted about the illegitimacy of the Japanese, they compared Japanese with various animals — to the advantage of the latter, they extended coarse invitations to the attractive Japanese girls, they dared the children to place their hands across the pipe-line boundary," hinting that the bayonet-armed military police would then cut their arms off.

Although work had been promised to all evacuees who entered Manzanar, Silverman noted that jobs had been found for only 800 of the more than 2,000 evacuees in the camp. Most of these were part-time jobs, providing work for two or three hours a day At any one time, therefore, "more than 1500 were standing idle." As of April 3, less than "half a dozen" work projects using Japanese personnel had been started. Approximately "two dozen" young men and women were working as clerks, stenographers, typists and general assistants in the administration building. About the same number were serving in the "Japanese information center — i.e., complaint bureau — under the direction" of Dave Itami, a former Los Angeles newspaperman who had been educated in Japan and at UCLA and George Washington University. Several hundred were clearing nearby desert land, "doing work in hours that two tractors could have accomplished in minutes."A few hundred others were acting as messenger boys, porters, and general cleaner-uppers, working harder at finding work than at doing it." Other evacuees were cooks, waiters, and dishwashers, most of them occupied only three hours a day Some worked in the temporary hospital and the canteen. A "few score men had what came closest to full-time hard work — pruning the hundreds of old Manzanar apple trees."

Under the supervision of Ted Akahoshi, one of the few Japanese aliens given a responsible post at Manzanar, the pruning crews were "rapidly transforming the shabby old orchard into a semblance of its former glory" A graduate of Stanford University in 1913, Akahoshi had been manager of the Los Angeles Produce Merchants Association before the war. Tako Shima, a Los Angeles nurseryman who had spent four years working in apple orchards near Bakersfield, served as foreman of the pruning crews.

The young Mizutanis went to the administration building where Fusako applied for a job. The "major-domo" at the entrance of the building was Elbert Nagashima, a graduate of the University of Southern California in 1938 and, until several weeks before coming to Manzanar, a member of the maintenance staff at Paramount Studios. He passed Fusako to the personnel registration desk, where a crew of Japanese girls were interviewing applicants. There were many more applicants than jobs, but since Fusako listed shorthand, typing, and accounting among her skills, her registration blank was placed in a "special pile," and she was told she might get a job in "a week or two."

According to Silverman, farther back in the administration building — "not readily attainable by Japanese visitors" — were the offices of Clayton Triggs, the camp manager, and Ellis Pulliam, his first assistant. Together with the other administrative workers, many of whom were former WPA officials, Triggs and Pulliam were responsible "for everything that went on inside the boundaries of Manzanar. They were "swamped by every imaginable variety and degree of problem." In many cases, they had "pressing problems to solve but could find no answers." In others, they had the "answers ready, but were blocked by policy, lack of policy, precedent or lack of precedent — for example, the serious threat of delinquency coming from the lack of privacy in crowded barracks was uncovered by policy." Sometimes, the "apparently complete apathy or ignorance of supposedly cooperative agencies was to blame."

One problem facing Triggs and Pulliam was the disposition of the automobiles that the evacuees had driven to Manzanar. The cars were parked in an open field, and their distributor caps were removed and stored. As a result of the fierce dust storms, the cars' exterior finishes and engines were deteriorating. Pulliam thought that the vehicles could be used on the coast and had asked the Army "three times for somebody to come down and appraise the cars, and make a fair deal with the Japanese." Nothing had been done to date, and the dust kept "on wrecking them." [24]

Pulliam also voiced his concerns about the school situation to Silverman. He had contacted the state Board of Education, requesting that they start schools at Manzanar early to provide the children with something productive to do. However, the board insisted that it would not start schools at the camp until September, leaving many of the children with considerable idle time.

Between Manzanar and the people of Owens Valley and "ordered to provide protection to both," according to Silverman, were "Lieutenant Harvey Severson and his company of the 747th Battalion of Military Police." The company had been sent to Manzanar from Fort Ord two days before the first Japanese arrived at Manzanar. Severson claimed that his men "don't like this job," because they had "been trained and educated to kill Japs, and here they're supposed to protect them." The majority of the men in the military police company were from Texas, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, North Carolina, and the New England states. Many of the military police had never seen Japanese people before. Thus, the Japanese "were strange to them, and so were California, the deserts, the Indians from the reservation farther north, [and] the huge snowy Sierra."

During the first days of the camp, the military police had "a chance to meet some of the Japanese — particularly the Japanese girls." When the evacuees began arriving in large numbers, however, the soldiers were "ordered not to talk to their charges." The military police were limited "almost entirely to guard duties, guarding the entrance to the camp, patrolling its borders, standing by when each trainload of Japanese arrived and assisting in the first registration and induction." When off duty, they were not permitted to visit the camp. "To them, more than to the Japanese," according to Silverman, Manzanar was a concentration camp.

To alleviate the Stress and boredom of the military police, Dr. Charles W. Anderson, chairman of the disaster relief committee of the Inyo County Red Cross chapter, was hired to provide a canteen and recreation facilities for the police. Anderson was a Canadian gynecologist who had practiced medicine in Los Angeles for many years prior to establishing his medical office in Bishop in 1935. [25]

Art Koura

A letter by Art Koura in the collections of the Bainbridge Island Historical Society in Washington provides insight into the experiences and emotions of a rural evacuee from the Puget Sound region following his entry to Manzanar during its early days of operation. Koura, a strawberry farmer on the island at the time of evacuation, later became a decorated veteran of the all-Japanese 442d Regimental Combat Team. In a letter dated April 27, 1942, he wrote:

Today is our twenty-seventh day at Manzanar and all the people from Bainbridge are doing very nicely. Our reputation is very good because we have tried to cooperate in every way possible to make this an ideal camp. I also like to report that practically all able bodied men and women from home are doing some sort of work. The girls and ladies are doing such work as kitchen workers, nursery teachers, office girls, nurses helpers at the hospital and many other work in that line. The boys are doing such work as freight hands, truck drivers, camp maintenance, carpenters job, plumbers crew, warehouse clerks and many other odd jobs.

To put our group who are able just about 100 per cent on the working list the old men folks went out to prepare the land for farming. It is the government's plans to make a huge government farm in this valley. I will not actually be working on the farm but I will be greatly interested in its progress because I am working in the Production office as a senior clerk. . . .

Naturally all of us do grumble . . . at different treatments because no matter what happens camp life can't be like home life, but deep in our hearts we are very grateful for the civilized and human way of handling our country has handled this unpleasant task. The greatness of the power of the United States is even clearer to us now and we have every confidence that United States will eventually bring peace to the world with its victories.

The thought that in about three weeks the strawberry season will begin, and I won't be there to help, just about breaks my heart. . . . [26]

Shira Nomura

Shiro Nomura, a historian and curator of the Manzanar collection and exhibit at the Eastern California Museum, wrote a series of articles in that institution's Inyo Museums News Bulletin between October 1974 and February 1977 concerning his experiences as an evacuee at Manzanar after entering the camp in May 1942. Nomura's parents had emigrated to San Francisco from Hawaii in 1905, and the family was living on a farm in Southern California when Executive Order 9066 was issued. Hoping to keep its extended family members together during the ensuing evacuation, his family had stored many of its belongings in a garage after being evicted from its farm and moved in with relatives in Los Angeles. Originally told that they would go to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, the family was told on the eve of its departure that it would instead be sent directly to Manzanar. The change of instructions meant unpacking and again preparing to leave within 48 hours. Nomura reminisced about this period of uncertainty:

. . . . Further apprehension and fear was aroused for we had heard that Manzanar was in the middle of a God-forsaken desert land. We had seen pictures of the Sahara Desert so we had an idea what it would be like. Our new orders were to take leather hiking boots, heavy clothing, sleeping bags and canned and dried foods. The boots were not only 'made for walking' but for protection against rattlesnakes. The womenfolk were all appalled. The heavy clothing was for the severe winters ahead and the canned and dried foods were for 'emergency food.' A compulsory campout.

Nomura observed that the evacuees going by train to Manzanar did not leave from the recently-completed Union Station in Los Angeles. Instead they departed from the train yard near the old Santa Fe depot. Concerning this aspect of the evacuation, he noted:

Talking in low tones and casting furtive glances at the towering MP's, members of families and friends huddled in small groups trying to keep up their spirits. Suddenly at an order barked by the sergeant, the MP's moved in with rifles and bayonets and herded the people like cattle into a large group and unmindful of families and children, proceeded to split them up into small groups. The people already frightened and uneasy were momentarily panicked by the unemotional attitude of the military men in dispensing of their duties. Tempers flared as the menfolk in trying to protect their young confronted the soldiers until the officers intervened and restored order by commanding the soldiers to regroup them into family units. . . .

During the trip to Manzanar the train cars were switched at Barstow. Nomura noted:

As we neared an unknown junction [Barstow] the MPs going from car to car instructed our guards (two guards with rifles in each car) to have us draw our shades during the switching of cars. Apparently the fear of 'white Indians' surrounding and circling the train, whooping and hollering in their hopped-up '36 Fords and attacking 'the yellow pioneer settlers.' I stole a peek from behind the blinds only to find a few passerbys who had stopped curious to the drawn shades. . . .

Nomura went on to describe the evacuees' arrival at Lone Pine and subsequent transfer to buses for the ride to Manzanar:

We reached our transfer point outside of . . . Lone Pine sometime during mid afternoon. Awaiting us were more military personnel and city officials . . . . We grabbed our hand baggage and prepared to board the many Greyhound buses which had been activated to take us on the final leg of our journey. Having learned well from their first encounter, the guards warned us to stay together in family units. . . . Carefully grouping us by seat count the guards (some of the guards had mellowed) assisted the old and the young into the buses as there was a mild scramble for the window seat by the youngsters. . . .

Nomura related his first experiences at Manzanar upon the arrival of his family at the camp:

Shortly, we saw what appeared to be at first a great ball of dirty fog off in the distance but as we approached the camp, it turned out to be one big massive dust storm kicked up by the famous Manzanar wind. We were soon engulfed in it and with visibility near zero the buses turned off Highway 395, moved past the guard house and into camp. We never saw the guard towers with mounted machine guns nor the barbed wire fences till the next day although we experienced the probing searchlights that first night. The strong wind picked up rice-sized sand from the construction area and pelted the sides of the buses like buckshot as it made its way past the barracks.

The buses lined up in the middle of a firebreak between blocks 14 and 15 and we were greeted by the earlier arrivals who in spite of the wind were out to see if their friends or relatives were aboard. . . .

After alighting from the bus, we were directed to mess hall #15 to be registered and to be assigned apartments and army blankets. We were assigned apartments according to size of family and couples without children were forced to share apartments with only sheets or bedspreads, makeshift partitions were put up for a minimum of privacy separating total strangers. This was very embarrassing and degrading situation for most of these unfortunate people. Although we were cramped with six adults in a small room we were of one family which made living endurable. . . .

Nomura had vivid memories of his first morning at Manzanar. His description of his experiences and emotions were undoubtedly representative of many evacuees:

The first morning at Manzanar I awoke with a start to the sharp clanging of bells which seemingly came directly from outside our window in the barracks building. The clanging was instantaneously taken up by other bells off in the distance. This was a new experience, with more to come. . . .

The wind from the previous night had left a film of fine dust over everything. . . . The fuel in the oil stove (the only permanent fixture) had burned itself out sometime during the night and the room was like a cold storage. . . .

Shivering with cold, I sat on the edge of the metal cot and surveyed the room which was to be our permanent residence for an unknown period of time. . . . The cruel transition of living habits and lifestyle from a civilized society to this degrading situation was hard to understand. As I looked around the bare room I could see why the room had lost its heat. The 2" x 4" studs hurriedly and unevenly nailed together stared back at me unashamedly in their stark nudity The widely spaced 1" x 10"s with their countless knotholes and cloak of tarpaper were hardly adequate to keep the cold out.

Thru the open ceiling I could see the many 2" x 4" cross beams stretching across the room. Exposed above the beams were the 1" x 6's running parallel the length of the roof and covered with heavy duty roofing paper. Our chandelier was a single 100-watt bulb screwed into a chain switch fixture, dangling forlornly and attached to some black and white wires which ran the length of the roof. Beads of tar hung from the ceiling like small tear drops between the loosely nailed boards. . . . The door was built of flimsy 1" x 4"s and in lieu of door knobs, every door in camp had an identical common latch. . . .

The incessant clanging of the bells soon had the rest of the family stirring. . . . The bell was a large brake drum hung from the corner of each mess hall and the noisy clanging was the daily call to chow. . . .

The first morning to greet us was cold, clear and windless. After hurriedly dressing, I grabbed my towel and toiletries and headed for the latrine. I hadn't really noticed the night before, but the building was divided into two rooms of which the smaller was the shower room with six shower heads and a small dressing area. The main room consisted of eight stools (no partitions) four on each side of a 4 foot wall which housed the plumbing. Lacking in privacy, but a great place to sit and discuss the war. Along the wall near the entrance was the 'community wash basin.' It was a long metal trough with 4 sets of hot and cold faucets with only two drains. Needless to say, it took a while to get accustomed to this whole new set up.

After this initial experience, I joined the family for our first breakfast in camp. We laughingly discussed our morning's impressions. . . .

Nomura went on to discuss the impact of camp life on traditional family life:

Noticeably, as time went by, families dining together became fewer. The young took to eating separately with friends. To reprimand or discipline was difficult in the close confinement of apartments. To send a child off to bed without supper was impossible with so many mess halls available. Encountering the daily carefree atmosphere and the independency bred of irresponsibility the rift of the traditional close-knit families started to surface. . . .

After their first breakfast at Manzanar, the Nomura family began cleaning their quarters and making their residence more hospitable. Nomura noted:

Hearing of our arrival, my nephew Carl, one of the early volunteer residents, dropped by to greet us and to give us a few tips. He managed to get us brooms, mops and hose sorely needed for cleaning. Scrap lumber was available in the blocks still under construction, but Carl warned us of the Patrol. He brought us some lids of cans to cover the knotholes in the floor. . . On one of these [evacuee] arrival days, a resident [Hikoji Takeuchi] who had been gathering scrap lumber in an area which was still under construction, was shot by an Army guard. Returning with an armload of 'scrap pieces,' he evidently did not understand nor hear the order to halt and was shot as he advanced towards the guard. The victim and the guard were removed immediately to avoid a confrontation with the group waiting for the buses. The bullet wound (to the stomach) proved to be superficial and the immediate action by the internal security department (manned by camp personnel) prevented a major issue. . . .

Summing up his feelings and reactions to Manzanar during his first days in camp, Nomura echoed what many evacuees must of felt as they contemplated their status. He observed:

I recall spending the early days in camp trying to understand the circumstances which led to our 'incarceration behind barbed wires.' What had we done to deserve it? The freedom enjoyed and taken so much for granted had suddenly been stripped from us with some signatures on the bottom line of a lot of legal words in small type. Was the teaching of democracy from grade school so shallow and meant only for others? Were my neighbors really so sad to see us leave, or only waiting to pick up what we were forced to leave behind? Our stored belongings disappeared. Who were my real friends? With the highway (so near) paralleling the camp, we would sit by the fence looking out at the unchanging landscape, pondering over the many unanswered questions running through our minds. The cliche 'so near and yet so far' must have been born inside Manzanar. The cars and buses, close enough to touch would teasingly slow down, curious to the activity in our camp. [27]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002