Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
NPS Logo



One of the best sources of data on the prewar Japanese/Japanese American communities and evacuation experiences of the Manzanar evacuee population are the community analysis reports prepared by Dr. Morris E. Opler. On July I, 1943, Opler an anthropologist from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, was appointed as Social Science Analyst at Manzanar. He served in that position until November 16, 1944, when he was transferred to the Office of War Information in Washington, D.C. As the relocation center's community analyst, as he came to be known, Opler studied the evacuee population and advised the Project Director on the "thinking of the evacuees," recommending "courses [of action] by which the administrative contacts with evacuees might be shaped toward more expeditious acceptance of the policies of the Authority by the evacuees." According to the Final Report, Manzanar, Opler's "approach to his problem was historical rather than one of development of broad contact with current situations and the forecast of community response." [79] Although Opler's informants were not necessarily "typical" evacuees or representative of the entire range of opinions and attitudes held by the evacuee population at Manzanar, they nevertheless provide a rich source of data useful in understanding the evacuees' prewar communities and reactions and attitudes toward the government's evacution and relocation program. Opler, unlike most WRA community analysts, adopted an adversarial position vis-a-vis the Project Director, in this case Ralph Merritt, who was not only opposed to having the WRA assign a community analyst to Manzanar, but also attempted to have Opler dismissed from his post. While at Manzanar, Opler chose to live amoung the evacuees in their barracks rather than dwelling among the appointed personnel in their upgraded quarters. In spite of having no legal training, Opler assisted in the preparation of several test cases to the government's evacuation program officially attributed to the work of Nisei attorneys. [80]

After Opler arrived at Manzanar to become the relocation center's community analyst, he undertook a series of studies of economically and geographically denned groups of persons of Japanese ancestry in the camp. The purpose of these studies was to "throw light on the background and present situation of the residents of Manzanar." According to Opler, the "time of evacuation, the manner of evacuation, the losses incurred in evacuation, the amount that has been salvaged from evacuation, the degree of specialization involved in the type of work carried on before evacuation, all have much to do with present attitudes and with resistances to relocation." Bitterness often existed in proportion to the loss, strain, and inconvenience suffered at the time of evacuation. Therefore, such studies threw "much light upon our problems, and may be a direct aid in the formulation of wise remedies and policies." The studies, according to Opler, also shed "some light on the history and meaning of Manzanar as well." Thus, the studies, many of which were lightly edited versions of the evacuees' own words, provided insight into the character of the Japanese/Japanese American communities from which evacuees came to Manzanar, along with their internal rivalries, divisions, stresses, and strains, and enabled a better understanding of the range of resentments and reactions to evacuation that the evacuees brought with them. [81]

Terminal Island

One of the first geographical groups that Opler studied, and one to which he devoted considerable attention, was sizable contingent of evacuees from Terminal Island. According to Opler and other investigators, the Terminal Island evacuees probably suffered more heavily in the evacuation than any other occupational or locality group. [82] After conducting a number of interviews with evacuees from Terminal Island, Opler observed on February 9, 1944:

There has been much discussion, both among the evacuees and among members of the appointed personnel, concerning the separatism of the Terminal Islanders. Part of the strong solidarity and in-group feeling of the Terminal Islanders is a pre-evacuation matter. They were isolated geographically, of course. Their vocation was a specialty and so there was a community of work, dress and food habits that other sections of the Japanese population of Southern California did not share. There were previous ties which bound the people together too. A large percentage of the elders had come from Wakayama Ken in Japan and were familiar with the fishing industry from the Orient. [83]

But, in addition to these pre-evacuation factors, there is the fact that the Terminal Islanders were subjected to a different treatment during evacuation. Evacuation orders affected them before they were felt by others, and were far more drastic in respect to them. Economic losses were enormous. Scarcely a Terminal Island family was untouched by internments. Hence the Terminal Islanders brought to the Center a common fund of bitterness and an attitude of defiant hostility which still further set them off from the general population at Manzanar and somewhat repelled many of the other evacuees at first. . . .

To document "the aspect of the separatism which developed during evacuation," Opler prepared a report, entitled 'The Terminal Island People, Their Evacuation and Their Experiences at Manzanar." In his introductory comments, Opler observed that whether "or not some of the descriptions are exaggerated, whether or not the grievances have grown with repetition, the attitudes they reflect are a reality and have been significant for registration and other events." The report was based on a slightly edited interview with an evacuee who offered a lengthy account of the hardships experienced by the Terminal Islanders:

... .Of course, all of the tragedies and anxiety can not be expressed in mere words but perhaps I can give a glimpse of what occurred as it has been related to me by approximately a dozen persons. Their stories, except in personal details, are all very similar.

The evacuee observed that Terminal Island "had over 3,000 Japanese residents who lived quietly and in a law abiding manner there through the decades." The "peace and serenity" was gone, however, after December 7, 1941. That day was Sunday, a holiday, when numerous "Fish Harbor" people went to the mainland, San Pedro, to visit or to see the movies. . . . Upon hearing what had occurred that day, the aliens who tried to get home via the ferry-boat were detained by the soldiers who took them to the immigration station to be investigated. Even the children were questioned. Although some persons tried to tell the soldiers that they lived on the Island, they, at first, were told to go back to San Pedro from where they had come. Some of the Issei had to stay overnight in jail. On December 7, after dark and through the early morning of the next day, all of the business men and a few fishermen were taken by the F.B.I.

After that day, the fishermen, both aliens and citizens, were not allowed to go out to fish. . . . The majority of the women cannery workers were afraid to go back to their jobs, even though their canneries asked them to return. Thus money was not made after this but was only spent.

Because their fishing vessels lay idly anchored at the wharves, the men had to go every day to see that the boats would not become rusty or scaled with barnacles. Often these men were attacked by the Filipinos, who ganged up on them and beat them. Finally the fishermen were too scared even to go out to see what had happened to their boats. While this happened to the men, the women were often insulted by the Slavs, their former fellow cannery workers.

On Terminal Island, there is only a grammar school. To go to the secondary schools, the students had to cross to the mainland by ferry. After the war commenced, in order to go to school, the students had to show their birth certificates to the soldiers every day. Once the students were detained in the corral to the ferry-boat. The soldiers prevented them from attending school. . . . Some of the students did not attend the schools because they were afraid to leave their homes - afraid something would happen to them.

This life of terror continued for about one month. Then another blow came. On February 2, 1942, early in the morning, all of the fishermen were apprehended by the F.B.I. Even the bed-ridden fishermen were taken, literally dragged from their beds. . . . The F.B.I, always, it seemed, asked how much money one had in his possession. They would order the victim to hold his hands up in the air and then would search for different objects. Actually the F.B.I, acted as though they were hold-up-men. The women and children were too frightened to shed even a tear. But after the men were gone and the first shock was over they were able to cry. The fishermen were taken either to the county jail or to the immigration station. Then later they were transferred to internment camps in Montana and North Dakota. As the men went to their destinations by buses, the women and children craned their necks, trying to find their loved ones and to wave a brave goodbye, for they did not know when they would meet again.

On the following day the F.B.I., or men who pretended that they were the F.B.I., came again to search the homes. They went through the houses from the roof-tops to the cellars and searched every nook and corner. They even flipped the pages of the encyclopedia, children's school books, and they also looked at the bank books. The most pitiful thing that happened was the way the men who posed as the F.B.I., or perhaps they may have been the F.B.I., went through the homes of the bachelors who had been apprehended the day before. When they thought that they weren't watched they would take money. This money was there because these men had been afraid to put their savings in the bank as a result of the freezing of assets. Besides money, it was found that they also took other valuables. The only thing the bachelors had left were the clothes on their backs.

After the fishermen were taken, relatives and friends from Southern California tried to see and help the women, but they were halted at the drawbridge in San Pedro. Only the Nisei were allowed to cross the bridge. After the internment of the fishermen, the women aged greatly because they had to endure so much suffering and despair. . . .

The great majority of the people of Terminal Island lived in homes built closely together and of the same style. These were leased from the fish canneries. It was hard on the women when the canneries asked for rent, especially when they had made no money since the beginning of the war. There were people who did not have much to eat during those days because their pride did not allow them to ask for aid. . . .

At this time, the Terminal Island branch or the J.A.C.L. (Japanese American Citizens League) had the good intention of helping the Nisei get back their old jobs of fishing, but the plans did not go through. Before long, the organization told the people that to insure their safety, they should wear individual snapshots and they should become members of the J.A.C.L. The people trusted the organization, therefore they did what they were told. They paid one dollar for the picture and three dollars for the initiation fee into the J.A.C.L., which was claimed to be a better proof of citizenship than the birth certificate. Ironically enough, in ordinary days, the initiation fee had been one dollar.

The J.A.C.L. also charged three dollars for the service of notifying the Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Alien Registration Division of the change of address of an alien. This service elsewhere was conducted by the post office clerks free of charge. No one knew what happened to this money that was collected. . . . That is the reason so many of these Terminal Island people do not like the group.

It was said that the Navy Department wanted to make the people move out before February 24, but the Department did not have jurisdiction over the civilians. Therefore the Navy Department and the Justice Department purchased Terminal Island from the residents, it is said. The leases on the Island were on the month to month basis although a few individuals might have had longer leases which were still in effect, for leases running from 1 to 5 years had formerly been written. The Harbor Department gave the people 30 days to evacuate after the Navy Department purchased the land, but on February 25, 1942 the Navy Department ordered the 48 hour evacuation. It came about this way.

It was February 24. The silence of the night was punctuated by sharp gunfire, the explosion of bombs, the alarm of the air raid sirens and flashes from the guns. The people of Terminal Island thought that surely the war had commenced on the coast. Panic stricken were the people - the 2,000 women and children of the Island whose fathers and husbands, 600 of them, had been taken away.

The next day, February 25, after the residents spent an anxious and terrifying night, much rumor and talk was circulating. Then the San Pedro evening paper, the "New Pilot" and also the "Los Angeles Times" told of the 48 hours notice given persons of Japanese ancestry to evacuate Terminal Island. After dark, that same day, the soldiers brought notices of evacuation to each house; they took the signatures of the people to make sure that they received the order. This meant that the people had to be off the Island by midnight, February 27. The suddenness of the notice to evacuate left the people numb. This came about a month after the men were interned. How to pack, what to pack, what to leave, what to sell? Or to get out and save your skin! Despair!

.... There were many families who were not able to pack much because of the lack of boxes and other things to store possessions in. Neighbors could not help each other because everyone was too busy tending to his own packing.

The following day the junkmen swarmed over the Island. How they knew that there would be a field day for them no one knew, but they were there to make bargains with the evacuees, bargains that would have been laughed at on ordinary days. But today, any price, even though outrageously low, was better than leaving the household furniture and other belongings lying in the house to be stolen. The bitter tears at seeing each dear possession sold were tragic, but this was the only way; there was no way of storing things because of the lack of transportation. Private trucking concerns asked too much money to cart the belongings to safety. In nearly all of the homes, after the junkmen were gone, stood pianos, the only objects that were too heavy for the buyers to take. . . .

.... In many cases there was not enough time for the people to sell belongings to pack them. . . . Numerous individuals , had to sell their world possessions cheaply. One woman sold both her refrigerator and cooking stove for $10. She sold all of her furniture in the same tragic fashion. . . . Another lady who was considered lucky sold her piano, worth $400, for $20.

What had happened to the fishing vessels? Those, too, were sold too cheaply or were left by the people. The women did not know how to sell the ships because their husbands, who really knew their value, were gone. Therefore they sold them at such ridiculously low prices that they could not even cry over the loss when they realized what they had done.

The value of the fishing vessels on the average were as follows: "jig" boats, the eight, ten, twelve horse-power boats were worth $1,000; forty horse-power boats were worth $4,000 to $5,000; and the local tuna boats were valued at $25,000. They were sold at much below these prices, depending upon the condition of the boats.

There were many petty thieves, persons who had no sense of sympathy but who took advantage of those who were being mistreated. They sneaked into the homes from the back and took the valuables while the inhabitants were busily salvaging or selling their belongings in the front of the house.

One woman went to the bank to draw out money. While she was gone her sewing machine and other light belongings were taken. Some of the women were afraid to leave their homes, therefore they put their belongings together so as to guard them until they were ready to leave. It was said that one woman worked so hard that a few days after evacuation she died of exhaustion.

The Sugiyamas [an assumed name for one of the families] went to the Baptist Church to seek shelter and transportation. From there they, along with about sixty others, were taken to the Chuo Gakuen (Central Japanese School) in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California. This was one of the shelters provided for the people by the Japanese churches and language schools in Los Angeles, Compton, Torrance, and Gardena. The people were divided into small groups and sent to these places. Of course, there were others who rented private homes or hotel rooms because they wished to live near their friends or relatives. Such persons who did rent homes spent much money on rent and food. But the sentiment in Los Angeles County was against the evacuees, so that lodging places were hard to rind. Those who went to live in the above mentioned shelters did get food donated by the Japanese farmers and friends. This food the women cooked for themselves and the children. Because there were no beds, they had to sleep on the floors until their evacuation to Manzanar.

During this period of evacuation the people were helped the most by Miss S., a Caucasian lady of the Baptist Church. This lady is looked upon as a savior, an angel, because of her unselfishness, kindness, and honesty. . . . The Terminal Island people will always remember her and cherish the love that she gave them. . . . The F.B.I. had her followed because they thought she was a suspicious character for helping the Islanders in their distress. . . .

After leaving Terminal Island and after being mistreated by the Filipinos, the Mexicans, the Slavs, the Jews, and other Caucasians, the people had no place to go. They lived in terror and hopeless despair for weeks. They thought they would be killed any minute and fear did much to change their feelings towards society.

These "Fish Harbor" people were among the first family groups to arrive in Manzanar. And after they had suffered so much because of the evacuation they were due for more hardship here. The essential facilities of the Center were not ready. Many persons were hurt falling into ditches dug for pipes and stumbling over tree stumps in the dark. Added to this, the weather conditions in this desert land were not exactly morale lifting. The frequent dust storms, the sharp cold wind, the cold barrack rooms, the drab brown of the immediate surroundings made the people more resentful, bitter, cynical, and insecure. Everything looked so temporary here. There were no planned activities yet, no books to read. There were not enough jobs, no schools, no security. Only boredom, and tenseness.

Energetic boys and girls with nothing to do, too restless to stay home, would wander aimlessly about the Center and think over the 48 hours evacuation, the internment of fathers, and evidences of race prejudice to which they had been subjected. [84] Opler submitted a number of similar reports on the Terminal Island people based on personal interviews with evacuees at Manzanar. While each report noted unique experiences and reminiscences, they verified cumulatively the essential details of the Terminal Island evacuation that resulted in the despair, disillusionment, anger, bitterness, and resentment that characterized this group at Manzanar. [85] One report related the story of a 20-year-old man on Terminal Island whose attitudes had changed considerably as a result of the evacuation. The report, based on an interview with a Nisei who had become acquainted with the young man, stated in part;

.... Where once he was an average American-minded citizen he became very anti-American. Not that he would go out and blow up factories and act like a movie saboteur, but anti-American in the sense that he had lost his faith in America. His faith and his trust. To be persecuted because of his ancestry and to be treated as if they were less than human with no feelings was more than he and most of the others could stand. It's hard to be treated as they were without becoming bitter. It would seem that his troubles were enough for so young a boy. But no, he was sent here to camp, and his troubles seemed to just begin. . . .

After he and his family arrived in Manzanar, most of the Terminal Island people were housed in the same blocks, therefore they were in constant touch with each other. He lived in the environment of bitterness for which the Terminal Islanders were noted. They nursed their bitterness along, never forgetting, always remembering what they had and how much they lost. . . . The younger people went around in "gangs" and generally stuck with their own crowd. [86]

Several of Opler's reports related to the prewar reputations of the Terminal Island youth and their formation of gangs once they arrived at Manzanar. The reputation of the Terminal Island youth, as well as their geographical isolation from the rest of the Japanese community in Los Angeles, set them apart. One Nisei, for instance, told Opler:

Before the war, Terminal Island kept pretty much within itself, as hardly any group outside of them could mingle with them.

If any visiting baseball team went to play the Island team, they were treated very unsportsmanlike and sometimes threatened with bodily harm. This happened especially if the visiting team was ahead in the game. So there was an unwritten gentlemen's agreement among the various clubs in Southland to avoid playing with the Terminal Islanders.

I heard many Nisei girls say that, "I wouldn't think of going around with a Terminal Island boy." Even fellows avoided the Niseis from the island. In fact, many fights occurred when some Terminal Island boys went to dances in Los Angeles.

Terminal Island boys now rate pretty highly in Manzanar with the girls as compared to before the evacuation. This is principally because the island teams win most of the sport contests held here. The Islanders want to win regardless of anything. They'll threaten umpires or players in order to win. It is a good thing to win, but it takes a lot to lose in a sportsman like manner. This is not in the Terminal Island team.

Terminal Island teams would not be so strong if they had been divided when evacuation started. They are the largest group of any evacues [sic] from one section.

At first, they terrorized the center in gangs. Sure, "in unity there is strength but divided we fall," that is what Abraham Lincoln said and it seems the Terminal Island boys are applying it here. Another reason why Terminal Island boys are popular with Nisei girls is that Manzanar is made up of evacuees from all parts of California. There is the Florin group from the North West Los Angeles, Venice, Glendale, San Fernando, and very few from Los Angeles proper. [87]

Some youth from Terminal Island formed "Zoot suit" gangs at Manzanar as an expression of their rebellion. Zoot suit gangs originated among Mexican and black young men in Los Angeles during the prewar years, but they also became popular among some Japanese (particularly on Terminal Island and in Little Tokyo) and Filipinos. The gangs were characterized by long hair, exaggerated baggy clothing, and use of unique slang. One Nisei informed Opler that such gangs became popular among the Terminal Islanders at Manzanar:

The Japanese that copied the zoot suits frequented the 'Lil' Tokyo' streets. I believe the Exclusive Twenty Club boys were the earliest [Japanese] groups to wear zoot suits. The Dunbar boys were next in wearing those styles.

After evacuation, the Exclusive Twenty Club was scattered in various centers, but the clothes that they wore took hold in various centers, especially in the Manzanar Center. The Terminal Island Niseis went for the zoot suit styles in a big way. They draped all kinds of pants to conform with the style. [88]

Gangs, such as the Dunbar Boys, would cause considerable trouble to WRA officials at Manzanar, particularly during the camp's first year of operation.

Little Tokyo — East Los Angeles

Opler also compiled a series of studies on the experiences and attitudes of evacuees at Manzanar that had come from the Little Tokyo-East Los Angeles area. In one report, dated October 26, 1943, Opler interviewed a Nisei mother who characterized herself as "an average Nisei . . . woman, 25, married, with a four year old daughter." Her father was an Issei, and her mother was a Nisei, but she considered herself a Nisei. She observed that her story was "like hundreds of other Nisei girls, with slight variations:"

.... I was brought up from the time I was about 3 or 4 until my teens by Caucasian Nuns (Catholic, my mother was a Catholic, and so are we) because Mother died, and left Father with a good-sized family (seven of us), ranging from less than a year to about 10, whom he could not take care of and support at the same time. Therefore, my background from childhood was strictly American, with no Japanese customs and restrictions. ... I went to the grammar school the Nuns conducted, then on to the public high school. I graduated from Los Angeles High School in Los Angeles, with neither high honors, nor, on the other hand, at the foot of the class, but just as one of 500 or so other students, ready and eager to go into the world to make use of the high ideals and teachings we had received.

Eight months or so after graduation, I met and married another 'nisei' from Florin. ... He had come to Los Angeles when he was 19 to establish a wholesale fruit and vegetable business. When I met him he was 24 years old, and already quite established in his business, through four years of hard work. We were married and a year later our daughter was born. About this time he felt that he could expand his business, so with more heart-breaking work and sacrifice, he was really established.

Now, we were really well situated and settled, even according to American standards. We lived in a nice home, had a new car, and a growing business, with enough money for the necessities of life with a few luxuries added, but not enough to squander foolishly. . . . now that I was married, and had a beautiful daughter, and a young, ambitious and fairly successful husband, I for once felt the sense of security, love and protection that I had been unconsciously longing for. As our second, and third years of marriage came and went, my husbands' business became better and better and he had big plans for future operations, when — bang — all of a sudden — Pearl Harbor — and the smashing of all our hopes and dreams.

The nisei evacuee reflected on the impact of Pearl Harbor and evacuation:

One cannot imagine the bitter despair and unhappiness of those first days and weeks. People, ignorant people, instead of letting us lick our wounds in peace, knocking at our door, asking if we had anything to sell, cheap, as if we were junk men or something, trampling, and handling our belongings as if we had no feelings at all. . . . The humiliation and degradation of those days will never leave us. ... I sometimes thought I could not stand the heartbreak in my husbands' eyes. Ten years of blood and sweat went into his business, and he was just about ready to sit back, and ease up a little, to enjoy his well earned fruits, when he had to give up and sell out. . . .

When evacuation came, and things were in such a confused state, and we were in a panic, we thought it best to get rid of her [their daughter's] furniture, as we thought we could not take it along with us. We sold it for a song. . . .

The greatest blow to her was when we were forced to give away all her toys. I didn't want to sell them, so I just gave them away to the neighbor children. . . .

Maybe these are little things compared to many which have happened, the heartache and misery, the thousands on thousands of dollars which were lost through evacuation, but the little things piled on each other, day by day, caused more heartbreak in us, then the one clean break of evacuation. Evacuation, on the whole, was a big, stunning blow that numbed us. But when we recovered from the shock we were actually in camp, learning to take it as a matter of course. But it is these little irritations, constantly chafing us, that keep us a little bitter, with a sense of frustration. . . .

.... On the whole, most of us took it [evacuation] as a matter of course; we were neither too bitter nor too happy about the whole affair. I think some of us

(especially those of us who came from the Los Angeles area and the immediately surrounding towns) were a little relieved to be away from the minor irritations, i.e., insults and slander, and the small humiliations unthinking people heaped upon us after Pearl Harbor. . . .

Not only were things like that common occurrences, but we had to take being refused a ride on the street car by the conductor, who in normal times wouldn't have thought to insult us so openly. . . .

Not only were we afraid for ourselves, but for our children, husbands, and parents. Personally, I always thought I could take care of myself when such things came up, as I am completely Americanized, and can give tit for tat, but when your children and especially our parents (most of whom are law-abiding, unassuming people, who could not understand why they were spoken to and insulted the way they were, but just took it in silence) were made miserable and unhappy, I think many of us tried to act as a buffer for them, so that they might be a little more relieved in a situation which was no fault of theirs nor, as a matter of fact, any fault of ours. The Nisei mother observed that many "of us will not have any more children for some time, as under the circumstances, when we have no home to go to, no real security, nor the atmosphere of safety in which normal happy children should be brought up, we feel it is best not to bring any more into the world." She elaborated:

.... Many will say, there's nothing to prevent you from having one, as there are hospital accommodations, etc. at the camp. Yes, I admit that. Excellent accommodations, in fact, but how many of us would care to go through life having to admit we were born in a "concentration camp". I know they are called 'relocation centers,' but in actuality, they are concentration camps. I, myself, would rather not have another child if it had to be born in camp. I'd much rather wait until I am out again, free, and on my own, settled in a community of understanding and sympathetic Americans, to bring up my family in an atmosphere of trustfulness and love, and free of the prejudices and hate that we have known. Maybe I am being idealistic, but no matter how hard hit and bitter we were about evacuation, our ingrown American teachings and traditions were never downed.

Despite her disillusionment and frustration, the Nisei evacuee reflected on her continuing loyalty to the United States. Noting that loyalty had never been an issue for her, she stated:

.... America is the land of my birth, the only land I know, I have never been in Japan, nor have I had any desire to go; I feel I belong here, and here I wish to remain. You don't stop loving your father if he gives you a sound thrashing for something that wasn't your fault. You admit it was wrong and try to forgive him. So it is with most of us. We think evacuation wasn't the solution to the problem, but as long as the Administration thought it was best, we have tried to understand and take it, and when the time comes for our release, we shall try to pick up the threads of our former life and live in the true American traditions, and bring up our children, too, on these same traditions, of justice, equality and the pursuit of happiness. [89]

Opler prepared a second report based on an autobiographical sketch with this Nisei woman. In this sketch of her experiences, she related how she and her husband had arrived at Manzanar and discussed the quandaries in her mind as to the meaning of evacuation. Prior to the war, she observed that their lives were "set in a complete pattern."

Then suddenly and shockingly, without any notice, the war started. Things were in a confused state. People were becoming panicky. There was talk of evacuating all Japanese out of the state. I hoped and prayed we at least — as citizens, would be allowed to remain. But to no avail. My husband sold his business while the selling was good. When evacuation was confirmed, we decided to move north to the so-called 'white (free) zone.' But even there we were not allowed to stay in peace. We were ordered to evacuate to the Tale Lake center. While we were there, my husband went to the Montana Sugar Beet fields on furlough. Returning to camp he decided he would go out again in the spring and stay 6 or 7 months. I decided to apply for transfer to the Manzanar Center where my folks were, since I had no relatives or friends in Tale. My transfer was recommended, and I reached Manzanar early in the spring. . . .

After being at Manzanar for two years, this Nisei mother observed:

I often sit and wonder how I ever came to be in a camp full of Japanese, aliens and citizens alike, with nothing much in common between them and myself except the color of our skins. What had I, or as a matter of fact, what had the rest of them done, to be thrown in camp, away from familiar surroundings, and familiar faces? What had there been in my life that made such a thing happen? I suppose the only answer is, the accident of my birth — my ancestry. There is no other logical answer. . . .

.... So we are looking forward to that day when we will again be 'free citizens' and lead once more a normal life. Maybe some day I may be able to find an answer to why we were put in camps. Even now I can find no answer, no event in my life to make me realize WHY? [90]

Opler gathered other stories of arbitrary treatment and discrimination encountered by evacuees from the Little Tokyo-East Los Angeles area that contributed to the anger and bitterness of those people. On April 24, 1944, he prepared an account of a Nisei who had grown up in Fresno where his father's laundry business was located in "Chinatown." Because 90 percent of his father's business came from "Chinese," it "hit rock bottom" in 1931 when "Japan started the war against China and took over Manchuria." The Chinese tongs in Fresno "forbade any dealing with Japanese."

Because his mother had a cousin living in Los Angeles, he "hitch-hiked" to the city, "getting a ride with a produce truck." The cousin found him a job "in a retail produce market as an apprentice with a salary of sixty dollars a month, room and board." Within six months he had "saved over two hundred dollars," so he sent for his parents and brothers. The family rented a house near the wholesale produce markets.

The Nisei man encountered racial slurs and slights as he worked in Los Angeles during the 1930s. He remembered being called a "Jap" and being told to go back where he came from. He observed:

When someone said something like this it sure used to get my blood boiling as I didn't know how to speak Japanese enough to be called a "Jap." I resented it very much as I thought I was as good as any other American citizen.

In time I got used to being called a 'Jap' by some 'ignorant whites.' I realized that if a I argued every time with ornery customers when I was called names, there wouldn't be much business left, so I learned to control my temper.

Things were pretty tough in Los Angeles during the years 1932 to 1934, but we managed [to] live by the skin of our teeth.

I wanted to go to college and take up law but my obligation to help the family was stronger so I remained working. My father wanted us to start some kind of a business of our own, but somehow we could never get enough capital to start a business. I learned through my associations with fellow fruit-stand workers that speaking English only was a handicap in getting better wages and good jobs.

I tried to get jobs with American concerns but found that only janitorial jobs were open and some concerns said right out that they 'had nothing for Japs'. . . . This kind of treatment jolted my ideals and so I took to learning to speak Japanese in earnest. Now I speak Japanese pretty well for I have really applied myself to it. In fact, I worked on it so hard that I believe my English slipped back.

Although the account did not discuss the Nisei's experiences in the late 1930s and at the time of evacuation, Opler noted in the foreword of the report that in 1939 the young man was able to found a business of his own, and it too, collapsed at evacuation. At the Project [Manzanar] the young man has been restless, volatile and unstable. He has sampled work in almost every Department of the Center. It is possible that his disorganization has gone too far, and that what he seeks is behind, and not before him. [91]

Several other reports prepared by Opler illustrated the discriminatory and brutal treatment experienced by evacuees in the Little Tokyo-East Los Angeles area that contributed to their anger, bitterness, and anti-social behavior at Manzanar. One report, entitled "Arbitrary Treatment by F. B. I. Men," was related by an evacuee who was a friend of two Nisei and one Issei from Little Tokyo. The report stated:

It was the night of December seventh 1941 in the LIL' TOKYO section of Los Angeles. Three Japanese fellows were walking home from Broadway when they were stopped by four F.B.I., agents who got out of a sedan. This happened between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets on East First street. The F.B.I. men asked the trio what nationality they were— whether they were Chinese or Japanese. They asked them what they were doing out so late at night. It was only 9:30 P.M. and the men were nearly home. There were no curfew laws in effect yet. When they replied that they were Japanese, the F.B.I, men told the trio to get inside the car or they would be black-jacked. The trio didn't have any alternative other than to comply. After the trio got into the car, they were driven to an empty auto-park behind the Paris Inn Cafe. Then the Japanese boys were told to get out. They did so and then the F.B.I, men beat the holy day-lights out of them. One of the G-men told the trio to make a run for it, all the while holding onto his hip-pocket as though getting ready to draw his gun out. The trio refused to run away so then they were taken to Central Jail. There again the fellows were subjected to further punishment until one of the policemen interfered, telling the G-men that they had enough beatings already.

The trio were later transferred to Lincoln Heights jail to be booked on some trumped up charge about late hours or something. Their trial came up about a week later and when it did they were dismissed immediately. [92]

Two reports by Opler linked the discrimination experienced by Japanese in the Little Tokyo-East Los Angeles area with the rise of zoot suit gangs in those sections of the city. One report, as previously noted, indicated that the "Japanese that copied the zoot suits frequented the 'Lil' Tokyo streets." [93]

Another report prepared by Opler related the story of a young man from the Little Tokyo-East Los Angeles area who had become a gang member at Manzanar, in part because of the chaos and turmoil he had experienced during the evacuation. An evacuee who had known the young man for some time told Opler:

One boy, a neighbor here, is a good example of what the 'zoot suits' have done to him. He is a member of one of the more 'famous' gangs of Manzanar.

In Los Angeles, where he was born and raised until evacuation, he was more than a model boy and son. He was the oldest boy in a family of two boys and two girls. He was a hard working fellow helping his father, who owned a wholesale produce firm in the Los Angeles market. Working as an all-around man, he sold, bought and received the produce. At that time he was about 20 years of age and the pride of his dad. He knew that by working hard he not only helped his dad, but himself at the same time, for he was learning the business inside out and preparing for the day when he might have to run it himself. He was an extremely ambitious boy. He actually never went out with a girl, which is in itself amazing, for he was twenty, a city boy and not too poor. But he just was 'too busy.'

After evacuation, when he landed in camp he seemed to become completely different. Not that he became vicious or bad, but from a quiet, conservative boy, he really became a model 'pachuco' boy, with haircut, clothes and talk of the zoot suit gang. He let his hair grow almost to his shoulder, cut in that exaggerated fashion of the true pachuco. All his clothes, both work clothes and good clothes were cut in the zoot drape. [94]

West Los Angeles

Opler prepared several reports describing the experiences and attitudes of evacuees at Manzanar from the West Los Angeles area. One report was based on an interview with a Nisei who had been born and raised in Hawaii. After graduating from high school this man had moved to northern California where he worked as a farm laborer. Several years later, he migrated to West Los Angeles and became a gardener. The report stated:

He was doing better than average in making a living and by this time he was married and had a son. His wife was a proprietress of a beauty shop in West Los Angeles and things were going along very smooth until the notice of evacuation. . . .

According to Opler, this Nisei

never realized that the United States government would allow such abridgement of citizenship rights of Niseis. This fellow was totally Americanized so he couldn't think that the Army could make us evacuate. Later he thought that the United States government would pay indemnity to evacuees for property losses. But when he finally realized that the retribution wasn't going to be paid to evacuees, he became pretty bitter.

He said the Army didn't even give the Niseis a chance to show their loyalty to this country, instead they shoved us in here [Manzanar]. This man also remarked that prior to evacuation he was willing to fight for this country, but not any more. [95]


At least four of Opler's reports were devoted to the study of Venice, a truck farming community near the coast south and west of Los Angeles City from which many evacuees at Manzanar originated. The most comprehensive report relating to this area, entitled "Mr. O., A Farmer from Venice, California (By an Evacuee Research Assistant)," was prepared on August 24, 1944. In his introductory comments, Opler observed that this account was "in part autobiographical, in part a mirror of a region and of a section of the West Coast population of Japanese ancestry before and during evacuation." It was "the story of an individual whom we shall call Mr. O., a successful farmer of the Venice, California area." The materials presented "were obtained in the course of a number of interviews with Mr. O. After the various interviews were organized and paraphrased, the data was submitted "to the narrator for comment and correction."

The report included Mr. O's impressions as he and his family left Venice for Manzanar on April 27, 1942. The evacuation experience was "like sinking down to the gloomy, colorless abyss of a foggy, damp morning." He related further:

.... One by one the buses, filled with heartsick, discouraged and humiliated evacuees, rolled away. The occupants craned their necks to see their homes, perhaps for the last time. All the energy used to build up what they had simply disappeared like a mirage in the cloud of dust and the carbon monoxide of the buses. ...

The evacuees who arrived [at Manzanar] on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, April 26, 27, and 28, 1942, came from the Santa Monica bay area, Sawtelle, San Fernando Valley, Burbank and Glendale. . . . After engine trouble and a flat tire, Mr. O's group arrived, only to be met by a famous Manzanar dust storm. Anguished tears stung their eyes as they thought, 'Haven't we gone through enough without having to face this too?'

Mr. O.'s father had emigrated to the United States via San Francisco in 1907. After meandering throughout the western states, he returned to Japan to attend to a family emergency. After marrying, he returned to America in 1911, and the family, which now included a baby daughter, settled in Elysian Park, a spinach-growing area on the north side of central Los Angeles where Mr. O. was born the following year. During the mid-1920s the family had moved to the Venice area and established a truck farming enterprise. The account of Mr. O.'s prewar experiences continued:

The oldest son, Mr. O., took over the family farm when he was 16 years of age. Luck was with the family, for in 1929 they hit the 'jack-pot,' — they had an exceptionally good year. From then on, farming was easier. Young Mr. O. says he could not claim to be a seasoned farmer until he was 21 years of age. Before evacuation, he had twenty acres of land, leased, which was yielding on the average from three to four car loads of celery an acre or sixty to seventy car loads a year. This does not include other crops. One refrigerated car carried 340 crates, the half-crate type, field packed.

He specialized in celery raising from 1926 to 1942. His twenty acres of it brought him $16,000 to $18,000 gross per year.

During his Venice High School years, his ambition was to become a doctor of medicine. He majored in mathematics and foreign languages. Since his father could not work as he used to, Mr. O. had to take all the responsibilities of the family onto his young shoulders. So his dreams of becoming a doctor faded. Instead, he sent his younger brother to a medical college. . . .

Mr. O is now 32 years of age. He has an attractive wife and three children. He met his wife, a Kibei, in Ise, Japan, on one of his three visits to that country.

Mr. O. was one of the oldest Nisei farmers in the Venice district, though there were a few Kibei farmers who were near his age. All the Nisei seemed to prefer white collar jobs. ... He says, The Californians should not be afraid that the persons of Japanese ancestry are going to be tough competitors in the field of agriculture, because even before the war, the Nisei were leaving the farms for the city. The Issei, because of the lack of education, did not go into business, but chose the farm, the back-breaking manual labor. The Nisei have seen the work their folks have gone through, and they do not wish to go through the same thing. The younger generation prefers the easier and cleaner jobs.'

Concerning activities in Venice prior to the war, the report stated:

.... everybody was busy all the time; there just did not seem to be much time for leisure. Mr. O. did belong to the Young Men's Association and was at one time a cabinet member of this organization composed of persons of Japanese ancestry. He, also, was a member of the Judo club.

There were yearly prefecture picnics, as well as picnics with the Pacific Fruit and Produce Company employees (Caucasians) and the farmers of Japanese ancestry in Southern California. This was a bright and true way for better racial understanding.

In answer to charges that the Japanese farmers exploited Mexican laborers in the Venice area, the report noted:

All the Mexican laborers who were hired to work on the various ranches in California were members of the Mexican Union. If the wages were low, they would strike. The Mexican consul would help them. It has been charged often that the Japanese people always were close to their consulate, but the Issei had to have some group to look after their rights since they could not become citizens of this country.

It is understood that the Japanese never took unfair advantage of the Mexican laborers. Wages paid during the pre-evacuation days were $.50 per hour; now they are probably $.85 per hour.

The report described the financial condition of the Venice farmers at the time of evacuation:

At times when the celery crop was good, the people in the Venice area were swamped with salesmen from various companies. In those years, they bought the best and most modern kitchen equipment, household furniture and nice automobiles. For an example, in 1941, luck was with them. In a competitive spirit, all the neighbors bought new 1941 Pontiacs, Chryslers, Fords, and Buicks. Everyone tried to out-do the other fellow. And when there were picnics, rows of shining new automobiles with window license stickers still on were to be seen.

Also new tractors and farm equipment were bought. Everything was perfect. Although the homes looked shabby from the outside, this contrasted sharply with the interiors. Money was not spent on the outside of the houses because the places were rented, and the tenants never knew when the landlords would decide to sell out. If they, the Issei, had been able to buy land, then naturally the exteriors of the homes would have been made more presentable. . . .

The "good times," however, came to an end with the coming of war. The report discussed this chaotic period:

When war was declared all the leaders of the Venice district: were interned; the Japanese language school teachers and the Japanese school committee members as well as those who were members of the Japanese Association. . . .

.... much hardship was suffered by the Venice farmer when the five mile travel limit and the curfew were enforced. Whenever he had any business to do, he had to go to the local WCCA office or the police department for a travel permit. To get this, he had to wait in line, because there were many other persons who also wished to travel. Therefore he had to do his business the next day. This took much time and spoiled many business opportunities. The distance from Venice to Los Angeles is sixteen miles.

There had been so much talk of evacuation that the aliens were, in a hazy way, expecting it. But the citizens [Nisei] of the Venice area never thought for one instant that they would be evacuated too.

Mr, O. is a citizen, and he never met discrimination whatsoever in his line of work. He was confident that he would be allowed to stay. Had he not been deferred from selective service because he was an essential farmer? Because he was so optimistic, he put in much time, labor and money so that he would be able to harvest and work his land for the duration. Thus, he lost his money. He was too confident of his rights as a citizen.

Mr. O.'s optimism was based, in part, on a letter that he had received from the Defense Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Los Angeles on March 16, 1942. The letter stated that "the best possible evidence of the loyalty of Japanese persons to this country . . . is that they continue their farming operations." Opler's report continued:

This . . . letter . . . supposedly answered Mr. O.'s question of what to do with his crops as evacuation became imminent.

He received this letter and heard from the neighbors that they, too, were told that they would be considered saboteurs if they did not put in their money and make preparations to harvest the crops even though they would not be there to benefit from them. This furthered the feeling of unrest. If the fields were neglected, it was said the FBI would come and take them to jail. Of course, this frightened the farmers, for people were actually being picked up by the FBI constantly in the community for various minor reasons after the outbreak of war.

In March, 1942, when Mr. O. asked the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco what to do with the farm equipment he was purchasing on an installment plan, the reply was that he should make suitable arrangements with the dealers who had sold the machines to him.

One of the tractor company dealers said, 'We don't know whether you Jap boys will pay or not. You are going to a concentration camp. We don't consider people who go in there citizens of this state. So pay now; I can't tell if you will be able to later on.'

The tractors had to be stored in the company's garage. Mr. O.'s brother lost his tractor, even though payment for it was not due. Mr. O.'s bill for his tractor was not due until June of the following year but he still had to pay for it then. He had hoped for a moratorium.

A group of Venice men finally asked a lawyer to draw up a petition to General DeWitt asking permission to stay a little longer than the time set for their evacuation, so that they might harvest the celery. But DeWitt did not even answer them. The farmers had to put in money to keep the farms going until the day of evacuation. They had to put up all ordinary costs, about $600 at the minimum per acre. .. .

Meanwhile, the Venice truck farmers were trying to sell their crops as the time of evacuation drew closer. The report stated:

.... as the evacuation day grew nearer, people who were panic stricken harvested their crops early and took them to the markets at the same time. The markets were flooded with stock. Naturally the prices went down drastically. In April Mr. O. was able to sell the crops by himself, but one of the reliable companies signed a contract with him to harvest the crops in May and June. . . .

Because the evacuees were anxious to get rid of whatever they had, they sold cheaply or else lent farming equipment, land, or crops to their neighbors or other Caucasian farmers. The evacuees, it seemed, had lost all sense of balance. . . .

While at Manzanar, Mr. O., as well as many other farmers, were angered by enactment of the Lowrey Bill, signed into law on May 18, 1943, by Governor Earl Warren. The law authorized the seizure of idle Japanese-owned farm machinery by the government for agricultural use. Some Caucasians who had taken over the Japanese-operated farms and stored Japanese-owned equipment reported the idle farm implements and machinery to authorities. Thus, many of the evacuee farmers were forced to sell or to run the risk of having their equipment seized. Mr. O. "decided that it would be better to sell his equipment, no matter how cheaply, than to have it seized." Accordingly, Mr. O. sold his equipment, despite his desire to keep and use them when he relocated. The report described the equipment and buildings that Mr. O. was forced to sell while interned at Manzanar:

Approximately 3800 nursery flats and 25 larger items were sold. Some of the more valuable items were as follows: one Chevrolet, 1939, 11/2 ton truck; one, 1940 Pontiac; one Farmall model 1941, cultivator; one Hardie High pressure sprayer, 1941 model; one caterpillar tractor, 1941; one John Deere plow, 1941 (late); one John Deere Disc, 1941; Land leveler, 1939; two hot houses with a capacity of 2200 flats each; two living houses; one garage; one barn; and one tool house.

The report stated that the Lowrey Bill "was a great blow in many ways." It worked against the plans of the government, which was to get the evacuees [out of the relocation centers] and back to productive life again. This bill came at a time when plans to relocate were being made by farmers. The farmers do not wish to go out as common laborers. They desire to run their own farms as before. This bill, as well as the newspaper propaganda that went with it, led to a great deal of bitterness. A good many of the evacuees who were not farming also reacted to the harshness and cruelty of the Lowrey Bill and to the viciousness of the newspaper articles [associated with its passage]. The people felt persecuted. Farmers who lost their equipment abandoned plans for relocation. [96]

Several other reports prepared by Opler indicate the level of anger and bitterness on the part of many evacuees from the Venice area. One report, entitled "The Venice Niseis (From a Los Angeles Nisei)," stated:

The Niseis of Venice region were very much urbanized, considering that they lived in rural homes. Most of them spoke good English and mingled with the Caucasian children. Majority of them were so Americanized that their parents could not tell them what to do. The Niseis would argue back, saying that it's old fashioned to do things the Japanese way. Venice farmers were better off from the financial standpoint as compared to average farmers.

When the war broke out, the Niseis also were prevented from going anyplace, anytime, and they were not allowed to have in their possession cameras or firearms. In other words, the same restrictions placed on the enemy aliens were applied to the Niseis as well.

After being placed in a evacuation center, the Niseis were ridiculed as to their status as United States citizens. They were reminded that they were in the same boat with aliens and that their citizenship had done them no good. Most of these Niseis resent the fact that their citizenship rights were taken away. The fact that they were so Americanized and yet were suddenly placed in the category of aliens, and being constantly reminded of this by the elders made them pretty bitter. [97]


Opler prepared a report on the impact of evacuation as reported by a Nisei gardener in Pasadena, a suburb northeast of Los Angeles. The Nisei, who lived with his wife and two-year-old son, noted that he was telling his story "to explain what my family and I went through during that critical time." The report stated:

At the out-break of war, some people were kind and some as ornery as could be. I had a Caucasian friend, a woman, who insisted that I remain put instead of voluntarily evacuating. My younger brother had volunteered to go to Manzanar on March 23rd, 1942 to help prepare the camp for later evacuees.

My older brother was working in a large American vegetable store in Alhambra [a suburb near Pasadena] when the restriction for traveling any distance was placed on people of Japanese ancestry. The distance from Pasadena to the store was just about five miles, maybe a little over, so he kept on his job, but when the curfew law was put in effect, he had to quit his job, as he was working nights only.

Now I was the only one working and 1 was not earning enough to support any large number of persons. So my only recourse was to evacuate with the rest of the family to Manzanar.

I went to the Los Angeles induction station to get necessary information regarding evacuation. This was at Seventh and Spring Streets. I wanted to find out if I could bring my radio, beds, and countless other appliances for daily use. The people working there passed the buck to each other in giving out information regarding things like that. They said that I could bring whatever I could carry. Now this didn't clarify my mission so I asked them to define 'all I can carry.' They said, 'Just what it means is all the explanation that is necessary.'

Now, I couldn't carry much nor could I expect my wife or son to carry anything. My wife was in a family way, so I devised ways and means to carry as much as possible.

The American lady friend offered to store some things until such time as they could be called for, so part of my problem was solved. Some things which we did not consider worthwhile storing we sold or gave away, such as projection films, music sheets, buckets, clothes-pins, pictures of Japan, some cooking utensils and countless other things that are used daily in average American homes.

April the second was the date set for us to evacuate to Manzanar. I made a contraption whereby I could pull a heavy load, carry the beddings on my back, and at the same time carry two suitcases on each side. The contraption was a 2-wheel, sledlike trailer and I expected to carry a big bundle on it. My wife was to carry a small suit case and my son was to carry a shopping bag filled with light things.

I will never forget the scene at the railroad station when I went to load our things on. Why, there were sewing machines and trunks and all sorts of bundles that a single person could not possibly carry by himself. It sure made me sore to see things like that. Maybe I trusted the government employees at the induction station too much. When I thought of the things I had thrown away I sure was sore. It took me a good 6 months to forget this.

This mass evacuation was handled in an orderly way, but what the evacuees suffered in property losses and rights can never be quite forgotten.

I personally thought, as my Caucasian friend did, that we Niseis with citizenship would be out of the center within half-a-year. That kind of thinking probably made me sell and throw away a lot of things. I expected to go right back to Pasadena and work as a gardener. I sure was an optimist then but now I know better. [98]


On December 14, 1943, Opler prepared a report based on an interview with a young Nisei adult who lived with her mother and younger brother in Burbank, a suburban community north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley, at the time they were evacuated to Manzanar on April 28, 1942. The family lived on a small estate owned by an upper middle class family where the interviewee's now deceased father and mother had settled in 1921 as caretakers. In addition, the parents had established a small flower enterprise, renting several acres on the estate on which to raise the flowers.

The interviewee described her school experiences in Burbank:

Going to school was something which I have always liked. I know that I was very happy going to school for thirteen years; kindergarten, grammar school, junior and senior high school. . . .

For junior high school graduation, I was selected as one of the five speakers. . . .

While in high school, I was a member of the scholarship society, and the exploration club. We had our parties, conferences, and trips. . . I think I led a very normal American girl's life. . . .

Although I heard that discrimination and prejudice existed, I never encountered them during my school years. My friends always treated me as an equal so that I always had a good time. . . .

The evacuee described her experiences after Pearl Harbor. On December 8, 1941, she and her brother went to school "with some anxiety." She observed:

.... Instead of ill treatment, there seemed to be a closer and more understanding feeling between us and the other students. On that day, the principal of the school spoke in assembly, telling the student body not to molest persons of Japanese ancestry. I was glad and grateful that he did but I don't think anyone would have done anything cheap towards us. After that day, all the days seemed to be the same. On occasions some people would look at us in a queer way but that would be all.

The evacuee described the fear that her family experienced as they read newspaper stories of Japanese persons being killed by Filipinos in Stockton and of the Terminal Island evacuation. "We wished that we could do something for them, but what?"

The evacuee also described the feelings of denial, helplessness, and fear experienced by her family as evacuation day for her community approached. She noted:

.... As the evacuation areas were being planned we thought that since we lived so far from the coast line we would not be evacuated. And in the first place, we smugly thought, the Caucasians would know that we wouldn't want to do any sabotage or espionage. In the first place, how, even if we had such ideas, could we get away with such a thing? Our complexions would give us away immediately. If we were white then maybe such a thing would be possible.

Alas, we learned that we were in the restricted zone. The voluntary evacuation was stopped and the curfew laws were enforced. All during this period and the weeks that followed, there was much emotional upheaval. The anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen next was oppressive. We were always in fear and felt like hunted animals or like escaped convicts. . . .

Before long, notices were posted and newspapers gave the complete restricted zones. We found that we had to move to Manzanar. We were told that we would be allowed to take only as much as we were able to carry with us. We, and I know many other families too, packed only enough to last for the summer and early autumn of the first year. Somehow winter weather was forgotten in the hustle and mad cap way of packing. Everyone felt that he would be lucky if he got away with his life. Therefore packing was done in a rather crazy, absent-minded fashion. All selfishness and personal thoughts were forgotten. We felt as though we were going to another world. People sold their belongings at outrageously low prices unthinkingly and some persons simply left their refrigerators, stoves, and valuable belongings standing. When persons stored their things in the churches and temples, they probably thought that they would be as well protected there as in any other place. As you have undoubtedly seen in the newspapers, vandals have stolen or destroyed much of the stored goods left in these places. Some Caucasians did travel from door to door, asking if anything was for sale. . . .

Finally the day of departure was at hand. My Caucasian girl friends gave me a farewell party and we told each other that I would be back soon. The day before departure, we drove around our community to see all the familiar landscape. . . . We were very depressed — depressed to be literally pushed out of this place, our home for over twenty-two years. ... I tried to assure myself and the others that we would be back very soon. There was no reason why we should be kept in the camp when we were trustworthy. Why, we would be back by Christmas, 1942.

Yes, this evacuation is the first discrimination that I ever felt. And I felt it hard. We were evacuated and the Italians and the Germans were free. Many persons who were not anti-Japanese, that is, Caucasians, thought that evacuation was the best thing for us. Their argument was that we would be protected from mob violence. The way they spoke, it seemed as though they could not trust their fellow Americans. Isn't America civilized? . . .

The evacuee went on to describe her early experiences at Manzanar and their impact on her attitudes. She noted that her family rode on one of the 20 Pacific Electric and Greyhound buses that transported evacuees from Burbank to Manzanar on April 28. As they entered Manzanar, "a dust storm, the worst one that we ever encountered, met us." Their

hearts sank as we saw rows and rows of dismal tar-papered pre-fabricated barracks and wondered whether we were asleep or experiencing some horrible nightmare. The whole episode of evacuation still seemed unreal. The people who came to greet us were very hardy to come against the wind and the dust. They wore huge motorcyclist's goggles, bandannas, boots, and dusty clothes. We were examined by a doctor before we were allowed to get off the bus. We were officially inducted into this camp after we received our army blankets and were assigned to our quarters. Upon reaching our home to be, we found that we had to share our little room of 20' x 25' with another family. Counting all heads in both families, there were eight of us. The first night we slept on the floor. Tears slipped down my checks as I tried to sleep to overcome my disappointment. . . .

The evacuee related her struggles as she adjusted to her surroundings:

The first month of readjustment was the hardest. Although I was among many persons, I was still very lonely. Very homesick and miserable. Only the mountains were of comfort to me because they reminded me of the mountains back home. Because I am more of a small town girl, I suppose, the closeness of quarters seemed to make me wish for fresh air. It seemed as though I were going to suffocate. . . .

I hated the sight of everything here. In the beginning of last year [1942], the rooms were not lined with plaster board and linoleum. Whenever the cold spring wind blew down from the snow covered Sierra Nevada mountains, the blast of cold wind would come into the rooms through the large holes and spaces between the floor boards and the walls.

I know that I am not as bitter, lonely, nor as high strung as before. Until very recently, I tried to study to make the time go faster, but I could not sit still for a long enough period of time without the desire to be on the go. I was too restless. I did not even try to make friends here at first, but later I did. . . ." [99]

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002