First Duty Assignment, Family Scattered by Evacuation Order

This is one part of an oral history video of Sergant Norman Saburo Ikari, a WWII veteran.

– And got shipped to Camp Grant, Illinois, which was a medical replacement training center. And, of course, there was not a gun in the camp, which I don’t know whether it was intentional, from the standpoint of us Japanese guys. ‘Cause I don’t think no Japanese fellows would be trusted with firearms in those days. But we began basic training. But during my basic training, two major developments. First was that the draft and all enlistments into the military were cut off. The draft was no longer operable for Japanese Americans. The second was that I found out that an order had been signed that evacuated all Japanese from a certain portion of the West Coast. And suddenly found out that my oldest brother had been put into a camp in rural Arkansas. That my second oldest brother into a camp in Manzanar on Eastern California. And my mother and the rest of the family into the Poston Camp in the middle of the Arizona desert. So there was my family in three separate camps behind barbed wire. And I was in a camp too, but different kind of camp.

– [Interviewer] Camp there too.

– It was a slightly different kind of camp.

– [Interviewer] How was it that happened that your brothers went to different camps from your family?

– Oh, simply ’cause they lived in different places.

– [Interviewer] Oh.

– My two older brothers of course were, lived in different places.

– I see.

– Yeah.

– [Interviewer] Yeah.

– The only part of my family that did not get evacuated was my youngest kid brother. And he didn’t because he had a girlfriend in Colorado. So when the evacuation notice either came out or just before, he took the car that I had left behind and drove to Colorado to join his girlfriend and family.

– [Interviewer] Oh, so he was never interned?

– He was never-

– Evacuated.

– Never evacuated.

– I see.

– The only one in the family.

– [Interviewer] Oh. Did you have occasion to visit any of your brothers or your mother and sister?

– Yes. Just coming to that.

– [Interviewer] Okay.

– So I finished my basic training and when I finished I asked for a pass to visit and there’s no way in the world I could visit three different camps.

– [Interviewer] Correct.

– Scattered all over the United States. So I thought I’d better visit my mother in Poston, Arizona. I was granted that pass. I understand that some of the guys that were in, Nisei guys that were in the Army at that time were not allowed passes to Manzanar because Manzanar was still in California. All those in the eastern part.

– [Interviewer] Right.

– But I was granted this past to Poston and it was a very unpleasant trip. Even during the time I was in transit to get to Poston, I had a bad experience in Parker, Arizona, at lunch counter. I had a bad experience trying to get to the gates at Poston Camp. But I did. I was able to visit with my mother.

– [Interviewer] You were in uniform at that point?

– I was in uniform.

– Yes.

– Yeah. I got challenged on the bus going to Parker. You know, this MP stuck his head and asked if all you Japs got passes. And I thought, “I need a pass to visit my mother?” You know, I was in Florida. After we visited for a couple of days, my brother’s young wife decided that they ought to have a celebration for me. So there was another Nisei GI that was also visiting. And we decided to go into Parker, get a case of beer, which was a huge mistake. We walked into the nearest saloon and we no sooner got through the door than the bartender waved us out, “No Japs.” And he called for his bouncer.

– [Interviewer] Whoa.

– And two big bouncers came out from the back. So he and I decided, “Well, we’re not gonna do this.” I think we’ll kind of exit gracefully as possible. Soon as we got out the door, we were confronted by this Indian fellow who was also in Army uniform. He was in that Timberwolf division and he made the remark to us, says, “You know, guys like you and I, we should never go in a place like this.” And so we essentially got kicked out of the place.

– [Interviewer] I see.

– I had shouted, “Bartender, we just want a case of beer. We’re not gonna drink it here.” He wouldn’t even listen to me.

– I see.

– Yeah. So I don’t know whether our celebration took place non-alcoholically or not. I don’t remember. I don’t remember.


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