for 1981 Commission Hearings

Rachel Kawasaki, speaking as a former evacuee who spent four months at Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia, California, and one year at the Amache Relocation Center in Granada, Colorado.

Ms. Bernstein and members of the Commission:

I am here to speak about the evacuation of the Japanese aliens and American Japanese who were mostly teenage children of the Japanese aliens. I was nineteen years of age when I entered the Center.

I don't know what you, the Commission, or I as a former evacuee is doing here today. As far as I am concerned, our country hasn't done anything to be redressed for.

The only persons who were forced to go to a Center were the Pro-Japan persons who were alien males who were picked up by the F.B.I. No other persons -- alien or citizen -- were forced into any kind of center. They were forced to evacuate the Western Defense Zone, Washington State, Oregon, California, and the West half of Arizona -- only 3½ states. Any and all persons of Japanese extraction, including aliens, could have relocated to the other forty-four ½ states on their own. Thousands desired to do so, and they did.

After many years of hearing rhetoric pertaining to the evacuation and getting redress, I am convinced that semantics and word-play are playing a major role here today. Again, I say, no one was forced to do anything other than evacuate a designated area of these United States. Many people I know have stated that they were forced to go to the Centers because they had no money, no job, and nobody to help them relocate on their own.

Certain areas were designated to be evacuated by certain dates. If the people in that area could not evacuate and relocate themselves, they were to go to designated places such as churches. They would be helped to relocate; they were taken to an assembly center. No one was rounded up at the point of a gun and herded into these centers, as is being told to the American Public by our own elected government officials, news media, and the perpetrators of this redress. It's true there were soldiers, and they had guns. There were there to assist and keep the people safe -- nothing more. Where else could our government get the manpower to help in such a project?

At no time was the military personnel involved in the administration or internal affairs at the assembly centers or the relocation centers. There was a very small administrative staff from the War Relocation Authority, a civilian (not military) agency; however, everything was strictly run and controlled by the evacuees themselves. The internal police was composed of evacuees. All the processing to relocate people was done by the evacuees. The evacuees worked in any and all capacities in both the assembly centers and the relocation centers. Since Santa Anita and other assembly centers were still in the Western Defense Zone, the centers did have towers with soldiers, but their guns were not pointed in toward the residents of the center, as certain people have stated.

There was one soldier who stopped for me and Mrs. Forimoto, and a girl named Aiko. He also took pictures of Santa Anita Center and of us, and gave them to us.

There was a riot during our stay in Santa Anita, when trucks were turned over and people and rumors were running like crazy. One of the rumors was that the center had been infiltrated by Koreans who were spying on residents for the administrative staff. This rumor went so far as to say a Korean man had been killed. A person could ask 50 to 100 people if these things were true. No one -- and I mean no one -- could tell you if they were fact or fiction stemmed from rumors. Every day, more rumors were started, during this riot. A few jeeps with military personnel patrolled the center but mostly this was in District "7," around the yellow mess hall, where the trouble started. The jeeps were inside for two days or so. There were there only to assist in curtailing the rioting.

We had dancing in front of the grandstand at Santa Anita, and other fun things. To this day when I hear "Sleepy Lagoon," it reminds me of the good old days, Santa Anita, and a Bob Kinoshita who sang it. I become livid when I hear these assembly centers and relocation centers called "American Concentration Camps," dictionary definition notwithstanding. In Santa Anita we had dances, which were fun. My baby's 2:00 a.m. feeding was delivered to the door of my unit. This was a Concentration Camp? I should say not!

Anyone in Santa Anita could have left anytime they felt like it. My husband was going to Idaho to pick potatoes, but since I didn't want him to go, he didn't; however, many of his friends and many others did take the opportunity to go.

Many people chose the protection of the centers, since the Japanese people (aliens and citizens alike) were being molested on the streets, their farms, etc. They were molested not only by Caucasian people, but most, by Filipinos and Chinese people. Many Japanese people were afraid to go outside of their homes. There has been much discussion about the curfew for the Japanese people. The curfew was for all people. There were blackouts, and most people weren't allowed out after a certain hour. People in cars had to drive with parking lights on or no lights sometimes. Even my cousin, who had his own truck and hauled freight and vegetables up and down the West Coast during the war years, had to drive without lights.

We evacuees traveled by train; it was like any other train in those days (1942); pullmans, dining cars, coaches, etc. All elderly people and mothers with small babies were given pullman berths. Since I had a small baby I had a berth. There were M.P.'s on these evacuee trains. They were there only to assist. Anyone who traveled during the war years knows that M.P.'s and S.P.'s were on all trains -- civilian and otherwise -- not just the trains carrying the evacuees from the West Coast. It has been said by certain people that the evacuees were packed in the trains. From what I saw while traveling from Amache Center to Denver, from Denver to St. Louis and later on to Chicago, all trains were packed. People were traveling hundreds of miles were standing up. Soldiers and their wives, as well as civilians, stood and held their children. People were holding other people's children on their laps. Not one evacuee was standing on the evacuee train to Colorado.

Even from the very beginning at the assembly centers, efforts were made to find jobs and send the people inland. In September 1942, we went to Amache Center at Granada, Colorado. Things were different there. We were free to go in and out of the center at will. Every day there were trucks going to Lamar, a town 18 miles away. There were no soldiers following us around. We shopped, did what we wanted, then caught the truck back to the center. I understand from a Mrs. Horimoto, who lived in the block up from me in the center, that after I left (September 1943), they used to go into Lamar to the movies at night time. At the beginning at Amache, we had only one soldier at the entrance. Later, there were none. We walked in and out at will. We walked to Granada (about 3 or 4 miles from the center) whenever we felt like it. There was a drug store there and a variety store; later some residents from the camp opened up a fish market and called it "Granada Market." When they returned to the West Coast, they opened a market in Little Tokyo and they called it "Granada Market" also!

Here again, we had only a small administrative staff from the War Relocation Authority. Everything in Amache was run and controlled by the evacuees themselves. We were completely self-governed. The center's police were evacuees. The fire department was manned by evacuees.

Each block had twelve barracks. Each barrack was partitioned into units of different sizes. Families were assigned to the units according to the size of their family. If they had very large families, they were given more than one unit.

Each block had a mess hall, a laundry building, and a building with bathing and sanitary facilities. These blocks were run by block managers who were elected in a democratic election by the residents of the block. If there were any problems, they were taken up with the block managers. If the block managers did not do what the residents of the block felt he should, he was voted out of the position at the next election. Concentration camp? I should say not!

Every week we had a movie in our mess hall. The movie rotated the center, one week our block, next week the next block, etc. We had fashion shows, talent shows, all kinds of arts and craft shows. There were Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, a glee club, and a drum and bugle corps. The different shops and stores were run on the basis of co-ops. The members of these co-ops were the evacuees themselves. A student going to the Amache school could become a member of the school book store (co-op) for 25¢. We had our own print shop, silk-screen shop, and all different religious services were held. Again I question the term "Concentration Camp" and I say "no way."

Ms. Bernstein, in one of your interviews by the media, you made reference to the medical care. On two different occasions I had to have medical care; once in Santa Anita and once in Amache. In Santa Anita, under the grandstand, there was a hospital plus other medical facilities. There was an ambulance shuttling back and forth to the general hospital where I went for four impacted wisdom-tooth extractions. There were other evacuees on the same ambulance, going into the hospital for various reasons. I made several trips for medical care in Amache, and stayed in the hospital for a week. A Dr. Fujimoto, an evacuee now in Los Angeles, took care of me. The hospitals were serviced and run by the evacuees themselves. My ex-sister-in-law worked at the hospital in Heart Mountain. I say the medical care was more adequate than many communities had then, and also some communities have even today.

Please don't be misled by false statements from just a few. I was there; no one can tell me differently. A Dr. Mary Oda has made the statement that she was fed slop. I say to her, she better point the finger of blame where it belongs; and that is not with our government, but with the duly elected block manager and chief cook in her block, who were evacuees themselves. There was much thievery and black-market going on throughout the centers, including Amache.

James Oda, whom I assume is Mary Oda's husband, is a Kibei. A Kibei is a person born in the United States but raised, during the formative years, in Japan. They were taken or sent to Japan by relatives for the sole purpose of being raised in the Japanese tradition. It was mostly the Kibeis who renounced their American citizenship and asked to be repatriated to Japan since they had dual citizenship. The majority of the American citizens of Japanese descent, Kibei or not, were dual citizens.

A Mr. Richard Yoshida was arrested and served a prison sentence at McNeil Island, a Federal Penitentiary in Washington State. While he was there, Gordon Hirabayashi, a young man with whom most of you are familiar, was brought in to serve a sentence for having broken the law; disobeying the evacuation order.

Mr. Yoshida did not have his United States birth certificate, although he was born in Hawaii. As a young man, he registered himself as an alien in order to haul fish in and out of Mexico. Upon completion of his sentence and parole, he was going to be deported to Japan. He did not want to go, so he had to prove his citizenship. This was done by what is called "Ko-seki-to-Hon." It was verified by a young attorney American of Japanese descent named Frank Chuman.

Mr. James Oda wrote a book titled Heroic Struggles of Japanese Americans. Sachi Sako's column in Pacific Citizen, March 6, 1981, quotes Mr. Oda as saying "there was a growing division within the Manzanar Center between the United States sympathizers and pro-Japan sympathizers." He also wrote it was dangerous to be Pro United States. At night they went out in pairs; he slept with an iron bar beside his pillow, and no one slept directly under a glass window. When they walked around the corners of buildings, they always made very wide turns.

I would like to ask Mr. James Oda and Mary Oda, who knew this kind of pro-Japan element existed even in the centers, how they can question the evacuation from the West Coast where so many military facilities existed. Do they, or anyone else, think there was no pro-Japan element before arriving at the centers? Of my own knowledge, there was great sympathy for Japan throughout the Japanese community. Even today, when something is said about Japan and the trade deficit or other things affecting the United States and Japan, there is a certain sympathetic feeling for Japan.

In Pacific Citizen of February 20, 1981, page 5, Bill Hosokawa wrote that the Reagan administration is formulating a strong East Asian policy. After taking several sentences out of context, apparently to deceive the reader, he concluded by saying, "Japanese Americans by themselves don't have nearly enough clout to influence the thinking in an administration, or even in a think tank like the Heritage Foundation. But they have far more friends than they did 40 years ago, and they've acquired a lot of know-how about utilizing those contacts. That may not be much assurance but we can keep pecking away." {handwritten in, "PECKING AWAY AT WHAT? R.K."}

I worked in Little Tokyo (Japanese town in Los Angeles) before the war and also after returning to the West Coast (October 1946), so I know what I am talking about. I have first hand experience by living with, working with and for persons of Japanese descent, and since I have this knowledge, I am appalled at how ready and eager our media (T.V., newspapers, and magazines) is to hear anything negative about our country. Our politicians are also very eager to hear any and all negative garbage about the very country they are elected to serve and protect. From my own experience they are ready to believe the misleading and false statements that are being made by some of the very people who were making trouble for our government 40 years ago. Those very same people are still trying to make trouble for our government and with the help of the media and our elected officials they are doing a pretty good job of it.

I am not saying the evacuation (and that's all it was -- an evacuation) was not an inconvenience for the Japanese community but war is an inconvenience for any and all persons in every community, not just the Japanese community. Certain vocal people of the Japanese communities here in the United States say they were up-rooted. I say to them, they were not the only ones up-rooted; all people of every race, color, or creed were up-rooted in one way or another during those World War II years. It was the same during the Korean war years and the Viet Nam years. Any war is going to up-root all people of a society.

I recall the "Go for Broke" 100th Infantry, which consisted entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry from Hawaii. Later the survivors of the
100th Infantry and new recruits became another regiment of all Americans of Japanese ancestry, the 442nd. Now, where is the Samurai spirit I have been told about these 40 years? Now, I am thinking it's all a myth.

No person in this United States of America was exempt from being touched in some way from the bombing of Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. I feel this redress has been diligently planned, since I have heard the rumblings of it for 20 or 30 years. These past ten years, the perpetrators got down to brass tacks to bring it about. All they have been doing for years and years is lobbying our elected officials in all capacities, local, state and national, to support their cause. Many of the officials elected to protect and serve this great country of ours are the very ones who are supporting this cause, never finding out if it is just cause or not. They seem to be ready to believe anything negative about the very country they are elected to protect.

People like me, and others who have something good to say about our country, say, "Wait a minute! That's not the way it was!" These same officials or their legislative assistants tell them they don't understand the issue or that we don't know what we are talking about. I was told by Bob Moffet in Congressman Dornan's office, that he felt I didn't understand the issue and he started to read me the United States Constitution over the phone when I tried to discuss the issue with him. I understand this redress issue far better than he!

Amy King, in Barry Goldwater Jr.'s office, told me I didn't know what I was talking about when I asked her not to use the word, "internment." I explained that we evacuees were not "interned" -- we were free to come and go at will. She told me to look in the dictionary, and what I would find is that a person is interned if he is not permitted to leave. She didn't know me, but she knew these other people who said they "suffered." If I had anything to say, I should tell it to the Commission. I am telling it the way it happened.

Charlotte Sato, a legislative assistant to you, Congressman Lundgren, made an out-and-out false statement to me over the phone on April 8, 1981. If she made a false statement to me, a constituent of this nation, I ask how many others has she made it to? The false statement she made was that her parents were "in a concentration camp." I told her I was in the centers for 16 months and that they were not "concentration camps." At this point she stated, "And so were my parents." I asked her what center they were in and she told me it was irrelevant. I told her it was very relevant since there were four different types of centers. We got into a scream-fest via phone and hung up on each other. After putting a few name and locations together, I realized I had known her mother. She is now the Mayor of Long Beach, California. I called her. Much to my surprise, I was told by Mrs. Eunice Sato (Charlotte Sato's mother) that her family evacuated on their own to Colorado and she finished her schooling in Greely, Colorado. She had only gone to the center to visit; she never did reside in one. As I told Charlotte in a letter, if it were a concentration camp, her mother would not have been permitted to visit. I sent a copy of the letter I wrote to Miss Sato to Congressman Lundgren's office in Washington and also his Long Beach office. I have never received an answer or an acknowledgment of it.

During the course of my conversation with Charlotte's mother, she made one positive statement: "The people in the centers had it better and lived better than our family did outside of the center." Charlotte Sato is not the only person who has made or is making false statements about the evacuation and just how it was. There are many, many others.

People were helped with locating jobs, housing, etc., and were assisted with cash to leave the centers. All evacuees were encouraged to leave these centers so they could be phased out. They were to be only temporary facilities, utilized to assist those who chose government assistance in relocating inland. However, many seemed to want to make them a permanent situation. They sat on their tails until they were forced out, mostly after we could return to the West Coast. My own in-laws stayed until they were moved back to the West Coast by the government. They stayed in a mobile home park in the Griffith Park area Government Housing, off Riverside Drive. Here, they and others were encouraged to find permanent facilities. Many lived in the different housing projects and were assisted with welfare payments (I think in those days it was called "relief").

When it is said that they lost those great sums of money and their land, please stop and use your common sense. A person must remember just what time in history it was. This nation as well as others throughout the world was coming out of a deep, deep depression, and no one had or owned very much, Japanese people or non-Japanese. Much of the farm land was leased land, since most of the adults were aliens and not permitted to own land. Before the war I saw many Japanese people scrounging for a dollar as all other people were doing in those post-depression years, when a person worked for a dollar a day if he were lucky.

My presence here would seem to indicate that in the minds of some, propaganda has prevailed over truth. As Senator Hayakawa said when speaking of the so-called "concentration camps," "Most of them never had it so good."

Date July 2, 1981

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