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Interview Archives - First-Hand Accounts of the Internment Experience
The following interviews were recorded in the spring and summer of 2006. It is our hope that these stories will build on the work and legacy of the late Mary Tsukamoto, who devoted her life to promoting social justice for all, regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity. Thanks to the commitment of her daughter Marielle to continue her mother's work, the support of BESTNet to produce high-quality interview clips, and funding through EGUSD's Teaching American History Grant, students and teachers across the state and nation can learn about the internment experience through first-hand accounts.

Note: Funding for the editing of the interviews was provided by a grant from the California State Library through the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program.

Photo of Mary Tsukamoto
Mary Tsukamoto
Bob Uyeyama

Bob Uyeyama was born in the Sheldon, California, in 1935. He attended Enterprise Elementary School for 1st grade. When World War II broke out, he was sent to Jerome and Rohwer internment camps. Following the War, he attended Sierra School. After graduating from Lodi Academy, he went on to Pacific Union College and also served in the Air Force for four years.  He retired as Court Administrator of the South Sacramento Municipal Court District in 1998. He continues to be an active member of the Florin Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL).

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  Through Their Words CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  WWII Internees and To Kill a Mockingbird CA Content Standards: 9th Grade E/LA RS2.5
  A Question of Loyalty CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Charles Kobayashi

Charles Kobayashi, former internee, shares his stories of resilience and determination to overcome post war barriers to pursuing a career in law.

Lesson Links: A Question of Loyalty CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Analyzing Plot, Theme, and Character Traits in Autobiographical Narrative Video CA Content Standards: 7th Grade E/LA W2.2 a,b,c; 3.0 Lit Response & Analysis

 

Christine Umeda

Christine Aso Umeda, the youngest of seven children, was born in Sacramento in 1938. In May of 1942, at the age of 4, she was sent with her family to Arboga Assembly Center, near Beal Air Force Base (Marysville, California). Her family was then sent to Tule Lake Segregation Center. The following year they were transferred to Heart Mountain, where they spent the rest of the internment years. When they were released, the family returned to the Sacramento area. She graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School, and then went on to Sacramento State University in Sacramento, where she gradudated with a B.A. in Social Work. Christine married Stanley Umeda, who also spent part of his childhood in an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas. Christine continues to give presentations to students and teachers about the experiences of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  Through Their Words CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Dorrie Kobayashi

Dorrie Kobayashi shares stores of her father's role during World War II as a leader in both the JACL and the community, along with his efforts to be allowed to join the U.S. Military.

Flora Ida Ortiz
 

Flora Ida Ortiz provides memories as "an outsider" and recounts her life-long friendship with internee pen pal Reiko Naguma.

Frank Kageta

Frank Kageta was born in Florin, California on February, 15, 1920, the second of four children. Frank grew up working in the olive orchard his father operated.  Frank graduated from San Juan High School in 1937.   The family moved to Loomis, California, two years before Pearl Harbor.   In March of 1942, the family was evacuated to the Arboga Assembly Center near Marysville and then to Tule Lake.  Eventually Frank's parents were  moved to the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming.  Frank joined  the military and served in the 442nd Regimental Combat team that served with distinction in World War II Europe. Returning to Loomis in 1947,  Frank and his family resumed fruit farming on newly purchased acreage.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
  A Question of Loyalty CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Taking a Stand CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0
Gary Shiota
Photo

Gary Shiota was born in Huntington Beach, California, on January 26, 1926. Gary was the third of six children. When his father passed away in 1931, the family returned to Japan for help. His mother later returned to Lodi, California, with Gary and his older brother. The three younger siblings were adopted by relatives. Gary attended Lodi High School. In 1942 the family was evacuated to the Stockton Assembly Center and sent to Rohwer, Arkansas. In 1945, Gary was drafted and served with the Occupation Forces in Germany. He re-enlisted as military intelligence interpreter and served with the Occupation Forces in Japan until 1949. Following the war years, Gary went on to study international trade. He became involved in educating the public about the nisei veterans after meeting Kiyo Sato and Jim Tanaka.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  A Question of Loyalty CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Heidi Sakazaki

Heidi Sakazaki was born in Clarksburg, California in 1928. Heidi’s parents were hard working seed farmers in Clarksburg.  Heidi attended the West Sacramento Grammar School. When the United States entered WWII and President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, the Sakazaki family was sent directly to the Tule Lake Internment Camp in northern California.  While confined in camp, Heidi graduated from Tri-State High School at the age of 17.  When the family was able to leave camp, they were offered work in Utah and told they could make a good salary doing cannery work.  The work was hard and back breaking; the pay was poor.  Heidi and her sister traveled to Ogden, Utah, and took jobs doing domestic work.  The two sisters traveled to Los Angeles where they found work with the Hollywood stars.  Heidi found herself being treated like a daughter by actor Andy Williams, Kay Thompson (singer, dancer and choreographer), Jerry Wald (producer/director/Oscar winner).  Eventually, Heidi returned to Sacramento and joined the staff of the California Unemployment Insurance  Appeals Board/Court.  She retired as a Staff Services Manager in 1994.  Heidi continues to volunteer for the Buddhist Church, the Florin JACL, the Time of Remembrance Program and many other groups as she is needed. Heidi and Andy Williams still communicate with each other.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  Through Their Words CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  WWII Internees and To Kill a Mockingbird CA Content Standards: 9th Grade E/LA RS2.5
  TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Jack Dairiki

Jack Dairiki recounts his vacation trip to Japan in 1941, being caught there, and surviving the bombing of Hiroshima.

Jack Uyeyama

Jack Uyeyama  was born in Sheldon, California, in 1931. He attended Enterprise School until the outbreak of World War II.  He was interned at both Jerome and Rohwer internment camps. Following the war years, he attended and graduated from Golden Gate Academy in Oakland. He went on to graduate from California State University, Sacramento, with a degree in sociology. He taught a few years in elementary school and then went into business for himself as a gardener.

Lesson Links: TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
Jerry Enomoto

Jerry Enomoto was raised in San Francisco, California.  Jerry was attending Lowell College Preparatory High School at the time President Roosevelt declared war on Japan and subsequently, signed Executive Order 9066.  With Jerry’s father in Japan, Jerry became the man in the family for his mother and sister during their confinement at Tule Lake Segregation Center.  Jerry had a lengthy and most distinguished career in law enforcement.  In 1994, he became the first Asian American to receive a presidential appointment as United States Marshall. In addition, Jerry is married to Dr. Dorothy Stevens Enomoto, the first African American woman to manage a California Department of Corrections Institution.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  Through Their Words CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
Jim Tanaka

Jim Tanaka was born in Sacramento on January 2, 1926. He is the 3rd of five children born to Morigo and Yoshina Tanaka. Jim's parents were tenant farmers in Oak Park (South Sacramento). During the war years, his family was sent first to Arboga Assembly Center in Marysville. From there, they were sent to Tule Lake. After completing the loyalty questionnaire, they were transported to Topaz, Utah. Jim was drafted in 1944 and served with the 442nd in Italy. He returned to California after the war and attended trade school. He helped the family to rebuild their lives. Jim continues to volunteer his time to educate students about the experiences and contributions of the Nisei veterans of WWII.

Lesson Links: TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
  A Question of Loyalty CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Jim Tanimoto

Jim Tanimoto was held at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. In 1943, he refused to answer the so-called "loyalty questionnaire," and was removed with many other men living in his same block to a nearby former California Conservation Camp(CCC).

Lesson Links: A Question of Loyalty CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2

CA Content Standard: 6th Grade E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Joanne Iritani

Joanne Iritani shares the experiences of Japanese-Americans on "the outside."

Lesson Links: A Question of Loyalty CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
Joyce Takahashi

Joyce Takahashi was raised in Berkeley, California.  Joyce’s father was an optometrist with a successful practice and her mother was a Public Health Nurse.  Joyce remembers fondly a family trip to Washington, D.C., six months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Takahashi family like so many early Japanese American families held Abraham Lincoln in high regard, thus Joyce and her sister were thrilled to stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial posing for their father’s camera.  A year later, in the spring of 1942, the Takahashi’s were transported to the Tanforan Race Track. At the Tanforan Assembly Center the family was forced to reside in a horse stall and six months later the Takahashi’s were transported to Topaz, in Utah. Joyce’s parents put their medical training to work and spent long hours in the camp hospital during their confinement in Topaz.  The Takahashi’s returned to Berkeley after the war and began to reestablish their lives.  Joyce went on to receive a university education and her doctorate and is an emeritus faculty of UC, Davis, Chemistry Department. In addition, Joyce volunteers for her church and serves on the Board of Directors of the Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley Club of the California Alumni Association.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
Ken Ouchida

Ken Ouchida was born September 24, 1930, in Sacramento. He is the oldest of seven children born to Harold and Edith Ouchida. During the war years, his family was relocated to Gila, Arizona, located on the Gila River Indian Reservation - a "reservation within a reservation." Ken attended high school in the camp, but returned to Elk Grove High School when his family was released from camp. He graduated from Elk Grove High School, despite dealing with issues of racism, and went on to college and a career in pharmacy.

Lesson Links: Through Their Words CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Kiyo Sato

Kiyo Sato was born in rural Sacramento in 1923.  Kiyo was the oldest of eight siblings and in this hard working farm family she was like a second mother to her brothers and sisters. Kiyo’s parent’s farm produced strawberries and table grapes.  The hard work of the family and the quality of their grapes and strawberries brought them great success.  After graduating from Sacramento High, Kiyo was looking forward to her future with excitement.  She was 18 when the United States declared war against Japan and President Roosevelt sign Executive Order 9066.  The Sato family was first confined at the Pinedale Assembly Center and then transported to Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming.  When finally released from the internment camp, the Sato family worked as laborers for one season in Colorado.  Unlike most families the Sato’s were able to return to their land.  Kiyo joined the United States Air Force, completed her college education in nursing and achieved the rank of captain.  Kiyo set an ambitious path for herself that she has held to throughout her life. In addition, to nursing, she has been a wife, a mother to four children and as a public health nurse. She developed the innovative Blackbird Vision Screening Program for detecting vision problems in young children.  Kiyo is an active member of Nisei Post 8985 and along with her fellow veterans spends time sharing the experience of  the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and the accomplishments of Japanese Americans in the military during WWII.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  Through Their Words CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Analyzing Plot, Theme, and Character Traits in Autobiographical Narrative Video CA Content Standards: 7th Grade E/LA W2.2 a,b,c; 3.0 Lit Response & Analysis
Lester Ouchida

Les Ouchida was born in Florin, California, in July of 1937. His father, Harold Ouchida, had a strawberry distribution business and by 1929, at the age of 23, Mr. Ouchida owned 20 trucks - a very successful businessman. When the family was evacuated by order of 9066, his father lost his business. The were taken first to the Fresno Assembly; then the attended Florin Grammar Shool and graduated from Elk Grove High School in 1955. Les went on to graduate from UC Berkeley, where he and the late Congressman Bob Matsui were roommates. He majored in Business and went on to work as an administrator for the California State Department of Finance.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
Marielle Tsukamoto

Marielle Tsukamoto shares her perscpective on the impact of the internment years on her family and the Florin community during and following the war years - along with memories of "unsung heros."

Lesson Links: Writing for Redress CA Content Standards: 5th Grade E/LA W2.4 a,b,c,d
  Analyzing Plot, Theme, and Character Traits in Autobiographical Narrative Video CA Content Standards: 7th Grade E/LA W2.2 a,b,c; 3.0 Lit Response & Analysis
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Marion Kanemoto

Marion Kanemoto grew up in Seattle, Washington.  The outbreak of WWII and the signing of Executive Order 9066 brought Marion and her family’s comfortable life to an end.  Marion witnessed her father’s removal from their home by the FBI.  Eventually, the fatherless Tsutakawa family was transported and confined in the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho.  While confined, the family came to a fateful decision that, with one son already in Japan and their money and family business gone, they should repatriate to Japan.  Once in Japan, there was no denying that life in war torn Japan was not going to be easy.  Through determination and Marion’s continuing sense that she was an American heart and soul, she was able to return to the United States.  Marion graduated from nursing school and spent her career working as a dedicated school nurse.  She married Jim Kanemoto.  Together Jim and Marion had four children, all of whom have university degrees.

Lesson Links: Writing for Redress CA Content Standards: 5th Grade E/LA W2.4 a,b,c,d

Molly Kimura

Molly Kimura shares stories from the Tule Lake and recollections of Marysville's pre-war Japantown.

 

Reiko Nagumo

Reiko Nagumo was raised in Hollywood, California and attended school with the children of Hollywood’s screen writers, producers, and camera men.  Reiko’s father was university educated but made his living as a gardener for the Hollywood stars. Reiko and her family were confined in Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming during WW II.  Reiko is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in Nursing.  She had a successful career in the U.S. Diplomatic Corp and eventually was director of multimillion dollar California program providing assistance for patients with genetic disease. Today she is retired and spends her time volunteering for a myriad of organizations.

Lesson Links: Journey to Topaz & Reiko - Response to Literature CA Content Standards: 5th Grade E/LA W2.2 a,b,c
  Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0
  Through Their Words CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  We All Wear the Mask: Connecting Poetry to Japanese-American Internment Camp Survivor Stories CA Content Standards: 11th Grade E/LA RS 3.5b, 3.6c
  TOR World History Lesson Plan CA Content Standards: 10th Grade H/SS 10.8, 10.8.6
  Taking a Stand

CA Content Standards: 6th Grade E/LA Writing: 2.2; E/LAfor Listening and Speaking: 1.0

Robert Coombs
 

Robert Combs shares his experiences as a young teacher who volunteered to start his teaching career at Minidoka. He recounts how he came to love the students and the community he found there.

 

Roy Sato

Roy Sato was born in Stockton, California in 1926.  Soon after Roy was born, the family moved to Fresno, California, where Roy attended elementary school and high school.  Roy was a junior in high school when WW II began and President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.  The Sato family was held in the Fresno Assembly Center until October 1942 and then transported to Jerome Internment Camp in Arkansas. Later when Jerome closed, the family was moved again to the Rohwer Internment Camp.  When Roy turned 18, he moved to Chicago and looked for a way to join the military.  He finally managed to be drafted, after a series of half truths and not sharing the true condition of his health.  Roy arrived overseas and joined up with the 442nd Regimental Combat Unit. After the war, he resettled in Sacramento and began a career first in aircraft repair and eventually the air conditioning business. 

Today Roy is an active volunteer for the Methodist Church, the Asian Community Center and has served as the Commander of VFW Post 8985.  Additionally, Roy volunteers his time every year for the TOR Program to instruct and share his story with thousands of school children.

Lesson Links: Through Their Words CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  A Question of Loyalty CA Content Standards: 9th-12th H/SS Analytical Skills 1-3; Curriculum Standard 11.7.5
  Writing for Redress CA Content Standards: 5th Grade E/LA W2.4 a,b,c,d
Stan Umeda

Stanley Umeda was born in Florin, California. When Stan was six, his family was sent to the Fresno Assembly Center and then on to Jerome, Arkansas. When Jerome closed in 1944, his family was transferred to Gila, Arizona, a camp situated in the middle of a US Indian reservation. When released from camp, he returned to Elk Grove and graduated from Elk Grove High School. Stan went on to become a social worker for the State Department of Mental Health. Stan, together with his wife Christine Umeda, gives presentations to teachers and students to tell about the internment experience. The aftermath of 9/11 has renewed his commitment to share his story, so that no other group will suffer the same fate.

Lesson Links: Identifying Themes in Personal Narratives CA Content Standards: 8th Grade E/LA RS 3.5, W2.2; H/SS 2.0, 3.0

 

Toshiye Kawamura

Toshiye Kawamura shares what happened to her family's boarding house follwoing the round up of Marysville's Japanese-Americans, along with descriptions of camp life, and life after the internment experience.

Vi Hatano

Vi Hatano was raised in rural Salinas. Vi’s father was a successful produce farmer. Farming was hard work and left little time for recreation. Vi remembers the excitement of seeing friends or family off on vacation to Japan, on these occasions, dinner out in San Francisco was something to celebrate. Vi was in the fifth grade when her family was sent to Poston II internment camp.  Vi worried about the quality of education in the internment camp. In fact, when she finally returned to Salinas and her high school, she realized she was not at the same level as her classmates. Vi also remembers her high school principal insisting that she adopt an American name.  She has no idea why, but out of the blue she selected Violet. Vi’s father was a good natured and friendly man and the connections he made before the war helped him rebuild his produce farm.  Vi was a dedicated elementary school teacher for many years in Sacramento.  She is married to Mas Hatano and they have three grown sons.  Vi and Mas are dedicated volunteers for a variety of organizations.

Lesson Links: Coming soon!

 

 

© 2005 Elk Grove Unified School District