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Interview with Hank Umemoto and George Uchida, 2013

UNO Libraries - Oral History Projects
Byrony Forbes, Interviewer |
Hank Umemoto and George Uchida Oral History Interview |

 

0:00



Byrony Forbes (BF): Okay. I’m starting with an interview today with Hank -- You’re going to have to help me with that --

Hank Umemoto (HU): Umemoto.

BF: -- and George --

George Uchida (GU): Uchida.

BF: -- Uchida -- I have to work on that. So we’re going to talk a little bit about romantic relationships in internment camps. But first, Hank, you want to tell me a little bit about yourself?

HU: Well, I was invited to Manzanar when I was 14 years old --

BF: Yeah, special invitation.

HU: -- but that’s about it. Yeah. And George, now, we were in the same block, we’re on the same team. Yeah, we grew up together.

BF: How old were you when you went to Manzanar?

GU: I was 13 when I -- What, what month are you -- ?

HU: October.

GU: October forty -- 28.

HU: Twenty eighth, yeah.

GU: Yeah, I was March 29.

HU: Oh, okay, so about five months.

BF: Five months?

HU: Five months. I’m five months his senior.

1:00

BF: And so then after Manzanar you moved back to L.A. skid row.

HU: Yeah, uh-huh.

BF: And eventually started your own printing business, and you did that too. You were in the army too, right?

HU: Yeah, I think I’m in the Korea War.

BF: Yeah. And you, what happened at war, did you go right after Manzanar?

GU: After Manzanar our family moved to Biloxi, Maryland.

BF: Oh, really?

GU: And stayed there for one year.

BF: Oh, okay.

GU: Before that, my father went to Seabrook -- and -- that’s where -- I don’t know if you’re familiar with Seabrook but they had a lot of Japanese from the camp, because they were a food canning company, and -- my father went there for a while, and he met up with this gentleman farmer, whose name happens 2:00to be Hiney, and he made an agreement that Osami would go there, and share a crop on his land. So we moved there from Manzanar. And would you believe, while we were there, he hired some German-Italian prisoners of war? And his name was Hiney, and he was hiring these prisoners to work on the same farm.

BF: Wow.

GU: We stayed there for one year, and then came back -- came to Los Angeles. ‘Cuz my wife -- a family from Los Angeles.

BF: Oh, yeah?

GU: [inaudible 00:02:46]. over from Los Angeles originally, and they got their home back, they came home, and we stayed with them for a little while until we 3:00found our own home.

BF: Oh, that’s great. So quest- -- start out first. You mentioned a go-between for your sister?

HU: Yeah, that was right before the war.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: I don’t know the reason why, because in July of ‘41 about four -- five months before Pearl Harbor, they had this -- what do you call that thing? -- not barricade --

BF: Exclusion, or?

HU: No.

GU: Go-between?

HU: No -- Embargo.

BF: Oh, okay.

HU: They froze all the Japanese account that was here, and so -- the, the war was imminent. We knew that there was going to be war. Of course we knew before that, you know, when Japan invaded China. That was, what, 1938? And the United 4:00States was helping the Chinese, they had the famous, flying tiger squadron. That was in China, right?

GU: Yeah.

HU: Yeah, and so by then, by 1939 or ‘40 we knew that there was going to be war. And somehow -- and then they had this embargo, and we were sure, and that -- I don’t know what the reasoning was, but they felt that, anyway my family thought that my brother -- and my sister who were marrying, should get married before the war started. So that’s where my -- Let’s see, ‘cuz who got married first? I think that brother got married first, and that was like -- in the -- just a few months before Pearl Harbor, and she got -- he married a girl 5:00from -- what’s that place? Um -- Not Richmond, Hayworth, and that’s in Oakland, and they had a pota-, a tomato farm there. So he stayed with the family, and then when the war, when it was time to evacuate, they were sent to town for that --

BF: Okay.

HU: -- so that’s where some of our family members got separated. And my sister, she was the third one. My first brother got married before, back in 1937, and my brother got married, and then -- third one was my sister, and again -- before the war started, you know, they got married before. So they got 6:00married, maybe a month or two before Pearl Harbor.

BF: Really?

HU: And then they went to, my brother in law’s family had a farm in Gooiland [SP] that’s in the Delta, the Sacramento Delta region, between San Francisco and Sacramento. So when the -- at the time at recollection day, they went to some assembly center and from there they went to Amache. So we were in Manzanar, my brother was in Topaz, and my sister was in Amache. And then coming back to their marriage, they were both, they call it [foreign language ‘baishakunin’], in between, and I think I have, got married -- my sister’s 7:00marriage is detailed in the book. And where parents get together and they say “well, here’s a friend of ours and let’s get them together.” And then they meet, they meet just a few times. Specially my sister, you know, they were right before Pearl Harbor, so they didn’t have much time to -- to date and everything.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: So both of them -- In fact my older brother, that was the same thing, he was, he had go-between marriages.

BF: So how does a person become a go-between, like, how does, are they just picked, you know, do they, like what, how do they get to be that person who brings people together?

HU: Usually they are the -- person that brings them together were community leaders. Like --

BF: Okay.

HU: -- a owner of a grocery store, or other store, or somebody that’s head of 8:00the Japanese community.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: Because they know. Especially -- A person who has a store, for example, he knows everybody --

BF: Okay.

HU: -- so he will say “well, there’s this guy here, this person here, and this girl here, and maybe they might, you know, they could get real well.”

BF: Do people just listen to the go-betweens, or do they sometimes --

HU: Oh, yeah.

BF: -- What if they didn’t like the person? What would happen?

HU: Well I guess they could always refuse.

BF: Oh, okay.

HU: But I guess, you know, in the old days, my mother’s day, for example, it was back in the -- when was it? 1910 or so back in Japan, they just listened to what their parents said, you see, “you go marry this person.” And there was 9:00a lot of people who made arrangements before they got married, you know, like -- George and I, are friends, and we make a pact. If I have a son and he have a daughter, you know, we would marry them. And that kind of thing was common, and when they moved to this country they kept a lot of the culture of the --

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: -- so before the war. Then after, after we went to camp, then we can see that it turned into a different society more or less.

BF: So it was kind of lost this time, when on --

HU: Yeah. But in the old days --

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: -- we listened to our parents, to what they said. I always wonder, you know, you date with a stranger, how would you go about it?

BF: Yeah.

HU: I always wonder about that.

10:00

BF: Yeah. That was funny. So what about Nisei, Nisei would have used a go-between, but then by the time the Sansei came along they won’t, do they?

HU: No --

BF: Okay.

HU: -- it’s history

BF: History? It was the end of that?

HU: Yeah. So all my sibs they had this go-between, and I am the only one in the family that doesn’t, isn’t that cute?

BF: Oh. That’s not a bad thing.

HU: Yeah, but I got divorced, while my sibs, you know, they’ve never got divorced. I don’t know -- something wrong there.

BF: So in the camps, did a lot of people get together? Did, you know, in the camps was there a lot of dating, or was there a lot of marriages that happened, or what was it like in the camps for, for teenagers and early twenties?

HU: Yeah, I didn’t have any dates. Except once, once I went to a dance with a 11:00girl, that’s about it. We didn’t get along. How about you?

BF: How were you, George?

GU: Personally, I was too young for dating. But as far as other people, older people, I don’t think it was much different from, you know, whatever the living conditions of the camp, you know, you meet people, you go with somebody you like, you happen to like, and -- but then, when it comes to marriage, like he said, it’s usually through a ‘baishakunin’ and I’d go to him, and they talk to each other, not to the family. The family would give them their own ‘baishakunin’ information, but the -- the agreements and talking and exchanging ideas would just be between the ‘baishakunin’, so that they can 12:00be open, you know. If they are family talking to family they tend to hold back things, but the ‘baishakunin’ -- they have ‘baishakunin’ so that they can be very open when they talk to each other. And if there is something in the family that is negative, that can be hereditary, then that will come out, and that other family will refuse to marry somebody from that family. I think that was the main reason to have ‘baishakunin’ so that you do not marry into a family that has some negative, you know, hereditary qualities. I know we had a very good family friend with a lot of young men in that family, but my sister 13:00never did marry into that family, because it has to happen that the youngest daughter of that family, her head was disabled, you know, she had a disabled mentality. So my father would never agree to any of my sisters to marry into that family.

GU: I think now the main reason for the ‘baishakunin’.

HU: In fact, that people would contact their relatives in Japan to check up on the family history --

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: -- both medical, physical, and also cultural, they had a class system to get by, and they -- this person didn’t want to marry his daughter to somebody that 14:00was dirt down there, something like that.

BF: I see.

HU: And they did a lot of checking up.

GU: Some ‘baishakunin’ can be very -- particular, you know, they dig in deep not just meeting a family, but half families as well, like he said, and go back to some people in Japan to inquire.

BF: So did your siblings who got married in the camp, did they use a go-between or did they just find, you know, did they know each other before?

GU: I know that my brother have a ‘baishakunin’, but I’m not quite sure about my sister. If my brother did, I’m sure my sister also did too, but I wasn’t that much aware when my sister got married. It seems that later on I 15:00find that that family is a well to do family. Not money wise, but education, and doctors, and things like that. So I think my father happy to have my sister marry into that family. And of course the older brother -- they had a good history too, so my father I’m sure was happy for both marriages.

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: I think after that, after he came out of camp, I don’t think there was any ‘baishakunin’ marriage, I mean, it was all very common for everybody to go dating and things like that. So I don’t know of anybody else, in my family anyway, who had ‘baishakunin’ after we came out of camp. I know I didn’t.

BF: So out of your 11 brothers and sisters only really two of them had a go-between?

16:00

GU: Well, I had two older sisters that were already married before we went to camp, but I don’t know if they had -- I’m pretty sure they did.

HU: I’m pretty sure they had ‘baishakunin’.

GU: Yeah.

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: In fact, my older sister was 98 or so years old. She’s the oldest and she’s lived longer than any of my other brothers and sisters so far.

HU: Yeah.

GU: I have another, Elmer, was about 90 years old, but the others were, you know, less than 90 and they died.

BF: So what were the weddings like in Manzanar, were they the same as they would have been outside, or were they different, or what was it like when they got married?

GU: Well, you know, It’s amazing how my parents were able to get clothes. I 17:00don’t know if you noticed on that family picture, but, every one of the men were wearing suits --

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: -- and how they were able to do that, you know, it always amazes me to when I think back on it.

HU: Sears Roebuck?

GU: Huh?

HU: Sears Roebuck? Sears Roebuck?

GU: I don’t know. I don’t know whether it’s, they -- maybe they could bring it with them, you know, when we moved to Manzanar, or what -- Anyway --

HU: Did your sisters, did they get married in church?

GU: Which one?

HU: The one that got married in Manzanar.

GU: Well, yeah, there were churches --

HU: You know, where did the wedding happen?

GU: You know, I really don’t remember the details now.

18:00

HU: Uh-huh.

GU: I’m not even sure where they actually got married in camp. But I am assuming, because we did have churches, that they were married in the church.

BF: What are your sister’s -- What’s your sister’s name?

GU: Which one?

BF: The one that got married in the camp? I’m wondering if they announced that in the paper.

GU: Her name was Sumi, S-U-M-I.

HU: Oh, it’s probably, in the Manzanar Free Press.

BF: Yeah, they always announced weddings in there, her announcement would be there.

GU: Yeah, probably you could look up marriage of Roy Takeno.

BF: How do you spell his last name?

GU: T-A-K-E-N-O.

BF: Okay.

HU: Did you have somebody else that got married in camp?

GU: Yeah, Elmer

HU: Elmer?

GU: Yes, Elmer was the oldest son, although he was the third in the family, 19:00married to Setsuko, S-E-T-S-U-K-O. And Nishi, is N-I-S-H-I.

HU: Nishi? There was a rich Nishi family from West L.A., there was one rich family named Nishi.

GU: No, not from, oh West L.A-- .

HU: Yes, there was a Nishi family from West L.A.

GU: Yes, this is a Nishi family from West L.A.

HU: Is that the rich one?

GU: I’m sure there are other Nishis, but this one was also --

HU: Is this the real rich one? The wealthy one?

GU: Well, I couldn’t tell if they were wealthy or not, they were --

HU: Did they have a military?

20:00

GU: -- above average, I would say. He was a florist, and -- what would you call that? He did contract work doing gardens.

HU: Oh, is that the Nishi that built Merritt Park?

GU: Yeah.

HU: Oh, yeah. You are familiar with Merritt Park at Manzanar, that’s the community garden, that real big big -- ?

BF: Okay.

HU: Yeah.

BF: Where people would meet and get together? Okay, yeah.

HU: Yeah. Well that’s the one.

GU: Yeah, yeah, yeah. My father was, I guess, head of that, making that garden.

BF: Oh, that’s neat. I heard that those are beautiful.

HU: Yeah.

BF: I heard those are very beautiful. So I have to ask, like a lot of babies were born at Manzanar, and stuff like that, but you’re in crowded conditions, 21:00how did people get away with doing anything, and you know, how did that happen?

HU: Yeah, there were a lot of vacant, you know, after a while, like 1943, people were moving up east, like Chicago. Like Chicago before the war had a population of 300 Japanese and during the war it swelled up to 3,000.

BF: Wow.

HU: They’re a lot of people moving out there -- anyway, out east, so there were a lot of vacant rooms. Imagine that. And I think that Richard Potashin used to talk about him talking to people, guys, you know, who took their girlfriends into those vacant rooms. So he’s probably more -- versed on that one.

BF: What’s his last name?

HU: Potashin, Richard Potashin, P-O-T-A-S-H-A-N, or something like that. He was 22:00a great gent, nice.

BF: Ok.

GU: What block were you in? Were you in 30 or 31?

HU: In 30, you see --

GU: You were in 30? Which barrack?

HU: Fourteen.

GU: Huh?

HU: Fourteen.

GU: Fourteen --

HU: You were in barrack eight, or something?

GU: I’m in eight, out in the corner.

HU: Yeah. I was at the other end, by the West.

GU: On the same row.

HU: Yeah, yeah, yeah -- Did they tell you about the guard tower? After 19 -- around 1944, there were no guards in there.

BF: I remember your book mentioning that, I was surprised I hadn’t heard that before.

HU: Yeah. So we used to go up there and do the, you know --

BF: Do the -- So you could sneak out easier, then go for it.

HU: Yeah.

GU: When we first moved in, they had the guard tower out down the corner --

23:00

HU: Yeah.

GU: -- plus they had sentries walking at the fence --

HU: Yeah.

GU: -- and I remember -- some of us kids started talking to the guard, and he was friendly enough to talk to us, and he even showed us the ammo clip, ammunition clip from the rifle he was carrying.

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: He pointed out that every fifth bullet on that clip what was they called a tracer bullet. You know what a tracer bullet is? You know, you’ve seen war movies at nighttime?

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: You see these lights going through it?

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: Well, that’s a tracer bullet going out. So that the soldiers would know where the bullet is going when they’re shooting at nighttime.

BF: Wow, that’s impressive.

GU: You know, that’s the first time I learned about that.

BF: Yeah.

GU: Rifle and bullet, and tracer bullets.

BF: Good education. Did the guards -- Were they -- How were their relationships 24:00with you guys? Like, were most of them pretty nice? Or were they -- ? So does this depend -- ?

HU: I only met them once, and that’s when I told them “fuck you” in English, that’s all we-- I like -- actually, talked to them, or met them.

BF: So there wasn’t really a lot of interaction with them?

HU: No.

GU: No. I don’t think so. That was the only time I ever talked to a guard, and I never saw anybody else, you know, communicating with them.

BF: Uh-huh. When we first met we talked about the Happa?

HU: Huh?

GU: ‘Happa’.

BF: ‘Happa’, is that how you say it?

HU: ‘Happa’.

GU: H-A-P-P-A.

BF: Look, was there any of that in the camps?

HU: Yes, there was two brothers -- Do you remember them? They were in the same grid with us, and they came, and I don’t know, they were at school for about a 25:00week or so and I didn’t see them any more. So that’s our only ‘happa’ intermarriage --

GU: I wasn’t aware of them even.

HU: Yeah. That’s the only ones.

BF: They were mixed race?

HU: Yeah, mixed race, Japanese and the white.

BF: Oh.

HU: Before the war there weren’t that many ‘happas.’ You know -- before we went into camp, I never saw a ‘happa,’ I never saw a black person.

BF: Really?

HU: Yeah. In fact the only, the first black person I met was after I came out of camp. And I was about 16 years old.

BF: Really? Oh.

GU: Yeah, that’s right, when I was in Florin I never saw --

HU: Yeah.

GU: -- only other ethnic was, of course, the white, but the other one was a 26:00Filipino, that my father used to employ on the farm. My father had a like 40, 45 acre farm, for grapes and strawberry. And during harvest time we needed a lot of people. I think maybe that’s why my father had a lot of family.

BF: To work the field?

GU: Yeah.

BF: Sweet.

GU: But I was the last one, so I got out of all that.

BF: Cool.

GU: No farm work.

BF: But, you’re ‘Nisey’, right?

GU: What?

BF: You’re ‘Nisey’?

GU: ‘Nisey’, yeah.

BF: Okay.

GU: I’m one of the younger ones --

HU: A dying breed.

BF: It’s sad.

GU: I was too young to join the army, and I wasn’t one of those gung-ho types to go in even though you’re under age.

BF: Oh, but you got there eventually, never mind.

27:00

GU: I still serve.

BF: I read a lot about these dances, were they really, like, what were the -- you went to a dance once.

HU: Yeah.

BF: What were the dances? Are they just something they did all the time, or just once in a while?

HU: Yeah, the big ones they used to hold in the auditorium, the internment camp set it up, and then, the rest of the time they used to hold it in barrack 15, barrack 15 is right across the street, right across from the -- the end one. Just back, one, two, three, four, five, six, seventy, so that’s, uh, building.

BF: Okay.

HU: And then, that was reserved for community purposes. So that building was used for kindergarten, schools -- and, I think there was one, in -- I can’t 28:00remember in which block it was, it was reserved for dances. That building didn’t have any partition, it was a 100 foot long and near just vacant.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: So they used to have, what do you call it, the dances there, and then -- each block -- I used to hang around block 20, and they used to have dances in room number two, barrack one, that’s about the first barrack. The first one is the block manager’s office, and the second room was reserved for young people’s recreation room. So we used to have dances in there, and in our 29:00block, I remember we used to have parties. Amazed, we were just amazed to -- that the kind of took care of that, where [inaudible 00:29:16] --

GU: Oh, yeah, I remember.

HU: -- his system was very accurate. He used to bring us together at games.

BF: So did they have a lot of that going or, community activities?

HU: Yeah, each block had a recreation room.

GU: We would only get together like that was when we were all getting ready to leave the camp.

HU: Oh.

GU: In the mess hall we had our gathering.

HU: Oh, yeah, we had a day off.

GU: I remember hating time. Can you believe that?

BF: Is that a rarity?

HU: Only time.

BF: That’s fun. You mentioned, after we just talked, you said you didn’t see 30:00a lot of other races and stuff, before camp, so did that change after camp? Like, what was the difference before and like what was the --

GU: Oh, yeah, after I got back it was all mixed.

BF: What was it?

GU: Blacks, Whites, Latinos, whatever.

HU: Yeah, that’s about it -- we didn’t have any Vietnamese yet. We didn’t have any Koreans, ‘til way after the war, we didn’t have Koreans, we didn’t have Vietnamese.

GU: Well, actually, after camp we didn’t go back to my hometown, because before our, my father sold out all the farm land. So I don’t know how it was back in my hometown, former hometown. But because we moved to a general community, yeah, everything changed. Yeah, I’ll tell you this. I was in high 31:00school there, we were -- I went to high school one year, and there was one Caucasian girl, I guess is -- she must have had something for me. Anyway, I was up in upstairs classrooms studying, and she came in there, and she sat on the table, beside me, and she said, “I always wanted to do this.” And she leaned over to kiss me.

BF: Did you kiss her back?

GU: Then I -- I did end up not kissing her, ‘cuz I was really -- what you call it, innocent, or whatever. Naive.

BF: Well, at 13 I would hope so.

HU: He was there by 16.

BF: Oh, that’s after, yeah.

GU: Yeah, I was about 16 there.

32:00

BF: How was interracial marriage viewed from the Japanese perspective? Like, what did --

HU: What, before the war?

BF: -- people think of it? Before and after.

HU: Well, that was a taboo. Yeah, and afterwards, well, I guess it was kind of gradual. Like my son is married to a -- Malaysian, whose father was a -- Polynesian, and the wife, the mother was a Japanese. So, they’re pretty well mixed there. And one of my daughters is now living with a Caucasian boy, so I -- it’s, we’ve come a long way.

BF: So is it, now is there, are there any people still against it? I mean, after all cultures --

HU: No. Yeah.

BF: Or is it pretty much, you can do whatever you want to do?

33:00

HU: Not now. It’s very common, very common.

GU: Americanized.

BF: A big melting pot.

HU: Yeah, right.

BF: Did you want to sit down?

GU: No, I’m fine.

BF: We talked a little bit about violence and stuff. Do you guys know anything about, like, was there a lot of jealousy that happened, was there a lot of divorces? Did -- ?

HU: I don’t know, I mean, in the wars, I haven’t met too many people that did --

GU: Yeah, in my -- in that time divorce was -- I never heard of it.

HU: I know that there was no divorce in our block.

GU: Divorce -- I’m not aware --

HU: Yeah, but there must have been, because -- yeah.

BF: How was divorce viewed in the Japanese community, like, is it, what, how is it seen?

HU: Not too good enough.

GU: Well, before the war, I never heard of it --

34:00

HU: Yeah.

GU: -- in our community, Florin --

HU: Yeah, they weren’t supposed to get divorced then.

GU: It was, you know, strictly family, and I never heard of anybody cheating, or anything like that. Besides, we didn’t have much transportation anyway, at that time. You know, nowadays you can go anywhere, anytime, but back then we hardly had any personal vehicles.

BF: So you said you didn’t really hear about before the war, did you hear more after the war?

HU: Yeah, after the war, yeah. Now and then. I am one of them.

BF: Yeah.

HU: I am on my second wife.

BF: Why do you think that changed? Like, why, why is it?

HU: I guess we got more Americanized, I guess.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: We, I guess, we got out of the ties of the ‘Issei’ culture. The 35:00‘Isseis’ are all gone.

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: You know, you have to give the ‘Issei’ parents a lot of credit for -- specially to the ‘Nisei’ generation, they really instilled Japanese -- I’m talking about good quality, not just Japanese, but being a straight person, and not getting into trouble, but know it’s a shame if you got into trouble, it’s a shame to your family. That’s the idea you would always had. So you never, hardly ever hear of anybody getting into problem, trouble, this is before the war. And even now, among my own friends that I know, I hardly ever hear of 36:00anybody in any kind of, you know, divorce, cheating, trouble with the police. I must have a good community of friends.

HU: We are living in a different world.

GU: Yeah.

HU: That was true, that I think whenever we did something we were afraid of doing anything bad, because it would reflect on our parents, and our fellow ‘Niseis’, and to the Japanese. And I think that’s why in the Korematsu case, he, uh, he went against the curfew order, and he landed in jail, so the ‘Isseis’ were seeing that as a disgrace, you know, from their standpoint. We, today, we see a Korematsu as a hero for standing up.

37:00

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: So there is different culture thing there.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: And I think that what camp did, going to camp did was, I guess it broadened our minds, that we were from the country, and we associated with guys from Los Angeles city boys, and there’s a lot of things that happened. And of course, after we got out, we were -- we didn’t escape in isolated communities like before the war.

BF: Well, is that -- Why were, why are the communities more broken up now?

HU: Yeah, it’s broken up -- I don’t -- yeah, it isn’t as cohesive as it used to be. Like, in the old days, they had to have, you know, like the Germans, Italians, Irish, they had -- when they came from the old country they went into 38:00that community because they weren’t accepted.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: That’s was more of a necessity. But then after the war they -- I don’t know, they just got discouraged, like a -- firecracker, boom.

GU: Yeah, it dispersed, you know, all the families that were together before the war, and I think it helped to have a diversified mind to be in that situation after the war, I think. I think you start to get into other communities thinking in all that, so I think, in a way that was good, although I miss the community, the closeness of the family before the war. But on the other hand, you know, this world is an expanding world, and a diversified world, you need to get into 39:00that mind also.

HU: Yeah. It took a long time, ‘cuz after we got out we weren’t able to buy a house, say, in suburban areas. We had to, so if you, if we were in Los Angeles and if you were to buy a house in the Westside area-- and then Gardena, this area, opened up. So there was only certain places that we were able to live. And I had a neighbor, she passed away, but she was one of the earlier ones to move to Gardena, and when she bought the house, right next to us, the neighbors used to pick on her. So she, I remember saying that she used to have a hard time.

BF: Really?

40:00

HU: And that was back in 1950 -- Our track was built in 1957, and I think they moved in shortly after that. And by the time I moved in, back in the ‘60s -- no, back in the ‘80s, then there was no USIP [SP]. And indirectly --

BF: Well, when you think about it, that’s not really that long ago.

HU: Yeah.

BF: You know, that’s a very recent --

HU: Right.

BF: -- when you think about it, it hasn’t been that long, since it was -- Do you still see, is there still any of that anti Japanese attitude, or is it completely gone, or -- ?

HU: I don’t think it’s completely gone, no.

GU: I’m sure it isn’t. You know, you have Little Tokyo, here in downtown, and there are many people that try to keep every custom alive, and I think most 41:00families, many families, I think they still like to keep many of the customs alive, and -- that’s why we have this -- yearly carnivals to promote their food and things like that. So I -- yes, we try to keep the customs alive.

HU: I think the younger generation is working towards that.

GU: I am a poor example of that. I know very little of the customs.

HU: Yeah. Because of the pilgrimage there’s a lot of people from the 42:00universities attempting the pilgrimage at Manzanar. So there seems to be a lot of interest among the younger people.

BF: So they want to keep the stories of their heritage.

HU: Yeah, and I guess they’re kind of curious of where they came from.

BF: Is the next -- there’s a ‘Sansei’, do they have a name for the next generation after them too?

HU: Yeah, ‘Yonsei.’

BF: ‘Yonsei’?

HU: ‘Yonsei’ --

GU: ‘Yonsei’ is four, ‘Gosei’ is five, ‘Rokusei’ is sixth.

HU: ‘Nanasei.’

GU: Yeah --

HU: ‘Hassei.’

GU: -- one, two, three, four --

HU: ‘Kyuusei.’

GU: -- each generation.

HU: ‘Jissei.’

GU: I don’t know how long it can keep up.

BF: So those are all numbers, all those names are numbers?

HU: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

BF: Okay. So ‘Issei’ is one.

HU: Yeah.

BF: Okay.

GU: My wife is ‘Nisei Sansei’, because her father is an ‘Issei’, that 43:00makes her a ‘Nisei’, but her mother is a ‘Nisei’, so that part makes her a ‘Sansei’. ‘Nisei Sansei.’

BF: Interesting, I hadn’t heard of that.

HU: Yeah, in the camp at -- through the camp days, if a ‘Nisei’ marries a ‘Issei’, then she loses her citizenship, you probably heard of that.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: Yeah.

BF: So did a lot of ‘Issei-Nisei’, get married, or did they not get married, like what? Was it a lot of those?

HU: Yeah, there where quite a few, there were quite a few that were ‘Issei-Nisei’ combinations.

GU: Yeah, I remember my second sister -- I never knew what he was, what her husband was, whether she was a ‘Kibei’, or ‘Nisei’, or Japanese, or, you know -- Because, I think he was born in Japan and came to the U.S. But whether 44:00he got an American citizenship after he got here, or -- I just don’t know his history, but now second oldest sister married him and now they have four children, and they’re all Americans, one was born in the camp.

BF: Yeah.

HU: Did they have a separate room?

GU: Huh?

HU: Did they have a separate room?

GU: Who? You mean my family and --

HU: Yeah, the American --

GU: Yeah. In fact he was the block Captain.

HU: Oh, Nakaro san [SP], Nakaro san, yeah.

GU: They had the first, first room in the building A, then another family had the second one, and we had the third room, and the fourth room were the 45:00combination of the young older of the second family and our family, they romped in the last room.

HU: So Nakaro san, did they get married in camp?

GU: No, they were married before. In fact the oldest -- in fact three of the children were already married before.

HU: Oh.

GU: It’s the youngest ones that got born in the camp.

HU: Oh, I see.

BF: Oh, was there -- how was, just because it’s relevant now, and I’m sure stuff have might been, how was homosexuality viewed, then and now, and like did it happen in the camps? I know you mentioned your friend getting that ball of alcohol, you weren’t ever quite sure what happened with moss, like what, do you really know like how is that perceived?

HU: If there were, we didn’t know about it. They used to call it fairies, and 46:00homos, and all kind of bad names.

GU: I’m not quite sure -- My hearing is not very good though, I didn’t quite understand all of what you said.

BF: Like, homosexuality, how was that viewed in Japanese culture before the war, and after the war? And like did it happen in the camps that you know of, or -- ?

HU: If they happened, nobody knew about it, I think it was hush-hush way beyond.

GU: Before the war, I never heard of that term and I don’t think I was aware of anything like that, maybe I was too young to know it. I don’t know how my older brothers and sisters thought about it, if they did think about it, so -- And, like he says, I don’t think there was -- anybody that we personally knew, were in that category.

BF: How about prostitution, was there any of that in the camps that you ever 47:00heard of?

HU: There was one thing I knew. I knew this girl and she was working at a hospital and she was still going to school, and there were about five guys that worked in the hospital, and they gang raped her, it wasn’t reported.

BF: Oh, really?

HU: Yeah, but, you know, we knew.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: Yeah, we knew the guys and the girl.

BF: How come it didn’t get reported?

HU: I guess in those days -- I think it was -- they were ashamed to report it, I think, yeah -- and -- I guess, there was more going on that we didn’t know about.

BF: Uh-huh. There’s always hidden underworld.

HU: Yeah, I went to a dance with that girl that got raped, then we were sitting, 48:00and then this guy that I knew raped her, started walking towards us. Oh, I was just scared, I thought I was going to get beaten up, or something. Yeah.

BF: Uh-huh. How sad.

HU: Then right then and there, he asked her to dance, and they were dancing.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: I guess there were things going on that -- they would never report.

BF: Just because of the embarrassment factor.

HU: Yeah.

BF: There’s some of that today too, if you’re going to --

HU: Yeah. And after we got out, after I got married, my wife was working at this place, and they hired this girl, and this girl she was going around with the 49:00boyfriend, and the boyfriend dumped her, and so she reported him, reported that she got raped, so I guess to get revenge. I don’t know what happened after that.

BF: That was funny. Do you -- You mentioned Shioko?

HU: Yeah.

BF: Now, you said that when you guys first met, that you couldn’t really continue a relationship, because she had to take care of her mom in Japan --

HU: Yes.

BF: -- and you had to take care of your mom here --

HU: Yes.

BF: Was that common sometimes for relationships to not continue, because of the family obligations, or was it uncommon to just depend on a person? Like, what’s the --

HU: I guess it depends on the person, yeah. She felt strongly about that, that kind of strong -- I felt strongly about taking, look after my mother, and it’s one of those things that, like a mutual thing, worry thing, situation there.

BF: So if she had been like the head of her family --

50:00

HU: And she was the youngest, and I was the youngest, but it’s all right -- [inaudible 00:50:16]

BF: Well, guess there’s something bad about you, you always say that youngest was a good thing.

HU: Yeah. [inaudible 00:50:32] Anyway, we got together after about 30 years.

BF: That’s a long time. Did you miss her during that time, or were you so you know, you were happy in your marriage?

HU: Not for 30 years.

BF: George, how did you meet your wife?

GU: Pardon?

BF: How’d you meet your wife?

GU: Fortunately, she started coming to our church, she was going to UCLA, and 51:00one of her friends was a member of our church, always went to church. And at that time I was in the Youth Club, and she and my wife joined the Youth Club too, and -- somewhere along the way we started going together, and -- we got married at that church.

BF: Neat.

GU: It worked nicely for me.

BF: It worked out well.

GU: Still going a lot there, you know, the Youth Club, in my own youth, cause there were a lot of available girls still.

BF: So you could have had your pick.

GU: More or less, yeah.

BF: What year did you get married?

52:00

GU: Pardon?

BF: What year did you get married?

GU: ‘59.

BF: ‘59?

GU: Yeah.

BF: What’s her name?

GU: What?

BF: What’s your wife’s name?

GU: Francis.

BF: Francis?

GU: Yeah.

GU: Yeah, one of my daughters parents’, her father is Chinese --

BF: All right.

GU: -- but the wife is Caucasian.

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: And she married to -- the second son born to them, but he’s White part Caucasian, White part Chinese, and -- but there’s no Japanese --

Woman: Are you guys waiting for somebody?

HU: No, we’re having a little conference here.

Woman: Oh, a little conference?

HU: Yeah, aha.

BF: Yeah.

Woman: All right, okay. Enjoy.

BF: Thank you.

HU: You want to join us?

Woman: Oh, no, no, no, I got work to do.

HU: Okay.

53:00

BF: She probably goes to a lot of conferences, she’s a teacher.

GU: There’s no Japanese-Chinese animosity between families.

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: Fact is, her father in law is really outgoing when she goes there.

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: In fact, he belongs to the, what’s that business, group -- that does community work? What’s the business, group -- You should probably heard of them, since you’re in business -- What’s that good cause? Anyway, he was very active in it, in fact he may have been chairman of the group for a while.

BF: Is it a business group?

54:00

GU: Pardon?

BF: A business group?

GU: Yeah -- I cannot think of that name, it’s a common group that does community service.

HU: Is it a Little Tokyo group?

GU: What?

HU: Little Tokyo group?

GU: No, no, no.

HU: No, it’s different.

BF: JLC?

GU: It has nothing to do with ethnicity.

BF: Oh.

GU: Anyway, he’s a very nice person, very outgoing.

BF: That’s good that you’ve got a little friend.

GU: Pardon?

BF: That’s good that you’re getting along now. I think that’s just her.

GU: Would you believe when my daughter says she wants to go to San Francisco 55:00State -- Well, in fact, all my children I took them to register, and get familiar with the school, and to make classes, and things like that. When I took her to San Francisco State, we were in the line for -- I forget what that was, for class or something, right behind us was her future husband.

BF: Really?

HU: No

GU: Yeah.

BF: The little things that you don’t know -- Cool.

GU: Yeah. Even then he was very friendly person.

BF: Aha.

GU: Outgoing person.

BF: Really? She married a nice guy.

GU: But I think my daughter is more responsible than he. I kind of fear that he 56:00not as restrictive of his children’s behavior at my sister, Donery [SP]. I can’t feel that way.

BF: You have to have one of each, you know, with your kids, one restrictive, and one -- Ah, one last question, so how did community changed, so you said it dispersed a little bit, what would you think as far as marriages and families go, what did camp, did camp change it, did it keep it the same, did it -- ?

GU: Well, camp changed it, absolutely, yes.

BF: but how so?

GU: It was black and white.

BF: Black and white? That much, huh?

HU: I think, there were people from different areas, the countryside, city, and 57:00different -- San Fernando, Los Angeles, it was all over, I think that we’re not, because --

GU: I kind of think that, the people that did go back to their former home, you know, after the camp, I think it took them a little longer, but like us, when we went into another community right away, I think it made us adjust to that type of living more than the people who went back to the former home --

HU: Yeah, I, I , I --

GU: -- were doing more Japanese friends that lived together in the same community.

HU: Yeah, that’s good.

GU: I say that it was a good thing, that -- of the evacuation, that was partly a 58:00good thing, is to diversify the people who lived in the only one ethnic community.

HU: Yeah, in ‘Peitei C-E-O’ [SP] back around 1927, about five, five or six people got together at San Francisco, and they had meeting, and that eventually became JACL, but the purpose of that was to integrate the Japanese into the American mainstream. So they emphasized the house work. My sisters, my sisters in law, these girls after high school they would go into an American family, right into people’s family. And I think they got paid maybe 5 dollars a month, 59:00or something like that, that they would live there and do the laundry and help around the house. And that way, I guess they learned a lot like, before we used to have Miso soup, and rice, and Tsukemono for breakfast, and I remember my brother married his wife, Annie, and when Annie came she had a year or so of experience with the white family, so then we started to eating bacon and eggs, and that kind of things, foodwise. And also making beds, we used to have ‘futon’, they call it ‘futon’, today we say ‘futon’ it’s a mat, but in Japanese they had ‘futon’ as a mat, but also a top piece, and so we used to have ‘futon’ but then we started having blankets, and that kind of 60:00thing. So, anyway, that group that originally was a group that wanted the Japanese to integrate into the society.

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: Then as he said, the camp, I think, kind of accelerated that thing.

BF: Which is interesting ‘cuz camp concentrated everybody, and then it’s interesting that it concentrated and then --

HU: Yeah.

BF: That’s kind of, that’s different.

HU: Like a big bag.

BF: Yeah. So each of you, what’s one of the most important things you’ve learned from life? From all of your lives what are some of the most important lessons -- ?

HU: Being tolerant -- I would think, being tolerant

BF: How so?

HU: Well, like, you know, in the -- we were kids, it was very common to say 61:00“they slapped me” or “they would beat me”, or something like that, you know, that kind of thing, it’s, you know, I learned a completely different view of that kind of thing. I’m a Republican all the way, but then [inaudible 01:04:36] I go over the place, I voted for Obama --

BF: Oh, uh-huh.

HU: I think I’ve gotten more tolerant.

BF: So that’s the one most important thing that you’ve learned on your whole --

HU: Yeah, in many ways, he was six in [inaudible 01:04:58]

BF: Things have changed a lot.

HU: Yeah.

BF: How about you, George?

GU: What was the question?

62:00

BF: What’s one of the most important things you’ve learned in your whole life? Like, what’s one of the best life lessons?

GU: You mean based in internment or just in general?

BF: Yes, your whole life, yeah?

GU: You know, over the years it changed a little bit at a time, but I still think -- family is the most important thing. Other than that -- other than that --

HU: Well, one good thing, we got to meet you.

63:00

BF: Well, I’m honored that I got to meet you too, it’s kind of exciting to hear all these stories and -- Well, thank you, is there anything else I should know, or you want -- ?

HU: I think you covered most of the things, yeah. Too bad we couldn’t give you more information on the marriages --

BF: I thought you really showed them.

HU: -- and things on divorce and that kind of thing.

BF: You answered a lot of questions, though, like about the go-betweens and stuff like that, that I didn’t really know.

GU: There are a lot of questions that you asked and I think if you talk to our older siblings, you might have gotten a better answer.

BF: Uh-huh.

GU: Like me, and we were naive and -- innocent, and thinking so --

BF: That’s ok, though, that’s still a perspective, and you see what happened 64:00afterwards, so you still have --

HU: I think the problem is that older folks, older ‘Niseis’, they are either gone or in nursing homes and --

BF: Uh-huh.

HU: I think -- we are one of the few remaining ones, still alive.

GU: We’re just outside the door.

HU: Yeah, yeah. One foot inside.

BF: I don’t mind being in as good a shape as you guys are, though, when I get -- I mean, I’m just saying --

HU: But it was a good life. I did come in first.

BF: That’s good, that’s good. You’re sense of humor probably followed.

GU: I hope to see some of your work later on.

BF: Yeah, I’ll send it to you. Can I get your address, and I’ll, when I get 65:00done I can send it to you?

0:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Okay. I'm starting with an interview today with Hank . . . You're going to have to help me with that . . .Umemoto. . . and George . . .Uchida.

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto introduce themselves.

Keywords: birthdays; childhood; internment camps

Subjects: Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945 Manzanar War Relocation Center World War, 1939-1945--Japanese Americans

1:04 - After Manzanar

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Partial Transcript: And so then after Manzanar you moved back to L.A. skid row.

Segment Synopsis: Hank Umemoto and George Uchida discuss their lives after being released from the interment camps.

Keywords: George Uchida; Hank Umemoto; Los Angeles; Seabrook

Subjects: Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945

3:07 - "Go-betweens"

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Partial Transcript: Oh, that's great. So quest- . . . start out first. You mentioned a go-between for your sister?

Segment Synopsis: Hank Umemoto discusses family relationships leading up to relocation, as well as the concept of go-betweens as matchmakers.

Keywords: Baishakunin; Embargo; Family history; Marriage; Matchmaking

Subjects: Dating (social customs) Japan -- Social life and customs Japanese American families

10:40 - Dating in the internment camps

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Partial Transcript: So in the camps, did a lot of people get together? Did, you know, in the camps was there a lot of dating, or was there a lot of marriages that happened, or what was it like in the camps for, for teenagers and early twenties?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchido and Hank Umemoto discuss dating in the internment camps, the presence of "go-betweens," and the shift from arranged marriages to dating after being released from the internment camps.

Keywords: Baishakunin; Internment camps; Matchmaking

Subjects: Dating (Social customs) Japan -- Social life and customs Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945 Manzanar War Relocation Center

16:52 - Marriage in Manzanar

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Partial Transcript: So what were the weddings like in Manzanar, were they the same as they would have been outside, or were they different, or what was it like when they got married?

Segment Synopsis: Hank Umemoto and George Uchido discuss marriage in internment camps.

Keywords: Elmer, Setsuka; Nishi; Roy Takeno; Sumi

Subjects: Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945 Manzanar War Relocation Center Marriage World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--United States

19:30 - Community Garden

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Partial Transcript: Nishi? There was a rich Nishi family from West L.A., there was one rich family named Nishi.

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss a florist and contract gardener named Nishi that built Merritt Park.

Keywords: Merritt Park; Nishi

Subjects: Gardens

20:55 - Finding private spaces

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Partial Transcript: So I have to ask, like a lot of babies were born at Manzanar, and stuff like that, but you're in crowded conditions, how did people get away with doing anything, and you know, how did that happen?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss finding secluded areas to have sex while being under surveilance.

Keywords: Internment camp; Richard Potashin; seclusion; surveilance

Subjects: Manzanar War Relocation Center Sex World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--United States

22:58 - Interacting with the guards

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Partial Transcript: When we first moved in, they had the guard tower out down the corner . . .

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss their limited interactions with guards working at the internment camps.

Keywords: Guards; Internment camps

Subjects: Manzanar War Relocation Center World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--United States

24:36 - Racial demographics of the internment camps

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Partial Transcript: When we first met we talked about the Happa?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss racial demographics of the internment camps.

Keywords: "Happa"; Internment camps; Interracial; Mixed race

Subjects: Manzanar War Relocation Center Race Racially mixed people World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--United States

27:06 - Dances and recreation

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Partial Transcript: I read a lot about these dances, were they really, like, what were the . . . you went to a dance once.

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss dances and recreation in the internment camps.

Keywords: Dances; Internment camps; Recreation

Subjects: Manzanar War Relocation Center Parties World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--United States

30:01 - Race relations after the war

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned, after we just talked, you said you didn't see a lot of other races and stuff, before camp, so did that change after camp? Like, what was the difference before and like what was the ...

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss how they observed more diversity after leaving the internment camps, and how views on interracial relationships have changed since World War II.

Keywords: bi-racial; interracial; Mixed race

Subjects: Interracial marraige Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945 Race Racially mixed people

33:12 - Divorce and cultural assimilation

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Partial Transcript: We talked a little bit about violence and stuff. Do you guys know anything about, like, was there a lot of jealousy that happened, was there a lot of divorces? Did . . . ?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss Japanese attitutdes towards divorce, the Americanization of Japanese culture, and moving to diverse communities after living internment camps.

Keywords: "Isseis"; "Niseis"; Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945; Korematsu case; Korematsu v. United States

Subjects: Americanization Cultural assimilation Divorce Korematsu, Fred, 1919-2005

40:41 - Japanese customs and generations

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Partial Transcript: Do you still see, is there still any of that anti Japanese attitude, or is it completely gone, or . . . ?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss keeping Japanese culture alive, and the generations of Japanese families.

Keywords: "Sansei"; "Yonsei"; Culture; Customs; Generations

Subjects: Manners and customs Manzanar War Relocation Center

45:36 - Homosexuality

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Partial Transcript: Oh, was there . . . how was, just because it's relevant now, and I'm sure stuff have might been, how was homosexuality viewed, then and now, and like did it happen in the camps? I know you mentioned your friend getting that ball of alcohol, you weren't ever quite sure what happened with moss, like what, do you really know like how is that perceived?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss homosexuality before and after the war, and how prevalent homosexuality was in the internment camps.

Keywords: Internment camps

Subjects: Homosexuality Manzanar War Relocation Center

46:57 - Rape

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Partial Transcript: How about prostitution, was there any of that in the camps that you ever heard of?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss the lack of reporting for rapes of Japanese women.

Keywords: Sexual assault

Subjects: Rape

49:23 - Uchida and Umemoto meet their wives

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Partial Transcript: That was funny. Do you . . . You mentioned Shioko?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss their relationships with their wives.

Keywords: Relationships

Subjects: Courtship Marriage

52:14 - Uchida's daughter

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, one of my daughters parents', her father is Chinese . . .

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida discusses his daughter's marriage, and the relationship between her Japanese family and husband's Chinese family.

Keywords: Bi-racial; Interracial; Mixed race

Subjects: Chinese Family Relationships Japanese Marriage Racially mixed people

56:26 - Japanese community after internment

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Partial Transcript: Ah, one last question, so how did community changed, so you said it dispersed a little bit, what would you think as far as marriages and families go, what did camp, did camp change it, did it keep it the same, did it . . . ?

Segment Synopsis: George Uchida and Hank Umemoto discuss how Manzanar affected their lives, and lessons they've learned in life.

Keywords: Internment; Life lessons; Tolerance

Subjects: Americanization Cultural assimilation Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945

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