Interview with Alice Logan

Conducted by Robbie James

February 23, 1997 in Laie, Hawaii

Senior at Kahuku High

Mrs. Logan was about 12 years old at the time of the bombing at Pearl Harbor. She had four sisters and one brother. She and her family lived in Hawaii during the bombing. Her father was a fisherman who owned a "sampan" (boat), that had all sorts of radio equipment. This was probably why he was suspected of helping the Japanese when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Q: How was your family notified that you would be moved to an internment camp?

A: We were at my sister-in-law's Church setting up flowers when we heard the planes on Dec. 7th. We weren't sure what was happening, until the pastor came and told us to go home because the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. That very same day, two men in suits, probably FBI, came to our house and took my father away. They didn't tell us why he had been taken. Later they notified us to pack our things, they didn't even tell us why, we had no idea what was going on.

Q: What was your family's initial reaction and feelings?

A: We didn't know what to think. We had no idea what was going on . The whole thing seemed to be a military secret. We weren't told why we were being forced to pack

Q: How, when and where were you taken to the internment camps?

A: First they took us to the Immigration building in Honolulu where we slept and ate. Next, they came and picked us up in Red Cross ambulances that had no windows. This way we couldn't see where we were going, and nobody could see us. They took us to the harbor and put us into the bottom of a Destroyer ship. The trip was one week long and a lot of people got sea sick. We landed in Oakland and it was very cold. From there we were put on a train with a sentry between each car and all the window shades were down so we couldn't see where we were going. We ended up in Jerome Relocation Center in Denson, Arkansas. Our second camp was in Arizona.

Q: When you arrived what was your first impression?

A: In Arkansas it was very cold. We all experienced snow for the first time. There were forests surrounding the camp and there were a lot of snakes in the forest so we were sometimes afraid to go into the woods. There was barbed wire around the fences and guards in towers around the camp. The second camp in Arizona was very different. It was very hot and we were in the middle of the desert. At this camp there wasn't any barbed wire or guards with machine guns. I guess they knew nobody wanted to run away into the desert.

Q: What did your houses at the camp look like?

A: We had houses that looked just like army barracks. They were in long rows and they were partitioned into rooms. The size of your room was determined by the size of your family. However, you had to make your own rooms inside the partition by hanging up curtains or blankets. Each block had a bathroom, laundry room and kitchen in the middle for everyone in the block to use. Clothing and linen were provided for us.

Q: Could you describe the meal system?

A: When you were out playing you always had to listen for the gong. Each block had it's own beat. They'd bang the gong and when you heard your block's beat, you'd run home to eat because nobody wanted to wait in the back of a long line. The food that they fed us was good food to me. I can't say that they didn't treat us well as far as the necessities of life, especially in Arizona.

Q: What did you and your friends do during the day?

A: We did the same things as everyone else. We all went to school in the camp. The government sent teachers that came to the camp to teach school. After school we would play games or do homework. We liked to go for picnics in the desert which was still a part of the camp area. One day while my friends and I were on a picnic, an Indian came riding up to us on a horse, he was all dressed up in traditional Indian clothing. We were so scared because we thought Indians were always shooting people with bow & arrows like in the few western movies we had seen. He kept saying: "Awa. Awa". We finally gave him some water and then he rode off.

Q: What was the atmosphere like? Were security guards strict, or did they try to be nice?

A: While in the camp we still didn't know why we were there. They never gave us any information. The whole thing was a military secret. The security guards were nice to us, they never treated us bad or caused trouble. I can't say that they treated us badly. To the young people it seemed sort of normal except that we were never allowed to leave camp. Our lives were only in camp. We got to have dances on Saturday nights though, and we had sports competitions in camp. The mainland people were called "Kotonks," the locals would fight after a game if they lost, they were poor sports.

Q: Did people talk about escaping camp?

A: Everyone was too scared of all the snakes in Arkansas and nobody wanted to run away into the Arizona desert. If we ran away we wouldn't even know where to go. I remember the time when a young man killed himself. We were all getting on the train to go to Arizona but the officials didn't start the train. Apparently there was a boy missing and everyone had to be accounted for before we left. We sat in the train for hours, not knowing why, until they finally found the boy. He had hung himself.

Q: Were the internees given information on the war and told when they might be released?

A: No. It was all a big military secret. We didn't know what was going on or when we could go home. We weren't even allowed to take cameras but a few people smuggled them in. That's how we have pictures of the camps.

Q: How long were the Japanese kept in the internment camps?

A: My family was in the camps all throughout the war until 1945 when the war ended and so were most of the others.

Q: Did any of your relatives or close friends die while in the camp?

A: One of my aunties died while we were in the camp and my mother was very sick for a long time but she didn't die.

Q: When you were released how were you treated?

A: When the war was over they asked us if we wanted to go back to Japan or Hawaii. A few people actually decided to go back to Japan. We came back to Hawaii to live. However, our houses had been taken and our families had no jobs. Luckily my sister -in-law's family had a few rental houses, so they let us live in one of them. There was prejudice in California because there weren't as many Japanese there as in Hawaii. When the war started those Japanese Americans From California had rocks thrown at them, things burned and they lost crops. In Hawaii it was better because there were a lot of different racial groups and more Japanese.

Q: Did you receive the $20,000 reparation payment from the U.S. government?

A: I received it, but of course money can't justify what the government did to us especially since many of us were U.S. citizens. Looking back, I can't totally blame the military because they did have their suspicions about my father even though he was completely loyal. But the government took away part of our lives, my life has been changed. I can never forget about the camps. Whenever I think or talk about it I can't help but cry.

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