Kiyo Sato-Viacrucis

Story Transcripts /
  + 12/7/41 and 9/11/01 : “The whole atmosphere had changed”
+ Aftermath : “You watched your every step”
+ Being American : “But he smokes his terrible cigar”
+ FBI Investigation : “He found my diary”
+ Fear : “He hung himself in the barn”
+ Internment : “I felt kind of humiliated”
+ Loss : “I just cried and cried and cried”
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12/7/41 and 9/11/01
“The whole atmosphere had changed”
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We were working on the farm and we didn’t have a radio and so we didn’t hear about it until the next day. When I went to school and it was really very strange. The whole atmosphere had changed and I found that those who were my friends weren’t talking to me or they even pretended they weren’t even seeing me and I thought, gee, this is really weird. And so I asked one of my Nisei friends and she thought I was so stupid. She said, “You mean you didn’t know what’s been happening?” “No, where is Pearl Harbor anyway?” I said. “I mean, it doesn’t mean anything to me, I’m an American citizen.” But that wasn’t the case of course.

“You watched your every step”
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It was scary. You watched your every step. You were careful with what you said. The newspapers would say, I remember one night it said, “42 Jap Spies Rounded Up.” You know, things like that and, it was proven that none of it was true. But everybody believed those terrible things written in the newspapers. Put ’em out in the concentration camps, put ’em out in the desert so they become like the skulls of cattle. All these terrible, terrible things. And that was accepted—and syndicated. It got me so depressed I didn’t even want to read the papers. I’m still not very trustful about what appears in the newspapers.

Being American
“But he smokes his terrible cigar”
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You love your grandfather, but he smokes his terrible cigar. You love your family even though your parents might do things that you don’t like. It’s the same with your own country.

FBI Investigation
“He found my diary”
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Yeah the FBI agents, three of them came to our house. And they got very suspicious when they found Steve’s, my brother Steve, who was already in the service, he’d volunteered after Pearl Harbor. And he left his old broken radio and that agent took it all apart. Then went outside and checked the house and checked the yard, for wires I guess. And then one was in my little bedroom and he checked under the bed and between the mattresses and all the drawers and he found my diary. And I was just totally embarrassed. I just wanted to run in there and grab it away from him. And then I knew that if I did something rash we would get in more trouble so I just sat there, and grit my teeth, and I just hoped that he would find it boring and put it away, but he didn’t. He just kept reading it and reading it, while I was just sitting there humiliated and embarrassed. Angry. He put it back in there. And all three of them got together and talked, discussed their findings I guess. And then finally they left like we weren’t even there. And the last guy patted my mother on the head, she was sitting by the door, and said, “Good Christian family,” and left.

“He hung himself in the barn”
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You never knew when your father was going to be taken away. And Mr. Saiki got picked up off the farm, our neighbor. Mr. Okazaki was taken away. And they would take an old car battery or pick up a flashlight or something for evidence. And it was very tragic when Mr. Iwasa, after he was harassed by the FBI, committed suicide. He hung himself in the barn.

“I felt kind of humiliated”
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You’ve seen that poster, 18 inch by 24 inch, big things. Instructions to all those of Japanese ancestry. You know, that was nailed onto our fence posts on Routier Road which is only half mile long. And there were about, oh maybe, six or eight or more of those posters nailed onto fence posts and I was driving down, going home in my ’32 Studebaker, which I wish I had right now, but anyway, I looked at it and I said well I’m supposed to read the fine print. But I wasn’t going to be caught dead stopped right in front of that poster and climbing over the ditch and onto the fence post and reading that thing, so I just went on. I felt kind of humiliated.

“I just cried and cried and cried”
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You know until the very last minute I said this can’t happen, this is unconstitutional and something will happen, that’s the thought. Somebody will come running down the railroad tracks, like the movies, and say this is unconstitutional, you can all go home. When that train started to move I just collapsed. I just cried and cried and cried.