Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community

FBI in house, visits father in Seattle immigration office – Matsue Watanabe (OH0061)


I do remember a black car coming into the driveway. And then we found out that they were the FBI. Because, I’m sure we didn’t have any notice ahead of time regarding them coming. And, and so I remember them coming into the house and, and my sister, my oldest sister was corresponding with a sailor in Hawaii from, who was her classmate. And so, you know, you don’t throw all those letters away. So, I can remember them reading the letters. And I’m sure they were looking for whatever they might find because it was, he was in Hawaii, and, but he wasn’t of Asian descent. And then, and then of course later they took my dad away because my dad was saying that he thought he had some dynamite left from after he cleared land, but he couldn’t find it at the time. And so they did take him away with them. And my brother, of course, was a, what do you call it, a ham–like, ham operator. He had crystal sets and things like that. So, they looked at that real well, too, because, I guess they figured he might be gettin’ in touch with people. But that was just something that he grew up doing and his bedroom… large table was always full of radio equipment. But, so, so after they took my dad, of course, that was a very big shock to us, because he is not the type of person that… he was just a hard–working man who always did what he could to keep the family alive and active.

Well, we were very, very scared. ‘Cause we’d never had anything like that come before us before. And, of course, then having your dad taken away when you’re a young girl — I suppose it’d be any age — it’s, it would be very frightening, not knowing what would happen to him or to us. So, that was a very hard time for us, and after that we were allowed to go visit him at the immigration building in Seattle, which we see all the time now ’cause every time we go into Seattle we go, “Oh, there’s the immigration building.” And, but when we went there I wasn’t able to talk him. He was behind bars, of course. And of course all I could do was, I just cried because I’d see my dad behind bars, and the only people who were supposed to be behind bars were bad people and criminals. And so I knew that he wasn’t a criminal or anything like that. So, I really didn’t get to talk to him; I just cried and nothing would come out of my mouth, you know. So that was it, and… but I do remember the guard saying, “Oh, little girl, that’s not so bad,” or something like that. Which I, which I thought was pretty insensitive.

Video Interview — October, 2006

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Matsue Watanabe

Matsue Nishimori Watanabe was 15 years old, in the 9th grade, when she was evacuated. She is the second youngest of six children. The Nishimori family did not move with most of the Bainbridge Islanders to Minidoka. They stayed in Manzanar. When the government started to allow the Japanese Americans to leave camp to travel east, Matsue's older brother and sisters moved to the Chicago area. When she was 18 years old, she moved to Evanston, IL to finish her last year of high school. She lived with a sponsor family.