Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Prisoner of War

An American soldier named Anton Bilek, as interviewed in Studs Terkel, ed., The Good War: An Oral History of World War II (NY: Pantheon Books, 1984), p. 93—

One time [during World War II, in Japan, while held as a prisoner of war in a coal mine], at the end of the day, while I was waitin' for the little train to take our shift out, I laid back against the rock wall, put my cap over my eyes, and tried to get some rest. The guy next to me says, "God damn, I wish I was back in Seattle." I paid no attention. Guys were always talking about being back home. He said, "I had a nice restaurant there and I lost it all." I turned around and looked and it's a Japanese. He was one of our overseers. I was flabbergasted.

He said, "Now just don't talk to me. I'll do all the talkin'." He's talkin' out of the side of his mouth. He says, "I was born and raised in Seattle, had a nice restaurant there. I brought my mother back to Japan. She's real old and knew she was gonna die and she wanted to come home. The war broke out and I couldn't get back to the States. They made me come down here and work in the coal mines." I didn't know what the hell to say to this guy. Finally the car came down and I says, "Well, see you in Seattle someday." And I left. I never saw him after that.