Home » Uncategorized » TELL ME: WHEN AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THE INTERNMENT OF JAPANESE AMERICANS?

TELL ME: WHEN AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THE INTERNMENT OF JAPANESE AMERICANS?

How old were you when you found out about it?

If you were interned, when did you begin telling your friends about it?

If your relatives were interned, when did they begin to tell you about it?

And when did you begin telling your non-Japanese friends?

What were their responses?

If you are non-Japanese American, where do you live and where did you eventually learn about the Internments? How old were you? How did you find out about it? 

  • hi wendy,
    i believe my mother told me. she had been a nurse during the war. i was still a young teen living at home in rochester, ny with her and one of my brothers. i remember none of my buddies had a clue about it. my mother always stressed compassion for others. she was a beautiful person. 
    jeb

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    My mother was born in 1924 and topics of the depression, stock market crash and WWII, Pearl Harbor were a part of my childhood. When i was in grade school (6-9 yrs old) my mother listened to her album, “South Pacific” on her “Hi-Fi” record player while cleaning house on Saturdays. In the 50″s war movies were as popular as cowboy movies where I grew up in Arizona and California. Duality was the common thread that ran through my thinking. Good guy/bad guy, black hat/white hat, cowboy & indian, American soldier/bad soldier

    My memory of Japanese Internment Camps was not what I would call an awareness. I remember my mother mentioning the internment camps and I have no recollection of a conversation except my question, “why” was easily satisfied with the response, it was for their (Japanese-American) protection because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and we needed to protect them from other people’s hatred. For me it was all mixed up with the images of Hitler and Jewish Death Camps. I thought it had to be 2 different wars.

    My true awareness about internment camps came from the “Tag Project”. Thank you, Wendy!

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    I learned about the Internment Camps as a child in Sunday School in relationship to learning about the Holocaust, as another example of unreasonable and unfounded prejudice. 

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    High school civics class, in the early ’70’s, in Washington State. 
    It became more personal when I visited friends in the Puget Sound area and saw the farmland that was taken from the internees and heard the stories of those who were taken away and those who tried to help.

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    Mom was a educator, so we learned early as kids. We also participated in our Jr High & High school yrs assisting her when she was a docent at the Norton Simon Museum exhibit called, “Executive Order 9002,” in 1970. My Father’s side suffered greatly because he was a civic leader arrested by the FBI on 1/7/42, and being wealthy, and losing everything, they were bitter and have never shared much information. Church was another place where the “camps” were often discussed in conversation.

    As far as other non-Japanese in Pasadena, before the war their was a sizable Japanese community, which created a vacuum when they left. Upon return, most were made aware of the experience through classmates and social events. My feeling thoughout High School was that it was common knowledge, however, details and facts were often scarce. In college, I found that maybe fifty percent knew of the “camps” with various levels of understanding, and that has continued throughout my adulthood. What’s facinating to me, is the younger japanese now immigrating here, have never heard of the camps or the experience. 

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    i was in my high school social studies class on the japanese american internment (hood river valley high school). i think i was 17. this class was a requirement at that time. i was shocked when the teacher began talking about all the japanese in the valley who were interned. after school i asked my mom about it and she was equally shocked that i had a class all about it. then she and my dad told me all they could about each of their experiences (briefly then) and thereafter i studied and read everything i could about it. i have interviewed several relatives. i minored in japanese american studies in my undergrad at sfsu, and am still continuing to learn more and hear more stories and meet more people who have stories about their experience, especially being back here in hood river again for the past eight years.

    recently the “book of the month” throughout hood river county was “stubborn twig” about the yasui family experience.

    many of my friends were very surprised to know that my parents were in the camps, as well as all my aunts and uncles. 

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    My mother, non-Japanese American, was aware of the internment as a teenager during the war. She lived in St. Louis MO but has no recollection of how she found out. At 81, she still feels sad and embarrassed about what happened.

    I do not recall specifically when or how I heard about internment. I recall in high school a Japanese American friend’s mother never left her house, and I was told it was because of “something that happened during the war” but never learned specifically what that was. As a history major at UCLA I was probably exposed to the internment, but do not remember the details. It has only been in the last 15 years that I have studied it in much detail. 

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    Wendy:

    I learned of the internments while in high school as part of the US History curriculum. The teacher referred to it as “a sad chapter for our country”. I didn’t think much of it until I started dating Tak, and then it took on a whole new meaning, especially after I met the rest of the family.  

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    Dear Wendy – I am of European descent, and was not taught about the Japanese internment in high school history classes, where we got behind and never studied past the prelude to World War Two. In my late twenties, I began living in California and learned about the camps. More recently, some documentary films made me aware. For many decades I have been shamed by the facts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so knowledge of this affront to the Japanese upon on our soil became to me all the more tragic. Most recently, a friend’s involvement in your Tag Project gave me the chance to finally play some small part. Thanks to you I now have that opportunity. 

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    The interment camps were not mentioned in any formal schooling I received. I was lucky enough to have a friend that knew all about it (informal education always worked better for me) We were on a field trip in jr. high and this friend, being highly intelligent, incredibly defiant and most certainly a loud-mouth started laying into this tour guide at the museum we were at. The guide was commenting on how honorably the U.S. had handled the concentration camp situation in Europe and was failing to mention anything about what was happening within our own boarders. My friend became irate at the guide and demanded that she tell the whole story, which she tried to dismiss and not that big of a deal. It was shocking to learn this and even more shocking to have it half ignored by the person of authority in the same breath. 

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    I honestly don’t remember. I went to school in small town Indiana and the the suburbs of Chicago. I took no history in college. Somewhere along the way though I did learn of the book “Farewell to Manzanar” which I found so compelling (as a teen?). I do teach it now of course, often reading aloud from “Manzanar”, in my history and law classes, and often encourage students to do further research on their own. Norma and the kids and I visited Manzanar back in ’03. 

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    Grew up with my grandparents, so I some how always knew about it.
    The Japanese market we shopped at was named Granada after one of the camps and my grandmother always told me stories of her friends who were interned. I was letting my co-workers know of the tag project and was very startled to learn that it was not ever taught in school here in the south. My crusade now is to re-educate my co-workers! 

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    Wendy, as first generation Chinese American, I heard about it here in San Francisco during an Asian American studies class in high school. They touched upon the topic very briefly.

    In college at San Jose State, I took Asian American study courses (Roy ____ and Vicky Takeda) where they talked more about the internment and its effect upon the JAs and their community. In law school, I learned more about the arguments made during the Supreme court cases. After law school, I married Cindy, who’s parents were at Gila River and Tule lake. I talked to Cindy’s dad about his experiences in the camp. (And as it turns out, he played on the Tule Lake Baseball team which supposedly beat all the other camps in their baseball league. He and his brothers are listed in the book about Japanese in baseball.)

    As an attorney, I work with Steve Doi who’s very active in the JA community. He was in Tule Lake and Heart Mountain. He tells me about the camp life and his experiences all the time. Because of him, a lot of clients that I work with were in the camps and were hard core veterans of the 442. They told me their stories as well.

    This year was the first time I attended a pilgramage because my kids are finally mature enough to see what happened to their grandparents. 

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    Hi Wendy,

    As I recall, I first heard of the interment camps in high school (north of Boston, probably around 1984), and I think it wasbrought up as a tangential topic during a class that focused on the European holocaust of WWII. A more distinct memory is from college (in Connecticut), when the reparations were announced (1988 or so?), I had a friend whose grandmother was interned and she was awaiting her check from the government. 

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    Sometime in the late 50s when I was a young teenager, I met a friend of a friend who was older and had been with her family in one of the camps. I mentioned this to my mother and she told me of the following:

    During the war years my father was in the Border Patrol and therefore exempt form the draft. One of his tasks, soon after Pearl Harbor, was as a guard on board one of the trains that were picking up Japanese Americans along the California coast. When he returned he explained to my mother that what he had been told to do was wrong. There was nothing he could think of that separated the people he was taking to the camps from himself. They were as much American as he was with shared goals and hopes. Shortly after this he resigned from the Border Patrol and enlisted in the Navy as a junior officer. Ironically he was sent to the Pacific to fight. This story only lives with my siblings and myself. My father never mentioned it himself.

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    I found out from my parents, who were interned as children. My grandparents never mentioned it, I think because they were ashamed. My parents never went into very much detail. I didn’t hear much about it in my history classes at school, but since I grew up with quite a few Japanese-Americans, my classmates and I did talk about it as much as we were able to compare stories of our parents. 

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    Entire family interned… both sides… parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Since early childhood it has always been talked about. Although not in great detail.

    I began asking more questions during 5th grade / History class. Read Journey to Topaz on my own and started to ask a lot of questions.

    I became involved in JACL in high school… so began my preaching to the public about our history. I have been a living historian ever since. I do WWII Living Histories for schools and public functions to educate the public.

    great reactions from others.

    By the way… the couple of extra tags you are sending me are being added to my internment suitcase displays.

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    I learned about the internments as a teenager, while I was visiting relatives in southern California in the early 1980s. We were driving through the desert one day, a desolate area scorched by the blinding hot sun. We came to a structure, which my uncle told me was the sentry gate at Manzanar–then he told me what this place was and what had happened there. My cousin soon lent me a copy of the book Farewell to Manzanar, which I read cover to cover in a few short days. I was shocked–not only that the internments happened in this country, but because it was never spoken about in my history classes. 

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    I first became aware of the camps when I had a roommate in architecture school who was born at Poston. His name is Nelson Kakita. One story he told was about how his father was able to be outside of the camp when he was working. His job was to sex eggs, meaning that he could tell, by holding an egg to a candle, what sex the chicken was going to be. This must have been a rare talent because he was sent to chicken farm as far away as Idaho. So Nelson’s own story about Poston was one of being born there, but, due to his young age, only having retold family stories to remind and inform him of that part of his history. I remember being horrified at the idea of the camps, realizing that their existence was yet another point in our countries history that is or was not taught in Arizona public schools in the 1950s. I grew up in Mesa, Arizona.Joel Schwartz

  • Joel Schwartz
    • Joel Schwartz :)

    Hi Wendy! How are you? I saw something a couple days ago that reminded me of you and your project about the Japanese camps in California during WWII. I was visiting the WWII museum in New Orleans, LA. They had massive amounts of memorabilia, videos, personal stories from soldiers/civilians, and straight history. I literally read everything in that museum and found only one piece of history involving the Japanese camps. It was a blown up poster of the law that was passed requiring Japanese in the dictated areas to move to those camps. There wasn’t even any literature explaining the poster. It just amazes me how little that is talked about. I certainly never studied it in school and I’m from California! Anyways, it made me think of you and it made me hope that your project spreads the knowledge and history throughout the country. I hope to hear from you soon!

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  • David FobesDavid Fobes

    I have been meaning to respond to your inquiry about how I became aware of the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States.

    I don’t recollect an instantaneous moment of recognition, but it seems I had been aware of this for some time.

    My late father, was in the Navy from about 1952 to 1966.Right after my brother Clark and I were born, he “went to sea” for a tour of duty as the ships doctor on a naval destroyer. Their destination was Japan. I remember as a kid all of the souveniers from Japan he had brought back. Some of them are a pair of beautiful, black enameled porcelain vases, that my mother still treasures. He would regale us with Kodachrome slides of his visits to Kyoto, for many years after. It was obvious he had fallen in love with Japan, Japanese culture and the people of Japan. He held Japanese people in highest esteem for how kind and generous they had been to him when he was in Japan.

    When he was stationed at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, he made friends with a Japanese American doctor, also in the Navy. He was a bachelor, so my parents would have him over for dinner on occasion. I was just a kid, probably 8 or so.
    I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I do remember him talking to my father about being in a camp as a young man. Of course I was thinking day camp, summer camp. It was not until later, when I was older, that I realized of course this was an internment camp.

    It was over the course of several years that my father would talk to us about this as a regrettable and incomprehensible American action against the Japanese Americans.

    From further reading and probably from documentaries, my awareness has grown, and now from your personal involvement with the tag project.

One thought on “TELL ME: WHEN AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THE INTERNMENT OF JAPANESE AMERICANS?

  1. Hi Wendy! I’m Shirley Ito, Reedley, CA. I saw your “tag tree” in Fresno. Thank you for doing it! My parents & family members, from Hood River, OR were there. I was touched & deeply moved by the EO9066 Exhibition @Fresno State. Even though I know that three weee 18,700 people incarcerated at Tule Lake, I searched for my family members names on the tree! To no avail! It was such a graphic, and stark, reminder of the enormity of the people & lives that were impacted there!
    Thank you for your work & passion!

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