As a Board Member of the Poston Community Alliance and the producer for a documentary film, "For the Sake of the Children", I would like to share with news about our very exciting project that we are embarking on.
"For the Sake of the Children" is a 20 minute film looking at the impact that the Japanese-American internment had on how mothers raised their children during their incarceration and after.
The film also looks at the impact that the internees' parenting had on their children and on the generations that followed -- in particular the challenges, struggles and circumstances that individuals from each subsequent generation have faced in shaping, integrating and accepting their identities as Japanese-Americans.
Here is a link to our work-in-progress:
We are looking to talk to the following individuals for this project:
1. Nisei women who gave birth to children while at camp or who raised children up to the age of 12
2. Sansei women and men who were born while at camp or who were children up to the age of 12 while at camp
3. Yonsei women and men whose grandmothers were internees
4. Gosei women whose great grandmothers were internees.
If you or members of your family would like to talk to us, we would love to talk to you. And if you know of someone who you think might be interested have them get in touch with us at:
Poston Community Alliance
956 Hawthorne Dr.
Lafayette, CA 94549
I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
With best regards,
WANTED: Former Poston-ites photos
....Honor your grandparents, parents and relatives...
....Honor your grandparents, parents and relatives...
The following Poston Community Alliance, Inc., soft cover books are nearing completion:
Poston, Arizona Block 221
Poston, Arizona Block 222
Poston, Arizona Block 229
Poston, Arizona Block 305
Poston, Arizona Block 307
Poston, Arizona Block 308
Poston, Arizona Block 318
Poston, Arizona Block 330
More Poston, Arizona block books are being written and will be added to this list.
The books will be available for sale at a later date.
Black & white pictures of individuals or groups of people or families are needed and welcomed.
**** Please submit photo scans (jpg format) *****
Send photo scans to: diannerd79 (at) yahoo (dot) com
70 years ago, U.S. rounded up 2,000 local Japanese Americans
February 19, 2012
by Garth Warth
Takeo Sugimoto (Poston 43-2-A) didn't know where he was headed when he and his family arrived at the train station in Oceanside 70 years ago. But he wasn't alone.
About 1,000 other Japanese-Americans from North County also were gathered at the station that day, many holding two suitcases filled with as many belongings as they could fit inside.
"I was confused a little bit, but not scared," said the 85-year-old Encinitas resident. "I was with my family. But it was kind of surreal. Why is this happening? Where are we going?"
He and other Japanese-Americans from California, along with others from the western parts of Oregon and Washington and the southern border of Arizona, were told to take only what they could carry in two hands to a local train station, where they would be transported to an undisclosed location.
In San Diego County, which had a population of 2,076 Japanese-Americans in 1940, families were sent to Poston, 12 miles south of Parker, Arizona. Poston was one of 10 internment camps created during World War II after an executive order authorized the Secretary of War to designate specific areas as military zones and excluded certain people from living in them. President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942.
In San Diego County and other Pacific coast communities, the reverberating terror of the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese in 1941 fueled fear of conspiracies, treason and espionage from within.
Historian Gerald Schlenker researched and wrote about the period in his article, "The Internment of the Japanese of San Diego County During the Second World War," published in 1972 in the Journal of San Diego History. In his article, it was clear the county was swift to call for action against the perceived threat.
Just one month after the Pearl Harbor attack, the San Diego Union published an editorial calling for the removal of Japanese from the coast, federal officials closed the Japanese-language school in downtown San Diego and the San Diego City Council adopted a resolution calling for the removal of the "known" subversive element in the area, according to Schlenker's research.
The county Board of Supervisors also passed a resolution urging internment of Japanese residents.
San Diego City College history teacher Susan Hasegawa, who has researched the internment era, said she doesn't know of any North County municipality that adopted a resolution endorsing internment in 1942.
Schlenker, however, reported that the Fallbrook Grange No. 614 sent a resolution to the Board of Supervisors asking for immediate removal of all Japanese people from the county.
Hasegawa said granges, agricultural organizations that started in the late 1800s, competed with Japanese-American farmers and thus were largely supportive of internment.
Among those deported were the parents of Elaine Armstrong, a graphic artist at Palomar College.
"I've talked to people of that generation who said, 'Oh, it was essential because it was to protect them,'" she said. "And I say, 'Why were the guns pointed into the camp?'"
Sugimoto, who said he has mostly pleasant memories of spending his teenage years at the camp, was alarmed at the sight of armed guards at the camp.
"It was disconcerting for me to see a closed gate, barbed wires and soldiers at sentry boxes," he said. "It was the same with the train ride from Oceanside to Poston. We had armed soldiers at every car."
Armstrong said her mother, Hannah Sonoda, was sent to a camp in Arkansas, where she graduated from high school and worked in the post office. Her father, Howell Sonoda, (226-4-AB) was sent to Poston.
Her parents met and married after leaving the camps, and Armstrong said they were never bitter about the experience.
"They weren't angry about it," she said. "They were just farmers. They were practical people. I think growing up, my parents made sure we were super-patriotic."
Matthew Estes, a teacher at Palomar College who has researched and written about the internment period, said that his interviews with former internees revealed a stoicism among many of the people who experienced the camps.
"The Japanese have this term, Shikata ga nai," he said. "It literally means, 'some things can't be helped.' It's not fatalism, but just recognition that some things you can't do anything about."
Estes also said many Japanese-Americans did not talk about the experience because they had a sense of shame about being incarcerated.
"They were ashamed to talk about this with their children, even though they had not done anything wrong," he said. "There's a stigma with being locked up."
Estes' father was American, but his mother was Japanese and had family members who went sent to internment camps. One of his cousins is buried at Manzanar, a former camp in California.
Estes said many Japanese-Americans lost most of their possessions after leaving for the camps. In downtown San Diego, the exodus wiped out what once was Little Japan between Island and Fourth avenues, which had a thriving strip of businesses including Japanese restaurants, a barber shop, a grocery store and photo studio, he said.
Some San Diego residents took their possessions to a Japanese Buddhist temple in San Diego, but those were lost when the building was burglarized and firebombed, Estes said.
Japanese-Americans in North County were more fortunate. Sugimoto said poinsettia grower Paul Ecke, founder of the Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, opened his warehouses on his agriculture fields for displaced Japanese-Americans to store their belongings.
Estes said people sent to the camps were free to leave for other cities away from the Pacific coast, but only if they had a sponsor and could prove they had a job lined up.
With rumors that lynchings and deportation awaited Japanese-Americans outside the camps, however, many people decided they did not want to leave, Estes said.
Sugimoto left Poston after about a year and a half to attend school in Chicago, but returned to be with his mother after his brother was drafted, leaving her and his sister alone. While in the camp, Sugimoto said he earned $7 a month as a courier, delivering papers for administrators.
About 17,800 people lived in Poston, the second-largest of the camps, after Tule Lake in California. Poston was divided into three sections that each had farms, schools, a mess hall and jobs for internees ranging from trash collector to physician, Sugimoto said. He and his mother, sister and brother shared a single room in a barracks that held four families.
"For me, it was fun," he said about his time in the camp, where he made many friends. "You've got to realize I was brought up in a farm environment, working on the fields, feeding horses, doing a lot of chores. I got into camp, and all we had to do was attend classes and play ball."
The internees were forbidden from moving immediately back to California after leaving the camp, but Sugimoto may have been the first to return to the state in 1945 when he moved in with a San Dieguito High School teacher who sponsored him.
His family retrieved their truck from Ecke's warehouse and used it in a gardening business in Los Angeles before returning to Encinitas.
Sugimoto said he knows people from the camp who are bitter about the experience, but he is not.
"My mom would not allow us to think negatively about it," he said. "She instilled in me and my brothers that it was something that happened and we had no control over it. Being bitter was not going to help. It'd just make it tougher on our own lives."
In all, 120,000 Japanese-Americans were interned in the camps.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation apologizing for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. More than $1.6 million in reparations to surviving interned Americans and their heirs was later disbursed.
Locals recall painful WWII internment camp memories
Feb 19, 2012
By Mary McCarty, Staff writer
Mary Yamano rarely talked about her experiences in the Japanese internment camps during World War II, but her youngest daughter, Marcie, wrote about the painful chapter in the family’s history for a college paper in the 1980s.
The essay came back with a red “F” and a stinging rebuke from the professor: “You made this all up. This didn’t happen.”
It’s one small measure of the resounding silence — and widespread ignorance — that surrounds one of the most shameful chapters in American history: the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese- Americans during World War II.
Seventy years ago today, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the secretary of war or military commanders to establish “military areas” and excluding “there from any and all persons.”
As a result, all residents of Japanese descent along the Pacific Coast were forcibly removed to what were euphemistically referred to as “War Relocation Camps.”
The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, plunged the United States into war and escalated already-existing hostilities and discriminatory practices against the Japanese. About two-thirds of those interned were American citizens; that figure would have been higher, except that under existing law, Japanese immigrants couldn’t become naturalized citizens.
Yoshino said, “The attitude at the highest levels of the military was that a Jap is a Jap, and racial strains are undiluted. The clear implication is that if you are Japanese, you are the enemy. Those on the West Coast were regarded as potential disloyals could engage in sabotage.”
Jeff Underwood, historian for the local National Museum of the United States Air Force, noted, “It seems so strange to us that it happened. It says a lot about how scared people were at the time and how racist they were. People saw on the newsreels Japanese success after Japanese success. They were terrified the Japanese army was going to march through California.”
Tosh Konya of Troy was only five months old when his family was sent to the internment camp in Gila River, Ariz.
“Some tried to justify the incarceration by saying the Japanese-Americans were moved away for their own protection,” Konya said. “It was hardly a believable statement when the barbed wire kept people in and all the guards had their weapons facing inward.”
Jane Katsuyama of Kettering is another Miami Valley resident who spent part of her growing-up years in the camps and later relocated to the Midwest, which had no internment camps.
As the war progressed, some were allowed to leave the camps if they found individual or corporate sponsors in the Midwest or the East.
“If you look at the Ohio census in 1940, there would be only a handful of Japanese,” observed Bill Yoshino, Midwest director of the Japanese-American Citizens League. “By the 1950 census, all of a sudden there was more than a handful.”
Katsuyama’s family was celebrating her first birthday in rural California when news came that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
Days later, the community’s Buddhist church was burned to the ground. Katsuyama and her mother and her infant sister — carried in a laundry basket — were forced to move to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona.
Her father, a first-generation Issei Japanese, initially was sent to prison before joining them at the camp. The family didn’t know where he was or what had happened to him.
Yoshino said that only the Quakers offered any organized protest to this blatant violation of constitutional rights.
“This was totally the opposite of American ideals,” Katsuyama said. “Yet the propaganda newsreels showed people getting off these buses like they were going to summer camp.”
It was far from summer camp.
Katsuyama’s husband, Ron, described the Poston camp as “the WPA’s makeshift city of crudely and hastily built barracks in the heart of the Arizona desert.”
Some local residents lost family members during the course of the internment. All of them lost property and livelihoods, and some never recovered their former prosperity or sense of well-being.
Ron Katsuyama, who was born in the Minidoka, Idaho, camp, noted that families were given only days to vacate their homes and abandon their businesses for unknown destinations.
“My father, who had been a building contractor, could not complete work on a remodeling job and, consequently, lost his business and property put up as collateral for a loan to buy supplies,” he said. “This was a secret he kept for over 60 years. I was shocked to discover the truth, revealed in old court documents stored in his garage. Given their experiences, I have tremendous admiration for my parents’ resilience.”
Jane Katsuyama still marvels at her parents’ attitude. “My parents didn’t show bitterness. They brought us up to really care for each other. There was a sense of trust and caring even though my childhood was spent in what even FDR called a concentration camp.”
Yamano’s father died from a cerebral hemorrhage a month after the evacuation orders. She was 10 years old, and the youngest of four children.
“I remember my father hand-sewing a seed bag for our belongings,” she said. “Back then, you didn’t question, because the war was with Japan. I just kept quiet. You didn’t want to be part of a race that attacked the U.S. So you just went.”
Yamano’s oldest brother, who was ailing, was left behind in a sanitarium and later died of pneumonia. The family never saw him again.
Konya’s mother died at 26, when he was only 18 months old. “There’s no doubt in my mind my mother would have lived if she hadn’t been in the camp,” he said. “I fully realize that many thousands of lives were lost in WWII, so the death of one person may seen minor by comparison, but they were loyal citizens unjustly incarcerated in our very own country on racial grounds. That puts her passing in a different light.”
The camps offered very little in the way of privacy. The camp residents often put up curtains or makeshift wooden stalls over the open latrines or created partitions in their single-room units in a barracks.
“It was very demoralizing, being forced to live so close together for so long,” Konya said. “The camp wasn’t a place for old people, sick people, or very young kids. The food was mostly starch, with very few vegetables, and the camp administrator pilfered sugar for the black market.”
The children yearned for candy, cakes and toys, but in general “it was harder on the older generation,” said Yamano, whose father ran a jewelry store in Seattle. “We kids went out to play and made friends. The adults were the ones who lost their belongings and their savings and their livelihoods.”
Katsuyama added, “It was especially hard for the high school students. A lot of them are struggling to find out who they are and the meaning of life.”
Yamano is a widow who met her husband, Richard, after the war though they lived in the same camp in Minidoka, Idaho. She has preserved the camp yearbook, published shortly before the Minidoka War Relocation Center was closed. The yearbook reveals what Yamano describes as “the semblance of normal life”: chapters of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, athletic activities. “We didn’t choose to be there, but we made the most of it,” she said. “We started our lives over again.”
Although not yet a teenager, Yamano couldn’t help asking herself, “Why did they send us here? We are all Americans.”
Many young Japanese men fought valiantly in the 442nd Regiment, even though their parents were incarcerated and the soldiers were shipped right back to the camps if they were wounded.
On April 29, 1945, the regiment freed prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany.
After the war, almost nobody talked about the camps. “Two of the prevailing feelings of Japanese-Americans were: Shikata ga nai — there’s no recourse, you can’t change it; and gaman — you endure with patience,” explained Jane Katsuyama.
The reasons probably went beyond the reticence of the World War II generation or the stoicism of the Japanese character. “It was shame,” Yamano said. “The U.S. government deserved the shame, but we felt the shame. We had been incarcerated.”
Katsuyama’s story is all too common: “It’s very sad, but we never sat our parents down to talk about this.”
Yoshino believes that too much of the history has been lost, and not enough is being passed on. The Japanese-American Citizens League is lobbying for American students to be taught more about the internment camps. “We have done some cursory research on state learning standards and we found that not a lot of states have within their standards the teaching of the internment,” Yoshino said.
This sad chapter needs to be taught, Konya believes, because “every American needs to be taught it is possible for the U.s. to stray so far from the Constitution. Don’t assume your rights are guaranteed.”
Pete Hironaka (Poston 229-5-D) of Kettering spent his high school years in the Poston, Arizona, internment camp. The well-known local cartoonist documented that history through his writings and cartoons in the national publication, Pacific Citizen.
“Many of Pete’s cartoons illustrate Japanese-Americans engaged in activities that are representative of American culture,” said his friend, Ron Katsuyama.
“Then, by calling attention to America’s democratic ideals, he is able to communicate the irony and injustice of the WWII incarceration of Japanese-Americans.”
The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 — passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan — provided for a presidential apology and $1.25 billion in reparations, or $20,000 to each individual who had been in the camps. “It wasn’t compensating for actual losses,” Yoshino said, “but it was a symbolic amount. People lost personal effects; they lost their farms and homes. It’s probably incalculable what that entire loss was.”
Konya said his father lost his wife and his prosperous garage business in Los Angeles. “He never talked about it, but there was clearly a bitterness, and who could blame him?” he said. “The legacy of the camps have left good and bad sides to my personality. I am certainly more introspective.”
Yamano is pleased that her own three children and seven grandchildren have embraced that history and tried to learn more about it. Two of her grandchildren have written high school papers about the internment camps. “Kids today are more outspoken,” she said admiringly.
Yamano’s personality is more reserved — a trait that stems not only from her years in the internment camps, but also from the derision that she suffered when she returned to high school in Seattle. “People would look at me and would say, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ ” she recalled.
After that, she conceded, “I can’t say I really got over it. I’ve always been introverted. My kids grew up not being that way. But I always had the feeling that I didn’t quite belong.”