Former residents uprooted by WWII finally graduate

May 01, 2005
By Heather Bremner, Staff Writer

     It was May. They were supposed to graduate in June. They were supposed to don caps and gowns, join their classmates in the processional. Leave high school with a diploma in hand. But they never did.

     From 1940 to 1946, Japanese men, women and children born in places such as Holtville, Brawley and El Centro were told to pack up, leave their businesses and schools behind and move to Poston, Arizona.
     In Poston the families slept on Army cots in barracks. They ate in mess halls. The children attended school, played sports and learned judo.
      On Saturday evening, 11 former Imperial County residents who were forced to end their high school education after being relocated to internment camps were awarded high school diplomas at the Casa de Mañana in Imperial.  Three of the 11 diplomas were presented posthumously to other family members. Diplomas were sent to 10 Japanese-Americans who could not attend Saturday's event.
      The Imperial County Board of Education, Imperial County Office of Education and the California Nisei Project made "Operation Recognition" a reality.
ICOE provided the diplomas and organized the "living voices" presentations that were staged at local high schools Friday.
      In January 2004, legislators approved AB 781, which gave high school, unified or county offices of education authorization to retroactively grant high school diplomas to any Japanese-Americans interned during World War II.
      Few of the Japanese-Americans who were relocated to internment camps returned to the Valley.
Akira Loveridge-Sanbonmatsu
      Akira Loveridge-Sanbonmatsu  (Poston 39-10-A)  told Central Union High School students Friday that during and after World War II many West Coast residents distrusted the Japanese-Americans and didn't want them living in their neighborhoods.  In 1944, when Sanbonmatsu and other families were discharged from the Poston internment camp, locals organized a rally in Brawley.  The locals made it clear: they didn't want Sanbonmatsu and his ilk back in the Valley, he said.
Only about 12 families returned. Sanbonmatsu's was one of them.
     Sanbonmatsu was lucky. He had lived on the camp for three years but was still young enough to return to Holtville High School and graduate.  Eventually he left the Valley to attend California State University, Los Angeles. After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees, Sanbonmatsu earned a doctorate at Penn State University. The Holtville native taught communications at State University of New York in Brockport.  He has since retired but still lives in Oswego, N.Y., with his wife.
     Sanbonmatsu's brother Yoshiya (Poston 39-10-A) remained in the Valley and owns the El Centro-based business Sanbon Inc.

From Poston to Germany
     Before Oscar Kodama (Poston 39-9-AB) was relocated to Poston, the San Diego resident said he often got into fights with kids who shouted racial slurs. One of his classmate's brothers was killed at Pearl Harbor "and he blamed me for it," said Kodama.
     After living on camp "20 days short of three years," the 19-year-old Heber native was drafted by Uncle Sam.  His draft notice identified him as 4-C, or an enemy alien.
He never did receive a diploma.  While serving with the U.S. Army, Kodama worked as a grave register and did what he called the "dirty work."  He was responsible for brushing the corpses' teeth, matching dog tags to dental records and placing each body in a plastic bag.
     On Saturday, Kodama donned a purple gown and plunked one of the purple, funny hats on his head.  He wore a huge smile. His eyes twinkled.  "I just tell my granddaughter (she's a high school sophomore), ‘I'll get my diploma before you,'" he said with a laugh.

Sixty-three years
     Hanako "Nishida" Manaka (Poston 59-4-C)  turned around and saw her.   "Tamiko," she said, flush with excitement but still dignified in her prim, cream-colored suit, a flower pinned to the lapel.  Manaka, who was relocated to Poston at age 17, had not seen her friend for 63 years.  Manaka was attending Central Union High School at the time. It was May when they were sent to Poston.  Manaka said she and her friends wrote to the school asking about their diplomas but never heard back.  Her family moved to Monterey after leaving Poston.   
     Manaka, who lives in Seal Beach, said she "was so excited" when she was invited to the ceremony.   "Oh gosh," she said, "I'm going to, hopefully, meet all my friends again."

Source: http://articles.ivpressonline.com/2005-05-01/operation-recognition_24205576

From the desk of: Many special moments at HHS class reunion
March 16, 2011
Dora DePaoli

     Although there were many special moments at the reunion, one of the most memorable was when Dick Ludwig, of the HHS class of 1946, gave his class sweater to Akira “Ike” Sanbonmatsu (Poston 39-10-A). It had hung in his closet 65 years.
     “Ike was my size, and I might have bought it off of him. I don’t remember that too clearly. … Because of economics I hadn’t ordered one earlier. … I don’t think I ever wore it,” Ludwig said.
     In 1942, President F.D. Roosevelt signed an order for the relocation of all Americans of Japanese ancestry. Almost two-thirds of the interns were Nisei, Japanese-Americans born in the U.S. It made no difference many had never even been to Japan and were loyal Americans.
     Japanese students were removed from school by the federal government. They and their families were thought to be a possible threat to the country and were forced to enter internment camps. One of those students was Ike.
     Ludwig said he played football with Ike but they didn’t hang out together.  “Ike was part of the honor society, and I didn’t even come close,” Ludwig said. “I was glad to give the sweater to him. He was tickled pink about it. He wore the sweater the whole evening.”
     Jim McKenzie, of the class of 1943, said he clearly remembered attending the junior/senior prom at the Barbara Worth Country Club with the late Yosh Sanbonmatsu (Poston 39-10-A), a brother of Ike’s. They both went stag. He said girls scared them in those days.
     “As we got to the door we were told Yosh couldn’t come in,” McKenzie said. “There was a curfew for the Japanese. They had to be in their homes by 6 p.m.”
     This was a very sad time in U.S. history. Ike’s wife, Joan Loveridge-Sanbonmatsu, wrote a book on this period. It is titled: “Imperial Valley Nisei Women-Transcending Poston.”  
     Poston was one of the 10 internment camps in the U.S. They were located in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

Source: http://articles.ivpressonline.com/2011-03-16/hhs-class_28700547

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