Teachers meet Japanese American who spent time in internment camp

       Executive order 9066 was signed in 1942, sending 10's of thousands of Japanese Americans to internment camps. A building at the Kern County Museum is where local Japanese Americans came to register.
      "The word is Gaman in Japanese. It means to persevere, make the best of any situation. and that's what we did," said Mary Kinoshita (Poston 6-4-CD). She and her family had no choice but to survive after being sent to an internment camp.
      They understood it was war time, but they were moved from their family home in Bakersfield to a dusty tent with a wood plank floor they called an apartment. "As the wood dried, it shrunk. And a result the dust was coming up.  My mother and I looked at each other and just fell down and we started to cry," adds Kinoshita.
      Her dad was born in Japan and moved here when he was 17. He was considered an alien resident, but he and his family were separated as they were sent off to camps.
      But in 1989, President George H.W. Bush signed an appropriation bill authorizing $20,000 payments to all Japanese who were interned and sent out a letter apologizing for what happened.
      And Tuesday, 90-year-old Mary Kinoshita told her story, enabling teachers in Kern County to pass it to students.  "So here we are here taking these classes studying history.  Mary was able to come in and take a national abstract historical even to something very concrete. It happened here it took place here, and it's very important to understand that.  This is an event that happened once before and it could happen again," says Ken Hooper, Kern County historical society.
      And getting speakers who lived the history gives teachers an account that can't be taught from a history book.
      In 1952 Kinoshita's father was granted citizenship, something he wanted his entire life. His sons have all since served as officers in the US military. 

 [NOTE: Mary was one of the four former Poston prisoners who were interviewed in the documentary film, "Passing Poston". ]

Source: http://www.kget.com/mostpopular/story/Teachers-meet-Japanese-American-who-spent-time-in/0JoaPlhUokifCfiqrrsabQ.cspx

Indio man who fought in WWII gets medal

June 13, 2012

Charles Shibata
INDIO — Charles Shibata (Poston 42-9-D), a Japanese-American soldier who was sent to an American internment camp then later served during World War II, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony Saturday in Los Angeles.
     The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor awarded for “outstanding deeds or service to the United States.”
     “I was thankful for this appreciation given by the government in acknowledgment of the fact that we served our country,” said Shibata, 89, of Indio. “What I did is what any American wanted to do. America was my country. We had to win the war.”
     The ceremony was at the Go for Broke Memorial, a monument dedicated to Japanese- American veterans of World War II.
     President Barack Obama signed legislation in October 2010 that awarded the medal to Japanese-Americans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service.
     Shibata, a member of the Military Intelligence Service, was assigned to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's team to help rebuild post-war Japan. MacArthur, as supreme commander for the allied powers in Japan, was headquartered in the Dai Ichi Life Insurance Building in Tokyo. There, Shibata translated documents and letters, read magazines, and listened to Radio Tokyo to find out what kind of information — or propaganda — was being spread.
     The journey of Shibata's life begins in Indio, where he was born in 1922. His family owned a small farm — behind what is now Shields Date Gardens on Highway 111 in Indio — where he worked while attending Coachella Valley High School. He left the valley in 1941 to attend summer session at Los Angeles City College, then continued on in the fall. His life changed dramatically on Dec. 7 of that year.
     “All of a sudden, Pearl Harbor happened,” he said. “The newspapers started writing stories that we might not be loyal Americans.”
     Shibata, who was living with his sister on Terminal Island — formerly U.S. Navy property — said rumors were swirling all around.
     “They decided all the Japanese in the western states would have to be moved away for security reasons,” Shibata said. “All of a sudden, a notice came one day that said, ‘You have 48 hours to prepare yourself for evacuation. You will be removed from this island.'”
     Instead of waiting around to be forced out, Shibata returned to his parents' home.
Shorty after his homecoming, members of the valley's Japanese-American community were told they, too, had to leave.
     Shibata was working in the fields with his brother when he saw a man in a uniform approaching. It was his brother's good friend, who was now a deputy sheriff.
     “He said, ‘George, I've got some bad news to tell you. Two weeks from today, your whole family is going to be evacuated.'”
     They were only allowed one suitcase per person. The families would be ordered to meet at a predetermined spot in downtown Indio.
     The friend was kind to give the family a heads-up, but “it was disastrous news,” Shibata   said.
     On May 22, 1942, the family boarded a Greyhound bus, which pulled out of town and onto a two-lane road heading east, following the route of what is now Interstate 10. After about four hours, they reached Parker, Ariz., where the bus made a turn and drove into the mesquite brush.  Suddenly, rows of black barracks, 100 feet long by 20 feet wide, popped out of the desolate southwestern Arizona landscape.
     The Poston War Relocation Center, near the California border, was the largest — in terms of area — of all the American internment camps. At peak population, the camp held about 17,000 internees — mostly from Southern California. Poston was built by Del Webb, the developer who later built retirement communities including Sun City, Ariz., Sun City Palm Desert, and Sun City Shadow Hills.
     “They gave us steel cots — and mattress covers. They said, ‘There's a pile of hay in the neighborhood. Fill your cover with the hay.'”  The makeshift mattress was just one example of the many Spartan amenities.
      “It was 110 degrees, no air conditioning. My first meal in camp was sauerkraut and wieners — which I'd never had in my life, and I've never eaten in combination since,” he said.
     To pay for personal items such as toothpaste and soap, he had to find a job at the camp (Poston camp 1). He was paid $12 month for a full-time job helping knock down mesquite trees and clear the land where a garden could be planted. He found more lucrative work outside the camp, in the fields, making 50 cents an hour. The month went by so fast, he said, and when he returned, he was antsier than ever to get out of that “prison.”
     He was finally able to leave the camp because he agreed to relocate to Chicago — far enough from the West Coast to not be a threat, in the government's view — where his older brother was living.
     It was while he was in Chicago that he decided to join the service. His brother, who was serving in the 442nd at the time, had been injured and was in a hospital in Europe.
Charles Shibata, MIS
     “It got me thinking, ‘I've got to get this war over with I have to do what I can to help.'”
After being honorably discharged in June 1946, he returned to the valley, where, beginning in 1951, he went to work for famed aviator Jacqueline Cochran at her Cochran Ranch Golf Course — later Indian Springs Country Club — in Indio. He worked as golf course manager and supervisor for 17 years.
     Shibata's granddaughter, Brooke Shibata, 24, of Palm Desert, was present when her grandfather received his medal.
     “Things I've studied in history books, he's lived through it I was really excited he could be honored in this way.”

Source: http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120613/NEWS13/206130315/Indio-man-who-fought-WWII-gets-medal?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage


WWII: Japanese-Americans in San Diego

A couple's bond; both were sent to internment camps in their youth 
by Peter Rowe
May 19, 2012
Yukio & Mitsuko Kawamoto

     One day in April 1942, 16-year-old Yukio Kawamoto (Poston 330-11-A) left his boyhood home for the last time. His family lived in and managed the Anchor Hotel, a downtown San Diego inn, but on this day the Kawamotos didn’t go to work. Instead, they went into exile.
      With 1,150 other Japanese and Japanese-American residents of San Diego County, the Kawamotos had been ordered to report to the Santa Fe Depot. After hours of waiting, they boarded two 16-car trains and steamed away from home and toward an uncertain future. Seventy years later, Kawamoto still recalls the crowds and the confusion.
      He doesn’t remember any anger. “It’s only afterward, as an adult, you think back what the government did to us as a race,” said Kawamoto, 86, now retired in the College Area. “To think that a president with the stroke of a pen could put away 120,000 people, it’s mind-boggling.”
     By signing Executive Order 9066, President Franklin D. Roosevelt uprooted all Japanese and Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, sending them inland to hastily built “War Relocation Camps.” Today, many historians see this internment as one of American history’s worst constitutional abuses. Congress apologized in 1988 and later paid survivors and their children $1.6 billion in reparations.
     For Kawamoto, this was a temporary detour. After the war, he would return to his native city. Here, he would meet and marry another former internee, Chula Vista’s Mitsuko Mamiya. Here, the couple prospered.
     Yet the war devastated San Diego’s Japanese community, especially the issei, the first generation immigrants. From the 1920s until 1942, the intersection of Fifth and Island was the heart of a busy Japantown. With internment, all of this district’s Japanese-owned businesses — nearly 60 — vanished. Only a few reappeared.
     “In many ways, it broke down the community,” said Susan Hasegawa, a professor of history at San Diego City College. “The community as a core and the issei that held it together were very much scattered and dispersed.”
On the fringe
     Yukio’s earliest memories are of Fish Camp, a shantytown built on twin piers jutting into San Diego Bay. His father, Imataro Kawamoto, was a fisherman when his son was born in 1925, but later became a gardener and moved the family ashore.
     In the 1930s, the elder Kawamoto and his wife, Sakayo, took over the management of a downtown hotel. The family was living at the Anchor when, days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, police arrested Imataro. Authorities were rounding up leaders of a local Japanese organization; Kawamoto did not belong to the group, yet he remained in custody for weeks.
     Early in 1942, word spread that San Diego’s entire Japanese population would be rounded up and dispatched to a cold climate. Sakayo Kawamoto took Yukio and his five siblings shopping for coats and gloves. Wasted money, it turned out — the family’s ultimate destination was the Poston III Relocation Center in the Arizona desert.
     In Chula Vista, 7-year-old Mitsuko Mamiya was unsure why her family had to leave their small Chula Vista farm. But she knew they were losing almost everything they valued. “My dad had to leave crops in the ground,” she said. “He had to sell his horse.”
     Also abandoned: an old refrigerator box the little girl used as a playhouse. “I hated to leave that.”
     Even before the war, local Japanese farmers like Mitsuko’s father faced serious obstacles. California’s “alien land laws” prohibited noncitizens from owning land. Laws also prohibited Japanese from becoming American citizens, so issei could only lease, not own, their businesses.
     Even so, by 1940 more than 2,000 Japanese and their American-born children lived in the county. From Bonsall to Chula Vista, they tilled the land. On local waters, you’d find the White Cloud and other Japanese-run boats hauling in tuna and abalone.
     But to find this ethnic community’s hub, you had to head downtown.
     “Farmers and fisherman came into town, around Fifth and Island, to do their shopping, get a haircut, maybe take a bath,” said Linda Canada, president of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego. “This was the center of the community’s social activities, as well as their businesses.”
     Japantown spread across Fourth, Fifth and Sixth avenues, between Market and J streets. Here, the Kawasaki family ran a grocery store. Kotono Takahashi presided over Kondo’s Pool Hall. The Ouchi brothers, a produce stand. The Obayashis, the Sun Cafe.
     The Anchor Hotel was on this district’s northwest fringe, on Fourth Avenue near Market. Here, the parents had a small apartment and the children slept in hotel rooms — when there were vacancies. When not, they squeezed into the apartment. The family made a point of dining together and the parents kept close watch on their children.
     In a single day, all of this would change.

Death of a district

     All 1,150 Japanese living south of Del Mar were ordered to leave the county on April 7, 1941. (North County’s Japanese were shipped off a few weeks later.) Officials later commented on the orderly way these residents — many of them citizens, some veterans of the U.S. military — gathered in the Santa Fe Depot, their destination unannounced.
     “It is part of our duty as Americans to go,” Sam Fujita, executive secretary of the Japanese-American Citizens League, told a reporter. “If our departure will improve public morale, it is our job to accept it in the best spirit possible.”
     The trains left the station, carrying with them an entire business community. Japantown never recovered. According to the historical society’s Canada, only two Japanese families came back from the camps to resume their downtown trades: The Kawasakis reopened their grocery and the Obayashis took back the Sun Cafe. (In 2009, the Sun became a Mexican restaurant, Funky Garcia’s.)
     The Kawamotos’ and Mamiyas’ initial destination was the Santa Anita racetrack. After four months living in stables, these families were among the thousands moved to Poston. Mitsuko would be there for the war’s duration, but Yukio left in summer 1944 to attend college in Indiana. When Japan surrendered in August 1945, he returned to San Diego.
     After a few years spent helping his father make a living as a gardener, Yukio passed the civil service exam. For the next three decades, he worked for the federal government, becoming a civilian computer analyst for the U.S. Navy. Life was good, especially after he met Mitsuko at a Young Buddhist Association dance in 1955. They married three years later.
     Neither Kawamoto has bad memories of camp. But they believe those years took a toll on their parents.
     “As far as families were concerned, especially kids my age — we never spent time with our parents,” Yukio said. “I didn’t do anything bad, but I never felt they were strong authorities, like they were before the war. It definitely undermined their authority.”
     Their parents, though, never complained — and neither did their adult children. At home, Yukio and Mitsuko rarely mentioned World War II or the internment camps to their three sons.
     “And there wasn’t a whole lot of Japanese culture in our home,” said Jon Kawamoto, 51, now a biotech executive in Northern California. “I think they were influenced by the internment camp experience to downplay their Japanese-American culture and experience.”
     Slowly, though, that changed. After he retired in 1980, Yukio volunteered at the Buddhist Temple of San Diego and the Japanese American Historical Society. The couple’s living room now includes Japanese artwork, and both husband and wife speak at schools and universities. Students are often baffled by their accounts. Why did Washington force these Americans into exile?
     The Kawamotos are puzzled, too.

“There’s nothing in the Constitution that says during wartime all civil liberties are suspended,” Yukio said. “Yet that’s what happened to us.”

Click here to view the Video: Their Story Yukio & Mitsuko Kawamoto

Source: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/may/19/wwii-japanese-americans-in-san-diego/


Repealing Support of WW II Japanese internment

L.A. County Board repeals support of WWII Japanese internment
By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 6:00 PM EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
Los Angeles (CNN) -- The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday unanimously repealed a resolution made seven decades ago supporting the internment of Japanese Americans shortly after Japan's Pearl Harbor attacks, which led the United States to enter World War II.
     The five-member board heard emotional testimony from Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated in the internment camps or whose parents were placed in the camps.
     They recounted the racial hysteria of the era.
     Donald Nose, president of the Go For Broke National Education Center, a nonprofit group dedicated to Japanese-American civil liberties issues during WWII, said, "To this day, my uncle and mother still have nightmares about the incarceration process."
     Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas introduced the motion Wednesday to void the board's 1942 endorsement of the barbed-wired camps.
     "The internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry was no doubt a low point in American history. The county of Los Angeles in ... 1942 contributed to that by a resolution that is on the books of this great institution," Ridley-Thomas said during the meeting.
     "To ignore this and leave it as unfinished business is essentially to trivialize it, and we choose not to trivialize this travesty," Ridley-Thomas said.
     More than 70 years ago, the board voted unanimously to endorse President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 in February 1942 that put 120,000 Japanese Americans, about a third from Los Angeles County, in internment camps for up to three years, Ridley-Thomas said.
     The board said then it was difficult "if not impossible to distinguish between loyal and disloyal Japanese aliens."
     Ridley-Thomas said his proposal was meant "to address a historic wrong."
     Bill Watanabe, the recently retired executive director of the Little Tokyo Service Center in Los Angeles, a social welfare agency, said he read the 1942 resolution on Tuesday and found it disturbing.
     "It would be comical if it weren't so tragic," Watanabe told the board. "Since you can't tell between loyal and disloyal Japanese aliens), let's round them all up and put them away.
     "This kind of thinking cannot exist in the county of Los Angeles, which takes pride in its diversity," Watanabe said.
     Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka, a third-generation Japanese-American, told the board that his grandfather, a prominent businessman in Los Angeles' Little Toyko neighborhood, was among the first detainees rounded up and was sent to Fort Leavenworth because the U.S. government "thought he was a spy."
     Fujioka's father was also put in a camp while in his fourth year at the University of California, Berkeley, and he had never finished college at the time of his death in 1992, Fujioka said. Despite the indignities, his family "taught me to be a proud American," Fujioka told the board. He then began crying.
     Actor George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu on the television series "Star Trek," also testified in support of the motion and recalled his experience when two U.S. soldiers with bayonet rifles took him, then age 5, and his parents and family from their Los Angeles home and placed them in reeking horse stalls at the Santa Anita racetrack.
"My mother remembers it as the most degrading, humiliating experience she ever had in her life. She didn't know the other humiliations that were going to follow," Takei told the board. "But for me, I remember it as it was kind of fun to sleep where the horsies sleep." Takei and his family were then sent to internment camps in Rohwer, Arkansas, and Tule Lake, California.
Marlene Shigekawa
     Marlene Shigekawa (Poston 21-11-D) , 67, of Lafayette, California, didn't attend Wednesday's board meeting, but in an interview with CNN, she said she was born in barbed-wire-enclosed internment camp in Poston, Arizona, in 1944. Her mother (21-11-D) , now 103, lives in Culver City near Los Angeles, she said.
     "For the Japanese-Americans of all generations, the interment experience was a defining moment," Shigekawa said. "It spoke to the courage and ability to endure and to overcome a painful experience in which Japanese-Americans at the time of the war were dishonored and shunned by their own country.
     "It brings back a bittersweet experience in the sense that there was so much pain in terms of shame and humiliation associated with it, but the community was triumphant in overcoming adverse circumstances and building a future for subsequent generations," she said.
The Shigekawa family 
     Shigekawa, a board member of the Poston Community Alliance, a nonprofit restoring the Poston internment camp, said she and the group are making a documentary on Japanese-American mothers and their children born in Poston, located on the Colorado River Indian Reservation.
     At the end of this month, the group is planning to return to the Poston internment camp site an original wooden barracks that's now located 15 miles away in Parker, Arizona, where a local man had bought the barracks, she said.
     The Alliance is now in the process of having the Poston camp declared a National Historic Landmark because it was the largest of the camps, with 18,000 Japanese-Americans at its peak, making it the third largest city in Arizona then, she said.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/06/us/california-japanese-internment/index.html?iphoneemail


Monterey Nursery thrives

World War II veteran Yukio Sumida's Monterey nursery still thrives
Yukio Sumida fought with legendary 442nd battalion
By Dennis Taylor
Herald Staff Writer

Yukio Sumida
     The large garden outside Yukio Sumida's (Poston 215-5-B) home is where he spends much of his time nowadays, planting, pruning, propagating, putting to work the knowledge he accumulated throughout his adult life.
     At 93, Sumida sets his own pace, works until he gets tired, goes inside for a nap, then comes back outside and gardens some more. Sumida spent the better part of five decades working hard at Cypress Garden Nursery, the Monterey business he founded in 1952 on a triangular lot at Cass Street and Munras Avenue.
     "I came over the other day and found him digging a hole to plant his vegetables," said daughter-in-law Betsi Sumida, who married Yukio's son, Ray, 41 years ago. "I asked if I could help, but he said no and just kept digging. He goes slow, takes his time, and gets it done the way he wants."
     Sumida grew up as a farmer's son in Watsonville, then attended Monterey High, where he met Mariko Tsubouchi, a girl he called "Mollie." (Poston 215-6-A)
     They were sweethearts when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. On July 4 of that year, Mollie, her mother, and five sisters were transported by train from Salinas to a barbed wire-enclosed internment camp in Poston, Ariz., where they were held with thousands of other Japanese Americans who initially were deemed to be a wartime security risk. Sumida was drafted and shipped to Kentucky to train with a tank unit.
     The U.S. government reunited them long enough to get married, then transferred Sumida out of his tank unit and deployed him instead to fight the Nazis in Italy and France. Sumida became a member of the legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team -- composed almost entirely of Japanese-Americans--which became the most celebrated and decorated unit of World War II.
     "Being (Asian) has always been a struggle. But if people call me a Jap, so what?" he says today without a hint of bitterness. "I was just a soldier. My life was always too good to be angry at somebody."
     The 442nd remains a topic of controversy to this day. The "Go For Broke" battalion, as it became known, was sent into some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, both in Europe and the Pacific. Its most famous battle was largely a suicide mission to rescue "The Lost Battalion," a group of Texas National Guardsman who were surrounded by German forces in France's Vosges Mountains. After five days of battle, they broke through and rescued 230 men. More than 800 members of the 442nd gave their lives on that mission.
     Fate may have saved Sumida's life twice during the war. His first outfit-- the tank unit to which he was originally assigned --was almost completely wiped out in North Africa. And on the day before the 442nd's "Lost Battalion" mission, he was injured by shrapnel and was excluded from that bloodbath.
     More than five decades later, in 1997, Sumida would become one of three executive producers of "Beyond the Barbed Wire," a documentary that chronicles the heroics of the 442nd. He is one of several Japanese Americans who tearfully recounts the horrors of battle in the film.
     "The Germans opened up on us," he recollects in the documentary. "My friend in front of us started crying, asking for help. I crept inside the ditch, got to him, and turned him over. He was hit. Only two members of the squad came out with me. It was so bad. I prayed, swore to God that I'd go to church every weekend if I got out of there, but I guess I'm a hypocrite because I never did go."
     Mollie, seated next to him during the taping of that interview, shakes her head. "I've been married to him for 52 years and I've never heard a lot of this," she says. "He has never talked about any of this."
     Daughter Ann agrees in the documentary that her father rarely spoke a word about his service to the country during the war. "When I was younger I'd ask him questions about the war, and he'd tell me, 'Well, you'd just jump in your foxhole and pray,'" she says in the film. "It's only been within the last year or so that he's opened up about his feelings about the war and the 442nd."
     Sumida says today that he came out of the Army with hearing loss and without job skills. Those obstacles, along with his Japanese heritage, made job hunting difficult, so the farmer's son became a gardener. "I came from a family of farmers, and farming is nothing but learning," he said. "Nobody taught me how to do anything, but I've learned all my life from experience, by doing it. You do what you can to earn a living and support your family."
     The Sumidas-- a family of four, with children Ray and Ann --lived frugally, a lifestyle Yukio endorses to this day. They moved into an old garage on six acres of rented property near the intersection of Cass Street and Munras Avenue in Monterey and saved their pennies to open a nursery.
     "There was a pit in the garage that they covered with plywood, and they hung blankets to make walls," said Betsi Sumida, a family friend before she married Ray. "They lived there while they built the nursery."
     Cypress Garden Nursery opened at Cass and Munras in 1952 and continues to operate as a family business today at 590 Perry Lane.
     Ray, now 68, says he spent a good chunk of his youth working shoulder-to-shoulder with his dad, while his mother charmed the customers, utilizing an otherworldly memory to recall their names, the names of all their children, what kind of plants they had purchased in previous visits, and a thousand other details that kept the clientele coming back over the decades.
     "I remember complaining a lot, but my dad taught me a work ethic from the time I was little," he said. "And maybe my parents were thrifty, but they made sure Ann and I had everything we needed. We had a good childhood, and the lessons I learned from my mom and dad paid dividends because I enjoy working to this day."
     Betsi, Ray and his sister, Ann Tsuchiya, continue to run Cypress Garden Nursery. Mollie, who worked there until she was 80, died March 5 at age 90. She was married to Yukio for 69 years.
     Yukio has three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
     In November, he was among the surviving members of the 442nd who were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award the nation can bestow. He downplays the importance of the medal.
     "It's not worth a penny to me. It's just something that makes all the big shots feel happy," Yukio said with a hint of a smile. "Six or seven years from now, when I'm gone, the grandchildren can take it to the pawn shop."
     Ray Sumida laughs out loud and shakes his head at his father's humility. "You know, he used to let me play with all of his war medals when I was a child. There were quite a few, I remember losing some of them," Ray said. "He didn't care. They were never important to him. Going to war and fighting for his country ... that was just something he was supposed to do. To my dad, it was just part of being an American."

Source: http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_20775084/world-war-ii-veteran-yukio-sumidas-monterey-nursery


Finally Graduation Day

Graduation Day finally comes for alumnus torn away by World War II internment
May 17, 2012
Rev. Paul Nagano
     In 1941, Paul Nagano ’42 was a carefree student at then-Chapman College, enjoying pranks with his fraternity brothers, studying theology and playing basketball on the squad “too short to play varsity.”
     That life quickly ended after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and in 1942 Nagano was incarcerated in a relocation camp. It meant an early end to his senior year — no grad week antics with friends, no place in the traditional commencement procession. But deep in the Arizona desert where Nagano and his family were interned (Poston block 327) , a package arrived – Nagano’s diploma from Chapman.
     “I received my bachelor of arts degree, sent to me in the wilderness camp. It was a total surprise, but meant a great deal for me to be remembered,” he recalls.
     On Saturday, May 19, The Rev. Nagano, Ph.D., will be remembered again by his alma mater when he is presented an honorary doctorate at the commencement ceremony for Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences. It will be his first visit to the Orange campus, having attended Chapman when it was in Los Angeles. His wife (formerly Florence Wake of Poston 326-10-D) and three children, including two traveling from Hawaii, will be in attendance.
     “It’s very exciting,” Nagano said, speaking from Atherton Baptist Homes in Alhambra, where he resides and serves as a chaplain. “It’s a redemptive experience, because you know to have your education interrupted and go into a concentration camp, it’s kind of disappointing.”
     Disappointment is just about the harshest word Nagano, who turns 92 next month, has for the internment experience that interrupted the lives of nearly 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans. He recalled tense moments in the days after Pearl Harbor, including a scuffle in a diner with an angry man who called him “a damn Jap,” as well as detainment by police when he was visiting two Baptist missions he served in Japanese neighborhoods near Los Angeles Harbor and Terminal Island. By spring he was in Poston internment camp. But he says his faith, work and even the process of writing his doctoral dissertation helped him rebuild and mend his life.
   “Because I was in service to God, I was able to handle it,” he said.
   Nagano was allowed to leave the camp to attend Bethel Baptist Seminary in Minnesota so he could enlist in the Army as a chaplain, but the war ended before he completed his degree. After completing the degree he went on to a successful career in ministry, serving congregations in Los Angeles, Hawaii, Seattle, Oakland and throughout Northern California.
      He earned his doctorate at the Claremont School of Theology. There Nagano says he spent a year of intense study on the subject of race, ethnicity and identity. The process helped him resolve the questions that “haunted” him after the war and internment, he says.
     “In our world we have to learn to live with diversity. In this diversity, life becomes much more interesting and exciting. Not only interracial, but interfaith, too.”

Source: http://blogs.chapman.edu/happenings/2012/05/17/graduation-day-finally-comes-for-alumnus-torn-away-by-world-war-ii-internment/