Yesterday, February 19th, was the Day of Remembrance. This is the day in 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. It is the date when Japanese Americans remember this disastrous and dangerous Executive Order and its impact on our families, our community, and our country. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves of and educate others on the need for constant vigilance to prevent fear and xenophobia to be twisted and manipulated to undermine and attack our civil liberties and Constitution.
I am often asked about my mom’s family’s experience as Japanese Americans during WWII. Mom was a 5th to 7th grade girl when her family was forced from their home in Hood River, Oregon, and sent to Tule Lake, CA, for one year, then Heart Mountain, Wyoming, for 2 more years. Four of her brothers served in the US armed forces in the Pacific theater. Below are links and recommended readings on the subject. I continue to update my list. I have published its current version here for the easy access and sharing by others. The list contains general information as well as links to personal pictures and stories.
I. Facebook Photo Essay
Here are 22 pictures showing step-by-step the story of my mother’s family’s unconstitutional incarceration. It is public so even people who don’t use FB can view it.
Toby’s 2020 talk at the Kennedy School, Portland, OR – Originally planned for my mother and brother to speak, I ended up giving the talk by myself. Click “Show More” for a list of topics and clickable time stamps.
90 minutes followed by 30 minutes of questions and answers
Mom’s 2017 talk at Old St. Francis School, Bend, OR – Click “Show More” for a list of topics and clickable time stamps. This talk was unique in that it was an interview between my oldest brother and mom, and a question was posed to him and me at the end.
Mom’s 2015 talk at Wilsonville McMenamins – This recording probably has the best sound and video quality of all of these, but does not have clickable time stamps.
Mom’s talk to the Portland Humanists Club in August, 2015. Introduced by long-time family friend, Del Allen.
Mom’s 2014 talk at Edgefield – Mom gave this talk in Aug, 2014. I made my own slideshow to go with it. Although the sound isn’t the greatest, I think you’ll find it interesting. It is almost 1.5 hours long, and there are clickable table of contents timestamps under “show more.”
III. Animated short films about Japanese American incarceration
Executive Order 9066 – 3:22 long – includes recording of Eleanor Roosevelt strongly opposing the Japanese American imprisonment at timestamp 1:24
Searchlight Serenade – animated film about dance bands in the incarceration camps; 14 minutes
Yamashita – 10 minute wordless animated film depicting incarceration from a little girl’s point of view
IV. Other Videos, etc.
Excellent one-hour documentary, Oregon’s Japanese Americans, produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting. My Aunt Bessie is featured throughout, and names and pictures of many family members are included.
Shikata Ga Nai: An Inconvenient American – an excellent 27-minute documentary by recent high school graduate, Lauren Yanase. She collected excellent archival photos and videos and interviewed her own family members that were incarcerated at San Anita Racetrack, and then Heart Mountain, WY. She won the prestigious Girl Scouts Gold Award for this work.
An American Contradiction – A 12-minute short documentary by Venssa Yuille, whose mother was born in the Heart Mountain concentration camp.
The Legacy of Heart Mountain – excellent 24 minute documentary. Mom and her family were here for two years.
Tom Brokaw’s visit to the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage. This 4-minute story was broadcast on “Morning Joe” on July 30, 2019, and features a couple clips of mom.
Milton Eisenhower, WRA – The rounding up, building of camps, and imprisoning of Japanese Americans was carried out by the War Relocation Authority (WRA), whose director was Milton S. Eisenhower, brother to the Supreme Allied Commander and later U.S. president, Dwight Eisenhower. This 10 minute newsreel is narrated by Milton Eisenhower and is full of propogandistic platitudes and simplifications typical of the time (views held by some still today)
Order 9066 Podcast – An excellent 8-chapter (plus bonus episodes) podcast I recently discovered. It covers many facets from the lead up, the announcement, the rounding up, men who enlisted, men who resisted, and the post-war experience. Highly recommended!
Renunciation Act of 1944 – The government wanted to deport the perceived “troublemakers,” especially among the more active and vocal prisoners at the Tule Lake camp, but you cannot deport US citizens. So Congress passed this law to allow people to renounce their citizenship. In the fog of war, insulated from news, mail censored, and so on, nearly 6000 people chose to renounce, effectively become citizens of no country.
Wayne Collins – Wayne M. Collins is the late, great lawyer who fought tirelessly for 20 years to overturn the renunciations of thousands of Japanese Americans.
Wayne Collins’ son’s talk – Collins’ son gave a barn-burner of a speech which I recorded at the 2014 Tule Lake Pilgrimage. The audio is mediocre.
Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, 1925-2018- Herzig-Yoshinaga worked tirelessly, sometimes 50- to 60-hours per week poring over opened document archives during the 1970s. She found a document the army had tried to destroy “which provided concrete proof that the army had seen no ‘military necessity’ to deprive 120,000 Americans of their rights.” Here is her NYT obituary: Herzig-Yoshinaga, Critic of Wartime Internment, Dies at 93
(the NYT incorrectly puts her age at 93. It was 92 as her birthday was in August)
The grade school daughter of a classmate of mine read a story about a Japanese American girl who was sent to an incarceration camp. Her classmates and teacher had a bunch of questions, so I invited them to write them out and send them to me. They did, and mom and I answered them. Here is their questions and our answers.
Panama Hotel and a Talk With Students
Junior high students in Seattle reading Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet (see below) invite me to discuss my family’s wartime experience and the history of the Panama Hotel, which I highly recommend you visit.
Dorothea Lange’s photographs
Famed photographer Dorothea Lange was hired by the U.S. Government to photograph the “evacuation” and “relocation” of the tens of thousands of Japanese Americans to show how orderly, humane, and just it was being carried out. After her photographs were reviewed, the bulk of them were seized, censored, and impounded. They were only recently uncovered in the last decade.
V. Toby’s Op-Ed
Oregon Senator Merkley proposed the “No Internment Camp Act” (S.3567).” I wrote an op-ed in favor of this bill and collected the signatures of 18 family members. It was published in the Medford Mail Tribune on Sunday, November 10, 2018. You can read it here.
KOBI TV news story about mom tying her history to Sen. Merkley’s bill:
VI. Recommended Reading
Tule Lake by Ed Miyakawa – a novel based on history of the Tule Lake camp, which became one of the most notorious of all the camps including a stockade and tanks, and where torture and uprisings occurred. Ed is an architect who lived in Newport, OR many years and designed some major buildings and private homes there. He now lives in WA and with his wife have adopted and raised many special needs children from around the world.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This novel is about the Panama Hotel in Seattle, which you really should go visit. Many Japanese American bachelors lived in the hotel, and the tea room there has a hole in the floor with glass where you can see a room where families stored belongings before they were quickly shipped away to camps. Looking through that hole is like looking back in time nearly 80 years.
Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence by Linda Tamura. Linda grew up in Hood River (where my relatives live) and interviewed many Japanese American soldiers about their experience, especially the racism they experienced when coming home after serving. The cover photo shows 4 men, 2 of whom are my uncles. Linda has written many books on the subject and they are all good.
Stubborn Twig by Lauren Kessler. This is the story of Min Yasui, a young Japanese American lawyer who fought the constitutionality of the anti-Japanese American restrictions all the way up to the Supreme Court. He lost the case, but in 2015 was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the only Oregonian, I believe to receive this award. The Oregon legislature voted in 2016 to make March 28 “Min Yasui Day.” The Yasui family was friends with my family (the Asai family).
Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad by Robert Asahina. This focuses on the military exploits in both the European and Pacific theaters by Japanese Americans. The exploits of the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment, comprised entirely of Japanse-Americans, the most decorated unit in U.S. military history are just few of the stories. The late Senator Dan Inouye was a member, and he lost his arm during the heroic and bloody battle at Colle Musantello. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his story recounted in this book.
Made in Japan, Settled in Oregon by Mitzi Asai Loftus. This is my mom’s book and tells the story of my grandparents coming to the US, raising 8 kids, and living through WWII. It’s out of print and hard to get a copy of. My oldest brother and I are working on updating it and republishing it.
Euphemisms – If you use the terms “internment camp,” “relocation,” etc., I invite you to read my blog entry about the power of words and rejecting the euphemisms used to describe this dark chapter in U.S. History.
My visit to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, April, 2018
Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in Portland, 2012 – 4 of my uncles received Congressional Gold Medals, posthumously
Tule Lake Pilgrimage, July, 2014