Japan Society of Fairfield County
Memories or Nightmares
Pearl Harbor and the subsequent war with
Japan were a
traumatic time, especially for those of Japanese heritage in the
U.S.A. (Nikkei). As a group, the first generation of Japanese
Americans (Issei) was deprived of the right of citizenship or
even the right to own land. Further indignities were inflicted
on the Issei and their citizen offspring (Nisei) with the forced
evacuation from their homes and farms on the West Coast. With
short notice, in the case of the Terminal Islanders off San Pedro,
CA, in just a few hours 118,000 Japanese, the majority of whom
were American citizens, were sent to some 10 relocation centers
(now referred to as "concentration camps").
by Eugene Takahashi
The housing at the camps consisted of
grouped into blocks with central un-partitioned latrines and
showers and common laundry rooms and mess halls. The
camps were surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by sentries.
Room furnishings consisted of cots with straw mattresses.
Internees fashioned desks, dressers, chairs, and other furniture
out of scrap lumber, which was provided.
My family and I were sent to Poston,
Arizona, which was
located on an Indian reservation in the desert on the
Arizona-California border. It was especially hot there as at most other
camps and there was no water and ventilation in the barracks.
Space was cramped and my family of five lived for almost
three years in a room measuring 20'x25'. Sandstorms were
prevalent and sand blew into the poorly constructed barracks,
covering the floors, beds and furniture.
Initially, schools and churches were
centrally located in each
block and were run by the internees. Later, retired teachers
were recruited from the nearby area or came as volunteers from
elsewhere. Books and supplies were almost nonexistent.
In 1945, some three years after the evacuation, internees were
permitted to leave camp for the interior, in my family's case,
After some 60 years, the older Nikkei
community has come to
realize that the public and even their children and grandchildren
were not really aware of this shameful episode in American
history although there have been some books written, movies
produced, etc, about the camps and citizens being deprived of
their constitutional rights.
Recently, my wife, Vi, and I joined a
group of former Poston
internees, Native Americans, university professors, Arizona
State and reservation administrators at a conference to discuss
the possible restoration of the site of the camp. Since Poston
was built on an Indian reservation administered by four tribes
known as the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), the decision
was made to incorporate the two cultural groups into any plans
that might be made.
While this combined group faces many
obstacles and problems,
we are all hopeful that the "Poston Restoration Project" will
eventually be a successful one. My hope is that my
grandchildren and their children may some day visit this site
and gain some insight into this disgraceful period in our history.
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