Japanese Internment

My name is Makino Toshio and I am a second generation Japanese-American. My father moved to Hawaii before coming to the mainland, like most Japanese-Americans. Before World War II, I worked on a Japanese truck farm. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, tension was bad for any Japanese-American in the United States. Many people in the United States did not trust people with Japanese ancestry. A store that I usually shop at had a sign in the window saying, We dont want any Japs back here-EVER!

Within hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor at Hawaii, FBI agents went house to house and rounded up 1,212 Japanese in the U. S. mainland and Hawaii islands. Most of the arrests were prominent leaders in Japanese communities. All of them were taken to unknown destinations and treated as Prisoners of War. Even Japanese-Americans who were born in this country were mistakenly thought to be loyal to Japan. There were a lot of rumors that Japanese Americans were helping Japan by using special codes to make contact with them.

There is no evidence that Japanese Americans were spying for Japan. Inspite of the fact that there was absolutely no proof that Japanese Americans were disloyal to America, the federal government and its leaders decided that no one of Japanese ancestry could live in the west coast of the United States. On the morning of February 19, 142, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which began this prohibition. News came to use that we were going to have to move to internment camps. We had a couple months to prepare to go to the internment camps.

Some people in other areas only had a couple of days. We learned about the Relocation Centers through posters that had been posted and from talking to other people. The United States called it a Relocation Center so it didnt sound as harsh as internment camp. Other than that we heard nothing and had no idea what to expect. We had to report to Tulare Relocation Center. We had no idea how long we were going to be at the center. Later, when the relocation camps were built, we were taken by troop trains to Gila Relocation Center in Arizona.

I got work at the camp post office which handled more than a half million dollars in stamps. It was an 8-5 job and, in between, I did what I could to have fun like go to dances or the movies. Pay wasn’t very good for work in the camp. The wages were set at $12, $16, and $19 a week based on skills required for the jobs. Doctors and nurses were the sort that got the $19/week in pay. Those who didnt want to work didnt have to. It wasnt like a vacation, but it wasn’t anything like the Nazi concentration camps either. People could buy things from a camp commissary and through mail order.

We had a camp newspaper which had reprinted an article that summed up the camp experience pretty well. Most people never had any bitterness about the evacuation and the internment camps and just went with the flow. Many years were spent in the camps. We were locked behind barbed wire fences, and armed guards patrolled the camps. My family lived in a cramped, one room quarters. There was not any hot water for bathing and washing clothes, and lice was a common problem. I never had time to see my children. They could not have my love and care as much as they needed it.

Life in the camps was easier for women. Most of them took employment of some kind with the work corps. There were English classes, classes in flower arrangement, sewing, and Japanese music especially designed for them. The classes met everyone at night after work, and it attracted many women, including my wife. The men in the relocation center, on the other hand, were the most badly affected of all. No matter how hard I worked in the relocation center, I could not improve conditions for my family. I didnt lose affection and concern for my loved ones, but a sense of uselessness overwhelmed me.

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