An American, Too

I found this interesting sign during a recent google adventure, and it led to some interesting research.

Frank Tanaka immigrated to the USA in 1903, when he was 16 years old.  Twenty-nine years of hard work later he opened a popular Japanese restaurant in Salem, Oregon and became a respected businessman.  His story, told on the sign he placed in the window of his restaurant after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is not an uncommon one.

war_4

Not long after this sign went up, Mr Tanaka and his family were forcibly relocated to the Tule Lake concentration camp, along with most ethnic Japanese living in the western United States, regardless of citizenship status.  Like all internees, Mr. Tanaka and his family were allowed to take only what they could carry.  In some cases, non-Japanese friends were able to protect some of the internees valuables, but many more saw all of their property looted, or sold off illegally–or simply claimed by others.  After the war, many of them came home to find other people living in their homes, often still using their furniture, and they had no legal recourse for reclaiming their property.

Most Japanese-Americans lost everything they owned during World War 2, but despite this, despite losing their rights, special volunteer units drawn from the husbands and sons of the 10 concentration camps set up to punish the Japanese for their ancestry, fought tenaciously in some of the fiercest battles in the war.

Over 122,000 people of Japanese extraction were interred during the war–nearly 70,000 of whom were American citizens. Many others had been in this country between 20 and 40 years.  No person of Japanese heritage was convicted of  sabotage or espionage during the war.  None.

As the war progressed, small numbers of German and Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated at Tule Lake.  Though segregated from the Japanese Americans, these confirmed enemy combatants were often given much greater freedoms.

Mr. Tanaka’s restaurant did not reopen after the war.
Tule Lake Relocation Center

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About JunkChuck

Native, Militant Westsylvanian (the first last best place), laborer, gardener, and literary hobbyist (if by literary you mean "hack"). I've had a bunch of different blogs, probably four, due to a recurring compulsion to start over. This incarnation owes to a desire to dredge up the best entries of the worst little book of hand-scrawled poems I could ever dream of writing, salvageable excerpts from fiction both in progress and long-abandoned. and a smattering of whatever the hell seems to fit at any particular moment. At first blush, I was here just to focus on old, terrible verse, but I reserve the right to include...anything. Maybe everything, certainly my love of pulp novels growing garlic, the Pittsburgh Steelers and howling at the moon--both figuratively and, on rare occasions, literally.
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2 Responses to An American, Too

  1. This is the second post today I came across personalizing the effects WW2 had on the individuals. It is good to personalize it so it does not just become something you read in a history book.

    Like

  2. JunkChuck says:

    Maybe if we had a few million more we wouldn’t move so blithely to violence. Maybe, but probably not. Sigh.

    Like

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