The Sonoran Room was jam packed on Thursday, March 15. An overflowing crowd attended a meeting of the World War II Roundtable discussion group to hear a presentation by SaddleBrooke resident Ted Sakano who spent three years of his childhood living with his family in what the U.S. government referred to as a Japanese internment camp.
After the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive order 9066 which banned any persons of Japanese ancestry from certain areas of the West Coast. As a result, over 120,000 people, about 80 percent of whom were American citizens, were forced to live in internment camps built in the West and Southwest. There were ten camps in all. Ted’s camp was called Minidoka and was located near Hunt, Idaho. Today it is a national monument.
The word “internment” shouldn’t be used, said Ted. Internment refers to the detainment of government officials by a country with whom their country is at war. When World War II broke out Japanese, Italian and German diplomats and staff were put up in plush New York hotels until they could be repatriated. The Sakano family did not receive similar accommodations.
Ted told the audience about the vaunted 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In March of 1943, the government allowed Japanese men to volunteer for the armed forces. The army placed all the volunteers into a segregated unit, the 442nd Regiment. This remarkable group of fighters went on to become the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for their size and length of service.
Ted is well-known in SaddleBrooke so it’s no wonder the room filled to near-bursting. Using slides which showed photographs of the camp and its inhabitants along with his research he was able to paint a vivid picture of what his people went through in those dark years. The bitterness of those years of confinement was made somewhat sweeter when, in October 1990, those Japanese Americans still living received a letter from the president ending with the following paragraph:
In enacting a law calling for restitution and offering a sincere apology, your fellow Americans have, in a very real sense, renewed their traditional commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice. You and your family have our best wishes for the future.
President of the United States