Personal stories: A pain that persists

02/19/2012 12:00 AM

01/11/2013 10:42 PM

"I wasn't worried. My husband was a citizen, and I was, too. It ended up, citizen or not, we had to leave everything."


Minidoka camp, Idaho. Family number 014.

Bainbridge Island, Wash., was the first community to evacuate. On March 30, 1942, trucks filled with armed soldiers rounded up the island's 227 Japanese Americans, mostly strawberry farmers, among them Fumiko Hayashida and her daughter Natalie Ong, top right, at their old farm in 2006.

At the dock, Hayashida boarded a ferry holding Natalie, then 13 months old (second photo in photo container on this page), for a journey that took the family from Seattle to California's Manzanar camp for 18 months, then on to Minidoka.

"That was a terrible time," she said. "I hate to think about it. Not knowing the future. You don't know what's going to happen to the kids."

After the war, the family eventually ended up in Seattle, where Hayashida lives today.

"My father felt the injustice of the internment, and my older siblings really felt the injustice of it. We just didn't say anything about it."


Topaz camp, Utah. Family number 21578.

Wearing her best clothes, Mae Yanagi was 7 when she waited with her family for the bus that would transport them from Hayward to San Bruno's Tanforan Racetrack, where they would live several months in a horse stall before being sent into permanent detention (third photo). Her mother gave birth to a son at Tanforan.

Mae's father, Satsuo, an immigrant from Japan, had started a prosperous business, the Meekland Nursery in Hayward, before the war. It was gone when the family returned from camp. He then worked as a gardener.

She became her family's first college graduate, and taught at schools around Northern California, including Sacramento's Crocker Riverside Elementary, before retiring. Mae Yanagi Ferral, fourth photo, rests against a tree in 2007 at her Land Park home.

"My mother thought, 'My children have Japanese faces, so they'll never be accepted in America. I want to take them back to Japan.'"


Born at Tule Lake camp. Family number 14911.

Her parents, born in America but educated in Japan, objected to their treatment: They answered no and no to loyalty questions No. 27 and 28, the questions asked of all internees that many Japanese Americans considered tricks. Would they serve in the U.S. military? Would they foreswear allegiance to the emperor – even if they had never felt any allegiance to Japan?

"The questions split the community," Satsuki Ina, fifth photo, at the Tule Lake camp in 2006, said.

As no-nos, Itaru and Shizuko Ina were sent to Tule Lake, the camp housing dissidents. Itaru, foreground sixth photo, a San Francisco clerk before the war, led a group focused on repatriation. He spent time in the stockade before being sent to a Justice Department enemy ali- ens camp in North Dakota.

After the war, the family moved to Cincinnati before returning to San Francisco. When Satsuki was a UC Berkeley student during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, her parents phoned every night, begging her not to call attention to herself – or them.

"He cannot be with us today. His country has called him elsewhere."

UC Berkeley President Robert Gordon Sproul, speaking in May 1942 at what would have been Harvey Itano's graduation.


died 2010 at age 89; Tule Lake camp, California. Family number 27271.

He had been chosen to be University Medalist for his outstanding academic achievements. But on his graduation day, Harvey Itano sat in a makeshift barracks in Sacramento, reading borrowed medical books.

He was transferred to Tule Lake, seventh photo. But just months later, he became the first Japanese American released from the camp, sponsored by an outside group to continue his studies at St. Louis University. The Sacramento native earned his medical degree in 1945.

In 1949, working with pioneering researcher Linus Pauling, Itano helped discover the genetic cause of sickle cell anemia. Itano, at his La Jolla home, eighth photo, in 2007, went on to work with the National Institutes of Health and UC San Diego School of Medicine before his death in 2010.

Nation & World Videos


Join the Discussion

The Sacramento Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service