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We Knew It Was Wrong
I often wonder how many Americans are aware that a number of Seattle residents in 1942 knew that the internment of the Seattle Japanese community—whether citizens or not—was wrong [“The Stolen Years,” December 2005]. No people of Italian or German ancestry were subjected to the same treatment. At Christmas time in 1941, some of us tried through small gifts to express our sympathies to any of the soon-to-be departed Japanese we knew. But we had no way of adequately compensating them for the loss of homes and other property as well as for the undeserved humiliation they suffered as a result of their ethnic origin.

Nancy Ann Holtz, ’70, ’77
Beverly, Mass.

Columns Cover Dec. '05

It Happened in America
The cover story, “The Stolen Years,” in the December issue brought back vivid memories of the deportation of Japanese from Bainbridge Island in 1942. At that time my family was living in Manchester, a village across Puget Sound between Seattle and Bremerton.

Blackouts, air raid warnings, barrage balloons, gun emplacements and rationing were all new experiences to a fifth grader. Everyone was expecting another Pearl Harbor. … Rumors were rampant that the Japanese farmers on Bainbridge Island plowed their fields with furrows pointing toward the naval shipyard in Bremerton. This was to direct Japanese bombers to the shipyard. The reason given for the deportation was “to protect them from harm.”

On a rainy, dreary Sunday morning, most of the town congregated at the ferry dock to see deportees put aboard a ferry. Army trucks drove onto the dock to await the arrival of the chartered ferry. Each truck was loaded with Japanese families and guarded by soldiers with rifles. The ferry docked and the deportees were herded aboard. Each had two suitcases or boxes containing all the belongings they were allowed to take to the internment camp. It was a very solemn occasion. It’s hard to believe that this happened in America.

Jim Mitchell, ’53
Madison, Conn.

‘Relocating’ Japanese Americans
Your article on the Japanese Americans in the current Columns deserves some comment. You tell us that Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps and confined there during World War II. This is not true. They were prohibited from remaining in the West Coast area. If they could not—or would not—relocate elsewhere, they were sent to relocation camps, not internment camps. In Oregon and Washington, the prohibited area involved was roughly everything west of Highway 97.

An example of how the relocation could be handled was the experience of a friend of mine, Masa Yano. He was a year behind me in the Baker City, Ore., schools. When the war broke out he was in school at the UW. He elected to relocate himself. He did not find a ready job in Baker so he went to Ontario and began working on a large farm. This kept him out of the prohibited area. Being a bright and industrious fellow, he did quite well and eventually bought this same farm.

The Japanese aliens were treated somewhat differently and some were confined to internment camps. You do your readers a disservice when you do not differentiate between the internees and the Japanese Americans who merely had to relocate.

Carl T. Kostol, ’48
Baker City, Ore.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For a while after Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were free to leave the West Coast. However, after General DeWitt’s proclamation of March 27, 1942, Japanese Americans residing in the exclusion zone had no choice. Unless they had special permission, they had to relocate to “assembly centers,” usually with only seven days’ notice. There was no difference in the initial treatment of aliens and U.S. citizens of Japanese descent—all were incarcerated in the same camps.

Bringing Clarity
Living in Idaho and Washington most of my life, I knew something of the imprisonment of Japanese American citizens during World War II. Your well-researched article, “The Stolen Years,” brought clarity and another dimension to the subject. I recently learned that not all of the young men in the internment camps eagerly volunteered to serve in the war, however. Some protested the injustice of internment by not volunteering and resisting the draft, and were subsequently prosecuted and served prison terms. Most were later pardoned or exonerated, but the insult added to grave injury that had already reaped its toll. Frank Abe’s moving documentary, “Conscience and the Constitution,” is the story of these resisters;

Catherine Clemens, ’96 Seattle