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Friday, February 19, 2016

Poetry Friday--Japanese Internment

On this day in 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The order forced 110,000 Japanese-Americans, who lived on the west coast of the U. S., into internment camps. They could only bring what they could carry. They lost homes, businesses, and other property (estimated at a total of $400 million). It wasn't until January 2, 1945, that they were allowed to leave the camps. (See yesterday's post on documenting history.)

Poet Lawson Fusao Inada, at the age of four, was interned with his family in Colorado. He has written the experience into his poems.

The National Park Service, Tule Lake, CA. Has some information and a PDF of poems from Inada's book, Legends from Camp.

The following is a poem that appeared in World Literature Today, November 2014.
To This Day

Have you ever wondered
whatever happened to all the
barbed wire that defined
and confined the so-called
camp at Tule Lake?

That’s a good question
we have a right to ask
as ordinary tax-paying citizens:
"Whatever happened
to all that barbed wire?"

When you think about it,
the very idea of fencing such an expense of land
was a daunting challenge
for all those concerned

because it wasn’t easy
to coordinate "back East" planning
with "out West" implementation,
along with the manufacture
and transportation of materials
from all points in between.

And it was also
an innovative undertaking,
a historical precedent,
because this fence was to confine,
not cattle or criminals,
but residents of the American West,
who, in the western tradition,
were to be "rounded up,"
and "herded" into fenced areas--
Tule Lake being but one such place.

Read the rest here.

Here's a PBS video about the Granada Relocation Center, also known as Amache, in Colorado.

At Mainely Write, you're be greeted by Donna who is hosting the Round-Up and holding a between-times celebration.


  1. Such a timely post, not only because of the internmment "anniversary"...Seems to me "anniversary," in the spirit of Donna's hostess post rightly connotes celebration, and yet--like the Trail of Tears, this is a low-point for our country--nothing to celebrate. Such haunting lines: "That’s a good question we have a right to ask as ordinary tax-paying citizens: "Whatever happened to all that barbed wire?" Thank you for reminding us about what never should have been, so poignantly punctuated by someone whose perspective is personal and universal. Thank you for bringing this day to our attention. God bless you, and God bless all the survivors.

    1. It is important to remember all of history, even that which paints us in a less than flattering light.

  2. It was certainly a difficult time in our history, and one we need to keep in our minds and hearts. Thanks for bringing it to the fore.

    1. It was a difficult time, and one can understand an inclination toward "better to be safe than sorry," however, it was a rash and cruel decision to actually go through with the plan.

  3. There is the remains of a camp outside Denver which I've visited with my students. I'm sitting here listening to D. Trump on the CNN town hall, who is talking about immigrants. Sad that our presidential candidate has forgotten, or doesn't care about our historical tragedies.

    1. It is a frightening time in America. Mob mentality can be dangerous.

  4. Diane, the poem is hauntingly real and the video portrays the injustice of wartime USA. I heard an interview with George Takei on his role in Allegiance on Broadway. This play is his life story of living in the internment camp. Thank you for shedding more light on this tragic time in history.

    1. George Takei is also an active supporter of the Japanese American National Museum.

    2. I was telling my husband about your post and the interview I heard today. Thanks, Diane.

  5. We need to remember our mistakes or we will just keep making them.

  6. Makes me sad to think that this place was right in my own state.

    1. There were camps in several states. There were also camps for Italian-Americans, too. In NH we had a prisoner of war camp, as did many, many other states. If it's one thing we can't seem to get away from, it's locking people up. "On December 31, 2013, the United States held an estimated 1,574,700 persons in state and federal prisons." (US Dept. of Justice)

  7. Diane, Thank you for helping us remember this difficult time in our nation's history. Hopefully, we'll never make these same mistakes again, but I doubt it.