Teacher reflects on parents’ internment

George and Grace Sasaki rushed their marriage. But when Executive Order 9066 came in the mail, they realized they had no other choice.

The Sasakis and thousands of other Japanese-Americans were notified of their forced relocation to ten different internment camps across America.

In a matter of days, the Sasakis had to get rid of their belongings and were sent to Manzanar by bus, a camp in Inyo County, California.

Manzanar was one of 10 camps used to hold Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the relocation of Japanese men and women from the West Coast was a product of  suspicion toward Japanese Americans during World War II. Within a few months, the War Relocation Authority had moved a total of 120,000 Japanese-Americans into ten camps across the country.

George and Grace’s son is Upper School Spanish and Photography teacher Alan Sasaki. Sasaki regrets not asking his parents more questions about their time in Manzanar.
“Since the government felt [the Japanese] were a threat to national security, these U.S. citizens were put in very desolate areas of the country,” Sasaki said.

“Those where my dad lived, went to Manzanar, and my mother’s family was sent to a camp in Poston, Arizona.”

Despite their situation, internees of the camps tried to maintain a normal daily routine.
Children attended elementary and high school level classes in barracks, mess halls, and laundry rooms. Adults worked different jobs to keep the community going.

“When my parents spoke of their experience there, they always remembered the quantity and quality of the fruits and vegetables they were able to grow in such sandy, hard, non-fertile dirt,” Sasaki said.

“They pretty much tried to keep things as normal as possible in their daily schedule, even though they were surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers.”

Two-thirds of the Japanese were United States citizens, like George and Grace, who were both born in Orange County and raised in Los Angeles.

In 1945, the Sasakis were allowed to return to their old neighborhoods only to find their belongings were gone. 

“I remember seeing my dad’s drawings of aeronautical engine parts… that he wanted to study, but his dreams of college were never realized,” said Sasaki.

Having seen and heard about his parents’ ordeal, Alan Sasaki finds it unbelievable such a blatant violation of the American Bill of Rights could occur on U.S. soil.

“I visited Manzanar many years ago and I couldn’t believe that anyone could live there. I’m certain it was even more desolate in 1941,” Sasaki said. “I hope nothing like this ever happens to any other group of people in the U.S.”

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