ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Letter from a Japanese American to her PenPal

Updated on November 4, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

Santa Anita Assembly Center for Japanese Quarters 789, May 2, 1942


Dear Susan:

This morning the bus brought us to the old Santa Anita racetrack. I don't know how long they plan to keep us here. We spent all morning in the control station just inside the main gate. What kept us there so long was Father trying to settle the handling of our farm. I thought maybe when they saw from his uniform that he had served honorably in the First War, they would make allowances for us, but they did not. They did tell us though, if we were interested in purchasing War Savings Stamps, where we could buy them.

Everything we carried in with us was opened and inspected. The military police examined every mundane item as if it were something of some importance. Our radio was kept, but almost everything else returned. My Mother asked if we could have the things back later. The soldier said, "possibly."

Father and Mother were asked a lot of questions about our family, me and even Lee. What their interest could be in an eight year old boy, I couldn't say. I think the questioner was a little uncomfortable when Father said his oldest son was a sergeant in the United States Army. Mother had to answer questions about Grandfather also, even though he passed on last year.

Other families were arriving all the while we waited. Many came on the same kind of green school bus we rode. Some drove trucks or cars loaded with boxes and suitcases. An ironing board stuck out the back window of one station wagon. I started to call out to those people because I knew they wouldn't get to keep it. That inspection room was full of ironing boards women had tried to carry in with them. Mother told me to keep quiet.

A doctor examined each of us, gave us vaccinations, and removed the name tags that had been tied to our wrists when we boarded the bus this morning. Finally, we were taken to what the soldier called our "quarters." It is one of many one-story buildings in rows and rows stretching all the way across and up and down the length of what used to be the race track's parking lot. All the "houses" are covered with colorless tar paper. The "street" we are to live on is named Azucar. That was the name of a horse that used to race here at Santa Anita.

Our quarters has one room, but we each have our own cot with a blanket. There is one screened window and the floor is made of concrete. It's kind of dim. There is only one light fixture, and it only has a forty watt bulb in it. The people here call the bathroom a latrine. It is about a half dozen doors down the street.

We take our meals at the yellow mess hall. I have a yellow button I have to wear to get in to eat. And if we don't go at the time we're assigned to go, I guess we go hungry, although they must have to serve meals almost around the clock to get all these people fed. I wonder if tonight was a typical supper. We had a frankfurter, boiled cabbage that didn't taste like Mother makes it, bread and rice, and cherries out of a can.

We met some of our neighbors who will be going to meals the same time we do. They told us a lot about what to expect living here. One elderly man said the only thing he could not get used to was the search light that circulated every five or ten minutes at night. It keeps him awake. A woman warned Mother of the long waiting lines they have to stand in to be able to wash and iron their family's clothes. She said there are never enough clothes lines available at any one time to hang their laundry out to dry all together. The family members need to spread out and keep track of where the clothes are hung in different places.

It seems many of the people work here, so Father may be able to do some farming. The men grow most of the vegetables that are served in the mess halls. Lee and I can attend English classes, and he might be able to join a softball team. I hope they offer literature in those classes because Lee and I have both spoken English all our lives and don't need to take lessons. Grandfather still spoke some Japanese, especially the months before he passed.

Apparently there will be enough to do to keep us busy while we are here. I wonder, though, how long it will be before we can go back home. Mother says they are holding us here for our protection. Father says we have been betrayed by our own country. I just miss you and my other friends. This place is so foreign to me. It is nothing like our house, or our farm, or our school, or anything I have ever known. Others say this is all because of the war. But that doesn't make any sense. To look at you, no one would ever know your family moved here last year from Germany, and they let you stay at home.

Please write.

Your friend,

Kim


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Rant on! Thanks

    • profile image

      ahorseback 

      2 years ago

      Kathleen , Yesterday in my state , I went to re-new my drivers license, I needed my old license , I took my passport , Not enough ! I had to have my SS card , two letters addressed to me at my address , and a credit card which cost an extra 3 % to use . America's fears or paranoia's are unfortunately directed mostly at Americans , I believe we are all becoming slaves to a tyranny , this federal government and the apathy of our "leadership ". Yet as an American I try to make everyone in my life more than welcome here . Fortunately for us , it seems that foreign immigrants ARE often our best people ! But hey I'm ranting so , great hub girl , I didn't know you and Theresa were buddies , Two beautiful souls !

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      ahorseback: You make my ultimate point beautifully. There were circumstances that led this nation to take the steps they took at the time, however misguided. Could we take similar misguided steps in today's world? Under the right circumstances - we sure could.

      wrenchBiscuit: You nailed my point also. Fear can drive an entire nation to react unfairly when we feel threatened. Just look at the aftermath of 9/11. Sometimes it is choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils. Sometimes we later regret our choices.

      Thanks to all of you for advancing this discussion. (Yes, Theresa and I are sisters from another mother. Thanks for the blessings and pray for those who must put up with us in their universe!)

      Snow Falling on Cedars is an excellent recommendation (book and film) to get a greater appreciation of how our nation's choices during the genuine threat of war directly affected the lives of our own citizens.

    • wrenchBiscuit profile image

      Ronnie wrenchBiscuit 

      2 years ago

      This is an important and well written story. Contrary to what apologists will say about that particular era, the truth is that the Germans were as big a threat as the Japanese. Considering the ambitions of Hitler and the Nazi party, many will argue the Germans were an even greater threat; not to mention the fact that the U.S. had already waged war against Germany in World War I. Let us also not forget that German terrorists attacked Black Tom Island in New York Harbor July 30, 1916, blowing up a major U.S. munitions depot.

      All things considered, it is remarkable, but not surprising, that Japanese Americans were herded off to the Konzentrationslagers, while German Americans were not. If the issue had simply been fear, then German Americans would have also been rounded up as well. But of course, the issue was a mixture of fear and racism; both of which are American as apple pie.

    • profile image

      ahorseback 

      2 years ago

      Theresa ! Hello , OMG oh my gosh , really , that is so cool ! Nothing in the world like the closest friend . Blass you two and keep on . Do you two sit on that big front porch ? LOL.......Hugs

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Ed - I absolutely love Snow Falling on Cedars. Sorry for butting in, but Kathleen and I are very close friends. We have known each other since 12th grade, shared an apartment briefly, lost track of each other for almost twenty years, reconnected a little over 20 years ago, live 25 minutes from each other, and meet for breakfast every other week. She talked me into HubPages and into publishing my dissertation! We have HISTORY! :) Blessings!

    • profile image

      ahorseback 

      2 years ago

      Not to totally defend this act , but the world was as dangerous a place as possible to America then , Imagine the cultural differences from then to now , the media alone for one . Simply , for the most part a written one with the newer embellishments of radio , a political atmosphere where to join the world wars was a huge gamble , an American public totally naïve of the realities of the war , a far more structured public opinion than today .

      I believe that America "did what it had to do ", yet today we have perfect hindsight , Do we not ? Of course its very easy to find the higher moral ground today ,the message here is an emotional one and rightfully so , Have you ever seen the movie "Snow Falling on Cedars ", it ttells a story like yours of that time . I highly recommend the movie ! I'm gonna share this !. Nice write .......Ed

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      This executive order went into effect 74 years ago today. Hard to believe this ever happened in America.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great History and great narrative story-telling. We too often forget or ignore this part of World War II when we review America History; quite a bit took place on the home front. Terrific twist at the very end of the letter.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)