Board Member Message by: Setsy Sadamoto Larouche
Day of Remembrance 2012
The Day of Remembrance for 2012 was held at the Hoffmann Hall, Portland State University exactly on the 70th Anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
This year the theme was to honor all those former internees (120,000) who endured undue hardships during WWII for no reason other than looking like the enemy.
When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, the Japanese American lives were changed forever. Originally, they were sent to assembly centers and later forced to one of the ten permanent concentration camps throughout the U.S. Jean Yamamoto; Co- President of Portland JACL started the program with a welcome address to over 150 attendees.
The Minidoka Swing Band, conducted by Larry Nobori, played some popular tunes from that era including favorites like Sentimental Journey, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Don’t Fence Me In with vocals provided by Nola Bogle and Henry Sakamoto. The band also played the Armed Services Medley where veterans in the audience stood as their service song was played. It was very special that Larry, Nola and Henry are themselves former Camp internees. The Minidoka Swing Band was the brainchild of the late Robbie Tsuboi who wanted to bring back some of the history from the camps and to share the idea that people in camp tried to make the best of their situation.
Henry Sakamoto played double duty by participating on the panel discussion that was moderated by Professor Linda Tamura from Willamette University. Other panel members included Yoji Matsushima who talked about living in Crystal City, Texas where he lived with Italian and German and Peruvian Japanese prisoners. He also related that the Matsushima family for part of the time was being considered for deportment back to Japan. George Nakata spoke personally about the feeling and hurt of having his civil rights taken away from him. Dr. Homer Yasui was a 17-year-old student who shared how different age groups had different experiences at camp where he actually enjoyed not having to work the fields in the summer months in Hood River and also getting the bonus of leaving high school a month early. He also got to meet so many other JA and he actually did not dwell on his civil liberties being violated. Alice Sumida was a young bride and she and her husband Mark decided to leave the livestock yard that was converted into the Portland Assembly Center to work in the field of Eastern Oregon thinning sugar beet fields and other backbreaking work.
Professor Tamura expertly kept the panel focused and on track and tied in her thoughts about how she had to deal with the confusion of her parents talk about "camp" with her summer camp experiences. The panel discussion was followed by a lively question and answer period. The program included presenting special pins to each of the 38 former internees who were in attendance. Co-President Susan Leedham presented the pins that depict a bald eagle clutching barbed wire in its talons, contrasting the patriotism of the wearers with the incarceration that they endured.
Unite People (UP) Portland JACL’s youth group gave a preview of a video presentation on the Power of Words, where Yoji Matsushima, George Nakata and a local Rabbi discussed the differences in meaning of various descriptors for the camps used in World War II to segregate the Japanese Americans and the Jews. UP plans to show an extended version of this documentary at the National JACL Convention in July in Bellevue, Washington. The program ended with acknowledgments by Susan Leedham and the Minidoka Swing Band playing additional songs with Henry Sakamoto and Emi Lee, the UP Co-Chair swing dancing to the delight of the audience.
All photos courtesy of Rich Iwasaki