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Stolen Voices: Young People's War Diaries, from World War I to Iraqby Zlata Filipovic
(Second World War, USA)
‘I shall remember that day I was evacuated for the rest of my life…’
One of the United States’ significant national defence actions during the Second World War was the mass evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry from California, the western regions of Oregon and Washington, and southern Arizona. Persons of Japanese descent were also removed from Alaska, and plans were laid down for transfer of Japanese persons from Hawaii to the mainland. This policy was a reaction to the aggressive bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on 7th December, 1941. It was also in part a precaution taken by the government, who feared that the Japanese population living in America could prove a threat to national security as the U.S. Army planned its retaliation. In an official statement from the Department of Justice, Japanese immigrants were referred to as ‘dangerous persons’. In some cases, individuals were given just forty-eight hours to leave their homes. By 1943, all internees above the age of seventeen were required to sign a loyalty pact which stated the following:
Born in 1925, Stanley Hayami, a Japanese-American teenager from California, was taken from his home and placed in Heart Mountain internment camp. Heart Mountain opened on August 12, 1942, and closed on November 10, 1945. At its height, the population was over ten thousand – it is estimated that up to 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned during the Second World War across the United States. Most of the prisoners in Heart Mountain came from the Los Angeles area and Central Washington. In July, 1944, 63 prisoners who had resisted the draft were convicted and sentenced to 3 years in prison. The camp was made up of 468 buildings, divided into twenty blocks. Each block had two laundry-toilet buildings. Each building had six rooms, which were small and sparsely furnished. Military police were stationed in nine guard towers, equipped with search lights, and surrounded by barbed wire fencing around the camp. It was not unheard of for individuals to die in the camps, especially those in the desert regions, due to inadequate medical attention. Many detention-center survivors admitted that their livelihoods had been destroyed to an extent that they could not fully recover after release.
Despite the devastating atomic bomb attacks by U.S. forces on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Japanese insurgence was relatively minimal. Nevertheless, the paranoia was such that the Japanese earned the nickname, ‘The Yellow Peril’. It took nearly fifty years for Congress to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which finally acknowledged that “a grave injustice was done.” Each victim of internment was to be paid $20,000 in reparations.
8 December 1942
Today, last year, I went to school excited, scared (tho’ I had no reason to be) and sort of embarrassed. When I went to class everyone was talking about it and I felt a little conspicuous as if everyone was looking at me. The rest of the kids said hello to me as usual and all tried to stay off the topic of war. However I didn’t feel much like talking about anything that day. All during English class my English teacher had the news broadcast on. One report was from Manila and was cut short as Jap. planes began flying over. When I got home I did little else except listening to news reports.
Today I took my physical exam. Oh no I think he’s dead…
14 December 1942
Last Monday the Kibei and Issei rioted at Manzanar. They were celebrating Pearl Harbor, and some loyal American soldiers tried to stop them and they killed one and injured several others. Among those who were injured and had to be taken away for their own safety was Tod Ujero. Tod lived over the road from us at San Gabriel and was our competitor. The internal police could do nothing so the military police were summoned into camp. The rioters charged the nips with rocks, so they threw tear gas bombs. When this didn’t work, they shot at the rioters and wounded a few. Now Manzanar is under martial law. During the riot, in which there was a mob of about 4000, one group tried to haul down the ‘Stars and Stripes’ but failed as fountain boy scouts stood guard with rocks and repulsed them.
I hope nothing like that ever happens around here. Now the politicians and such are starting again in trying to take the Jap. American’s citizenship away and make things more strict in camp. Heck, those guys should remember that over half are loyal Americans and the rest are Kibei or Issei. I don’t see why us innocent and good guys should have to pay for stuff that the Japanese do. Things like what happened at Manzanar make all of us look like bad saboteurs when just a minority are the ones causing trouble. Darn it, anyhow us loyal Jap. Americans have no chance. When we’re outside people look at us suspiciously and think we’re spies. Now that we’re in camp the Japs look at us and say we‘re bad cause we still love America. And now the people outside want to take our citizenship away from us as if we’re the bad ones, when it’s really the Kibei and Issei. If they take our citizenship away from us, we’ll be people without a country, ‘cause, gee whiz! who in the hell wants a Japanese citizenship? I wouldn’t go there for nothin’! I guess if they take away our citizenship, I’ll just have to melt off to some island and start my own country.
PS. Tonite we had a twenty-minute blackout.
1 January 1943
Well today is the first day of the year nineteen hundred and forty- two three. I wonder what it has in store for me?
Wonder what it has in store for everybody?
Wonder where I’ll be next year?
Wonder when the war will end?
Last year, today, I said I hoped that the war would end in a year. Well it didn’t but this year I say again “I hope the war ends this year, but definitely.”
Another thing is I hope I’m out of here and a free man by ‘44.
Here are a few New Year’s resolutions I hope I can live up to:
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