Lest We Forget: U.S. History and Immigration

(l to r) ,Dr. Vincent Ho (Shelly's husband), Tonie Miyamoto, Andrew Ho (Shelly's son), Dr. Shelley Miyamoto, Terie Miyamoto, Emiliano Salas (Linda's son), Linda Salas (Terie's cousin), Karen Miyamoto (Tonie and Shelly's mother)

How Right Was George Santayana?

Spanish Philosopher—George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Children separated from parents and housed in enclosures intended for animals. No, the era is not 2018—it was 1942 to 1945.

As history repeats itself, Mexican immigrants are being detained in 21st Century, America just as American children were housed in horse stalls in 20th Century, America during World War II.

Before the U.S. had entered World War II, the government of Japan executed an attack on Pearl Harbor—a U.S. Naval Base in Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. As a result of the attack, 2,403 American military and civilians lost their lives. According to History.com, another 1,000 were injured.

The U.S. responds to the attack on Pearl Harbor

The U.S. government’s reaction to the attack by Japanese forces was two-fold: First, it entered World War II (WWII). And, second, it interred Japanese-Americans, and other people of Japanese descent in isolated camps.

According to The National Archives, “117,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were native-born citizens of the United States…” were interred. Tonie Miyamoto’s grandmother found herself in one such camp.

Tomizo “Bill” Miyamoto—the family’s patriarch in America, came to the U.S. at age fifteen. He left Japan and later found himself in Wyoming where he worked on a cattle ranch before meeting his future wife Hatsuye. Hatsuye was in a traveling troop of cultural dancers when she met Bill Miyamoto.

We sat down with Terie Miyamoto, her niece Tonie Miyamoto, and several other members of their family to find out how the actions of two governments impacted this family and other families of Japanese descent, in the United States.

My Japanese grandmother was born in Nebraska

Tonie began, “My grandmother [Yoshiko “Connie” Yoshiro] was born in, North Platte, Nebraska.” Her family later moved to Los Angeles where they owned a grocery store. At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Connie was attending Compton Junior College. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the Yoshiros—and other families in America of Japanese heritage were given two weeks to relocate or be interred in a camp.

Active in his religious community—Connie’s father, along with thousands of other Japanese, Buddhist clergy and lay members, was taken away by the government immediately. Connie would not be reunited with her father for several months—all the while not knowing where he was.

The Yoshiro family reported to the Pomona Assembly Center—which had been a horse race track. The family was assigned one horse stall for the entire family to live in while the government built the permanent internment camps. One such camp, the Heart Mountain Internment camp, in a very remote area of Wyoming would become the Yoshiro familiy’s home. The Heart Mountain camp housed 10,000 people of Japanese descent.

Connie Yoshiro, having the forethought to use one of her two allotted pieces of luggage that she could take to the camp, carried her Singer—sewing machine. She was able to leave the camp by finding work as seamstress in Denver, Colorado where she met her husband Tom.

The irony is not lost on the fact that Connie Yoshiro’s cousin —like many other Japanese Americans had volunteered, while others  had been drafted, out of the internment camps to serve in the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, his relatives—Also American citizens, were being forced to give up everything and relocate to a prison camp. Terie’s mother and siblings refer to their time in the internment camp as the time, “When I was in camp….” For a number of years, the younger generation did not know to what sort of camp they were referring.

In a future article, we will take a look at how this period of internment has affected Japanese Americans for several generations—even until today. And, how the children and adult, Mexican immigrants being detained in the 21st Century might experience a similar trauma in the future.

Let us know what you think.

Do you feel there is a similarity between how the Japanese-Americans of the 20th Century and the Mexican immigrants of the 21st Century are being treated in a way that is less welcoming than the  poem ‘The New Colossus’ on the Statue of Liberty suggests?


japanese, miyamoto, ww II
(l to r) ,Dr. Vincent Ho (Shelly’s husband), Tonie Miyamoto, Andrew Ho (Shelly’s son), Dr. Shelley Miyamoto, Terie Miyamoto, Emiliano Salas (Linda’s son), Linda Salas (Terie’s cousin), Karen Miyamoto (Tonie and Shelly’s mother)
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