FAMILY COMES FIRST EPISODE 502
FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE –
– INTERNMENT CAMPS
APPEARANCES IN ORDER:
VINCENT J. RUSSO
MR. RUSSO: Welcome everyone, to Family Comes First. I’m Vincent J. Russo.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And I’m Victoria Roberts-Drogin. Thank you so much for joining us. We all know about December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day when the Japanese viciously attacked our naval base in Hawaii. Two thousand four hundred and three Americans died that day.
MR. RUSSO: A very sad, dark day in American history, which unfortunately led to President Franklin D. Roosevelt ‘s authorizing internment camps for Japanese-Americans right here on U.S. soil. Today, we will meet two families whose lives were affected by these events.
One is Robert Machida whose aunt was one of those interned.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And we ‘ll also meet with Mitsue Salador. At a young age, her life was turned upside down when she was interned. She has made it her lifelong mission to shine light on the story of those who suffered relocation to these camps. Let ‘s take a look.
MS. SALADOR: I was a freshman in college in McMinnville, Oregon, in 1941 in December when war broke out, and after President Roosevelt signed an Order 9066 in February, people began talking about the fact that we would be moved, and it didn ‘t seem real. But, it did happen.
MR. MACHIDA: My aunt, my mother ‘s sister was interned shortly after the war. I got bits and pieces of information from that. Going through school, it was never really mentioned, and you have to understand that the generation that was interned didn ‘t really speak about it much.
MS. SALADOR: One of the reasons that I did not talk about it for about fifty years, is we all felt the same way. The ones of us who had been incarcerated, it was like being ashamed of being imprisoned and stuck like that, and we felt that if we talked about it to anybody, they wouldn’t understand, and that somehow maybe it was our fault that we were in the camps, and that ‘s the kind of thing that was rolling around in our heads, and I was not the only person that felt that way. Many, many of us did not feel like we wanted to talk about it.
In fact, my children grew up not knowing about this, and finally when I started talking about it, they had to come to my lectures [laughs] to find out about it.
I think by May everything was in place, and we were first put into the assembly centers. And, since I was in college in McMinnville, Oregon, which was 100 miles away from home, I could not go home at that time to get clearance to go home to be with my parents. They were taken by train, and the window shades were drawn, and they had to just get on the train with armed guards telling them what to do.
In the Portland assembly center, they had converted the large building into a – – – they had made it into small cubicles, and the doors to the rooms were just a piece of canvas hanging in the doorway. They had made areas which were the post office and the mess hall, and there were about two or three thousand people under one roof in this large livestock exhibition hall, and we stood in lines to go to the mess hall three times a day. We stood in line to get our mail, and life just went on, and rumors were spread about what was going to happen next and all that.
MR. MACHIDA: As you know, people lost so many things; possessions, everything else, their livelihoods, and in many cases, put in warehouses and then taken from warehouses, they had to sell quickly, and in the incarceration period, of course, they were put in conditions that were not very conducive to living.
Congressman Norman Mineta, I believe said, and I’m paraphrasing, that they said it was for the protection but the guns were pointed at the camps inward not outward.
MS. SALADOR: We lost three and a half years of our lives being treated this way.
MR. MACHIDA: Eventually in ’88, 1988, President Ronald Reagan gave the apology on behalf of the American people, and also had the redress for those who were still alive. And, that went a long way.
It says a lot about America insofar as we ‘re able to apologize, we’ re able to move forward, and we understand that this can’t happen again, so it’s a country that we ‘re fortunate that we ‘re able to own up to something that had gone horribly wrong.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: We are talking today about fighting for justice, and the experience that so many of our citizens had in the Japanese internment camps over World War II.
MR. RUSSO: It’s our pleasure today to welcome Robert Machida and Mitsue Salador. Welcome.
MR. MACHIDA: Thank you.
MS. SALADOR: Thank you.
MR. MACHIDA: Glad to be here.
MS. SALADOR: Glad to be here.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So, Mitsue, tell us about the experience that you had. You were a young woman, and what happened?
MS. SALADOR: Well, what happened is that when I was a freshman in college, I had gone there that September, and suddenly in December, Pearl Harbor occurred, and I didn’t know what to think, and when I contacted my folks, they were quite devastated, too, but things began to happen rapidly and there was talk about our having be moved out of our homes, and I didn’t know anything about it, but anyway I kept in touch with my folks constantly, and by February of that next year, which is ’42, President Roosevelt had signed an order, 9066, which meant – – – gave the military authority, the discretion of doing whatever they felt was necessary for the safety of the whole communities, I guess.
MR. RUSSO: So you were in college.
MS. SALADOR: Yes.
MR. RUSSO: And in Oregon.
MS. SALADOR: Yes.
MR. RUSSO: And your parents were living in?
MS. SALADOR: Oregon.
MR. RUSSO: Oregon as well?
MS. SALADOR: Yes, I was a hundred miles away from them.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So you weren’t even able to get home to your parents during this time, because you were miles away.
MS. SALADOR: Well, it was in December when Pearl Harbor had occurred. Nobody had made any restrictions, so there was a Christmas vacation from college, and I was able to take the bus and get home, and that Christmas vacation, another friend of mine in college in Portland came to stay with us, and we sat around talking about, well, what is going to happen? This is a dreadful thing that we didn ‘t think would happen, and it’s happened, so
MR. RUSSO: Were you feeling uneasy or – – –
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: It must have been terrible.
MR. RUSSO: you know, living in the community at that time, how were people treating you and your family during that – – – right at that moment when this crisis occurred.
MS. SALADOR: When Pearl Harbor occurred, and I was in college, my college friends were very sympathetic to what I was experiencing, and they were very, very friendly, and when I got home, I saw that my folks were very much in fear of what could happen, and that’s when I got the idea that this was really serious, and I was able to go back on the bus to the college, and then in February, the President signed his Order, and so that was the beginning of us knowing that something might happen to us.
MR. RUSSO: So what happens then? The Order is issued.
MS. SALADOR: Yes.
MR. RUSSO: What happens to you, and what happens to your parents at that point?
MS. SALADOR: Well, I am unaware of what my parents were doing at home, because at college, I was going to school, and I went to my classes. There was very little different in college in classes. We would you know, I was taking the usual freshman classes, and the professors were very nice to me. Everybody treated me like nothing had happened, really. Occasionally they would mention something.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: How did you find out that you had to leave?
MS. SALADOR: Well, I don’t – let’s see, I had to – – – I received my moving orders in May, as my parents also received moving orders, but along about that time, I decided I should probably get home to be with them, but then it was impossible. Restrictions had been made so that I could not travel that 100 miles, and so I just resigned myself to do whatever I was told to do.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Did you know that you were going to be at the same camp with your parents? Were you in a different place?
MS . SALADOR: I was sent to a different place.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Oh, my goodness.
MS. SALADOR: There was one student at my college, who was from Hawaii, and she and I were the ones that were targeted. I had a Chinese classmate, and she felt that it was necessary for her to wear a button or a
tag that says, ”I am Chinese,’ ‘ and that ‘s how she managed, but when the time came, my friend and I, were told that we are to go to the Portland assembly center, and they would provide the transportation.
So, in the meanwhile, in my hometown my folks were getting all kinds of directives that they were going to have to move, and that they should take care of their business and their homes.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: What business were they in?
MS. SALADOR: My parents owned an apple orchard, and they also grew pears and cherries, so my father had an orchard. And they knew that they were going to be moved someplace, but they didn ‘t know where.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: What happened to their farm? What happened to the property once they left?
MS. SALADOR: Well, my father was fortunate enough to know somebody who – Caucasian, who would take care of the property. I guess he offered to take care of it, because he was that nice a person, and he offered to take care of the property and they made an agreement that my father would get half the profits each year from these crops, and so it was a good agreement, because many people were unable to make that kind of arrangement.
MR. RUSSO: Sure.
MS. SALADOR: And so but then they had to think of getting rid of – clearing remember their house and stuff, and that I put my possessions, I I must have done at the Christmas break, I put my possessions, all the dolls I had into an attic space, and my mother put her kitchenware into this crawl space in the attic, and the orders were that a person could only take what one could carry with them, so they had to figure out how to do that. I had a five-year old brother there with them, and he couldn ‘t carry very much. He loaded his little bag with his toys, and in May, I forget the exact date, they were given
the exact orders that they were to report to the train station in this community at a certain time in the day.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: It must have been unbelievable, Mitsue.
MS. SALADOR: Yes. I know, because even when we take trips – – – when I take a trip, I don’t know what to do with my possessions, but they had to get rid of their household things.
MR. RUSSO: We have a lot more to talk about, so we ‘re going to take a break, and when we come back, we ‘ll talk more about your story.
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MR. RUSSO: Welcome back to Family Comes First. We ‘re talking to Robert Machida and Mitsue Salador and their own experiences on bringing the story of the Japanese internment camps in America to light.
So, can you talk to us a little bit about kind of the history of what happened, and your own personal take on this?
MR. MACHIDA: Well, basically, as mentioned, February 19, 1942, was when the Executive Order 9066 was passed. The command of the military asked that 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two thirds of them born in this country, be moved to ten relocation camps.
In the 1980’s, or 1980, President Carter formed a commission to look into what happened, the relocation situation that happened back in the ’40’s. They found, they talked to witnesses, they talked to a number of different people, and the commission wrapped up and it said, this was based on racial prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan, after Congress had passed the bill that became the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, passed on the apology on behalf of the American people, and some compensation for what had happened.
You have to realize that people lost so much. They put things in warehouses, they sold their properties at below cost, way below cost, in many cases. The warehouses were broken into. Just a trauma. Just the way that things were handled; the fear, the tension that must have existed at that time. It was just unheard of.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Mitsue, you had said when you went back to get your dolls afterwards, they weren ‘t there.
MS. SALADOR: No.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So the loss is on profound and intimate levels.
MS. SALADOR: Mm-hmm.
MR. MACHIDA: So, with the apology in ’88, and with the redress, the country, I think, came to grips with something in their history, and it showed that this country was willing to apologize, willing to say that something had gone terribly wrong, and this, sort of, is a step toward the rest of the history as we go on for other racial and ethnic groups.
I wrote the resolution for Albany, New York, asking that New York State back the Federal findings, whatever it might be at that time, and New York State came on board, and I was very happy with that. The senators, I believe, it was unanimous, the senators and the assembly people, came on board with that.
So, what it was, was saying that, Hey, listen. It was a mistake. We’ re moving on. And, we have a chance for history not to repeat itself. We have a chance right now to say, after 9/11, after whatever, that we’ re not going to fall into the same fear and anger directed at people that are citizens or people that are of a different descent that we ‘re fighting against.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Do you remember, in your life, how old you were when you first – – – when this first came on your radar and you first learned about it, heard about it?
MR. MACHIDA: Well, they never really – – – my parents, who were on the east coast were never interned. They had an FBI agent follow them, they had – – – you know, had to report to Washington every month.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That ‘s remarkable.
MR. MACHIDA: Yes, they took the train down there. Nothing like what happened on the west coast, but still it was a situation that, you know, almost like a stigma to something that
MR. MACHIDA: – – – you had no part in.
MR. RUSSO: And, Mitsue, you mentioned earlier that you felt ashamed.
MS. SALADOR: Yes.
MR. RUSSO: And talk a little more about that, because it had to be just horrible to -and the feeling that way when you’ve done nothing wrong, and you’re an American.
MS. SALADOR: Yes, yes. We grew up intending to be good Americans. My parents kept stressing that we should study and work hard and be good American citizens, and we were not treated that way.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And yet your brother fought in the war.
MS. SALADOR: Yes.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: For one of the most distinguished – – – Bobby, you were telling us about this.
MR. MACHIDA: Yes, it was the 442nd regimental combat team, and they joined the lOOth Battalion out of Hawaii, and they fought in the European area, the theater over there, took heavy casualties. There was a movie put out and a slogan called ”Go for Broke, ” when they rescued some Americans that were caught in the fighting. They suffered severe casualties.
As a matter of fact, when President Truman, there was a parade that was going down in Washington, and he said, not only did you fight the enemy, but you – I’m paraphrasing, but you fought racial prejudice, so this –
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: This was the battalion that your brother was in. MR. MACHIDA: Your brother was.
MS. SALADOR: Yes.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Amazing.
MS. SALADOR: My brother had volunteered for the United States Army in April of 1941. That was before Pearl Harbor, and I don’t know why he volunteered at the time. There was little bit, well, not a little bit, but quite a bit of antipathy toward the Japanese at the time, but I don’t think that my brother went in thinking that he was going to be fighting the Japanese.
He volunteered and was in the United States Armey in April. When Pearl Harbor occurred, he was in Anchorage, Alaska, and immediately those of Japanese descent who were in the Army like he, were sent inland, because they felt that he was too much – – – too close to the enemy, and then he was sent to Chicago and then to Camp Shelby where they trained the 442nd to go into Europe.
MR. RUSSO: Quite, quite a story.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Amazing story, yes.
This is such an important part of our history, and as Americans, all of us as Americans, we need to remember, so we don’t repeat the mistakes of our past.
MR. RUSSO: Thank you so much for being here today and sharing your stories.
MR. MACHIDA: Thank you. MS. SALADOR: Thank you.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And now, here ‘s Father Tony Stanganelli with a spiritual reflection.
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FR. STANGANELLI: As we just heard in the incredible story, the sad story of Mitsue Salador, who, as a child was imprisoned in our own American camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, she experienced a tremendous shame, shame in feeling that she did nothing wrong, but here she was as a prisoner in her own country.
That shame prevented her and many others from speaking about their camp experience years after they were liberated. Their bodies were freed, but their spirits were still imprisoned in that spirit of shame.
Shame is the experience that, somehow there ‘s something wrong with me. I’m defective, that I don’t fit in.
Shame isn’t so much an experience of having done something wrong, but that internally, I am wrong.
Well, God wants to free us all from that shame in our life. And so, Jesus came to set us free to be able to see that we ‘re truly beloved children of the Father. And that, we are always beloved sons and daughters of One who loves us so.
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MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Vincent, there were many legal questions for those who were detained in the camps.
MR. RUSSO: Yes, as Robert mentioned, the legality of internment camps was called into question by the Commission on Wartime Relocation, and internment of civilians in 1983. Their report condemned the internment as unjust and motivated by racism and xenophobic ideas rather than military necessity.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Mm-hmm.
And years later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which provided a redress of $20,000 for each surviving detainee, totaling $1.2 billion.
MR. RUSSO: Today we ‘ve heard the stories of Robert and Mitsue. What did you take away from those stories?
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: They were so powerful. I think what I was left with was really a sadness – – – sadness and hope. Sadness about what we ‘re capable of as human beings when we ‘re motivated by fear and ignorance, and a hope that especially as today ‘s times are so complicated and there is so many competing perspectives and so much struggle in the world today and in the Middle East, that we can be our best selves as human beings, and we can look at the world with passion and tolerance and understanding, rather than reactivity.
MR. RUSSO: Yes, we’re all part of one human race.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Absolutely, absolutely. It doesn ‘t always feel that way for people, but I think we have to hang on to the aspiration that that ‘s how we need to function.
MR. RUSSO: Yes. I was really taken by Mitsue and Robert ‘s sharing of their love for our country and the appreciation of a redress for a wrong. Both of them have sent a clear signal that we should always remember what happened.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Yes, and they were patriotic, both in the pride that they showed about their family members being in the military and serving our country and also both of them said to us on different occasions that they – – – that it was the most wonderful thing that their parents had emigrated, and they never would have chosen any other path, even considering what had happened, which is so powerful.
MR. RUSSO: And at the same time, we cannot allow discrimination in this country.
MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Absolutely. And, if anyone out there feels that they are being discriminated against or believes that their rights are being infringed upon in any way, you can reach out to Vincent’ s law firm for support and direction, and a plan to protect your rights.
MR. RUSSO: Absolutely. Thanks to all our viewers for joining us and remember, family truly does come first.
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