Sunday, February 19, 2017

Executive Order 9066 Signed 75 Years Ago Today

Last Fall Willamette tweeted out a picture of the prettiest cherry tree in town. Even on an overcast day it was resplendent.

In the Fall - via WU Twitter

In the Spring (2013) - soon again
But it is not merely beautiful or a symbol of transience. It is also cautionary.

It is part of a memorial to those Japanese-American students forced to leave Willamette in 1942 and sent to internment camps.

Roger Shimomura - via Hallie Ford Museum of Art
The Statesman doesn't appear to have allocated any resources to the story, but the Oregonian observed the 75th anniversary with a personal note by a reporter:*
Sam Matsumoto spent four years in a remote desert internment camp on the Oregon-California border during World War II, part of a West Coast roundup that sent more than 100,000 people - two-thirds of them American citizens - to confinement because of their Japanese heritage.

His family - and the family of his future wife, my grandmother Harriet Matsumoto - were forced from their Sacramento-area homes to the Tule Lake camp, which at its peak held more than 18,000 people. With wartime fear racing through the nation, the Japanese were told they were enemies of the country. They were charged with no crime and given no due process.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, set the roundups into motion. It authorized regional Army commanders to remove anyone from "military areas" - ultimately the entire West Coast -- as they saw fit. Within six months of the executive order, all people of Japanese ancestry were evacuated from their homes and taken to one of 10 remote camps.
Just south of Greenbaum/Salem Summit
on Commercial (now/then photo here)
via Mission Mill
You might remember the Mill's online restaurant history exhibit. One of its chapters is on Frank Teruhiko Tanaka (1887 - 1980) and his Tokio Sukiyaki House on Commercial Street.
Business was good until international affairs led to increased hostility and discrimination against people of Japanese descent in Salem. Even before Pearl Harbor, the Tanaka family took out advertisements in local Salem publications to show their dedication to the U.S. Despite this patriotism, business dried up at the restaurant and it was forced to close in 1942. Soon after the Tanaka family was forced to leave Salem for an internment camp under Executive Order 9066....They did not return to Salem.


Here's a terrific map and long-form story project: "Justice Deferred: Executive Order 9066 and the geography of Japanese American imprisonment"

Portland area relocations to the camps - Justice Deferred

* This is a piece of local history that we should want to understand in much greater detail. Not just that a few people (fuzzy and notional) were forced to leave, but a close narrative of who they were, their names and family, what they did, what void they left, and (perhaps especially unpleasantly) who benefited from the departures and filled the voids. It probably shaped Salem, and the fortunes of some Salemites, much more than we want to think.

According to the Salem online history, "on June 1, 1942, the remaining 244 Japanese-Americans in the Salem area were taken to the Tulelake internment camp."

This is not enough detail. Even if justice cannot now be obtained by those who were forced to leave, we should want to give voice as much as we can to them and their stories.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Added link to map and longform story.)