Forced to dwell in horse stalls. An American injustice throughout World War II at Santa Anita

I needed to make a little bit of historical past actual, so I introduced alongside a wartime letter and deliberate to learn it on the place the place all of it occurred, on the horse stables of Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

In the frenzied months following the Dec. 7, 1941, assault on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire — with horse racing suspended for the length — a rushed wartime conversion remodeled the racetrack into an “assembly center” to carry Japanese American folks. My household was there, and so they lived within the horse stalls.

On a softly sunny day in December, I joined a bunch of Japanese Americans on a tour of Santa Anita, the place observe officers described the residing circumstances on the camp.

Some of our celebration had been incarcerated right here, together with 90-year-old June Berk. She led us into Barn 52 like she knew the place she was going. The thoroughbreds emerged from each door, ears perked and puzzled by our look. Berk went on to a stall.

“Well, here it is,” she stated of her authorities lodging in 1942.

During a tour of Santa Anita Park, Darrell Kunitomi reads from a letter his uncle wrote to one in every of his academics whereas he was incarcerated at Santa Anita throughout World War II.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

I peered into Berk’s stall — outdated wooden with light white paint. The air smelled of hay, manure and urine. After we left the barn, I requested for 5 minutes to share one thing. The golf carts carrying the elders have been introduced up, and I learn within the shade of a tree that was there when Berk was incarcerated at age 10.

It was a letter written by my Uncle Ted to James Lloyd, his historical past instructor at Hollywood High School:

June 5, 1942, Dear Mr. Lloyd,

Forgive me for not writing sooner. My solely excuse is that I’ve been somewhat busy getting settled right here at Santa Anita. On the morning of April 29, we (my household) bought up at 4 a.m. … we went to the nook at Lexington and La Brea the place we boarded buses … after an uneventful journey of about 2 hours, we arrived right here.

At the gates an armored automotive armed with about three machine weapons greeted us. We have been registered, given our mess-hall buttons, and have been taken to our residence — a horse steady! Since there are seven in our household at this time, we got two stables. My mom and sister simply sat down and cried.

It was the primary of 9 letters Uncle Ted, then 18, despatched to Lloyd. Our celebration fell silent, and a few observe staff paused to pay attention as my uncle described the indignities of camp life:

The showers (200 for 18,000 folks!) are about ½ mile away. By the time one will get again from having a shower, he’s prepared for an additional one … soiled water flows from the wash and showers, flows proper right into a small stream that runs via the camp. It is left uncovered and due to this fact stinks to holy heaven.

Can you think about, they ration rest room paper to us. One roll to 4 individuals — for 2 weeks! Golly, I’m wondering what is going to occur if all of us get diarrhea or one thing.

June Berk at a stable where she lived as a young girl Santa Anita Park.

June Berk was 10 when she and her household have been pressured to dwell on this steady at Santa Anita Park.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Our tour group included previously incarcerated second-generation nisei who had lived the historical past: We had Min Tonai, 94 (then 13); Hal and Barbara Keimi, 91 (then 10) and 87 (then 6), respectively; and Bacon Sakatani, 93 (then 12). A fast phrase on the nisei: They are well-known for nicknames some non-Japanese discovered simpler to say and bear in mind than their given names. The youngest was Sei Miyano, 83 (then 3).

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They are our revered elders now. The final witnesses. But because of his letters, my Uncle Ted — Ted Fujioka — is a witness too, and the way our household got here into possession of these letters is a narrative in itself.

Min Tonai listens while on a tour of Santa Anita Park

Min Tonai, 94, listens whereas on a tour of Santa Anita Park, the place renovation plans would possibly have an effect on historic Nineteen Thirties stalls the place Japanese Americans have been pressured to dwell in World War II. Tonai and his household have been held at Santa Anita.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The meeting facilities appear a minor notice within the incarceration story that ran from 1942 to 1945. But they have been the necessary first cease, the holding cell for hundreds between a daily lifetime of American freedom, to an extended prepare journey to one in every of 10 everlasting “relocation camps” situated far inland.

Santa Anita grew to become the biggest of the West Coast meeting facilities, with 18,000 Japanese American souls imprisoned there. (A younger George Takei lived at Santa Anita; oh, my.) All the camps, whether or not non permanent like Santa Anita or everlasting like Manzanar within the Owens Valley, have been secured with searchlights, guard towers, barbed wire and armed guards.

Inside the wire there might have been flower arranging and sports activities, however these have been nonetheless prisons. By conflict’s finish seven males had been gunned down by Army guards.

Late final 12 months, Santa Anita officers reached out to the Japanese American neighborhood to hunt enter as a result of renovation plans will seemingly have an effect on among the historic Nineteen Thirties horse stalls.

Our pleasant and accommodating Santa Anita hosts, Nici Boon and Stephanie Kingsnorth, consultants, and Pete Siberell, director of particular initiatives, gathered us on the grandstand for introductory remarks. They emphasised how they don’t have a lot historical past on the barn-barracks, making neighborhood enter very important earlier than transferring forward with the renovation.

Bacon Sakatani tours a stable while on a tour of Santa Anita Park

Bacon Sakatani, 93, excursions a steady at Santa Anita Park, his residence after being incarcerated with different Japanese Americans throughout World War II.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

I used to be a teenager within the tour, belonging to the sansei, or third technology, born largely after the conflict. My older brother, Dale, was born in camp in 1943. My father was drafted out of camp into the Army.

Horses stared again at me as I regarded up and down the barn’s hall. I couldn’t hear anybody else as I took it in and considered my household. Cheerful Uncle Dick most likely started to tidy up. I do know that stunning Auntie A.Y. cried (her white academics had bother announcing “Ayako,” so one other nisei nickname was born).

And poor Grandma Chiyo was unaccompanied. Her husband, Shiro Fujioka, was the Japanese editor of the bilingual newspaper Rafu Shimpo, and he had been taken away the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Using a beforehand ready record, two LAPD detectives barged into the household residence on the afternoon of Dec. 7 and hustled grandfather away with out his medicines. He was held by the FBI on Terminal Island.

The FBI thought that they had the precise kind of man — a first-generation issei immigrant who was bilingual, might write in English and was held in excessive esteem in the neighborhood. But he was no spy or saboteur. He was a journalist who had lined the 1905 Portsmouth Conference in Maine that settled the Russo-Japanese conflict, adjudicated by President Teddy Roosevelt.

Shiro Fujioka had studied at Columbia University and apparently beloved it. He believed within the promise of this nation and established his household right here. That promise was damaged on Feb. 19, 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, stripping away the constitutional rights of 120,000 folks of Japanese descent and sending them to incarceration camps.

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Farms, financial savings, companies and houses have been misplaced. Children needed to say goodbye to pets. A person went mad and lay his neck on a prepare observe to behead himself.

A view of the inside of a barn at Santa Anita Park.

Darrell Kunitomi and others tour the receiving barn at Santa Anita Park, which was a bathe facility for Japanese Americans incarcerated there. A plywood partition divided the constructing, then with an asphalt flooring. Women and ladies showered on one facet, males and boys on the opposite.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Men like my grandfather have been held individually from their households in locations just like the Tuna Canyon Detention Station within the hills above Los Angeles. The management of our neighborhood disappeared, and their nisei kids, like Uncle Ted, needed to develop up and assume accountability quick.

Two months into his time at Santa Anita, Uncle Ted wrote:

Dear Mr. Lloyd,

Thanks very a lot in your current letter. As you probably did with my letter I took the freedom to point out it to my brothers and sisters. It did a lot to boost the morale of all of us … completely satisfied to know that there have been nonetheless understanding, clear-thinking, fellow American residents on the “outside.”

I’m certain that we on the “inside” actually don’t have anything to concern from rumors of our deportation, our lack of our proper to vote, and even our outright lack of our American citizenship. As you understand, there have been solutions made by varied folks and organizations alongside these strains.

Though their nation had turned its again on them, detainees at Santa Anita contributed to the conflict effort by weaving camouflage nets. Uncle Ted referred to them on this letter:

Conditions right here appear to be getting higher. That is, the meals situation is a lot better. Maybe this alteration to the higher is as a result of administration by itself will, however I’m inclined to assume that it’s as a result of current camouflage staff’ strike. You have most likely examine it within the papers or over the air – “Japs go on strike at S.A. because of sour kraut and weiners, a typical German dish.”

The saga of the wartime incarceration of my loyal and patriotic Japanese American household is part of who I’m. My mother and father married due to the approaching elimination. My mother’s well being might have been affected. Grandfather suffered and by no means labored after launch. My activist Aunt Sue pushed for the institution of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Darrell Kunitomi reads from a letter his uncle wrote  in 1942.

Darrell Kunitomi reads from a letter his uncle wrote to James Lloyd, his historical past instructor at Hollywood High School, from the Santa Anita Park meeting heart in 1942. Lloyd’s daughter found the letters going via her late father’s results.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a household affair for us, and it’s heroic and unhappy and really American. I assumed I knew the story effectively, how anti-Japanese hysteria swept up 12 folks on my mom’s facet and 5 on my dad’s. But a few decade in the past got here a revelation within the type of an e mail from Kathie Lloyd of San Jose. I used to be floored as I learn it.

“You and I don’t know each other,” she wrote, “but we have a family connection through our relatives … recently I discovered that my father and your uncle kept a correspondence going during the time that Ted was interned first at Santa Anita Assembly Center … my father never mentioned this to me and I only recently made this discovery while going through a box of things in my garage.”

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I had completed theater monologues utilizing letters Ted had written to members of the family. Kathie discovered me in an web search after discovering the 9 letters amongst her late father’s results.

“My dad’s notes indicate that keeping up his correspondence with Ted helped him (my dad) ‘channel his outrage’ at the time of the internment,” she wrote.

There are 9 letters in all, from the Santa Anita stalls to when Ted volunteered for the Army after graduating from highschool on the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. Kathie mailed me photocopies and I started to listen to the voice of an uncle I by no means met. Somehow, he was satisfied that prejudice could possibly be defeated:

Dear Mr. Lloyd,

… maybe I’ll by no means see the day when America will probably be actually democratic in the actual sense of the phrase, however I’ll have helped in direction of that objective. I’ll have completed my greatest. The those that I’ve met, males from each stroll of life — the teenager of 18, married males with kids, Caucasians, Negroes, Mexicans and Nisei — have taught me a lot about human natures, feelings, loves and dislikes.

One younger, clever fellow about my age, a Negro, taught me essentially the most. His ideas, concepts, hopes and targets, why he volunteered, his ideas on race prejudice, and inequality ran parallel to mine. We should work not just for ourselves, however for all different minorities as effectively, for if we don’t we will by no means hope to make this nation the melting pot of the world.

My mom’s household, the Fujiokas, had lived in Hollywood on Gordon Street simply south of Sunset Boulevard. A small Japanese American enclave took maintain there within the early 1900s.

Before the conflict — the phrase each boomer heard rising up — my aunts and uncles attended Grant Elementary, Le Conte Junior High and Hollywood High. The second youngest Fujioka son was Ted. He was one thing of a golden boy, good-natured, a pure born chief.

Uncle Ted served within the famed all-nisei unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, generally known as the Purple Heart Battalion due to all of the killed and wounded. Then 19, he had made it via the legendary “Rescue of the Lost Battalion,” the place the nisei suffered large losses breaking via German strains in France to rescue trapped American troopers.

But every week later, as he carried wounded buddies, a German barrage zeroed in and a shell slammed right into a tree. The “tree burst” despatched shrapnel and splinters flying. He dove however was killed.

The telegram that started, “We regret to inform you …” was delivered behind the wire at Heart Mountain. In transit to Ted was a letter written by his father, Shiro. It was later returned unopened. His father had closed with, “Do your best duty as an American soldier.”

The resettlement after the conflict was tough on many. Uncle Sam gave you $25 and a prepare ticket residence, if it was nonetheless there. Some lived in silence with buried trauma. Ted’s youthful brother, my Uncle Babe, the athlete, might barely communicate of his brother even years later.

A sansei buddy of mine as soon as invited me over within the mid-Nineteen Sixties. His residence was darkish and quiet, the air stifling and reeking of mildew. His mother was there. She apparently by no means ventured out. Another nisei lady I heard about hoarded rest room paper, filling a complete closet. Just in case.

My mom couldn’t watch the ultimate battle within the 1951 film concerning the 442nd, “Go for Broke!” The G.I.s stand up and yell, “Go for broke!” — the unit’s motto. Some die, however they maintain going, and I cheered like each Japanese American boomer boy as a result of this film was our story and we have been the heroes this time.

But I noticed how Mom went to the bed room to cry alone for her child brother. Years later, whereas she was in a waking coma, with eyes shut tight for weeks, she known as out, “Teddy!”

What would Ted have turn into? Would he have gone to school on the G.I. Bill? Would he have taken to the street on a seek for self as his buddy Albert Saijo did? Saijo wrote poetry and frolicked with the Beats. He and Jack Kerouac drove to New York to satisfy with Allen Ginsberg.

Private First Class Ted Fujioka is buried on the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial in France. It could be very inexperienced and quiet there. He is surrounded by 5,000 fellow Yanks, and on Ted’s birthday — 19 perpetually — our French pals take flowers and ship photos of their go to. Merci to the 442.

Darrell Kunitomi holds a photograph of his uncle while on a tour of Santa Anita Park.

Darrell Kunitomi holds {a photograph} of his Uncle Ted Fujioka, who was 19 when he died in fight in World War II.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The unique letters he wrote to Lloyd are actually a part of a historic assortment at Heart Mountain. His voice, and religion in a rustic that betrayed him and his household, remains to be heard:

Gosh Mr. Lloyd, I actually miss good outdated Hollywood High … please don’t assume I’m dropping religion within the United States due to circumstances right here at camp.

I do know that we’ll make the most effective of it. Our patriotism is being examined to the utmost, however I feel we’ll pull via smiling.

Kunitomi is a particular correspondent.