What Life Was Like for Americans Released from Japanese Internment Camps – My Grandpa's Story

in life •  2 years ago

The year was 1942. The St. Louis Cardinals had won the World Series, Casablanca was the most popular movie, Joseph Stalin was Time Magazine's Man of the Year and tensions were high in the United States following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was decided that anyone of Japanese ancestry be removed from the West Coast.

My grandpa as a young man

1942 Was Not a Good Year if You were Japanese

My grandpa was 13 years old at that time. One day, a bus came to his home to take him and his mother, father, little brother and big sister to the internment camps. They were only allowed to take whatever fit in a suitcase. Their home and everything else was taken away forever. When they got on the bus, my grandpa saw his neighbors going through all their belongings and taking whatever they wanted. They even took their car!

My grandpa liked cars a lot

At the Internment Camps

At the camp, they were given two rooms to stay in, one for the kids and one for the adults. My grandpa didn't think that staying at the camp was too bad. He had fun going to school and playing on the baseball team there. It was probably miserable for the adults though.

My grandpa with his dad, brother and sister

Thrown Out on the Street

When they were released from the camp in 1946, they were homeless. They were given a temporary place to stay. Meanwhile, my great grandfather sent my grandpa and his sister out to find a place to live. They found a church and the minister let them stay there for a while. They didn't have a lot of money so all they ate were chips and soda. Eventually, they found an apartment.

Family portrait

Rough Times

Though the experience didn't seem to affect my grandpa that much, his dad had a really hard time after getting out of the camp. He couldn't find a job and became an alcoholic and a gambling addict. My great grandmother would send my grandpa to the bars to get his dad to come home, but he would just give him money to get him to leave. Because they didn't have any money, they would move from apartment to apartment to avoid paying rent. They would never own another house again.

My great grandma

Off to War

Then in 1950, four years after destabilizing his family, taking their home and belongings and throwing them out on the street, the U.S. Government said that my grandpa had an obligation to fight for all that freedom and drafted him for the Korean War. He had to rough it out in the wilderness and saw some of his friends there get killed. When he was offered a purple heart after the war, he refused because he thought the ones who died deserved it more.

Practicing his aim during the Korean War

It Was Destiny

While he was at war, a friend of his wrote him letters, telling him that she knew a nice girl that she could set him up with. When he got back from the war, his friend never set him up with that girl. One day he went to a dance and didn't really like the date he was with. He met a girl there who didn't like the date she was with either, so he gave her his phone number. She called him later and they got along great. It turns out that she was the one who my grandpa's friend wanted him to meet. It also turns out that she would be my grandma!

My grandma and grandpa at their wedding

The American Dream

They went on to get married and have four kids and live happily ever after. All his life experiences taught my grandpa to work hard and be frugal. He studied during his free time so he could become manager at all his jobs. Although his parents could never afford to buy a home, he was able to achieve that dream. He never bought new things unless his existing ones were falling apart. Even when he got old, he didn't want to spend all the money that he worked his whole life for. He wanted to leave money to all his kids and grandkids so we wouldn't have to have a hard life like he did.

My mom and her brothers and sister

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Interesting article indeed! Personally I love to hear directly from your grandpa. :D


He's not around anymore. I would like to have gotten more details!

Thanks for posting this. Your granddad seems to have done very well considering the situation he was placed in. That's what life is about. There's a famous quote that says something like "What really matters is not what happens to you but how you respond to what happens to you"

Wonderful story thanks for sharing!

Wonderful story