The Story of George Takei

By: Madeline Butcher

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Born on April 2oth, 1937 in Los Angeles, California. At the age of 5 he was moved from his home in Los Angeles to an Internment camp. He has become highly popular over the years due to his acting career. (Star Trek)1.

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Both of my parents were born in different parts of California. They met in Los Angeles, where I was later born, they are passed away now. Before Pearl Harbor we were living as normal Americans would. We lived in a small apartment in Los Angeles and were getting by just fine until December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Immediately after the attack we, meaning all the Japanese Americans, were hated. Almost all Americans would look down upon us and give us hatred, blaming us for the attack because we had Japanese ancestors. All Japanese Americans living on the west coast were rounded up and sent off to 10 Japanese Internment camps, or prison camps. The Japanese Americans living on the west coast, including my family and I, had nothing to do with the war; we just happened to look like the people who attacked Pearl Harbor2. Before we were sent to the camps, we were forced to sell all of our belongings including our homes, cars, and any other items we were aloud to bring with us. My father was forced to sell his most prized possession, his 1914 Ford model T. We only made about $25 or $50 dollars off of it, which was nothing at all for such an item3. From that moment on we were given weird looks; our neighbors looked at us like we were aliens, as if we were inhumane. When we packed our bags to leave for the camps we were only aloud to bring the necessities with us such as: clothes, shoes, little things that were special to us, etc.

The camps were home to 10,000 people in 100 foot barracks, with one coal stove4. Each camp had sentry towers and machine guns pointed at us at all times. The camps were located randomly about the United States. My family and I were sent the farthest east, two-thirds of the way across the country, to the swamps of Arkansas.

At that time, Earl Warren was the attorney general, but wanted to become the governor. Warren took an oath on the Constitution; he knew exactly what was stated in the document and knew that what he wanted to do would go against that. Later, Warren ran for governor on the “get rid of the Japs” platform and won.

February 19th, 1942 is known as the Day of Remembrance because it is the Executive Order 9066 was signed, requiring internment of all residents of Japanese ancestry in the U.S.

I was five at the time we were sent away to internment camps, so my understanding of things was different from how things actually were. My father told me we were going away on a vacation to a place called Arkansas. When I was told this I thought everyone took vacations in railroad cars with armed men at each end of the train. On the train we were forced to draw the curtains when we passed through towns so no one would see us, but I thought this was just what people going on vacation did.

The camps my family and I were sent to was called Rohwer, located in the swamps of Arkansas. We all adjusted to the new lifestyle pretty well. We saw the barbed wire fences encircling us as any normal fence and the sentry towers as part of the landscape. We were fed lousy food three times a day and attended school there. We started out every school day with the Pledge of Allegiance, which was ironic considering I could see the barbed wire fences and sentry towers outside the window as I recited “for liberty and justice for all,” but at the time I had no idea what any of it meant.

Being released from the camps was one of the hardest things to deal with. We were given a one-way bus ticket that would take us anywhere we wanted to go, along with $20 dollars. Many of the people who were in internment camps decided to move to the east because of their experiences on the west coast, but my parents wanted to move back to Los Angeles because we were known there and our old lives were there. We had no idea how hard it was going to be, though. No one would hire my parents, only other Asians would. The housing was rough and we ended up living in an area that reeked of urine and had creepy people leaning up against the building all the time. My little sister, who was five at the time, said she wanted to go back home, meaning the internment camp, because we had adjusted to it. The camp was better than the living conditions we suffered outside of the camp afterwards. It was rough, but we figured since we were able to adjust to the camp, we should be able to adjust to our new home5.

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