Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bitter End

I’m winding down the Internment Camp series for now. I’ll leave you with some factoids that are poignant, perverse, baffling and downright amazing. 
Born in Peru, Arturo "Art" Shibayama was deported to the US in 1942 at the age of 13. Art holds a 1939 photograph of his family in Lima. He's the child on the right front fender of the family car.
As if we didn’t have enough mainland Japanese to warehouse in Outer Mongolia we actually imported 1,800 more of them from Peru, 250 from Panama and trace amounts from other Latin American countries.  Bully boys that we are, we cajoled and bribed Peru among others to give us your tired, I mean your Japanese and we’ll give you loans to build steel plants and such. Those banana republic dictators were all over it. The cool plan was to stockpile Japanese so we could trade them for Americans stuck in Japan. Ultimately, not much of that happened so the whole bogus operation was justified as being “in the interest of hemispheric security.”

At the war's end most of the Latin American Japanese who were imprisoned here were repatriated to Japan even though most were born in Peru and had exactly zero interest in being sent there. A few returned to Peru which wanted them like a root canal. Several hundred stayed in the US as; get this, “illegal aliens.” Then to add insult to injury in 1988 the United States government proclaimed that it wasn’t responsible for deportation and incarceration of the Latin American Japanese. Yeah, we did it to you but it wasn’t our fault. You can’t make this stuff up.

Though classified as an illegal alien Art Shibayama was drafted and served in Germany during the Korean War. He was denied citizenship until 1970 because he didn't have legal entry into the US and was also a "stateless Person" since his Peruvian documents had been confiscated when he was deported to the land of the free. 

Fifty percent of internees were under 17.  Yes folks, that’s about 60,000 kiddies to imprison, cloth, feed and school. But, hey, we did keep the family unit intact.
Pledging allegiance, Manzanar. Photograph by Dorothea Lange.
More than 5,000 babies were born in the camps, a fact that seems laudable since barracks privacy constituted of bed sheet hung from the ceiling.
Newborns, Tule Lake.
5,600 Japanese Americans were so resentful of the mistreatment by their own government that they demanded to be repatriated to Japan. Some 1,500 got their wish while the rest found themselves in a no man’s land, scorned and mistrusted by absolutely everybody.

The threads of this story lead to a tangle of injustices that seem to circle the globe.  While this is the last about the camps for now, new angles are certain to emerge.  More later.


Jim Rogers Photography said...

Steve, your entire 'saga' on the Japanese camps and the effects it had on so many was absolutely fascinating. Obviously, a great deal of research went in to it. Good work, my friend.

Steve Immel said...

Thanks Jim. It's a heck of a story and one I'll revisit I'm sure.