The internment of more than 100,000 people behind barbed-wire fences during World War II simply because of their nationality has not been forgotten by their hundreds of thousands of offspring. Dozens of books have been written, websites devoted, many organizations, even a TV documentary carry on the dark memory.
They mention places called Manzanar, Topaz, Tule Lake, Heart Mountain, but not Missoula, Livingston or Santa Fe.
First Taken, Last Released assembles accounts previously written in Japanese to add a narrative to the highly detailed government records of the internment odyssey of Shinri Sarashina, an innocent Buddhist priest arrested by the FBI as one of the first 160 Japanese men taken and among the last 42 released four years and two days later.
About 5,000 other men, Japanese and Japanese-Americans, Issei and Nisei, were incarcerated in those overlooked camps without contact with family, no conversation, much less contact with females, and kept into the dark about their future beyond the next few days as they were shifted from camp to barbed-wire camp.
None was ever charged with a crime, much less sedition, treason or spying. Not for 50 years did they receive an apology from the government that seized them and a sackful of belongings, and detained them as if they were common criminals. Those who survived until then also got $20,000 for their time, material losses and troubles, reparations if you will. If they died before then, their families received nothing.
It must be spooky to those aware of WWII internment when would-be politicians speak today of locking up some other group of people because of their looks, culture, nationality or religion.
Really? Could we make the same mistake? Was George Santayana correct when he wrote more than 100 years ago that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”? Let First Taken fill in missing parts of the internment history as it serves as a memory-jogger.
About the Author
Howard Fields is a semi-retired journalist in Lahaina on Maui and author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors, W.W. Norton, 1978, about the Nixon impeachment effort. He spent a year covering the story as a UPI reporter early in a thirty-five-year career in Washington, DC.
He left UPI to become a freelancer, working as a Washington reporter/writer/ editor/stringer/bureau chief for several newspapers, magazines, newsletters and Web sites. He moved from Virginia to Lahaina in 2003 where he specializes in manuscript-editing for would-be book authors and operates Setting the Record Straight, publisher of books concerning current issues.
In 2015, he authored Tommy’s Wars: Paradise to Hell and Back, parts of which were used for First Taken, Last Released: Overlooked WWII Internment.