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Home | Episode #42
My Parents and the Japanese American Internment
May 3, 2019 | Student Producer:

Noah Pallmeyer
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My Parents and the Japanese American Internment
USD Psychology Professor, Micheal Ichiyama, tells the story about how his parents met in horrible circumstances. (4 minutes)

The story is about how my parents met. Uh, and it comes in two parts. Um, at the onset of the US involvement in World War Two, uh, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the executive order nine zero six six, which authorized the forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, most of whom were citizens, uh, into internment camps. There were 10 of them, eight of them were in the western states, and then two of them are actually in Arkansas. Uh, my parents came from two different parts of California, so they would never have met, had it not been for this tragic event. And they were both assigned to Poston three, which was in the desert in Arizona. They were also both assigned to the kitchen, uh, in the, uh, interment camp. And uh, that's where they met and that's where they fell in love. And then they were allowed to get married, but they were married under armed escort. Um, so a guard literally drove them in an army truck, to Phoenix, they were married by a Justice of the Peace. And then they spent one night in a hotel from what I gathered and, um, then they were driven back and they spent a total of about three and a half years incarcerated behind barbed wire. Okay. So that's the, um, that's kind of the racism part of the story. 

Here's the compassion part. Um, during the waning years of the war, interns could be released if they were sponsored by people out in the community. Well, the Jewish American community for obvious reasons, was very sympathetic to the Japanese American internment and, um, they sponsored, uh, both my parents and other relatives, aunts and uncles, Jewish families did, uh, to different parts of the U.S. Uh, for example, my parents, uh, before they returned to California, cause there was quite a bit of racism still at the end of the war. Uh, they worked at a Jewish Deli in downtown Chicago for two years before moving back to California. And then I had aunts and uncles who went to Cleveland because they were sponsored by Jewish families in Cleveland. Um, and, uh, they stayed there. And so I would, um, it's a funny story. I would receive these gifts. From a woman named Mrs Shapiro. 

I get these notes, I get these great gifts, you know, Cleveland Indian jerseys and all this stuff, and now I was living in California and it would go, you know "Love Shapiro," and for when I was growing up, I finally turned to my mom and said, mom and she goes, "Yeah?" "Who the Hell is Mrs Shapiro?" And she goes, "Oh, silly it's yout Jewish godmother!" You know, like it was the most normal thing in the world. To have a Jewish Godmother. Anyway, um, I want to mention that. Um, I did get to meet that family. Um, I went to grad school at the University of Cincinnati, so they were in Cleveland, so I got to meet, her name was Roslyn Shapiro. And she was the matriarch of the family and met everybody. And uh, she was great. She chain smoked and cursed like a sailor. It was crazy. I loved her. Anyway, that's it. That's the story.