Letters from a Japanese-American Internment Camp

Post Office

In the Manzanar camp, children played "Post Office" to entertain themselves.
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

May 9, 2001 -- In February 1942, President Roosevelt ordered all persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast to be sent to isolated internment camps. The order came two months after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Nearly 120,000 people -- two-thirds were U.S. citizens -- were relocated.

A new exhibit at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., reveals the emotional correspondence between a group of Japanese-American children who were removed from their homes in San Diego, and their librarian Clara Breed. Elizabeth Yamada was one of them. She was 12 in April 1942 when she left San Diego for a camp near Los Angeles, called the Santa Anita Assembly Center.

audio buttonMorning Edition featured the letters she and other children wrote to Miss Breed about life in the camp.

Visit the exhibit, Forwarding Address Required, on the National Postal Museum's Web site.