Sound Vault: War Camps

In recognition of Asian-American Heritage Month, Tell Me More takes a look back at the Japanese internment camps of World War II.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now we go to the Sound Vault. There's a lot of history buried in NPR's archives, and from time to time we like to dig up a piece of it and give it new life.

May is Asian-American heritage month, and it's a good time to both celebrate the triumphs and reflect on difficult memories. We wanted to hear more about the interment camps, where thousands of Japanese-Americans were force to live during World War II. In this piece, Ed Kiyohara talks about being held at Camp Harmony. It was not far from his home near Seattle, Washington.

Mr. ED KIYOHARA (Japanese-American, World War II Survivor): It was very difficult for everybody, especially my mother who raised us in our farmhouse and then had to leave everything. Everyday, there was a truck come by and picked up 55-gallon barrels full of garbage. They took it up on the hill above Sumner and they dumped it, and they had, oh, three or four fellows on that flat bed truck. One day, I thought, gosh. They're going right by my hometown. Maybe I can sneak a ride and go into Sumner.

So, one day, I asked a black truck driver, I said, hey, how about dropping me off in Sumner and picking me up on the way back and so I can visit some of my friends and get away from here? Being a black man, he knew the discriminations, and he had a rough time himself. So he said, oh well, I'll take a chance. So, every now and then, I would get on the garbage truck, sit in the back with the garbage and would get into Sumner main street, he'd slow down and I jump off and go to my friend's ice cream shop. And my folks were a little unhappy that I'm doing that because they knew it was illegal.

One day, I jumped off the truck and I was walking down the street and the police caught me, and they said, what are you doing? I said, we'll I'm going over and get an ice cream cone. He says, well go to the ice cream parlor and stay there. Don't walk around town, because it makes me look bad. You're not supposed to be here. I said, okay. Didn't have any money, so the owner said, you don't - you never need money. It's very hard for me to tell you that story, because there's lot of kind people back in my hometown that I'll never forget.

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MARTIN: Ed Kiyohara went on to volunteer for the Army. He earned a Purple Heart and served with the famous all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This story was recorded by his nephew, John Watanami, as part of the hearingvoices.com radio project.

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MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

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