'Remembrance' Marks Japanese-American Plight

Today is known as the Day of Remembrance, which pays respect to the Japanese-Americans forced to report to internment camps during World War II. On this day, President Roosevelt signed the executive order to establish internment camps across the Western Regions. Ed Kiyohara shares his memories.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally, another story of displacement and loss. Today is known as the Day of Remembrance. On February 19th, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order to open internment camps. Thousands of people of Japanese descent, both American citizens and others, were forced into the camps, leaving their homes and most of their possessions behind. One of them was Ed Kiyohara. He was 21 at the time, a college student from Sumner, Washington, near Seattle. He remembers the days of living behind the barbed wire, being watched by armed guards.

Mr. ED KIYOHARA: Every now and then I would get on the garbage truck, sit in the back with the garbage, and we'd get into Sumner Main Street. He'd slow down and I'd jump off and go to my friend's ice cream shop and my folks were a little unhappy that I was 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, well, I'm going over and getting an ice cream cone. He says, well, go to the ice cream parlor and stay there. Don't walk around town, because it'll make 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 a 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 U.S. 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 Wataname, as part of a hearingvoices.com radio project.

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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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