Japanese Students Get Degrees Long After WWII At its upcoming commencement ceremony, UCLA will bestow honorary degrees on Japanese students whose education was interrupted during World War II. Some of them were forced into internment camps. Others, such as Hiro Hayataka, fled the state to pursue an education elsewhere. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Hayataka about his experiences.
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Japanese Students Get Degrees Long After WWII

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Japanese Students Get Degrees Long After WWII

Japanese Students Get Degrees Long After WWII

Japanese Students Get Degrees Long After WWII

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At its upcoming commencement ceremony, UCLA will bestow honorary degrees on Japanese students whose education was interrupted during World War II. Some of them were forced into internment camps. Others, such as Hiro Hayataka, fled the state to pursue an education elsewhere. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Hayataka about his experiences.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This coming Saturday, May 15th, an historic wrong will be made right. UCLA is bestowing honorary degrees on a group of Japanese-Americans who were forced to cut their studies short during World War II. After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in the early 1940s, the federal government ordered the relocation and internment of Japanese people living in areas along the Pacific Coast. Now in their 80s and 90s, 19 former UCLA students will travel to Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Mr. Hiro Hayataka is one of them and he joins us from the studios of PRC Digital in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Hayataka, congratulations and welcome to the program.

Mr. HIRO HAYATAKA: Thank you.

HANSEN: How did they tell you that you had to leave your classes at UCLA?

Mr. HAYATAKA: Well, through the media we knew we had to leave otherwise they would put us in camps. So, apparently there was recruiters from Sugar Beet Factory in Montana recruiting farm laborers, so my father signed up. And so we just got up, packed everything we could in our cars and drove up to Montana.

HANSEN: What were you studying?

Mr. HAYATAKA: Mathematics. I was a sophomore.

HANSEN: Did you get your degree at all after the war, in years afterwards?

Mr. HAYATAKA: Yes. I got my bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1946, and my master's from University of Michigan in 1949.

HANSEN: How were you treated by people at the time?

Mr. HAYATAKA: In Montana, I mean, the people up there were very nice to us. And the only overt discrimination I faced is when I went to the University of Montana there. The officials put me in a rooming house and about a week later, the landlady asked me to leave because one of the white students objected to my being there. The irony is that there was a Japanese student living there before this white guy moved in, so I couldn't understand what the situation was.

But anyway, they made arrangements for me to live with the dean of the business school, so I stayed with them.

HANSEN: Are there classmates that you are looking forward to seeing again?

Mr. HAYATAKA: Well, I didn't know too many. I mean, one man, he was in my algebra class, and a lady that was in my logic class. And when I went to University of Minnesota, this lady was there, too.

HANSEN: So, you weren't alone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Hiro Hayataka turns 88 this month. He was a student at UCLA during World War II and he joined us from the studios of PRC Digital in Jacksonville, Florida. Thank you so much, sir, and congratulations.

Mr. HAYATAKA: Thank you very much

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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