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Historical Events

Unspoken Memories: Oral Histories of Hawai‘i Internees at Jerome, Arkansas

Against a background of barracks, two young children stand on a dirt road holding hands.

Jerome Relocation Center, Dermott, Arkansas.Young children at Jerome Relocation Center. (NARA - 539502) by Van Tassel, Gretchen, Photographer [NARA record: 8467722]

Although Hawai‘i did not experience mass internment, incarcerated were between 1,200 and 1,400 prominent businessmen, educators, ministers, cultural practitioners, and others of influence in the local Japanese community. In late 1942/early 1943, families of internees were given the choice of remaining in the islands or going to Mainland confinement sites to be with their fathers. About 1,000 family members chose to be moved.

They came while we were all sleeping. I donít know who they wereóFBIs or whoever. So many of them came and they said, ďMr. Taketa, you come as you are.Ē So he had to get dressed and they searched him that he didnít have any weapon or whateveróknife or anything like that. They searched his pocket. They didnít say where he was going to go and they just took him. We didnít know [where] until much later. — Doris Taketa Kimura

He [father incarcerated at Sand Island] told her [mother] that they are planning to ship all the families. If we agree to go, then all the men would get to join the families. But if we donít, they might have to stay there for the duration of the war, and which, you know, is not a good idea. So naturally, all the wives are going to agree to go, for the families to be together. They wonít tell you where youíre going, but somewhere on the Mainland. They give you like a short notice, maybe a few weeks or something.— Grace Sugita Hawley

Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas was one of only two camps that initially accepted these families. About 250—mostly children, under the age of nineteen—were held at Jerome War Relocation Center.

There was a room, oh, maybe ten by ten at the most. And thereís a potbelly heater in the room. . . . But it was cold, though. The building wasnít that good, that kind of barracks. The [tar] paper kind of building.— Ronald Takahata

The day after we arrived, I took a tour around the camp. I was astounded by the size of the center. As far as my eyes could see, rows and rows of barracks extended endlessly. Each barrack was surrounded by a deep ditch spanned by two or three bridges. It rained heavily in Jerome especially in the spring. If not raining, it was cloudy without any blue skies for days. There were canteens and dry goods stores but no merchandise. Hence, many internees were ordering from Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and Spiegel catalogues.— Rev. Yoshihiko Ozu from a wartime account

In 1985, about 125 of the 250 internees attended a reunion in Honolulu. Today, almost thirty years since that reunion, the number of surviving internees is considerably smaller. From among the surviving internees, fifteen, ranging in age from seventy-two to eighty-eight, agreed to be interviewed about their familiesí wartime and early postwar experiences.

The project was funded by a Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior.

This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

This material received Federal financial assistance for the preservation and interpretation of U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the U.S. Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability or age in its federally funded assisted projects. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to:
Office of Equal Opportunity
National Park Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240



The following is a list of individuals interviewed for this oral history project and their assembly centers/incarceration camps.



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