THE EVACUATION -
A TIME TO REMEMBER!!
A T I M E T O R E M E M B E R !
By George Yamauchi
To Mari, who lived through these events with me without complaint and without ever losing her perspective.
Thanks to Pam and Jon for the long hours of putting this book together.
To Joel, for the especially poignant cartoons that seem to be so appropriate for the occasion.
Those who attended previous Yamauchi family reunions are probably familiar with the two books on "Growing
up in Pasco." Those books were full of anecdotes of amusing (and some sad) things that happened while the
second generation Yamauchi's were growing up. The books proved to be quite popular and so I tried to get
other family members to provide details of things that they had personally experienced that I could
incorporate into a third book. Since this information was not forthcoming, I decided not to attempt the third
I do recall that Lou once suggested that my experiences during the evacuation of Japanese-Americans from
the West Coast might be of interest to the younger generations who had never really been involved in that sad
facet of American history. I was reluctant to take on this task since I felt that this episode had been covered
in great detail by others much more proficient in writing.
Movies and video tapes have also given wide exposure to the evacuation and shameful treatment of its
minority citizens. I also felt that, in most instances, those who had gone through this experience, surely must
have passed it on to their children. I had forgotten that Pasco had not been evacuated and few of the
Yamauchi's were forced out of their homes. I still, however, was dragging my feet and looked for more
reasons not to expend the time and effort to write the book. I guess you'd call it simply a matter of
In January 1990, a series of strange events occurred that caused me to once again consider writing.
Ordinarily, I am not the recipient of many newspaper articles, but in the space of about a week, the mail
brought news articles from Pasco, Honolulu and Little Rock. Each of these articles featured one of three
As I read the articles, I found myself thinking that, beside the fact that these were all cousins, there was a
common thread, in that each of these young men's lives had been touched in some manner by the evacuation
that was ordered after Pearl Harbor.
As you read the news items that follow this introduction, you will note that Jerry was interned as a youngster,
with his parents and sister, in the Hart Mountain Relocation Camp in Wyoming. When questioned by the
reporter for the article, Jerry refused to discuss his experiences there. Those memories were apparently not
very happy ones for him.
Terry entered the Minidoka Relocation Camp when he was about two years old. Unknown to him, his California
grandparents were sent to Rohwer, Arkansas for the duration. Coincidentally, this is the state where Terry
moved to some 30 years later to accept a position in his medical field.
Although Dale was not yet born while his own parents were interned in Arkansas, he was perhaps more closely
tied in with that part of history than the other cousins by reason of his brilliant legal work in proving the
evacuation to have been a grave error. His subsequent successful efforts to have the Reparations Bill passed
will also ensure that his name will go down in American history.
Shortly after I received the newspaper clippings, a letter from the Justice Department was delivered. The
letter requested answers to certain personal questions regarding Mari and my evacuation. Its purpose was for
That settled it -- I felt that I now had a mandate from "someone up there" to get busy and write the darn
So, here it is!
The "National Geographic" magazine of April 1986 had an article by Arthur Zike which I found to be quite
interesting and gives a pretty good account of the background of Japanese in this country, before, during and
after, the evacuation orders. The author mentions numerous reasons why the evacuation was ordered -- all of
which were later revealed to be unfounded, based upon police reports and racial hatred!
The report "Japanese-Americans -- Home at Last," follows this introduction. Reading it carefully will give you
an intimate knowledge of what happened before and subsequent to the February 19, 1942 signing of Executive
Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
*1 should mention here that soon after the outbreak of the war, Tsuneo (Mary's husband) received a letter
from that magazine canceling out his subscription. The reason given was that the publications contained maps
and other information that might be used by an enemy agent!!
The Yamauchi's in Pasco did not suffer the indignities of evacuation. Kennewick was evacuated, but Pasco, for
some unknown reason, was not in the evacuation game. During the early days of evacuation, those in Pasco
did prepare themselves for that possibility. The family mainstay, the M & M Cafe, was sold and the Yamauchi's
purchased duffel bags and started packing suitcases for the orders which never came.
There were, however, numerous restrictions placed upon them during this time. They were not allowed to go
to Kennewick, visit the airport, railroad depot, Big Pasco, or even go near the armory. To enforce a curfew,
members of Pasco's American Legion sat with loaded deer rifles in automobiles across the street from the
Yamauchi residence to make sure no one went out after dark.
It should be mentioned here that the patriarch of the Yamauchi family, papa, was taken by the FBI to
Montana where he had to stand trial. The excuse given for his internment was that he was considered to be a
"prominent" alien. After being cleared at that hearing, he was told that he could return to Pasco provided a
white sponsor could be found. Mr. James, owner of the Pasco Hardware, agreed to do so; but local super-
patriots warned him that such action would result in a boycott of his store. Mr. James, accordingly, withdrew
Papa was then permitted to join me in Minidoka, Idaho where he resided until I enlisted in the Army. He,
along with Mari and Terry, were then allowed to proceed to Pasco to join the rest of the Yamauchi's for the
PORTLAND ASSEMBLY CENTER
Early one April morning in 1942, Mari, Terry and I found ourselves standing in a line with thousands of other
Japanese-Americans. like the others, we carried a duffel bag and, perhaps, two or three battered suitcases
filled with our worldly possessions. The lines converged toward a huge red building that had been a
fairgrounds where livestock had been displayed and sold. I believe that it was known previously as the
Multnomah County Fair Building.
Once we were within the building, we were assigned compartments for each family group. These plywood
compartments were about 12' square, had no windows, cabinets, tables or furniture of any kind. The entry-
way was just a door cut out of the plywood; and for privacy, a blanket was nailed across the opening. Being
under the roof of the large building, I suppose it wasn't necessary that a ceiling be provided for each of these
rooms. This lack of privacy was rather embarrassing when you'd look up and see someone staring down from
There was a large area toward the middle of the building. It had probably been a center ring where livestock
was displayed or wild west-type shows were held. This area had now been converted to a basketball court and
a wood floor now covered the still smelly earth. It did allow youngsters to still keep active even when the
weather was bad outside.
Another large area was reserved for a dining room. It was large enough to accommodate everyone at one
sitting. Enough tables and chairs were provided so that family groups and friends could eat together. The food
was cooked in a central kitchen; and although not gourmet quality, was plentiful
and edible. The cuisine was usually oriental-western in taste.
Also within the larger structure, were areas converted to laundry and shower rooms, and of course,
community toilets. A smattering of administrative offices took up most of the north end of the center.
Outside the building there was a large, fairly level, expanse of land. I'd estimate that there was about eight
acres in all. With all the young athletes around, it wasn't long before the area was made into a baseball field.
Around the entire perimeter of the building and land, a barbed wire fence was erected. At each corner there
was a guard tower, manned by armed guards. At regular intervals, sentries walked around the entire
To keep the assembly center operating, it depended on the cooperation of the inmates. My particular
responsibility was to see that we had enough of this help. I circulated a blank resume for everyone to fill out;
and whenever a worker was needed, I thumbed through the file to find a qualified person. The evacuees
cooperated quite well; and except for people to clean the toilets, we got along remarkably well.
When we entered the Assembly Center, we had no idea how long we would be there before being shipped on
to a location more toward the interior of the country. It was about a year later that the war relocation
authorities notified me that we should pack up our belongings and get ready for the second stage of our
evacuation. This time we would be railroaded to a camp in Minidoka, Idaho.
Thus, it was that Mari, Terry and I, with our duffel bags, were loaded onto a passenger train that pulled away,
without fanfare, for our second segment in the interests of "national security."
There was an interesting story connected with this move from Portland:
Whenever a federal agency is given orders to provide security for some event, whether it's the FBI, Secret
Service, Immigration, Customs, etc., and they don't have the necessary personnel -- it is common that they
call upon other security type agencies to help out. I did notice that several of the security officers were in the
uniform of the U. S. Customs Service.
Years later, after the war and the evacuation were over, I applied for a position with the U. S. Customs and
was accepted. It wasn't long before I found out that several of the fellow officers that I was now working
with, had been part of the security forces at the Portland Assembly Center. Although this occasioned some
surprise, there were no hard feelings. We all recognized that it was just part of the job.
Some of the officers are still alive, and we get together occasionally for luncheons and other functions.
MINIDOKA RELOCATION CENTER
In stark contrast to the familiar green lawns and forests of the Portland area, Minidoka, Idaho was a vast
expanse of sand and sagebrush. As far as the eye could see, this same monotonous semi-desert rolled on-and-
The Portland Assembly Center was under one roof, and all the compartments were erected thereunder.
Minidoka differed considerably in that it was like an army camp. Huts resembling army-type barracks were
built in blocks, each block of which was largely self-sufficient with its own dining room, laundry room, central
toilets and showers. A number of these blocks would then be considered as a unit and have its own medical
and dental offices, a grocery store, security office and other administrative offices. There were probably
about three family groups within each of these army barracks.
These were far from being comfortable living quarters, but much more so than the cubicles that we left in
Portland. Of course, as in Portland, the entire perimeter of the camp was surrounded by barbed wire fences.
Guard towers were also erected at regular intervals along the fences.
In describing living quarters in the Portland Assembly Center, I mentioned that those cubicles had no ceilings
and that an entry-way was cut into a plywood wall. Those openings were covered with a blanket for privacy.
Minidoka's barracks had windows and also doors that could be locked! Much more "home-like" were these
barracks in Idaho.
Each family unit was heated by means of a tiny cast-iron pot-bellied stove. We were provided with buckets of
coal and scraps of wood for kindling material. Army cots, tables and a few chairs were the extent of our
furniture. There were no cabinets or shelves for storing things away. This lack of furniture and shelves
resulted in some high-spirited scrounging around for pieces of plywood and other scrap lumber that could be
nailed together for much-needed accessories.
Within a few hundred feet of our assigned barracks, an area had been enclosed with barbed wire. This space
was used by the authorities for storing plywood, 2 x 4's, sheet rock and other structural materials. As time
passed, it began to take on the appearance of a game. As darkness fell, small groups of men would emerge
from all directions and temporarily hide in the shadows around the barracks. They would remain hidden until
the block guard would disappear on his duties elsewhere. Immediately, the groups of men would slip through
the barbed wire and start packing out plywood, sheet rock and any other structural-type material that they
could carry. I never saw anyone caught or even stopped, so it may have been an informal understanding with
the guards that no problem would arise later from that pilfering of material.
Some of the "improved" apartments really were turned into luxury quarters. The occupants must have been
skilled woodworkers because they had created beautiful cabinets, closets, and even modernistic furniture.
Their new homes were probably better than the ones they left behind in Portland!
It should be pointed out here that the purpose of the Portland Assembly Center and the Minidoka Relocation
Center were not the same. The Assembly Center's purpose was to provide temporary housing for all those who
were banned from certain areas. Minidoka, however, was for semi-permanent detention of all evacuees who
could not find housing and jobs in the outside world.
My job in Minidoka was as head of the office of outside employment. The main purpose of this office was to
find private employment for inmates, in the outside world. At first, there was a natural reluctance for those
who felt safe behind barbed wire, to go back outside and face what could be a hostile environment.
It didn't take long for e mployers to find that these camps were a good source of well-educated labor,
available at a reasonable wage; and job offers began to increase substantially. Older, first-generation (issei)
internees had a difficult time getting out unless they had friends or relatives who had good outside jobs and
could ensure that the issei would be well taken care of.
In addition to a bona fide job offer, the applicant would have to submit letters of recommendation from white
Americans attesting as to the applicant's patriotism. The vast majority of character references made a
statement such as this:
"... I have known this person for many years and feel that he can be trusted. I have never heard him make any
unpatriotic statement against the U. S. I want you to know, however, that I would not trust any other of those
interned in your camp. I feel that they are no different from the guys who so viciously attacked us at Pearl
A letter like that, with the job offer, usually sufficed to get the internee out to the outside world.
On occasion, we would receive a really vicious letter from someone who had been asked to be a character
reference from one thought to be a friend of long standing. I can recall some letters like this:
"... I do not trust this man any more than I trust the Japs that we are fighting overseas. They are all the same
and cannot be trusted. Don't allow any of them to get out of the camps to where they might sabotage our war
efforts! This guy may claim to be a friend of mine, but I'm certainly not!"
Upon receipt of one particularly hateful letter, I thought it over for two or three hours and finally did
something that was illegal; but under the circumstances, I felt justified. Here was a young internee who felt
that when the need was there, he had one friend out there that he could trust. Perhaps he'd turned over his
farm, or small business, maybe even sold his home at a very low price, to this guy. I could not see the young
internee continue this illusion of things that did not really exist. I called him into my office and let him read
the letter. He was crushed, but I've never regretted my action.
The newspaper article mentions that Jerry, along with the rest of his family, was an internee at the Hart
Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. This must have been a very traumatic period to the youngster, who
refused to talk to the reporter about his feelings and experiences while interned in that concentration camp.
After graduating from high school, Jerry enlisted in the Army. Upon completion of his basic training, Jerry,
and a high school buddy, visited Mari and I in Portland. I remember them as a couple of happy-go-lucky
teenagers who were thrilled at completing basic training and eagerly looking forward to finding new worlds to
conquer. They had stopped by en route to Texas for specialized training as Army medics. I doubt if they, in all
their youthful enthusiasm, realized the dangers they would be facing when they graduated in a few more
months. I didn't see Jerry again until he was returned to the states for rehabilitation.
The news article differs somewhat from the story that Jerry told me about the experience he went through
when he was injured. It makes a better story, so I'll repeat it here.
Chinese troops had entered the war, adding tremendous manpower to the North Korean Army. As a result, the
American forces were unable to contain them and were being pushed back on their heels. Jerry's unit was
under heavy attack by superior forces and was preparing to pull back to a new line of defense. A mortar
fragment ripped into Jerry's skull, damaging his brain. "I could hear them talking but couldn't speak or even
move," he told me. One moment he'd be conscious and then drift off in a coma.
In later talks with his buddy, he was told that the captain gave orders for the unit to pull out; and only after
an impassioned request from Jerry's buddy, was Jerry allowed to be carried back to the next line of defense.
The captain felt that Jerry's condition w such that he was already beyond the point where he could be
saved. The new line of defense also proved to be impossible to hold, and the captain refused to allow his men
to waste time and manpower to carry back a "dead" man!
At this point, everything seems to be a deep mystery. Jerry regained consciousness in a hospital in Tokyo with
no knowledge of how he got there. His buddy came to visit him and told him that he couldn't believe it when
he found out where Jerry was hospitalized. "The Chinese were over-running us. There were no American
troops between them and us. We had to just leave you there and take off. I'm at a complete loss to
understand how you got here. It's so unreal!"
This complete episode raises some interesting questions. Was Jerry's enlistment due to a boyish enthusiasm in
looking for adventure and wearing a uniform? Or, did he feel that, as one of oriental ancestry, that he must
prove himself to be an American? How many of his white classmates would have enlisted if they had been
humiliated by being forced earlier into a concentration camp? The latest information I have is that Jerry is
now almost completely wheelchair-dependent.
We owe a lot to him for his supreme sacrifice. We'll be ever grateful.
Thanks a lot, Jerry!
DR. TERRY YAMAUCHI
October 20, 1992
The Honorable Bill Clinton
Governor, State of Arkansas
1800 Center Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72206
We are two weeks away from the day I get to say to you, congratulations, Mr. President. It has been a great
campaign, and I am pleased to have played a part.
Bill, I want to recommend an appointment that I think would serve your administration and the country well.
Dr. ;Terry Yamauchi would be a superb choice for Surgeon Genera l. I recall the excellent job he did under
the worst of circumstances as Director of Human Services. His leadership and loyalty in that position were
Further, Dr, Yamauchi's background In Infections diseases, his national contacts and reputation in the fields
of pediatrics and infections diseases, qualify him to offer leadership as Surgeon General in two areas of
importance to your administration and two areas of national concern.
It would not go unrecognized that he Is a minority of Japanese descent who has, through hard work and
dedication, become one of our country's prominent physicians.
Bill, I hope you will give this recommendation serious consideration, as I believe such an appointment
would serve you and our country well.
DR. TERRY YAMAUCHI
The preceding news article is another of the three that I received during that week or two interval and
covered one of the three Yamauchi cousins that were the subjects of this article.
During his residency in the Los Angeles area, Terry looked at various possibilities for future employment. As a
promising young doctor with good credentials, I'm sure his opportunities were plentiful. We were greatly
surprised when he informed us that he had decided on Arkansas.
I'll admit, l ke so many others, I had a stereotyped idea of Arkansas -- it was a small, backwards, racist state,
tucked away in the Ozarks, with inferior educational facilities for its children. I recalled that just a few years
previously, the then governor had stood on the steps of Little Rock's Central High School with a pick-ax handle
and swore that no black kid would ever be allowed to be educated at that school.
I also knew that during World War II, of the 10 relocation camps that were created to hold Japanese-
Americans, two had been located in Arkansas. That didn't add any love for that state to me!
In 1986, Mari and I visited Arkansas to attend Jill Marie's high school graduation. The ceremony was at the
same school where the governor had sworn that no blacks would be allowed. I noted that about 30% - 40% of
the graduating class was black. The principle speaker was Rev. Jesse Jackson! How times had changed!
I found that the Arkansas Children's Hospital was the seventh largest in the United States and that it ranked
third in fund-raising. Also, the individual in the United States with the largest annual income was from that
Despite these positive signs, however, I still continued to question Terry's decision to live in Arkansas.
Governor Clinton's request to have Terry head the State's Department of Human Services was also opposed by
me. I told Terry that the only good thing was that it might make things easier for minorities in the future to
be selected for jobs. "You'll be opening a path for others to follow throughout the United States." Maybe that's
what it's all about!
When Terry was born, his uncle (Lou's husband and father of Roy Satoh), insisted that the be given a Japanese
middle name. He even provided the name, which none of us ever subsequently used. (I don't know if Terry
even has an idea what it is.) The name given was "Michioke" and, get this, it means "one who opens the
Terry's grandparents (Mari's parents) were held in the Rohwer (Arkansas) Relocation Center during the war. He
was unaware of that fact until I told him of it a few years ago.
Isn't it a strange coincidence that some 50 years after the relocation camp, that the governor of that state,
appointed a Japanese-American to head the largest state agency!
Incidentally, Terry, with Mari and I, was interned in the Minidoka (Idaho) camp where we were sent from the
Assembly Center in the Multnomah County fairgrounds in Portland, Oregon.
The "Hawaiian Herald" news item was the third one that I received during the same week.
Dale matured during the turbulent 60's and 70's when the country was being torn apart by the Vietnam War
and the bitter struggle over civil rights. He keenly felt the injustices that had been dumped upon minority
people and resolved to do something about it. His parents and grandparents were all evacuated from the Los
Angeles area and taken to concentration camps in Arkansas during World War II.
After receiving his law degree, he came to Portland and stayed with us one summer while he was a law intern
in Multnomah County's Legal Aid Department. He laughingly referred to some cases he worked on as being
"smoking gun" cases. These were situations where the police would hear a gunshot, enter the room to see the
defendant with a still-smoking gun in his hand, standing over the body of a dead guy. There is no sign of
anyone else having been around. "Pretty hard to win a case under those circumstances," he laughed.
I wonder whether, in the years to come, that he didn't feel that he was involved in a "smoking gun" case as he
was fighting the legality of the World War 11 evacuation orders.
Although there were some physical and vocal opposition to the exclusionary orders, the vast majority of
Japanese-Americans meekly complied fully with the orders. There were, however, three nisei who felt it was
wrong and unconstitutional. One man, Gordon Hirabayashi, was from Seattle. Gordon was a quaker by religion
and abhorred violence.
A second was Min Yasui, an attorney from The Dalles, Oregon. His legal training led him to insist that
internment and evacuation was illegal.
The third nisei was Fred Korematsu, a welder in the San Francisco Bay area who apparently had a Caucasian
girlfriend who he didn't want to be parted from.
Regardless of their varied backgrounds, each was willing to go to jail to protest the injustice of evacuation;
and therefore, refused to report for the ordered internment.
Each of these men were subsequently arrested and convicted of a violation of the President's evacuation
orders. The government based its case on "military necessity" and this was upheld by the U. S. Supreme
The conclusion that evacuation of all people, citizens or not, with some Japanese blood in their veins, was a
"military necessity" repugnant to many white Americans as well as the Japanese-Americans. With the help of
attorneys, scholars and numerous other sympathizers, research was made of military reports and government
records. Interviews were held with hundreds of people who had been involved in setting up and administering
the evacuation. The Freedom of Information Act was relied upon to secure government records that had
been filed away for decades. It was a tremendous task but beyond a shadow of doubt that the evacuation was
the result of naked racial discrimination.
Some 40 years after the three nisei protesters had been convicted, the courts finally reversed themselves and
agreed that the government used unsubstantiated material, distortions and the racist views of a military
commander to justify the detentions.
Dale was the lead attorney for the famous Fred Korematsu case, and his efforts are credited by many for
leading to the movement resulting in reparations to most of the evacuees.
In this article, Dale warns, ". . . Japanese-Americans have to be sensitive to other groups. We need to be
aware of the aspirations of all people for fair treatment."
This warning should be especially pertinent to Pasco Yamauchi's where the racial inter-marriage rate is
unusually high. This unique mixing of races, now well into the fourth and fifth generations, may lead some to
feel that they are now well into the mainstream of American life and discrimination is a minor problem. It
would be unfortunate to have this opinion and not get involved in the plight of recently arrived immigrants of
Portland appears to be having an increasing number of racially hatred incidents. This may be a trend that is
spreading throughout the nation -- God forbid!
On two occasions, I noticed articles appearing in "The Oregonian" newspaper mentioning anti-racist rallies
that were being held. What caught my eye was one of the names mentioned din the articles. Deni Yamauchi
was identified as being the Northwest Coordinator for the National Center for Democratic Renewal," a civil
Deni, of course, is the daughter of Dr. Bob and Kaz of Spokane. After Bob's death I had pretty well lost touch
with that branch of the Yamauchi family, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that Deni was deeply involved in
fighting bigotry. Although I don't know what she actually does, it does appear that it could be a pretty
dangerous undertaking. She should be highly commended!
The articles mentioned above follow this page.
Also, there is a very pertinent column from "Dear Abby" that hits close to home. It emphasizes that we must
all unite and speak up when we see others being singled out and become targets for racial, religious, sexual or
other improper reasons.
One voice may not be heard; but when combined with millions of others, it could be an over-powering factor !
Some 46 years after the evacuation was ordered, the President of the United States signed a letter of
apology, acknowledging that the government had committed a serious injustice to the Japanese-Americans. A
copy of remarks .by the President at the signing ceremony for Japanese Internment Legislation also follows
This is all fine and well except that it is small comfort to those who were interned but died before the
legislation was signed in August 1988. They, unfortunately, were not considered eligible for any compensation
After completing this book, I received a fairly voluminous packet which covered in detail the court cases of
the three nisei who defied the evacuation orders. They were faced with a seemingly impossibly task of
proving that the U. S. Government acted erroneously in ordering the evacuation of all people of Japanese
extraction from the West Coast, based on "military necessity."
It may come as a shock to those who naively feel that our government is a heroic, benevolent entity that is
constantly watching out for the best interests of all its citizens, to discover that this is not necessarily true!
Instead, we discovered that in ordering the evacuation, this "wonderful" government displayed a dirty, ugly
side that we never knew existed. To understand this, we must just be aware that a government -- no matter
how good its intentions are supposed to be, has no life or mind of its own. It depends upon the integrity of
individuals an groups who actually steer the course that the administration takes.
In the subsequent investigation of the evacuation fiasco, it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the
highly placed military and civilian personnel; lied, manufactured self-serving
evidence, exhibited racial hatred and even committed treason, in successfully persuading the President of the
United States to order the evacuation.
The court cases dragged on for many years, and finally, were resolved in favor of the three nisei. This led to a
letter of apology signed by the President, and mailed to all the internees. Reparations were also paid to the
majority of those who had been forced to enter the camps. All of this would not have happened without the
hard work and perseverance of dedicated people like your cousin, Dale Minami. Without his, and the efforts of
others with whom he worked, the evacuation and jailing of the three nisei would still be considered justified
as "military necessity."
The aforementioned packet, "Infringement on Individual Liberty" 1942-44, is pretty voluminous for copying
and adding to my book. Therefore, I did not do so. However, since it is very important that anyone who is
really interested in the shocking background behind the evacuation, read it -- I have made some copies that I
will pass out on request.
In my opinion, this should be required reading in all high schools! It might teach young Americans the
importance of voting for those whose interests truly lie in improving our country. Those elected officials who
appear to be more interested in furthering their own selfish ambitions should be booted out on their hind-
ends as they are uncovered!
-- George K. Yamauchi