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  • Barbara Anne King

78th Anniversary of Japanese Internment Proclamation

February, 19, 2020, is the 78th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which gave the government the authority to intern Japanese Americans and others who posed a security threat during World War II.

It is also the first anniversary of my debut novel, The California Immigrant, which chronicles the events of World War II in my home town--Watsonville, California. At the time of Pearl Harbor, Watsonville had one of the largest Japanese towns on the West Coast, most of whom were American citizens. Japanese were given an option to move away from the West Coast but, since most of their assets were frozen, they did not have the resources to do so. By April of 1942, Japanese were herded onto buses and taken to the Salinas Fairgrounds to await assignment to an internment camp. Even though there were two in California, they were sent to Poston, located on an American Indian Reservation in the Arizona desert where they were not only expected to care for their own needs, but to develop the reservation by building schools, developing irrigation systems, and planting crops.

The Japanese American sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, offered to start an arts program for the internees at Poston. He spent seven months there—longer than intended. After the war, Noguchi designed the peace bridges at Hiroshima.

Japanese were released from internment camps even before the war officially ended but not everyone welcomed them back. In Monterey Bay, efforts were made to keep them from returning. However, petitions in their favor helped. One was signed by John Steinbeck and his good friend Ed Ricketts, the model for Doc in Cannery Row.

The Smithsonian hosted an exhibit for the 75th Anniversary of Japanese internment. You can find information at this link:

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