No, my Japanese American parents were not “interned” during World War II. They were imprisoned

My parents, Shigeo and Joanne Watanabe, were US citizens born and raised in Seattle: she was a Seattle University student who loved parties and red nails, and he was an aspiring accountant with a gold glove and a killer smile.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, They were imprisoned in a prison camp, not an internment camp.

internment Conclusion. Not many people make the distinction between the two terms or understand why it’s so important. But in a landmark decision aimed at accuracy and reconciliation, the Los Angeles Times announced on Thursday that it would stop using the term “internment” in most cases to describe the mass incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent during World War II.

Instead, The Times usually uses the terms “imprisonment,” “imprisonment,” “detention,” or their derivatives to describe the government’s actions that have taken so many innocent lives.

The decision comes eight decades after The Times waged a vicious campaign to imprison Japanese Americans during the war, questioning their loyalty. official editorial apology.

“We are taking this step as a news organization because we understand the power of language,” said Times executive editor Kevin Merida. “We believe it is vital to more accurately describe the unjust imprisonment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s and do so in a way that does not underestimate the actions our country took against its own citizens and the experience of those who were in captivity.

“The Los Angeles Times itself supported incarceration at the time, and this change in style reflects our commitment as an institution to better represent the communities we serve. We hope this will help close relationships with the families of unjustly imprisoned people and deepen our understanding of our society at that time.”

Journalists at some Times have long been pushing for a change in how they describe what is commonly referred to as internment. Henry Fuhrmannour former assistant managing editor and self-proclaimed verbiage taking the lead.

“Internment” is a euphemism that makes the government’s actions trivial, he said. approved on Twitter 2020 a thread. “Officials have used such euphonious language to hide that the US is jailing Americans whose only ‘crime’ is to look like enemies.”

My family felt a clear difference between the two terms.

My grandfather, Yoshitaka Watanabe, was interned, the term most accurately used to describe the imprisonment of enemy aliens during wartime. He was held in a U.S. Army internment camp in Louisiana along with other enemy aliens from the Axis powers of Japan, Germany, and Italy for most of the war. As a Japanese immigrant, he was not allowed to become an American citizen under US law at the time.

he was mine Jichan, my grandfather, who immigrated to the United States in 1908 to escape militarized Japan and earn money for his family near Mt. Fuji After settling in Seattle, he ran a grocery store, wrote poetry under the name Willow Rain, and raised five children, including my father.

In March 1942, three months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, three FBI agents raided the family’s home in Seattle and ransacked the house, my aunts and uncles told me.

Agents found no contraband, seizing only Japan Chamber of Commerce membership cards and two magazines that reportedly “appeared to contain pro-Japanese propaganda”. FBI records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Never mind that no FBI special agent at the time could read or speak Japanese, according to a US military intelligence specialist I spoke with.

Agents arrested Jichan and took him away, leaving his disabled children and wife alone to face a frightening future.

But, at least in accordance with the Geneva Convention, the Department of Justice heard him in the Hostile Aliens Hearing Board. It was revealed that his arrest was based on his subscription to a Japanese magazine, which then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described as subversive.

My grandfather told a group of three that he only signed up to help a friend sell subscriptions and barely read the magazine. He said he only wanted peace between America and Japan. Despite his clean record and no evidence of subversion, the hearing panel concluded that he “made no definite or credible assurances of loyalty to the United States,” according to a summary of the case file.

Three months later, in July 1942, the U.S. Attorney General issued an official internment warrant for Jichan, calling him “potentially dangerous to the public peace and security of the United States.” He was transferred from the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Montana to an enemy alien internment center in Louisiana. He was released in September 1945 after Japan surrendered, and the Special Hearing Board gave him a favorable assessment, noting that two of his sons, including my father, volunteered to serve in the US military.

My parents, by contrast, were not “interned.” They were not enemy aliens. They were Americans through and through. My mother, Joanna Misako Oyabe, followed the typical American fashion at the time – big hair and all – and Christianity, becoming a devout Catholic and attending Maryknoll schools. My father, Shigeo Watanabe, was an avid fan of the quintessentially American sport of baseball, Glenn Miller, and swing dancing.

Like their American compatriots who were imprisoned for having only “one drop” of Japanese blood, my parents were not informed of any charges against them and were not allowed to respond to them in any way. court hearings. They and their families were forced to leave their homes, schools, jobs and communities at short notice, taking only what they could carry.

My father, aunts, and uncles later spoke of the devastating effects of incarceration—shame and humiliation, broken family ties and loss of parental authority, ruined careers and unfulfilled aspirations. With a lively mind and an eclectic interest in reading, my mother never completed her education, although many years later Seattle University awarded her an honorary degree posthumously.

No, my parents were not interned. They weren’t “evacuated” or “relocated”, even worse euphemisms. They were imprisoned. They were imprisoned in remote Idaho facilities surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers manned by armed soldiers who were their fellow US citizens.

The Times decision to formally adopt a policy to call this World War II action against Japanese Americans what it was is a victory for the accuracy of the language. This is another nice step to make amends for our news organization’s racist past. And this is an acknowledgment of the terrible injustice suffered by my parents and many others.