Interviewed by Koji Kuromiya-Parker
The person that I chose to interview was my grandpa, Yosh Kuromiya. Yosh was nineteen at the start of the war and was (is) an American citizen. He had just started Jr. College but the evacuation put an end to his academic pursuits.
Yosh and his family of six were living in Monrovia, CA, a small town about 25 miles east of L.A. They got three weeks to store or dispose of all of their possessions and settle all financial matters in preparation for induction into an “assembly center.” They thought that all of this was a mistake and that they would be allowed back as soon as the authorities realized the absurdity of them wanted to destroy their own community. The “assembly center” was the Pomona County Fair Grounds where Yosh had previously enjoyed rides on the Ferris wheel. The cars in the parking lot had been replaced with rows of tarpapered barracks’ and the chain-link fence was now topped with barbed wire. Yosh and his family were held in Pomona for three months during the summer of 1942. Their anticipated “hearings” never occurred. In August, they were shipped on a train to a more permanent camp in northwest Wyoming. The Heart Mountain Relocation Center was on a desolate windswept prairie, far from civilization. There was barbed wire all around and guard towers. The prisoners were told that the fence was to keep out the wild animals and that the guard towers were to protect them from any irate citizens who didn’t want them in the camps. Yosh says, “Then why were the guns pointed inward?”
In 1944, the government imposed the military draft into the camp. “We were to be inducted into a racially segregated combat unit to “prove our loyalty.”” Many went along with this out of fear of going to prison or being regarded as disloyal. Yosh was aghast at the irony of fighting for civil rights and freedoms that he and the other prisoners were denied. He refused induction under such unconstitutional and un-American circumstances. He was tried and convicted to a three year sentence for draft evasion. He was put into a federal prison. He was released on parole after two years. The war had ended and he was no longer a security risk. In late 1947, he received a presidential pardon reinstating all citizens’ rights and erasing all prison records. The nightmare was finally over but the scars still remain. Yosh feels no bitterness towards the United States, just a sense of awe that such a thing could happen in free America.
Yosh’s reaction to Pearl Harbor was disbelief. Not just the magnitude of destruction, but the degree of political hysteria that followed. The Japanese bombed a part of him, yet he was being blamed for it.
In the camp, Yosh said it was a relief not to be constantly confronted with the righteous smirks of “White” oppressors; however, some people within the camp catered to the whims of the white administrative staff often at the expense of fellow internees. To pass time, Yosh found sanity in sketching. His favorite subject to draw was Heart Mountain, which was a 2,000 feet high rock outcropping that towered above the campsite and the otherwise desolate desert.
Yosh believes that the Atom Bomb was shameful. To him, the three greatest cowardly inhumane acts of the era were: The Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.