Executive Order 9066, signed by FDR in February 1942, sent more than 120,00 persons of Japanese descent to WWII internment camps. With the signing of Executive Order 9066, Americans of Japanese ancestry lost their civil liberties and freedom. My father’s family was living in Tulare, CA when they were ordered to leave their home and were incarcerated. I’ve asked my Aunt Dorothy, who was 18 years old at that time, to share how the bold & compassionate actions of two Methodist ministers helped her gain her freedom from the internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas.
In jail? Not me; not now, not with the USA military behind all this! One more month and I could be in the graduation ceremony w/my classmates.
No choice here – I resembled the enemy, Japan. The Tulare Methodist church must have had a few skeptics who perhaps wanted to rescue our family from this fate; but I do not recall one Methodist member or clergy of any color who were there to bid us farewell the day we were ordered to leave our home. We were herded into the buses, sat in assigned seats, and watched by soldiers with guns in hand. I guess they were to shoot anyone who tried to run away. We were taken to the Fresno Assembly Center where we gave our names to an official and received our permanent identification number in exchange. A demeaning method used to help us realize that we were people without a country.
Description of the actual camp sites and treatment to life in jail has been written by many authors in their books. My experience and reactions were similar to those in the books. The shock led to depression and desperate attempts to find something to save my sanity.
Two Methodist pastors helped me find a way to a more meaningful life. Dr. Hideo Hashimoto, well known theologian, Lewis and Clark University (Portland), as well as pastor of some Methodist churches around the Fresno area, and Dr. Harold Sandall, amazing pastor in a small town, Gering, Nebraska.
Hashimoto constantly worked to get the senior high school students out of the confining prison life and into colleges and constantly looked for money to make this happen. He contacted the General Board of the Methodist church for funds for scholarship and for travel to whatever college would be brave enough to accept students such as I. The Board offered me a scholarship at a small junior college in Scottsbluff, NE, and a family to live with while studying there.
Sandall was an anomaly, I am sure as a Methodist pastor who could have upset the Methodist church and the Gering, Neb community by taking on an American of Japanese descent. Sandall was not your usual appointment since he always invited unusual possibilities in thought and action, regarding what seemed to him to be “the right thing to do.”
God worked through these two gigantic Methodist thinkers and doers. Hashimoto and Sandall have died, but their legacy remains in such people as those who were touched by their effort to make this world a place for every person regardless of so many impediments in the way.
People of God: Think, Support and Do. The world awaits a return to commitment to sanity.
Sincerely, Dorothy (Ichinaga) Thomas