Also, there were limitations placed on housing construction. But the greatest sacrifice of all was made by the Japanese Americans. In Mine Okubo’s book Citizen 13660, she describes as well as illustrates her experience as she, and approximately 110,000 other people, were evacuated from the west coast and sent to internment camps all across the country. The number 13660 in the book title comes from Okubo’s family number that was given to her when she registered for her brother and herself. It was to be used to identify their belongings and them as a family unit.
On page 26, as she waits to load the bus to be taken to the camp, Okubo says, “At that moment I recalled some of the stories told on shipboard by European refugees bound for America. ” In this quote, she is referring to the Jews who are escaping Germany. The stories that were being told are of the concentration camps that the Jews had been sent to. Okubo, along with all the other Japanese Americans, had no idea what was in store for them. Many feared that it would be something very similar to that of the concentration camps in Germany. When they arrived they soon learned that conditions were not as harsh as those the Jews were enduring.
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But still their experience differed immensely from the rest of the world. They lived in the internment camps and endured the lack of privacy and long lines to get food and to use the bathrooms. In the barracks, they had no choice but to sleep on mattresses filled with hay. “What hurt most I think was seeing those hay mattresses. We were used to a regular home atmosphere, and seeing those hay mattresses—so makeshift, with hay sticking out—a barren room with nothing but those hay mattresses. It was depressing, such a primitive feeling. ”
If the men wanted to join the service to show their loyalty to the ountry, they had to serve on the frontlines along with all the other Japanese Americans who chose to serve. The frontlines were extremely harsh conditions and the chance of survival was very low. “More than 50,000—the children of immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines—fought in the army, mostly in all-Asian units. ” Some felt that these things were their way of helping with the war efforts and showing their loyalty to the country, and others felt that their civil rights had been stripped from them. Most of Mine Okubo’s wartime experience was spent in the internment camps.
Through her illustrations and the text she shows us the reality of these harsh wartime conditions and how the Japanese Americans managed to make the most of the situation they were placed in. They managed to come together to create their own little community with schools, and visual arts, and even their own newspaper. Okubo’s illustrations allow us to see her emotions as we read her writings. Many of her emotions in the illustrations seem to lack any sort of anger and shed somewhat of a humorous light onto the text itself. I feel like her narrations would take on a more serious tone if her drawings were not present in the book.
If I was placed in this same position as Okubo, I am not entirely sure how I would react. A part of me would love to take on the same perspective that Mine Okubo has taken, but as I read her book it is also hard for me to believe that anyone could remain so calm during such an intense time in their life. I would have such a hard time just packing up and leaving at any given moment and not knowing where I was going or what was going to happen to me. Okubo dealt with these undertakings very well and I am not sure I would be able to do the same if put in the same position.
This portion in history tells us a lot about the “limits” of freedom in American history. Although the Japanese-Americans were citizens of the United States and residences within the country, they did not have equivalent rights during this time in history. “The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. ” Many Japanese-Americans were being treated as if they had been disloyal to the US and even alienated because of how they looked.
Also, the freedom to own land was taken from them as well. “The Federal Reserve Banks took charge of property owned by evacuees, while the Farm Security Administration took over the agricultural property. ” Owning property is one of the greatest freedoms and American can uphold and as history has shown it can easily be taken away in an instant. Japanese-Americans were forced to sell everything because they were very limited in what they could take with them to the internment camps. As we can clearly see, Japanese-Americans had such limited freedom during World War II.
Mine Okubo along with Yuri Tateishi gave us an inside look of what it was like for them during this crucial time in their lives and it allows us to see the rights and freedoms that were taken from these American citizens. I was able to more clearly see the actualization of their experiences through Mine Okubo’s illustrations because it allowed me to gain a greater respect for their emotions. Okubo and Tateishi, along with countless others, made some of the greatest sacrifices for the well being of our country during the war and for that they do not get nearly enough credit.
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