I feel compelled to respond to Bill Watters’ letter of April 7 regarding Japanese internment during World War II. First, he seemed to have missed his history lessons as many of these internees were U.S. citizens. Second, if their “spartan” camps provided “medical and social” needs, it is because the internees had to build them from scratch. Third, upon their return they were not compensated. Most lost their homes (forced to sell before being forced to leave), their businesses, property and farms. I think Watters needs to visit Manzanar — a couple of hours’ drive north on U.S. Highway 395 — and spend a few hours in its excellent museum and then tour the grounds. Look up at the guard tower, see the gates and visit the cemetery. It is a shameful period in American history. It is only made worse by people ignorant enough to believe that it was OK because “they returned,” and somehow in some strange and convoluted way think that no human rights violations occurred.
I was one of the many children interned at Heart Mountain camp in September 1942. After being interned first at Santa Anita racetrack — yes, the horse racing track in Arcadia —-I was removed by train to Heart Mountain. I still remember the soldiers with fixed bayonets standing between each car to discourage prisoners from moving from car to car.
Heart Mountain soon became very cold, so my mother had to order warm clothing from Montgomery Ward with our meager savings. One room housed all four children and my parents. Six people. No running water. No toilet. A potbelly stove we fed with chunks of coal we gathered near the laundry room after walking several hundred yards in the snow. Frostbitten ankles.
The saddest day was the day my brother Kenny died of spinal meningitis. Maybe he would have survived if we’d had first-class medical care in a big city. I only understood my mother’s sorrow after having my own children many years later.
Santa Maria, Calif.
Voltaire, allegedly, said: “I may despise what you say, but I will die for your right to say it.” But not for The Times’ willingness to publish such an inane, fairy-dust letter as the one by Bill Watters, who certainly didn’t let the facts get in his way. The human rights of the Japanese Americans sent to internment camps weren’t violated? He’s kidding, right?