WWII internment camp survivor shares ordeal


Chicago’s reputation of being a good place to find a job led many Japanese Americans to move there after they were released from internment camps at the end of World War II.

The families also did want to return to their former home towns along the West Coast due to concerns about the discrimination which they would encounter there, Chicago resident Toshiko Doi said. Doi, who was a few months old when her family was ordered to leave its East Los Angeles home and was sent to a camp in Arkansas, was the guest speaker at the May 27 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association.

After Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, the federal government ordered anyone with one sixteenth Japanese blood who lived in California, Oregon or Washington to report for assignment to an internment camp, Doi said. The order affected about 120,000 people, and it applied to those who were U.S. citizens, she said.

"These were loyal Americans," Doi said. "They trusted the government and did what they were told." Doi was born in the United States on the day before the Pearl Harbor attack.

Families were given two weeks to get their affairs in order and were allowed to bring only the items that they could carry. "Businesses were sold for 10 cents on the dollar," Doi said. "You had to leave your animals behind. Who would take care of them?"

People in the camps lived in army-style barracks, and they were served food that they were not accustomed to, Doi said. She said that one of her aunts may not have died at a camp if better medical services had been available.

Some of the men at the camps were allowed to volunteer for service in the U.S. military. "They loved their country, even though their parents were behind barbed wire," Doi said.

Reparations eventually were paid to the internment camp survivors, many of whom had lost their properties, Doi said. "When I think about that money, I think it was like blood money," she said.