A 90-year-old survivor of the Heart Mountain prison camp shared his personal story of the difficulties he, his family and other Japanese Americans faced before, during and after their imprisonment.
Sam Mihara was only nine years-old when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. Shortly after, armed military guards forced Mihara and his family from their San Francisco home and sent them to the Heart Mountain prison camp in Wyoming. The government decided to remove all people of Japanese ancestry and place them into desolate prison camps. They would live crowded into a single 20 x 20 square-foot room for the next three years.
In a powerful Morning Ex, Mihara told his personal story as of one of 120,000 Japanese Americans who survived one of these camps. He spoke about being an adolescent forced to live in prison-like conditions, the work of attorney James C. Purcell who helped bring an end to their indefinite detention, the difficult experience of coming home from the camps, the critical importance of Dorothea Lange’s photographs and more.
Mihara went on to a successful 42-year career as a rocket scientist with Boeing. Since retiring, he has dedicated his life to sharing his experience to help keep it from ever happening again. He reminded listeners of the dangerous combination of prejudice, hysteria and failure of elected leaders that led to Japanese internment camps on American soil. Mihara closed with the reminder that this could happen to others.
View a video of this experience below or click here for photos.