Korematsu Day honors interned Americans
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Alien Germans and Italians were treated quite differently. With a few exceptions they were merely barred from shipping ports and coming close to military or defense posts. The total number of enemy aliens and Nisei in Sonoma Valley was 181. Those of Japanese ethnicity were rounded up on May 9, 1942, and taken by bus to Tanforan Race Track in San Mateo where they were housed in horse stalls while they waited for transfer to camps of tarpaper shacks in desolate areas of eastern California, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado and Arkansas, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
The Yamakawa family of Sonoma, including young son, Jimmy, avoided detention since they had moved to Utah voluntarily before the relocation order and could work in agriculture there. Frank Matsuyama was a noted martial arts instructor employed by several police departments, who moved with his German-born wife to Denver ahead of the relocation order and could work there. His sons, Louis and Frank, had enlisted in the Army and would not be relocated, but his son, George, and daughter, Alice, were shipped to Tanforan, even though her husband was in the Merchant Marine. After several months of efforts by their family attorney and the vociferous support of Sonoma Valley friends, they were released. Later, George enlisted in the Army and after the war took his mother's maiden name of Wallman.
Meanwhile Fred Korematsu, a 23-year-old Nisei from San Leandro, did not report to be taken to a detention camp, but fled to Nevada, had his eyelids altered and changed his name. Back in San Leandro to visit his Caucasian girlfriend, he was arrested on the street on May 30, 1942, and charged with the crime of violating a military order.
Young Korematsu was in a friendless position. DeWitt testified in Congress that, "A Jap's a Jap whether he is an American citizen or not." Civic organizations adopted resolutions protesting allowing Nisei to serve the country, and local press, which regularly referred to "Japs," editorialized that they "could not be assimilated" or "might be convenient spies." Internees were forced to sell businesses and truck farms at distressed prices. California Gov. Culbert Olson, a liberal Democrat, and State Attorney General Earl Warren, a moderate Republican, supported the relocation. Even the leadership of the American Civil Liberties Union could not agree to present his constitutional argument. However, famed civil rights attorneys Ernest Besic and Wayne Collins did defend Korematsu.