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Return to Heart Mountain

Japanese-Americans interned during World War II tell their stories

Franklin Mitsuo Nishiura, 69

— Photo by Kevin Miyazaki

Franklin Mitsuo Nishiura, 69

How old were you when you arrived at the camp?
I was 2 months old when we were taken to Santa Anita racetrack and either 4 or 5 months when we arrived at Heart Mountain.

 

How long were you there?

We left the camp in 1945, so I was 3 years old. My entire family in the U.S. was at Heart Mountain, 18 people plus 3 who were born there.


What is your strongest memory from the camp?

I have no direct recollections of the camp. My only knowledge is from what I heard from others and from the few photos we have of that time. There was almost no conversation of that time, as was the case in most families.

 

What did you do after you were released from the camp?
When we left the camp we returned to Mountain View, California, where we stayed at a hostel for returning families who didn't have any place to go. My father, Shingo Nishiura, was the hostel manager. I am a retired structural engineer enjoying babysitting my grandkids and acting as chauffeur while their parents work.

How do you feel about Heart Mountain and that time in your life?

[At the reunion] I heard more stories and recollections than I had heard in the previous 69 years of my life. Since everyone except one who was born there was older, I learned much about the camp and was privileged to hear some of the emotions of my fellow travelers. Our family lost almost everything when we were forced to sell what we could in a week or so before we were forcibly removed from our homes and lives. After hearing stories from others, I now have a better understanding of what the older people went through and what angst the uncertainties of that time caused. I also understand how the parents of the children of the camps tried as best they could to shield their children from the fear they all felt. In retrospect, it was probably the most insightful experience of my life.

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