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Return to Heart Mountain

Japanese-Americans interned during World War II tell their stories

Patricia Yamakawa Yamamoto, 74

— Photo by Kevin Miyazaki

Patricia Yamakawa Yamamoto, 74

How old were you when you arrived at the camp?

I was 4, almost 5, on my arrival at Heart Mountain on August 21 or 22, 1942. I came with my parents, David and Shizu Yamakawa, older brother, David, Jr,. age 6, and paternal grandmother, Lucy Aiko Yamakawa.


How long were you there?

We were there over 3 years, departing October 16, 1945.

What is your strongest memory from the camp?

The anti-Jap signs in Cody.

What did you do after you were released from the camp?

Our family returned to San Francisco and lived for the first 2 years in a dormitory outside the naval shipyard with other Japanese-American families because we had no other housing. We moved in 1947 into then-segregated public housing, Hunter's Point Housing Project, and I wondered why we had been put in "camp" for being of Japanese ancestry and now we were in the "white" section of the housing project. It didn't quite make sense to a 10-year-old.


I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1959. I had a short career as a first-grade teacher and got married. We have 3 children and 1 grandchild. I continue to be a substitute teacher in classes for the developmentally disabled and persons with autism.

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

It was a grave injustice to all who were interned, imprisoned just because we were Japanese-Americans. I feel very strongly that we, as a society and as individuals, must keep this story alive, not because of self-pity, but because I do not want such injustice to be repeated on any other group of people. We, as a society, forget the past easily and repeat the same mistakes. I must always be vigilant and speak out when there is any outcry against groups of people, such as against persons of Middle East origins and Muslims after 9/11.

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