Mas and Lili Yamasaki during WW II
| It was 1942, and Mas and Lily Yamasaki were deeply in love and newly married, ready to share the rest of their lives together.
But first, they had to share a nightmare.
Mas & Lily Yamasaki, April 5, 1942. Flurin, California
One month after getting married, the young Japanese-American couple had to sell their possessions and report to a U.S. internment camp in northern California. America was fully involved in World War II by then, and 120,000 Japanese-Americans were being relocated.
The Yamasakis, both 22, honeymooned behind barbed-wire fences, under the watchful eyes of U.S. soldiers. Their first year of marriage was spent living in a small makeshift community with unsanitary conditions, and without the freedom to leave.
"We were young, we could have done so much," Mas Yamasaki said. "It was quite an experience. I wouldn't wish it on anyone else."
The barracks, food lines and public latrines are the World War II memories of the Yamasakis, who are used to telling their story as anniversaries of the war come and go. So, as the 50th anniversary of the end of the war passes, they are reminded again. They are reminded of the lost year of their lives and the struggle they faced during the years to follow.
Most Japanese-Americans who were at least in their teen years during the war have vivid memories of the 1940s and the impact the war had on them personally. Some were living relatively normal lives on Texas farms, others were sent to camps, and still others fought in the war. Their stories differ vastly, but all agree that it was a terrible chapter in their lives.
The Yamasakis, who now live in northwest Houston, talk about their time served in Tule Lake camp, where inmates imitated life on the outside by holding jobs and sending their children to "school." Mas Yamasaki was the social activities director in the camp, and Lily helped teach dance classes. The top jobs paid $19 a month.
"Our children look at us and say, `How stupid. Why didn't you resist?' " he said. "Things were happening so fast I couldn't think how the hell my government could do this to me."
Mas Yamasaki remembers leaving the camp in 1943 and moving to Dayton, Ohio, to look for work. Life was not much easier even when the war was over. Eventually, Mas became a manager with Borden Dairy and stayed there for 37 years, before moving to Houston to live near his son.
Stefanie Asin, " V-J/PEACE, PROSPERITY AND PAIN/STIRRING MEMORIES/Relocation to
internment camp was a nightmare for Japanese-American couple," Houston Chronicle (1995)
|Return to Yamasaki story|
|Return to Family Stories|