This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States imposed restrictions on approximately 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry living in California, Oregon and Washington coastal areas designated "war zones of the Pacific frontier."
Within months, America's Japanese residents were forced to surrender their homes, businesses, possessions, civil liberties and rights to wartime hysteria and "racially motivated fear" their evacuation and internment sanctioned by U. S. Executive Order 9066.
Taking what they could carry, 40,000 Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrants denied citizenship by legislation), 70,000 second-generation American-born Nisei, and scores of third-generation Sansei were sent to hastily constructed assembly centers. They were then transferred to one of ten internment camps in this country, including the Topaz camp in Utah, and with no due process of law, held prisoner behind barbed wire.
Such was the experience of the Uno family.
Raymond Uno was born in 1930 in Ogden, Utah. His father, Clarence Ihachiro Uno, emigrated from Japan to America while young and worked for a relative's import/export business on the West Coast. When America entered WWI, he volunteered to serve in the 42nd Rainbow Division of the American Expeditionary Forces. Sent to Le Havre, France, he transported ammunition to the front lines.
At war's end, Clarence was honorably discharged. He relocated to Ogden, married his bride, Osaka, began a family, opened a business and applied and reapplied for citizenship for more than 15 years. On June 24, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Lea-Nye Act granting citizenship to approximately 500 U.S. Army WWI veterans of Asian ancestry.
"My dad was Utah's first Japanese naturalized American citizen," Raymond said in his Salt Lake City home. That longed-for standing was short-lived.
After struggling to keep his business afloat during the Depression, Clarence moved his family to El Monte, Calif., in 1938, and worked as secretary for the San Gabriel Valley Japanese Association.
An ideal job for a bilingual veteran, Clarence understood how to help the Japanese people in the community. He served as sergeant-at-arms at the Commodore Perry American Legion Post 525 in Los Angeles. According to "Wyoming Samurai" by Mike Mackey, he also worked on El Monte, Calif.'s "selective service registrant's advisory board assisting Japanese American draftees through the registration process," and was chief registrar for draft calls.
Citizen Uno was resolutely patriotic. Following the Japanese attack, the FBI scoured Clarence's home for contraband. Transferred to and "processed" at the overcrowded Pomona Assembly Center, the family was given a numbered badge instead of a name. They spent three months living in areas similar to horse stalls. In August 1942, they were transported on troop trains "with the blinds drawn all the way" from California through Arizona, Texas and Colorado into northwest Wyoming, to a "rattlesnake-infested wasteland" called Heart Mountain. Still, Clarence remained loyal.
He "processed" new people, organized a United Service Organization or USO, and registered draft-age Nisei. The U.S. 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised of 14,000 Nisei soldiers, became the most decorated for its size, loss and valor.
Heart Mountain held a population of more than 11,000. Japanese farmers raised farm animals, introduced new crops, cultivated 800 acres and harvested some 2 million pounds of produce.
"But I remember the incarceration," Raymond said. "Being behind barbed wire fences at the bottom of the hill, watch towers above, search lights, and armed guards aiming in, ready to shoot."
In August 1943, Clarence died in his sleep.
"You don't forget a father's death, a mother's hardship, and the isolation of never eating together or living under the same roof," said Raymond. "It tore our family apart."
Returning to Ogden in 1945, Osaka Uno worked in a women's boarding house.
Raymond was a Union Pacific railroad gandy dancer. Then, the 20-year-old served in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service as an interpreter, translator and interrogator in Japan. He went on to college and eventually became a judge, always hoping to effect change.
"Every generation needs to learn tolerance," the retired judge said. "Everyone deserves a fair shake."
Eileen Hallet Stone, author of "Hidden History of Utah," a compilation of her Living History columns in the Salt Lake Tribune, may be reached at email@example.com.
Sources: Stone interview with Raymond Uno, 2006; Mackey's "Wyoming Samurai: The World War II Warriors of Heart Mountain," 2015.