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A voice from the past, an American internee
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By Stephen Browne
Stephen Browne
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By Stephen W. Browne
June 7, 2014 11:20 a.m.

A few days ago I interviewed a lady, Eva Nakamura Kuwata. Now 80-years-old she was a former internee at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. She was invited back to be advisor-in-residence at the camp for 2014.
When she was eight years old she was sent with her parents to the camp because they were Japanese, and America was at war with the Empire of Japan. She was one of 14,000 issei (first-generation) and nisei (second generation) who passed through the camp.
Oddly, she has no bad memories about the experience. She was too young and not Japanese enough to feel the shame many older inmates felt. She remembers the beginning of lifelong friendships and memories of people being nice to her when she got a day pass to nearby Cody or Powell.Though she does remember some “No Japs allowed” signs in business windows.
One day she went to Powell to buy some butter as a present for her mother, and didn’t realize she needed ration tickets. A “very nice man” in line behind her, whose name she never learned, gave the clerk one of his.
That’s one lesson I got from meeting her. Even in the midst of war, few people were rotten enough to treat a little girl badly.
Mrs. Kuwata was too young to be aware of the choices faced by the older boys in the camp and I think only became aware of it later. Some requested repatriation to Japan. She seemed to think a lot of them changed their minds before they actually disembarked, but wasn’t sure.
When the draft was extended to the camps, some chose to refuse induction, the “Nomo boys.” She said they weren’t afraid, they were demanding their rights as American citizens to be treated as such.
And what is most remarkable, and humbling was, about 800 internees chose to trust America. Chose to believe America could become the nation it promised to be but wasn’t yet, and joined the Army.
They were incorporated into the 442 Regimental Combat Team serving with other nisei under white officers. I count 15 killed in action on the camp Honor Roll, and two Medals of Honor awarded, one posthumously.
And there was one other on the Honor Roll from another era. Shojiro Yamashita, born at Heart Mountain Relocation Center to internee parents. Killed in Action, Vietnam.

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