Episode 04: Internment – America’s Dark Chapter

Sam Mihara describes life inside a Japanese internment camp with Andover’s Damany Fisher.

Sam Mihara

In early 1942, two months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. Nine-year-old Sam Mihara and his family were among the approximately 120,000 people who were sent to internment camps across the country. The Miharas, who lived in San Francisco, landed at Heart Mountain, a camp in northern Wyoming, where they would live for the next three years.

Sam Mihara visited Phillips Academy in October 2016 to share his story of what life was like inside the camp and how he was affected by those years of confinement, intolerance, and discrimination. Andover Instructor and historian Damany Fisher talked with Mihara and his wife Helene about their experiences for Every Quarter. Fisher is an authority on the American history of residential segregation and housing discrimination. His paper, “No Utopia: the African American Struggle for Fair Housing in Postwar Sacramento, 1948-1967,” was recently published in the academic journal Introduction to Ethnic Studies.

As part of his presentation to the Andover community, Mihara also visited the Addison Gallery of American Art to discuss and provide commentary on Manzanar: Photographs by Ansel Adams. This exhibition, on view until March 5, 2017, debuts a recent acquisition of fifty photographs by Ansel Adams documenting the Manzanar War Relocation Center in Inyo County, California. In 1943, Adams was invited to create a photographic record of this government facility, in which hundreds of tarpaper barracks were built to house more than 10,000 people behind barbed wire and gun towers. All residents were of Japanese ancestry, but most were American citizens forcibly removed from their homes and businesses and relocated to the camp by presidential order.

Ansel Adams, Potato Field from Photographs of Japanese-American Relocation Camp in Manzanar, California, neg 1943, printed 1984, gelatin silver print mounted to board, 11 x 14 in., Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, purchased as the gift of Sidney R. Knafel (PA 1948), 2015.10.38

Sam Mihara’s visit was sponsored by the Department of History and Social Science, CAMD, and the Tang Institute. Funded by the Lana Lobell Lectureship Fund

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