George Sawada (442)
A SON’S UNFORGETTABLE WAR LETTER TO HIS FATHER
You are probably wondering why I have written you this letter so soon when we had just said good-bye
only a few hours ago, but I felt that I owed it to myself and you to tell you some of the things I should have
said and didn’t when the time came for us to part. I don’t know why I didn’t. Perhaps, it was because we
are Japanese, but mainly because, I think, I was a little bit self-conscious…
One December morn, out of the friendly sky, treachery struck with appalling devastation. You turned pale
when you heard the news. For days father, you were silent in your misery. Japan was the country of your
birth, but America, the country of your choice. From that day you ceased speaking of Japan. Out of this
treachery grew our misery.
In the spring of the following year, we were forced to evacuate to the relocation centers. It was a bitter
blow to me. I, a citizen, with a brother already serving in the Army, must evacuate, and I could not
understand why the German and the Italian aliens were not included. I had had an abounding faith in
the justice of this nation, but she in return had placed me behind barbed wires, like any enemy alien.
I was stricken with bitterness, and bitter was my denunciation of the government for this apparent
Then you comforted me and slowly withdrew the sting of bitterness as you did many years ago when
mother passed away. I could not understand at the time why you should attempt to restore my faith in
the government which had never given you the right of citizenship and now by evacuation had made you
again penniless. But I did not realize the love you bore for this country, made dearer because here it was
that mother had died and had been laid to rest: “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.”
How clearly I remember your words of consolation now, even as I write this letter. Wisely you said: “It
is for the best. For the good of many a few must suffer. This is your sacrifice, accept it as such, and
you will no longer be bitter.” I listened to your words and the bitterness left me. I despised alien without
citizenship, you showed me what it means to be a citizen. That I have retained my faith through this trying
period and emerged what I am, a loyal American citizen, I owe to your understanding.
When the time came for enlistment, I was ready, my faith and loyalty restored, stronger, firmer, and
unwavering; I volunteered. And tonight as the train carries me farther and farther from you, it also seemed
to carry me back over the years of our happy life, recalling to me those days when we were five, then
four, then three, and now you’re only two. I have written this letter as they came to me.
There is old Japanese or is it a Chinese saying that a man must weep thrice ere his span of life is done,
or words to this effect. I do not know whether this is true or not, but I have already seen you weep twice,
once in sorrow and once in joy, and if this is true and it is predestined that you must weep again, then
dad, let it be for me-once in glory, for the victory that shall surely be mine. God bless you, Dad, and keep
you until this happy day.
“The United States has been
forged out of many minority
peoples and in connection
with some of them there
remains for the Nation some
unfinished business — the
business of carrying on the
fight against discrimination
against minority groups
so that this country may
live in unity, and so that it
may take its place in the
community of nations with
full confidence that the
democracy it advocates is
Papers of Dillon S. Myer
War Relocation Authority Report, July 1946
Dillon S. Myer was head of the War Relocation Authority from 1942 to 1946. He inherited a job that made him the adversary of Japanese Americans who had been unfairly incarcerated.
The quote above came from the conclusion of his last report after the war was over.