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Japanese American alumni interned in WWII honored at ceremony

STANFORD -- Nine former Stanford students who were relocated to internment camps during World War II were honored Friday, Oct. 1, in an emotional ceremony organized by current student members of the Asian American community.

Stanford President Gerhard Casper told the returnees that all three branches of government failed the Constitution during World War II, when American citizens of Japanese descent were "forced to evacuate the West Coast and imprisoned without any evidence of wrongdoing in camps scattered in desolate areas throughout the country.

"Though it is a difficult issue, it was not the Constitution that failed but the institutions that failed the Constitution," Casper told an audience of 200 at the ceremony honoring nine of more than 30 Japanese Americans who left Stanford during the war.

"Our Japanese fellow citizens were treated differently from other citizens, they were even treated differently from citizens of German and Italian descent," said Casper.

President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order No. 9066, authorizing the military to exclude whole classes of people from designated areas, was subsequently confirmed by Congress and then upheld in a unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Casper said.

At Stanford in April 1942, Casper said, then-President Ray Lyman Wilbur wrote to Congressman John H. Tolan, chairman of the Section Committee Investigating National Defense Migration, that "it has been impossible for me to answer the many questions put to me by these students as to why. Everything that they have learned from babyhood up in this country is negatived by their present experience."

Casper also quoted from a telegram Japanese-American students sent Nov. 20, 1942, from a relocation camp in Utah:

"President Wilbur: On this eve of Big Game we are with you in spirit if not in body - Japanese Alumni and Stanfordites of Topaz, Utah."

Casper told the nine returning alumni that "by your presence you are sharing a history and experience in a deeper manner than a mere history book can convey. The values of a university are not, and can never be, in accord with the views that underlie the actions of the government in your case."

Also taking part in the ceremony was Ray Lyman Wilbur III, grandson of Stanford's third president. Wilbur read the text of his grandfather's letter to Tolan.

Anthropology Professor Sylvia Yanagisako told the audience in Campbell Recital Hall that some Japanese American alumni of the war years probably could not have predicted when they left campus that individuals honoring them at their reunion 51 years later would include a third-generation Japanese American (sansei) female priest of the Episcopal faith - Associate Dean of the Chapel Diana Akiyama. She delivered the invocation.

Yanagisako said they also might be surprised to find her, another sansei and a professor, delivering remarks at the reunion, to which they were invited by a president who is a German immigrant.

On behalf of the Stanford American Indian Organization, students Marissa Flannery and Myra Parker talked about the similar experiences of Japanese Americans and American Indians, including the fact that both groups have experienced mass relocation.

"We honor you for your strength," Parker said, then she and Flannery presented each of the nine men with a silver feather pin.

Students Kord Honda and Alisa Kamigaki presented each of the nine with a plaque, a poster commemorating the Japanese American reunion and a T-shirt from Stanford Nikkei, the Asian- American student organization.

While introducing each of the honored guests, they provided biographical background:

  • Eric Andow relocated from Stanford to Colorado. He worked in a defense plant in Cleveland, then served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in France and Italy. He returned to campus to earn an engineering degree, then took over his family's farm. He resides in Wynton, Calif.
  • Setsuo Dairiki graduated from Stanford in spring 1942. He went to the Tulelake Relocation Center. He taught physics in the Army Specialized Training Program at the University of Nebraska, and later worked at Harvard, Raytheon, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Stanford Research Institute and Digital Equipment. He lives in Atherton.
  • Walter Funabiki was a junior at the time of the evacuation. He was sent with his family to Santa Anita, then to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. He left to continue his schooling, then was drafted. He spent a year with occupation forces in Japan, and returned to earn degrees from Stanford in 1947 and '48. He lives in San Francisco.
  • Tetsuo Okada lived in Toyon and Encina halls at Stanford. He earned a bachelor's degree in math from Westminster College after the war. He worked as an actuary at the Labor Department and in operations research for the Navy. He lives in Monterey.
  • Yoshimaro Shibuya finished his freshman year finals at Santa Anita. He later attended the University of Nebraska, where he received his degree. He served in military intelligence from 1944 to 1946, then worked as an electronics engineer in the defense industry. He lives in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
  • Dr. Kazuyuki Takahashi earned his bachelor's degree from Stanford, then entered Stanford Medical School in fall 1940. He was evacuated to Santa Anita, then went to the camp at Manzanar. After the war, he returned to Stanford and earned his medical degree in 1949. He practiced with Kaiser Permanente Medical Group for 25 years. He lives in El Cerrito.
  • Wat Takeshita lived at the Japanese Clubhouse on Santa Ynez Street. He was relocated to Santa Anita. He spent three years on campus, then taught Japanese to GIs at the University of Minnesota. He served as a translator-interpreter for the army in Japan from 1946 to 1951. He worked as a reporter for the Marin Independent Journal for 33 years. His son, Ken, entered Stanford this fall as a freshman and is living in Okada House.
  • George M. Taoka earned his bachelor's degree from Stanford in 1940 and his master's in 1942. He was relocated to Santa Anita, then Heart Mountain. He joined the Army, where he served as an intelligence officer in General MacArthur's Pacific headquarters until the war ended. He earned a doctorate from Columbia in 1955, and is now professor emeritus of international business at the University of Toledo, Ohio. He lives in Toledo.
  • Kazuo Alan Yamakawa graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford in 1940. He was awarded the John Switzer fellowship in electrical engineering at Stanford in 1942, but was not able to accept due to his relocation. After the war, he earned master's and doctoral degrees in physics at Princeton, then went on to work in semiconductor research at various companies and national laboratories. He lives in Monterey Park, Calif.

The event was organized by the Japanese American reunion committee: Wendy Hara, Rochelle Higa, Kord Honda, Eiko Itoh, Alisa Kamagaki, Julie Kikuchi, Ron Nakao and David Tanaka. Hara and Tanaka shared master-of-ceremony duties.

Earlier in the day, the alumni attended the rededication of Okada house, which moved across Wilbur Hall to the former Madera house.

Members of Stanford Taiko drummers performed two traditional songs for about 75 students, alumni and staff who gathered in the newly renovated Okada lounge.

Anthropology Professor Harumi Befu encouraged students to continue lobbying for an Asian-American studies program.



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