Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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AIISF wins $25,573 grant to research Japanese American detention at Angel Island during WWII

On March 22, 2012, the National Park Service announced that AIISF was among 17 groups out of 42 applicants to be awarded funding under the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program for Fiscal Year 2012. AIISF will receive $25,573 to research the little-known stories of several hundred Japanese Hawaiians and Japanese Americans who were held at the detention barracks at the former Angel Island Immigration Station in 1942 and 1943.  The Nikkei were held at Angel Island by the U.S. military prior to being sent to Department of Justice camps for the duration of World War II.

AIISF will draw upon research done by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, which has documented ten groups of Japanese from Hawaii who stayed in the detention barracks for one to two weeks in 1942 and 1943.  Over 700 Japanese Hawaiians stayed on Angel Island.  Patsy Saiki’s 1982 book, Ganbare! An Example of Japanese Spirit, provides a first-hand look at the poor conditions of overcrowded, cold housing and poor food at the detention barracks.

Yasutaro Soga, an Issei leader from Hawaii, wrote about his month-long stay on Angel Island in Tessaku Sikatsu (Life Behind Barbed Wire), which was published in Japanese in 1948 and republished in English in 2008 by the University of Hawaii Press.  Mr. Soga recounts his daily walks on a small hill behind the detention barracks and the pleasant conversations he had with Nikkei from California, including Shigehiko Nagaoka, editor of the Chuka Nippo (Central California Daily) in Fresno; Motomu Kambara, a shoe shop owner in Sacramento; Chitose Hotta, a Gilroy laundry owner; and Taro Kuroi of the Rafu Sangyo Nippo (Los Angeles Business Daily).  Mr. Soga’s book provided verification that more than Japanese from Hawaii were held at Angel Island.  Subsequent inquiries made by AIISF to the National Archives has revealed names of over 100 Japanese from California and other states who were detained at Angel Island.

One file provided by the National Archives tells the story of  Muraichi “George” Nakanishi, the General Manager and Treasurer of Pacific Trading Co., Inc. in Denver, CO.  He was arrested on December 2, 1942 by the F.B.I.  and held at Fort Logan, Denver, CO. He was shipped to Angel Island on Feb. 14, 1943 and then transferred to Camp Livingston, LA on Feb. 18, 1943 and later to a camp in Santa Fe, NM.  On September 2, 1943, he and his American-born wife, Tsuruya, and 12 year old daughter Akiko, were repatriated on the S.S. Gripsholm in the prisoner-of-war exchange program.

The NPS grant will allow AIISF to research these stories and possibly locate the descendants of the men and women held at Angel Island as part of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  AIISF will work with the National Japanese American Historical Society, other Japanese American museums and organization, and San Francisco State University Professor Charles Egan, who has translated some of the Japanese inscriptions written on the barrack walls by Japanese Hawaiians.

Please contact Eddie Wong at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you have additional information that could aid our research.
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