On February 19, 1942, ten weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the forced relocation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast.
Families were taken from their homes and placed in remote relocation centers or internment camps, where they spent the remainder of the war as prisoners.
Shigeru “Shig” Yabu was just ten years old when he and his family were evacuated from their San Francisco home and sent to Heart Mountain internment camp in Cody, Wyoming. At 87, Shig came to StoryCorps with his grandson, Evan, to remember the thing that came to define his experience as an internee — adopting and caring for a bird named Maggie.
Willie Ito was 8 years old when he and his family were also evacuated from their home, and sent to an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. There, he would find a kind of solace and escapism in drawing. At 85, Willie sat down for StoryCorps with his son Vincent to remember how his childhood dreams of becoming an animator never wavered, even during his internment.
After the war, Shig and Willie returned to San Francisco, where they met at a local YMCA and developed a lifelong friendship. Although they were forever linked by a shared history, they never spoke about their experiences as internees — until one day, decades after the war, Shig told Willie about an idea he had for a children’s book. At StoryCorps, they remember how writing that book helped them confront the past, and helped to shed light on some of America’s darkest days during World War II.
Top photo: Artwork by Lindsay Mound.
Middle photo 1: Evan Yabu and Shigeru Yabu at their StoryCorps interview in Camarillo, CA in September 2019. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps.
Middle photo 2: Vincent Ito and Willie Ito at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles, CA in September 2019. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Shigeru Yabu and Willie Ito at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles, CA in November 2019. Photo by Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.
Released on December 17, 2019.
Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Heat and Memory” by Jarrett Floyd
“Untitled 04” by Yusuke Tsutsumi from the album Birds Flying in the Dark
“Heart On My Sleeve” by Bryan Copeland (StoryCorps Commission)
“Grey Grey Joe” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album TinyTiny Trio