The documentary “Prisoners and Patriots: The Untold Story of Japanese Internment in Santa Fe” will be screened at the Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. First St. in Little Tokyo, on Saturday, April 14, at 2 p.m. with filmmaker Neil Simon on hand to answer questions.
During World War II, the U.S. government targeted people of Japanese ancestry as security risks. Immediately after the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the FBI incarcerated individuals whom it considered community leaders, including businessmen, Japanese language school teachers and Buddhist ministers. Most of these individuals were Issei men.
The Justice Department set up an internment camp in Santa Fe, N.M. and imprisoned over 800 Issei men there in 1942. This initial group was processed over several months until the camp was emptied.
In 1943, the Army began transferring civilians it had control over to Santa Fe. These were individuals considered “enemy aliens” and by June of 1945, over 2,000 men were being held.
Santa Fe differed greatly from the War Relocation Authority-run camps that held over 110,000 individuals. It was governed by the Geneva Convention and inmates were treated as prisoners of war. Most of the inmates were either sent back to Japan or released. A dozen men were sent to the Crystal City, Texas camp.
The documentary was based on 20 hours of exclusive interviews with Santa Fe survivors and their families, declassified government documents and private photographs. It tells a story that, in many cases, fathers never told their own children after the war.
Explained Simon, “One son of an internee recalled how for years families of fellow internees came looking for closure in Santa Fe, hoping to see and hear more about what happened in the camp, only to leave New Mexico empty-handed. No film, book, or museum collection exists to tell the full story of what happened there, who the men were, their lives before the war, and where they went after.”
The film is narrated by former NBC and CNN correspondent James Hattori, who is currently a freelance journalist and communications consultant and an instructor at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University.
Among those who appear in the film are former internees Norman Hirose, Bill Nishimura, Frank Sumida, Noboru Taguma, Seiichi “Sam” Yamakawa and Susumu Yenokida; Rev. Yoshiaki Fujitani, Akira Otani, Rev. Hiroshi Abiko, Ruth Hashimoto, Esther Hokama, Takashi “Tash” Kushi, Augustus “Gus” Tanaka, Masako Tomono and Susan Yamakawa, whose fathers were interned; Richard S. Dockum and Abner Schrieber, who were second-in-command at the Lordsburg Internment Camp in New Mexico and Santa Fe, respectively.
Simon, a television journalist, has previously released short documentaries, including “Clearing the Air” (2001) and “Inside Bill Richardson” (2005). “Prisoners and Patriots” is his first full-length documentary. Simon became aware of the Santa Fe camp while living in New Mexico. He received a journalism fellowship in Congress and pursued his research about the camp at the National Archives.
In 2009, he was appointed communications director of the human rights monitoring U.S. Helsinki Commission, then chaired by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland. In 2011, he was named director of communications for the 56-country Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly. He currently lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, with his wife, son, and two dogs.
This program is free to JANM members or with admission. For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or go to www.janm.org.
On the Web: http://prisonersandpatriots.wordpress.com/