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George Takei recalls 'degrading' internment of Japanese Americans

June 7, 2012 |  9:36 am

Actor George Takei shared a few vivid memories with the Board of Supervisors before it repealed Los Angeles County’s support for the internment of Japanese Americans and others of Japanese descent during World War II.

“I was 4 years old at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941,” said Takei, best known for his role as Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the "Star Trek" television series and feature films. “But I have a memory that’s seared into my mind from when I just turned 5 in April of 1942.”

On Wednesday, Takei, now 75, recounted the day when soldiers with shining bayonets on their rifles banged on the door of his Los Angeles home and herded his family into a waiting truck. They were taken with others of Japanese lineage to living quarters in a horse stable at the Santa Anita racetrack that reeked of manure.

“As my mother carried my baby sister and a duffel bag, I saw tears rolling down her cheeks,” Takei said. She "thought it was the most humiliating and degrading experience of her life."

His family was later relocated to an internment camp in Arkansas, where Takei would go to school in a tar paper barracks, line up three times a day to eat in a noisy mess hall and bathe in a group shower.

Standing for the pledge of alliance, Takei said, “I could see the barbed wire and the sentry tower from my school house window as I recited ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ ” 

On a motion from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board overturned its 70-year-old resolution that urged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proceed with the internment of Japanese Americans. About 150,000 people of Japanese descent were held in camps until January 1945.


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 -- Dan Weikel