San Jose Mercury News: San Jose State’s Japanese Internment Camp Archives to be Digitized

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News on July 2, 2015.

SAN JOSE — Jimi Yamaichi was 19 when he and his family were torn away from their farm in San Jose and incarcerated in a desolate, treeless internment camp in northern Wyoming with thousands of other Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“When we were leaving home and going to the camps, I saw Mom and Dad with tears in their eyes, looking at the green fields ready to be harvested, and they had to leave,” said Yamaichi, a 92-year-old San Jose resident and the curator of the San Jose Japanese-American Museum. “After 20 years of work, their investment had gone down the tubes.”

For Yamaichi and the dwindling number of surviving Japanese-Americans who were forced into the camps, this dark period of American history is an indelible part of their own stories.

But before their recollections fade with the passing generations, a new project is under way to preserve the family letters, photographs and government documents connected to the World War II internment camps.

Over the next two years, San Jose State and 14 other campuses in the California State University system will be digitizing 10,000 documents into a searchable database called the CSU Japanese American History Digitization Project. A $320,000 grant from the National Park Service will soon make these pieces of history available to the public online.