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Jeanne Wakatsuki was at Manzanar for three-and-a-half years. On February 25, 1942, all individuals of Japanese descent were ordered to evacuate Terminal Island, California, where the Wakatsukis lived. Given only forty-eight hours notice, they were forced to sell their possessions for "humiliating prices," and, with the help of a charity organization, were able to resettle in Los Angeles. After a short time, however, the order was given that Japanese Americans would have to be relocated inland. In early April, 1942, Jeanne was interned at Manzanar, in California's Owens Valley, where she remained until October, 1945. Jeanne was seven years old at the time of her internment; ten-and-a-half when she was released.
Because he operated a fishing boat off the California coast for a living, Jeanne's father, Ko Wakatsuki, was one of the first to be arrested in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. In the hysteria engendered by the attack on American soil, it was suspected that Wakatsuki, and other Japanese Americans, would be loyal to the country of his birth, and would potentially engage in espionage for Japan. Wakatsuki was imprisoned in faraway North Dakota, where he was held for almost a year. After that time, he was reunited with his family at Manzanar, but his incarceration changed him, and he returned a bitter, angry man.
At Manzanar, Ko Wakatsuki was subject to sudden, ferocious rages. He drank copiously, and when drunk, was abusive to his wife and family. Eventually, however, he became resigned to what had happened to him, and spent his days peacefully tending a Japanese garden he created on the desert grounds. When the family was released from Manzanar, Ko relocated them in Long Beach, California. While his children were determined to assimilate into the American mainstream, he stubbornly clung to his Japanese customs, trying to instill an appreciation for their heritage in his children, with little success. Having lost everything when the family was interned, Ko Wakatsuki found himself essentially "starting over from economic zero." Unable to support his family, he began drinking again, while, to his humilitation, his wife took a job at a cannery to keep food on the table. After a couple of failed attempts at starting his own business, and a near-death experience brought about by his excesses, Ko Wakatsuki returned to farming. He pulled himself together growing strawberries outside of San Jose, California, and continued in this endeavor until his death.
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