Before the War
  Leaving Home
  Heart Mountain
  Life in the Camp
  Life After the War


  Before the War
By Norman Mineta, from an interview by Duff Griffith for the Japanese American Project of the Oral History Program at California State University, Fullerton.

Norman Mineta waves from the doorway of his San Jose home in 1987. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
I was born and raised in San Jose, California. Both my parents had been born in Japan. My father moved to America in 1902 and my mom came over in 1912. Being first-generation American, I was considered Nisei.

Living in California, we all experienced some subtle forms of discrimination, like waiting in a department store for a clerk to help you, while other people who came in after you got waited on first.

My family had strong feelings about America, especially my father. You see, there were many immigrants who came to America to work, make money, and later return to Japan. But there were also many who came with the intention of raising their families and becoming a permanent part of the fabric of society. In the late 1920s, my dad helped put together a support group of Japanese immigrants in San Jose who wanted to become Americans. Consequently, he had strong relationships with the city and county officials and the business community. He had made many friends.

There were only three times when I'd seen my dad cry: once on the 7th of December, 1941; the second time was when we left on the train to go to camp; and the third time was when my mother passed away. I remember on the 7th of December, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he was in the little office at home, crying, and saying, "Why did they do it? Why? Why?"

Think About It
Why do you think it was so hard for Norman's father on December 7, 1941?