Valley Family Recalls Dark Days Of WWII - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Valley Family Recalls Dark Days Of WWII

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FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) -

May is a month the Ichinaga family formerly of Tulare will never forget.

In 1942, their lives changed forever when the U.S. government felt all Japanese–Americans couldn't be trusted, so they were placed in internment camps.

The 12-person Ichinaga family packed up all they could carry and joined thousands more at the Fresno Fairgrounds. They reported there on May 13, 1942.

Frankie Ichinaga Wilkinson says her father James was forced to leave his restaurant in Tulare.  Once he arrived in Fresno he was put to work in the kitchen.

"He was forced to cook for a whole bunch of people and he wasn't used to the foods," Frankie recalled. "He wasn't used to that much in quantities but they said you either do it or you starve."

The Ichinaga's spent several months surrounded by chain-link fences topped with barbed wire at the fairgrounds.

Monty Ichinaga, who was just 5-years-old at the time, said he doesn't remember much, other than the change in location.

"My brothers and sisters have a different story," Monty said. "For them, it was a very traumatic experience."

Next stop for the family was Jerome, Ark. then Nebraska before President Harry S. Truman gave the all clear sign to return home.

By then, Frankie was a teenager and she says she was bitter.

"I will say that after the way I didn't trust anybody. I didn't trust people in uniform. I didn't trust any Caucasian. Why? Because they were the reason I was in the camp," she said.

The Ichinaga family is now part of Fresno Fairgrounds history as their names are etched in a Memorial erected in 2011.  Saturday was the first time the whole family saw it and took a walk down memory lane.

The Ichinaga family said that they are much closer because of their years in detention.

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