From: Eastern US
I just returned from a three-week trip to China with my ex-boss, former US Secretary of Transportation (Transport Minister, to the Europeans among us) Norman Y. Mineta.*
Norm Mineta is a Great American and all-around great guy who has led a fascinating life. But this is the story of the World War II experience of his older brother, Albert.
Albert’s father was born in Japan, and migrated to America as a young man. Albert was born in San Jose, and worked in his father’s successful insurance business there. In early 1942, the entire Mineta family, along with the 120,000 other Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast were removed to “relocation camps” taking with them only those personal possessions that they could carry. The Minetas, and some 10,000 other Japanese-Americans, were sent to a barbed-wire enclosed camp called Heart Mountain, in a desolate stretch of the Wyoming highlands.
Eighteen year-old Albert’s request to join the US Army was denied, and he was classified as an “enemy alien.” Norm Mineta remembers that moment as, “the first time I ever saw my brother cry.”
As the initial wartime hysteria ran down, the restrictions on Japanese-Americans were relaxed. Some 1,200 Japanese-Americans, Albert among them, were permitted to leave the camps to complete their college education. And in 1945, Albert was finally allowed to enlist.
He arrived in Japan as part of the occupation forces shortly after the September surrender. Soon after arriving he borrowed a bike and, in uniform and alone, pedaled through the devastation of Tokyo to seek out his grandfather, whom he had never met, who lived in the suburbs of the city.
After several hours of searching, Albert found the home. He announced himself, and although he could hear voices inside, no one opened the door. He waited patiently for 40 minutes. Finally, a young boy came to the door. Albert said, “I am Albert Mineta, first son of Kunisaki Mineta, second son of [the Grandfather’s name] and I am here to pay my respects to my grandfather.”
The boy slid the door shut. Another half hour passed until an adult opened the door and invited Albert in to sit cross-legged in front of a low table. A few minutes later his grandfather came from an interior room and sat across from him. Albert repeated his salutation.
His grandfather replied: “Long have I dreamed of visiting my grandchildren in America. But never did I imagine that one would come here, in the uniform of the enemy.” And without another word, he stood up and left.
Dismayed, but undeterred, Albert continued to bike to the house every week or so, two hours each way, bringing with him food, sugar, salt, cigarettes, and other sundries. The family gratefully accepted Albert’s gifts, for the Japanese were facing starvation that fall, but the grandfather would stay in a back room and never greet him.
But during one visit, as fall turned to winter, Albert’s grandfather came out to speak with him. “I like the tobacco with the Rising Sun on it,” was all he said. But in each of Albert’s subsequent visits they spent more and more time together.
Lucky Strikes had reconciled the Minetas.
* = Shameless Self-Promotion: I was travelling with Secretary Mineta on behalf of the International Leadership Foundation (ILF), a foundation I established with my wife (who is Chinese-American) to promote the civic involvement of Asian Pacific Americans. Secretary Mineta is now the national chairman of the ILF.
< Message edited by Blackhorse -- 12/26/2008 12:52:27 PM >
WitP-AE -- US LCU & AI Stuff
Oddball: Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?