In the spring of 1942 a graduation ceremony, like many others across the country, was held at the University of California at Berkeley. This ceremony was special, as over 400 students were unable to attend for a peculiar reason. Among them was the valedictorian, Harvey Itano.
“Harvey cannot be with us today,” said university president Robert Gordon Sproul. “His country has called him elsewhere.”
Mr. Itano had been taken from school and placed into the Tule Lake internment camp for alien and non-alien Americans of enemy ethnicity. In California this was largely Japanese. Over 100,000 persons in the American west (all of which was designated a ‘military zone’) were uprooted and incarcerated for the duration of the war.
The novel Red Jade, still in production, is set in World War II California. The experience of the Japanese Americans and their children and the impact of their sudden removal on the rest of society is key to the historical fiction. Nicolas Guyon will need to understand them, their contemporary enemies, and their ancient rivals, to solve a hopeless case.
Should the reader wish to know more about Mr. Itano, there is plenty to read! He was eventually allowed to leave the concentration camp to continue schooling in St. Louis (technically all people in the war zone had prior and standing opportunity to move outside the military zone, but few found actual situations). He went on to be lauded for advances in medicine and biochemistry.
UPI Archive, 50 Year Berkeley Reunion
Revolvy.com, Harvey Itano
L.A. Times Obituary, Harvey Itano
internees at Tule Lake concentration camp