A Dark Chapter In US History

On the 71st anniversary of her family arriving at a Japanese-American internment facility, Joyce Sechler told her story about how she was born in one of these concentration camps Thursday.

Greg Peterson, Robert H. Jackson Center co-founder, interviewed Sechler who shared her story about a dark chapter in U.S. history. In 1942, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces, the federal government executed executive order 9066, which established concentration camps for Japanese-Americans living in America. More than 100,000 people of Japanese heritage, both American-born citizens and aliens living in the U.S., were forcibly moved from their homes to be incarcerated during World War II.

At the time of the incarcerations, Sechler had not been born yet. Her father was born in Japan and her mother was born in California. They met in California and married. Sechler said her father owned several parcels of land when he was ordered to the concentration camp.

“He never liked to talk about his time in the camps,” she said. “He always talked to us about getting the best education we could because he said, ‘No one can ever take that away from you.'”

Sechler’s father, older sister, grandmother and mother, who was pregnant with her, were sent to a camp in the southeast corner of Colorado. The camp was titled the Granada War Relocation Camp, and it was also known as Amache. During the trip, where Japanese-Americans were hauled on trains and trucks, Sechler’s mother started going into labor. Shortly after arriving at the camp, Sechler was born. She was a premature baby who survived the birth and the following days at the camp thanks to a doctor and his wife, who was a nurse, also incarcerated at the facility. Sechler said she was named after the doctor’s wife. Peterson asked if she believes if she was the first child born in one of the Japanese-American incarceration camps, and Sechler believes she was.

Sechler said she does not remember much about the camps. Her older sister told her stories about the horrible conditions, which included freezing temperatures in the winter and extreme heat in the summer. She said it was a remote, desolate area of the country so it was hard for the people at the camps to grow their own food. She said dust storms during the summer were terribly bad. Also, the camp where her family was sent was different than the location where they had sent her grandfather. She said her family not knowing about the health of her grandfather added to the stress of the experience.

“The conditions were pretty horrendous,” she said.