Censored Letter from Imprisoned Issei to his Family


This letter is an example of censorship done by the U.S. Government on mail sent by Japanese Americans, especially those they considered dangerous, often detained alien enemies of the state. Mail sent and received by aliens were thoroughly examined, and censored if necessary. In this particular letter, sent from Shinsuke Sugimoto to his wife, Misao Sugimoto, the name of a Reverend has been cut out with ab Exacto Knife.

Sugimoto was an Issei and born in Kyoto, Japan on September 10, 1884. Sugimoto lived in Japan for 20 years before immigrating to the United States in 1906 when he was just 22-years-old. Sugimoto became an insurance salesman and lived in the Los Angeles, California area.

Sugimoto met and married Misao Sugimoto (nee Toyama) on July 22, 1918 in Marysville, California, where they then lived. Misao Toyama was from the Kumamoto-Ken Prefecture of Japan. Together they had four children: Kathleen, Mary, Roy, and Paul.

Sugimoto then became the Secretary of the Japanese Association of Marysville before relocating to Boyle Heights in 1928. It was there that Sugimoto also taught kendo, a Japanese martial art using bamboo swords.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1945. This Executive Order authorized the designation and removal from military zones of anyone considered a threat to national security, although mostly those of Japanese descent were affected by this. 110,000 people of Japanese descent were relocated to prison camps in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Idaho, Arkansas, California, and Colorado.

Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated in waves, and Sugimoto was one of the first to be arrested after Executive Order 9066 was signed. It is believed that because of Sugimoto's kendo expertise that he was considered a danger by the U.S. government and thus the reason for his sudden arrest. Sugimoto was arrested so suddenly that he wrote to his family and told them he had barely any time to get dressed, and that he had left an unfinished tax return on the desk.

Sugimoto was brought to the Tuna Canyon Detention Station in Tujunga, California, where he stayed and wrote letters home to his family until his relocation to the Santa Fe Alien Detention Camp in New Mexico. Sugimoto instructed his eldest son Roy to sell the family belongings, and left more instructions with his eldest children on how to deal with familial finances and business. From the prison camps, Sugimoto was able to write to his family, tell them he loved them, that he thought of them often, hoped they were well, expressed his worry for them, and reassured them that he was well, and to comply with orders and not worry about their eventual relocation.

During Sugimoto's stay in the prison camps, his family was relocated from their home in Los Angeles and moved to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, a racing track turned temporary housing facility until the prison camps were finished. The Sugimoto family (minus Shinsuke Sugimoto) were then relocated to the Granda (Amache) Prison Camp in Colorado, and Shinsuke Sugimoto was finally able to reunite with his family there at the age of 58.

Sugimoto's daughter Mary and her husband Yoshio were sent to the Rohwer, Arkansas camp. Sugimoto's youngest son Paul was still of school-age, and Sugimoto encouraged Paul to study hard and get his education, even when Sugimoto was separated from the rest of the family. Paul attended the Amache Junior High School and Amache Senior High School inside the Amache Prison Camp.

Sugimoto unfortunately did not live to see liberation from the Amache Prison Camp. He died just two months shy of his family's release at the age of 61 on March 24, 1945, in the Amache Prison Camp.

Sugimoto's Buddhist funeral service was held on March 30, 1945 inside the camp. Sugimoto was cremated by the Fairmount Cemetary Association in Denver, Colorado, and his ashes were sent to his widow, Misao Sugimoto.

Date Made: 05/10/1942

Location: Currently not on view

See more items in: Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Japanese American, Executive Order 9066


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: gift of Donna Sugimoto

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2016.0280.23Accession Number: 2016.0280Catalog Number: 2016.0280.23

Object Name: letter

Physical Description: paper (overall material)ink (overall material)Measurements: overall: 10 1/2 in x 8 in; 26.67 cm x 20.32 cmoverall: 3 1/2 in x 6 1/2 in; 8.89 cm x 16.51 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b3-0791-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1819390

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