The Incarceration Letters of Tetsuzo Hirasaki

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At 21, Tetsuzo Hirasaki was the oldest of the incarcerated young adults who wrote to heroic San Diego librarian Clara Breed during his incarceration.  His father was being held in a federal prison. He wanted to join the army. He wrote over 35 letters to Miss Breed, well-crafted and often humorous, expressing his disappointment towards conditions in the camps.

Visit this link to listen to three letters below read by Write Out Loud actors Jyl Kaneshiro, Mark Christopher Lawrence, and Steven Lone. See selected letters with excerpts in the attached PDF file with links to the Clara Breed Collection at the Japanese American National Museum for access to all the letters Hirasaki wrote.

Letter to Clara Breed from Tetsuzo Hirasaki, Poston, Arizona, November 16, 1942 

"God forgive us for the thoughts that are beginning to run amok in our brains. Last week a very good friend of mine got to thinking - and he went crazy. He tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists. He is still alive, but his face is like that of a wild ape caged for the first time in his life."

Letter to Clara Breed from Tetsuzo Hirasaki, Poston, Arizona, December 1, 1942

“You have probably read by now in the paper about the strike that was held in Camp I because two men were held on suspicion of beating up an informer. (Sounds like Santa Anita) One man was released but the other was held to face charges at a Phoenix Superior Court.”

Letter to Clara Breed from Tetsuzo Hirasaki, Poston, Arizona, August 27, 1943

“Well, this makes one year that I've been in Poston.--almost a year too much. It is hard to believe that a year could pass so quickly. The only part that dragged was the waiting for Army induction which for me never came, otherwise the days passed swiftly.”

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This program is part of the program series The Rebellious Miss Breed: San Diego Public Library and the Japanese American Incarceration. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a partner of the NEH. Visit calhum.org.