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Togo W. Tanaka (January 7, 1916 – May 21, 2009) was an Americanmarker newspaper journalist and editor who reported on the difficult conditions in the Manzanarmarker internment camp, where he was one of 110,000 Japanese Americans who had been relocated after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbormarker on December 7, 1941.

Early life and education

Tanaka was born on January 7, 1916, in Portland, Oregonmarker to Japanese Issei parents. He grew up in Los Angelesmarker, where his parents operated a vegetable market, and graduated there from Hollywood High School at age 16. he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angelesmarker, where he wrote for the Daily Bruin, graduating in 1936 with a bachelor's degree in political science.

He was hired by the Japanese-American newspaper Rafu Shimpo while he was still in college, where he edited the paper's English language content, writing editorials encouraging Nisei, those born in the United States to Japanese immigrant parents, to be loyal Americans. During a pre-War trip to Washington, D.C.marker arranged by the newspaper's publisher, Tanaka tried to ensure that the paper would be able to continue publishing in the event that hostilities broke out with Japan, and was interrogated by officials from the Department of War who challenged his allegiance to his home country.

Arrest and internment

Tanaka was one of the few American-born individuals arrested as enemy aliens on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. No explanation was offered for his arrest, and he was held incommunicado for 11 days, forbidden even to contact his pregnant wife, and was released without being charged. In a newspaper interview conducted the day after the Pearl Harbor attacks, Tanaka described how the local Japanese community had "not been in sympathy with Japan's expansion program" and had worked with the FBI and Office of Naval Intelligence for the preceding several years. He stated that "We think the Japanese Government is stupid and has embarked on a campaign it has absolutely no chance of winning."

Together with his family, Tanaka was sent to the Manzanarmarker detention camp on April 23, 1942, under the terms of Japanese American internment that took place under Executive Order 9066 signed by President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was the editor of the last issue of Rafu Shimpo published before the forced relocation took place. Tanaka characterized the facility as an "outdoor jail", in which he was one of what would eventually be 10,000 Japanese Americans, mostly from the Los Angeles area. These Japanese Americans were people of Japanese descent, most of whom were U.S. citizens from Los Angeles County. Located in California's arid Owens Valleymarker in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, those moved there lived in crude barracks that did little to protect them from dust storms. Tanaka reported that "I cannot see how it is possible for any human being of normal impulses to be cooped up within limited confines of barbed wires, watchtowers, and all the atmosphere of internment and not be touched by the bitterness and disillusionment all around him."

Using his background in journalism, Tanaka documented the conditions and experiences in the camp for the War Relocation Authority and sent reports to be included in a study of the internment policy performed at the University of California, Berkeleymarker. His details reports on the factional divisions within the camp and his advocacy for cooperation with authorities, put him into what his son later described as "a no man's land" in which he had lost his rights as an American and was not trusted by other Japanese internees in the camp.

In rioting that took place on the 1942 anniversary of Pearl Harbor, two protesters were killed. Tanaka was targeted by the protesters, who were critical of his support for cooperation with the military authorities that operated the camp and was able to avoid attack by donning a disguise. He was moved with his family after the incident, along with others labeled as collaborators, to another internment facility in Death Valleymarker. He was released in 1943 and moved to Chicagomarker, where he worked with a Quaker group that assisted other former Japanese internees and refugees from Nazi Germany to find employment and housing.

Post-war experiences

Tanaka left journalism after the war, and worked at a textbook publisher in Chicago. He moved back to California in 1955 and went into the business of creating trade journals. He started a real estate venture in 1963, and retired from the company in 1985 as chairman.

In a 2005 visit to the exhibit at Manzanar, he saw his own desk and typewriter on permanent display. A park ranger who had prepared the display described the visit by Tanaka as being "like history walking in the front door."


Tanaka died at age 93 on May 21, 2009, at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centermarker in Los Angelesmarker due to natural causes. He was survived by his wife, to whom he had been married for 68 years, as well as three children, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.


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