The Early Years… 1946 – 1960
The St. Louis Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League was chartered in 1946 and became part of the Midwest District of the National JACL. An executive Board was elected and the first Inauguration was held in 1947 with Sam Nakano as the newly elected President. There were about 350 permanent Japanese American residents in St. Louis at that time and they consisted of St. Louisans that came here before and during World War II and the recent arrivals from the internment camps.
The pre-war residents consisted of businessmen and their families as well as undergraduate and graduate students primarily at Washington University and St. Louis University. Many of these students came to St. Louis to continue their education since they were not allowed to do so on the West Coast. One of the notable members of this group was Mr. Yukinobu Yamamoto who had arrived in St. Louis during the 1904 World’s Fair to work on the Japanese Pavilion and remained here and married Manet Elkington. He was later awarded the Fifth Order of the Sacred Treasure by the emperor of Japan for furthering Japanese-American relations. Others in the community were the Tanaka, Inukai and Kadowaki families with their shops and restaurants. Students attending the local universities the were active in JACL included Dr. Jackson Eto, Dr. Mas Ohmoto, Dr. Al Morioka and Dr. George Uchiyama.
The concentration camps were established by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that incarcerated 110,000 Japanese americans from the West Coast during the War. This order was issued with total disregard of the Bill of Rights of our constitution. The incarceration of Japanese Americans was based soley on racial prejudice and wartime hysteria and not on any military necessity as some were led to believe. Two of the camps were in Southeast Arkansas in rohwer and Jerome and many of the St. Louis Japanese Americans came from these camps. Recent efforts by George Sakaguchi, George Haswgawa and Mike Hoshiko of the St. Louis JACL; Sam Yada and his sons Richard and Robert of Little Rock; and many Arkansas officials resulted in the establishment of the Rohwer Memorial Cemetery and the Jerome site as national historical landmarks. The monuments and headstones erected at Rohwer during the War by the camp residents serve as a poignant reminder of those dark days.