The latest Dick Tracy storyline has kicked off with a seventy year old murder mystery that stretches all the way back to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. In this two month long story, Dick Tracy requests the help of an old associate, George Takei (George Tawara in the strip) and his husband Brad! Takei stated on his Facebook page that he and Brad are “truly honored to be a part of it.” It’s been a busy couple months for Takei in the comics, in December 2012 he made a special appearance in issue No. 6 of Archie Comics’ “Kevin Keller.” The fact that the strip is using an often glossed over piece of American history, Japanese Internment Camps, is very commendable and we can’t wait to read the story.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 about 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom lived along the Pacific coast were forcibly removed from their homes and “evacuated” to internment camps. This executive order would remain in effect until January 2, 1945 and internees were allowed to leave camps and rebuild their lives. Five-year-old George Takei was one of the internees as he and his parents were forced to board a bus while neighbors waited around the home to loot their belongings. They spent three months at a temporary camp, and then were moved to the Rohwer camp in Arkansas. Said Takei to Here and Now’s Robin Young on NPR, “My father told me that we were going on a long vacation to a place called Arkansas, and that sounded exotic to me. But when we were put on a train with other Japanese Americans, it was a grueling, long long trip.”
Takei said that once his family got to the internment camp, he got used to the way of life there. “I remember the barbed wire fence that we were told not to go near. And I remember the sentry towers that had machine guns pointed at us. And I remember the search light that followed me when I made the night runs from our barrack to the latrine,” he said. “But a child is an amazingly adaptable person. All that became normality for me.” Takei said he feels it’s important to continue to remind not only Japanese-Americans but all Americans of what happened during World War II, a time when “the government assumed just because we are of Japanese ancestry, there’s an inborn loyalty to the Emperor” of Japan.
While at Rohwer George’s parents refused to take vow and did not “pass” the loyalty questionnaire, they were later transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center. It was difficult for some to make vows to a country that took over their own lives and questions such as “are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?” often elicited a no response. Tule Lake, in California, was a site designated to “warehouse” the plucky ones.