Kunitaro Takeuchi (1887–1972) was a Japanese native who migrated to Hawai’i in his early twenties, right around the turn of the century where he married his wife Hana, had a family, and worked as a photographer. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, signed on 19 February 1942, authorized the apprehension and incarceration of people believed to be conspirators and sympathizers to the Axis powers during World War II. This order primarily targeted people of Japanese, Italian, and German descent, many of them being US citizens. In May 1942, the Takeuchi family was forced out of Hawai’i as “Group 3” of Nisei and Issei (first- and second-generation Japanese Americans) identified for holding at internment camps. Kunitaro Takeuchi, then in his mid-fifties, was imprisoned at the Santa Fe Internment Camp for the duration of the war. The 80-acre Department of Justice camp, where St. Francis Drive and West Alameda Street are now located, held 4555 men and operated from 1942-1946, nearly a year after the war was over.
There, Kunitaro Takeuchi carved these pieces, among many others, and collected cigar boxes full of rocks from the camp area. He received many rocks as gifts from others at the camp as well. The New Mexico History Museum is honored to care for these pieces of history that remind us about the sacrifices Japanese Americans made during this period of unjust persecution in our national history.
Military sons visiting their interned fathers and friends at the Santa Fe Internment Camp. Photo courtesy Shinoda Family Collection.
During World War II, Santa Fe was the site of one of the nation’s largest Justice Department internment camps. It primarily housed Japanese immigrants, among them the Rev. Tamasaku Watanabe. On Sunday, November 15, at 2 pm, Watanabe’s granddaughter, Dr. Gail Y. Okawa, speaks on a brain-twisting aspect of that heartbreaking period: Even as our government locked up Japanese residents over fears of their supposed disloyalty, their own children put on soldiers’ uniforms to defend the nation.
“Compounded Ironies: Japanese Internee Fathers, American Patriot Sons” is a free-with-admission lecture in the New Mexico History Museum auditorium. (Sundays are free to NM residents.)
Tensions between the United States and Japan were brewing well before the December 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor. Officials with the War and Justice Departments were working together to identify the leaders of Japanese American communities. As a minister, the Rev. Watanabe made one of their lists. Within hours of the Pearl Harbor attack, he was arrested and eventually exiled from Hawai`i. He and others ended up at the camp that today is the site of Santa Fe’s Casa Solana neighborhood. Between March 1942 and April 1946, 4,555 men of Japanese ancestry were held there. (The Army also operated an internment camp in Lordsburg.)