At WWII 60th Anniversary, Takei Recalls Family Experiences

By Michelle
August 22, 2005 - 7:44 PM

As the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches, George Takei (Sulu) spoke about his own family history and the positive future he envisions.

The keynote speaker at the University of Hawaii's commencement ceremony, Takei recalled his youth in an interment camp for Japanese-Americans and talked about concepts from Star Trek that have become reality, such as instantaneous communication via the internet and cell-phone "communicators." The Honolulu Star-Bulletin published photos of the actor as he told the graduates to follow their dreams.

"It was normal for me to see the barbed-wire fence and the tall guard towers as I was reciting the words 'for liberty and justice for all,'" he recalled of his youth at Camp Rohwer in Arkansas and later Tule Lake in Northern California, where his family was forced to stay until the end of the war. "The irony of it all."

He also paid tribute to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, saying, "These amazing men, who did astounding deeds under the most incredible of circumstances, made it possible for me to do what I love. We, all of us, share in this legacy." h

In a recent interview with The Bangkok Post, Takei remembered crying when he visited the memorial to the Japanese-American regiment, which stands in the cemetery at Camp Rohwer. "The idea that these amazing young men who left their families in incarceration and put on the same uniform as that of our guards here, and went and fought with such heroism...when they died, their coffins were covered with American flags. And that flag was delivered to their parents for their lives, here behind the barbed wire fences. It's poignant," he said.

Takei added that the internment camps must be reflected in recorded US history or the country may be doomed to repeat its mistakes. "American democracy has to keep improving," he said. "As shining as the ideals of this country are when they were put down on paper by the founding fathers, they kept slaves. From the very beginning we were in contradiction to the ideals that we said we stood for."

"We have again another kind of hysteria and another kind of fear," noted the actor. "There are people that happen to look like terrorists who are subjected to this sweeping prejudice...they don't call it internment now, the word is detention...and again basic due process disappears."

What is most odd for Takei is that he loved the greenness of Arkansas and it became normal for him to eat with hundreds of other people in a mess hall, as well as to shower communally. "I must say my real memories are fond memories" as an child, he admitted. But when he returned to California, he discovered that it was as though his family had been in prison, and he believed that only bad people went to prison.

"My father was he was able to put it in a larger historic context. He said both the strength and the weakness of American democracy is that it is a people's democracy, and that it can be as glorious as the people can be, but it's as fallible as people can be," he noted. "It's very important for good people to be involved in the democratic process and to speak up, so that things like what happened to us during the hysteria of World War Two won't happen again."

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