Select a primary language to get the most out of our Journal pages:
English 日本語 Español Português

We have made a lot of improvements to our Journal section pages. Please send your feedback to!

Memoirs- Part 2 of 4: Caravan to Colorado

Read Part 1 >>

The Volunteer Migration

Around January 14, 1942, a Presidential Proclamation required all Japanese aliens to register and forever carry with them papers that identified them as "enemy aliens." By the end of January 1942, General John De Witt of the 6th Army Area Defense declared all Japanese aliens and their families be rounded up from the "sensitive areas" and incarcerated. The designated "sensitive areas" included San Pedro, San Diego, Long Beach, etc., mostly all sea ports and harbors. The public sentiment and hysteria were creating a lot of tension and uncertainty.

The family decided that the sooner we left California, the safer our departure would be, and thus, we decided to leave California in two groups. The first group would depart on February 8, 1942 and would include: Shio Inouye (mother), Roy Inouye (oldest son); Yoshiko Inouye (nee Nakayama) (Roy's wife); Ted Inouye (third son); Herb Inouye (youngest son); and Sunao Kawanabe (family friend). Their transport would include: a 1941 GMC truck; a 1939 Dodge sedan; and a 1939 Dodge pickup.

The second group was to depart approximately one month later after taking care of the last minute details and would include: George Inouye (second son); Soichi Kukita (Sunao's brother); and Fred and Eva Nozawa (family friends who at the last minute decided to partake in the migration). Their transport would include: a 1939 Dodge pickup; a 1938 Chevrolet sedan: and a 1936 Ford Pickup.

On the eve of the first group's departure, Sunao's bachelor friends held a farewell party in his behalf. Sunao had loaded and wrapped the load on his pickup with tarp, ready for departure early the next morning. During the party, some vandals broke his pickup's side window, but there was no time to get the window fixed before departure. My mother told me to accompany Sunao and keep him awake (since he didn't get any sleep the night before).

The morning of February 8 was still dark when we left Los Angeles. We traveled the famous "US Route 66" from Los Angeles, through Pasadena, Arcadia, Azusa, Pomona, and San Bernardino. It was still early morning when we passed Victorville, Barstow, Ludlow, and Needles, California.

On arriving at the bridge that spanned the California/Arizona border, a contingent of Army Military Police stopped our group to determine if we were on a legitimate mission. At first they were going to make us unload the vehicles so they could check the contents but after some discussion they decided to post armed guards every one hundred feet for the length of the bridge. They then lined us up for the crossing, the passenger car first, the pickup second, and the truck last. Just before each vehicle started, the officer in charge approached each vehicle with instructions for the crossing:

Go slow; follow equidistance apart; and his last instruction was "roll up your windows and don't throw anything out the doors or windows."

Before I could tell him that the window was missing, the officer left to instruct the vehicle behind us. So we followed the vehicle ahead of us at the required distance. We passed the first two sentries and were astride the third sentry when he noticed our open window. He hollered us to stop, pointed his weapon at us, and started blowing his whistle. I was completely terrified, finally the officer approached in his patrol jeep and demanded why we weren't following instructions. This time I had a chance to tell him the window was missing. He held a quick conference with his MP personnel and assigned one guard to ride the fender with his bayonet fixed and his rifle pointed inside the pickup cab. Sunao and I were so shaken up that we couldn't talk for some time, even after the Military Police departed.

When we crossed over into Arizona, the military people left us but a representative from the Arizona State Patrol was waiting for us. He ordered us to follow him into Flagstaff, Arizona. When we mentioned that we needed gas for the vehicles and food and drinks for the travelers, he agreed to a short stop along the way. Thus we resumed our journey on "US Route 66" into Arizona. We passed little towns like Oatman, Kingman, Seligman, Ash Fork, Williams, and finally Flagstaff. This part of the journey was uneventful except for our gas stop in Kingman. We were not allowed to enter a restaurant for food, rather we had to order "hamburgers-to-go," which we ate on the road. This manner of gas and food stops was repeated throughout our journey through Arizona and New Mexico.

In Flagstaff, we were escorted to the Arizona State Highway Patrol Office where each of us was interrogated separately. When my mother (who's comprehension of and speech in English were very limited) failed to respond adequately to their questions, they raised their voice level and acted in a threatening manner. I was in the adjoining room and when I heard the loud and threatening voices, I rushed into the interrogation room and shouted at them to "stop browbeating my mother—she doesn't understand your question!" After that, they allowed me to interpret and translate her interview. Upon concluding the interrogations, it was time to retire for the evening. The state patrol found us a motel and periodically patrolled our vehicles that night.

We left Flagstaff early the next morning and again with the patrol escort. The second day on Route 66 was more traumatic than the first day in that the local and national news media found out about our migration and we were blasted on the radio newscasts, almost hourly. The radio newscast would monitor our migration along Route 66:

"A caravan of Japs passing through Winslow, Arizona…"

"Now the Jap caravan is entering Joseph City, Arizona…"

"The Jap caravan has reached Holbrook, Arizona…" etc.

Even through the State of New Mexico, the newscasts continued. But the worst part was the advance notice given the residents in these towns that enabled them to line the highway to jeer us and throw garbage, rocks, and other missiles while shouting "we hate Japs," or "don't stop here, keep moving, Jap."

When we reached Lupton, Arizona near the New Mexico border, the Arizona State Patrol left and the New Mexico Police met us to escort the caravan to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The verbal onslaught continued through Gallup, Grants, Laguna, and Albuquerque where we were escorted to the New Mexico State Police Office. Here again we were interrogated individually and then permitted to continue our journey as long as we left the state without stopping. We were allowed to stay overnight at a motel near the State Police Office.

The next morning, with New Mexico State Police escort, we left Route 66 and headed north on US Highway 285 to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We continued north through Espanola, Tres Piedras, and to the New Mexico border where the New Mexico State Police left us. Just across the border, at the Los Pinos Cutoff, a Colorado Courtesy Patrol car was parked. My brother Ted was driving the lead truck and I was accompanying him when we assumed we would be detained again and so we pulled over and parked the truck. When he saw us stop, the patrolman came over to the truck, tipped his cap and said, "Welcome to Colorado. Governor Ralph Carr and the State of Colorado welcome you. How can I be of service to you?"

We could hardly believe what we heard. After all the hassle and torment we went through in California, Arizona, and New Mexico, here was a patrolman sent by the Honorable Governor Carr to assist us. What a noble and honorable man he must be! This one act changed my whole perspective on true Americanism and restored my faith in the United States of America.

Part 3 >>


© 2008 Herbert Inouye