Japanese-American Internment Commemoration

"Each spring, you will watch the cherry trees bloom and grow. It has been our only tangible contribution to the college. It is our most earnest prayer that our friendship will continue to grow. At this time, we say, not goodbye, but until we meet again."

Shigeo Wakamatsu, 1942

 

The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, forcibly launched the United States into the Second World War. Fear gripped the nation, and hysteria crept into the American psyche, spurring a decision by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 9066. The order gave military personnel the authority to conduct a mandatory evacuation and relocation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

Ultimately more than 100,000 Japanese residents were sent to detention centers throughout the West. In Washington state alone, nearly 13,000 were relocated—including 30 students from University of Puget Sound. In May 1942, just before their evacuation, these students planted cherry trees on campus as a gesture of solidarity and hope, and shared this message with the community:

Each spring, you will watch the cherry trees bloom and grow. It has been our only tangible contribution to the college. It is our most earnest prayer that our friendship will continue to grow. At this time, we say, not goodbye, but until we meet again.

Today the campus cherry trees represent much more than that simple act of friendship. They are a living legacy that honors not just the 30 Puget Sound students relocated in the spring of 1942, but the thousands of Japanese Americans forced from their homes during the Second World War. 

Each year we look to the delicate blossoms of the cherry tree as a tangible reminder of the fragile nature of freedom and our perennial hope for peace.