The Lost Years: 1942-1946 (book)

Title The Lost Years: 1942–1946
Author Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Original Publisher Moonlight Publications
Original Publication Date 1972
Pages 58
WorldCat Link

The Lost Years, 1942-1946 edited by activist, writer, and educator Sueko Sue Kunitomi Embrey (1923–2006) is a compilation of materials related to the incarceration of Japanese Americans that was used during the campaign to name the Manzanar Cemetery a National Historic Site.

Embrey's Background

Embrey was born to Issei parents, Gonhichi and Komika Kunitomi, who had emigrated from Okayama prefecture to California, and was the sixth of eight children. As a Nisei from Los Angeles, Embrey was incarcerated with her family at Manzanar during World War II and after a brief stint at Manzanar's camouflage net factory she worked as a reporter for the camp newspaper, the Manzanar Free Press . Following the closure of the camps, Embrey returned to Los Angeles in 1948 and worked at the Los Angeles Department of Education and later the Health Department. In 1950, she married Garland Embrey and soon had her first child. But her camp experience politicized Embrey and she joined a number of political groups including the Democratic Club and the Nisei Progressives .

In 1969, Sansei activist Warren Furutani invited Embrey to attend the pilgrimage to Manzanar as part of the civil rights movement. In December 1969, Embrey returned to Manzanar for the first time since her release. During the pilgrimage, Embrey spoke about her experiences with reporters and some in the Japanese community criticized her for speaking out about an event that some preferred to forget. Embrey would eventually chair the Manzanar Committee , an organization dedicated to educating individuals about the violation of the civil rights of Japanese Americans during World War II. For the next thirty-six years Embrey also led the annual pilgrimage to Manzanar and spearheaded efforts to establish Manzanar as a National Historic Site.

Publication Information

As part of her efforts to raise public awareness of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and to promote the designation of Manzanar as a National Historic Site, Embrey compiled a pamphlet of materials from both government publications and her own personal collection about camp experiences. The Lost Years begins with a chronology of events compiled from WRA publications and the Manzanar Free Press . Embrey also includes historian Roger Daniel's paper "Why It Happened Here" which was read at symposium titled "It Did Happen Here: The Japanese Evacuation of 1942" marking the 25th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and held at the University of California at Los Angeles. Portions of his paper were also used for his book Concentration Camps, USA: Japanese Americans and World War II (1971). According to Embrey, Daniels' paper was specifically chosen for its "concise and honest presentation, and . . . because it parallels closely this editor's belief and feelings regarding the evacuation." [1] Embrey also included excerpts from "OUTCASTS!—The Story of America's treatment of her Japanese American Minority," by Caleb Foote, published in the February 1944 issue of Fellowship magazine. This publication was issued by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a pacifist organization that had protested against the incarceration of Japanese Americans. In addition, Embrey also included publications from the War Relocation Authority including "Segregation of Persons of Japanese Ancestry in Relocation Centers" a brochure outlining segregation procedures to determine who would be sent to Tule Lake and "Why Relocate?", a mimeographed instructional bulletin prepared by the Adult Education Office of the Department of Education in Manzanar to persuade Japanese to relocate outside the Western Defense Command . According to Embrey, although these materials may appear to be "mundane and unimportant," it should be understood that "behind the simple language lay months of pain, indecision, and heartaches for those who decided to leave the camps." [2] The struggles of inmates with camp life and the ambiguity of their future are captured not just in the two short unpublished poems from members of the Manzanar Free Press but also in the photographs interspersed throughout the pamphlet from the collection of Bob Nakamura and Visual Communications, at the time, a committee of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). These images capture the impact of wartime hysteria and resulting government policies as they show the desolation of the barracks style housing, the irony of childhood innocence captured behind barbed wire, and the sense of foreboding that greeted inmates who daily passed beneath armed guard towers. In this short pamphlet Embrey offers a brief window into the incarceration of Japanese Americans and the violation of their civil rights at Manzanar and other incarceration centers during the war.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura , University of Hawai'i

Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration

The Lost Years: 1942-1946

This item has been made freely available in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration , a collaborative project with Internet Archive .

For More Information

The Lost Years on the National Park Service website:

Bahr, Diana Meyers. The Unquiet Nisei: An Oral History of the Life of Sue Kunitomi Embrey . New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Embrey, Sue Kunitomi. The Lost Years, 1942-1946 . Los Angeles: Moonlight Publications, 1972.

"From Manzanar to the Present: A Personal Journey." In Last Witnesses: Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans , edited by Erica Harth, 167–85. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Hansen, Arthur A. "Oral History and the Japanese American Evacuation." Journal of American History 82.2 (Sep. 1995): 625-39.

Mitson, Betty E. "Looking Back in Anguish: Oral History and Japanese-American Evacuation." Oral History Review 2 (1974): 24-51.


  1. Sue Kunitomi Embrey, The Lost Years, 1942-1946 (Los Angeles: Moonlight Publications, 1972), 2.
  2. Embrey, The Lost Years , 51.

Last updated May 14, 2024, 4:21 a.m..