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{
    "url_title": "Lawson Sakai",
    "title_sort": "sakailawson",
    "links": {
        "json": "http://encyclopedia.densho.org/api/0.1/articles/Lawson%20Sakai/",
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    "modified": "2024-05-08T17:36:06",
    "title": "Lawson Sakai",
    "body": "<div class=\"mw-parser-output\">\n <div id=\"databox-PeopleDisplay\">\n  <table class=\"infobox\" width=\"200px;\">\n   <tbody>\n    <tr>\n     <th scope=\"row\" style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      Name\n     </th>\n     <td style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      Lawson I. Sakai\n     </td>\n    </tr>\n    <tr>\n     <th scope=\"row\" style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      Born\n     </th>\n     <td style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      October 27 1923\n     </td>\n    </tr>\n    <tr>\n     <th scope=\"row\" style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      Died\n     </th>\n     <td style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      June 16 2020\n     </td>\n    </tr>\n    <tr>\n     <th scope=\"row\" style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      Birth Location\n     </th>\n     <td style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      Montebello, California\n     </td>\n    </tr>\n    <tr>\n     <th scope=\"row\" style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      Generational Identifier\n     </th>\n     <td style=\"text-align:left;\">\n      <p>\n       <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Nisei/\" title=\"Nisei\">\n        Nisei\n       </a>\n      </p>\n     </td>\n    </tr>\n   </tbody>\n  </table>\n </div>\n <div id=\"databox-People\" style=\"display:none;\">\n  <p>\n   FirstName:Lawson Iichiro;\nLastName:Sakai;\nDisplayName:Lawson I. Sakai;\nBirthDate:1923-10-27;\nDeathDate:2020-06-16;\nBirthLocation:Montebello, California;\nGender:Male;\nEthnicity:JA;\nGenerationIdentifier:Nisei;\nNationality:US;\nExternalResourceLink:;\nPrimaryGeography:San Francisco Bay Area;\nReligion:;\n  </p>\n </div>\n <p>\n  <br/>\n  Lawson Sakai was a decorated veteran of the\n  <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/442nd_Regimental_Combat_Team/\" title=\"442nd Regimental Combat Team\">\n   442nd Regimental Combat Team\n  </a>\n  , founder of the Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans, and a lifelong educator and advocate on behalf of the WWII Nisei veterans and their accomplishments.\n </p>\n <div aria-labelledby=\"mw-toc-heading\" class=\"toc\" id=\"toc\" role=\"navigation\">\n  <input class=\"toctogglecheckbox\" id=\"toctogglecheckbox\" role=\"button\" style=\"display:none\" type=\"checkbox\"/>\n  <div class=\"toctitle\" dir=\"ltr\" lang=\"en\">\n   <h2 id=\"mw-toc-heading\">\n    Contents\n   </h2>\n   <span class=\"toctogglespan\">\n    <label class=\"toctogglelabel\" for=\"toctogglecheckbox\">\n    </label>\n   </span>\n  </div>\n  <ul>\n   <li class=\"toclevel-1 tocsection-1\">\n    <a class=\"\" href=\"#Early_Life\">\n     <span class=\"tocnumber\">\n      1\n     </span>\n     <span class=\"toctext\">\n      Early Life\n     </span>\n    </a>\n   </li>\n   <li class=\"toclevel-1 tocsection-2\">\n    <a class=\"\" href=\"#.22Voluntary_Evacuation.22_and_Military_Service_during_World_War_II\">\n     <span class=\"tocnumber\">\n      2\n     </span>\n     <span class=\"toctext\">\n      \"Voluntary Evacuation\" and Military Service during World War II\n     </span>\n    </a>\n   </li>\n   <li class=\"toclevel-1 tocsection-3\">\n    <a class=\"\" href=\"#After_the_War\">\n     <span class=\"tocnumber\">\n      3\n     </span>\n     <span class=\"toctext\">\n      After the War\n     </span>\n    </a>\n   </li>\n   <li class=\"toclevel-1 tocsection-4\">\n    <a class=\"\" href=\"#Footnotes\">\n     <span class=\"tocnumber\">\n      4\n     </span>\n     <span class=\"toctext\">\n      Footnotes\n     </span>\n    </a>\n   </li>\n  </ul>\n </div>\n <div class=\"section\" id=\"Early_Life\">\n  <h2>\n   <span class=\"mw-headline\" id=\"Early_Life\">\n    Early Life\n   </span>\n  </h2>\n  <div class=\"section_content\">\n   <p>\n    Iichiro 'Lawson' Sakai (1923–2020) was born in Montebello, California, on October 27, 1923, to parents Shotaro and Himo (Takashima) Sakai. His father immigrated to the U.S. circa 1906, from Kumamoto prefecture in Japan, to work on the Southern Pacific railroad,\n    <sup class=\"reference\" id=\"cite_ref-ftnt_ref1_1-0\">\n     <a class=\"\" href=\"#cite_note-ftnt_ref1-1\">\n      [1]\n     </a>\n    </sup>\n    and his mother arrived in 1916. The couple settled in Montebello, an agricultural community that included other Japanese farming families. His maternal aunt and uncle, Yana and Masajiro Kai, immigrated to the U.S in 1895 and purchased five acres of land, pre-Alien Land Law of 1913, which made them legal owners of the deed. The couple eventually divorced and Yana retained the deed to the Montebello farm in her name. The family grew asparagus plumosus ferns for the floral industry and farmed figs, peaches, and vegetable crops at a second farm in a nearby agrarian valley known as Blue Hills.\n   </p>\n   <p>\n    Sakai was the youngest of three children; his older sisters were Misako and Mieko, although Mieko died in 1936 at age thirteen due to a rare heart defect. The Sakai family were active members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and regularly attended service on Saturdays at White Memorial Church in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, which was led by a missionary fluent in Japanese, Mr. Herboltzheimer. Sakai attended Ditman Seventh Day Adventist School, where one of his teachers told him that he needed an Anglo name and 'temporarily' named him 'Lawson,' which was the last name of one of the teachers. As a teenager, he attended Montebello High School, a predominately white institution, where he was an accomplished athlete. Following graduation in 1941, he briefly attended Compton College in Los Angeles until his educational trajectory was abruptly interrupted by the attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan on December 7th.\n   </p>\n  </div>\n </div>\n <div class=\"section\" id='\"Voluntary_Evacuation\"_and_Military_Service_during_World_War_II'>\n  <h2>\n   <span id='\"Voluntary_Evacuation\"_and_Military_Service_during_World_War_II'>\n   </span>\n   <span class=\"mw-headline\" id=\".22Voluntary_Evacuation.22_and_Military_Service_during_World_War_II\">\n    \"\n    <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Voluntary_evacuation/\" title=\"Voluntary evacuation\">\n     Voluntary Evacuation\n    </a>\n    \" and Military Service during World War II\n   </span>\n  </h2>\n  <div class=\"section_content\">\n   <p>\n    On the morning of December 7th, Sakai was at home listening to the radio when the announcer broke into the program with news of the air attack of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, near Honolulu, Hawai'i. Later that afternoon, the FBI came to the farm asking for his uncle Masajiro, a prominent businessman and head of United Farmers Association, 9th Street Produce, who lived at the Blue Hill ranch following the divorce from Sakai's maternal aunt, and arrested him.\n    <sup class=\"reference\" id=\"cite_ref-ftnt_ref2_2-0\">\n     <a class=\"\" href=\"#cite_note-ftnt_ref2-2\">\n      [2]\n     </a>\n    </sup>\n    The next day, Sakai tried to enlist in the military with three Caucasian classmates at the Long Beach Naval Base, but was rejected due to his race.\n    <sup class=\"reference\" id=\"cite_ref-ftnt_ref3_3-0\">\n     <a class=\"\" href=\"#cite_note-ftnt_ref3-3\">\n      [3]\n     </a>\n    </sup>\n    After the signing of\n    <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Executive_Order_9066/\" title=\"Executive Order 9066\">\n     Executive Order 9066\n    </a>\n    , in February 1942, 18-year-old Lawson and his family left their farm in the care of an Italian farmer, assuming they would be gone for roughly a month. The Sakai family loaded their car and truck and went to California Hot Springs, a small town east of Highway 99, which was outside of the\n    <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Military_Areas_1_and_2/\" title=\"Military Areas 1 and 2\">\n     designated military zone\n    </a>\n    where Japanese were forbidden. A Seventh Day Adventist doctor operated the hot springs property, so he invited several Japanese families to live there temporarily. However, a few months later, further public proclamations were issued by the\n    <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Western_Defense_Command/\" title=\"Western Defense Command\">\n     Western Defense Command\n    </a>\n    , removing Japanese Americans from the eastern half of California, which meant that those who had \"voluntarily\" moved there would be forced into a concentration camp anyway. From that point, any \"voluntary\" migration by Japanese Americans living in the designated military zone was strictly prohibited.\n   </p>\n   <p>\n    In the meantime, the Seventh Day Adventist church worked to place Japanese American families in Colorado, since Governor Ralph Carr had publicly announced that they were welcome there. Several families with the energy, money, and willingness to move ended up in Colorado, and the Sakai family was invited to move to the small town of Delta, 40 miles south of Grand Junction, which required written permission from the FBI. Enroute, they decided to stop at the\n    <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Manzanar/\" title=\"Manzanar\">\n     Manzanar\n    </a>\n    War Relocation Authority concentration camp to visit Japanese American friends incarcerated there, only to leave nervously after half an hour, unsure if they would be released. Shortly after settling into Delta with his parents in 1942, Sakai moved to Grand Junction, found work as a houseboy in exchange for room and board, and enrolled at Mesa College. A year later, his parents also moved to Grand Junction and continued farming to support themselves.\n   </p>\n   <p>\n    In March 1943, enlistment opportunities opened up for Japanese Americans to serve in a segregated unit, and Sakai immediately volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He trained for a year at Camp Shelby, before he was sent overseas to Naples, Italy, with E Company, Infantry. He engaged in active combat from May 1944 until November 1945 and was wounded numerous times. While in Europe, he served in all of the 442nd campaigns in Italy and France, including the liberation of Bruyeres, France, and the\n    <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Rescue_of_the_Lost_Battalion/\" title=\"Rescue of the Lost Battalion\">\n     rescue of the Lost Battalion\n    </a>\n    , where he was seriously injured. After surgery at a hospital in Dijon, he was sent back into combat and rejoined his company until Spring 1945, when Germany surrendered. Over his lifetime, Sakai was awarded numerous combat medals including four Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, a Combat Infantryman Badge, and a Congressional Gold Medal. He was also among the Nisei veterans honored with the National Order of the French Legion of Honor for their service in France during WWII.\n   </p>\n  </div>\n </div>\n <div class=\"section\" id=\"After_the_War\">\n  <h2>\n   <span class=\"mw-headline\" id=\"After_the_War\">\n    After the War\n   </span>\n  </h2>\n  <div class=\"section_content\">\n   <p>\n    In December 1945, he was discharged and reunited with his family in Montebello. His mother and father had returned to their farm after three and half years, only to discover that the farmer who had offered to care for their home refused to let them back in and had to be forcibly evicted. Sakai married Mineko Hirasaki in 1946, whom he had met in Colorado, and several years later, they moved to Gilroy, California where her family was based. They had four children, Kenneth, Joanne, Janet, and Dennis. In the postwar years, Lawson worked for Driscoll's, a major producer of California berries, before opening his own travel agency.\n   </p>\n   <p>\n    In 2005, Sakai founded the Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans (FFNV), a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the legacy of Japanese American veterans of the 442nd RCT. In spite of acknowledging that he suffered from serious post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) from his years in combat, he remained dedicated to keeping the Nisei veteran story alive and actively organized and participated in 442nd reunions into his nineties, leading regular tours to Bruyeres, France, for the anniversaries of the town's liberation from German occupation, annual reunions in Las Vegas, an annual veteran's ceremony at Roberts Park in Oakland, and the Nisei Veterans Exhibition at the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California.\n   </p>\n   <p>\n    In 2019, the\n    <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Japanese_American_National_Museum/\" title=\"Japanese American National Museum\">\n     Japanese American National Museum\n    </a>\n    in Los Angeles recorded an 800 question interview with Sakai, which was developed into an artificial intelligence exhibit, where visitors could engage with his avatar and ask him about his WWII experience. In 2020, he rode on the Chinese American Heritage Foundation's American Heroes float at the Tournament of Roses New Year’s Day Parade with\n    <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Norman_Mineta/\" title=\"Norman Mineta\">\n     Norman Mineta\n    </a>\n    , former mayor of San Jose and member of the US House of Representatives as well as other distinguished Asian American veterans. In March 2024, Sakai, along with eighteen other veterans and volunteers of WWII, was selected to have his avatar installed in an exhibit called \"Voices from the Front,\" at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.\n    <sup class=\"reference\" id=\"cite_ref-ftnt_ref4_4-0\">\n     <a class=\"\" href=\"#cite_note-ftnt_ref4-4\">\n      [4]\n     </a>\n    </sup>\n    Sakai died on June 16, 2020, in Morgan Hill, California at age 96.\n   </p>\n   <div id=\"authorByline\">\n    <b>\n     Authored by\n     <a class=\"encyc notrg\" href=\"/Patricia_Wakida/\" title=\"Patricia Wakida\">\n      Patricia Wakida\n     </a>\n    </b>\n   </div>\n   <div id=\"citationAuthor\" style=\"display:none;\">\n    Wakida, Patricia\n   </div>\n  </div>\n </div>\n <div class=\"section\" id=\"Footnotes\">\n  <h2>\n   <span class=\"mw-headline\" id=\"Footnotes\">\n    Footnotes\n   </span>\n  </h2>\n  <div class=\"section_content\">\n   <div class=\"reflist\" style=\"list-style-type: decimal;\">\n    <div class=\"mw-references-wrap\">\n     <ol class=\"references\">\n      <li id=\"cite_note-ftnt_ref1-1\">\n       <span class=\"mw-cite-backlink\">\n        <a class=\"\" href=\"#cite_ref-ftnt_ref1_1-0\">\n         ↑\n        </a>\n       </span>\n       <span class=\"reference-text\">\n        Email interview with Joanne Sakai and Janet Gayle Ito, April 7, 2024.\n       </span>\n      </li>\n      <li id=\"cite_note-ftnt_ref2-2\">\n       <span class=\"mw-cite-backlink\">\n        <a class=\"\" href=\"#cite_ref-ftnt_ref2_2-0\">\n         ↑\n        </a>\n       </span>\n       <span class=\"reference-text\">\n        Lawson Ichiro Sakai, Tessaku oral history, April 23, 2019,\n        <a class=\"external free offsite\" href=\"https://tessaku.com/oral-histories/2019/4/23lawson-sakai\" rel=\"nofollow\">\n         https://tessaku.com/oral-histories/2019/4/23lawson-sakai\n        </a>\n        .\n       </span>\n      </li>\n      <li id=\"cite_note-ftnt_ref3-3\">\n       <span class=\"mw-cite-backlink\">\n        <a class=\"\" href=\"#cite_ref-ftnt_ref3_3-0\">\n         ↑\n        </a>\n       </span>\n       <span class=\"reference-text\">\n        Lawson I. Sakai interview by Patricia Wakida, Segment 5 , Emeryville, California, March 13, 2019, Densho Visual History Collection, Densho Digital Repository,\n        <a class=\"external free offsite\" href=\"https://ddr.densho.org/media/ddr-densho-1000/ddr-densho-1000-472-transcript-6d107a4bbc.htm\" rel=\"nofollow\">\n         https://ddr.densho.org/media/ddr-densho-1000/ddr-densho-1000-472-transcript-6d107a4bbc.htm\n        </a>\n        .\n       </span>\n      </li>\n      <li id=\"cite_note-ftnt_ref4-4\">\n       <span class=\"mw-cite-backlink\">\n        <a class=\"\" href=\"#cite_ref-ftnt_ref4_4-0\">\n         ↑\n        </a>\n       </span>\n       <span class=\"reference-text\">\n        Katy Reckdahl, \"A museum is using AI to let visitors chat with World War II survivors,\"\n        <i>\n         Washington Post\n        </i>\n        , Mar. 30, 2024,\n        <a class=\"external free offsite\" href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2024/03/30/world-war-ii-museum-ai-veterans-survivors/\" rel=\"nofollow\">\n         https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2024/03/30/world-war-ii-museum-ai-veterans-survivors/\n        </a>\n        .\n       </span>\n      </li>\n     </ol>\n    </div>\n   </div>\n   <!-- \nNewPP limit report\nCached time: 20240509204639\nCache expiry: 86400\nDynamic content: false\nComplications: []\nCPU time usage: 0.017 seconds\nReal time usage: 0.023 seconds\nPreprocessor visited node count: 208/1000000\nPost‐expand include size: 2109/2097152 bytes\nTemplate argument size: 294/2097152 bytes\nHighest expansion depth: 6/40\nExpensive parser function count: 0/100\nUnstrip recursion depth: 0/20\nUnstrip post‐expand size: 2153/5000000 bytes\nExtLoops count: 0\n-->\n   <!--\nTransclusion expansion time report (%,ms,calls,template)\n100.00%   17.305      1 -total\n 43.47%    7.522      1 Template:Databox-People\n 17.31%    2.995      1 Template:Reflist\n  8.41%    1.455      1 Template:AuthorByline\n  8.25%    1.428      1 Template:Published\n-->\n   <!-- Saved in parser cache with key encycmw:pcache:idhash:4563-0!canonical and timestamp 20240509204639 and revision id 36258\n -->\n  </div>\n </div>\n</div>\n<div class=\"toplink\">\n <a href=\"#top\">\n  <i class=\"icon-chevron-up\">\n  </i>\n  Top\n </a>\n</div>",
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