Friday, September 17, 2021

Been There Voices: Ruth Ann Hattori - Reflections on Japanese Internment

When I think of “been there,” I automatically think of the end of the cliché, “done that.” In the Done That category…

Marriage: I’m happily married to my 4th and final husband. Regardless of what happens in the future, there will be no more weddings.

Kids: My two wonderful kids are finally married off – to absolutely spectacular spouses. True to form, they are entrepreneurs, so not expecting any little ones soon. Our local family unit has grown recently as my stepdaughter and family have moved nearby. The three grandkids are really nice, respectful people (20, 18, 17)…it’s no wonder they worry about our influence on them! They will fit into Texas well, as “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” are in their vocab.

Jobs and careers: After running my own company, multiple Marketing Director, Product Development Director, Training Director positions, it’s hard to believe that I’m in the non-profit world. It’s eye-opening and thankfully fun as the team I’m with is mostly young, energetic and full of ideas. The marketing part is second nature, it’s the challenge of helping the Museum to reach the next level that’s exciting. Of course, there’s that thing about not really being “the boss” that is a bit of a rub every so often.

It’s the most recent Been There that has made me stop and think. Just one year ago, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, so my 2020/21 has been quite a roller coaster. I kept working – and boy, I have to say, that my work really got me up every morning and to my computer to keep my mind off of dark thoughts. But, because of my work, I probably didn’t spend as much time reflecting as one should.

Prior to cancer, we lost Mom to Covid in April 2020. I guess she was one of the early deaths in our country’s many. She was 96, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and was actually fairly healthy and “with it” except for her short-term memory until the end. Fortunately, she did not suffer for many days with Covid. Even before her death, and thanks to the National Museum of the Pacific War and our Day of Remembrance program, I had been thinking about her internment during WWII. More on that later.

I am truly thankful for the ups and downs of the last year. They do give me some focus on what to reflect upon and what to pursue. One thing I want to pursue is ensuring that all Americans do have a good sense of what happened during WWII – about internment, our initial awakening about racial bias in our culture and the stories of all of those millions of people who fought, supported and lived through that time. It is really true that WWII has shaped us as a country, and as time passes, we are losing both the stories and the lessons that we should have learned.

My mother was 18 in 1942, (shown in photo above) when after the attack on Pearl Harbor, both the US and Canada interned people of Japanese heritage on their west coasts, whether citizens of their countries or not. I always admired that Mom reflected upon her experience as positive. She told me that she would have never been a teacher, and certainly not a school principal had it not been for her internment. She was one of numerous young, Japanese Canadians who became teachers in their camps. Many years later, a book titled “Teaching in Canadian Exile” was published which were, essentially, oral histories written by many of the women who taught, including one of my mother’s sisters. As I have read the passages, my mother’s recollection that her internment experience was probably not nearly as terrible as most Americans’ internment experience is probably true. However, the fact remains that they lost their family home and property, and left with nothing post war, like their American counterparts.

The Museum has over 5000 oral histories in its collection. As our population of WWII veterans dwindles, soon we will only have these oral histories to hear the stories in their own words. 

One of my goals for the Museum is that we find a way for these stories to be shared widely. 

-- Ruth Ann Hattori, Fredericksburg, TX, ideas unlimited entrepreneur

Click here for more about Ruth Ann and other Been There Voices  


Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.


  1. You really have "been there" in so many ways. It is a sad truth that we have not learned the lessons we should have and efforts like yours will keep the truth alive. Susan Larson