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Register of the Papers of



0.75 ft.

MSS 53


Shigezo Iwata was born in Japan (1900) and immigrated to the United States in 1924.  Sonoko U. Iwata was born in Los Angeles in 1911.  They were married in 1937 and made their home in Thermal, California where they farmed and Shigezo was secretary of the Thermal Farmer's Cooperative Association.

Although Shigezo was married to an American citizen, when World War II began he came under suspicion as an "enemy alien."  In March 1942 he was taken by the FBI to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he was given a hearing and eventually moved to the Lordsburg (NM) Internment Camp.  Mrs. Iwata stayed in Thermal with their three small children to prepare for the impending evacuation of the area.

Finally in 1943, after several appeals, Mr. Iwata was able to join his family at Poston for the remainder of the War.  In 1945 the Iwatas were relocated to Long Island, New York, and in 1946 they moved to Seabrook, New Jersey.


The Iwata Papers were donated by Mrs. Sonoko U. Iwata to the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in 1973 and in 1985 & 1987.


In over 100 letters which the Iwatas exchanged during their forced separation, the family's daytoday trials and accomplishments are well documented.  Mrs. Iwata's letters to her husband, which comprise the majority of the papers, tell of the adjustment of the children to their father's absence, the difficulty of running simple errands under the curfew in Thermal, and the help received from friends and neighbors in the community as they struggled with uncertainty.  As the evacuation drew near, she wrote of her plans to sell household appliances and eventually the car in order to buy clothing she felt they would need.  She decided what to keep and what to sell and made arrangements for storage of some items with the U.S. Government.

In May 1942, Mrs. Iwata and the children were evacuated to the Colorado River Relocation Center near Poston, Arizona.  Her letters resume from there, telling of early conditions at the camp, how the dormitories and other facilities were set up, and her daily routine.  There are also letters to various government offices and officials asking that her husband's status be reviewed and that he be allowed to join the family at Poston.  Mr. Iwata's letters are fewer but no less explicit.  He relayed the monotony of camp life and told of people and events at Lordsburg to the extent allowed by censors who read every letter and occasionally clipped out words and sentences.

Their papers are rounded out by a brief diary kept by Shigezo during 1943, letters from friends and associates (19421945), lists of internees at Lordsburg, and a few government forms and papers from internee life.  (See Box 1, Folder 1 for a biographical time line prepared by Mrs. Iwata in 1986).

The Iwata correspondence is arranged chronologically using a separate folder for each envelope and its contents.  Letters found together in the same envelope have been maintained together, even though they sometimes have different dates.  This occasionally leads to folder titles which are not strictly chronological, but which retain the original order of the correspondence.  Translations of Japanese language letters were provided by Mrs. Iwata.  They are filed with the originals.  Photographs have been cataloged under Photo Group #87.

The box list of the register of the papers of Shigezo and Sonoko Iwata is three pages long.