Any list of shameful things the US government has done would have to include the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, some 120,000 of them were taken from their homes and locked up in concentration camps — their own country making them prisoners of war despite the fact that they were citizens.
George Takei, best known as Sulu on “Star Trek,” was one of those imprisoned. He was five years old when he and his family were sent to live in the stables at Santa Anita Race Track, which had been converted into an internment center, complete with barbed wire. Recently, Takei appeared on Penn Jillette’s podcast to talk in great detail about the experience, the affect it had on his community, how they were treated, and the memories that are still seared into his brain seven decades later.
One of the most moving stories is about young Japanese-American men who were allowed to leave the camps if they’d put on a US uniform and go to war. They were not permitted to serve with Caucasian-Americans, placed instead into the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was sent to Europe to undertake some of the most dangerous missions of the war. They became the most decorated infantry regiment in the history of the United States Army, awarded a total of 8 Presidential Unit Citations and 21 Medals of Honor. But the heartbreaking part of the story occurred when members of the unit died, and the US Army delivered the flags that had draped their coffins to their wives and/or families — who were still imprisoned in those camps.
Takei is part of the cast of “Allegiance,” a Broadway-bound musical about that shameful era, which includes story elements based on his experiences. Below, you can listen to Takei on Penn’s show — the first half-hour is abolutely riveting…