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When American Citizens Needed Leave Permits

Spring Cleaning my computer files has turned up treasures that I’d almost forgotten. I’ve been trying to cut down the number of photos filling up a cloud of their own. Our travel and family archives are huge and tucked into those memories are research gems for books. Pictures that remind me of the adventure of the hunt.

This picture of Stanley Hayami is one of my favorite finds. Shortly before his story was going to press, I discovered the National Archives might have documents that were not in the collection at the Japanese American National Museum or his family’s papers. My query did turn up some interesting papers. But it was Stan’s Citizen’s Leave Permit card that I found most remarkable.

In the summer of 1944, there was a serious shortage of farm workers to work the fields. Most young men were no longer at home, they were off fighting in European or Pacific War fronts. However, young Japanese American men and women, American citizens, who had been incarcerated in so-called Relocation Camps, were allowed to “go out” to work the fields.

Stanley Hayami, his younger brother, Walt and two of Stan’s friends jumped at the chance to earn a little money and get away from life behind barbed wire. Stan had just graduated from high school and had already been drafted into the army. He was waiting to be called for his induction. The boys’ experiences on the farm tell a whole other story that are in my book and based on Stan’s letters and diary.

But this wonderfully teen-age image on the card has a freshness that captures his youthful enthusiasm and good nature. Although we had his yearbook photo in a suit, his graduation picture in cap and gown, and many army photos in uniform, I found this image expressed the starry-eyed optimistic kid who was so full of dreams for the future.

But there was a problem. The picture on the card was about the size of a postage stamp and anything but hi-res! It was scratched and torn and yet, it seemed so right. My son, James Oppenheim, looked at the photo and agreed. It was so much better than the cover we had already planned. I’ve no idea how many hours James generously spent or how he worked the magic, but in the end that smaller-than-a-passport-photo turned into the grinning image that lights up the cover of his book.

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