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Taken: Oregonians Arrested after Pearl Harbor


How Was This Possible?: Dr. Benjamin Tanaka

When Gus Tanaka was asked why his father was arrested, he answered readily:

He was one of the very few people of his generation who had an education above high school in this country. You know, he never lost his Hawaiian accent. Nevertheless, he was able to counsel people about things besides medicine — business and financial matters. With the kind of influence that he had in the Japanese community, I think they had him pegged as a community leader and they wanted to take all the leadership away from the community as much as possible. There was nothing to indicate he was loyal to Japan. He had no reason to be — he had nobody there.

From Missoula, Ben Tanaka was transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, also an army induction center. They took him out of the prisoner camp to conduct physical examinations for draftees. He wrote how ironic it was that he was a prisoner, yet they would trust him to do physicals. From there he was sent to the Santa Fe camp, where he was made the head doctor in the camp hospital. Dr. Tanaka spent the rest of the war in Santa Fe.

Returning to Portland, he found a reception that was very unwelcoming. Hospitals where he formerly had privileges to practice didn't want him, telling him their rosters were full and there was no room for him. In contrast, he was eagerly received by the nuns of the Holy Rosary Hospital in Ontario, Oregon, knowing that he was beloved by their Japanese patients. He established what became a well-respected clinic in Ontario and invited his son, by then Dr. Gus Tanaka, to join him.

Based on this original

Portrait of Dr. Benjamin Tanaka
uploaded by Oregon_Nikkei
Fred Takasumi painted this portrait of Dr. Benjamin Tanaka in the 1970s or '80s. It hangs in the former Tanaka practice in Ontario, Oregon, which became a part of the … More »

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