Archive for December, 2011

UNACKNOWLEDGED HEROS

December 19, 2011

Since we just passed the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II, a story I discovered while I was doing research on stories of Highway 99 is stuck in my thoughts.
This story began much sooner. Robert Kinoshita was born in Honolula, Hawaii to Japanese parents. He graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical School then interned at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon. There he met and learned to love a nurse named Evelyn.
Overriding objections to the inter-racial marriage by both their parents and the State of Oregon, they married. Dr. Kinoshita was soon an Army Reserve doctor with the Southern Oregon District Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC. He, his wife, and son Bobby, moved into a house on the South Umpqua Road, close to the South Umpqua Falls CCC camp, CO 2904 at Tiller, Oregon.
He and his wife looked after the boys of Co 2904, taking care of their medical needs and listening to their problems. He also treated the residents from surrouning communities when he was needed. In 1939, he was appointed District Surgeon and became responsible for the health care of 44 CCC camps working out of Medford.
The beginning of World War II ended the CCC program and Dr. Kimoshita was reassigned to Fort Omaha, Nebraska. While the family was in Portland for a visit before leaving for the new assignment, the mandate was issued for all people of Japanese Descent to report to collection centers for removal to Relocation Camps. The center in Portland was the former Portland Livestock Pavilion. Evelyn, pregnant a second time, gave up her civil rights and the family entered the “stinking” horse stall together.
Dr. Kinoshita and his family were sent to live behind barbed wire in a concentration camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming.
On hearing the news, the people of the South Umpqua Valley prepared and signed a petition asking for their release.
It’s not known if the petition helped but the Dr. and his family were released in March of 1943. Still in the Army he was called to active duty serving in the European war theater. He crawled on his belly, dragging his medical kit to any of our wounded still alive, dragged them to safety and gave them first aid until they could be picked up. He survived time behind the German lines in Holland and the war, returning with a long list of honors for hes bravery and dedication. The family returned to the Portland area where he and Evelyn set up a family medical practice.

Resource–PIONEER DAYS IN THE SOUTH UMPQUA VALLEY Vols 27, p.25 and vol. 34 p. 26 published by the South Umpqua Historical Society

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POWS AND PEARS

December 3, 2011

So often when I’m doing research, I discover a fascinating story that has nothing to do with Highway 99, just that it happened during that time period or maybe near the highwy.
This time the story that got my attention was from Camp White, out of Medford, Oregon, several miles from Highway 99. I had known that most of the troops had trained and left Camp White fairly early in World War II. I had even been aware that German Prisoners of War were held there toward the end of the war. That was all I knew.
Begun as a secret mission, an elaborate plan was launched to reeducate German prisoners held in the United States. The hope was they might be prepared to take part in a different post war Germany.
Seventy U.S. military officers were sent to New York for twelve intense days of clandestine training in the fall of 1944. They were distributed to the 150 camps with 350,000 German prisoners scattered across the United States. Approximately 2000 at Camp White, Oregon.
English language, American history and civics classes were offered. Not greatly successful early on but Frank Capra’s Hollywood produced series, Why We Fight was translated into German and caught the interest of many.
The prisoners were allowed access to a well stocked library without restrictions, they had radios which were kept repaired and uncensored. A few took correspondence courses through the University of Oregon. Life magazine and others were available and the Oregonian newspaper had 100 personal subscriptions while another 50 copies were made available for general distribution.
Prisoners were allowed to work if they wished as long as it didn’t aid the war effort. The prisoners would be paid 80 cents a day for labor. The pear orchards of Southern Oregon and fields of Northern California were a popular diversion for Camp WhitePOWs.
Longer-range strategies enabled prisoners to print their own uncensored news magazine and freely elect their own spokesman to deal with their American jailers. Some of the classes were taught by the POWs themselves.
Both American and Swiss representatives visited Camp White and filed written reports on prisoner treatment, specifically addressing the “Intellectual Diversion Program.”
The Camp White German prisoners of war, finally repatriated in the spring of 1946, by rail and then by ship back to Germany. “What a far cry from what happens now.” These are excerpts from SOUTHERN OREGON HERITAGE TODAY,The Magazine of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, Vol 8, No.2 Spring 2006 p.18,19