A Man No One Has Heard About – But Should Have
Despite what one reads in the sanitized American history books, that
great and wonderful and kind and has never done a bad or mean or selfish or
morally inexcusable act, this country has done a lot of them. Handing out blankets to Native Americans in
the 19th century, blankets that were inoculated with smallpox is just one
example that somehow never gets into sophomore history classes. And of course there is that whole slavery
Another awful action was this.
Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on
Dec. 7, 1941, the government forced 120,000
Japanese-Americans on the West Coast out of their homes and into internment
camps for the duration of the war. United
which brings us to Bob Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher lived in the area where the American citizens (let’s call them what they really were) were forced out of their homes and farms and into concentration camps (let’s call them what they really were). What he did was something we would like to think we all would have done, but probably would not have.
|Mr. Fletcher - A Great American|
After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order in February 1942 that made the relocation possible by declaring certain parts of the West to be military zones, Al Tsukamoto, whose parents arrived in the United States in 1905, approached Mr. Fletcher with a business proposal: would he be willing to manage the farms of two family friends of Mr. Tsukamoto’s, one of whom was elderly, and to pay the taxes and mortgages while they were away? In return, he could keep all the profits. . . .
For the next three years he worked a total of 90 acres on three farms — he had also decided to run Mr. Tsukamoto’s farm. He worked 18-hour days and lived in the bunkhouse Mr. Tsukamoto had reserved for migrant workers. He paid the bills of all three families — the Tsukamotos, the Okamotos and the Nittas. He kept only half of the profits.
And what happened when the war ended? Well this.
When the Tsukamotos returned in 1945, they found that Mr. Fletcher had left them money in the bank and that his new wife, Teresa, had cleaned the Tsukamotos’ house in preparation for their return. She had chosen to join her husband in the bunkhouse instead of accepting the Tsukamotos’ offer to live in the family’s house.
“Teresa’s response was, ‘It’s the Tsukamotos’ house,’ ” recalled Marielle Tsukamoto, who was 5 when she and her family were sent to the Jerome center.
Oh, and in case anyone thinks that there were a lot of other honorable citizens in the area, there is this.
Mr. Fletcher’s willingness to work the farms was not well received in Florin, where before the war some people had resented the Japanese immigrants for their success. Japanese children in the area were required to attend segregated schools. Mr. Fletcher was unruffled by personal attacks; he felt the Japanese farmers were being mistreated.
“I did know a few of them pretty well and never did agree with the evacuation,” he told The
Bee in 2010. “They were the same
as anybody else. It was obvious they had nothing to do with Sacramento Pearl
So Mr. Fletcher has just died at the age of 101. And his legacy should be that whenever any so called patriot crops up who expresses his or her love of country by denigrating African Americans, or Asian Americans, or Muslims or any other group, just mention the name of Bob Fletcher. Our only regret concerning the man is that we did not know him or know of him. His story should be required reading in every American history book.