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Woman’s diary sheds light on what life was like for Japanese American in Colorado after Pearl Harbor attack

Daisy Osumi kept a diary that told her story 80 years ago. She knew things would get bad for Japanese Americans. She was right.

DENVER — It's a little green diary that tells a very big story. It's the story of Japanese Americans living in Colorado when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. It's Daisy Osumi's diary.

She and her husband lived in Denver and ran a jewelry store on Larimer Street. When she first heard about the attack, she wrote:

"Oh what a day. Japan has declared war on us, it will sure be bad for us here in America."

She probably didn't realize how bad. Journalist and author Gil Asakawa said the reaction of Japanese Americans to Pearl Harbor was similar to everybody's reaction.

"Japanese Americans were both shocked and horrified when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened and they found out about it," Asakawa said.

Osumi's diary talks about her husband spending time with the FBI after the attack. The FBI was known for harassing Japanese Americans. Racial intolerance was everywhere. 

"Racial epithets [were] hurled at them, actually not that different from Asian attacks that had been going on the last year here in the United States, across the country," Asakawa said.

Credit: Amache Preservation Society

As bad as that harassment was, the treatment of Japanese Americans during the war will always be defined by the Internment Camps, like Camp Amache in southeastern Colorado. 

Through an executive order by President Franklin Roosevelt, 110,000 Japanese Americans, mostly from the West Coast, were forced into 10 camps across the country.

Seven thousand of them ended up at Camp Amache. Many were second-generation Japanese Americans who were citizens by birth. They were sad, scared and not really sure why they were there.

They tried to make the best of a horrible situation, living in barracks, forming schools, planting gardens and starting Boy Scout troops. Some of the kids joined the military and ended up fighting and dying for the country that imprisoned their parents.

The story in Osumi's diary is the story of racial injustice in Colorado during World War II. It's the story of a very sad time in American history.

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