Setting the Record Straight: In Memory of Bob Fletcher
By Gerald Yamada
Bob Fletcher died on May 23, 2013 at the age of 101 in Sacramento, CA. In 1942, he was a state agricultural inspector who did not agree with the government ordered evacuation and felt that Japanese farmers had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. He quit his job and went to work saving farms owned by the Nitta, Okamoto and Tsukamoto families in Florin, CA. Driven by his principles, he gave up his career to care for these farms. He suffered harsh criticism within the white community for his views.
My mother was the oldest daughter of the Nitta family whose farm was one of three Florin farms that Mr. Fletcher saved during World War II. My parents and grandparents were imprisoned at the Jerome War Relocation Authority Camp in Arkansas, where I was born. After the war, Mr. Fletcher returned the farm to my grandparents, and they continued to farm it for the next 40 years.
My parents and grandparents never talked to me about their internment experience. Whenever the war was mentioned, my mother only mentioned how grateful she was for Mr. Fletcher’s efforts in saving her parents’ farm. I have very fond memories about my grandparents’ farm and thank Mr. Fletcher for making a difference. He will be missed.
There is a lesson for us here. As Japanese Americans, we tend to focus on the prejudice, hatred, distrust, and disloyalty aimed towards persons of Japanese ancestry resulting in the forced evacuation of 120,000 persons from the West Coast. We must also remember those who had the courage of their convictions to stand up against the government and who tried to help Japanese Americans at the expense of their careers and reputations. They, like Bob Fletcher, are heroes and must not be forgotten.