Sam Mihara is a second-generation Japanese American. His parents were born in Japan and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920’s. Sam was born in the early 1930’s and raised in San Francisco. When World War II broke out, the United States government forced Sam and his family to move, first to a detention camp in Pomona, Calif., and then to a remote prison camp in Northern Wyoming, where they stayed for three years. The camp was one of 10 in the United States.Together the camps housed a total of 120,000 West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry, most of them U.S.-born American citizens. Sam’s family lived in a single room, measuring 20 feet by 20 feet, for their entire imprisonment.
Sam developed the Memories of Heart Mountain presentation to educate people and help ensure such civil rights violations don’t happen again. In it, he tells the story of his family and what happened to them, why the camps were created and the important lessons that were learned from this experience.
Sam researched many government and private photo collections for his presentation, including several that have been impounded from public viewing. Many memorable images are works of professionals like Dorothea Lange and were obtained by permission from UC Bancroft Library.
By combining these professional images with his own photo collection, Sam has created an informative and entertaining program that describes the conditions he, his family and his close friends experienced during the Japanese-American incarceration.
Sam is a member of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, and has told his story at numerous schools, colleges and Department of Justice offices.