Believing that the lessons of the past will empower us to create a better tomorrow, Harumi “Bacon” Sakatani has dedicated his entire life to documenting and educating others about the lessons learned from the internment of 120,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry over 60 years ago.
To many students at Mt. SAC, Bacon is the elderly gentleman who comes to campus to speak about World War II and his experience as a young teen in the internment camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming.
Bacon’s story begins in 1929. He was born and reared in El Monte, where he attended a segregated grammar school for Mexican and Japanese pupils from first through fifth grades. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, prompting World War II, all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast were placed into internment camps.
The year was 1942 and Bacon was 13 years old. He and his family were first placed at the Pomona Assembly Center at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds. Soon afterward, they were sent to a permanent camp in Wyoming, where his family of seven lived in a 20-by-20 room with one light bulb, a stove for heat, and army cots for beds.
After leaving the camp in 1945, the family settled temporarily in Idaho and then put down roots in Pomona on a broken-down farm the following year. Bacon returned to school and graduated from Pomona High School in 1947. He then enrolled in the newly opened Mt. San Antonio College and marched two years later with the college’s third graduating class. Not long after, he was drafted and served in the Korean War as a combat engineer.
Since that time, the 82-year-old West Covina resident and retired Southern California Edison computer programmer has coordinated and documented reunions of former internees and continued to collect and archive documents, photos and newspaper clippings to make certain that younger generations do not forget what happened to him and thousands of others over six decades ago. Bacon is known as “Mr. Heart Mountain,” and an entire room honors him at a museum there. In 1994, he tracked down two original barracks in the Shoshone Valley and, with help from other internees, had one of them displayed at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.
Sharing these past experiences with current Mt. SAC students has enriched their lives and their historical perspective. For his commitment in this regard as well as other personal and societal contributions, Mt. SAC proudly bestows its distinguished “2012 Alumnus of the Year Award” upon Harumi “Bacon” Sakatani.