Long lost letters found in Spokane detail one Japanese American family’s struggle during WWII

SPOKANE, Wash. —  Seventy-eight years ago on Wednesday, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. 

It affected the lives of 120,000 Japanese Americans who were sent to internment camps without due process. 

Now historic letters detailing what life was like for one Japanese American family from Spokane have come to light. 

The letters were found in an estate sale nearly 40 years ago in Spokane, and sat in a basement until its owner brought them to Washington State University. 

The original writings are from Frank Hirata, owner of the Clem Hotel which once stood where the Davenport Grand Hotel is found today. 

Heartbreaking letters between Hirata, his children, and even between the Department of Justice detail the family’s fight to prove they were Americans. 

At one point, Hirata’s own son asks to take his father’s place in the internment camps he was shuffled around in for two years. 

“These people, they were working hard and they didn’t deserve this,” said Caryn Lawton, WSU press marketing manager. “And really, that’s really the story. I mean let’s never do this again.”

RELATED: Spokane County woman reflects on year spent teaching in Japanese internment camp