Item # 040054.
By Gregory Chaney.
The Empty Chair is a unique documentary about how Japanese Americans from Juneau, Alaska were sent to prison camps during WWII and how the small Alaskan community stood in quiet defiance against the immoral internment of American citizens.
Japanese immigrants came to Alaska in the early 1900's and settled there to raise families. Japanese Americans from the west coast of the US including Alaska were sent to prison camps by the US government from 1942-1945 because all people of Japanese heritage were considered national security risks.
John Tanaka was born and raised in Juneau. In 1942 John was going to be the Valedictorian of his high school graduating class but was scheduled to be interned before the graduation ceremony. In response, the school board voted to hold a special early graduation ceremony for him before John was sent to a relocation camp for Japanese Americans.
When the official graduation ceremony was held for the class of '42 they set aside an empty chair on the platform to acknowledge his absence. John Tanaka volunteered to join the US Army to fight the Axis powers during WWII while the rest of his family was incarcerated in a relocation camp. He was a member of the 442nd regimental combat team. This Japanese American unit was the most decorated Army unit for its length of service.
The Empty Chair documentary is composed of interviews of survivors from that period, rare historical photos, never before seen archival footage, US Government documentaries and historical accounts. All of these sources are woven together to draw the viewer back into this little known chapter of American history.
Running time: 72 min.