Californian, 89, graduates after internment led him to miss 1942 ceremony

Japanese-American's internment led him to miss ceremony in 1942

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 9:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 9:17pm


A California man who missed his 1942 high school graduation because he was locked in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans finally walked in a cap and gown last week, more than seven decades after he was pulled out of class just a month shy of his big day.

Don Miyada, now 89, joined Newport Harbour High School's 2014 graduating class on stage and received a standing ovation when he was hailed as an inaugural member of the school's hall of fame.

Miyada was 17 when he was sent with his family and more than 17,000 other detainees to a patch of desert land near Poston, Arizona, just after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour.

A teacher later sent him a letter expressing shock that he couldn't finish high school and included a diploma - but Miyada always regretted that he missed the celebration.

In May, Miyada met Newport Harbour's principal, Sean Boulton, during a Memorial Day service and Boulton invited him to walk with the 560 seniors who would be graduating.

Boulton even found a copy of the programme from what would have been Miyada's graduation day in 1942.

"My name was on there," Miyada said. "I wasn't able to attend, of course, but my name was there anyway. It was very emotional."

After two years in the camp, Miyada moved to the state of Michigan, where he was drafted.

He went on to serve in the US Army in Europe and then earned a doctorate in chemistry from Michigan State University. He eventually became a professor at the University of California, Irvine.

During last week's graduation ceremonies, Miyada returned the letter he had received from his teacher and thanked the teenagers who were crossing the stage with him.

"It's their time to graduate and their time of honour," he said. "I'm happy they invited me to be one of them."