Sam Ozaki and Harue Kawano Ozaki

By Hanna Houser

Editor’s Note: The forced removal of Japanese immigrants and their American-born children from the West Coast after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was described at the time as “evacuation” and “internment” and these euphemistic terms continue in use today. In keeping with a campaign by the Japanese American Citizens League to portray these events in clearer terms, we have tried to find words that more accurately reflect the reality, while recognizing the historical context in which the more euphemistic terms were used. JACL explains that “internment” is a legal term for “the confinement or impounding of enemy aliens in a time of war.” In keeping with this definition, non-citizen internees who were picked up immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack were sent to camps operated by the Department of Justice and protected by the Geneva Conventions. When the “evacuation” was extended more broadly under Executive Order 9066 a few months later, the same protections were not afforded to those incarcerated in War Relocation Authority facilities where most detainees were American citizens and not enemy aliens. For a more complete explanation of the issue, see The Power of Words Handbook published by the JACL.

Sam Ozaki and Haure Kawano on their wedding day. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Ozaki.

Before 1942, Sam Ozaki and Harue Kawano lived as typical Japanese-American adolescents. 

Their lives — wrought with resilience, adversity and triumph — turned upside down when they were forcibly relocated to Japanese “internment camps” following President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 in 1942.  

Emerging from anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the order forced U.S. residents of Japanese descent into camps throughout the inland U.S. regardless of their citizenship status.

For Sam and Harue, both native-born U.S. citizens with Japanese immigrant parents, this meant forfeiting a normal education, separating from family, and being driven out of their home — all in the name of “national security.” [1]

But this didn’t stop them from becoming unabashed champions of anti-discrimination. 

The struggles endured through their forced detention and the residual post-war hostility they experienced led the Ozakis to become outspoken activists against prejudice, while also deeply engaging in the everyday life of their West Ridge community.

The couple, who lived at 2135 West Touhy Avenue, fought ferociously for the rights of Muslims enduring institutional persecution after 9/11. Harue pursued a career in nursing while Sam went on to become the first Asian-American principal in the Chicago Public School system — advocating for marginalized, underserved students across his tenure.

Separate Childhoods, But Similar Experiences

Sam (Saburo in Japanese) Ozaki was one of six children born to Japanese immigrants Kyujiro Ozaki and Tomino Tsuchihashi. 

His father, Kyujiro, was born in Japan in 1877, and first came to the U.S. as a young man around the turn of the 20th Century. [2] After establishing himself in Los Angeles, he returned to Japan to marry Tomino in 1908, and brought her back that year. [3] The pair settled in Los Angeles’ “Little Tokyo” neighborhood, where Kyujiro operated a dry goods store at 404 E. 1st street. [4] By 1916, his businesses had expanded to a men’s furnishings store, grocery store and shoe store all on the same block. [5] Between 1916 and 1927, Kyujiro and Tomino had three daughters and three sons. Sam, born in 1924, was the youngest son, followed only by the baby of the family, his sister June.

Four years later and a thousand miles to the north, Harue Kawano was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1928. Her parents, like Sam’s, were born in Japan but came to the U.S. in 1910. By 1930, the census shows that two-year-old Harue’s father worked as a private school teacher in Tacoma as she grew up with her brothers Koshiku and George and sisters Teiko and Toshiko. [6]

Sam’s early years were spent in the area of Los Angeles known as “Little Tokyo” with siblings May (1916), Hisakazu (1920), Yoji (1922), Lily (1923), and June (1927). According to the 1930 census, his father by then was working as an insecticide salesman while his mother ran a rooming house, adding three boarders, all California-born children of Japanese immigrants, to their Mott Street household. [7]

By 1940, the family moved to the small town of Keystone in then-rural Orange County, perhaps to give Kyujiro better access to the farmers who were his insecticide customers. [8] May had married and left the household, [9] but the younger children, ranging in age from 20 to 12, were all still attending school.

Ozaki Sibling Senior Pictures from Banning High School Yearbooks, Wilmington, California

The Attack on Pearl Harbor Brings About the End of Normalcy

Sam’s senior year at newly built Phineas Banning High School in the developing suburb of Wilmington, California [10] was cut short, forcibly lost to unjust incarceration. Suddenly, a high schooler looking forward to graduation was forced to endure traumatic hardship separated from several members of his family.  

After the family was inducted into the WRA detention system in 1942 at the Santa Anita Assembly Center, Sam’s older brothers and father were transported to different camps. The assembly centers were haphazardly converted open spaces — including fairgrounds and racetracks — where thousands were crowded into stables, livestock stalls, or the open air while they waited to be transported to their assigned WRA camps, The transportation process was described as “a nightmare of dislocation.” [11]

Sam Ozaki in a Banning High School football team photo
Chicago Tribune June 14, 2007.

His brother Yoji was recorded at the Manzanar Camp in California. [12] Kyujiro, Sam’s father, was initially detained by the Department of Justice in Santa Fe, which can likely be attributed to his job in the chemical industry. Tomino, Lily, Sam and June were kept at Santa Anita until October, when they were transferred to the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas — where Kyujiro and Yoji would later join them. [13] 

At the time of Sam’s stay, the camp housed 8,497 Japanese-Americans, all confined to crowded barracks without plumbing, running water and  heat. Wood stoves were used to provide warmth during the winter months, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.  In a 2007 Chicago Tribune article, Sam said “they treated the animals, horses, better than us.” [15]

Military Service Offers Sam an Escape from the Camp

It was at Jerome where Sam registered for the draft in December 1942, shortly after his 18th birthday. [16] Like many other young Americans, he volunteered for military service.

Sam left on June 12, 1944 to work as an interpreter in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese-American unit credited with helping to liberate southern France and Italy, emerging as the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the U.S. military. His obituary notes he had to take a crash course in Japanese to secure the interpreter position. [17]

Harue, Detained at Age 14, Had No Way Out

With her parents and older siblings George, Teiko and Toshiko alongside her, Harue attended high school in the camps and lost most of her formative teen years to incarceration. The family was relocated from Tacoma to Pinedale Assembly Center in Fresno, CA in 1942. From there, they were sent to a new camp in northern California, Tule Lake near the Oregon border and eventually ended up in the Heart Mountain Camp in Wyoming. [18]

On January 13, 1943, George, 18, was granted a leave to attend college in Albion Michigan, and just four months later on May 27, Harue’s 21-year-old sister Teiko was released to take a job in Chicago. The other sister, Toshiko, received an indefinite leave to join Teiko in Chicago that December, while Harue and her parents remained in the camp until almost the end of the war. On June 7, 1945, Harue’s father Kazuze died at Heart Mountain. Afterward, she and her mom were released to join Teiko and Toshiko in Chicago. [19]

Sam Ozaki visiting his parents at the Jerome Camp

Ozaki Brothers' World War II Draft Registration Records

Kei Ozaki's WWII draft registration (1941)
Yoji Ozaki's WWII draft registration (1942)
Sam Ozaki's WWII draft registration (1942)

Peace and Opportunity Finally Come in Chicago

Like his future wife, Sam came to Chicago at the end of the war. [20] In 1950, he, his sister Lily and her husband lived together as lodgers on North Cleveland Avenue in Old Town.[21]  Sam attended school, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in education from Roosevelt College and a Master’s Degree from Loyola University Chicago in 1956.

Free from internment, Harue began pursuing a career in nursing. In 1950, she appeared in the Census as a student nurse at 201 E. Delaware, a nurses residence near what is now Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she earned her nursing degree.[22] Later, she would go on to work as a school nurse in Chicago Public Schools.

Not much is known of their love story, but by 1955, the enduring pair were married. [23] Both members of the post-war Japanese community in Chicago, it is likely they met during or soon after their student years. 

Marriage, Family, Triumph, Advocacy

Sam in the classroom. Photo courtesy Rebecca Ozaki.

Just five years after marrying  Sam and Harue were settled in their West Ridge  home  with three children: Edward, Stephen and Nancy. 

Quickly, the community buzzed about their active engagement, as members of the West Ridge Methodist Community Church at 2301 Lunt, where Sam served as chairman of the church’s commission on missions and Harue and the children took part in other activities, taking at least one opportunity to share their Japanese heritage with a performance at a 1964 parish event. [24] 

Still, their years in the camps could not be forgotten. Both Sam and Harue sought to reclaim their experiences by empowering and aiding others across their careers. 

Sam’s teaching career kicked off at Lemoyne Elementary near Wrigley Field. In 1964, he became one of 71 applicants who qualified for a promotion to principal, out of 583 who took the principal’s exam. Securing a job at Shoesmith Elementary in Kenwood, he was the first and only Asian-American principal for most of his tenure, which was marked by his intentional regard for diversity, equity and inclusion. [25]

Describing Shoesmith’s demographic makeup as “65% black, 35% white, and a “handful of Oriental children,” Sam said students were “grouped heterogeneously in all classes,” and that “differences in ability, race, social and economic background, and creed are sought.” [26]

In 1972, Sam had become principal of Harrison High when a serious controversy erupted in the community. Parents of Harrison students who lived in Pilsen petitioned the Board of Education for a new school where Spanish-language programs could be provided to better serve the Mexican community. Sam argued against the development of a new school and supported the closure of the Froebel branch of Harrison — a separate building for ninth graders — contending that Harrison had enough space and could accommodate the Spanish-speaking children’s needs, but the parents resisted this solution. 

After more than a year of contentious protests and a boycott of the Froebel branch, which ended in occupation of the school by protestors and a violent response from authorities, Benito Juarez Community Academy was approved and opened in 1977. [27]

From Harrison, Sam took over Lakeview High School, and then his career pivoted once more in 1977 when he and several minority teachers were reassigned to Taft High School School to meet federal guidelines for racial balance at the school. 

It was here where his efforts to promote diversity and thwart racial prejudice manifested significantly — as still the only Asian principal across Chicago Public Schools.

Grappling with a community concerned about integration and 63 newly enrolled Black students, Sam’s focus became de-escalating racial tensions. A violent conflict in October 1978 left eleven students arrested and two others hospitalized. With the potential for the incident to snowball into an argumentative weapon for anti-integrationists, Sam de-escalated  the situation,  attributing it to the “spirit of Halloween.” [28] Tensions eased, and Sam won acceptance at the school.  He retired from Taft in 1989. 

Sam’s commitment to justice and equity went beyond his role as an educator. 

In 1983, he joined a group of those who endured the camps in suing for reparations. He became an outspoken advocate for the marginalized and oppressed, reprimanding homefront hostilities aimed at Muslims post 9/11.

Representing the Japanese-American Citizens League at a rally in Federal Plaza in 2004, he shared his story, refocusing its theme to condemn post 9/11 efforts to discriminate against the Muslim community. 

In 2007, he spoke at an exhibit mounted by the Japanese-American Service Committee of Chicago, analogizing his experience to the modern persecution of Muslims. [29]

Harue Ozaki died in 2012, [30] and Sam followed in 2015. [31] Sam’s lasting impact on the community is echoed through those who experienced his spirited resilience and determination to support the marginalized. As one Taft PTA mother aptly proclaimed in 1979, “The community loves Sam Ozaki.” [32]

Sam Ozaki on Bike. Photo courtesy Rebecca Ozaki.

About the author: Hanna Houser

Hanna Houser, a 2024 student intern with RPWHS, is drawn to history because it helps interpret modern life in the context of what came before. Houser is a May, 2024 graduate of Loyola University majoring in Multimedia Journalism with a minor in Political Science. During her school years, she has been heavily involved with The Loyola Phoenix, the campus newspaper. Houser first moved to Rogers Park for school and has lived in the neighborhood for four years. Prior to moving to Rogers Park, she spent time living on both the east and west coasts. After graduation, she is set to pursue a career in investigations at a financial investment firm.


  1. Immigration and Relocation in U.S. History, Behind the Wire, Library of Congress,
  2.  Passenger Manifest, SS Korea Maru, from Yokohama, arriving in San Francisco, Tomino Ozaki, December 3, 1918.
  3. Petition for Naturalization, Tomino Ozaki, US District Court, Los Angeles, filed July 18, 1956.
  4. Los Angeles City Directory, 1913, Kyujiro Ozaki, pages 1450 and 2378.
  5. Los Angeles City Directory, 1916, Kyujiro Ozaki, pages 1530, 2280, 2325 and 2415.
  6. United States Census, 1930, Tacoma, Ward 3, Enumeration District 130, sheet 10A, Kawano, 1511 S. Market St.
  7. United States Census, 1930, LA Assembly District 61, Enumeration District 18, sheet 10-A, Ozaki, 212 N. Mott.
  8. United States Census, 1940, Keystone, Los Angeles, Enumeration District 19-96, sheet 2A, Ozaki, lines 11-17.
  9. California Marriage Record Index, 1939, May Ozaki-Carlos M. Xicotencatl recorded September 23, 1939 in book 1623, page 188. Also, marriage license shared on by Keisha Xicotencatl, Xicotencatl Family Tree.
  10. Excerpted pages from the Banning High School Yearbooks in 1940 and 1942.
  11. Immigration and Relocation in U.S. History, Behind the Wire, Library of Congress,
  12. WWII Draft Registration, Yoji Ozaki, filed at Manzanar Relocation Center, June 20, 1942.
  13. Final Accountability Roster of Evacuees, Jerome Camp, Denton, Arkansas, full record available at . Ozaki family listed on image 75.
  14. Jerome Relocation Center, Encyclopedia of Arkansas:
  15. “They Treated the Animals, Horses, Better than Us” Chicago Tribune, June 14, 2007. The headline is a quote from Sam, and the article contains many details about the Ozaki family’s experiences before, during and after the camps.
  16. WWII Draft Registration, Sam (Saburu) Ozaki, filed at Jerome Relocation Center, December 11, 1942.
  17. “Educator, Veteran, was Reparations Advocate,” Sam Ozaki Obituary, Chicago Tribune, October 12, 2015. Page 2-4.
  18. Final Accountability Roster, Heart Mountain Detention Camp, November 1945, page 121, Kawano Family #19471
  19. Final Accountability Roster, Heart Mountain, previously cited.
  20. Final Accountability Roster, Rohwer Detention camp, November 1945, page 141, Ozaki family.
  21. United States Census, 1950, Chicago Enumeration District 103-3898, sheet 75, Tommy and Lily Teraji and Sam Saburu Ozaki at 1441 North Cleveland.
  22. United States Census, 1950, Chicago Enumeration District 103-3984, sheet 6, Harue Kawano at 201 East Delaware. 
  23. Cook County Marriage Index Record, Sam Ozaki-Harue Kawano, File #2346047, February 16, 1955.
  24. “West Ridge Methodist Dinner Set,” Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1964, page 114.
  25. “Schools Name New Eligibles for Principal,” Chicago Tribune, April 7, 1964, page 5. 
  26. “Shoesmith School,” The Chicago Tribune, 6 April 1967.
  27. A summary of the long campaign for Benito Juarez High School can be found at
  28. “11 arrested, 2 hurt in Taft disturbances,” Chicago Tribune, November 2, 1978, page 39.
  29. The Chicago Tribune, June 14, 2007, previously cited.
  30. Death Notice, Harue Ozaki, Chicago Tribune, JJune 5, 2012, page 2-9.
  31. “Educator, Veteran, was Reparations Advocate,” Sam Ozaki Obituary, previously cited.
  32. “Taft High, Keeping students on the ‘straight and narrow,’ ” Chicago Tribune, January 16, 1979, page 6.