After the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the American government forced 120,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast out of their homes and businesses into internment camps. One of those affected by this bleak moment in American history was Al Tsukamoto, whose parents arrived in the United States in 1904. Tsukamoto owned and operated the family fruit farm in California. Rather than simply abandon the farm and see the business destroyed, Tsukamoto looked for a compassionate American he could ask to help him. This was not easy to do as Pearl Harbor had just been bombed by the Japanese placing anger toward those of Japanese ancestry at an all time high.
Tsukamoto approached Bob Fletcher, a young man in his early 30s who worked as a farm inspector for the State of California. Tsukamoto asked Fletcher to consider this business proposal: would he be willing to operate the family farm, pay the taxes and the mortgage while the Tsukamoto family were confined. In return, Tsukamoto told Fletcher he could keep all the profits. Fletcher agreed, quit his job and for the next three years worked 18 hour days operating a fruit farm. Faithfully, he paid the taxes and kept up with the mortgage payments. Fletcher kept only half the profits as his 'salary'. Though Tsukamoto told him to live in his family home, Fletcher stayed in the bunkhouse Tsukamoto had built for migrant workers. Each week, he cleaned and maintained the Tsukamoto residence while waiting for their return.
Whereas most Japanese-American families lost their property and businesses while they were in camps, Tsukamoto came back in 1945 to discover he still had his family farm and that he had money in a bank . . . all because one compassionate American was willing to help.