Tomoko Ikeda Wheaton

Tomoko Ikeda Wheaton

Camp Name:
Heart Mountain

Ikeda Wheaton

Tribute by Rena Miwako Wheaton & Kimio Andre Wheaton

In 1942, Tomoko Ikeda, her parents, Masako and Masao Ikeda, her sisters, Motoko and Nobuko and her brother, Moss, lived in East LA on Gleason Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets. Tomoko was 16 years old and a junior at Roosevelt High School. Her sisters were 14 and 5 and her brother was 11 years old. Mr. Ikeda was a stockbroker whose business was just beginning to recover after the Great Depression and Mrs. Ikeda was a homemaker.

Tomoko and her family were sent first by bus to the Pomona Fairgrounds and then by train to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. When the Ikeda family arrived at the Pomona Fairgrounds, they had to fill mattress ticking with hay to make their own mattresses. The family slept on hard cots with one blanket each and it was very cold at night. After a few months Tomoko and her family were transferred to Heart Mountain. At Heart Mountain, Tomoko vividly remembers being surrounded by 18 manned guard towers and barbed wire. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The barracks had only tarpaper covering open slats in the barrack walls making it impossible to stay warm in the winter. The dust storms were furious; dust got into the barracks and covered everything in their one small room. Often she and her family were hungry. The food was not good and there never seemed to be enough.

In 1944, from Heart Mountain, Tomoko was able to enroll at University of Connecticut thanks to a program for high school seniors sponsored by the Quakers Friends Society. While she was a student, she worked as a live in mother’s helper for the Luckys, a family of five with three little girls who lived in Storrs, Connecticut. There were 17 Nisei students at U Conn out of a student body of 2800. After college, Tomoko moved to New York City where she met and married her husband, Louis A. Wheaton, and had two children, Rena and Kimio.

Mrs. Wheaton is now 85 years old. Even now, she still suffers from the effects of her and her family’s incarceration. She told her children recently, “I do not want to be forgotten. No one should forget the injustice that we endured.”