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Tajiri in Camp Shelby, Mississippi 1943



"I thought how absurd it all seemed. I was a immature 20-year-old in the middle of nowhere with a punctured, bleeding leg that looked like mincemeat; 100 yards of useless wire; a dead walkie-talkie; a .45 without bullets and my family in a concentration camp. I was one of the million boys sent out to kill each other for a dollar a day.

Until then I hadn't fired a shot in the war. I threw everything, plus a stream of four-letter words, in the direction of the enemy." - Shinkichi Tajiri


The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th 1941, fell on Shinkichi Tajiri’s 18th birthday.


After the signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19th 1941, the Tajiri family was first confined in the 'assembly center' at the Santa Anita Race Track in Los Angeles and after 5 months taken to the concentration camp Poston 3, Arizona.


In 1943 Tajiri volunteered for the 442th Regimental Combat Team, an all Japanese-American regiment. After 11 months of training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi (photo), the combat team was shipped to Naples in Italy on May 1st 1944. On July 9th Tajiri was severely wounded at Hill 140 near the village of Castellini. Drawings he made during his six-month recovery at a hospital in Rome have survived. He was reclassified as 'limited service' exempt from combat duty. Tajiri remarked that his wound had probably saved his life.  First stationed in Marseille and Nancy, after two months he was transferred to Seckenheim (Germany) where he made a series of drawings of Displaced Persons. From Seckenheim he was sent to a camp outside Reims, France. He was demobilized on January 9th 1946 and returned to the States to join his mother in Chicago where she had relocated after three years in the camp.

Tajiri’s fascination with technology began when he was still a child. He did not only use technology as a theme in his work, but his interest in developments in photography and the computer led him to use each as a medium. Together with his students at the Berlin Academy of Art he began to make computer drawings with the first Commodore Amiga.


photo above: Tajiri during basic training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi 1943.

text: S. Tajiri, Autobiographical notations,

Kempen Publishers, 1993.

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