Matthew Asada traces family’s roots to Dinuba

American diplomat and descendant of Japanese Americans shares history of his family’s internment during World War II with Dinuba community

Matthew Asada, a fourth generation Japanese-American and third generation public servant from Detroit. His grandfather’s roots trace back to a home in Dinuba before his family was forced to relocate to an internment camp in Arizona during World War II. (USC Center on Public Diplomacy)
Serena Bettis
Published January 28, 2024  • 
11:00 am

DINUBA – On the anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which ordered the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans in 1942, the Alta District Historical Society is hosting a diplomat who has worked to dive into a slice of his family’s local history, which has roots tracing their way back to the community of Dinuba. 

Matthew Asada, a fourth-generation Japanese-American, will give a slideshow presentation at the Dinuba Christian Church at 2 p.m. on Feb. 19 on the life of his grandfather, who was a teenager during Japanese internment. The Alta District Historical Society has welcomed community members to join them that afternoon — which also happens to be Presidents Day — to learn more about the Asada family’s time in California.

“The journey takes us to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and the Tulare County courthouse as he (Asada) explores the family history and what happened to 20 acres of farmland in Dinuba, California,” the historical society’s event flyer said.

Asada’s grandfather Mark Asada Jr. was a teenager when his family was forced to move from their home in Dinuba to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona, according to the historical district. A second-generation Japanese American, Mark attended Dinuba Union High School and was the son of farmer Mosaku Asada.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the United States’ subsequent entry into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, authorizing the military to relocate people who were considered a threat to national security away from the West Coast. 

That order resulted in what has been called the detainment, internment or imprisonment of Japanese people in the country, the majority of whom were American citizens. 

In the coming months, more than 120,000 people, including many families from the Central Valley, were moved to internment camps further inland where they were held until the end of the war. 

On March 12, 1942, Mosaku was arrested by FBI agents and detained for five months. According to the historical society, he was eventually paroled by the Attorney General due to a letter-writing campaign organized by Mark.

The family lived in the internment camp for three years until they were released, and they did not return to Dinuba or California, instead moving to New Jersey to reestablish their lives.

Currently a visiting senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Center on Public Diplomacy, Matthew Asada has also worked as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State since 2003. Dinubans will now have a chance to hear from Asada on what it has been like to explore his family history in the Central Valley. 

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter