Joseph K. Sano papers: 1923-1951 (bulk 1941-1951)
Summary Information
Title: Joseph K. Sano papers
Creator: Sano, Joseph K.
Inclusive dates: 1923-1951
Bulk dates: 1941-1951
Extent: 1.4 linear feet
Japanese American relocated to internment camps in California and Arkansas during World War II prior to serving as an instructor in the Army Japanese Language School at the University of Michigan, ater served as a language referee for the war crime trials in Tokyo and as a property control officer in Japan. Papers and scrapbooks relating to pre-war work with the California Bank, relocation and military service including Japanese-language instruction, war crime trial work. Contains relocation ID cards and an issue of the Santa Anita Pacemaker.
Call number: 2013011 Aa 2
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid created by Hannah Jenkins, 2013

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Collection was donated by Alice Sano Teachout (Donor 10806) in July 2012.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open without restriction.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see:


Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

[item], folder, box, Joseph K. Sano papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Joseph Kumao Sano was born on Awaji Island, Japan on March 4, 1890. He came to the United States in 1906 and served in the United States air service during World War I, after which he was granted naturalization as a United States citizen by a special act of Congress in 1919. Sano returned to Japan in 1924 where he married Sakae Ikuta. They returned to Los Angeles where they had three children: two sons, George and Roy, and a daughter, Alice. Sano graduated from the University of Southern California with a law degree in 1926 and continued his post-graduate work at Balboa Law College from 1938 to 1940. He opened his law office in Little Tokyo Los Angeles, the business center for the Japanese community of Los Angeles. Simultaneously he established two branches of the California Bank, principally for the Japanese community -- one on Terminal Island and one in the center of Little Tokyo.

In 1942, by executive order, Sano and his family were forced to move to the Santa Anita (racetrack) Assembly Center in Arcadia, California, a temporary holding center for citizens of Japanese ancestry. In November of 1942, Santa Anita was closed and Sano and his family were relocated to Jerome, Arkansas and remained there until 1943 when Sano moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sano had been contracted to work as a Japanese language teacher at the Army's Military Intelligence School hosted at the University of Michigan. The Army course was designed to train American soldiers in Japanese language, culture, and geography. In 1945 he was instructed to participate in the Strategic Bombing Survey where he studied the effects of the atomic and hydrogen bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In December of 1945 he was sent to Tokyo for the International Military Tribunal of the Far East where he served as one of three language and court arbitrators, Sano being the bilingual arbitrator.

In 1948 he began working as a property control officer for the Bank of Japan. He was in charge of monitoring the transportation of gems and precious metals, such as gold, that were confiscated during the war from the Japanese people and were to be melted down for Japan's war effort. He continued to work there until 1951.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection mostly consists of correspondence and reports related to the various jobs and military postings that Joseph Sano had, beginning with his job at the California Bank, followed by his work at the University of Michigan, his position with the strategic bombing survey, his role in the war crime trials, and ending with his job as a property control officer.

The collection consists of two series: Joseph K. Sano Papers and Scrapbooks.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Japanese Americans -- Evaluation and relocation, 1942-1945.
  • Tokyo Trial, Tokyo, Japan, 1946-1948.
  • War crime trials -- Japan.
  • Japan -- History -- Allied occupation, 1945-1952.
  • Scrapbooks.
  • Sano, Joseph K.
  • Army Intensive Japanese Language School (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
Joseph K. Sano Papers [series]

The Joseph K. Sano Papers contain files regarding Sano's employment and military service. The California Bank file from 1923 contains information about Sano when he worked for the bank, as well as his business card. The Relocation Program file from 1941 to 1942 includes copies of newspaper articles about the evacuation of Japanese during the war, a booklet about the Santa Anita internment camp, and identification cards belonging to Sano. The Military Intelligence School file from 1943 to 1945 mainly consists of correspondence to and from Sano regarding his employment with the University of Michigan. Also included are a photo of the teachers of the school, graduation dance programs for the class of 1945, and a program from Nips in the Bud performed at the University of Michigan in 1943 and signed by the cast. The Strategic Bombing Survey file from 1945 contains correspondence and forms sent to Sano while he was working on the survey project, as well as identification cards. The War Crime Trial Referee folder from 1945 to 1948 contains identification cards, correspondence, and information about the trial procedures. Also included is a book titled Album of International Military Tribunal for the Far East which contains information and pictures about the trial with text written in both English and Japanese. The Property Control Officer file from 1947 to 1951 consists of Sano's employment applications, correspondence, an inventory of gold items held by the bank, and reports regarding the control and release of precious metals. Also included in the collection is a Miscellaneous file containing two identification cards. One card is from 1930 regarding Sano's status as an alumnus of Southern California University, and the other a business card for Mr. Sano indicating his working for the Saginaw and Manistee Lumber Company.

Box   1  
California Bank Japanese Branch 1923
Box   1  
Relocation Program 1941-1942
Box   1  
Military Intelligence School 1943-1945
Box   1  
Strategic Bombing Survey 1945
Box   1  
War Crime Trial Referee 1945-1948
Box   1  
Property Control Officer 1947-1951 (3 folders)
Scrapbooks [series]

The Scrapbooks series contains two scrapbooks. The first scrapbook ranges from 1923 to 1929 and 1941 to 1943. Included are newspaper clippings of ads and announcements from the Japanese branch of the California Bank. Most of the text is in Japanese. Also included are papers relating to the relocation of Sano and his family. The second scrapbook contains newspaper clippings and photographs from the war crime trials, one of which was used in the January 26, 1948 issue of Life magazine. Also included are newspaper clippings discussing the evacuation of Japanese people, certificates awarded to Sano by the University of Michigan, photos of gold bars from the time he worked as a property control officer, and personal photos of Sano and his family in Japan and at his sister's funeral.

Box   2  
Scrapbook 1 1923-1929, 1941-1943
Box   2  
Scrapbook 2 1940s