Bob Fletcher operated a grape farm belonging to Joichi and Shizuko Nitta in Florin. (U.C. Berkeley, Bancroft Library)

A California agricultural inspector quit his job during WWII to tend the farms of interned Japanese families

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. government forced people of Japanese descent into internment camps for the duration of the war. Many lost their homes to bank foreclosures or thieves.

Bob Fletcher knew some of the farmers from his work as an inspector. Appalled by the injustice, he quit his job and worked 90 acres of flame tokay grapes belonging to the Nitta, Okamoto, and Tsukamoto families in the Florin community just outside Sacramento.

He worked 18-hour days, slept in a bunkhouse for migrant workers, and faced deep anti-Japanese sentiment from neighbors that included a shot fired into the Tsukamoto barn.

Fletcher has been called a true American war hero. (Florin Historical Society)

When the farm owners returned in 1945, they found their crops well tended and bank balances from the grapes harvested while they were away.

“I don’t know about courage,” Fletcher said years later. “It took a devil of a lot of work.”

At a 100th birthday celebration for Fletcher in 2011, a daughter of the Nitta family gave the humble old man a hug, the Sacramento Bee reported. “We owe you everything,” she said, bringing a smile to his face. He died two years later.

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