'Lil' Neebo' (Granada Pioneer, 14 January 1943).

Not much is known about the Japanese-American cartoonist Jack Ito. During World War II, he was interned in the Granada Relocation Center in Amache, Colorado, where he succeeded Chris Ishii as the cartoonist of 'Lil' Neebo' in the camp newspaper.

Little Neebo
On 7 December 1941, the Japanese army attacked the U.S. military base Pearl Harbor, causing the U.S. to declare war on Japan and officially enter the Second World War. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Executive Order 9066, all first and second generation Japanese-Americans were interned in the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Santa Anita, California. There were no exceptions for people born on U.S. soil and naturalized citizens. Over 2,000 Japanese-Americans were sent to this detention center. Other (future) Japanese-American cartoonists who were incarcerated at that time were Rosie Arima, Chris Ishii, Willie Ito, Harry Kuwada, Bob Kuwahara, Bennie Nobori, Eddie Sato, Esther Takei, Tom Okamoto, Iwao Takamoto and Tom Yabu.

Like fellow cartoonists Chris Ishii and Tom Okamoto, Jack Ito was probably sent to the Assembly Center in Santa Anita, California. There, Chris Ishii created the 'Lil' Neebo' comic strip (1942-1945) for the camp newspaper Santa Anita Pacemaker. This feature about a Japanese orphan boy was popular enough to appear in camp puppet shows as well. "Neebo" was short for "Nissei boy", meaning "second generation Japanese boy".


'Lil' Neebo' (Granada Pioneer, 27 March 1943).

When the camp closed in September 1942, all prisoners were transferred to the Granada Relocation Center in Amache Colorado. Lil' Neebo's adventures were continued in the camp newspaper Granada Pioneer. When creator Chris Ishii signed up for military service in December 1942, Tom Okamoto drew one or two strips, until Jack Ito became the regular cartoonist of 'Li'l Neebo' in late December 1942. He continued the adventures of Neebo and his companions Suzie Heby Lamar, Johnson and Lil Joe on a weekly base for the next couple of years. When in July 1944 Ito too left the camp to go into military service, 'Lil' Neebo' was replaced by a feature about a girl called 'Lil' Eva-Cuee', drawn by Rosie Arima. 'Ama-Chan' was another short-lived cartoon feature in the Pioneer, drawn by Esther Takei. Ito was apparently stationed in Washington, D.C., because from August 1944 on, he sent in new 'Lil' Neebo' cartoons from there. Appearances however became more sporadic, and it is unknown what happened to Jack Ito after the war.


Jack Ito sends in his Neebo cartoons from Washington, D.C. from 5 August 1944 on.

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