George Takei on a rueful journey back in time

Actor George Takei talks to correspondent Michelle Miller at the site of the Rohwer Relocation Camp in Arkansas, where he and his family were detained along with other Japanese-Americans at the start of World War II.
CBS News

(CBS News) This star's trek is the story of an actor who's traveled a very long distance ... while never forgetting where he came from. He tells that story to our Michelle Miller:

Audiences have gotten used to George Takei taking them to surprising places, as Mr. Sulu, the senior helmsman aboard the USS Starship Enterprise, with its unforgettable five-year mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before."

"Isn't it amazing?" Takei said. "In three more years, 'Star Trek' is going to be celebrating its golden anniversary."

The cult following the original TV show -- and subsequent feature films -- have made George Takei a worldwide star

"I may not have trekked through the galaxies in reality," he said. "But I have trekked all over this planet: Australia, Asia, Latin America, Europe."

But of all the exotic places he's been, whether on this planet or beyond, Takei is ever mindful of this place: A 500-acre plot of land in southeast Arkansas, where HIS journey began.

It was a concentration camp.

Now just a fallow field, Rohwer, Ark., looked a lot different when the Takei family arrived by train in 1942. George was just five years old.

"We were all concentrated, densely concentrated," he said. "We happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor, and put in prison camps simply because of our race."

George's father -- a successful Los Angeles dry cleaner -- and mother, raising George and his siblings, were among the more than 110,000 Japanese Americans sent to relocation centers like this one, in the defense of so-called national security during World War II.

Ten camps in all, scattered throughout the country.

"We were ordered out of our home at gunpoint," Takei said. "And my brother and I and my father were out on the lawn.

"My mother was the last to come out. And she had tears rolling down her cheeks. It was the memory that I can never erase -- to see your mother crying -- as we were being ordered out of our home."

Their new "home" at Rohwer was a small, single room in a tar paper barrack.

"I went to school and began every school-day morning with the pledge of allegiance of the flag," Takei said. "I could see the barbed wire fence and the sentry tower right outside my schoolhouse window as I recited the words, 'With liberty and justice for all.'"

"What did that mean to you?" Miller asked.

"The stinging irony meant nothing to me -- I was a child," Takei said. "I was told to memorize and say that, and I did it. I was an innocent child too young to understand what was going on here."