Monday, February 1, 2010

Cedrick Shimo

After the LIVING HISTORY Program at the Tateuchi Center for the Preservation of Democracy on Saturday, Sharon met one of the docents, Cedrick Shimo, who was part of the early formation of the MIS when other enlisted Nikkei were being discharged in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He, along with some other early members of the MIS, were outraged when they learned that their parents and family members were being shipped to concentration camps - he defines the term in the body of his speech, carefully distinguishing the internment camps under the authority of the WRA from the actual P.O.W. camps that were operated under the Department of Justice which had to abide by the rules of the Geneva Convention.  One of the ironies he mentions is that, because of this, camps like Crystal City (where his father was taken after the initial FBI sweeps that targeted teachers, ministers, and other community leaders) had better food and better living conditions than places like Manzanar, where his mother was later interned.  The last straw for him was when he requested a furlough to go say goodbye to his mother at Manzanar before he got shipped out, his request was denied because even Japanese American soldiers were not allowed on the West Coast.  This rule was later softened, but he (understandably) complained bitterly, and as a result, was expelled from the school.  He was busted back down to private and held a desk job along with other "malcontents" while his parents were deported to Japan.  Below is a speech he gave a couple of weeks ago in San Francisco; he said that we could share it here.  Interestingly enough, after all he's been through, his final sentiments are similar to some of the things that a few of John Okada's characters say in his book, and his final statement sums up why we wanted to create this adaptation in the first place:

PREJUDICE and PATRIOTISM
THE PRESIDIO OFFICERS’ CLUB, SAN FRANCISCO , CA .
Sponsored by the National Japanese American Historical Society
January 16, 2010 

THE STORY OF THE 1800TH BATTALION
By Cedrick Shimo

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR INVITING ME TO TALK ABOUT JAPANESE AMERICAN MILITARY RESISTERS DURING WORLD WAR II.

REGRETFULLY, THE AUTHOR, DR. SHIRLEY CASTELNUOVO, WHO WROTE A BOOK ABOUT US RESISTERS, COULD NOT BE HERE TODAY.

A FEW YEARS AFTER THE WAR, SHIRLEY GATHERED A NUMBER OF US FORMER 1800TH MEMBERS, AT MY HOUSE, FOR AN INTERVIEW SESSION. SHE STARTED WRITING BUT SUDDENLY HAD TO STOP WHEN SHE CONTRACTED CANCER. SO FOR SOME 50 YEARS NOTHING WAS WRITTEN. IN THE MEANTIME, SOME IN THE NIKKEI COMMUNITY WERE BRANDING US AS A BUNCH OF TROUBLE-MAKING QUOTE “DISLOYALS” – THE MILITARY VERSION OF THE CAMP RESISTERS WHO WERE CONFINED IN THE TULE LAKE CONCENTRATION CAMP. SO, YOU WON’T BE FAR OFF BY CALLING US THE 1800TH TULE LAKERS!

IN THE MEANTIME, A JAPANESE AUTHOR, WHO HAD JUST WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT NISEI WHO SERVED IN THE JAPANESE ARMY, WANTED TO WRITE A BOOK, IN THE JAPANESE LANGUAGE, ABOUT THE NISEI AND KIBEI RESISTERS WHO SERVED IN THE 1800TH BATTALION. I THEN INTRODUCED HIM TO DR. CASTELNUOVO WHO WAS ELATED THAT ALL OF HER RESEARCH WAS NOT IN VAIN AS SHE OFFERED TO HELP HIM. NOW THAT HER CANCER WAS IN FULL REMISSION SHE ALSO DECIDED TO START WRITING. THE BOOK WAS FINALLY PUBLISHED COUPLE OF YEARS AGO. THE TITLE IS SOLDIERS OF CONSCIENCE: US Japanese American Military Resisters in World War II.

MOST OF THESE RESISTERS ENDED UP IN A SPECIAL ARMY UNIT CALLED THE 1800 ENGINEER GENERAL SERVICE BATTALION -- OR FOR SHORT, THE 1800TH OR THE 1800TH ENGINEERS. THIS 1800TH IS ONE OF THE MAIN STORIES IN THIS BOOK.

INCLUDING THE QUESTION AND ANSWERS AND BOOK SIGNING, DR. SHIRLEY CASTELNUOVO AND I WERE TO FILL TWO HOURS THIS AFTERNOON. NOW THAT SHIRLEY IS NOT HERE, I HAVE TAKEN THE LIBERTY TO MAKE MY TALK A LITTLE LONGER. I HOPE YOU WILL BEAR WITH ME, AND I WON’T FEEL INSULTED IF I SEE SOME OF YOU DOZING OFF TO SLEEP.

I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU THE DETAILS OF WHY I WAS EXPELLED FROM THE M.I.S., THE MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE, AND SPENT 2 YEARS IN THE 1800TH.  MANY OTHERS, FOR VARIOUS REASONS, WERE ALSO BANISHED INTO THE 1800TH AND I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU SOME OF THE REASONS FOR THEIR RESISTANCE.  I AM DEEPLY HONORED TO HAVE BEEN INVITED AS PART OF YOUR 3 MONTH SERIES OF PROGRAMS HERE AT THE PRESIDIO ABOUT THE JAPANESE AMERICANS IN THE M.I.S.

I SAY I AM HONORED BECAUSE I WAS VERY MUCH SURPRISED TO EVEN BE INVITED. WHY? BECAUSE I WAS ONE OF TWENTY STUDENTS WHO WAS EXPELLED FROM THE M.I.S. SCHOOL IN CAMP SAVAGE . I AM ASSUMING I WAS INVITED TODAY SO THAT YOU FOLKS CAN HEAR THE STORY OF THIS BLACK SHEEP OF THE M.I.S. FAMILY.

ON DECEMBER 7TH 1941 WHEN PEARL HARBOR WAS ATTACKED, I WAS IN GRADUATE SCHOOL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY . ON THE VERY NEXT DAY, DECEMBER 8, I RECEIVED IN THE MAIL MY DRAFT NOTICE FROM THE LOS ANGELES DRAFT BOARD. I IMMEDIATELY WENT TO THE TRAIN DEPOT WITH MY DRAFT NOTICE TO RETURN TO L.A. BUT WAS REFUSED PASSAGE -- REFUSED BECAUSE I LOOKED LIKE THE ENEMY AND THE FEAR OF MY SABOTAGING THE TRAIN. WE JAPANESE AMERICANS WERE NOW BEING BRANDED AS “THE DIRTY JAPS”. I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO HITCHHIKE BACK TO L.A. , REPORTED TO MY DRAFT BOARD AND SUBSEQUENTLY TO CAMP GRANT , ILLINOIS , FOR BASIC TRAINING.

AFTER PEARL HARBOR MOST OF THE NISEI WHO WERE SERVING IN THE ARMY BEFORE THE ATTACK WERE DISCHARGED AND SENT TO CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

AN EXCEPTION WAS A SMALL GROUP OF BI-LINGUAL NISEI/KIBEI SOLDIERS SELECTED FOR A HIGHLY SECRET MISSION STATIONED RIGHT HERE AT THIS PRESIDIO. INSTEAD OF BEING DISCHARGED, THEY WERE TRANSFERRED TO CAMP SAVAGE IN MINNESOTA . THEY BECAME THE FIRST GROUP OF STUDENTS AT THIS NEWLY-ESTABLISHED MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SCHOOL .

I WAS IN THE VERY NEXT GROUP OR PERHAPS THE ONE FOLLOWING. I HAD VOLUNTEERED FOR THE M.I.S. IN LATE DECEMBER OF 1942 AND A FEW WEEKS LATER, IN EARLY JANUARY, I WAS IN CAMP SAVAGE .

ALL THE CLASSES NORMALLY WERE HELD FOR 6 MONTHS BUT I WAS ASSIGNED TO A SPECIAL 3-MONTH SPEED-UP CLASS FOR ADVANCED STUDENTS. FAMED HARRY FUKUHARA, WHO EVENTUALLY BECAME A COLONEL AND ONE OF THE KEY POSTWAR SPOKESMEN FOR THE M.I.S., SAT AT A DESK JUST IN FRONT OF ME.

(...)

NOW, AS TO WHY I WAS EXPELLED IS A STORY I’LL GET TO LATER IN THIS TALK.

AFTER PEARL HARBOR , ALL THE NISEI OF MILITARY AGE WERE NOW CLASSIFIED AS 4-C ENEMY ALIENS: UNSUITABLE FOR MILITARY SERVICE. MOST OF THE 5000 NISEI ALREADY SERVING IN THE ARMY BEFORE PEARL HARBOR WERE DISCHARGED.

ON THE OTHER HAND, APPROXIMATELY 1,440 NISEI SOLDIERS, WHO WERE NOT DISCHARGED, WERE SHIPPED INLAND BUT HAD THEIR WEAPONS CONFISCATED. THEY WERE ALL TRANSFERRED INTO SERVICE UNITS FOR MENIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

AND THEN AGAIN, MANY OF US NISEI LIKE MYSELF REMAINED 1-A AND WERE INDUCTED INTO THE ARMY – OVER A MONTH AFTER PEARL HARBOR .

THIS WAS A PERIOD OF UTTER CONFUSION. THE VARIOUS UNIT COMMANDERS WERE LEFT ON THEIR OWN IN THE HANDLING OF THE JAPANESE AMERICANS UNDER THEIR COMMAND. EVIDENTLY THERE WERE NO INSTRUCTIONS FROM HIGH COMMAND AS IT HAD MORE PRESSING MATTERS TO CONTEND WITH.

WHILE I WAS TAKING BASIC TRAINING AT CAMP GRANT , ILLINOIS , MY DAD WAS ARRESTED BY THE FBI IN ITS SECONDARY SWEEP. HE WAS IMPRISONED ALONG WITH THOUSANDS OF OTHER ISSEI INTO ONE OF APPROXIMATELY 20 DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INTERNMENT CAMPS – BUDDHIST PRIESTS, LEADERS OF THE COMMUNITY, JAPANESE LANGUAGE TEACHERS, MARTIAL ARTS OPERATORS, IMPORT/EXPORT BUSINESSMEN AND OTHERS, SUSPECTED ONLY BECAUSE THEIR NAMES WERE ASSOCIATED WITH JAPAN.

MY DAD WAS ARRESTED BECAUSE HE OPERATED A KENDO FENCING SCHOOL. ALL THOSE IN JUDO, KENDO, KARATE AND OTHER MARTIAL ARTS ACTIVITIES BELONGED TO AN ASSOCIATION IN JAPAN CALLED “BUTOKU KAI.” THE U.S. GOVERNMENT ERRONEOUSLY CONNECTED “BUTOKUKAI” WITH THE “KOKURYU KAI” THE BLACK DRAGON ASSOCIATION, AN ULTRA NATIONALISTIC GROUP. ALL REGISTERED ISSEI INSTRUCTORS BELONGING TO “BUTOKUKAI” WERE ARRESTED. IN THE BOOK THE U.S. AUTHORITIES’ COMPLETE IGNORANCE OF THE TRUE FACTS ARE REVEALED IN FASCINATING DETAILS.

I ATTENDED HIS COURT HEARING THAT WAS HELD IN EL PASO IN NEW MEXICO . UNFORTUNATELY, THE INTERPRETER WAS A YOUNG KOREAN LADY WHO TRULY BUTCHERED MY DAD’S TESTIMONY. I BELIEVE THE INTERPRETER MEANT WELL BUT HER ENGLISH WAS SO AWFUL THAT I WAS CONSTANTLY SHAKING MY HEAD IN DISBELIEF. I WROTE A LETTER TO WASHINGTON , D.C. , COMPLAINING ABOUT THAT INTERPRETER AND ASKED FOR A TRANSCRIPT OF THAT HEARING. I NEVER DID RECEIVE A REPLY.

YOU COULD SAY THAT THIS KANGAROO COURT AND THE SIGHT OF MY DAD, VERY GAUNT, FORLORN AND DEPRESSED, WAS A SHOCK TO ME AND WAS ONE OF MANY INCIDENTS THAT FINALLY LED TO MY BECOMING A RESISTER.

TALKING ABOUT LETTERS, WHEN I WAS AT CAMP SAVAGE I ALSO HAD WRITTEN A LETTER TO MR. EDWARD ENNIS, HEAD OF THE ALIEN ENEMY CONTROL UNIT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IN WASHINGTON , D.C. I STATED THAT I HAD VOLUNTEERED FOR A SECRET MISSION AND WANTED MY PARENTS REUNITED -– THAT BOTH WERE BEHIND BARBED WIRES BUT IN SEPARATE CAMPS.

AFTER TWO YEARS OF SEPARATION, THEY WERE FINALLY REUNITED IN A SPECIAL PRISONERS OF WAR CAMP FOR FAMILIES CALLED CRYSTAL CITY INTERNMENT CAMP IN TEXAS . FROM THERE, THEY WERE DEPORTED TO JAPAN IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE WAR.

INCIDENTALLY, I HAD OCCASIONS TO VISIT THE PRISONERS OF WAR INTERNMENT CAMPS OF SANTA FE AND LORDSBURG. IT WAS JUST FOR ONE DAY TO SEE MY FATHER BUT I WAS NOT ALLOWED INSIDE THE CAMP. ON THE OTHER HAND, AT THE CRYSTAL CITY FAMILY CAMP I WAS ALLOWED TO LIVE WITH MY PARENTS FOR ONE WHOLE WEEK.

WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT THE ACCOMMODATIONS IN THE SO-CALLED PRISONERS OF WAR FAMILY INTERNMENT CAMP OF CRYSTAL CITY WAS FAR SUPERIOR TO THOSE IN THE 10 W.R.A. CONCENTRATION CAMPS? THIS WAS BECAUSE THIS CAMP WAS RUN BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE THAT HAD TO ABIDE BY THE GENEVA CONVENTION TREATY THAT SPECIFIED HOW PRISONERS MUST BE TREATED.

YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT I AM MAKING A CLEAR DISTINCTION BETWEEN AN INTERNMENT AND A CONCENTRATION CAMP. INTERNMENT SHOULD BE APPLIED ONLY TO THE PRISONERS OF WAR CAMPS OPERATED UNDER THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. THE 10 CAMPS OPERATED BY THE W.R.A. SHOULD BE IDENTIFIED AS PRISONS OR CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

AUTHOR GREG ROBINSON, AIKO YOSHINAGA HERZIG AND OTHERS ARE FIGHTING AN UPHILL BATTLE IN THEIR ATTEMPTS TO CORRECT THE EUPHEMISMS USED BY OUR GOVERNMENT TO JUSTIFY THEIR ACTIONS.

ANOTHER GOVERNMENT NOMENCLATURE THAT SHOULD BE REPLACED IS EVACUATION OR RELOCATION. MORE ACCURATE WOULD BE BANISHED, EXPELLED, FORCED REMOVAL, OR UPROOTED.

WHEN I VISITED MY PARENTS IN CRYSTAL CITY I DISCOVERED THAT THE INMATES WERE LIVING, NOT IN BARRACKS, BUT IN DUPLEXES WITH RUNNING WATER AND KITCHEN FACILITIES WHERE THE FAMILIES COOKED THEIR OWN MEALS. FOR A WHOLE WEEK I WAS AGAIN ABLE TO ENJOY MY MOTHER’S HOME COOKED MEALS.

I MINGLED WITH THE INMATES AND LEARNED THAT CONFINED ALSO WERE JAPANESE KIDNAPPED FROM PERU AND OTHER CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICAN COUNTRIES. THEY WERE KIDNAPPED TO BE EXCHANGED FOR AMERICANS IMPRISONED IN JAPAN AND ELSEWHERE. THIS IS ANOTHER TRAGIC STORY WHICH STILL HAS NOT BEEN COMPLETELY RESOLVED AND REMEDIED.

IN CONTRAST TO THIS FAMILY TYPE CAMP, IN SOME OF THE OTHER NON-FAMILY CAMPS THERE WERE NUMEROUS SHOCKING CASES OF BRUTALITY AND KILLINGS COMMITTED BY GUARDS AGAINST THE ISSEI PRISONERS. THE DETAILS ARE EXPOSED IN THE BOOK “MY SIX YEARS OF INTERNMENT,” WRITTEN IN JAPANESE BY REVEREND FUKUDA, AN ISSEI BUDDHIST PRIEST. THIS IS ANOTHER GENERALLY UNKNOWN STORY, LIKE THE 1800TH, WHICH SHOULD BE FURTHER PUBLICIZED.

I ALSO VISITED AND STAYED COUPLE OF DAYS IN THE COLORADO RIVER CAMP, MORE COMMONLY KNOWN AS POSTON, AND THE MANZANAR CONCENTRATION CAMP. THE W.R.A. --THE WAR RELOCATION AUTHORITY -- WHICH OPERATED THE 10 CAMPS WAS NOT REQUIRED TO ABIDE BY THE GENEVA CONVENTION.

WHAT AN IRONY THAT THOSE IMPRISONED IN THE PRISONERS OF WAR CAMPS WERE IMPRISONED IN FACILITIES MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE, THE ABUSIVE GUARDS NOTWITHSTANDING, THAN THE AMERICAN CITIZENS AND THEIR PARENTS IN THE 10 CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

AFTER BASIC TRAINING, I WAS TRANSFERRED TO THE STATION HOSPITAL IN CAMP GRANT IN ILLINOIS . THERE, MAJOR DICKEY CAME SEEKING VOLUNTEERS FOR THE M.I.S. I VOLUNTEERED AND WAS IMMEDIATELY TRANSFERRED TO CAMP SAVAGE WHERE THE PRESIDIO STUDENTS HAD JUST GRADUATED.

UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS AT THIS JUNCTURE THAT THE MASS EXPULSION AND INCARCERATION OF THE WEST COAST JAPANESE WERE OCCURRING.

MY MOTHER WAS IMPRISONED IN THE MANZANAR CONCENTRATION CAMP. LIKE MOST OF THE OTHERS, WE, TOO, LOST OUR HOME AND ALL OF OUR POSSESSIONS.

AS THE NEWS ABOUT OUR FAMILIES STARTED TO TRICKLE IN, MANY HEATED DISCUSSIONS WERE HELD IN OUR BARRACKS ABOUT WHY WE HAD VOLUNTEERED FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT WHEN OUR FAMILIES WERE BEING MISTREATED BY THE VERY SAME GOVERNMENT WE WERE SERVING. ACTUALLY, OF COURSE, WE HAD VOLUNTEERED JUST PRIOR TO THE MASS EXPULSION OF THE WEST COAST JAPANESE.

I HAD TWO PRE-WAR FRIENDS, TOSH NAKAJIMA AND SLIM SUGIYAMA, WORKING AT THE SCHOOL AS CADRES – NOT AS STUDENTS BUT AS THOSE WHO OPERATED THE MESS HALLS, SUPPLY ROOM AND SUCH. THEY WERE TELLING ME THAT WE STUDENTS WERE NOW CONSIDERED AS “INU” OR TRAITORS, FOR VOLUNTEERING WHEN OUR FAMILIES WERE BEING UPROOTED FROM THEIR HOMES AND IMPRISONED. ONE CADRE FRIEND EVEN OFFERED TO MAKE THE NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS SO I COULD BE TRANSFERRED FROM BEING A STUDENT TO BECOME ONE OF THE CADRES.

I DOUBT WHETHER THE OTHER STUDENTS IN THE SCHOOL WERE AWARE OF THE CADRES' ATTITUDE TOWARDS US STUDENTS. I WAS INFORMED ONLY BECAUSE THOSE TWO CADRES AND I WERE VERY CLOSE FRIENDS HAVING BEEN TEAMMATES ON A PRE-WAR BASEBALL TEAM.

IT WAS DEAD WINTER WITH FREEZING TEMPERATURES. EVERY NIGHT, TAKAHASHI, A CADRE, WOULD COME INTO OUR BARRACKS TO KEEP US WARM -- WARM BY ADDING FRESH COAL AND STOKING THE STOVES IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS. MY BUNK WAS NEXT TO ONE OF THE STOVES, AND I COULD HEAR HIM MUTTERING, "YOU DAMN INUS," AND HE WOULD PURPOSELY BANG ON THE STOVE TO KEEP US FROM SLEEPING.

THIS NEGATIVE ATTITUDE OF THE CADRES TOWARDS THE STUDENT VOLUNTEERS LATER CHANGED FOR THE POSITIVE AND SUPPORTIVE WITH THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE JAPANESE AMERICANS -- THANKS TO THE SUCCESS OF THE 442ND AND THE M.I.S.

DESPITE OUR GRUMBLINGS, WE CONTINUED TO STUDY HARD. MOST OF THE STUDENTS IN MY CLASS WERE KIBEI, AND I HAD TO STUDY TWICE AS HARD JUST TO KEEP UP. I REMEMBER STUDYING IN THE LATRINE WHEN THE BARRACKS LIGHTS WERE TURNED OUT.

JUST PRIOR TO GRADUATING WE ALL APPLIED FOR A 2-WEEK FURLOUGH. I APPLIED FOR MANZANAR TO BID FAREWELL TO MY MOTHER AND FRIENDS BEFORE SHIPPING OUT TO THE PACIFIC FRONT.

INCREDIBLY, MY APPLICATION WAS TURNED DOWN BECAUSE AT THAT TIME NO JAPANESE AMERICANS, EVEN SOLDIERS, WERE ALLOWED ON THE WEST COAST . THIS RESTRICTION WAS LATER LIFTED, BUT IT WAS TOO LATE FOR ME BECAUSE, FOR OBVIOUS REASONS, I HAD BITTERLY COMPLAINED. TWENTY OF US WERE SUDDENLY EXPELLED FROM THE SCHOOL.

AT FIRST, I DID NOT KNOW THAT THERE WERE 20 OF US WHO WERE EJECTED. WE WERE NOT EXPELLED AS A SINGLE GROUP BUT IN PAIRS AND TRANSFERRED TO DIFFERENT ARMY CAMPS. I THOUGHT ONLY THE TWO OF US WERE BEING EXPELLED.

KENICHI ICHINOSE AND I WERE FIRST SENT TO FORT LEAVENWORTH – NOT THE PRISON – BUT THE PLUSH PRE-WAR ARMY CAMP. NO BARRACKS BUT COMFORTABLE STURDY BRICK BUILDINGS, TREE LINED STREETS, A FISHING POND, A SWIMMING POOL AND AN ATHLETIC FIELD WHERE WE PLAYED BASEBALL. I WORKED AS A CLERK IN THE MOTOR POOL, AND AFTER HOURS AND ON WEEKENDS, LIVED THE LIFE OF RILEY AS YOU CAN IMAGINE FROM THESE PHOTOGRAPHS ON THE SCREEN.

IT WASN’T UNTIL MANY MONTHS LATER, WHEN WE WERE ALL ASSEMBLED TOGETHER IN FORT LEONARD WOOD, MISSOURI , THAT I REALIZED THERE WERE AT LEAST 20 OF US WHO WERE ALSO EXPELLED. MANY NISEI MALCONTENTS FROM VARIOUS OTHER ARMY CAMPS ALSO JOINED US ALONG WITH AMERICAN SOLDIERS OF GERMAN AND ITALIAN DESCENT. ALL WERE CONSIDERED POTENTIAL TROUBLEMAKERS. EVERY SOLDIER WAS DEMOTED TO THE LOWEST POSSIBLE RANK, A PRIVATE.

THIS UNIT WAS CALLED THE 525 QUARTERMASTER SERVICE COMPANY. THIS 525 WAS A “DO NOTHING” UNIT BUT FORMED JUST FOR THE PURPOSE OF KEEPING ALL OF US UNDER ONE ROOF, SO TO SPEAK, TO SIMPLIFY KEEPING US UNDER OBSERVATION. OUR MEANINGLESS DAILY TASK WAS EQUIVALENT TO DIGGING A HOLE AND THEN REFILLING IT.

SINCE I WAS ABLE TO TYPE, I WAS LATER REASSIGNED FROM A PICK AND SHOVEL DUTY TO OPERATE A DOG TAG MACHINE – PUNCHING METAL DOG TAGS 8 HOURS A DAY. EVERY SOLDIER CARRIED TWO CHAINED DOG TAGS TO HANG AROUND HIS NECK FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSE. IT WAS A BORING JOB BUT I ENTERTAINED MYSELF BY SENDING CHRISTMAS GREETINGS AND OTHER MESSAGES ON THE DOG TAGS WHICH I MAILED TO MY FRIENDS IN CAMP.

I ALSO LEARNED LATER THAT TWO FELLOW CLASSMATES FROM UCLA, BUT IN A DIFFERENT M.I.S. CLASS, WERE ALSO OUSTED BUT THEY NEVER BECAME MEMBERS OF THE 525 OR THE 1800. BOTH HAD RECEIVED MEDICAL DISCHARGES IMMEDIATELY AFTER BEING EXPELLED. YASUO CLIFFORD TANAKA ENROLLED AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND EVENTUALLY BECAME THE FIRST POST-WAR NISEI STOCK BROKER.

ASAICHI HIESHIMA, THE OTHER WHO WAS THROWN OUT, HAD ALSO RECEIVED A MEDICAL DISCHARGE. HE WAS ENROLLED AT TULANE UNIVERSITY AND BECAME A MEDICAL DOCTOR.

I, TOO, FILED FOR A MEDICAL DISCHARGE BUT FAILED MISERABLY. I GUESS I WAS TOO HEALTHY SINCE I HAVE OUTLIVED BOTH OF THEM. I AM NOW 90 YEARS OLD.

THE ARMY FINALLY MUST HAVE REACHED A CONCLUSION THAT WE IN THE 525, ASIDE FROM OUR LEGITIMATE COMPLAINTS ABOUT INJUSTICE, WERE ALL GOOD OBEDIENT SOLDIERS. TO HELP EASE THE MANPOWER SHORTAGE, A DECISION WAS MADE FOR US TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE WAR EFFORT BY PUTTING US TO GOOD USE.

THE 525 QUARTERMASTERS WAS REORGANIZED AS THE 1800TH ENGINEERS AND IMMEDIATELY SHIPPED TO VARIOUS SOUTHERN STATES, SUCH AS MISSISSIPPI , LOUISIANA AND ARKANSAS FOR MORE MEANINGFUL DUTIES.

OUR ROLE WAS TO FOLLOW COMBAT TROOPS ON TRAINING MANEUVERS AND TO REPAIR THE DAMAGES TO ROADS, FENCES AND BRIDGES CAUSED BY THEIR TANKS AND HEAVY DUTY TRUCKS. WE WERE A FULLY-FLEDGED ENGINEERING BATTALION WITH ALL THE NECESSARY HEAVY DUTY EQUIPMENT AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THE PICTURES FLASHED ON THE SCREEN. WE HAD EVERYTHING BUT WEAPONS.

ALTHOUGH WE WERE ALL DEMOTED TO THE RANK OF PRIVATES, MANY HELD POSITIONS OF RANK RESPONSIBILITIES. AS FOR ME, FROM PICK AND SHOVEL, I WAS GIVEN DESK JOBS, SUCH AS THE ACTING MOTOR POOL SERGEANT, ACTING SUPPLY SERGEANT AND FINALLY, THE ACTING COMPANY CLERK WHERE I SERVED UNTIL THE END OF THE WAR. THERE, I WAS ABLE TO INTERACT WITH THE CAUCASIAN OFFICERS AND NON-COMS ON A DAILY BASIS AND HAD AMPLE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLAIN OUR SITUATION. THE OFFICERS WERE SYMPATHETIC TO OUR CAUSE AND TREATED US VERY HUMANELY AND NOT AS MISFITS TO BE PUNISHED. AS A RESULT, OUR MORALE WAS HIGH AND OUR EXCELLENT WORK WAS PUBLICLY COMMENDED ON TWO OCCASIONS.

ONE WAS FOR A SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT IN ARKANSAS WHEN THE WHITE RIVER OVERFLOWED TO RECORD LEVELS – SO HIGH THAT WE ONCE HAD TO FLEE AND WERE MAROONED ON A BLUFF. WE WERE RESCUED BY ARMY ENGINEER STEAMBOATS, AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THE PICTURES ON THE SCREEN. WE THEN WERE QUARTERED ON RIVER BOATS ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER FROM WHERE WE OPERATED.

I WAS TOLD BUT CANNOT CONFIRM THAT THERE WERE OVER A THOUSAND GERMAN AMERICANS IN THE 1800TH. MOST OF THEM WERE MEMBERS OF THE GERMAN AMERICAN BUND. AFTER THE DEFEAT OF HITLER, THEY WERE TRANSFERRED TO THE PACIFIC FRONT. PERHAPS WE CAN TALK ABOUT THEM DURING THE QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION. I REMEMBER EXCHANGING OUR POTATOES FOR THEIR RICE.

NOW, WHO WERE THESE SO-CALLED MALCONTENTS WHO WERE EXILED INTO THIS 1800TH BATTALION? I’LL LIMIT MYSELF ONLY TO THE JAPANESE AMERICANS AND NOT THE GERMAN AND ITALIAN AMERICANS.

MANY, LIKE ME, WERE INDIVIDUALS WHO HAD REACTED ANGRILY TO A DISCRIMINATORY SITUATION, WHILE SOME WERE UNDER SUSPICION BECAUSE OF THEIR PRE-WAR OCCUPATION. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SOME OF THESE STORIES WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT DURING THE QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION.

THEN THERE WERE SOLDIERS WHO WERE TRANSFERRED TO THE 1800TH AS A GROUP. FOR INSTANCE, THERE WAS A GROUP OF PROTESTORS INVOLVED IN THE FT. MCCLELLAN EPISODE. WHEN PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT VISITED FT. RILEY ON EASTER SUNDAY, HUNDREDS OF JAPANESE AMERICANS WERE ORDERED TO BE IN FULL DRESS UNIFORM ALONG WITH ALL THE OTHERS. THEY EXPECTED TO BE WELCOMING THE PRESIDENT. INSTEAD, A LAST MINUTE CHANGE OF ORDERS FOUND THEM UNDER ARMED GUARDS AND HERDED INTO A HUGE GYMNASIUM-LIKE BUILDING SURROUNDED BY TANKS AND MACHINE GUNS POINTED AT THE ENTRANCE. THEY SAT ON BLEACHERS WITH NO BACK SUPPORTS AND WERE ORDERED TO LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD IN ABSOLUTE SILENCE – FOR 4 HOURS UNTIL THE PRESIDENT LEFT.

ON BATHROOM BREAKS, THEY WERE ESCORTED BY ARMED GUARDS. NEEDLESS TO SAY, THIS HUMILIATION SANK DEEPLY INTO THEIR SOULS.

SOON AFTER, THEY, ALONG WITH MANY NISEI FROM OTHER MILITARY CAMPS, WERE ALL ORDERED TO FT MCCLELLAN FOR COMBAT TRAINING TO JOIN THE 442ND.

MOST OF THOSE, WHO WERE DEMEANED AT FORT RILEY , RESISTED TAKING COMBAT TRAINING. BUT UNDER THREATS OF BEING COURT MARTIALED, MANY CHANGED THEIR MINDS, COMPLETED THEIR TRAINING AND JOINED THE 442ND.

I WON’T GO INTO THE DETAILS WHICH ARE IN THE BOOK, BUT 21 WERE COURT MARTIALED AND IMPRISONED, WHILE 70 WERE BANISHED TO THE 1800TH ENGINEERS.

ANOTHER GROUP OF SOLDIERS CAME FROM TERMINAL ISLAND . THIS SMALL ISLAND NEAR LOS ANGELES IS WHERE THERE WAS A THRIVING JAPANESE FISHING VILLAGE THAT EXISTED FROM THE EARLY 1900S. A NAVAL BASE WAS LATER ESTABLISHED THERE. THE DAY AFTER PEARL HARBOR , THE FBI ARRESTED ALL THE FISHERMEN AND LEADERS OF THIS COMMUNITY. THE REMAINING WOMEN, CHILDREN AND THE ELDERLY WERE GIVEN JUST 48 HOURS TO PACK UP AND LEAVE. THEY LOST THEIR BOATS, HOMES, AND BUSINESS – EVERYTHING, WHILE FLEEING TO LOS ANGELES AND SOON AFTER, THEY, ALONG WITH ALL OTHER L.A. JAPANESE RESIDENTS, WERE SENT TO AN ASSEMBLY CENTER AND THEN TO ONE OF THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

MANY OF THESE TERMINAL ISLANDERS HAD SONS ALREADY SERVING IN THE U.S. ARMY. WHEN THESE SOLDIERS LEARNED ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR FAMILIES, THEY ANGRILY PROTESTED. THEY WERE THEN CONSIDERED POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS AND TRANSFERRED TO THE 1800TH.

THE NUMBER OF SOLDIERS IN THE 1800TH WAS CONSTANTLY FLUCTUATING. OVER THE COURSE OF ITS EXISTENCE A TOTAL OF 170 NISEI AND KIBEI SOLDIERS WERE NAMED ON THE 1800TH ROSTER.

A SIMPLE QUESTION WAS PERIODICALLY ASKED:” ARE YOU NOW WILLING TO SERVE WHEREVER ORDERED?” APPROXIMATELY 50, WHO HAD ANSWERED “YES,” WERE CLEARED AND TRANSFERRED TO THE 442ND, THE M.I.S. OR TO THE PANAMA CANAL . I RECEIVED LETTERS FROM PANAMA , SAYING THAT THEY WERE MANNING CANNONS ON FLATBED RAILCARS PROTECTING THE CANAL.

WHEN THE WAR ENDED, THERE REMAINED 120 OF US WHO CONTINUED TO ANSWER “NO.”

I WAS ONCE INTERVIEWED BY A G2 GOVERNMENT INTELLIGENCE OFFICER WHO ASKED, “IF JAPAN INVADED THE UNITED STATES AND WERE APPROACHING THE CAMPS, WHICH SIDE WOULD YOU FIGHT FOR?” I SAID I WOULD FIGHT FOR WHICHEVER SIDE THAT IS DEFENDING THE CAMPS. EVERYTHING I HELD DEAR TO ME WAS NOW IN THE CAMPS – FRIENDS AND FAMILY. OUR HOME AND ALL OUR POSSESSIONS WERE GONE. I ASKED, “WOULD THE GUARDS DEFEND THE CAMPS OR WOULD THEY BE MACHINE GUNNING THE INMATES – MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY? WOULD THE GUARDS PREVENT THE SURROUNDING AMERICAN CIVILIANS FROM ENTERING THE CAMPS AND SLAUGHTERING MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY?” OF COURSE, THIS WAS ALL HYPOTHETICAL AND NEITHER OF US HAD THE ANSWER.

WHEN THE PACIFIC WAR ENDED WE HAD TO APPEAR BEFORE A HEARING BOARD TO DETERMINE THE TYPE OF DISCHARGE TO BE ISSUED. I RECEIVED AN HONORABLE DISCHARGE ALONG WITH 45 OTHERS. SEVENTY FIVE RECEIVED THE BLUE OR LESS THAN HONORABLE DISCHARGES. TWENTY FOUR WHO HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY COURT MARTIALED AND DISHONORABLY DISCHARGED WERE SERVING TIME IN PRISON.

PRESIDENT TRUMAN LATER PARDONED THEM. IN FACT, ALL THOSE WHO WERE DISCHARGED WITHOUT HONOR OR DISHONORABLY DISCHARGED WERE LATER REINSTATED AND ISSUED HONORABLE DISCHARGES IF THEY HAD JOINED THE GROUP REPRESENTED BY ATTORNEY HYMAN BRAVIN. THIS IS ANOTHER STORY IN ITSELF.

AFTER MY DISCHARGE I IMMEDIATELY APPLIED FOR AND RECEIVED A CIVIL SERVICE POSITION IN JAPAN . MY PURPOSE, OF COURSE, WAS TO TAKE CARE OF MY DEPORTED PARENTS. JUST BEFORE DEPARTURE, HOWEVER, I SUDDENLY RECEIVED A TELEGRAM THAT I WAS DISQUALIFIED. NO REASON WAS GIVEN BUT I AM CERTAIN MY 1800TH RECORD HAD SURFACED ALONG WITH MY EXPULSION FROM THE M.I.S.

YEARS LATER, IN THE 1970’S, WHEN, AS A VICE PRESIDENT AND SECRETARY OF A
DIVISION OF AMERICAN HONDA, I HAD TO REPORT TO OUR HEADQUARTERS IN JAPAN . WHEN I APPLIED FOR A VISA IT WAS WITH GREAT TREPIDATIONS BECAUSE I FEARED THAT MY APPLICATION WOULD AGAIN BE DENIED. IT WASN’T. I MUST HAVE BEEN CLEARED AS I DID RECEIVE MY VISA.

WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME IT HAS BECOME APPARENT THAT ACTS OF RESISTANCE AGAINST INJUSTICE IS NOT AN ACT OF TREASON. PATRICK HENRY, AS HE SO ELOQUENTLY STATED BACK IN 1775, WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD OF EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US AS WE TOO WERE CRYING OUT, “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH.”

ALL IN ALL, I ENTERED THE ARMY AS A BUCK PRIVATE AND FOUR YEARS LATER, WAS HONORABLY DISCHARGED AS A BUCK PRIVATE. IN THE INTERIM I WAS PROMOTED 3 TIMES BUT ALSO WAS DEMOTED 3 TIMES. IT WAS A MOST DUBIOUS MILITARY CAREER -- BUT MY CONSCIENCE IS CLEAR AND I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO REGRETS.

LIKE MANY OF YOU HERE, I TOO, HAVE RECEIVED THAT LETTER OF APOLOGY FROM THE FIRST PRESIDENT BUSH ALONG WITH A TOKEN $20,000 MONETARY REIMBURSEMENT. I HAVE ACCEPTED MY PRESIDENT’S APOLOGY AND AM PROUD AS A LOYAL AMERICAN THAT MY COUNTRY IS BIG ENOUGH TO ADMIT TO THE WORLD THAT A MOST GRIEVOUS MISTAKE WAS PERPETRATED AGAINST ITS OWN CITIZENS.

I WOULD LIKE TO CLOSE BY STATING THAT IF ALL THE JAPANESE AMERICANS HAD TAKEN OUR STAND OF RESISTANCE, WE MIGHT STILL BE LANGUISHING IN THE QUOTE “RESERVATIONS,” RENAMED THE “CAMPS”.

AT ONE TIME, I FELT THAT MY COUNTRY HAD ABANDONED US – TREATING US AS THE JAPANESE ENEMY INSTEAD OF AS AN AMERICAN. BUT IT WAS THE COURAGE AND BRAVERY OF THE SOLDIERS OF THE 100TH, THE 442ND AND THE M.I.S. THAT SAVED THE JAPANESE AMERICAN COMMUNITY FROM POSSIBLY EXPERIENCING THE FATE OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS.

THANKS TO THEM AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS, GOVERNMENT POLICY CHANGED FROM ONE OF CONDEMNATION TO ONE OF COMMENDATION. OUR FUTURE IN THE UNITED STATES SUDDENLY IMPROVED FROM ONE OF UTTER DESPAIR TO ONE OF HOPE.

TODAY, AS I LOOK BACK, I CAN ONLY MARVEL AT THE INNATE GREATNESS AND GOODNESS OF AMERICA . I, FOR ONE, AND I’M SURE FOR ALL JAPANESE AMERICANS, THIS EXPERIENCE HAS FORGED US INTO BECOMING BETTER AMERICANS.

BUT ONE OF THE TRAGIC CONSEQUENCES OF THIS WARTIME EPISODE WAS THE EXTREMELY DIVISIVE BREAKUP WITHIN THE JAPANESE AMERICAN COMMUNITY WHICH CONTINUES TO THIS VERY DAY BUT TO A MUCH LESSER DEGREE THAN IN YEARS PAST. A FEW ULTRA PATRIOTIC AND STUBBORN VETERANS AND THEIR SUPPORTERS AT ONE END AGAINST A FEW EQUALLY STUBBORN RESISTERS AND THEIR SUPPORTERS AT THE OTHER END AND THE VAST MIDDLE MAJORITY WITH EMPATHY FOR BOTH SIDES.

NO SINGLE GROUP SHOULD BE SEEKING GLORIFICATION FOR ITSELF BUT SHOULD IDENTIFY ITSELF WITH ALL WHO SUFFERED THROUGH THIS SOUL-WRENCHING EXPERIENCE. EACH INDIVIDUAL MADE A DECISION, DEPENDING UPON HIS OR HER SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES.

DUE CREDIT, OF COURSE, MUST BE RIGHTFULLY BESTOWED UPON THOSE WHO GALLANTLY SERVED WITH THE 442nd AND THE M.I.S., BUT ALSO HONORED SHOULD BE ALL THOSE WHO TOOK DIFFERENT PATHS IN RESPONDING TO BEING BANISHED FROM THEIR HOMES AND INCARCERATED: THOSE NO-NO’S FROM TULE LAKE AND CRYSTAL CITY, AND THOSE RENUNCIANTS WHO HAD ANGRILY RENOUNCED THEIR CITIZENSHIP AND THOSE DEPORTED TO JAPAN; THOSE WHO DEFIED THE EXCLUSION ORDERS IN COURTS OF LAW; THOSE CAMP AND MILITARY RESISTERS WHO DEFIED THE AUTHORITIES FOR THE WRONGS PERPETRATED AGAINST THEM; THOSE WHO VENTURED OUT OF THE CAMPS DURING THE WAR INTO THE PRECARIOUS UNKNOWN; THOSE WHO, WITH NO PLACE TO GO, REMAINED IN THE CAMPS TO THE VERY END UNTIL FORCED OUT; THE JACL LEADERS WHO URGED COOPERATION DESPITE THE NEGATIVE SENTIMENTS AGAINST THEM; AND THOSE ISSEI IMPRISONED IN PRISONERS OF WAR INTERNMENT CAMPS.

SHOULD NOT THEY ALL BE GIVEN DUE CREDIT FOR THEIR IMMEASURABLE SACRIFICE AND COURAGE?

NONE NEED TO APOLOGIZE TO ANYONE FOR WHATEVER HIS OR HER ACTION. INSTEAD, ALL OF US SHOULD STAND TALL AND BE PROUD THAT EACH, IN HIS OWN WAY, FOUGHT FOR THE VERY PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH AMERICA WAS FOUNDED – HUMAN RIGHTS, DIGNITY, FREEDOM, LIBERTY AND EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL.

THANK YOU.

2 comments: