Sunday, February 28, 2010

First Week of Rehearsal

We've just finished our first week of rehearsal, and I've got to tell you, everyone should write a play and everyone should have the experience of sitting in on rehearsals for something that's been rattling around in your skull for a while because it's such a revelation to watch the disembodied voices in your head start to come to life.  It's really helpful if you've got a dream cast of actors...

 
(from left to right, Director Alberto Isaac, Sound Engineer Yoshi Irie, cast members Greg Watanabe, Robert Wu, Chris Tashima, Jared Asato (partially hidden), and Sab Shimono)
  
Sab Shimono, Keiko Agena
  
Jared Asato (foreground), Greg Watanabe
  
Chris Tashima (behind him is publicist Junko Goda and Alberto Isaac)
  
(Super Stage Manager/Producer Darlene Miyakawa, Costume Designer Ken Takemoto, cast member Sharon Omi)
  
(John Miyasaki, Sab Shimono, Jared Asato, Chris Tashima, Robert Wu)
  
Master Thespian Sab Shimono

...(there are more great actors in this cast, by the way, whose pictures you'll see in future posts, including Emily Kuroda, who took these pics)...

It also helps to have great designers...

Ken Takemoto
 
Set Designer Alan Muraoka
  
Video Designer John Flynn, Ph.D - he's the one whose mouth isn't open
...(Jeremy Pivnick, Dave Iwataki, and Chris Komuro are not pictured here because they couldn't make it to that first rehearsal)...

And one of the best theater artists/director/actor/writer/dramaturgs I've ever met:


 
Director Alberto Isaac - he's the smart-looking one.

I've been lucky enough to have acted in a few productions over the years, and have been lucky enough to have sat in on rehearsals for the plays I've written in my late-blooming career, and every one of them has been different from the rest. 

This one has been an exceptional revelation to me for a variety of reasons, including the fact that this is the first real adaptation I've ever attempted, this is also the most "developed" play I've ever worked on (more readings and and more rewrites than anything else I've ever written), and it's also a piece that's based on a book that's been important to a number of Asian American artists and readers, so there's a certain obligation to NOT SCREW IT UP.  So, it's a little scary, but luckily, it's hard to be scared when you have the team that we have, and maybe more importantly to me, the director that we have. 

Alberto Isaac has directed almost all of my plays, and I have a fresh new awe of him in this process.  I might've mentioned once before that Alberto is the most literate director I've ever worked with; one of my favorite notes during INNOCENT WHEN YOU DREAM was about a flirtation around a hospital death bed:  In trying to get across what he saw happening, Alberto tossed off..."In the charnel house...a seed is sprouting."  In a rehearsal this week, one of his notes was "In vino veritas".

I've gone on and on before about Alberto (mostly on our Innocent When You Dream MySpace blog...how 2007!) so suffice to say here, to my eyes, he's at the absolute top of his game here in this first week.  Alberto's a master of what's going on underneath the surface, which is part of what makes him such a brilliant actor, but also why he's so perfect for directing Japanese American writing, where almost EVERYTHING is underneath the surface.  And it's treacherous down there, below the Asian American surface - rip-currents above and down further below, cold water currents that run in the opposite direction from the warmer flows closer to the sun.  He's also a master of contradictions - again, perfect for a people who are themselves masters of compartmentalization.

The work he's doing with this play is detailed, textured, and as precise yet subtle as a pointillist's painting.  Without giving away too much, let me just say he had a couple of the actors improvise killing each other, and then at the moment of the fatal blow, he had them envision the other actor become someone they love.  The results made my hair stand on end.  I told him how much I admired what he had done, and he said, "That's the first step.  I need ten more."  Many of the scenes in the book are moody and internal, but those values can be deadly onstage, so what Alberto is doing to them is to give the actors purpose and objectives that turn them into live wires unable to relax because they're all looking for something, all trying, in their own ways, to figure out what's next.

This is also the fastest I've ever seen him work.  Part of it is a function of the schedule:  We don't have a lot of time and we have a huge cast with various time conflicts, so in order to accommodate everyone and to use our time as efficiently as possible, Alberto's been putting scenes on their feet from the very first day.  It probably helps that Alberto's directed every reading and many cast members have been part of those readings, so in some ways, we've already done a lot of the table work he normally likes to do in the beginning to guide everyone into the same world.  Still, at the end of this first week, there are still things we haven't touched, except for the first read-through of the first day, and the heat is on.  But he's already done a lot, and our experienced and game cast has gone for it with him, getting us off to a great start.

Knock wood, there's a lot to do and every week from here to Opening Night is going to be different from the last, but we're off to a great start and deep into middle age, I'm getting a great education from a great director and a great cast.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Brief Historical Overview

I sketched out a brief history of the events leading up to the beginning of the play (and the book) for possible dramaturgical support for our audience and being constitutionally unable to throw out anything I've ever written, I thought I'd post it here for your edification, even though you probably hardly need it.  It's a little bit dry (I was going for brevity), but maybe you'll find it helpful: 

A Brief History of the Japanese American Interment and the Events Leading to the Play:

On December 7th, the Japanese Imperial Army attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. In the days immediately following that attack, the FBI began rounding up and arresting any Japanese “non-citizens” (it should be noted that Japanese immigrants were forbidden by law to become citizens) who were judged to be community leaders, such as teachers, ministers, and business leaders, taking them to isolated prisons. Japanese Americans serving in the U.S. Army were declared to be “enemy aliens” and were discharged.

All suspected “enemy” aliens were ordered to surrender short wave radios and cameras, and in January, 1942, Attorney General Francis Biddle began issuing orders establishing strategic areas along the West Coast, requiring the removal of alien Japanese from these areas. On February 19th, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the Western half of the three West Coast states and the southern portion of Arizona. On March 18th, FDR created the War Relocation Authority and by March 22nd, the first large groups of Japanese Americans began to be moved to the Army-operated Manzanar Detention Center.

On March 23rd, Japanese Americans were ordered evacuated from the Seattle area and the removal of all people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast to temporary detention centers – often horse racing tracks where families were lodged in horse stalls, like Santa Anita, Tanforan, and the Puyallup Fairgrounds. Within six months, these people were then shipped to ten different internment camps scattered throughout the interior of the United States, mostly in remote desert areas or swamp lands.
In January 1943, the Secretary of War Henry Stimson reversed the order calling Japanese Americans “enemy aliens” and announced the formation of an all-Japanese American Combat Unit. On February 8th, a “loyalty questionnaire” was distributed to all persons over 17 years of age for Army recruitment, segregation and relocation. About ten percent of the draft-age men either answered the final two questions (the infamous Questions 27 and 28), which read in part “Are you willing to serve on combat duty wherever ordered?” and “...will you forswear any form of obedience to the Japanese emperor?” “No” and “No”, becoming known as NO-NO BOYS. Those who signed “No, No” were segregated in a camp at Tule Lake, some arguing that Question 28 was a trick question because to “forswear” loyalty to the Japanese emperor implied that they WERE loyal to the emperor in the first place, while others signed “No” to Question 27, arguing that the government’s actions stripped them of their rights as citizens, so if they weren’t citizens, they could not be subject to the draft. Meanwhile, 315 Nisei who refused the draft were tried and found guilty of draft evasion, and subsequently sent to Federal penitentiaries in Leavenworth, Kansas and McNeil Island in Washington State. The term “No-No Boy” eventually became a blanket term for all dissenters and resisters.

The camps were closed in 1945, and many Japanese Americans returned to a hostile reception on the West Coast. Japanese American veterans returned in 1945 and 1946, while those who were sent to prison came back after serving three years with time off for good behavior. Although Truman would issue a blanket pardon for all draft resisters in 1947, the Japanese American community was not so forgiving, and it is here where the play begins.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Sketch


We are lucky enough to have Alan Muraoka (the art director/set designer, not the actor) design our set for No-No Boy and here's a sketch from the audience's perspective at the Miles.  You can't really see the set, which will be deceptively minimal (deceptive because it will still involve quite a bit of work and will take up quite a bit of space), but as I hope you can see from the sketch, will look very cool when actors are on it!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

An Open Letter to Theater Artistic Directors and Literary Managers

We’d like to invite you to what we modestly believe will be a very important play: Our adaptation of John Okada’s NO-NO BOY. Okada’s book, first published in 1957, has been credited with helping to create what was then an entirely new genre of fiction – Asian American fiction. Okada’s novel – angry, despairing, and focused on the kind of self-hatred that the anti-Japanese prejudice during World War II and its aftermath, was unlike anything written before and though it may not have made as large a mark on American culture as, say, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, it was to many Asian American readers in the 1970s and beyond, just as powerful a wake-up call. I know it was for me.
Though a variety of filmmakers have tried to adapt the novel into a screenplay, no one had ever asked for the stage rights before, and we got them from the University of Washington Press two years ago. We began by creating as faithful an adaptation as possible, but working with award-winning director Alberto Isaac and a talented group of actors who helped us hear the adaptation out loud, it became clear that we would have to rework the novel, and over the past two years, we’ve been workshopping and reading the play and we finally have something we feel is both true to the spirit of Okada’s novel, and is an exciting new play that captures the spectrum of emotional responses felt by Japanese Americans returning to the West Coast after internment in American concentration camps, veterans returning from the war, and draft resisters who refused to sign a loyalty oath forced upon them, while speaking to an audience still grappling with issues of war, civil rights, and what it means to be an American in the 21st Century.

We’ve put together an extraordinary cast and a design team made up of artists all working for far less than they normally would because they believe in this piece and this play as much as we do. We believe this production will be exceptional, which is one of the reasons we hope you’ll come see it, but the main reason we'd like to invite you is this: We believe this play, like the book, should have a long life and should be seen by generations to come. We believe that the issues raised in this play are universal and will speak to a broad spectrum of the audience. We believe that you may wish to consider this play for your theater.  We know you're bombarded by submissions; instead of adding another play to your "to be read" pile, why not come to see a production you're almost certain to enjoy?

Please check out our website at: www.nonoboy2010.com to see our cast and production team. We run Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm at the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica, and if you’d like industry tickets, you can call Sharon Omi at: 310.592.1160 or email us at: nonoboy2010@gmail.com

Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hiroshi Kashiwagi

I just reserved my ticket to Hiroshi Kashiwagi's THE BETRAYED at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum.  Coincidentally, while searching for photographic images for possible use in our own play, I came across this great photo of a young and handsome Hiroshi: 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Soji Kashiwagi, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, and THE BETRAYED

Re-post from Discover Nikkei: 

When we got our grant from the CCLEP to produce NO-NO BOY, we got on a conference call to find out how it all works, we were surprised to find that Soji Kashiwagi and the Grateful Crane Ensemble had also received a grant this year to do Soji's father Hiroshi Kashiwagi's play, THE BETRAYED.  Talking to Soji later, we both figured that maybe the time had come to discuss this sometimes explosive subject - he was partly motivated by the same idea that we were, which is:  Better to talk about it now before it's too late and it all just becomes academic.

Soji wrote a beautiful essay about his upcoming project for Discover Nikkei, and with his, and Discover Nikkei's permission, I'm posting it here: 

http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2010/2/4/the-betrayed/

“The Betrayed,” Why Now is the Time

By Soji Kashiwagi



“Tule Lake, Tule Lake—that

was a name I dared not mention

spoken warily, always with

hesitation, never voluntarily....”

--an excerpt from “A Meeting at Tule Lake,” a poem by Nisei writer Hiroshi Kashiwagi.


Growing up in San Francisco, I remember hearing my father first talk about camp at a community event held at the Buddhist Church in 1975. Unlike other Nisei, who preferred to keep the camp story buried deeply in the distant past, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, my dad, was out there telling it like it was—and he didn’t pull any punches.

His speeches were fiery, his poems angry and his plays about camp revealed the injustice and the dark side of our nation’s history, and how this darkness blanketed an entire community.

His was a voice that needed to be heard, especially by young, college-aged Sansei coming of age in the late 60s and early 70’s, many questioning their identity and confused as Hell about this thing called “camp.” Their parents certainly didn’t talk about it, and if they did, many would laugh it off as a “good time” experience.

But deep down these Sansei knew that something terrible had happened, and through my father and a few other Nisei like Edison Uno in San Francisco and Sue Kunitomi Embrey in Los Angeles, all of a sudden they were hearing the truth, from people who were there. It made them angry, and inspired them to fight.

And yet, despite all the time my father spent talking about camp, there were certain things he never talked about: Tule Lake, being a No-No Boy and renouncing his U.S. citizenship. Not to community folk, not to friends, and not to us in his family.

As he writes in his poem above, it was something he “dared not mention.”

Safe to say that “Tule Lake” and “No No Boy” are like dirty words in the Japanese American community. “No No Boys” were those so called “trouble-makers” and “disloyals” who either answered “No-No” or refused to answer the infamous government-issued loyalty questions #27 and #28. And Tule Lake was the camp where the government segregated them.



Here are the questions imposed upon every inmate, age 17 years of age and older:

Question 27
Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered?

Question 28
Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any and all attacks by foreign or domestic forces and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese Emperor or any other foreign government, power, or organization?



Of all the things that took place back then, these two questions were without a doubt the most divisive, painful and insulting things to happen to them in camp. Families were torn apart. Friendships ended. Long-time relationships—severed. All of a sudden, the community was split in two. Those who answered “Yes-Yes” were declared “loyal” to the U.S., and many went on to serve in the military, or were released from camp and went off to college or to jobs in the Midwest or back East. Those who answered “No-No,” qualified their answers or refused to answer, were branded “disloyal” to the only country they knew, and sent to Tule Lake.

In all, some 14,000 “No-No’s” were shipped from the nine other camps to what became the “Tule Lake Segregation Center.” That was about 10 percent of the JA population at the time. While they were there, over 5,000 renounced their U.S. citizenship under duress, and in protest of the shabby treatment they were receiving.

The fall-out from all of this? Those who answered “Yes-Yes” and went on to serve with distinction in the 100th/442nd/MIS have been hailed as heroes in our community, and deservedly so. No doubt about it. Their stories have been told and retold, and need to continue to be told so that the world will know about the men who “went for broke.”

However, for those who answered “No-No,” the stigma attached to being called “disloyal” and one of those “troublemakers” has never gone away, and tragically, has become the accepted truth in our community. This is thanks to much reinforcement from individuals and groups within the community who vehemently disagreed with their stand, and have done their best to denigrate or simply ignore those who chose to dissent and protest.

It’s a classic example of the “good JA’s” versus the “bad JA’s”

The “bad JA’s” have been ignored, shunned and shamed into silence, and unfortunately, they are so entrenched that many refuse to talk even to this day, and even more have already gone to their graves, with this burden of shame still on their shoulders.

In this context, you have my father.



When I was in high school, I used to work part-time for a Chinese American newspaper located in San Francisco’s Chinatown. One of the assignments I was given was to go and write something on the San Francisco Presidio. What exactly I was supposed to write about I don’t remember. What I do remember is walking into the Presidio Army Museum, and meeting a man named Eric Saul, and that’s where I first learned about the amazing and heroic story of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Saul had done extensive research on the subject, and was an expert on everything about the 100th/442nd. That afternoon, he proceeded to tell me incredible war story after war story. The Rescue of the Lost Battalion. The Breaking of the Gothic Line. And I wrote about it all.

In college, I wrote about the 442nd/100th again for the campus magazine, this time going into even greater detail having interviewed several of the 442nd vets.

Still young and caught up in the heroics of it all, I remember feeling an enormous pride in being Japanese American, thanks to the deeds of these men. And then I looked at my dad, and wondered why he wasn’t one of them.

He never said. I never asked.

To his great credit, he also never once discouraged me from telling the 442nd story, or tried to tell me “the other side of the story.” Maybe he felt like I wouldn’t understand. Probably he just didn’t want to talk about it.

Fast forward to 2003, and our theater group, the Grateful Crane Ensemble, produced a show I wrote called “The Camp Dance: The Music & The Memories.” And for the next several years, we would take this show about the high school dances the Nisei used to have behind barbed wire to places across California and the country. And within this show, there’s a moment where we honor the 100th/442nd and MIS by asking any vets in our audience to stand and receive a rousing applause from our grateful community.

The vets in attendance would stand, and receive their due recognition.

Once again, my father remained silent.

Until now.

Because now, in 2010, on February 27 and 28 at the Japanese American National Museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, we will hear the words of my father performed for all to see in his play called “The Betrayed.”

Presented by the Grateful Crane Ensemble and JANM, the play is a love story set at Tule Lake in 1943 and focuses on Tak, a country boy from California who falls in love with Grace, a city girl from Seattle. The two meet at Tule Lake, but are soon torn apart over the infamous loyalty questions. They end up going their separate ways, and don’t see each other until 40 years later, when they reunite and discover how their decisions in camp back then affected them for the rest of their lives.

Through his play, my father’s message is one of hope—a genuine hope for reconciliation between Tak and Grace, and by extension, for our community. After 65 years, it is much needed—and never too late.

Early indications are telling us this may be true. Interest in this subject matter is so high that our Sunday, 2/28 show at 2 p.m. sold out about a month before the performance. This says to me that people in our community are at least open and ready to hear this story. Twenty years ago, a reading of essentially the same play was done at the East West Players, and only Heart Mountain resister Frank Emi and a few others showed up.

But today, 20 years later, much has changed. So many who lived through camp and WWII are now gone. Those still alive are 20 years older, and in their 80’s and 90s. Perhaps they are curious to know how we are going to handle this subject long thought to be “untouchable” and “taboo” in our community. Perhaps some of their views have softened over the years. All we know for sure is that they are coming, and now seems to be the time to finally “air this out” in public.

Of course, one play over one weekend is not going to change the world, or our community. But we have to start somewhere, and even if only one person walks away with a deeper understanding of what happened and empathy for both sides of the argument then we will have achieved our goal.

Because what I have learned from attending the Tule Lake Pilgrimages with my folks in 2006, 2008 and 2009 is that there is another side of the story, and I believe it’s time for us to hear it.

And perhaps, after seeing the play, we can ask ourselves: Was it fair to “convict” those Nisei and Kibei at Tule Lake in the Nikkei Court of Public Opinion and sentence them to a lifetime stigma as “disloyals,” “troublemakers” and “cowards?” Does defending your rights as an American citizen by protesting an unconstitutional imprisonment make one “disloyal” to America?

These questions and more are addressed in the play. After 65 years of silence and after years of celebrating the heroics of the Nisei veterans, I wanted to give my father this opportunity to say to everyone through his play what he could not say to his own family, and me.

His voice, like it was back in the 1975, needs to be heard again some 35 years later, this time for a community that needs to understand and heal from its past so we can all move forward together.

All I know is after learning about and understanding the Tule Lake story, I no longer look at my dad and wonder why. I am inspired by his courage, determination and enduring spirit he showed at Tule Lake and throughout his life, and will do my best to carry on in his footsteps.

Like father, like son—there are some things we don’t say to each other. But through this article, I want to tell him, simply and sincerely:

“I am so proud and grateful to say that you are my father.”



The Southern California premiere of “The Betrayed” will take place on Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 2 p.m. (sold out) at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum, 111 N. Central Avenue (across from the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, downtown Los Angeles.) The play is directed by Darrell Kunitomi, with music by Scott Nagatani. The cast includes Kurt Kuniyoshi, Helen Ota, Brian Takahashi & Diana Toshiko. Playwright Hiroshi Kashiwagi

and Nisei author Mary Matsuda Gruenewald will speak on a special panel to be held after the 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday performances.

For tickets and information about “The Betrayed,” call the Grateful Crane Ensemble hotline at 323/769-5503.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Densho Archives - the Loyalty Questionnaire

The Densho website is another great resource for those who wish to explore Japanese American history - they've compiled a huge bank of testimonies, including video testimonies of internees before their memories could be extinguished.  Every month, they choose a topic and include testimonies to give site visitors a glimpse of people's first-hand responses to the subject at hand.  January's was called "Beyond the Divide:  Japanese American Responses to the Loyalty Questionnaire."  Perfect for NO-NO BOY.  You can click on the link below to see photos and hear video testimonials on their website - or if you just want to read the accounts, they are copied and pasted below.  It provides a great overview of the Loyalty Questionnaire and how and why it divided the Nikkei then...and now.

http://www.densho.org/archive/default.asp?path=fromthearchive.asp

"The JACL focused more of their attention on loyalty and made that a litmus paper test… If you protested the evacuation itself, you had questionable loyalty. If you protested…actions that prevailed in the camps, you could be construed as disloyal. If you didn't go into the military service readily, you were disloyal." -- Art Hansen

January 2010 - Beyond the Divide: Japanese American Responses to the "Loyalty Questionnaire"

"The government is asking... a father and a son who have different situations, the same question, and on the basis of your answer your family might be broken up." -- Frank Isamu Kikuchi

One of the most divisive legacies of the World War II incarceration remains the issue of loyalty. The loyal/disloyal divide continues to haunt the memory and interpretation of Japanese American history, as many in the community still grapple with what has become such a stigmatized and controversial label. This article examines what scholar Eric Muller calls the "loyalty bureaucracy" -- the registration and segregation program implemented within the camps to measure the "loyalty" of the imprisoned population.1 While Muller and other scholars have done important work in highlighting the absurdity of this premise, less explored are the varying ways in which Japanese Americans reacted to the government's efforts.2 This article looks at the wrenching decisions Japanese Americans were forced to make during this time, understanding that these decisions were not expressions of "loyalty" or "disloyalty," but measured responses to difficult and often extreme circumstances.

The "loyalty questionnaire" emerged as a compromise among government officials who disagreed on how to proceed with the detention process. Some wanted to keep all Japanese Americans imprisoned during the war, while others thought a select few should be allowed to leave the camps to fill labor shortages or serve in the military. By mid-1942, the need for Japanese American labor and military service overrode any arguments for total confinement. The War Department and War Relocation Authority (WRA), the governing body of the incarceration camp system, developed a process called "registration" in which a questionnaire would be administered to all the internees to assess who would and would not be allowed to leave camp. This became known as the "loyalty questionnaire" or the "loyalty oath." Ironically, the registration process contradicted the government's initial justification for mass removal and internment, which was rooted in the racist presumption of Japanese American disloyalty. Now, in the eyes of the WRA, Japanese Americans could "prove" their loyalty (or disloyalty) by answering a series of questions on a form.

The "loyalty questionnaire" immediately sparked confusion and anger among the detainees, who remained uninformed by camp administrators about the purpose of the questionnaire or how it would be used. Tensions surfaced among friends and families.

Controversy centered around the final two questions, numbers 27 and 28. They asked: "Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States?" and "Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America…and forswear any allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization?" The last question proved particularly troublesome for the Issei who would be rendered stateless by forswearing the Japanese emperor, as laws of the United States prohibited them from becoming naturalized American citizens. The Nisei similarly encountered difficulties answering the question, which compelled them to relinquish a formal relationship with Japan that never existed.

Question 27 concerned the all-Japanese American regimental combat team, for which the War Department was soliciting volunteers. The creation of the Nisei combat team reversed a government policy that had prevented persons of Japanese ancestry from serving in the military. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese Americans already in service were reclassified 4-C, the status of enemy alien, while local draft boards prohibited further enlistment.

Question 27 angered some Nisei who felt that the U.S. government had no right to ask for volunteers from a population incarcerated behind barbed wire. Others viewed volunteering as a way to help their families or as the only opportunity to leave the confines of camp. The War Department expected 5,000 volunteers, but perhaps unsurprisingly, fewer than 1,200 signed up.

Detainees responded to the questionnaire in various ways and for a wide variety of reasons. Many Japanese Americans answered "yes" to both questions, while others answered "no." Some, like Chizuko Norton, answered yes-no or with qualified answers. Incarcerated with her family in California, Chizuko's mother became terminally ill, which forced her to make the difficult decision between leaving camp to go to college and staying with her parents in Tule Lake.

The results of the questionnaire became institutionalized, as the government used the answers to pursue a policy of segregation. Government officials designated Tule Lake incarceration camp in California a segregation center for Japanese Americans they considered "disloyal," including those who answered negatively on the "loyalty questionnaire," detainees requesting repatriation to Japan, and others deemed "troublemakers" by camp authorities. Beginning in 1943, camp administrators transferred the "disloyals" into Tule Lake and dispersed the "loyal" Tuleans into other camps. Peggy Tanemura's family moved from Minidoka to Tule Lake in 1943 at the request of her mother, who wished to reunite with family members in Japan. As a young child, Peggy remembers the traumatic impact of this decision.

Sarah Sato and her family also qualified their answers on the "loyalty questionnaire" and were sent to Tule Lake as part of the segregation process. In fall of 1944, when the Department of Justice announced that Japanese Americans could renounce their U.S. citizenship, Sarah and her mother both sent in applications. They made the decision to renounce in order to keep the family together: Sarah's father felt compelled to return to Japan to care for his ailing father, who lived alone. As Sarah's story illustrates, renunciation often involved practical concerns about family, not political affiliations or coercion by extremists. After a thirteen-year legal battle spearheaded by Wayne Collins of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), many people like Sarah Sato had their U.S. citizenship restored.

The flawed and poorly administered questionnaire provides one example of how the government attempted to measure the loyalty of the Japanese American population during World War II. Detainees responded to the questionnaire in various ways for reasons that defied the categories of "loyal" and "disloyal" the government sought to impose. The narrative of loyalty remains a potent one in Japanese American history. However, as these oral history interviews illuminate, it does not and cannot capture the complexities of individual experience.

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.

Yosh Kuromiya's Text - JANM Program, 1/30/10

Yosh Kuromiya, one of the Heart Mountain Resisters, was one of the speakers at the Japanese American National Museum's LIVING HISTORY Program on Saturday.  He was kind enough to send us the text of his speech and gave us permission to post it here on this blog:

FREEDOM IS NOT FREE (text by Yosh Kuromiya, one of the members of the Fair Play Committee and one of the Heart Mountain Resisters):


February 19, 1942: a day that should live in infamy. It was the day that Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order #9066 allowing military authorities to exclude anyone from anywhere without trial nor hearings. It led to the removal of all Japanese Americans, citizens and aliens alike, from the West coast and into concentration camps in the interior of our country. We lost our businesses, our possessions, our homes, our friends and neighbors. However, it was neither the material losses nor the physical deprivation that was so devastating. It was the humiliation that was the most demoralizing and had the most lasting effect.

I was 19 years old and had just started Pasadena Junior College as an art major. I had no interest in social or political issues. I had learned to accept racial prejudice and unfair discrimination as a matter of course—something we could do nothing about and must learn to live with. I was taught not to make waves.

We were first sent to an “assembly center” at the Pomona Fair grounds. Later we were shipped by train to the badlands of Wyoming. They called it Heart Mountain. The mountain was there, but the heart would be forever elusive. There were over ten thousand Japanese faces in this concentration camp and we knew there were over a hundred thousand more in nine other similar camps scattered within the bowels of America—Land of the Free. Our world had shrunk to the one-mile square confines of a barbed wire fence. Our family name was replaced with a family number. Something was seriously amiss.

Then came the final blow. While still confined with our civil rights suspended, we were required to serve military duty in a racially segregated combat unit: This, while our parents are held as hostages in the concentration camps to insure our military performance overseas. It was hailed by some in the camp as a wonderful opportunity to prove our loyalty. Due to the lack of protest, the issue of constitutional abuses by the government had been reduced to a question of my loyalty??! It was time to set my sketchpad aside and face reality.

The Heart Mountain 63 bears the distinction as the only organized draft-resistance group of all the ten camps. This is largely attributable to the pre-existence of the Fair Play Committee, (the FPC); a group formed a year earlier in 1943, as a forum to address civil rights issues resulting from our unwarranted abduction and detention.

My initial purpose in attending the FPC meeting was to elicit information about the moral and legal justification for our continued detention without hearings nor trial. I was also seeking what recourse we might have when, while still under such duress, we are ordered to fulfill the same military obligations as citizens enjoying the freedoms denied us. It was after our keepers, the War Relocation Authority, would provide no answers and would only remind us of the dire consequences of disobeying government orders that we, as a group, voted to individually ignore the notices to report for pre-induction exams in order to contest the issue in a court-of-law. I don’t know how many members decided to comply with the orders, rather than risk a term in prison, but 63 including myself did resist, and we had our test case.

On the very first day of our trial, Judge Kennedy addressed the 63 of us as “You Jap boys—”. We knew then, that things would not go well for us. It was apparent, Judge T. Blake Kennedy, a self-professed racist, would be happy to rid his great State of Wyoming of this scourge the federal government had foisted on them, by catapulting us into the prisons of some other state—perhaps somewhere back to the West Coast. Prosecuting Attorney Carl Sackett cleverly maneuvered the proceedings into the narrow issue of: “Did we, or did we not, knowingly and deliberately, disregard the pre-induction notices for a physical exam?” Of course we did! How else could we publicize our predicament and the un-constitutional imprisonment of our people?

Defense Counsel Samuel Menin persistently questioned the applicability of the Selective Service Law, due to our prior state of incarceration. He failed however, to cite the specific provision in the Selective Service Act of 1940, which would have substantiated his claims. In its section on CLASSIFICATION paragraph 362 it states: “Class IV-F: (a) in class IV-F shall be placed any registrant who: (and under item #5) is being detained in the custody of any criminal jurisdiction or other civil authority”. We were, in fact, being detained by the War Relocation Authority, a civil authority. It would seem the draft board was in violation of the classification procedures in every instance where an internee was classified 1-A (eligible for conscription) instead of IV-F, (ineligible for conscription). Therefore, it seems those inducted into the armed forces from the camps were inducted illegally! This revelation would be especially tragic for those who were inducted reluctantly—and never returned. Perhaps the many monuments memorializing those killed in action have a much more heart-rending story to tell than Japanese America, especially those who promoted military service as a form of ethnic redemption, would care to admit.

Not surprisingly, we were found guilty and were sentenced to three years in prison. An appeal to a higher court was denied. However, after serving two years, we were released on good behavior.

Although most resisters had already served their prison terms, on Christmas Eve of 1947, President Truman granted all draft resisters a Presidential Pardon erasing all criminal records and reinstating full citizenship rights. Whether this was a ploy to forestall potentially costly false imprisonment charges, or a sincere act of benevolence from a government suddenly gone soft, we shall never know. Perhaps there was a Santa Claus, after all.

On the other hand, many of our fellow camp inmates who accepted military service in spite of the unfair conditions seem to harbor a deep hostility toward all resisters, even after over 65 years. This is difficult to understand as it was the questionable legality, the mandatory nature, and the discriminatory features of the induction order that we, of the Fair Play Committee, were alerting all draftees about. Those who had no objection to the unfair conditions could have volunteered, as many did. So why the enduring animosity? ---Perhaps, many fell prey to the ever-present JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) accomodationist propaganda of that era.--- But, that’s a whole different aspect of the wartime experience which deserves an entire conference to explore, once Japanese America reaches the ethical maturity to demand the truth about our own history and stop apologizing for being who we are! Sadly, that day may never come.

In any case, after our experience in WWII, are we still na├»ve enough to believe our government can do no wrong? Does Japanese America still feel an overwhelming need to “Prove our Loyalty”?

If we are to learn anything from the horrendous experience of our people during WWII, it is that of the fundamental responsibility of every citizen to protect our US Constitution through the exercise of the basic humanitarian tenets our country was founded on. This is not about leadership nor heroism. Nor is it about loyalty to a government which violates citizenship rights under the guise of national security. It is about a citizen’s fundamental obligation to defend the US Constitution when it is threatened by governmental edicts such as Executive Order 9066 and the more recent Patriots Act!
As they say, “All good things in life are free”---but freedom itself, IS NOT FREE!

Yosh Kuromiya January 2010