Hawaii Vets Recognize Nisei Draft Resisters
By KENJI G. TAGUMA
Wednesday, August 19, 1998
OAHU, Hawaii - In a groundbreaking attempt for reconciliation for one of the most divisive Japanese American community issues, a Hawaii Nisei veterans group has decided to recognize and honor those who refused to comply with a government draft order during World War II.
During World War II, the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee and other Nisei draft resisters refused to comply with a military draft unless their parents were released from camp, their citizenship status was clarified, and they were allowed to serve in non-segregated units.
On Aug. 3, the board of directors of the 442nd Veterans Club of Oahu - the largest of any World War II Japanese American veteran organizations - passed the resolution to give recognition and commend the members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee for their "unswerving effort to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the restoration of their civil rights and their fight for justice and democracy."
The resolution further commended the Fair Play Committee - which counseled others to refused the draft order from behind barbed wire - for their "fight for justice and democracy." The 442nd Veterans Club of Oahu also urged other veterans to "extend their hands of friendship and goodwill to the members of the Fair Play Committee, their families and supporters." The resolution, the first of any such recognition by any veterans association, was passed apparently through the efforts of Rev. Ernest Uno, the brother of the late San Francisco redress activist Edison Uno. In a note to historian Michi Weglyn, Rev. Uno made the following comments: "We did it! It took a long time coming, but the stage is set to get the other veterans organizations such as Club 100, MIS (Military Intelligence Service), and any of the Nisei VFW and American Legion posts, to pass similar resolutions."
Members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, the largest organized resistance to the draft out of all 10 internment camps, were appreciative of the resolution.
"I think it's a good starting point for these other organizations to get in line to face reality," said Frank Emi of San Gabriel, one of the seven leaders of the Fair Play Committee.
"I would say it's groundbreaking," Emi added. "It should have a rippling effect on these other organizations."
"I believe it's very meaningful to us," said Fair Play Committee member Mits Koshiyama of San Jose, referring to the resolution. "The truth is the resisters were not against the veterans. We had brothers in the service." In recent years, there has much heated debate over whether the veterans and the Japanese American Citizens League - who were vehemently against draft resistance during the war - should apologize for their attacks on the resisters. According to Emi, however, an apology is not necessary. "I always maintained that we never asked for an apology from anybody," declared Emi.
According to Koshiyama, the resisters were "never against" the veterans, and hold their military exploits in high esteem.
"There were certain groups who tried to turn the veterans against the resisters," Koshiyama explained. "I think the resisters are proud of the veterans."
While mentioning that the resisters had brothers in the military service, Koshiyama is firm that the stand of the Fair Play Committee and other resisters were right. "We thought it didn't make sense...if we were denied the very things we were asked to fight for," he said, referring to the denial of civil rights and freedom brought about by the internment. While the "rippling" effect of the Hawaii veterans' resolution remains to be seen, one military organization, the Military Intelligence Service of Northern California, has paid respect to the resisters.
In their Civil Liberties Public Education Fund-sponsored documentary, "Prejudice and Patriotism," there is a rather surprising mention of the resisters' stand - at least in the rough cut shown at a recent CLPEF conference.
"A lot of us in the military have the highest respect for those of you who stood for principle," said MIS Nor-Cal President Marvin Uratsu to Nisei draft resisters gathered at the conference.
Reprinted with permission
HOME | DOCUMENTS | STUDY CENTER | NEWS | LINKS | ABOUT US | E-MAIL
Updated: February 2,1999