Conscience and the Constitution

Letter to the Editor
Nichi Bei Times, March 16, 2002

An Open Letter to the Draft Resisters, Their Supporters and the National JACL Leadership

by Loren M. Ishii

My name is Loren M. Ishii. I am currently the commander of Nisei Post 8985 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Sacramento, California. I am a Sansei and I am a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army, having served from 1976-1999. I am of the current generation which is starting to assume prominent leadership roles within the Japanese American Citizens League and the VFW; however, unlike my counterparts in the JACL, I am not trying to “rewrite” history in a more favorable light for those who refused to serve their country during World War II.

The purpose of my letter is to attempt to draw a closure to the simmering controversy concerning the proposed formal apology to resisters. As stated in a resolution initiated by VFW Post 8985 and endorsed by 17 other Japanese American veterans organizations, we recognize the right of the now-called “Resisters of Conscience” to take the stand they took during World War II and hold no grudges against it. We also have no problems with the JACL’s extending an act of forgiveness and the giving up of old grudges towards the “draft resisters” as an act of reconciliation.

The veterans’ attitude is, “let bygones be bygones.” However, we do take strong issue with the JACL of today (year 2001) ceremoniously “honoring and apologizing” for the actions of National JACL leaders and their advisors taken 60 years ago during World War II! 

So, if the National JACL goes ahead with the scheduled May 11, 2002 formal apology ceremony to the draft resisters, they are not speaking for the 4,500-plus members of the 18 Nisei veterans organizations opposed to this action.  

As the formal apology is extended to the draft resisters, know that the 4,500-plus veterans belonging to these 18 Nisei veterans organizations are doing an “about face,” and turning their backs to the ceremony. The organizations include the following: Gardena Nisei VFW Post 1961, Gardena, Calif.; Kazuo Masuda VFW Post 3670, Orange County, Calif.; Asian Pacific VFW Post 4851, San Diego, Calif.; Golden Gate Nisei Memorial VFW Post 9879, San Francisco; Los Angeles Memorial VFW Post 9938; 6th District Nisei Memorial VFW Post 9902, Monterey Park, Calif.; Sacramento Nisei Memorial VFW Post 8985; San Fernando Valley VFW Post 4140, San Fernando, Calif.; Nisei Liberty VFW Post 5869, Hanford, Calif.; San Jose Nisei VFW Post 9970; Sierra Nisei VFW Post 8499, Fresno, Calif.; 100th/442nd Veterans Association Los Angeles; Club 100 of Southern California, Los Angeles; Disabled American Veterans Nisei Chapter 100, Gardena; MIS Association of Northern California, San Francisco; MIS Association of Southern California; Sadao Munemori American Legion Post 321, Los Angeles; the Japanese American Korean War Veterans Organization, Los Angeles. 

The JACL will have to live with whatever ramifications that occur from this action. I will be advising all of our VFW Post members who are also members of the JACL that once the apology is extended, we as a post cannot do anything else. We have repeatedly expressed our opposition in unequivocal terms, but it has apparently fallen on deaf ears.  

It will be on an individual, case-by-case basis as to whether they want to continue to support an organization, which has decided to ignore the concerns of the Nisei veterans in extending this apology.  

During World War II, 830 heroic Nisei gallantly fought and gave their lives for the United States of America. I feel the magnificent historical record of valor displayed by the 100th/442nd in Europe, along with the fine record of service by the Nisei Military Intelligence Service in the Pacific Theater of operations, greatly served as one factor in the release of the Japanese Americans from the internment camps.

I know personally, that I cannot belong to an organization that will disenfranchise a large segment of the Japanese American community and do nothing to try to heal a festering wound.

Loren M. Ishii
Nisei VFW Post 8985 
Sacramento, Calif.

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Updated: May 7, 2002