Conscience and the Constitution

Vox Populi column
Rafu Shimpo, April 11, 2002

Who Are The Resisters of Conscience?

by Sus Satow

With the commentary (March 1, 2002) by "JACL Resisters Ceremony Committee" co-chairs Andy Noguchi and Alan Teruya on the forthcoming May 11 ceremony honoring and apologizing to the Japanese American draft resisters of World War II, I felt compelled to respond, since many of the passages in the commentary appeared misleading or not telling the whole story. With no intent to be repetitious, my comments are designed to straighten the records on some of the issues.

Through innovative writing or misinterpreting concepts as to exactly what transpired in the internment camps, the Resisters' supporters in today's writing convey the Resisters image in camp as one of benign innocence or principled in their action to "do the right thing." They are called "Resisters of Conscience," "Principled Americans," "Patriotic Americans." We seniors have witnessed and often learned otherwise. With the passage of time and forgotten by today's generation, is how some Resisters intimidated, threatened or harassed Nisei from camp as they volunteered or entered into the military service of our country. I have had personal experience and knowledge of what transpired in that period of history, some 59 years ago. I was in Poston Relocation Center, Camp II where riots and beatings of JACL leaders took place. What we veterans object to is this "now" generation, with no apprehension of the past, seek to "Honor" them for their action.

The claim is made that they answered "Yes-Yes" on the loyalty questionnaire. That is a farce because if they had originally done so, Selective Service would have called them up along with those who had volunteered to fill the ranks of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the MIS. What actually happened was that the Resisters originally answered "No-No" on the loyalty questionnaire. They were either shipped to Tule Lake Camp or were pending shipment for eventual repatriation to Japan. But the option of being sent to a losing country was far from appealing. When given the opportunity to re-answer the loyalty questionnaire, they chose to respond "Yes-Yes" with the stipulation that they would serve willingly if their family members were released from the internment camps. That had to be a tactical move, as was obvious. We all know no internee was going to be released and returned to the sensitive West Coast at that time, This is the setting in which the claim of "Yes-Yes" came about,

Those who continued to remain a "No-No" were repatriated to Japan. After the questionnaire issue was declared unconstitutional by the high court, many came back to America, subsequently served with honor in the Korean War. Hats off to them -- so also to those who eventually served in Korea.

The Fair Play Committee (FPC) of Heart Mountain took a defiant role with regard to the Selective Service drafting of Japanese Americans. But if one was to examine the leadership of the FPC, the organization becomes a suspect. The top leader who wrote the manifesto was removed from Heart Mountain and incarcerated at Tule Lake Segregation Center. This would indicate he was a "No-No." The second man in command was a graduate of Meiji University. Since he had fluent command of the Japanese language, his assignment was to reach out to the Issei parents of the draft-age Nisei to discourage compliance with the Selective Service Act. Other leaders included were Kendo and Judo experts. Sixty-three Heart Mountain FPC Draft Resisters were tried, convicted and jailed. It was reported the inmates sang patriotic Japanese songs in unison -- and it wasn't "God Bless America."

On Feb. 22-23, 2002, at the Veterans of Foreign War Reunion in Las Vegas, the Posts gathered and reaffirmed its endorsement of the VFW's posture on the Resisters' issue. The latest to join our endeavor is the Korean War veterans based in Los Angeles. This now makes 18 Nisei veteran organizations with an estimated membership of 4,500, coalescing as one on this issue, The sacrifices of the Japanese American soldiers in World War II, the memories of our heroic fallen comrades in battle must not be forgotten. Today, under another generation and another leadership, we find the JACL are honoring and apologizing to those groups whom, if we all had followed, would have brought disaster to the Japanese American people.

If we are in the mode of establishing recognition, is it possible for JACL to establish a "Day of Honor" in recognizing the 830 Nisei World War II Killed in Action (KIA), the 9,550 Wounded in Action (WIA), the 20 Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients and indeed give recognition to the Korean and Vietnam War veterans as well? For their war was no less tough.

The accomplishment of the 100th/442nd and the MIS brought about changes in the perception of the Japanese Americans. There are many things to be proud of, but the most treasured was the passage of the Walter McCarron Act of 1952 which brought citizenship to our Issei parents at the twilight years of their lives.

Read Frank Emi's reply to this column.
Read Mits Koshiyama's reply to this column.

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Updated: May 7, 2002