We are actively working to preserve the physical artifacts as well as the stories and memories of life in one of America's concentration camps located at Poston, Arizona. It was named "Poston" or the "Colorado River Relocation Center", located on the Colorado River Indian Reservation during World War II. The Poston Community Alliance is a 501(c)(3)non-profit group.
At the recent Poston III reunion, I was unable to recall the circumstances of the three cases of UNauthorized prisoner leave from camp.
Here they are:
Case 1. July 11, 1944. 56 year old male, despondent. Disappeared into the desert. Body not recovered. No family members.
Case 2. Sept 30,1944. 35 year old male. Stabbed and murdered a 15 year old girl. He escaped into the desert. He was not apprehended. No family members.
Case 3. Nov 17, 1945. 80 year old male. Described as having "senility" and "generally feeble". Disappeared from the Poston I Hospital. No family members. Was believed to have wandered off into the desert. The medical authorities indicated he would not survive long. His body was not recovered.
After traveling home and relaxing - started to recap the 3 days in Vegas.
My wife, Margie, and I had a great time at your reunion. It started out on a surprising note, while we received our registration packet - Wendy tells Margie that someone is looking for her and takes her throughout the Bel-Air Room looking for this person - It turns to be an old aquintance from the days when our sons ran cross country in high school - It was Emi Abe.
Frank Abe & friend
We sat with the Abe clan and had a great conversation about the camp days. I told them how Camp 3 stole the cement from Camp 1 for their concrete swimming pool. Frank Abe is a few years older than I am and he was able to relate and shortly after, Frank's wife, Taye started to smile and laugh - and said "I swam in that pool everyday".
One thing lead to another and subject switched to war planes. That's when I thought about the plane that made an emergency landing near Camp 3.
I knew I heard it from someone during camp days and I started asking questions about it in 1992 at our 50th year Poston Anniversary Dinner. Everyone I spoke with never heard of it and I got to thinking maybe I was just making it - Until Frank confirmed, so I continued describe the details as I remembered. Of course, I repeated that story to the audience. When I asked the audience how many remembered the P-38 making an emergency landing, there were two hands that went up, beside Frank's.
Dianne, these two gentlemen that raised there hands were seated in the vicinity of where you were, did you see who these gentlemen and do you know who they were?
Frank Abe called me on Thursday to find out if I was able to confirm the story about Alan Ladd, a well known movie star during camp day, selecting the High School Queen in 1945. He said that he found the information in the 1945 High School Album. And also, wanted to know if I was able to ascertain names of two gentlemen that raised their hands about the P-38. If it is possible, he wanted to contact them and corroborate the story to make sure the details were correct.
Dianne, you did a fantastic job of putting on "Putting Together Poston Past". You made it interesting and informative. I enjoyed the details - your research was excellent.
Margie attended the "Christian Gathering" because she wanted to say hello to Rev. Kay Sakaguchi, who she knew from the days of the LA Free Methodist Church and the Anaheim Free Methodist Church. Overall, Glenn, you and your committee did a terrific job. Margie and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of your gathering.
This year's reunion was created by the dynamic duo, Glenn and Wendy Tsutsumi (sansei) from the San Jose. What a great program! From the selection of food catered by the Golden Nugget, to the entertainment and vendors--- if you did not attend, you really missed out! He had Agnes (Yamakoshi) Sasaki ( one of my high school friends' sister) sang "Sukiyaki" , my #1 favorite Japanese song (I know only 2) and both were sung.
Glenn managed to get the Grateful Crane to perform the "Best of Grateful Crane" with included the Motown song, "My Girl" and "Sukiyaki", both of my all time favorites, and now I have a new one---the Korean song that Kurt Kuniyoshi crooned.
Although I was not a former prisoner at Poston, I felt I knew lots of faces, probably because of working on the photobook of last year's reunion. I can't take full credit for the book, because identification of the former prisoners required the assistance of Ada (Nishida)Yamamoto, ( & her 2 daughters), Michio Himaka, Yukio Kawamoto, Lilyan (Nagata) Kiyomoto, and a few others to help identify people attending the 2010 camp III reunion photos shot by Wayne Koga (Poston Restoration Project), Ron Nakamura, and this writer.
I thoroughly enjoyed talking with the former (Miss Barbara Washler) Curry. I brought along a copy of the book, "The Harvest of Hate" by Georgia Day Robertson, former Poston High School supervisor of all of tthe Nisei math teachers , and later became a math teacher in Poston III camp, as well as at Poston camp II, after their advanced math teachers left. Miss Robertson also became the Vice Principal of the High School.
[The Harvest of Hate, by Georgia Day Robertson. The Oral History Program, California State University, Fullerton; 1986. ISBN: 0-930048-08-0 KBF]
Many thanks to Miss Barbara Washler Curry's family for accompanying her to this year's event. The former Miss Washler received a standing ovation when she was introduced at the reunion's banquet.
Henry Kaku had many stories and displayed an extensive collection of artifacts from his family who were in Poston block 39 and later in block 12. Henry's father was Keige Kaku, and Henry donated copies of his parents' Questionaire of Loyalty with their detailed responses, Keige Kaku's Selective Service enlistment record, and Honorable Discharge paper from the Engineer Battalion, Enlisted Reserve Corps, and his parent's cancellation of renunciation papers. Henry Kaku, if you are reading this, please leave your email address.
Donald Teru Hata, PhD, and Hatsuko Mary Higuchi were guest speakers during a special session in the afternoon. I had met Don (formerly from Gila River concentration camp), and Hatsuko Mary Higuchi (Poston block 318) during last year's Poston III reunion on the bumpy bus trip, "Road Back to Poston" all-day tour. Unfortunately, I had to miss the beginning of Don's presentation, as I missed out eating lunch as I was the first session speaker. From the part of Don't presentation that I did hear, I learned that the term "internment" refers to imprisonment of aliens. Continued use of term, "internment camp" is not accurate, since about two-thirds of the people of Japanese ancestry who were forcibly imprisoned were U.S. citizens by birth. To continue using the term, "internment camp" perpetuates the myth that ALL those imprisoned were the "dangerous enemy aliens". Therefore, to be historically correct, we should put an end to using the terms: evacuation, evacuee, detainee, internee, and internment camp. Instead we need to adopt the terms "banishment, "eviction" exclusion, exile, forced removal, uproot, incarceree, inmate, prisoner, concentration camps, gulag, or prison camps.
Don was selling a book written with his late wife, Nadine Ishitani Hata, the 4th edition of Japanese Americans and World War II Mass Removal, Imprisonment and Redress. The book's new cover features Hatsuko Mary Higuchi's Executive Order 9066, Series 4 painting. I also purchased "Words Can Lie or Clarify: Terminology of the World War II Incarceration of Japanese Americans" by Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga which Don had made available. Hatsuko Mary Higuchi brought her collection of haunting portraits with themes from imprisonment in Poston concentration camp III as a very young child. Her mentor was the late Henry Kukuhara, and she was among the founding group of outdoor artists participating with Henry at the annual "Manzanar Paint Out".
I gave a presentation, "Putting Together Poston's Past" to a standing-room only crowd.
I grew up in Reedley, graduated from Reedley High and attended Reedley College. Never heard a word about Japanese Americans forcibly put into concentration camps during World War II. Graduated from CSU Fresno in the mid '70's. Did not take Asian Studies. It wasn't part of my major. Never heard a word about the concentration camps. .....It was later in life that I became aware that the questions I heard my mom ask other Japanese people, "What block or what camp were you in?" was not about summer church camp at Lake Sequoia.
Then I tried to create my Family History. I learned that my relatives were in "camp". Poston camp. Then I got curious, and I searched the internet looking for information about Poston. Looking for pictures. Always came up with the same information and photos, on different websites. I only got bits and pieces of information. I wanted to learn more. One day I found the Poston Restoration Project's website. I was elated that others were wanting to preserve the history of Poston. I wanted to learn more, MUCH, MUCH, MORE.
If you did not attend my session, you missed the interesting questions/answers from the former prisoners. J. Tajiri brought up an interesting topic asking if holding a job in camp was applied towards social security. Babe K who was sitting in the same row spoke up as reported his hours worked as a high school kid at Poston were added to his lifetime hours of employment. Tak Kohatsu, (block 39) was in attendance, and he asked if anyone recall seeing a P-38 make an emergency landing near camp III. Two others in the group raised their hands. This was something no one else apparently witnessed. Tak introduced Rev. Paul Nagano was a star basketball player who played 2 games against the Parker Indian School team. Following my session, I was approached by a Sansei who revealed that just like me, he too, was ignorant about the Nisei being forced into the concentration camps.
I missed the first half of the Poston III Christian Reunion Fellowship worship with Kay Sakaguchi's sermon, "Relocation Camp; God's Purpose in Our Life", but I did catch the closing hymn, "Amazing Grace".
After the wonderful banquet dinner, we were entertained by the Grateful Crane Ensemble. Kurt Kuniyoshi, you rocked singing the Korean song, " Winter Sonata"!
Civil rights advocates named July Fourth parade marshals in Watsonville
Sentinel staff report
WATSONVILLE - Mas (Poston 220-12-A) and Marcia Hashimoto will be the grand marshals of the city's annual Independence Day parade, organizers announced Wednesday.
It's the latest in a string of honors for the Watsonville couple, who have been active in the Watsonville-Santa Cruz Japanese American Citizens League for decades and have raised awareness of civil rights issues through educational and cultural activities.
The City Council presented the Hashimotos with a proclamation recognizing their efforts in February, and on May 18, they'll be among the honorees at the American Red Cross, Santa Cruz County chapter's annual Heroes Breakfast.
Around 1908, the Yasukochi family started farming in Orange County. They were drawn to the San Luis Rey River area with the mild climate and finally settled to farm in Oceanside in 1929.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and World War II, the Yasukochi family abruptly left their farming operation.They were evacuated to the Poston Relocation Center in Arizona along with over 17,000 other people of Japanese ancestry living in the Pacific states at the time. In Poston, they lived at block 37-7-D.Their business associates and friends watched over their farming operation while they were incarcerated.
After being released from Poston, Taisuke and Fred Yasukochi and their families returned to the farming operation until 1968. Following his dream, Taisuke Yasukochi began growing carnations in Encinitas, California, while Fred Yasukochi became president of the Las Palmas Chile company in Ventura, California.
Santa Rosa Jr College seeking former students interned during WW II
By Sam Scott
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) is seeking to honor students forced to abandon their studies at the school during the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.
The school plans to present honorary degrees to the students — or to their survivors — at its May 28 graduation ceremony. So far, SRJC administrators have identified 10 students believed to have been affected and are seeking others.
Area high schools, including Santa Rosa, Analy and Petaluma, honored their interned students several years ago. The state’s public universities and colleges are required to follow suit by a 2009 law.
Across the state, an estimated 2,500 college students were affected by forced relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps, the last of which lasted until 1946.
If you or a family member were a SRJC student displaced by the internment order, you may fill out the Nisei diploma award application form at www.santarosa.edu/nisei. The application deadline is April 15.
Yamamoto, the author of "Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories," was 89 when she died at home in Eagle Rock Jan. 30. After her death, Elaine Woo wrote: Yamamoto was 20 when the attack sent the United States into war and her family into a (block 22-1-C)Poston, Ariz., internment camp. Her most celebrated stories, such as "Seventeen Syllables" and "The Legend of Miss Sasagawara," reflect the preoccupations and tensions of the Japanese immigrants and offspring who survived that era. Among her most powerful characters are women who struggle to nurture their romantic or creative selves despite the constraints of gender, racism and tradition....
A private, somewhat taciturn woman with a wry outlook, Yamamoto began writing in the 1930s and published her earliest stories in such prestigious journals as Partisan Review as well as in anthologies, including "The Best American Short Stories of 1952." But she did not receive serious critical attention until the 1970s, when Asian American scholars began to study her work....
Her breakthrough came with the 1948 publication in Partisan Review of "The High-Heeled Shoes, a Memoir," a shockingly contemporary story about sexual harassment. She weaved intercultural conflicts and bonds into "Seventeen Syllables" (1949), in which a nisei girl's blooming romance with a Mexican American classmate offers an achingly innocent counterpoint to her issei mother's arranged marriage. "Wilshire Bus" (1950) explores a Japanese American woman's silence during a white man's racist harangue against a Chinese couple on the bus they are riding.
Compelling exhibit on Japanese-Americans in the military at Veterans Memorial Museum
February 10th, 2010
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO—Probably no event has seared into the consciousness of the Japanese-American community more painfully than their forced relocation from their homes on the West Coast of the United States to internment camps in the interior of the country during World War II.
This is the central portion of an exhibit at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Balboa Park that compellingly examines the 20th century history of Japanese American soldiers from San Diego.
The exhibit prepared by the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego will be on view through the end of May 2010. Although it covers more than 100 years, conceptually it is book-ended by the experiences of Navy cook Sago Takata, who was one of 60 men killed in 1905 when the USS Bennington’s boilers exploded in San Diego Bay, and those of Lt. Cmdr. Craig Osaki, who at the end of the 20th century was an expert in the Iraq War on the use and repair of robots to remove enemy-planted explosive devices.
A few months after Japan’s military forces bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, notices were posted on telephone poles and on walls in San Diego neighborhoods where Japanese Americans were known to live. Families were given one week to pack their belongings and prepare for relocation to the interior. Initially most families from San Diego were taken to the Santa Anita Race Track, where horse stalls served as their temporary homes until an internment camp at Poston, Arizona, could be readied.
Poston was one of ten major internment camps built by the United States government. “From August 1942 until Poston closed in late 1945, the families attempted to live normal lives under circumstances that were anything but normal,” the narrative said.
San Diegan Tetsuzo Hirasaki (Poston block 322-14-D) had been a close friend of the city’s chief librarian Clara Breed. Using a sharpened bed spring, he carved for her from mesquite wood a nameplate that she proudly displayed on her desk at the San Diego Public Library. Instead of being sent to Poston with the rest of his family, Hirasaki’s father, Chiyomatsu, had been sent to camps in North Dakota and New Mexico. The family asked Breed, who wrote a column, to do what she could to help reunite them.
At first, the military was not interested in enlisting Japanese Americans, considering them too great a security risk. Although Mas Tsuida (Poston block 322-1-B) was a seafaring fisherman, the Navy had no desire for his skills. Eventually, however, the U.S. Army created a segregated unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for Japanese Americans willing to fight in the European theatre against Nazi Germany.
After joining, Tsuida was sent to Fort Reily, Kansas for his basic training. One day he and all the other Japanese-American soldiers were “herded into a single barracks surrounded by military police with machine guns at the ready,” the exhibit related. “President Franklin D. Roosevelt was visiting the base and the MPs were protecting him from those questionable U.S. soldiers.”
Afterwards, Tsuida was sent to Naples, Italy, and would fight in Italy and France. He was injured in the October 1944 battle in which the 442nd was sent into the Vosges Mountains to rescue the “Lost Battalion,” which had been surrounded by the Germans. The 442nd was successful, but not without sustaining heavy casualties. At war’s end, Tsuida returned to his life as a fisherman.
Other Japanese-American soldiers had their basic training at Camp Shelby, Miss., where those from the mainland United States found themselves thrown in with Japanese from Hawaii, with whom a fierce rivalry initially developed. However, as an exhibit photograph of San Diegan Sam Yamaguchi (Poston block 307-7-B) wearing Hawaiian garb illustrates, the two groups were molded in a single unit.
Among San Diegans fighting in World War II were Yasuichi ‘Jimmy’ Kimura, who used to drive a truck on local vegetable farms before his family was relocated to the internment camp (Poston block 330-3-D). In the Army, he drove trucks and performed maintenance on them in both the European and North African campaigns. He was awarded a purple heart with an oak leaf cluster for wounds sustained during the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.”
After the war, the services of Japanese-Americans were called upon as interpreters and in other capacities in the occupation of Japan and of Okinawa. San Diegan Francis Tanaka, who later would become a physician with Scripps Mercy Hospital, served as a medical interpreter on Okinawa in 1945 and 1946. Shizue Suwa (Poston block 330-5-BC), a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy nurse corps, was stationed in occupied Japan.
When the internment camps closed in late 1945, Japanese-Americans moved back to San Diego. Those whose family members had served in the military were eligible for veterans’ family housing. The exhibit extensively quotes from Grim The Battles, a 1954 memoir by Daisy Lee Worthington Worcester. Arriving at the Frontier Housing Project in the Midway District of San Diego, a group of Japanese-American families encountered the hostility of Anglo families already living there.
“The Japanese sat in chairs along the walls, heads cast down as if to avoid hostile glances but not enabling them to escape low murmured expressions of hatred. An emergency meeting of the tenant council was held that evening,” Worcester wrote.
One woman who served as secretary of the tenant council threatened there would be “a dead Jap” before morning if any of them were placed in the unit where she lived.
“The meeting lasted until midnight. There was not one person who did not take part in the discussion. I witnessed a miracle that night—the miracle of serious people thinking and feeling together, striving to be above all good Americans and decent human beings.” The upshot was that there was a complete turnaround, including by the woman who had made the ‘dead Jap’ threat. The tenants decided to oppose any discrimination on the basis of race or creed or color. Additionally, they formed a committee to welcome each Japanese-American family to the complex.
Although the war was over, the experience of the internment camps continued to have its influence on the Japanese-American community. The exhibit notes that the 1951 Korean conflict “brought a whole new generation of Japanese Americans into the military…. These Japanese American youths had spent their formative years in internment camps and most had watched their parents lose everything during World War II. Nevertheless, they served when called upon…”
Among San Diegans who went to Korea was Jim Yanagihara (Poston block 330-9-B) who served in a mobile hospital unit such as that made famous by the television series M*A*S*H. “As part of the multinational United Nations force, Yanagihara came into contact with soldiers from other countries and he had high praise especially for the Ethiopian soldiers. He recalls ‘I was really impressed by these soldiers. They never complained.’”
The comment can be juxtaposed with the forward to the exhibit on Japanese-American soldiers, which explained: “Two Japanese words provide a running theme for this exhibition and describe the motivations for Japanese-Americans to serve. One is giri meaning duy, and the other is gaman, which means to endure….”
These concepts were tested in the Vietnam War, when like other young men in the United States many questioned the justness of that war. However the Japanese Americans “did not find it easy to openly express their thoughts. Nearly all had an uncle, brother or father who had been interned and who had served with distinction during World War II and Korea…. Many of those who served in Vietnam were born in the U.S. internment camps.”
Alan Hayashi, who was born in the Poston, Arizona camp, was drafted into the Army in 1969 after graduation from San Diego State University. He “received the bronze star for actions to cut the supply chain known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail near Da Nang, as well as many other commendations from the United States and the Republic of Vietnam.” He commented that he was “raised with the value of loyalty to my country.”
Among the first San Diegans killed in the Vietnam War was Sgt. Shugi Julio Kaneko, whose family were Japanese Peruvians who, at the suggestion of the American government, were sent to an internment camp in Texas to possibly be traded for U.S. prisoners of war held by Japan. However, his family was not needed for such an exchange and they eventually settled in San Diego. Unlike the Japanese-Americans who eventually received a U.S. government apology and $20,000 as redress for their wrongful internment during World War II, the Japanese-Peruvians never were eligible for the award.
Although San Diegan Robert Ito didn’t serve in Vietnam—his draft number having never been called – he remembered vividly stories told to him by San Diegan David Uda “about the racism and the mean-spirited attitudes of his fellow U.S. soldiers,” according to the narration. “When U.S. helicopters flew over, he would dive in the brush for the cover because he (having Asian features) didn’t want to be mistaken for the enemy….”
Judy Chan is a third-generation Japanese American born and raised in East Los Angeles. Chan has received numerous awards and fellowships and has exhibited widely over the years; yet, for all her present successes, Chan's art is a means by which she confronts painful moments from her past. For Chan, "creating is therapeutic." At the same time, Chan seeks to communicate a message beyond her personal experiences, speaking for others who have suffered similarly.
Chan's work for this exhibit is part of a series of paintings focused on growing up as a Japanese American in the 1940s and 1950s. In Not Welcome There, Chan recreates the setting of a lunch counter, which symbolizes the establishments that Chan and other people of color could not patronize during that time.
After being released from the Poston, Arizona concentration camp in 1943, Chan and her family relocated to Philadelphia. The menus at the top of the painting contain names of restaurants where Chan was denied service and on the right, under the heading "Price," Chan spells out "Loss of Self-Esteem." Thus, what could have been an angry response to this discrimination resulted instead in the internalization of that prejudice. The act of creating this work and returning to that moment in her life becomes a part of Chan's self-healing process.
Philadelphia, 1943 is also about a return to a specific event and reproducing it with the perspective and distance of over fifty years. Chan recalls walking with her sister and mother and being apprehended by men who yelled to them that they were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk. Although she was just a child, the consequences of this event triggered nightmares and a feeling of being threatened and in danger. In Philadelphia, 1943 the figures are all ambiguous, lacking specific features which allows the viewer to place him or herself in the position of the artist and her family. Miniature replicas of the Liberty Bell are suspended at the top of the painting and are meant to be an ironic commentary on Chan's experience in the "City of Brotherly Love."
In both Philadelphia, 1943 and Not Welcome There, the artist reimagines those instances in which she was silenced and made powerless. Through her art, Chan is able to return to those moments and take control over them, not to change the circumstances but to voice her pain and bear witness to these injustices.
In Chan's piece entitled American Beauties, she comments upon the destructive effects of mainstream standards of beauty on her self-image. As a child, Chan went with her family and friends to the Rose Parade in Pasadena. The beauty contestants that she saw riding on the floats had a significant effect on her. She recalls looking at the women with a mixture of admiration and sadness. Even then she recognized that her own Japanese features separated her from those beauty contestants, making it impossible for Chan to imagine herself in the role of the beauty queen.
On the right panel Chan recreates the parade with the beauty contestants. On the opposite panel Chan paints her self-portrait as a young girl, standing on a ladder trying to look over at the parade. Suspended from this is a Japanese doll wearing a kimono made from an American flag. Over the face of the doll Chan has placed a Caucasian doll's face, masking the Japanese features. In this work, Chan reveals the difficulty of trying to reconcile a desire for validation from the larger society with a search for self-acceptance. Although highly personal, American Beauties speaks to the pain endured by anyone whose appearance does not conform to the beauty standards of a particular society.
In What Makes A House A Home?, Chan depicts her childhood home balanced precariously on the edge of a cavern in the earth. Again Chan paints her self-portrait as a child, this time sitting quietly on the opposite panel from the house. Five jars hang from the frame. The jar on the right contains simply dirt and rock. On the left, the first jar is filled with dirt and broken pieces of Japanese dishes, the second with toys, and the third with an American flag and manila tags with the words "Poston, Arizona" inscribed on them. In the final jar, Chan places a broken mirror as a symbol of the splintered image she had of herself as a young girl.
The significance of Judy Chan's art lies in its ability to make the viewer adopt a new perspective, resulting in, at least, a momentary transformation. Certainly the juxtaposition of Chan's work with the other participating artists will open an even broader terrain for further interpretation and transformation.
Since receiving a Master of Fine Arts from California State University, Long Beach in 1986, Judy Chan has worked from her Long Beach studio creating works on paper with a variety of media. Chan recently received a Visual Artists Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and has exhibited her work throughout Southern California. She also teaches fine art printmaking at Long Beach City College.
Play set to debut in Torrance, after opposition from veterans during its OC run.
Sun, Feb 20 2011
By Martha Nakagawa
When Hiroshi Kashiwagi’s play “The Betrayed” was performed in Orange County, it caused a minor ripple in the Nisei veterans’ community, but the play will most likely face no opposition at the Feb. 26 show in Torrance, where the Go For Broke veterans’ organization is headquartered.
“None of the veterans here have said anything,” said Mary Graybill, Go For Broke public relations consultant. “Part of what they fought for was to ensure freedom of speech and civil liberties and civil rights for all.”
Robert Wada, a former Poston (Colorado River) War Relocation Authority camp inmate (block 30-2-B) and Korean War veteran from Orange County who opposed the Orange County performance, described the protest as an “isolated case.”
Wada, who had two older brothers in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, pointed out that some of the veterans in Orange County were upset at the scheduling of the play last November.
“It was ill timing,” said Wada. “We’re not against the ‘No-Nos’ but it wasn’t a good time so close to Veterans’ Day.”
After discussing the issue amongst themselves, the Orange County veterans had informed the youth group of VFW Post 3670 that they could not represent or use the VFW’s name if they chose to attend the Orange County showing of “The Betrayed.”
Soji Kashiwagi, producer of “The Betrayed” and son of the playwright, said the date had been chosen to coincide with his father’s birthday.
“The selection of the date, Nov. 6, 2010, had nothing to do with Veteran’s Day,” he said. “My father’s birthday is Nov. 8, so one of the things the folks in Orange County wanted to do was to present his play and honor him on his 88th birthday at the same time.”
Hiroshi Kashiwagi, playwright and former Tule Lake prisoner, said, “The play is about the two opposing responses to the loyalty questions and the consequences people suffered many years later — all caused by the government. We should be mad at the government if we want to be mad at anyone. People should see the play. It’s about how we were all victimized by the government.”
The play itself is a love story set in 1943, in the Tule Lake War Relocation Authority camp, before it became a segregation center. It revolves around two young Nisei lovers, who are torn apart after answering differently on the two most controversial questions on the government-issued “loyalty questionnaire.”
Wada, who has not seen the play, said the play’s “so-called glorification” of “No-Nos” bothers him. He strongly believes that the record of the 442nd helped to change the attitude of the larger American society.
“Eight-hundred and eighty Nisei guys died in the 442nd to prove that Japanese Americans were loyal,” said Wada. “The veterans made a difference.”
He pointed to a prewar experience where he and a group of boys had gone over to an elderly white man’s house shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack for a drink of water. The man invited the boys in but when he saw Wada, he opened a kitchen drawer and tried to take out a knife, while uttering, “You little Jap. I’m going to cut your head off.” Wada ran out of the house and didn’t stop until he got home.
“That’s why we needed to prove our loyalty,” said Wada. “How were we going to face the people back home?”
To Wada, the “No-Nos,” whom he mistakenly interchanged with the Nisei draft resisters, would have hindered Japanese American acceptance into the larger American society.
As a point of clarification, the draft resisters opposed being drafted into the U.S. military until they were released from U.S. concentration camps. They answered “Yes-Yes” to Questions 27 and 28 on the so-called loyalty questionnaire and were either fined or sent to a federal penitentiary.
The “No Nos” answered “no” to Questions 27 and 28. While it could be argued that answering “no” to Question 27 — “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered?” — can be read as a refusal to be drafted, an examination of this issue by researchers over the years has revealed a more complex conclusion.
Some had left the question blank or qualified their answer, which the government categorized as a “no”; some had answered “no” to keep the family together; some, who had been placed in Tule Lake from the beginning, answered “no” to prevent another move; and some had answered “no” out of anger. Those who answered “no-no” were, for the most part, sent to Tule Lake, which was converted into a segregation center.
Hiroshi Kashiwagi said the play has no intentions of glorifying anyone. “It’s just a statement of fact that there were some of us who opposed the loyalty registration or answered ‘no’ to the questions. No one’s after glory. That’s a concept foreign to me and to most ‘No-Nos,’ I think.”
Soji Kashiwagi felt this play could be a teaching point in telling a more complete story of what occurred during Word War II.
“Rather than glorify ‘No-Nos’, I would say the play shines a much-needed light on their side of the story,” he said. “For too long, members of our own community have branded and stigmatized the ‘No-Nos’ as disloyals and a bunch of troublemakers.
After attending the Tule Lake Pilgrimages and listening to the stories of the ‘No-Nos,’ I have learned that many who answered ‘no-no’ to the questions did so out of anger and protest. And by saying ‘no-no,’ they were fighting for their civil rights. This, to me, is not being disloyal. Protesting and fighting for one’s rights is part of being an American, going all the way back to the founding fathers of our country.
“So our approach in presenting this play is to educate our community and members of the general public about what actually happened to this group of Americans who protested their unjust treatment and incarceration. For 65 years, the ‘No-No’ stories have been ignored, dismissed and denigrated in our history. Rather than glorify, our hope is that we bring some understanding to their side of the story, and with that understanding we hope to bring about reconciliation and a healing of this terrible rift within our community.”