I agreed to direct a group of WWII camp resisters in reading the government documents that got them arrested in camp and sent to the Federal pen in WWII Japanese America.
Four old men, with memories, all over eighty. The only difficulty would be keeping them awake. Boy, was I wrong. Frank Emi, Yosh Kuromiya, Mits Koshiyama and the one veteran among the resisters, Paul Tsuneishi were all testy, moody bulls. They snorted. They pawed the floors with their feet.
These were the moodiest bulls in Japanese America. They had challenged the camps on the Constitution and won.
What did that mean? I hadn’t clue about a resistance movement in camp till the 1990’s. I’m from New York. What do I know? Redress won in Congress and the checks for $20,000 per internee were in the mail. The papers were weeping camp stories. Some of the stories hinted of resisters. The Japanese Americans found the stories of resisters puzzling. JACL praised their leadership for there being no significant protest or resistance in camp. The theatre my brother ran had never come across any book, or story or a play with anything like a resister in it. Then the theater company turned their back on him and his vision for Asian American theatre in 1980.
The resister’s stories weren’t told by the usual voices of the community and didn’t catch the interest of Asian American arts... dance, music, drama, acting… Isn’t art supposed to show where it is the people hurt?
The Japanese Americans seemed to be a people that didn’t want to know they had their Constitutional rights buffed and polished in their favor by the Presidential Amnesty granted the resisters in 1947.
Then Lt. Enren Watada a Hawaiian Japanese American exercises the rights the resisters defended, and brings the questions the Nisei heard tossed about in the campwar years, back to the present day. Will Japanese Americans react any differently than they did on their 9/11, Dec. 7, 1941?
Hot off the press!
On August 17, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada succeeded in placing the war on trial during an Article 32 pre-trial hearing in a military courtroom at Fort Lewis, Washington. The investigating officer recommended that Lt. Watada be referred to a general court martial on all charges – including five charges for political speech. On Sept. 15, an additional charge of speech crime was added as the Army moves to escalate it's efforts to silence Lt. Watada.
Frank Emi and Yosh Kuromiya were invited to speak as Resisters in support of Lt. Ehren Watada’s right to test a law against the Constitution, and give words of welcome to Ehren’s parents. Ehren’s distinguished well spoken well dressed father Bob and Rosa, his wife had flown together from Hawaii to L.A. to explain their son to the Japanese community.
Kathy Masaoka spoke first as the NCRR host of Lt. Watada’s parents. She greeted Bob and Rosa by linking her uncle Mike Masaoka’s JACL and his volunteers from camp with their enemies the resisters, who’s business it was to resist the camps the whole idea of camps, and the JACL by name in their bulletins of resistance, freely distributed around camp.
My brother swings his eyes to me and ratchets my face into focus. “You are doing the resisters against the JACL thing?”
“You mean the resisters, Japanese America and the Constitution thing I’m working on…”
“So you are working on it. Be careful.”
“The JACL controls all that’s said about Japanese America anywhere by anybody?”
“In the ‘80s the JACL stopped Japanese TV in America from showing a year-long Japanese mini-series of Japanese American life, SANGA MOYU (Mountains and Rivers Aflame) I think it was…The JACL stopped a showing of a year of programming on every channel of Japanese programming in the country. What happened to Japanese American freedom of the press?”
“Japanese Americans have freedom of the press.” I protested. I thought a moment. “Don’t they?”
“That’s why the sales of Japanese American books on the American camps has been greater than sales of the Jewish books on the camps of the holocaust.”
“What do you mean?”
“And Japanese American movies set in the camps are coming out one after another like American movies set in Jewish camps, right?”
“Japanese Americans don’t have a free press?”
“The resisters of the Warsaw Ghetto are heroes to the Jews. If the yellows had a free press you’d think the resisters would be the heroes of camp.”
“But nothing in 60 years.”
“Why do you think that is?” He points a finger at my forehead and rams my forehead with the tip, and says “Think!”
Emi looked a lot younger than his 90 years. He was 28 when he was interned in a Wyoming concentration camp at euphemistically named Heart Mountain Relocation Center. Yosh Kuromiya is 83 now. He was 19 when he first laid eyes on Heart Mountain a piece of mountain-sized rock thrown from the mother rock in Yellowstone Park, 60 miles away to landing here. Right here. What broke Heart Mountain off and tossed it sixty miles? The pillar, the symbol, the mystery of Heart Mountain the concentration camp. He was illegally drafted while imprisoned in camp. Prisoners in custody cannot be drafted. Send him home and he’ll consider the draft notice, but in camp he resists.
When the government instituted the drafting of Nisei from camp, Frank Emi became a leader, the moral center, of Kiyoshi Okamoto’s Fair Play Committee, against the Army, the camp administration, the Japanese American Citizen’s League (JACL), and the camp paper touting the draft as the way for Nisei to be accepted as Americans.
FEBRUARY 24, 1944
FAIR PLAY COMMITTEE
"One for all - All for one"
The Fair Play Committee was organized for the purpose of opposing all unfair practices that violates the Constitutional rights of the people as guaranteed and set forth in our United States Constitution regardless if such practices occur within our present concentration camp, the state, territory or Union. It has come strongly in recent weeks in regards to the discriminatory features of the new selective service program as it applies to the Japanese American nationals despite the loud and idealistic claims of nisei editors.
The Committee calls to your attention the Community Council of Topaz and Rowher which is genuinely interested in clarifying the draft issue to its people. WHAT HAS YOUR COMMUNITY COUNCIL DONE?....
...The Fair Play is out to give you that side which the Assistant Project Director and the JACL have not presented.
Against the camps? Before camp on April 6, 1942, JACL leader Mike Masaoka advised the government warden of the camps for Japanese Americans, Millton Eisenhower, officially Director the just formed War Relocation Authority (WRA), to not call the camps “concentration camps.” This written on JACL letterhead:
No intimation or hint should be given that they are in concentration camps or in protective custody, or that the government does not have full faith and confidence in them as a group and as individuals.
The JACL and the battlefield exploits of 442nd justified the camps. The government knew, if no one else did, that it was illegal to coerce the imprisoned to volunteer. The army had insisted on concentration camps, the army wouldn’t accept the Nisei unless their families were kept hostage in the JACL enforced camps.
“You cannot be drafted from jail!” my brother growls.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Jimmy Cagney, in THE FIGHTING 69TH!” He throws his hand at me turns away and does his signature sneer.
“What are you talking about”
“Before he’s sentenced, the judge gives Cagney a choice. Jail or the Army. Movie. THE FIGHTING 69TH Director William Keighly. 1940.”
My brother was the authority on movies. He been nominated to movie sainthood. But was Jimmy Cagney really given a choice between jail or the army? I clammed. I’d see the movie. Right or wrong, my brother was right about the draft, and I loved him.
Bob Watada spoke about his son. Bob had marched in protest to the Vietnam War but served his country by volunteering for the Peace Corps. But Ehren thought he should offer his life to his country. He applied to West Point. He graduated three years ago, and was commissioned by Congress to the office of 2nd Lieutenant. He is now a 1st Lt and being held in the stockade at Fort Lewis to await his Court Martial for refusing to be deployed to Irag.
Bob felt the war in Iraq was justified. He was confused by his son’s refusal to be deployed.
Ehren and his father began an extraordinary series of conversations between Washington state and Hawaii.
Bob read up on Iraq, and came to agree with his son’s stand.
He recalled Ehren’s story of seeing a soldier on tv, fruitlessly protesting his redeployment to Iraq. “Who stands for him?” Ehren asked.
Bob recalled Ehren answering his own question with, “I guess I will.”
Frank Emi and the resisters have been speaking for years, hoping to awaken a younger generation of Asian Americans to voice the truth of their history instead of burying it under layers of sentimentality and patriotic slogans. “We are waiting for the Sansei,” they said when we met. Then they said, “Just wait for the Yonsei, you’ll see.” They got older and they said, “Wait for the Gosei.” Modesty forbids me say how old I am, but it was late, very late that I learned that the Nisei did resist the camps, and met the draft resisters.FRANK EMI SPEAKS
My name is Frank Emi.
I was one of the organizors of the Fair Play Committee in the Concentration camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming were we challenged the Government drafting young men incarcerated in the Camps during WW2.
Mr. Watada, I really congratulate you for your unwavering support of your son, Lt. Ehren Watada, for whom I have the highest admiration and regard for his steadfast commitment to his principles and beliefs about the war in Iraq, which was initiated by Bush and company based on lies and deceit about WMDs.
Lt. Watada, better than anyone else, is keenly aware of the consequences of his action and yet he is undaunted by the prospects of harsh penalties that may include “hard time” in prison.
Talking about “hard time”, I am a veteran of that experience, having served 15 months of a four-year sentence at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary of “conspiracy” charges during our draft resistance movement at Heart Mountain. Fortunately, our convictions were reversed on appeal.
It “ain’t” always easy to fight for principles. Much easier to go with the crowd. It takes guts, integrity and conviction to stand up for your beliefs, and principles, and Lt. Watada has it all!
I’ll conclude my little talk by saying that all these J.A. veterans who are opposing Lt. Watada, saying derogatory things about him, should be standing up congratulating him.
I for one, feel proud that one of our own stood tall to be counted fighting for a righteous cause. Thank you.
“Have you forgotten we produced Momoko Iko’s work?”
“The Gold Watch!”
“Yeah, ‘The Gold Watch.’ She was at Heart Mountain.”
“She was angry at the Nisei for not having the courage of one man—NOT ONE MAN! -- to resist. Her anger at the people generally is justified, but at Heart Mountain, no.”
“There are more things happening in camp than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Japanese bombs came down on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, American ships went dump, and Japanese-Americans on the mainland became pariahs on December 7th.
President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 issued on February 19,1941, and the Army’s proclamation of an evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry was greeted with resistance to the curfew by Gordon Hirabyashi of Seattle, and Minoru Yasui, a star of the Portland Japanese American Citizen’s League (JACL) on the rise. Yasui, the first Nisei to graduate from the University of Oregon Law School, and an officer in the Army Reserves, fully expected the JACL to back his resistance to the racially selective orders.
The JACL was considered to be the Japanese American version of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) a civil rights organization. He was wrong, as Joe Kurihara, a San Pedro fisherman from Hawaii learned.
Joe Kurihara was a Hawaiian born Nisei, WWI vet and author of a patriotic newspaper column. He joined the JACL thinking they were formed to fight the Evacuation and Internment, Joe Kurihara discovered he was wrong and wrote:
Truly it was my intention to fight this evacuation. On the night of my return to Los Angeles from San Diego was the second meeting which the Citizens Federation of Southern California (sponsored by JACL) held to discuss evacuation. I attend it with a firm determination to fight to the bitter end. I found the goose was already cooked. The Field Secretary of the JACL [Mike Masaoka] instead of reporting what actually transpired at a meeting they had had with General DeWitt just tried to intimidate the Nisei to comply with the evacuation by stories of threats he claimed to have received from various parts of the state.
Mike Masaoka made it clear that JACL was not a civil rights organization on April 7, 1942:
The national JACL stands unalterably opposed to test cases to determine the constitutionality of the military regulations at this time. We have reached this decision unanimously after examining all the facts in light of our national policy of: "the greatest good for the greatest number."
On June 21,1937 Mike Masaoka threw civil rights out of the JACL charter, an declared their reason for being was:
To promote the welfare of the Americans of Japanese ancestry in a program of education to forward and high purposes of American citizenship and ideals.
“What a great part for a real Japanese American actor!”
“Mike Masaoka greasey blubberlips, the villain of the camp story?”
“A great part! He is Shakespearean. He is the F.D.R. and Winston Churchill of his people. Talk about resisters in Washington D.C., and you’re told ‘This is a JACL town.’ ”
“Even after death, even after you hear nothing of him, for years, Masaoka’s ghost still slouches through halls of Washington. He’s a great character.”
“So, get up and do it!”
“A Japanse American has to write it.”
Before the Congressional Tolan Committee the JACL’s Masaoka came out against Japanese American civil rights, all their civil rights:
“But I do not think that it should be voluntary evacuation for the simple reason that I am afraid of what is happening in Tulare and other counties. If they just go voluntarily out without knowing where they go, they may not only inconvenience the communities to which they go, but they may disrupt those communities."
Masaoka’s Americanism did not allow disobedience of any order for any reason. His motto for the JACL “For Better Americans in a Greater America,” was on the bottom of all JACL letterhead. Bulletin #142 was on JACL letterhead, and concluded with:
"We recognize that self-styled martyrs who are willing to be jailed in order that they might fight for the rights of citizenship, as many of them allege, capture the headlines and the imaginations of many more persons than our seemingly indifferent stand. We realize that many Japanese and others who are interested in our welfare have condemned the JACL for its apparent lacksadaisical attitude on the matter of defending the rights and privileges of American citizens with Japanese features."
If JACL was not a civil rights organization, what institution of government would it influence in Japanese America’s interest?
My brother growls, “You go under the law.”
“What do you mean ‘under the law?’ There is no under the law! Is this more I’m more Jap than thou bullshit?”
“Well, I am more Nihonjin than thou.” He flashes his eyes over me, and turns away, “New York princess….”
“So how do you under the law?”
“You kissup to the cops.”
“You get them to let you do things under the law for them.”
“You mean ‘fink?’”
“American enough for you?”
The “All Camp Meeting,” in Salt Lake City, in November of 1942, was advertised to the government as two delegates from each of the ten camps camp would meet with the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to discuss how to improve conditions in the camps. It was a JACL illusion. The meeting was actually the JACL National Convention.
The “delegates” agreed, the Japanese were happy in camp. All they wanted was to prove their loyalty by staying in camp as hostages, for the boys to be drafted into the army, and fight.
All JACL members returned to their camps boasting of their schmoozing with the government and asking for the draft.
In Manzanar, the US Army veteran from WWI, Joe Kurihara, from Hawaii, gathered audiences of a thousand, or more, speaking against camp and against the JACL.
Manzanar broke into a riot on December 6 and 7, 1942.
Joe Kurihara, was accused the beating up the JACL delegate Fred Tayama. Tayama went to the hospital, and Joe Kuirihara went to Tule Lake, the camp designated for the enemies of the JACL. At Tule Lake, watched by JACL Jr. sociologist-informants and befriended by sociologist Dorothy Hankey Wax, he was accused of leading a pro-Japan leading a resistance movement at Tule Lake and was sent Leupp. He felt betrayed by the country he had fought for, and made pro-Japan statements and was “repatriated” to Japan.
That’s how the JACL treated anyone, even veterans
FAIR PLAY COMMITTEE FOR THE LAW
The JACL was designed by Masaoka and Japanese American sociologists to fool people out of their money to finance their own extinction—institution by institution. The JACL and the Japanese America jr. sociologists had been given a government cop’s license to tell lies, spy, and fink their way to American-ness by the FBI and the WRA sociologists and anthropologists posted in the camps.
“ Jr. G-men! At last! What a story! Why couldn’t I find a writer to write that?”
The FBI case against the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee was originally a WRA Community Analysts report by Asael T. Hansen. He had no experience with the Japanese or Japanese Americans but had his JACL “informants.” There is an intriguing reference to a tall bespectacled man who works at the office of the camp paper described as one his sources. Could the editor of the Sentinel himself be Asael Hansen’s prize blabbermouth?
The FBI replaced the top sheet of Hansen’s report, slapped on a “sedition” charge against the six leaders of the Fair Play Committee of Heart Mountain and the only Nisei journalist in America not under the JACL thumb James Omura. But they had him now.
Why Omura? He had never set foot in a camp, and never met the Fair Play Committee until he was let out of solitary confinement, and sent to Cheyenne to wait for his trial. According to the WRA Analyst’s report turned into the FBI indictment, Omura reported the news of the government’s illegal introduction of the draft in the concentration camps in 1944, and the resistance to the draft. Subscriptions to his paper, the Denver Rocky Shimpo increased by 200 at Heart Mountain in 1944. Actually subscriptions at other camps also increased. But this report was making a case that concerned only Heart Mountain.
The arrest drove James Omura, the publisher of the only magazine of criticism of Japanese American writing, out of Japanese American writing. Control of Japanese American journalism and writing was firmly in the hands of the JACL.
The effect of James Omura’s arrest and silencing had an immediate effect Japanese American writing. The JACL was forbidden territory, going contrary to the JACL story was just forbidden.
Japanese American writers in camp turned their backs on Omura and submitted themselves to white culture for correction. Japanese American writers have obeyed ever since. Gone was Japanese American criticism, culture and history the literary realm of Japanese America. What was left? The White sociology preached by the Junior sociologists.
“What do you mean ‘literary realm?’”
“If the Japanese Americans are a people they have everything a people have. You tried to develop a Japanese American theatre.”
“Japanese American. Who said Japanese Americans should write their own story.”
“Yes, but I did works by Caucasians on Nisei subjects.”
“If it was well researched.”
“You were the theatre’s director, Mr. More Nihon than thou.”
“You are part of the realm of Japanese American literature, a category of Asian American literature. In the realm are the writers, the works, the critics, audience, and the discussion between the writer, the critics, and the audience. Out of the mess, the historians and scholarly critics hash out the forms, the conditions, the differences of Japanese American theatre and other genres of Japanese American literature.”
Sociology has dominated and diminished every facet of Japanese American life since the War. Since the war there has been no study of Asian American history, philosophy, literature. No criticism. No discussion. Just dictates from the sociologists for more submission to white supremacy and more extinction of Asian America into white history, white philosophy, white literature.
Sociology is the foundation of every Asian American Studies department in existence. Sociology the JACL AND Asian American studies are not real disciplines based on facts. Sociology is a branch of Christianity founded on rhetoric, meaningless slogans like “For Better Americans and a Greater America.”
“I can’t say that! I’d have an audience of none.”
“Audiences for your theatre, your directing or your acting?”
“Even if I believed it, I couldn’t say that.”
“Because you’re afraid.”
“But that’s the point the resisters had the courage to say and do what we did not. They did it for us and won. And the JACL and sociology refuses to read the law Japanese Americans made.”
“I’m a director and an actor.”
“You’re not an archivist.”
“I’m not a historian. But I’ll take a writer to lunch and talk about a play I want to direct.
“Wouldn’t you like to direct a play about the open sore of camp written with new Japanese American information about Mike Masaoka the JACL and the resistance and Jimmie Omura?”
“Of course! What do you think I was talking about? A play like that. A good play like that. A well written play…”
“By a Japanese American.”
“By a Japanese American.”
Yosh Kuromiya is 83 today. He was 18 when he resisted the draft at Heart Mountain. He has been resisting JACL loyalty and obedience, ever since.
He urges Japanese Americans to be loyal to the principles of the Constitution, rather than be loyal to the word of one man, just as he did 60 years ago in Heart Mountain:
If a soldier voluntarily lays down his arms as a matter of conscience and is willing to suffer the consequences, SO BE IT. Ehren Watada did not wait for a favorable public consensus to determine the dictates of his conscience. If the action of a soldier is dependent on the guarantee of public support then his commitment becomes suspect. And if we encourage our troops to jeopardize their military status to compensate for OUR (citizens of America) FAILURE to hold our government responsible for its ill-conceived misdeeds, it would be tantamount to expecting the victim to pay for his victimization. We, who suffered the indignities imposed by our government in 1942, know that story very well.
If a few Germans had not followed the goose-stepping of a madman, there would not have been a Holocaust. If a few Kamikaze pilots had questioned the manifest destiny of the Rising Sun, we would not have had a Pearl Harbor. If a crewman on the Enola Gay had challenged the necessity of an Atomic blast on civilians, we would not have had a Hiroshima or a Nagasaki. It only takes a FEW good men to determine the course of history. Sadly, there have been TOO FEW in recent history. The goose-stepping continues, even in the editorial pages of our ethnic vernaculars.
So, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada will not win any medals for his extraordinary act of conscience and moral integrity, but sometimes IT TAKES GREATER COURAGE TO LIVE FOR ONES COUNTRY, THAN TO DIE FOR IT.
IS JAPANESE AMERICA READY
Can Japanese America finally come out from under the domination the of JACL’s monarchist manifesto? The Japanese came to America to be free of a monarchy. My parents did not flee the militarists of Japan to have me born in New York and live under another monarchy.
Can Japanese America publicly shake hands with a resister?
“Ha! Shake hands with a resister?”
“I’m just reacting, not judging.”
Maybe a pump to acknowledge the Constitutional continuity of the camp resistance from Hirabayshi, and another pump of the hand for the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, and another for Lt. Ehren Watada’s effort to clarify his rights as a citizen and a soldier?
The Army will court martial him. The Army isn’t going let a Lt. criticize the President, the Commander-in-Chief! The Court Martial will set the stage for the longer and more difficult, more expensive appearance before the Appeals Court, and possibly the US Supreme Court.
For or against the good Lieutenant, Japanese America should be prepared for renewed challenges to the existence of Japanese America as a people.
--The Peach Girl
THE READING: A COMMUNITY DIVIDED-
THE SUBJECT: The camp resisters vs. the JACL acting as Confidential Informants to the FBI.
PRESENTED BY: The Yashima-Iwamatsu Family- A family of artist activists.
Momo Yashima- an artist activist, and narrator of A COMMUNITY DIVIDED
Frank Emi- a leader of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee.
Yosh Kuromiya- resisted being drafted from Heart Mountain camp.
Paul Tsuneishi- a WWII veteran.
Japanese American National Museum
FEB 21,22,23, 24*)
TORRANCE CULTURAL CENTER
May 30 7p