Letter to the Editor

October 11, 2019 • Columnists, Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

To Jeffrey Moy, National President of the JACL

RE: National JACL Resolution of Apology to Tule Lake Resisters

On Aug. 3, 2019, the National Council of the Japanese American Citizens League adopted a resolution of apology “to those imprisoned in the Tule Lake Segregation Center for nonviolent acts of resistance and dissent, who suffered shame and stigma during and after the war due to the JACL’s attitudes and treatment toward individuals unfairly labeled ‘disloyal.’ ”

On behalf of the executive council of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), I am submitting this executive summary, with enclosure, to the National JACL registering JAVA’s objections to the National JACL resolution of apology.

At its Sept. 14 meeting, JAVA’s executive council approved the following objections to the National JACL’s resolution of apology to the Tule Lake resisters:

  • The resolution of apology is vague and overly broad, without any justifiable basis for its apology;
  • The resolution of apology is a betrayal of the American values embraced by the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during World War II and by the 95 percent of Japanese American adults who answered “Yes” to Question 28 and is knowingly divisive; and
  • The resolution of apology is a shameful and unwarranted demeaning of the legacy forged by the valor and loyalty of the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during World War II, while at the same time, National JACL, its chapters and members, and the Japanese American community at large, including the Tule Lake resisters, have benefited and will continue to benefit from that legacy.

A full explanation in support of these objections is provided in the enclosure to this letter.

Sincerely,

Gerald Yamada

President, Japanese American Veterans Assn.

Enclosure

  1. David Inouye, JACL Executive Director

◊◊◊

Enclosure to Letter to JACL President Moy

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, JAPANESE AMERICAN VETERANS ASSN., Sept. 17

On Aug. 3, 2019, the National Council of the Japanese American Citizens League adopted a resolution of apology “to those imprisoned in the Tule Lake Segregation Center for nonviolent acts of resistance and dissent, who suffered shame and stigma during and after the war due to the JACL’s attitudes and treatment toward individuals unfairly labeled ‘disloyal.’ ”

At its Sept. 14 meeting, JAVA’s executive council approved the following objections to the National JACL’s resolution of apology to the Tule Lake resisters.

National JACL Resolution of Apology Is Vague and Overly Broad

Based on the Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (AKA “Redress Commission Report”), the Tule Lake Segregation Center was dominated by a “strongly militant pro-Japan faction” composed of:

  • Japanese aliens who refused to agree not to engage in any actions that would interfere with the United States’ war effort by answering “No” or refusing to answer Question 28 of the loyalty questionnaire;
  • Japanese aliens who asked to be repatriated to Japan;
  • Japanese Americans who renounced their U.S. citizenship and asked to be expatriated to Japan;
  • Japanese Americans who refused to swear allegiance to the United States and forswear allegiance to the Emperor of Japan by answering “No” or refusing to answer Question 28;
  • Japanese Americans who refused to serve in the United States military after receiving draft notices making this the second National JACL resolution of apology, first in 2000 and again in 2019, to this group;
  • Those who had been denied leave clearance because of adverse evidence in their records; and
  • Japanese aliens that the Department of Justice recommended for detention at the Tule Lake Segregation Center.

The National JACL resolution of apology is given to the above Tule Lake resisters who engaged in “nonviolent acts of resistance and dissent.” By excluding only those who engaged in violent acts of resistance and dissent, National JACL demonstrates a shallow commitment to civil rights by including within its resolution Tule Lake resisters who engaged in nonviolent acts of resistance and dissent such as coercive harassment, intimidation and threats of bodily harm against Japanese Americans who volunteered for U.S. military service and other internees who did not share the Tule Lake Resisters’ pro-Japan views.

The National JACL resolution of apology also fails to distinguish between the Tule Lake resisters who wanted Japan to win the war and those who believed in peaceful disobedience but did not hold pro-Japan views. The Redress Commission Report states that 31 percent of the Tule Lake Segregation Center population were family members who stayed with those who were segregated. By failing to deal with these significant distinctions, the National JACL resolution of apology unfairly treats all the Tule Lake resisters as “disloyal.”

For these reasons, the executive council of the Japanese American Veterans Assn. finds that the National JACL resolution of apology to the Tule Lake resisters is vague and overly broad, without any justifiable basis for its apology.

National JACL Resolution of Apology Is a Betrayal of American Values

The Japanese American men and women who served in the U.S. military during World War II suffered in equal measure with the Tule Lake resisters from the unconstitutional confinement imposed by Executive Order 9066, but unlike the Tule Lake resisters, those who served in the U.S. military during WWII put country first, kept their faith in American ideals and assumed greater personal risks by putting themselves in harm’s way.

Any shame, stigma or label of “disloyalty” associated with the Tule Lake resisters was self-inflicted as a direct result of their actions, beliefs and decisions, which were antithetical to the actions, beliefs and decisions made by the 95 percent of Japanese American adults who answered “Yes” to Question 28 and by the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during WWII.

The Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during WWII served with valor and honor that created a lasting legacy that has greatly benefited all those in the Japanese American community including the Tule Lake resisters.

  • The Japanese Americans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese American combat unit, were involved in a five-day battle in which the Texas “Lost Battalion” (1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment) was rescued, while the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team suffered 54 killed in action and 293 wounded in action.
  • The 522nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 442nd RCT liberated Jewish prisoners at one of the Dachau Nazi death camps.
  • The 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd RCT is recognized as the most-decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare.
  • The Japanese Americans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd RCT were awarded seven Presidential Unit Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses and countless other medals including over 4,000 Purple Hearts.
  • All surviving members of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd RCT in 2012 were made chevaliers of the French Légion d’Honneur for their actions contributing to the liberation of France and their heroic rescue of the “Lost Battalion” during WWII.
  • Approximately 3,000 Japanese Americans who served in the Military Intelligence Service as Japanese linguists, a large number of them educated in Japan (aka “Kibei”), volunteered to serve in the first, second or third wave of nearly every Army infantry and Marine invasion to interrogate Japanese prisoners of war, translate captured documents and pass the results immediately to commanders on the front line to prepare counter measures, helping to win battles and save lives.
  • The Japanese Americans who served in the MIS as Japanese linguists in the Pacific war theater are credited with shortening the war with Japan by two years, serving as interpreters during war crime trials to ensure fair hearings, and making significant contributions to transitioning Japan to a democratic government during the occupation and restoration of Japan after the war ended.
  • The 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion, composed of all Japanese Americans, served in Hawaii during WWII to rebuild Pearl Harbor and completed 54 construction projects that were critical to the defense of the Islands.
  • Over 300 Japanese American women served in the U.S. military during WWII.
  • The Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during WWII followed advice given to them by their fathers: “Do not dishonor your country, community or the family and, if you are to die, die with honor.” Almost 800 Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military were killed in action during World War II. They died fighting for America’s freedoms. They died with honor.
  • On July 15, 1946, President Harry Truman reviewed the returning 442nd RCT at the White House Ellipse and praised their battlefield accomplishments by saying, “You fought the enemy abroad, and you fought prejudice at home, and you won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win,” thereby affirming the decision made by the Japanese American soldiers to serve their country and its ideals and demonstrate loyalty as their way to fight prejudice at home.

The executive council of the Japanese American Veterans Assn. condemns the National JACL resolution of apology to the Tule Lake resisters as a betrayal of the American values embraced by the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during WWII and by the 95 percent of Japanese American adults who answered “Yes” to Question 28 and as being knowingly divisive.

National JACL Resolution of Apology Demeans the Legacy of the Japanese Americans Who Served During WWII

During WWII, most Americans considered all persons of Japanese ancestry to be “disloyal” based solely on ethnicity. The WWII JACL leaders worked to find ways to prove that Japanese Americans were “loyal” and could be trusted. The JACL advocated to have the U.S. Army create a segregated all-Japanese American combat unit. The idea of a segregated combat unit was originally rejected by Gen. Eisenhower. But JACL persisted. By having a segregated combat unit, JACL’s hope was that its military successes would convince the American public that Japanese Americans were loyal.

Mike Masaoka was JACL Secretary during that time and was the main advocate for the all-Japanese American combat unit. When the 442nd RCT was created, Masaoka was the first to volunteer. Because of his role in getting the 442nd RCT authorized, he was assigned to the public relations staff of the 442nd RCT, where he diligently provided information to the press about the successful battlefield accomplishments of the 442nd RCT. Masaoka is credited with generating the high praise that the 442nd received in the American press during WWII.

The opportunity for the Japanese Americans who served during WWII to forge a legacy of valor and honor was created by JACL. During WWII, the JACL actively promoted serving in the U.S. military as a way to show loyalty, so there is a direct link between the WWII JACL and the legacy created by the Japanese Americans who served.

The National JACL resolution of apology disavows that link. The JACL resolution of apology reverses the position of the WWII JACL in that JACL is now supporting the Tule Lake resisters’ acts of resistance and dissent as the way the community should have shown their loyalty rather than serving in the U.S. military. Of course, the National JACL resolution of apology ignores the fact that the acts of resistance and dissent were in support of the resisters’ pro-Japan views.

As a national veterans service organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during WWII, JAVA must raise its voice on behalf of those Japanese American soldiers by defending their choice as to how they showed their loyalty.

The valor and loyalty shown by the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during WWII has greatly benefited the Japanese American community in the following ways:

  • Cited by President Ronald Reagan for his decision not to veto, but to sign, HR 442 resulting in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (aka “Redress Legislation”) authorizing the U.S. government’s apology and redress payments paid to the internees, including the Tule Lake resisters, who were still alive on the date of enactment;
  • Cited by the sponsors of legislation that passed the Walter-McCarran Immigration and Naturalization Act, giving the first generation of persons of Japanese ancestry, including the Tule Lake resisters, the right to become naturalized U.S. citizens;
  • The pivotal factor that convinced Congress to end its long-held opposition toward Hawaii’s statehood petition resulting in Hawaii becoming the 50th State;
  • Cited by the sponsors of legislation creating a bipartisan presidential commission — the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians — that determined that Executive Order 9066, issued by President Roosevelt and strongly supported by State and local elected officials such as then-California Attorney General Earl Warren, was the result of “prejudice, war hysteria and the lack of political leadership”;
  • Cited by the sponsors of legislation that authorized the building of the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in World War II, sited within view of the Capitol, Washington, D.C.;
  • Cited by the sponsors of legislation that authorized the $50 million grant program to fund the preservation of confinement sites, including the Tule Lake Segregation Center, used during WWII to imprison persons of Japanese ancestry under EO 9066;
  • Cited by the sponsors of legislation that awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in November 2011 to the soldiers who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd RCT and Military Intelligence Service during WWII.

The executive council of the Japanese American Veterans Assn. denounces the National JACL resolution of apology to the Tule Lake resisters as a shameful and unwarranted demeaning of the legacy forged by the valor and loyalty of the Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military during WWII, while at the same time, National JACL, its chapters and members, and the Japanese American community at large, including the Tule Lake resisters, have benefited and will continue to benefit from that legacy.

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