Category Archives: Heart Mountain

REVIEW: “Interrogating the memoir of a resister”

book coverReview of BEYOND THE BETRAYAL: The Memoir of a World War II Japanese American Draft Resister of Conscience by Yoshito Kuromiya, edited by Arthur A. Hansen. University Press of Colorado. 234 pages. Hardcover, $34.95.

Reviewed by Frank Abe
Nichi Bei Weekly
July 21-August 3, 2022

Be sure to read the Endnotes to Yosh Kuromiya’s new posthumous memoir. They’re half the fun of reading this book.

We’re lucky to have Beyond the Betrayal. It’s the first and very likely only book-length manuscript from one of the 63 Nisei at Heart Mountain to stand in the largest mass trial for draft resistance in U.S. history. Of those in the Fair Play Committee, Yosh was always the most articulate and artistic, and his book reflects the thought and care he put into every turn of phrase.

Until now, we’ve never heard Yosh’s story from start to finish. It’s most compelling when Yosh shares his personal feelings about speaking up at the mess hall meetings of the FPC, enduring jail time with men he didn’t really know, going to trial in what he dubs “The Circus,” and navigating life with fellow inmates in a federal penitentiary. He writes of the emotional price he paid when after his sentencing he is dumped by his girlfriend from camp, someone who’d previously supported his principled stand but becomes convinced by friends that his actions were a discredit to their people.

Being insightful, Yosh was also opinionated. This is where editor and Nichi Bei contributor Art Hansen in his Endnotes interrogates Yosh’s occasional hyperbole or misstatement. Where Yosh endorses the conspiracy theory that FDR knowingly allowed the attack on Pearl Harbor as a means of drawing the U.S. into war, Hansen supplies two pages of citations debunking the claim.

For factual accuracy, Art also called upon legal scholar Eric Muller to comb through the manuscript and make several corrections to points of history and law – what Art calls the “Muller critique.” Where Yosh faults the FPC steering committee for, in his view, neglecting to appeal the convictions of the rank-and-file resisters in the mass trail, Eric shows that unknown to Yosh two petitions were indeed filed.

This kind of dialogue over the facts of this history make a stand-alone reading of the Endnotes as engaging and informative as the memoir itself – a self-contained discourse on the finer points of the loyalty questionnaire, the draft, and other oft-misunderstood edicts handed down by the government.

Much credit is due to Yosh’s four daughters who worked on the manuscript and advocated for its publication. They made sure it did not remain, as Yosh came to view it, a self-published souvenir for family and friends.

It’s a compact volume and an easy read. Together with the recent publication of Nisei Naysayer: The Memoir of Militant Japanese American Journalist James Omura, also brilliantly edited by Art Hansen, we’re seeing the filling of critical gaps in the story of the largest organized resistance to wartime incarceration. Beyond the Betrayal is essential reading for students of incarceration history, and highly recommended for libraries and personal collections.

book review

For the Nichi Bei Café livestream on July 14, I spoke with editor Art Hansen about the resurgence of interest in camp resistance and his approach to vetting Yosh’s manuscript for publication. Watch it here:

At the University Press of Colorado website, you can download the books’sTable of Contents and a sample chapter.

More from the publisher: Beyond the Betrayal is a lyrically written memoir by Yoshito Kuromiya (1923–2018), a Nisei member of the Fair Play Committee (FPC), which was organized at the Heart Mountain concentration camp. The first book-length account by a Nisei World War II draft resister, this work presents an insider’s perspective on the FPC and the infamous trial condemning its members’ efforts. It offers not only a beautifully written account of an important moment in US history but also a rare acknowledgment of dissension within the resistance movement, both between the young men who went to prison and their older leaders and also among the young men themselves. Kuromiya’s narrative is enriched by contributions from Frank Chin, Eric L. Muller, and Lawson Fusao Inada.

Of the 300 Japanese Americans who resisted the military draft on the grounds that the US government had deprived them of their fundamental rights as US citizens, Kuromiya alone has produced an autobiographical volume that explores the short- and long-term causes and consequences of this fateful wartime decision. In his exquisitely written and powerfully documented testament he speaks truth to power, making evident why he is eminently qualified to convey the plight of the Nisei draft resisters. He perceptively reframes the wartime and postwar experiences of the larger Japanese American community, commonly said to have suffered in the spirit of shikata ga nai—enduring that which cannot be changed—and emerged with dignity.

Beyond the Betrayal makes abundantly clear that the unjustly imprisoned Nisei could and did exercise their patriotism even when they refused to serve in the military in the name of civil liberties and social justice. Kuromiya’s account, initially privately circulated only to family and friends, is an invaluable and insightful addition to the Nikkei historical record.

And finally, here’s a key clip from our raw interview with Yosh for Conscience and the Constitution:

National Day of Remembrance tops February events

As the month for the annual Day of Remembrance, February is always the busiest time of year for speaking requests. This year being the 80th anniversary of EO 9066, A friend counted 33 DOR events nationwide. I have nine on the books myself, a personal record, including four on February 19th.
Continue reading National Day of Remembrance tops February events

First preview of our forthcoming anthology of camp literature

For three years, Floyd Cheung of Smith College and I have been gathering pieces and building the outline for a new anthology of camp literature commissioned by the publisher of Penguin Classics. On Sunday I presented a preview of our work on translations of Issei writing in camp in Japanese, part of what the late Yuji Ichioka called “our buried past.” This video screen is cued to the start of that discussion:

Continue reading First preview of our forthcoming anthology of camp literature

“Setsuko’s Secret” and Paul Tsuneishi’s fight for our film

Setsuko's Secret coverThe story of camp resistance is now recognized as part of our wartime experience, but a new book reminds us that it’s only been 20 years from a time when the subject was taboo.

Here’s how I describe Shirley Higuchi’s new book, Setsuko’s Secret: Heart Mountain and the Legacy of the Japanese American Incarceration, when given the chance to read an early version of it last year.

“A rich and original story. Shirley Higuchi captures the sweeping narrative of incarceration through the lens of a single camp and ties it to our present reality. Her resolve as a daughter of the camps is Setsuko’s real legacy.”  — Frank Abe, director of Conscience and the Constitution

Continue reading “Setsuko’s Secret” and Paul Tsuneishi’s fight for our film

Interview with producers of new Densho podcast series

podcast logoIn two forthcoming books, I try to capture the epic arc of the camp experience — whether through the voices of characters in our graphic novel on camp resistance, or in the selections we choose for a new anthology of camp literature. Producers Hana and Noah Maruyama take much the same approach with their new Densho podcast series, which expertly weaves scores of sound bites into an aural tapestry to create the effect of a single voice conveying the shared experience of camp.

Campu is a remarkable feat of knowledge and editing. Listen to the first 48-minute episode, centered around “Rocks” as an object-based theme.

Continue reading Interview with producers of new Densho podcast series

Events coming up for the first half of 2019

Thanks to all who came to hear us speak in 2018. The schedule for the first half of 2019 is shaping up as an even busier one, with events for JOHN OKADA, CONSCIENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION, and a look back at the first Day of Remembrance.  For updates on this calendar, please always check the Upcoming Events page on the main menu. Continue reading Events coming up for the first half of 2019

“Resistance, Resettlement, and Redress”


Frank Abe at podiumI’m no lawyer, but I could not say no when the Case Western Reserve Law Review asked for a piece based on our EO9066 panel last November.

The symposium offered me the opportunity to revisit the McDonald Maternity Hospital in Cleveland where I was born, just a block from the Western Reserve campus, and explore my own pre-history of the postwar resettlement of my father out of Heart Mountain and into the Midwest. Continue reading “Resistance, Resettlement, and Redress”

In Memoriam: Yosh Kuromiya, the man who drew the line

Yosh Kuromiya

The last major Nisei figure interviewed in our film is gone. We are mourning the loss of Heart Mountain resister Yosh Kuromiya at the age of 95. Continue reading In Memoriam: Yosh Kuromiya, the man who drew the line

The “Drunk History” of the Fair Play Committee

We’ll have whatever Randall Park is drinking! “Drunk History” is a weekly, half-hour series on Comedy Central where historical reenactments by A-list talent are presented by inebriated storytellers.

On June 19, tune in for a wild and woozy retelling of the resistance of Frank Emi and the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. Now millions will know the name of the FPC and its battle cry: “No more shikataganai!”

Continue reading The “Drunk History” of the Fair Play Committee

What #Resistance Means Now

Smokey the Bear raising a fistDocumenting the history of Japanese American incarceration, and the resistance to incarceration, was always important, but it remained just that — history, something good to know about, to make sure that mass exclusion on the basis of race “never happens again in America.” But when rangers in the National Park Service have to go undergound, and Smokey the Bear is raising a fist in flames, you know something has gone terribly wrong.

We have just passed the tipping point and now live with an authoritarian American government. #Resistance is a trending hashtag. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich posts a daily “Resistance Report” on YouTube. Former sportscaster Keith Olberman rebrands his show on GQ as “The Resistance.” Reuters is instructing its reporters how to cover the new Administration as if it were a banana republic. And the story of the Heart Mountain resisters is getting renewed attention.

KUOW logoThanks to host Bill Radke and producer Shane Mehling for having me on Seattle’s NPR affiliate today, on KUOW’s “The Record,” to connect the Japanese American resistance to the current actions in the streets. Here’s a link to the full 11-minute conversation, which has been well-received. As I said to Bill, I feel both validated that the Fair Play Committee is getting recognized, and appalled that we are now talking about a very real threat to Muslim Americans and Mexican Americans for the purpose of fulfilling a campaign promise to a resurgent white nationalism.
Continue reading What #Resistance Means Now