Guest post by contributor Martha Nakagawa. This is a longer version of the obituary which will appear in the Nikkei press. Martha writes: “Cedrick passed away at White Memorial Hospital but it was not related to the COVID-19 virus. Hope everyone is holding up under these strange times.”
Cedrick Masaki Shimo, a World War II military resister and an executive at American Honda Motors, USA, passed away peacefully on April 1. He was 100.
Shimo was the only child born to Tamori and Yoshiko Urakami Shimo, both from Okayama, Japan. However, Shimo’s maternal family was originally from the Kagoshima region and had fought alongside Saigo Takamori.
Shimo was born in Heber, Calif., in the Imperial Valley. At the time, his father was running a sizable cotton farm in the Imperial Valley but when the price of cotton collapsed, the family moved to Boyle Heights, where Cedrick grew up in a multi-cultural neighborhood, surrounded by Japanese, Russians, Mexicans, Italians, Jews and African Americans. He also lived in Japan for about a year.
His father found employment with the Rafu Shimpo newspapers but moved on to selling insurance and later fertilizer. He also started teaching kendo at the Evergreen park gymnasium, while his mother taught Japanese at the Nichiren temple, where Cedrick also attended Japanese language classes.
When Chuo Gakuen was built, his father moved his kendo classes to the Chuo Gakuen auditorium where Shimo assisted his father as an assistant kendo instructor. Shimo was also involved with Chuo Gakuen’s Boy Scout Troup 197, which was just as big as the more well-known Koyasan Boy Scout Troup 379. Shimo’s other love was baseball, and he was part of the Cougar’s baseball team.
After graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1937, he enrolled at UCLA. When he became president of the UCLA Japanese American Business Students Club, he spearheaded a project that sent out questionnaires to 75 American firms, asking them if they’d hire a qualified Japanese graduate. The responses were discouraging. For example, Bank of America replied that they would never hire a Japanese, except for the Little Tokyo branch. These answers were published in the Rafu Shimpo newspaper.
The questionnaire was an eye opener for Shimo, and he decided he wanted to pursue Japan-America relations so he was set to enroll in Keio University after he graduated from UCLA. However, just about that time, Congress passed a law that prevented men of military age from leaving the country. As a result, Shimo pursued graduate studies in international relations at UC Berkeley.
On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, Shimo was working on his thesis in which he noted that the U.S. had passed an oil embargo against Japan. He felt this move might force Japan to attempt to take over the oil fields of Borneo. He never imagined that Japan would attack Pearl Harbor.
Shimo was also taking two courses at UCLA related to Japan, one of which was a political science course taught by a Caucasian. He recalled that a lot of the Caucasian students went on to work in Washington DC as Japan “experts.” And although these Caucasian students held similar opinions as Shimo, since he was a Japanese American, his views were considered “pro-Japan.”
On Dec. 8, the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, Shimo received his draft notice from the Los Angeles draft board. When he went to the train depot, however, to try to purchase a train ticket home, they would not sell him a ticket even after he showed them the draft summons. As a result, Shimo hitchhiked from Berkeley down to Los Angeles to be inducted into the military.
When Shimo was going through basic training, the Army had not yet segregated the Japanese Americans from the other men. Shimo even led some of the close order drills since he had training from the Boy Scouts and ROTC at UCLA.
While he was still going through basic training, Shimo received a letter from his mother, informing him that his father had been picked up by the FBI.
After basic training, Shimo was not issued a weapon but sent to a station hospital at Camp Grant. There, Shimo was promoted to corporal, and since Shimo showed leadership abilities, his captain attempted to promote Shimo further but was stymied. His captain later told him that he was unable to promote Shimo because he was under observation due to his father’s case.
In March of 1942, a major came, asking for volunteers for the Military Intelligence Service. Shimo decided to volunteer and was transferred to Camp Savage in Minnesota. He was the second class at Camp Savage. After taking an aptitude test, Shimo was placed in the advance class, which was a three-month class rather than a six-month class. He was only one of two Nisei in the class. The rest were Kibei.
When news reached the MIS soldiers that Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were being forcibly removed, Shimo took a furlough to help his mother pack and dispose of property, and then returned to Camp Savage.
The MIS soldiers were given another two weeks of furlough just before their graduation ceremony. Shimo requested to visit his mother, who, by then, was incarcerated at the Manzanar War Relocation Authority camp. However, Shimo’s application was denied. He was told that Japanese Americans were now excluded from the West Coast, although he was serving in the US military. This angered Shimo. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t go visit his mother before shipping overseas to fight for the U.S.
Around that time, Shimo was given the loyalty questionnaire. Although Shimo answered that he was loyal to the U.S., he said he was no longer willing to serve wherever ordered. He also wrote a letter to his commanding officer that although he would like to remain in the MIS, he was no longer willing to go overseas. This got Shimo kicked out of the MIS.
Since the government didn’t know what to do with soldiers such as Shimo, he was initially transferred to Fort Leavenworth where he worked in the motor pool department. In total, 20 soldiers from Shimo’s entire MIS school were kicked out.
Shortly after, Shimo was given orders to transfer to the 525 Quartermasters Corp., which were comprised of American soldiers of German, Italian and Japanese descent. Shimo, who up until then had the ranking of corporal, was also demoted to private like all the others who had ended up in the 525.
From there, the government formed the 1800th Engineer General Service Battalion.
While in the military, Shimo got promoted to Private First Class three times and got busted down three times because he would be given a brief questionnaire and each time, he would refuse to serve wherever ordered.
During an interrogation, an intelligence officer asked Shimo, “If Japan invaded the United States, which side would you fight for?” Shimo told him “I’ll fight for whichever side is defending the camps (where Japanese Americans were incarcerated).” This answer did not please the interviewing officer, and Shimo was never cleared to leave the 1800th.
Once the war was over, each 1800th soldier was given a special hearing. Shimo was among those who were honorably discharged. Shimo also interpreted for the Kibei soldiers at the discharge hearings, and he noted that a lot of the Kibei were given without honor discharges (blue) and some were dishonorably discharged. Continue reading In Memoriam: Cedrick Shimo, military resister