Category Archives: Teachers

Forums in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Two educational forums are coming up in California this spring.

At the Japanese American National Museum, its affiliated National Center for the Preservation of Democracy is preparing to open this fall. Our full-color poster and ITVS Viewers Guide for Conscience and the Constitution will be on display at two Educator Preview workshops on April 21 and April 23 aimed at helping Southern California instructors, as one workshop promises, “capitalize on young people’s idealism while addressing their disengagement from civic institutions.”

Thanks to Teacher Programs Manager Allyson Nakamoto for including our materials on the resource tables, and for including our profiles and photos of Fair Play Committee members Ben Wakaye and Gloria Kubora, from our PBS Online site, in the activity cards for their forthcoming “Tool Kit” for teaching democracy and civic action, called “Fighting for Democracy.”

On June 2 logo for California Civil Liberties Public Education Programwill screen in San Francisco at the “Notice To All” symposium sponsored by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, a 4-day conference intended to acknowledge all the projects that program funded and get participants to help map out a course for its future.

Producer/director Frank Abe will also be speaking on a panel from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. titled “Dissidence: Resisters and Renunciants” that will also feature scholar Eric Muller, author of Free to Die For Their Country, and some first-person testimonies from Nisei who chose, under wartime duress, to protest by renouncing their U.S. citizenship. More details later as the schedule shapes up.

William Hohri questions legality of drafting Japanese Americans from camp

For the past several months, writer William Hohri has been developing the theory that it was illegal under the Selective Service Act of 1940 for the U.S. government to draft young Japanese American inmates while in the custody of the War Relocation Authority.

He published his argument in the January 2005 issue of The Objector, in an article titled, “Free Us Before You Draft Us.” He writes, “Someone was violating the law. And it was not the resisters. It’s about time we recognized this.”

William shares with us a talk for today that he says for one reason or another was undelivered:

Day of Remembrance – UC Santa Barbara – 2005

For the purposes of this talk, I’d like to change “Day of Remembrance” to “Day of Reconsideration.” Of course, we have already reconsidered the name of the camps from “Relocation Center” to “internment camp” or “concentration camp” or “prison camp.” I would like us to reconsider the military conscription of young men from the camps. Was it legal? Was military service via the draft an act of patriotism by the draftee or an act of illegality by our government?

In entry 5 of the IV-F classification section of the Selective Service Act of 1940, one reads this requirement, (I quote) “Is being retained in the custody of criminal jurisdiction or other civil authority.” (End of quote.) [emphasis mine] Were we internees “being retained in the custody of . . . other civil authority”? If we were, we should have been classified IV-F, as unsuited for military service. We were, instead, classified I-A, as suited to take subsequent steps, including the physical examination, to be accepted or rejected for military service. Most of the draft resisters resisted by refusing to take their physical exams.

Well, had we been retained in the custody of civil authority? The first place I looked for my answer was in my dog-eared, nth Xeroxed copy of The Evacuated People: A Quantitative Description, written by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the War Relocation Authority.

Section one begins with, (I quote) “Some 120,313 persons of Japanese descent came under the custody of the War Relocation Authority between May 8, 1942 (the date the Colorado River Relocation Center opened) and March 20, 1946 (the date Tule Lake closed).” (End of quote) So according to our government, the War Relocation Authority, had served as “other civil authority” that had held us in its custody. Hence, the draft age men should have been classified IV-F and not been draft eligible until they were no longer being held in camp and were living in free America.

Of course, the definition for this custody resides in Executive Order 9066 plus one of two Public Proclamations. Why the Public Proclamations? Well, if you read E.O.9066 carefully, you will notice that it only seems to order exclusion. The powers of the President of the United States delegates the power (I quote) “to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” (End of quote)

Note that the main verbal expression is “may be excluded.” This is followed by legally undefined subordinate verbs, “to enter, remain in, or leave.” Of course, we remember E.O. 9066 by remembering it on or near the date of its being signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. But the subordinate verbs are implemented and legally defined in two Public Proclamations, number 8 and WD-1. WD-1 seems to be the most precise and does implement “to enter,” “remain in,” and “leave.” (Note: proclamation 8 applied to camps within the jurisdiction of the Western Defense Command, while WD-1 applied to camps further inland in the states of Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas.) These proclamations were published several months later in August and October of 1942.

[Please note in advance of the following quotation that “War Relocation Project Areas” is the term used for “camp sites.”]

Paragraph b of WD-1 states, “All persons of Japanese ancestry . . . are required to remain within the bounds of said War Relocation Project Areas are required to remain within the bounds of said War Relocation Project Areas at all times unless specifically authorized to leave . . . .”

Thus, when E.O.9066 is combined with these proclamations, the relocation centers become detention camps. And the inmates of the camps are being held in the custody of the U.S. government and their young men should have been classified IV-F.

So, on this Day of Reconsideration, we should reconsider what it meant when 315 draft resisters tried to challenge the propriety of conscripting young men into military service after forcing them, with their families, into detention camps. They were charged with committing an illegality and punished accordingly. This is how most of us felt for the last 60 years. But they were, in fact, not violating the Selective Service Act of 1940. It was our government that was committing the illegality.

Review: “Born in the USA” by Frank Chin

cover of Born in the USAMy review of Frank Chin’s book on the resistance, Born in the USA, is now published in the special “A Tribute to Miné Okubo” issue of Amerasia Journal, Volume 30:2, 2004. It is available for $13 per issue plus tax and $4 handling from: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 3230 Campbell Hall, Box 951546, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1546. For more information, call (310) 825-2968, e-mail [email protected] or visit the center’s Web site.

By special permission, you can also read it here:

A story told in Born in the USA has journalists James Omura and Larry Tajiri prowling the hills of pre-war San Francisco late at night, dreaming about which of them would write “The Great Nisei Novel.” It would be an epic that spanned the immigration of their Issei parents and the appearance of the second-generation Nisei as a new breed of American.

Little did they know how war with Japan would soon interrupt that social progress and place them on opposite sides of Japanese America’s response to expulsion and incarceration: whether to cooperate or resist.

Read the rest of the review. I would love to hear your response to the review or the book itself. Just use the Contact Us link above or leave a Comment below.

Five scripts for staged readings from Frank Chin

Writer and scholar Frank Chin is offering you, as readers of this site, a series of scripts that boldly bring to life issues of Japanese American art and literature, all tied tightly around the questions of loyalty, betrayal and resistance in WW2.

Frank says the scripts can be read or performed in class, and used in conjunction with his recent compilation of oral history, research and original insight, Born in the USA. You can download them here as Adobe Acrobat files [requires free Adobe Reader] and print them out just as they came out of his Powerbook.

The first script serves as an introduction to the series. They are framed as proposals for a conference at the Japanese American National Museum. He suggests using actors for the readings.

[update July 2012: Keep in mind these are imaginative works based on facts, and as I pointed out in my review of Frank’s book, be sure you know which part is fact and which part springs from his imagination. While some sections quote actual documents, articles, and interviews, other selections may not be actual interviews. I just had to warn one writer not to quote from the Chiye Mori monologue as if they were her words from an actual interview; it is not.]

Chin is also drumming up support for publication and distribution of a resisters newsletter. He points out that 2004 is the 60th anniversary of the institution of Selective Service for the Nisei inside the camps, the rise of draft resistance inside 8 of the ten camps, the formation of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, and their arrests, trials, convictions, and the start of their prison terms.

As he puts it, “The object is to prod Japanese America into taking over their history, art, and Japanese American criticism.”

Resisters panel at Organization of American Historians conference

Resisters panel at OAH conference
(left to right) Dean Hashimoto, Cherstin Lyon, Frank Emi, Frank Chin, and Art Hansen at Boston Public Library

About 40 people turned out on March 27 at the Boston Public Library for what sounds like a spirited panel on the resisters, as part of the Organization of American Historians annual conference.

Frank Emi speaking
Frank Emi speaking at Boston Public Library

Click on the images to see enlarged views of the panel and of Frank Emi speaking. Frank Emi’s daughter, Kathleen, provided the photos.

Read the full workshop description or download a printable press release. Thanks to Cherstin Lyon from the University of Arizona for distributing our posters and fliers there and for sending this update:

Frank Chin delivered an animated presentation about the literature and cultural treatment of Japanese in the white press, novels and music before the war setting up pre-war racism. He discussed the early rifts between people like Mike Masaoka and James Omura over how AJAs should respond to the war and proposals for evacuation and internment.

Frank Emi delivered his own personal take on the costs (both economic and personal) of evacuation, and the events and circumstances that led him to resist the draft. He ended with his experiences in prison, mentioned others he met in prison and ended with a bit on the JACL apology, reiterating that the JACL should issue an apology to all AJAs for their role in the entire evacuation process. If the United States government could do it, why not them?

I introduced the lesser known resisters, those who resisted as individuals and posed the question — why both during the war and after did some criticize those who resisted as individuals of just dodging the draft? For wasting their time? For committing acts of lawlessness that would have no great effect at all? I compared the full range of resistance to the abolitionists before the Civil War and related the actions of all who resisted internment — no-no boys, strikers, petitioners, resisters — to the “revolutionary tradition” in America. I ended with stories about the Hopi draft resisters those Nisei resisters from Topaz and Amache and even Gordon Hirabayashi himself met in prison and explained how the Hopis welcomed the resisters into their “family” symbolically with a hair-washing ceremony.

Dean Hashimoto ended with his own personal understanding of internment as a child of a Nisei who had been interned at Amache. A Sansei himself, Hashimoto learned in school that internment was justified and just, which both disturbed and puzzled him. He worked as a law student on the Korematsu case in the 1980s and explained that despite the ruling of a lower court, the Korematsu case is still technically “good” law. He urged the audience that we should never forget that it is like a loaded weapon waiting to be used and related the importance of remembering internment and continuing the conversation to the current political situation with enemy combatants, the USA Patriot Act and the continued survival of Korematsu.

The discussion that followed was engaging and at times heated. Some high school teachers mentioned the importance of teaching the story to their students, a former internee expressed his reluctance about the tone of the panel that seemed to demonize the JACL and suggested that we all be forgiving of wartime misjudgments (this received some fairly heated responses from Chin). One audience member insisted that there were no concentration camps, only benign ” relocation centers” which turned into a shouting match which Art Hansen quickly brought back under control and redirected the conversation. And one student, who was quite taken by the story of the Hopi resisters’ alliance with the Nisei resisters wanted to know on a more personal level how much fluidity there was between those who resisted and those who served in the military which opened up interesting responses and stories where individual families were divided over their decisions and responses to the draft.

Over all, the session was quite productive and the audience stayed a full extra half hour to discuss the issues and finally had to be kicked out of the library as it had already closed.

Day of Remembrance 2004 screenings

Screenings are set this Tuesday, Feb. 3, at the Rockridge Branch Library in Oakland and around Feb. 14 in New York City for their Day of Remembrance ceremony. The Oakland screening is sponsored by the “Not In Our Name” anti-military campaign and accompanied with a group discussion.

Mr. and Mrs. Mits KoshiyamaI want to thank resister Mits Koshiyama and his wife (right) for coming to the funeral of my sister Patricia on Jan. 25 at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. Pat passed away on Jan. 18 after a lengthy illness. Mits drove up from San Jose to offer comfort, and his presence meant so much to me.

John Streamas writes from Bowling Green that a memorial service has been set for Nisei poet Toyo Suyemoto, “on the early afternoon of Saturday, March 6, probably on the campus of the Ohio State University.”

Details are now online for the Feb. 20-21 symposium hosted by the University of Oregon’s Center for Critical Theory and Transnational Studies. The panel, “Japanese-American Internment and Its Contemporary Implications,” features an opening talk by writer Frank Chin and a panel on camp experiences with Chin, Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leader Frank Emi, Jim Hirabayashi, younger brother of curfew violator and draft resister Gordon Hirabayashi, Ashland poet Lawson Inada, and Peggy Nagae. Chin writes that he will “be making presentations on the JACL betrayal of civil rights and the resisters who went to court in defense of civil rights.” His newest book, Born in the USA, draws from interviews conducted for Conscience and the Constitution and his other years of extensive research. The book is not carried in bookstores but you can order it online from by using this link. Our review of the book is scheduled for publication in the fall issue of Amerasia Journal. Incidentally, Frank’s landmark play Year of the Dragon has just been issued on DVD; the best price I’ve seen is online is nearly half off list price by using this link to Deep Discount DVD.