Wyoming Public Radio interview

Open Spaces on Wyoming Public RadioYou can listen online to our June 30 interview with Wyoming Public Radio on the Heart Mountain draft resisters. The program is “Open Spaces” — a great title for a series produced in Buffalo Bill country — and they called on the occasion of the formal dedication of Heart Mountain as a National Historic Landmark.

Thanks to host Kristin Espeland. The piece is 8:49 long.


Sam Horino in Time Magazine, 1942

Sam Horino in 1944We are learning more about Sam Horino, one of the seven leaders of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. A nephew of his contacted us from Chicago, uncertain as to whether it was his uncle featured in this April 6, 1942, story that Time Magazine has put online, “Moving Day for Mr. Nisei(now requires subscription).

Son Isamu Horino, 26, is a tough, wiry Nisei boy with a shock of unkempt hair and a stubborn jaw. He never did like the way white citizens treated him. (But he went to school in Japan for a while, did not like the way yellow men treated him either.) Rebel Isamu decided a few years ago to make a lot of money just to prove he was “as damn good as a white.”

Said Isamu: “I decided if I was going to be a bastard, I’d be a first-class bastard. . . . I figured I could beat a big bunch of white gardeners out of their business. I did. I acted just like a white man, but I did it better, and my gardens are the best in town.” Isamu paid more than $1,000 in income taxes this year; owned four trucks, a half-dozen power-mowers; had three full-time assistants—two Japs and a Mexican; hired white college boys for part-time work. Said Isamu Horino: “Why should we support anything in this country with a whole heart? I don’t mean any of us give a damn about Japan. We hope they get licked. But . . . nobody ever let us become a real part of this country. . . . If they want to take away all we’ve got and dump us out in the desert, we’ve got no choice. But we don’t like it. . . . And we’re expected to buy bonds, too. Not me!”

Sam Horino in 1993Yes, that’s the voice of Sam Horino, and what the article fails to mention is how when soldiers showed up at his home in Hollywood to force him out, he refused to comply and made them carry him out in their arms. That’s the spirit of resistance that led Sam to later lead the Constitutional challenge to incarceration inside Heart Mountain, alongside Frank Emi, Kiyoshi Okamoto, Paul Nakadate, Guntaro Kubota, Min Tamesa, and treasurer Ben Wakaye.

“Watada’s epiphany”

Filmmaker Curtis Choy has just posted a shorter 2:38 excerpt from his online film Watada, Resister. This one he calls “Watada’s epiphany” and in it Heart Mountain resistance leader Frank Emi asks 1st. Lt. Ehren Watada why he enlisted in the first place.

Undaunted by an initial mistrial, the Army on Friday refiled charges against Watada. See the Seattle Times and Seattle P-I coverage of this development.

Film: “Watada, Resister” by Curtis Choy

Thanks for visiting this site if you’ve come here after viewing “Watada, Resister” on YouTube or MySpace. Click on the video screen to see what’s billed as “The historic meeting of young Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq, and WW2 resisters.”

It was produced and edited by filmmaker Curtis Choy on Jan. 27, 2007, as a way of connecting Lt. Watada with the Nisei draft resisters who he describes as an “inspiration” and who in this video express their pride in him and their support for Watada’s own principled stand. You will see and hear Heart Mountain resistance leader Frank Emi, draft resister Yosh Kuromiya, and their friend Paul Tsuneishi. If you look carefully you can see the poster for our film, Conscience and the Constitution, in Frank Emi’s living room behind Yosh.

Listen in particular to Watada’s measured and thoughtful challenge to all Americans to decide where they stand on the war, and one’s moral obligation to act if you do have a stand. He emerges in the video as a remarkable young man. Give it a listen.

As Yosh says in his prepared statement, the judge in his case in 1944 ruled that the 63 young Heart Mountain boys could not raise the unconstitutionality of mass incarceration as a defense in their trial for draft resistance. The jury could only rule on whether or not they failed to report for induction, and convicted the lot.

2021 CLARIFICATION: Read this interview in Amerasia Journal from 2007 on “Curtis Choy & the Making of Watada, Resister.”

Lucy Ostrander and Don Sellers of Stourwater Pictures shot the video and audio of Watada from the Seattle end of the phone call. Curtis Choy shot the call from the Los Angeles side, with sound by John Oh.

Ehren Watada and the Heart Mountain resisters

Lt. Ehren Watada, U.S. Military photoIn 1944 U.S. District Court Judge T. Blake Kennedy in Wyoming ruled 63 young Heart Mountain boys could not raise the unconstitutionality of mass incarceration as a defense in their trial for draft resistance. The jury could only rule on whether or not they failed to report for induction, and convicted the lot.

In 2007, although the cases are different, a military judge at Fort Lewis south of Seattle ruled this week that Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada can not raise the legality of the war in Iraq as a defense for his refusal to deploy there. The Seattle Times article has links to court documents in Watada’s court-martial trial. See also the Seattle P-I.

By the way, did you see the howler on the season premiere of “24” on Jan. 14? Under siege from terrorist attacks, in a terse exchange on the legal precedents for locking up American Muslims in concentration camps, “President Wayne Palmer” bemoaned how “Roosevelt imprisoned over 200,000 Japanese Americans in what most historians consider to be a shameful mistake.” Where were the fact-checkers? S.I. Hayakawa would have cried “semantic inflation.” What was troubling, though, was the next line of dialogue: “Well I would ask those historians how many of those Japanese Americans were thus prevented from perpetrating acts of sabotage in this country?” The answer, of course, is exactly none.

“Japan Focus” online journal

Japan Focus logoAn online journal called Japan Focus (“regional and global perspectives on politics, economics, society, history & culture”) has posted a new article that references our film and draws some material from our PBS Online site and this one, including our photos of Frank Emi in camp and Mits Koshiyama in court.

Japanese-American Incarceration Resistance Narratives, and the Post 9/11 Era” opens with a quote from James Omura and examines our film and Satsuki Ina’s remarkable From A Silk Cocoon in the context of “fifty years of Japanese American counternarratives challenging prevailing views about the incarceration experience.”

Author Jean Miyake Downey says:

“Many thanks for your inspiration and sharing news of inspiring resisters during this time when we need to speak out again… My background is in the African American Civil Rights Movement/Solidarity Movement in Poland (nonviolent social change movements) and, growing up in the 1970’s and not graduating from law school until 1988, in Florida, I bought the official versions of the incarceration, even though they smacked “false” to me.

“Before the age of internet, I remember seeing very little about the redress movement and Civil Liberties Act in the paper, and the takes were spinned, to minimize important aspects of the history. Of course, I knew about Fred Korematsu, but nothing about the FPC and other protesters.”

Frank Chin also sent a 29-page script for what looks to be a proposed staged reading involving himself and the Heart Mountain resisters:

“Here’s a piece linking the camp resistance that began with Hirababyashi, the draft resisters and Ehren Watada.”


Read it online, unedited, as a PDF document.

The case of Ehren Watada

Lt. Ehren Watada, U.S. Military photoThe case of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who has refused deployment to Iraq in principled protest against what he believes is an illegal war of occupation, has led many to compare his stand to that of the WW2 Nisei draft resisters.

Watada himself made the link in his comments to Ben Hamamoto of the Nichi Bei Times:

As a Japanese American, Watada sees historical parallels between himself and those who resisted the World War II incarceration. “(The resisters) said ‘we’re Japanese American’ and we are part of this country no matter what the president says. They faced ostracization and imprisonment, but it was shown many years later that they were correct… What I’m doing is no different.”

The parallel is not precise. The Heart Mountain resisters did not object to fighting in WW2, only to the unconstitutionality of the forced incarceration of themselves and their families. But as I talked this week with John Iwasaki when he called from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, it hit me that the resisters and Lt. Watada do share this one similarity: both put themselves on the line to object to actions by their government. Iwasaki was localizing a wire story, “Japanese Americans criticize Watada,” reporting a joint statement from 9 Japanese American veterans groups to publicly denounce Watada for disrespecting “a legacy of military service by Japanese American soldiers dating back to World War II.”

“No Japanese Americans did anything like that, and that is why Japanese Americans are so upset,” (Robert) Wada said, (a charter president of the Japanese American Korean War Veterans). “He is doing something that has never been done by Japanese Americans.”

That’s not exactly the case, said Seattle resident Frank Abe. He produced “Conscience and the Constitution,” a documentary about Japanese Americans who resisted the World War II draft because they and their families were held in internment camps for years after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Wada is “overlooking the fact that 315 Japanese Americans in World War II resisted the draft as a means of protesting the forced incarceration of their families,” Abe said Wednesday.

Read the full article in the Seattle P-I.

In Memoriam: Mako

I froze when I saw the subject line of Frank Chin’s e-mail. This sad news speaks for itself:


Mako died today at his home in Somis, in Ventura County. He was known by his first name only, and used his mother’s surname Iwamatsu. His sister Momo Yashima was with him when he breathed his last. Neither he nor his wife Susie wants a funeral or a memorial, or any kind of service. He was the son of activist anti-militarist painters Taro Yashima and Mitsu Iwamatsu, who fled Japan before WWII. Mako was a sickly child and left with his grandparents in Japan. The story of Taro reunitijng with Mako after the war is told in Taro Yashima’s “picture book,” HORIZON IS CALLING.

Actors who worked with him and those who were trained by him or worked under his direction who feel him in their work may want to get together and get roaring drunk. I don’t know. He spoke at Steve McQueen’s passing, the star of THE SAND PEBBLES, Mako’s first movie that won him an Oscar nomination. I had mixed feelings about RISING SUN with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes, but saw this as one of Mako’s best, most textured performances. He wasn’t a bad guy or the butt of a joke. He played an executive of a corporation who loved golf. Perhaps because of his love of golf, he was very good.

If anyone out there wants a Mako film fest and get drunk, be sure to let me know. Asian-American art and culture has lost an inspiration to writers and actors, and art may have lost the only Asian with guts enough to put his talent where his vision is. He was an Asian American who could rough and tumble instead crawl and bat their eyes. This bottle is for you, Mako.

— Frank Chin

Mako believed in our film project on the resisters and lent his name to our fundraising efforts. He graciously provided the voice of the “resister singing in jail” that is heard in our film. He was proud of the connection he made about the song that should accompany the handwritten verses of “Song of Cheyenne,” which we found preserved in the wallet of resister James Kado.

Mako championed the language and dialogue of John Okada’s No-No Boy as the authentic speech of postwar Nisei he wanted to hear more of in American film. In the movie about the resisters, I always wanted him to play Guntaro Kubota, the Issei leader who risked his freedom to help the young boys fight unfair conscription from camp.

He will be deeply missed.

Manzanar Committee apologizes for guest speaker Frank Chin

The bad boy of Asian American letters has done it again. The Manzanar Committee has discovered what the Organization of Chinese Americans and the Northwest Asian American Film Festival learned before them.

Frank Chin may make for a lousy guest, and I didn’t hear exactly what he said, but I think characterizing his legitimate points as “name-calling” diminishes what he had to say and the intelligence of their constituency:

The Manzanar Committee expresses their deepest apologies to those who were offended by remarks made by Frank Chin, one of the speakers at the 37th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage.

Though the intention and focus clearly communicated to Chin in the Committee’s invitation was to focus on his central role with beginning the annual Day of Remembrance and being part of a Pan-Asian movement that supported redress as well as encouraging youth today to become more politically aware and informed, Chin departed from this intention when he resorted to name calling against the Japanese American Citizens League and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

These are views which may reflect those of Chin but not the Manzanar Committee.

Read the entire, indignant news release from the Manzanar Committee.

Remembering Japanese American redress at the University of Washington

You know you’ve come a long ways when the things you did in your youth come back as “history.”

Join us at the University of Washington this Friday, April 28, for a day-long forum on “Remembering Japanese American Redress: A Symposium on History, Incarceration, and Justice.” I’ll be showing two surviving TV news clips from the first “Day of Remembrance” in 1978 and projecting photos and news clippings demonstrating the news coverage we earned that showed Japanese Americans nationwide that no mob would attack if they spoke up and stood for redress.

I’ll be speaking at two screenings of CONSCIENCE coming up: “Friday Night At The Meaningful Movies” for the Wallingford Neighbors for Peace and Justice, May 5, 2006, at Keystone Church in Seattle, and Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup, Washington, on May 12.

The history and literature of Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration

%d bloggers like this: