W.T. Wimpy Hiroto
“ M i s re m e m bered” has become a part of our everyday lexicon, thanks to the recent [failing]memories of Hillary Clinton and Roger Clements. It’s one thing for a fading athlete to ‘fess up to a falsehood but a secretary of state to be shouldn’t be put in such an embarrassing situation. Yet stretching the truth is allowed during political campaigns but not during a congressional hearing.
As for us everyday folks, we can redraw our lines as befits the situation. How many people don’t lie, they just tend to exaggerate? Or underplay? We are too often subjected to pleas of mercy for past crimes and wrongdoings. As if time and fading memories lessen the impact and import of a sin.
Do not kid thyself. This reverse mechanism we all possess and put into gear at self-serving, opportune moments.
Thus CR2S read with great interest news accounts of the recent Tule Lake gathering of former residents, neighbors, observers and the usual gaggle of historians and politicians. It was the lesser known of two California internment camps (Manzanar the other), the largest of ten scattered throughout the western states. And the most easily forgotten as well as infamous.
Tule Lake was designated a segregation center; a camp to be filled by those wishing to return to Japan. It reached a population of more than 17,000, a number that shocked U.S. authorities who initially planned on only a sufficient census to cover exchanging prisoners of war with the Japanese government. The unexpected influx was partially due to results of the so-called “Loyalty Oath,” an ill-worded questionnaire that resulted in the limbo of “No-No” responses by draft-eligibles. The surprising number who declared loyalty to their mother country caused the total to burgeon as family units vowed to remain intact despite the citizenship status of the offspring, most wanting to remain in America. Add to this milieu the transfer of *Kibei renunciants from the other nine centers and you had an incendiary situation that was a recipe for violence.
[*The term Kibei was applied to Nisei who were sent to Japan for their formal education, returning to the United States because of a looming war. There were many who couldn’t speak English. A very vocal minority in each center was able to instigate work stoppages in Manzanar and Poston as well as orchestrate campaigns to intimidate residents from cooperating with War Relocation Authority (WRA). The term “inu” (dog), casting suspicion on those who allegedly cooperated, became a label of derision. Their most audacious act was a midnight attack on (then) National JACL President Saburo Kido in his Camp II family apartment.
The anticipated Tule Lake clash erupted in the spring of 1943 with the Army being called in to quell the uprising.
By this time the camp had become a major source of agricultural crops servicing the needs of other internment camps and the insurrection threatened the harvesting season. An emergency call for farm hands was issued by the WRA. Poston immediately supplied the most volunteer crews while Manzanar strangely did not respond.
Irony abounded during the crisis. A barbed wire enclosure surrounded the malcontents with armed MPs patrolling the perimeter. A second separation was erected to provide a safe zone between peaceful residents and the trouble makers. Yet another protected fortification was built for the volunteer farm worker compound to their protect them from the other two sides of the triangle. As one worker declared upon returning home, “They issued us four blankets as extra combat compensation.”
I bring up these seldom mentioned sour notes of yore for a reason.
Although rightfully proud of the fact there was not a single act of espionage or sabotage perpetrated by Nisei during World War II, are we talking about 100 percent patriotism or luck? And not to jump to the conclusion that CR2S is implying that Kibei and No-Nos were prime concerns. Some of my most revealing interviews have delved into the unenviable plight of men without a country. [Plus a memorable exchange with a Kamikaze pilot.]
The Koikes of Poston Block 53 are examples of adult renunciants who somehow survived the consequences of a double-barreled war: Roy, a Christian youth leader; Terry, a talented basketball player. Wartime Japan was not a place to be for Nisei. An unnamed Kibei refused to change his no-no answers, even when offered a second chance. Yet he eventually enlisted for the Korean War and was honorably discharged. There were those who declared unabashed loyalty—to Japan—and paid the price. What about those who were rabid supporters but chose to remain silent?
Sublime to the ridiculous: Poston Unit I reunion goers please do not have an anxiety attack. CR2S made an error last week (astounding) in regards closing banquet date. It will be held Tuesday evening, Sept. 29, not Wednesday. But I will remain your devoted greeter. Win some, lose one.
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.