LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Mike Masaoka and ‘Allegiance’

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To the Producers of “Allegiance”:

Many of us in Mike Masaoka’s family had strong disagreements with him, but we are deeply disappointed in the way that the play “Allegiance” treats not only Mike, but also treats the viewpoint held by many of those interned in camp — that support for the American war effort was in fact the right thing to do.

Paolo Montalban as Mike Masaoka in the San Diego premiere of "Allegiance." (Photo by Henry DiRocco)

Paolo Montalban as Mike Masaoka in the San Diego premiere of “Allegiance.” (Photo by Henry DiRocco)

More than 60 years after the event, we in the Japanese American community are still letting Questions 27 and 28 divide us, when the entire incarceration experience should be one that unites us. Our families were put in difficult, impossible conditions, and people made various decisions for differing motives and reasoning. All of them — including Mike — were victims struggling to find actions that reflected their values and their hopes for the future.

We should also remember that in addition to seeing service in the U.S. military as a way to reduce prejudice against their children, many Japanese American servicemen were progressives who did so as part the international progressive war effort against fascism.

As the producers revise the play, we have asked them to take a broader spirit of understanding the community dynamics in those times, and as part of that to fictionalize the name of the Mike Masaoka character, as was done with all the other names in the play.

Our community’s experience with internment should not be causing conflict among us, but should be uniting us in appreciation what our families went through, and energize us to fight against injustices today.

The Masaoka Family

Jan Masaoka (San Francisco)

Mark Masaoka (Los Angeles)

Miya Masaoka (New York)

Mariko Masaoka Drew (San Francisco)

Mayumi Masaoka (Los Angeles)

Tawon Saetang (Los Angeles)

Dan Masaoka (San Francisco)

Grant Masaoka (Cerritos)

Ben Masaoka (Seattle)

JoAnn  and Dave Van Atta (Menlo Park)

Lynn Hartnett (Hawaii)

Eileen Nakano (Los Angeles)

Phil Masaoka (Culver City)

George Masaoka (Thailand)

Alan Masaoka (Carmel Valley)

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2 Comments

  1. Takasumi A Kojima on

    I sympathies with the various members of the Mike Masaoka family. It is very sad to see names which were prominent to the Nikkei history, now, being used as attention gatherer and the entire history not told as it happened.

    There were many incidents by Masaoka, Kido, and JACL which at the time were probably necessary but in retrospect now seems to undermine the civil rights of the internees especially the creation of the Segregation Center at Tule Lake and the “No-No Boys”.

    Most of the internees have passed away and only those who were teenagers or younger are alive today and they could hardly remember those camp days at Tule Lake.

  2. You wrote: “Our community’s experience with internment should not be causing conflict among us, but should be uniting us in appreciation what our families went through, and energize us to fight against injustices today.”

    When the historical record is examined elements of truth do come out. The treatment of the “No-No Boys” was terrible, as was the complicity of the JACL in helping pose the loyalty question. Opinions formed when reviewing history should be open for discussion and not papered over.

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