(The following is a response to a resolution, passed at the recent JACL National Convention, apologizing to Japanese Americans who answered “no-no” to the loyalty questionnaire and were held at the Tule Lake Segregation Center.)
The 2019 JACL National Council should have known that adults among 5,000 of the 12,000 No-Nos moved into Tule Lake were pro-Japan renunciants, people who had renounced their American citizenship, with many asking for repatriation to Japan. These people openly wanted Tojo’s fascist Japan and Hitler’s Nazi Germany to win World War II.
Accordingly, the pro-Japan renunciants were not as the JACL leadership and the 2019 National Council would have it, “unfairly labelled disloyal,” but by their open and public behavior at Tule Lake and earlier assuredly gave “aid and comfort to the enemy.” In short, the pro-Japan people were disloyal.
Many renunciants were so fervent in their beliefs that they asked to be repatriated while the war raged, and some were exchanged for American POWs in the Indian Ocean. The rest staged rallies celebrating Japanese victories in which American soldiers were killed, as they marched around Tule Lake with pots banging and shouts of “Nihon wa makenai” — Japan can never lose a war.
And so Tule Lake became the only place in the country where a group of Japanese Americans could exercise their First Amendment rights — ironically, rights that they had explicitly renounced, including the right to express a belief in the racial superiority of the Yamato people.
And to these racists, JACL, a civil rights organization, is to apologize? And to apologize for exactly what? For the renunciants holding firm to their rights as Americans while JACL folded when the opposite is true? That somehow JACL victimized the pro-Japan fanatics when the opposite is true? The fanatics verbally harassed and physically intimidated JACL members, its leadership, and families with sons who joined the 442.
Taking a cue from Japanese army officers who assassinated public figures they didn’t like, eight of the fanatics brutally assaulted JACL President Saburo Kido in the presence of his wife and child. This is called terror. The thugs, including one of them who wielded a club, later served jail time. That Kido spent weeks in a hospital was not the only reason that all of the pro-Japan No-Nos were removed to Tule Lake.
Using fear, the fanatics wanted to control and dominate opinion in all of the camps. Had they succeeded in overpowering the wartime leadership of Mike Masaoka and JACL, the existence of the camps would have become forever justified and the place of Japanese Americans in their country after the war frighteningly uncertain. .
The proponents of apology are apparently ignorant of the history of World War II. It was a horror in which the cult of the Divine Emperor and the deification of the Aryan race produced the most prolific butchers in the history of the world: Tojo and Hitler. Some 70 million people died in World War II, who knows how many of them victims of Japanese atrocities after Japanese victories in China and the Philippines.
The proponents of the apology do know that the MIS fought Tojo in the Pacific and the 442nd fought Hitler in Italy and France, where many still lie dead, now dishonored by the 2019 JACL National Council.
At some venue it would be fitting for representatives of the renunciants to apologize to the Kido family (which included son-in-law Edison Uno), to Mike Masaoka and the Army unit he brought into being — the Nisei men of the 442nd RCT — and to Gold Star mothers of the Japanese American community.
As Gerald Yamada has said, the pro-Japan renunciants and their families are going to have to live with the reality of decisions made long ago, apology or no apology. Sometimes people choose to line up on the wrong side of history, like the Confederate stalwarts of the Civil War who fought to keep the slaves enslaved and lost. Japan lost the war to colonize and enslave East Asia. And so today and tomorrow, neither the Confederate nor the renunciant bell can ever be unrung.
Grant Ujifusa, former JACL redress strategy chair, was honored by the government of Japan for reversing President Ronald Reagan’s opposition to HR 442, the redress bill. He was made an honorary member of K Company, 442nd RCT. Opinions expressed in Vox Populi are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.